Friday, July 28, 2017

Hello!

It's been awhile.  Too long.

You know how sometimes life is just going too fast and everything's changing and you can't keep up to catch your breath, much less blog?  This is the opposite of that.

Everything in our lives seems stagnant right now, and all the efforts we make to move forward have so far been fruitless.  It's hard not to get discouraged, but we've found ways to make sure we keep our priorities where they need to be and also take the time to stop and smell the roses.  I haven't written on here because I felt uninspired, but just making a few changes in my routine has made some huge improvements, so I thought I'd ease back into writing by discussing them here:

No news. . .is good news.
We stopped watching the news on a regular basis. It's nice being able to catch snippets here and there about the big, important things going on in the world, but without having to sift through the white noise and constant chatter of politicians spewing ignorance and hate.  This little change has gone a long way to improve our moods and our ability to deal with the frustrations that we face while working in customer service.

More Good News
In my last post I mentioned that I set a goal for myself to read the Bible in a year.  I was doing well for a few months, but eventually I reached a point where it became something on my to-do list that I just wanted to get over with.  I usually intended to do it right when I got home from work, but if I didn't feel like it, I would push it off by procrastinating (i.e. watching Netflix), and then feel guilty for reading anything else until I had read my daily Bible readings.

About the same time, I realized that I was miserable in the mornings.  Working at a coffee bar means I wake up stupid early most of the time.  Usually as I ate breakfast, I would browse Twitter and become increasingly depressed and angry at the world.  I tried to read my Bible in the mornings on occasion, but most days I didn't have enough time to finish that day's section and then I would be extra disgruntled and rushed.

I decided to do something completely crazy and get up an extra 15 minutes early every morning.  Which means 3:10 am some days, and 5:10 am other days.  It was crazy for me, and I knew it, but I had to try it.

Oh, how sweet it has been!

Beginning the day with scripture, whether or not I am 100% awake to fully appreciate it, puts me immediately in the presence of God.  I am filled with hope in His Word and not losing hope in humanity.  I am not really any more tired, and in fact I find myself more at peace and prayerful as I go about the rest of my day.  The rest of my day has more purpose and fulfillment, more order.  And when I get home from work, I don't have that guilty nudging to read the Bible hanging over my head.  I can read more if I want, or go back and re-read it with a slightly more aware state of mind, or I feel free to pursue other things, like the many writing projects I have started or reading a fictional book or exercising.  And I've done a lot more of all of those things!

Books I've Been Reading
It can be hard to get back into reading when you've been out of the loop for awhile.  Once I find a good book though, I have a hard time putting it down.  Two of the books I read recently were recommended to me and I liked both a lot, the third I picked up for free and it was a total bust. That said, I am now taking recommendations for good books!  On my list currently are The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (thanks, Justine!), Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh  (I was supposed to read it in college, but didn't get far past the Spark Notes...oops), and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (thanks, Morgan and Margaret!).

Recently read:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (thanks, Kathleen!)
This was a very sweet story about a middle school boy with a facial abnormality who goes to school for the first time.  It's told from various viewpoints which add depth to the story and the characters.  I recommend reading it before the movie comes out in November!

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (even though it was free, no thanks!)
I was really into this book.  Despite weak character development and therefore underdeveloped relationships between characters, I was still intrigued by the narration of this story which explores the lives of both a former SS soldier and a survivor of Auschwitz.  Both are fictional, but the details written from extensive research provide a tiny glimpse into what life was like on both sides of the concentration camp.  It's not easy to read at times, but I kept going hoping for a good resolution.  I won't give away the details, but ultimately weak character development leads to a pitiful "twist" that's only a twist because it's so incredibly inconceivable that this character would do what they do.  I was angry for days, but hey, it motivated me to jump back into my own fiction writing so that I can write something better!  So that's something.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (thanks, MIL!)
This was an interesting story about a black labor and delivery nurse who was ordered not to touch the baby of a White Supremacist.  The baby dies anyway and since the nurse was there when it happened, she is charged with murder.  Told from the perspectives of the nurse, her white lawyer, and the White Supremacist, it provides a timely glimpse into how race is treated both in the justice system and our society.  Again, Picoult's characters are flat and stereotypical at times, but it's a very interesting story and a good starting point into the issue for someone like me who has grown up white surrounded by white people and doesn't understand how/why racism is still a thing.

So again, I'm taking recommendations, but my husband has asked that they be happier.  I think he's tired of me yelling and crying at my books.

The Writing Life
Because (insert one or more of the many excuses I have made to explain why I haven't developed a disciplined writing routine, i.e. my inconsistent work schedule, my lack of a perfect writing space, my inability to pick one of the many writing projects I have started and focus on one, etc.), I am still working on developing a really consistent, disciplined writing life.  However, like I said before about how changing my morning routine to accommodate time for Scripture reading has given me more order and freedom in my day-to-day life, this has been leading to more and more times where I sit itching to write.  Also, like I mentioned above, reading poorly written books lights a fire in me and motivates me to want to do it better.

With real motivation, I've been working on sitting down to write for an hour each day, whether it's one of my novels, a nonfiction piece, or this blog.  My hope is that as I continue to practice, my stories will begin to unfold and I will find a good direction to follow a piece that I may actually finish.  The key will be keeping it a priority that I make the time to write!

We have a joke of the day at work,
and I get a lot of mine (like this one) from @ThePunnyWorld on Twitter.
I love this husky.


Diddly Squats
Exercising is not my thing, but of course, I try to get some in regularly.  I am not by any means a yogi, but I find that I feel better when I do yoga or even just stretch at least once or twice a week for 30 minutes.   I had a few videos of routines I like that move at a decent pace and aren't too long, but I eventually found it hard to focus when I had the videos memorized and just wanted to get through the routines.  Since yoga is a meditative activity as much as a physical one, I decided to go full-on Catholic nerd and incorporate spiritual meditation with my yoga.  I found audio of people reciting the rosary (on YouTube) and I started doing my yoga while praying the rosary and meditating on the mysteries.  It's a win-win situation.

And a bonus for all that reading I'm doing now?  The library is within walking distance, so whenever I finish a book, I go for a little walk to drop it off and pick up a new one if I need to.

Other Random Things
We have been cooking at home more which has helped us feel more settled (and full of delicious foods).  And as of right now (knock on wood), we are without a next door neighbor in our apartment, so the small second floor balcony is all ours.  We made it a home for our pepper plants and herbs as well as some comfy chairs.  We've gotten to do a lot more porch-sitting in the evenings either talking or reading or heckling the passers-by like Statler and Waldorf.

"It's good to be heckling again."
"It's good to be doing anything again."
"Doh-ho-ho-ho!" 

Overall, not much has changed in terms of the big things, but the little changes we're making have helped us approach life's daily trials with a little less anxiety and a lot more hope.

"Let me hear in the morning of Your merciful love, for in You I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul." (Psalm 143:8)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Winter Blues

Is it summer yet?

Just kidding.  But not really.  I need summer in my life.

This was actually going to be another post about how much I hate winter and how the first few weeks of every year leave me depressed and full of self-doubt and whatnot.  And then I was like, OR. . .

I could write about HAPPY things.  Like, what exactly, despite the horrific blanket of cold grayness that covers us here in Ohio during 97% of the winter

Is it 9 am or 3 pm?  Who can tell?  It's all the same sort of blah.
#DREARYANDDEPRESSING
I am actually excited about this year.  So here we go.  I have made a list of five of my favorite ways to ignore the winter blues this year without resorting to hibernation under an electric blanket with lots of delicious food and feel good movies about people who live at the beach because while that all sounds wonderful, it's not even remotely healthy. . . or possible:

1)  Love & Sunshine
A photo book by me in which I took advantage of a FREE Shutterfly photobook coupon by smothering the pages with my own photos of brighter, warmer days and happy moments of grace that I captured last year.  It's a good reminder that winter is only a season, and that spring will come again and be AWESOME.


Mmmm....I love sunshine.

2)  La La Land
It is romantic and beautiful and absolutely one of the best movies (if not THE best) I've ever seen.  It's like a dream with incredible detail and fun singing and dancing.  I left the theater in such a dreamy state that I hummed and danced my way through the street to our parked car, and Nick was in such a dreamy state that I could tell he almost considered joining me.  I've been listening to the soundtrack constantly and reliving the beauty, which has proven to be a fabulous way to rise above the winter blues!  "Here's to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem..."
For the record, this is the FIRST screenshot I have ever taken on my phone. I'm quite proud of myself.  Watch out world. I can do technology now.

3)  My Best Friend's Wedding
Not the movie, but the actual event of the wedding of one of my best friends ever who is getting married in St. Louis in February!  We've been making plans and gearing up to celebrate and reconnect with old friends for a week-long getaway from work in the middle of the winter.  Just having something to look forward to helps brighten the days (even though, I'm sure I'll be dealing with post-wedding blues when it's all over, but that will be for another post!). ;)

4)  My new Curly Girl Planner!
If you haven't heard of Curly Girl Design (Leigh Standley), I highly recommend you check her out!  I have been obsessed with her work for years.  Her greeting cards are adorable and I simply love all of her designs!  I was just saying the other day how I wish I could have a book with all of her designs in it.  The NEXT DAY I came across this planner on clearance which is chock full of her adorably inspirational designs and quotes.  Hopefully it will make this year of adulting (which will include my transition from my twenties to my thirties *gulp*) a little more colorful!

Too. Cute.


5)  Reading the Bible daily
I wanted to read the whole Bible this year and to really understand it better, so I've been reading it every day.  Reading the Word of God has filled me with a subtle but real sense of hope, peace, and comfort, and plenty of questions!  I dug out my old notes from my college Bible study classes to help gain clarity on some things.  It has also made me curious to learn more about Judaism and Islam, and to see how our roots are all connected, so I plan to do some more reading on those religions as well.  #themoreyouknow

*To make sure I get through the Bible in a year in a manageable way, I downloaded a free app that breaks it down into easy-to-digest daily readings.  The app also offers cheesy little videos with overviews and insights to supplement each book or major section.  There are probably better apps out there, but this is the one I happened to pick--let me know if you've found a different one that you really like!  ALSO, while the app displays the readings on your phone for you, I choose to read from my actual Bible, mostly because I prefer the feeling of actual books, especially THE BOOK.  But when I finish reading from my Bible, I click the check mark on the app so it keeps track of my progress for me.

Anyway, that's how I'm managing the winter blues this year, because I don't want to let seasonal depression and self-doubt and stressing out about adult things take away from the simple joys of every day life.

Here's to the new year!
  


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Fall

This fall has been the most beautiful I can ever remember experiencing.  The warmer temperatures and glorious sunshine that lingered allowed the leaves to ripen ever so slowly, drawing out their true colors in a spectacular show of God's palette.

Treetops stand out like flames blazing over rooftops, 

     

fireworks suspended in the branches,

 

glowing yellow dappled lights that work as the sunshine's minions even on the darkest, cloudiest days.




The extraordinary beauty of it all may be a result of weather patterns, or maybe I'm just more aware.  I am at a place of serenity, where God has given me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change (or at least attempt to change) the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  

This season has been a serene one here in small-town Ohio.  At least, as far as the beauty of creation goes.  The world is tumultuous, our country is divided, and we as a race of humans are slowly coming to grips with the ramifications of our distracted half-living. But I have hope.

Because in the mornings I see the way the sun glows rising



and spreads its light through the trees to shower the earth.



And in the afternoons when I take walks and stop a thousand times to try and capture the way the light spreads through the leaves like fire 



and my phone's camera fails to do God's creation justice, I smile, knowing that all our man-made technology will never be enough to inspire and foster hope, goodness, love, mercy.  For that, we need something, Someone greater.

Because of that, I find myself more often on my knees giving thanks and seeking mercy.  On election day, I consecrated myself to Divine Mercy, because God is BIGGER and BETTER than this mess we have created for ourselves.  

I joke that I'm an eternal optimist--95% of the time.  But I am eternally optimistic, that is, optimistic about eternity.  No matter the messes we make for ourselves or the struggles we experience in dealing with other people or with our health or with the demons in our own minds, we have hope.  

I believe in our redemption through Christ and the cross, and I believe in the hope that rises with His resurrection, and I believe in the grace of His Divine Mercy which He offers any time we ask for it.

I pray that in this time of turmoil and change, as fall fades to winter and our country transitions to the next phase and the world continues to turn, that we all find the serenity and peace of mind needed to carry on hopefully.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Love and Coffee

Coffee coffee coffee is my mantra. I love coffee.  I love trying new coffees, making coffee, sharing coffee.  When a co-worker/coffee friend gave me a delicious bag of beans from a recent trip, I thanked her for sharing the coffee with me, and she replied, "Of course, that's what coffee is for."

Communion.  Every cup is a communion.  It is the sharing, the community, the relationships between co-workers and customers that have grown and evolved over the years that I love the most.

Still, I don't necessarily want to be a barista forever.  And in the restlessness of wondering, the aching for more than pouring coffee and making lattes and being constantly sucked dry of all energy from being on my feet and socializing all day (which let me tell you, for this introvert, is exhausting), I find peace only in the One who made the stars and the sea and the coffee trees.

Gratitude is too shallow a word to describe the depth of joy I find at the gift of His peace, manifested in His mercy and grace, especially in the darkness that has recently visited.  In the exhaustion that cannot be cured by coffee (yeah, I said it), He picks up my weary soul and carries me through it all.

Just after the recent canonization of my beloved Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I picked up a free copy from church of With Great Love, a book of reflections on Mother Teresa by Susan Conroy, who spent time working with the saint. Saint Mother Teresa and her patron, Saint Therese of Lisieux have always been close to my heart, and I aspire to follow their examples of putting great love into the every little action, no matter how simple.

In this looooong week of work full of too many too-early mornings, God, in His mercy and grace, graced me with the perfect reflection on this very subject from Susan Conroy.  It's a lesson I have heard so many times throughout my life, and a lesson I have attempted to apply to my time working in coffee over the years.  But as I recently heard, our spiritual lives are not linear.  They are not gradual uphill climbs, but rather, they are paths full of stumbling and falling and, by the grace of God, persevering toward that seemingly ever elusive holiness and perfect communion with Him.

Every cup is a communion.  Not a perfect communion, but a communion of all our broken humanity scooped up into a mug, a chalice, a hug, a smile.

"Let every action of mine be something beautiful for God," said Saint Mother Teresa.  As she wandered the streets of Calcutta, she and her sisters performed simple tasks, such as sitting with the dying so they didn't have to die alone, or providing a blanket to someone who was shivering, or giving a glass of water to someone who was thirsty.  As Conroy describes:
"It was not the work that was extraordinary, but rather, the way in which it was done.  It was the spirit of the work that made it extraordinary: the spirit of love, humility, tenderness and respect with which each human being was touched and held and cared for.  It was precisely this spirit of love and humility that made Mother Teresa a saint and made every action of hers 'something beautiful for God.'
"It is always about the love.  Love, love, love.  Mother Teresa said that this is the reason we exist--to love and serve God by loving and serving one another....
"It doesn't matter how much we give, but rather how much love we put in the giving.  [Mother Teresa] encouraged us to 'put love into everything you do, and you will be fulfilling your vocation.'
"'God is Love,' Saint John the apostle tells us.  Do everything with God.  Do everything with 'the fullness of charity' in your heart, and you will be fulfilling your duty and your destiny in a way that is most pleasing to God."
No matter what I do, even as I search for work beyond barista-ing, I can put love into each little action, into each cup of coffee I pour, into each dish I wash, into each person I meet.

Yes, coffee coffee coffee is my mantra, but what is coffee all about?  It is about the people, the communion, the love.

"It is always about the love.  Love, love, love."
 

 May we never forget.  <3  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Into the Light

Once upon a time, when I was a blossoming coffee connoisseur slowly making the transition from a caramel frappucino girl to a real coffee woman, my roommate showed me how to grind my own coffee beans with her seriously magic Magic Bullet.

Having grown up in a home where coffee was purchased in large cans of pre-ground beans, and working in a campus coffee shop that brewed from individual, pre-measured packets of grounds, this was an incredibly novel concept to me.  It opened my eyes to a whole new world of buying coffee.  No longer did I have to settle for those squishy pre-ground bags.  Now I could venture into the world of whole bean coffee.

The coffee section at Trader Joe's was an adventure in itself.  Their cans of coffee were tall with aesthetically pleasing packaging and funky-sounding names like "Costa Rica Tarrazu" and "Bali Blue Moon."  My absolute favorite though was their Volcano coffee, which was considered a "Super Dark" roasted coffee.  I knew little about different types and varietals of coffees, but I knew I liked a rich, bold brew that would bring out the flavors of my vanilla soy milk or peppermint mocha creamers.  You could say that I liked a little coffee with my cream.  



My tastes have evolved over the years.  When I entered the specialty coffee world, I was introduced to light roasted coffees and taught how to pick out different tasting notes.  The character of a light roasted coffee is often much more interesting than a dark roasted coffee.  Dark roasts always have that smoky, burnt taste to them that often overpowers any other qualities of the coffee.  Many specialty coffee shops these days won't even roast their coffee darker than a medium roast.  Modern roasters tend to believe that this burnt taste ruins the coffee.

They have a point, but in the end, it all depends on personal preference.  Like I said, I used to love that dark, rich, oily flavor of coffee, but when I learned more about the roasting process and how the process can bring out or mute the flavor characteristics of a coffee, I got caught up in the delightful taste sensation that is properly light roasted coffees.  And I never really went back.

Recently though, when I began really excitedly writing about coffees on a regular basis, my husband noticed how happy it made me and decided to splurge on a super-rare (i.e. expensive) coffee for me to taste and write about.  The coffee was described on the website as a medium roast, but turned out to be what I would consider a dark roast.  Still, it was roasted fresh and shipped whole bean, so I was optimistic if a little wary.

This coffee, he told me, was a Green Tipped Bourbon (bourbon as used here is a type of coffee plant, not the whiskey!) from the island of St. Helena, and I'm terrible at geography, so I kept thinking Mount St. Helena, which is also a volcano, but is in the state of Washington, and even though coffee thrives in volcanic soil, it also needs a tropical climate.  He tried to explain where the island of St. Helena is, that it's where Napoleon was exiled, and I'm thinking, "Isn't that near France?"

No, no it's not.

Thanks to Google, I was able to see that this extremely remote island is located in the south Atlantic Ocean, between the coasts of South America and Africa, but closer to Africa.  It is a volcanic, tropical island, like Hawaii, though much much smaller.  Like Hawaii, the conditions are perfect for growing delicious coffee, but coffee from St. Helena is even more rare than the beloved Hawaiian Kona because they aren't able to grow much on such a tiny piece of land.

So, knowing how rare (and expensive!) this coffee is made me very curious to try it.  The darkness of the beans worried me--I was afraid it would just taste burnt.  But this company, Coffee & Tea Limited, has been around a long time.  Though they tend to roast darker than newer roasters, they delivered a classic, consistent batch of beans.

It took me a few sips to get past the smokiness, but when I opened my mind, my taste buds followed suit.  It was smoky and sweet, with a smooth caramel ribbon of delight flowing quietly through the richness.  It was delicious, and full of flavor.  Each cup I brewed revealed a new layer of flavors, tasting almost like candy.  The wonder never ceased, and even increased by the last sip, leading me to do some more research on this magical lava.

I learned that the Green Tipped Bourbon is still believed to be a pure strain of coffee straight from the Yemeni port of Mocha.  And while the conditions on St. Helena are optimal for growing great coffee, the coffee still requires great care to produce a quality crop.  There has been neglect of the coffee on the island in recent years that led to smaller and less delicious crops, but the farming seems to be on the up and up.  Still, because it is such a small island (seriously, Google the Island of St. Helena--it's fascinating that this place is even occupied and civilized, it's so tiny and remote!), not much can be grown, and the rare delectable beans fetch about $89 per pound from roasters.  My dear husband splurged on a 4 oz bag for me, and the kind people of Coffee & Tea Limited threw in a 4 oz sample bag of some coffee from El Salvador for free!

Ultimately, while I was skeptical about the beans being dark roasted, this coffee experience was truly a treasure for me.  I learned a lot about geography, about one of the most remote civilized islands in the world, and about how much my husband cared to give me a coffee experience I didn't even know I wanted.

If you ever have a chance to try coffee from the Island of St. Helena, do it!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sprinkles In My Coffee

"Sprinkles make everything better," my mom likes to say.

This saying goes back to summer excursions to McDonald's for soft serve ice cream cones.  They were always delicious, but wouldn't they be better with some sprinkles?  We thought so, so we started bringing our own containers of sprinkles to the drive thru with us.

We would pull into a parking space and dip our cones into the rainbow goodness.  The sprinkles did spice up the otherwise plain vanilla ice cream, but the laughter at our own absurdity was what really sprinkled the extra fun on those memories.

When I was struggling through my senior thesis in college, my mom sent me a care package, and I can't really remember anything that was in it except for the container of rainbow sprinkles marked, "Just in case."  Just the sight of those colorful specks of sugar and the meaning behind the small gift was enough to cheer me up.

I didn't think to use them though until one day when I knew I would need an extra boost of something to get through a long day of classes and work.  I was about to brew my daily coffee when I heard my mom's voice in my head saying, "Sprinkles make everything better."  Laughing at my absurdity, I decided to grind up some sprinkles with my coffee beans.

As the coffee brewed, I half-hoped that the rainbow sprinkles would somehow change the color of the coffee, but of course they didn't.  I thought I detected a slight extra bit of sweetness, but I'm pretty sure it was my imagination.  The placebo effect worked though.  I put the coffee in a travel mug and giggled all the way to class, just knowing that there were sprinkles in my coffee.  It was a little thing, but it brought me comfort and joy.

That's what I aimed to do with this blog from the beginning, to find the beauty in the little, ordinary things of every day, to add a little color to the things that are otherwise gray or dull.  Over the years, it has evolved into spiritual and personal reflections and ramblings, and more recently, experiments in all things coffee.

I have enjoyed writing all of it, but recently while I experimented with delicious coffees that I discovered from other companies across the country, a sad container of old, ordinary, just-okay coffee beans sat with its future undetermined.  I knew I couldn't waste it, but I couldn't drink it by itself either.  With the help of a coffee shop I discovered on Instagram, the idea of how to add something extra to this ordinary coffee began brewing in my head.

On Instagram, I stumbled on Vagabond Coffee in Jacksonville, Florida.  They make their own gourmet pop-tarts (they make their own pop-tarts!) AND they have sprinkle Fridays.  That's right, on Fridays they post pictures of delicious looking pop-tarts and lattes sprinkled with rainbow sprinkles.  And the cherry on top of all these sprinkles?  My mom was born in Jacksonville!  Apparently the soul of that place has sprinkles in it, and sprinkles are therefore in my blood.  Now I have a huge coffee crush on this coffee shop and cannot wait to (hopefully) go there with my mom when we go to the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area for a family reunion next summer.

Until then, I will have to make my own sprinkle coffee experience, hence, my solution for these ordinary coffee beans.  Since I work as a barista, I typically drink high quality coffee, and the thought of tainting that delicious black coffee with sprinkles has been far from my mind, though I do add them to my lattes on special occasions.  One thing I have absolutely never done is add them to cold brew. . . SO for the (name)sake of this blog, I owe it to you, to my mom, to myself to at least experiment with sprinkles in my cold brew coffee.  Just for fun.

And honestly, I had more fun taking pictures of the project than anything, but here we go!










Sprinkles, coffee, sunshine, an adorable hedgehog mug, and an adorable mug and saucer in my favorite color from one of my dearly beloved coffee friends
= HAPPY





The sprinkles and the beans.
The sprinkles and the beans ground together.
I added a total of about 2.5 tablespoons of rainbow sprinkles to 1 cup of beans and ground them together on the coarsest setting for cold brew.  I then added an extra .5 tablespoons of whole sprinkles to the grounds JUST FOR FUN.  If we were going for taste, that was WAY too many sprinkles, considering the fact that they are almost purely sugar but I was having too much fun taking pictures, and a single tablespoon would not have been enough fun to photograph.




Above left is all the sprinkles and coffee ground together with that extra splash of sprinkles.  How fun does that look?!  Above right is everything mixed together with 3.5 cups of water.


I definitely used a nut milk bag AND a strainer to filter this out.


The remnant sprinkly grounds.

Like I said, all the sugar made the cold brew way too sweet for me to drink more than half of a cup.  I added my cashew & brazil nut milk and it tasted like sweet cream with a coffee aftertaste.  Too sweet for my blood, but that sweetness may be just what some of you want in your coffee.  If you're feeling adventurous or have some bleh coffee you need to spice up, try adding sprinkles (and let me know how it goes)!

If nothing else, I guarantee you'll have fun and the absurdity will leave you laughing, which is always good for the soul!

Happy brewing!



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Aw, Nuts!

Remember that Juan Carlos coffee from Honduras that made such a delicious cold brew, when I was Winning at Home Cold-Brew Coffee-ing?

Well, I recently made it as a coffee concentrate with the same method I use to make regular cold brew, only I let it sit and brew for 24 hours instead of 12.  I planned to use that concentrate to make an iced latte with my new homemade Cashew & Brazil Nut Milk.  Yes, I made my own nut milk.

And no, Justine, I didn't stand there and squeeze the milk out of the tiny nut udders. ;-)
I got the idea from Ashley Tomlinson over at The Little Black Coffee Cup.  She writes about #ThingsThatGoWithCoffee, and one day she posted a simple recipe for this homemade, creamy nut milk that doesn't separate and goes great with cold brew coffee.  It was her beautiful photos paired with both my love for cold brew coffee and my recent failed attempts to avoid dairy that motivated me to try this.

First, I'm trying to avoid dairy because 1) as I enter the throes of adulthood, my body is slowly losing its ability to properly digest it and 2) I find that even though I can handle small doses of it, the long-term effects of constant consumption have been suspicious enough that I want to cut it out as much as I can (obviously I will still have cheese on occasion, because come on, cheese!).

Second, my attempts to avoid it have failed thus far because 1) I love coffee but 2) I can't drink too much black coffee due to its acidity and 3) it tastes so darn good with milk or cream that 4) all of the milk alternatives out there that I have tried either aren't creamy enough to satisfy me (coconut milk) or overpower the flavor of the coffee too much (coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk).  Also, a lot of store-bought nut milks have lots of preservatives, which are mostly not bad for you (other than carrageenan, which hardly anyone uses anymore anyway), but I still try to avoid them.

SO, because all of these years working as a barista and my intense desire to be healthy and cut out most processed foods have caused me to be so high-maintenance about my coffee and my diet, I embarked on the new adventure of making my own nut milks at home.

With the inexpensive nut milk bag I got on Amazon, it was incredibly easy to make (trust me, if a recipe has more than 5 ingredients or too many complicated steps, I am OUT), and even with our cheap but reliable blender, it turned out really well!  It really doesn't separate much (which was a huge relief because I tried making my own pecan milk a few months back which was tasty, but it separated so completely that it was a little unappetizing to look at), though it could use a good shake before enjoying.  After I added it to some cold brew, I noticed that over a period of time, there was a little separation, but nothing that a gentle swirl didn't take care of.  

It is incredible creamy and has a nice, naturally sweet nuttiness to it that delightfully complements coffee, possibly (dare I say it) even BETTER than cow's milk.  I tried all the experiments with this, and it is just as good with hot coffee as cold brew.  It pairs very well with espresso, and when steamed for a latte, it isn't quite as smooth as cow's milk, but holds up just as well as almond milk.

So, I was really excited to try a latte with my homemade nut milk and homemade cold brew concentrate.  But as it turns out, the oh-so-magical Juan Carlos is just so delicious even when it's brewed twice as strong as it usually is that I only needed to add a small amount of my nut milk to it to make it creamy.

You will notice some white flecks from the milk.
I think these would be eliminated with a better blender,
but even if not, they don't affect the taste!
 Yesterday, though, I used an inexpensive Guatemalan coffee that I've had sitting around in a Glad container for months to make a cold brew concentrate.  I mixed half of that concentrate with half of my fresh batch of Cashew & Brazil Nut Milk and goodness gracious, it was creamy coffee perfection!

Now my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of enjoying coffee.  My plan is to experiment with different types of nuts and combinations that might go well with coffee.  Stay tuned!