Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rolling Stone Strikes Again

I don't know if the placement of the mailing label scares or intrigues me?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Basics On The Magical Bean

OK. I know not a lot of people go all glittery-eyed when they talk about coffee. I understand, albeit on a purely logical level, that not everyone even likes the stuff. I can comprehend, though it pains me greatly, that some folks choose other forms of gluttony to turn to in times of both joy and pain. I, my friends, am not one of those people.

So when someone asks me why their coffee tastes like the underside of a monkey's butt, or if there should be a ring like that around their carafe, my pulse speeds up and I swing into action. Of course, it could be the Starbucks Via I just mainlined, but that's not what we're discussing here, is it?

The conversation came up last week, and since it's one I jump into with such verve, I figured maybe it's time to just post what I know already, for the love of Juan Valdez.

If you're suffering from acidic, thick or just plain nasty coffee, let's start by looking at three things: 1) your pot; 2) your water and 3) your bean.

First thing you're going to want to do is run three--yes, THREE--pots of straight white vinegar through your machine. Use fresh vinegar every time, and follow the three rounds with two of fresh, cold water. If you can use filtered water, even better. (We have a Brita filter jug thingy in our fridge. Being the child-genius I am, I call it, "frig water".)

While the machine is still steaming hot, remove the filter basket so that you can see the spout or holes where the water drops from the machine onto the coffee.

Using a couple of paper towels or anything you don't mind staining (perhaps your teenage son's favorite t-shirts he keeps leaving in the hallway, four inches from the dirty clothes basket?), wipe the area the water comes out of until no traces of ick (and there will be ick, I assure you) remain. If you've never done this, you may be in for a rude awakening and will probably start to make this little procedure a regular weekly thing. (Your tongue will thank you.)

Run one more pot of clear, cold water through the system.

Now you're ready to make a pot.

I love, adore, would roll around in ... who are we kidding, HAVE rolled around in ... a roast called, "Highlander Grog". It's sweet but not in the beginning, it's deep, and it will someday change the way the world drinks coffee. For my budget, I am in love with the Cameron's brand I get in the "grind yer own" section of my local supermarkets. I'm guessing it's the rum that calls to me.

To the best of my knowledge, you can't buy a decaf version in any local grocer's, but I do know that Luna Coffee on University in Fargo will happily make you a decaf batch. They've even been so sweet as to make a half-pound batch for me, God bless them!

Now if you're married to the decaf and just want to be able to pick something up at the store, invest in a nice orange bag of Dunkin' Decaf. I have yet to visit a local grocery store here in F-M that doesn't carry it. Shoot--the Safeway in Ephrata, WA had it.

Always try to buy whole beans. (Unfortunately, the Dunkin' comes already ground, but I forgive it due to it's tasty nature.) Get yourself a cheap $12 grinder and grind your own beans in small batches. Keep what you've ground in an airtight container. I love the OXO line they carry at Kohl's.

Don't let the coffee sit under used grounds. The bitter part of the bean really gets cranky and likes to drip acid into the pot.

Don't let a fresh pot sit directly on the burner. If it takes you a while to drink it, consider investing in a good thermos or airpot. Even better, get yourself a brewer that keeps the coffee in a warming tank.

If this doesn't improve your coffee enough to make ya happy, take it one step further and buy yourself a French press. The one I linked to is an 8-cupper and that's a lot of coffee, but you'll get the idea.

The French press doesn't keep stuff warm, but it takes less than 5 minutes to make a pot, it's kinda like doing a science experiment, and the method makes for some seriously tasty, foamy, brown crema -- and that's what you want! Make sure you follow the directions (which are SUPER easy) and you'll really taste a difference.

Finally, if you're willing to drop a few bucks, I highly recommend a Keurig. Call me snotty, but I am not a big fan of any of the pre-loaded, disposable k-cups, always choosing to grind and brew my own with a "My K-Cup." I love that they even sell this thing -- it's like they know who I am.

Phew! That's a lot of coffee information, isn't it? It's all tested by yours truly. I love coffee and am passionate about giving everyone who wants one, a chance to discover a love for it as well.

Just remember: good beans, grind your own, fresh, cold water, don't let the acid drip in and clean that spout thingy. Play by these rules and folks will stop over just for a cup o' yer joe.

As Martha would say, that's a good thing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

KittyDaddy, on "The Who"

Me: Are you the one that likes, "Teenage Wasteland"?

KD: Yeah. I like their popular songs ... you know, the ones CSI used."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things That Make Me Say, "Whu?!"

I try to not rant here. I try not to rail on Facebook. My general rule of posting is pretty  much, "Try to not bitch too much."

I try to keep it positive, funny, and heartwarming.

But some things just stick in my craw. It ain't all puppy kisses and unicorns fartin' glitter up in here, folks!

Here are some brow-furrowing, eye-rolling, grumble-inducers as of late:

- Why is texting and driving so darned dangerous, but police officers are expected to drive and use a computer? I saw two different squad cars today, and both times, the uniformed drivers were doing the drive 'n glance as they steered with one hand and typed with the other. If you're from the Fargo-Moorhead area, you know how crazy this is given current road conditions.

- Can't Mantracker see the camera crews with the "prey". Seriously. What horse poop. The saving grace? Mantracker is hot!

- Low sodium SPAM tastes exactly like its presumably salt-lick-crusted counterpart. (Yes, I know this from first-hand experience.) Why not just make it lower sodium to start with? Those poor Hawaiian folks. They probably have to keep a hose by their bed at night, just to keep all that salt from mummifying them as they sleep.

- Why do parents write me notes to excuse their child's tardiness, citing their own parenting failures? ("Please excuse Janie's tardiness today. For the eighteenth time this month, I forgot to set my alarm!") Number one: this is NOT an excusable reason. Your child's tardiness still goes down as unexcused. Number two: that smiley face you drew not only does nothing to get this infraction excused, but it also makes me wonder if you dot your i's with hearts. Oh, yup. Sure enough ... right there on the "i" in "Janie". Oi vey and an eye roll.

OK, that's enough.

Let me leave you with a school story:

I heard running in the hallway at school early this afternoon.

Engrossed in the task in which I was performing, I didn't glance up until a blur appeared--and then quickly dissappeared--in my periphreal vision. Someone had the audacity to run in the hallway ... right past my desk! To make it worse, the little buggers were giggling.

Ah, fer pete's sake.

I hauled my butt outta my chair and took off through the teacher's lounge, hoping I got their trajectory right.

aHA! I got 'em.

An unspeakably cute kindergarten boy and girl were "racing" with the library book cart their teacher had trusted them with.

"You GUYS!" I stage-whispered after them.

They stopped dead in their tracks.

"Turn around," I instructed in my very best, "you are SO busted" voice.

They did, looking properly terrified.

We have three rules in our school: Be safe. Be responsible. Be respectful.

I took a step toward them, reproachful look on my face.

"Bonnie and Clyde*," I started, "What are the rules in my school?"

Stares. Big, sweet, adorable as baby kittens blue-eyed stares.

And then a lip quiver.

"We wewen't bein' vewy good."

"Well," I said, nodding with concern. "you certainly weren't making very good choices. Is running in the hallway--and with untied shoes, Bonnie!--very safe?"

"No!" Clyde volunteered quickly, "and it's not vewy 'spectful eever. We aw sowwy Lowa!"

Needless to say, when you're that darned cute, you get away with just a warning.

* Not their real names.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

That Boy Just Ain't Right

This cat scares me.

Look at him. Tell me you don't see it. I defy you to tell me this look doesn't make your blood run cold for a nanosecond.

This look is only where it started.

It progressed to him putting his ears back and swatting back when we tried batting him off the table.

Then one night, after an evening of terrorizing  humans and fellow felines alike, it was decided Amos should spend a night in the clink. The pokey. The hoosegow. That's to say, the basement. Of course, we live in a four-level split, so we refer to it simply as, "the down-down".

Now before your undies get all twisty, you should know our basement is fully finished, complete with drywall in the main room and carpet. Shucks, there are even fire exits. It's more like, "Club Fed", really. There's heat for a giant main room and the laundry/utility space. There is food, water and a potty place only Famous uses. (The Bob prefers to do his business out of doors, like a true kitty-gentleman.)

So down he goes, and we all--Bob included--enjoy a quiet, peaceful night. Nobody poking us in the sternum at 5am, requesting breakfast. Nobody snapping our eyelids like window shades at 5:45am suggesting breakfast. Nobody clubbing us over the heads with a 9-iron at 6:30 demanding. Breakfast. NOW.

It was bliss.

I wish I could tell you I took a picture of what I found when I opened the basement door.

It was something you truly needed to see to believe.

It about gave my amygdala whiplash.

Mental warning flags trumpeted, "Be afraid. Be VERY afraid!"

When the door opened, I scanned the room for Amos. He was in his customary down-down spot, curled in the BoyRD's desk chair. (Picture Dr. Evil as a striped domestic ginger kitty.)

"Good morning, Baby Kitty," I cooed to him. (I suffer from a delusion that if I speak sweetly to him, he won't bite my ankles, then run away giggling. A theory that has yet to be proven consistently correct.)

Usually, if he's been exiled to any degree, he rejoins society with a "mmmddrrmmp" and a quick nuzzle before demanding food.

Not this time.

This time, he met my gaze coolly, choosing to remain in the chair.

Puzzled, I scanned the room, looking for evidence of some sort of incarceration-related retaliation.

I didn't see anything, though. No shat-upon sweatshirt, no shredded book, no toppled shelving. That is, until I looked down.

And there it was. Inches from my feet.

My eyes bugged out a bit. My jaw dropped open a tad. My mind fought for control because there was just no WAY this was possible.

An abandoned screwdriver lay in the threshold of the door.

A tool.

Sweet mother.

I calmly asked each of the men in the house (Bob included; don't want to leave any possibility out, you know) if they had used a screwdriver in the down-down or anywhere else, for that matter.

My investigation revealed bupkis.

In an unspoken bid for our collective sanity, we decided to forget about it. It was just too creepy to dwell on.

Time, as it will, wore on.

Some months later, Famous was perched on a his stool in the kitchen.

When we got him, the only thing the people we got him from really said was, "He's REALLY motivated by food."

We used this knowledge against him and trained him (with said food) to sit on this stool if he wants treats in the kitchen. Often, if we're doing something in another part of the house and he decides he could use a little snacky-poo, you'll hear him thump-a-bump on up to his stool, then announce his presence at the treat place via high-volume vocalization. (Lord help the things on the counter if you don't go fetch His Majesty something, either. It's like living with a furry little mobster. I swear, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to wake up with the head of a My Little Pony under the sheets next to me.)

Where was I?

Oh, right. The kitchen stool.

So I'm in the kitchen, prepping dinner with a lot of peeling, chopping, slicing and dicing involved. It was like a freaking Ginsu commercial up in there.

This sort of activity takes place directly across from Amos' stool, and he often watches the proceedings from his roost, hoping to catch a morsel tossed in his direction.

This night was different though. He usually only watched with mild interest, often choosing instead to stare at hone his telepathy skills on the bag of Whisker Lickin's resting on the counter space in front of my workspace.

No, no. THIS time, he watched my knife work with keen focus. He watched me julienne. He watched me core, peel and chop. He watched me skin, butterfly and score. I felt as though he were taking notes. 

I shook it off. I mean, REALLY, he's a cat. What could he possibly DO? 

And then, I got a glimpse. The next day, as the BoyRD and I were rushing out of the house way behind schedule, Bob darted between the RD's legs and out the front door.

Bags flew and coats billowed in a (thankfully) successful attempt to keep our bodies upright. As I do in this oft-occurring circumstance, I threw a furtive glance around the house to see where Amos was. He likes to take advantage of these moments to squirt himself out the door to the outsides, a place he is strictly forbidden to enter.

This time, though, he wasn't there trying to weasel his way out the door.

He was, in fact, on the kitchen counter. His front leg raised, his little paw-fingers curled, the little bugger was--I swear--trying to grasp a handle from the knife block. 

I stopped for a moment, staring gape-mouthed at a sight I surely wasn't seeing. The BoyRD's voice broke into my stunned brain, "Mom, let's GO!"

I ran out, trying to shake the image from my mind, locking and slamming the door behind me. 

That image haunted me for weeks.

I showered with the bathroom door latched. I read with a squirt-bottle by my side. I slept with my door firmly shut. 

But like many images do, it faded over time, slipping from memory until what I saw became vague ... gauzy, even. And soon, it was just a story I told. Something to make people laugh. The fear eased away, slowly dissipating into nothingness.

Until today.  

Today, I was folding laundry in front of the dryer when it occured to me the litter box may need to be changed. Mid-sock matching, I glanced over.

I saw it there, next to the box.




Is that what I THINK it is?

I stepped closer.

Yes. Yes it is.

A scientific calculator.

I don't know what that cat is up to, but I'm pretty sure it's no good.

Thank goodness he doesn't have thumbs.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Foiled Again!

We've been pretty much housebound for the last three days. Or maybe it's two.  I don't now. It feels like fifteen.

I could leave the house. Technically, most of the roads are plowed and it's not like 16 below has kept me inside before.

I just don't WANT to go outside. It's bone-biting cold. The plows made a mountain at the end of the driveway. I really don't want to break my three day streak of having warm toes.

That, and it rained before it snowed.

There's still a shiz-ton of ice underneath everything. I'm talking specifically about sidewalks. And the last time I fell, I walked wonky for three weeks afterward. Not good.

So I stayed in. 

KittyDaddy invited me to go to the movies.

I declined.

Not only could I not stomach the idea of having people around me chew popcorn with their mouths open, kick my seat and stage-whisper at crucial moments, but the thought of putting on another layer of clothing, followed by a final layer of outerwear was just too much.

I sent him on his way. Besides, I wiggle like a two-year old. Going to a movie is KittyDaddy's favorite thing. I knew he needed restoration just as much as any of us and figured he didn't need me wreckin' it for him.

Having just had guests for two days, I had a litany of things staring me in the face, chanting my shortcomings in breaths of dusts and piles of stuff. My martyr cape unfurled and billowed in the wind.

I'll do laundry! I'll clean the kitchen AGAIN! I'll blog! I'll start those pajama pants I bought the material and pattern for two years ago! I'll write my grandmother a letter! I'll solve the energy crisis! I'll take down the Christmas decorations!

There it was -- the Christmas decorations! Something I haven't been already doing for the duration of the blizzards and would feel pretty good having accomplished in a reasonable time frame for the first time in ... uh, yeah. Probably EVER.

And so I went about the process. Unwinding miles and miles of garland from the banister upstairs. (FYI: I now have an intimate knowledge of why my husband hates the stuff. Light bulb!)  Separating balls by color and getting them into their proper containers. Deciphering the origami-like status of the box the star goes in. Ferreting out the stuff I really don't want any longer, trying to remember who gave it to me so I didn't offer an ownership opportunity BACK to them. Discovering that we had left pumpkins (PUMPKINS!) in the window from Fall, and finding a place to fit those bad boys in the already-full containers for that season.

Not even an hour and half later, I was done. The BoyRD and I looked high and low, searching for any leftover tidbits of holiday cheer. We agreed there was nothing else to be packed away and, with Amos lending his weight atop the final Rubbermaid box, we clicked the lid on with a grunt. Phew!

Feeling smug that we'd pulled it off in its entirety before the return of KittyDaddy, the BoyRD went off on his merry way and I sat down at the computer, intending to surf around and see if I could find some sort of inspiration for a "don't be down, it's only fifteen to twenty more weeks of shitty winter weather!" centerpiece for the dining room table.

And that's when I saw it.

No freaking way.

Leave it to (albeit stuffed animal) cats to be the impetus for my yelling a most unsavory word in an otherwise peaceful house.

It's funny what seeing something will do for total recall.

Received as a Christmas gift, these little kitty dudes were perched right where they were placed upon our return home from the family holiday gathering.

And no kidding? They might just stay there.

Let's just say it's all a part of a new year of acceptance.

A Peace Offering

I thought I'd offer you some photos I snapped while we were apart. Forgive the paragraph and photo orientation inconsistencies. Blogger is being a bizzo.

 This was one particularly peaceful night. Just lights, Eminem and me. Lovely.

I know what you're thinking. "Where's the tree?"

Yeah, there wasn't one. Mostly because of THIS from last year. Damned cat.

It snowed.
But it's okay, because we're playing this.

(They had me from, "outrageous".)

Naturally, there has been card playing as well.

I'm going to set my own pants on fire here and tell you the high score was mine. HA! Just typing that made me laugh. I rarely win at cards. Now, if points were awarded for trash-talking ....

My friend Derek from St. Cloud (which I think might very well be what his ID says ... "Derek from St. Cloud") took this shot on the side of the road in one of the I states. (Iowa? Indiana? Illinois? Ississippi?) KittyDaddy is in love with all things windpower, and Derek was nice enough to give me the file. My friend Miss M. has some mad framing skills and BAM! it's a Christmas present.

Every year, I like to read this book. A couple of years ago, I even read it aloud to my family. I think you should read it, too. Aloud to YOUR family would be even better. Heck, under the right circumstances, I'LL read it to you and yours. And fair warning: this book will make you laugh AND cry.

(Remind me to tell you sometime about how I almost had lunch with Dave Barry.)

 Amos, ever vigilant, made sure KittyDaddy shoveled everything the way it outta be. What a good kitty.

May someone watch over you as closely and be just as happy to see you come back in the door.