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Archive for the ‘coffee’ Category

birthday wishes

In coffee on October 10, 2019 at 4:17 pm

the sunflower queen was having another birthday. from her clifftop home perched above the dazzling winking sea, she summoned her children, grandchild, and great grandchild. dutiful eldest son and daughter hurried north on flying goat (coffee). the others lived closer and timed their arrival for just after the summer pies showed up.



the prickly daughter and the youngest one of all compared notes: we prefer cake to pie, weather makes us nervous, and we never answer phones. because the voice at the other end might have questions that need to be answered.




after pie, there were stories told, sandwiches offered to those who are always hungry, and, when the sun went down and the moon came up, the prince provided a magical feast. the grandchild kept asking what the plan was. she likes to know what her lines and cues are and whether or not she will need to come up with an identifying walk or accent. alas, the queen’s clan is hopeless at making any plans at all. ever. but we did make it to the beach.



then the sun faded and a big wind came up. clocks stopped, water ceased to flow, and trees toppled. family scattered and the queen was all alone again. when she has quite recovered i am sure she will summon her people again. and we will come.


fairy tale wedding

In coffee on September 13, 2019 at 3:20 pm


she says: i can’t believe i am dragging my chronic low-grade misery across country to this joyous occasion.

he says: i don’t know why i have to go. it is not like i will be bringing any sunshine to the event.

and then her crusty old parents dusted off their rusty hearts and flew into hurricane winds to be there for their glorious, fabulous, much-loved daughter. rainbow cousins raced fierce falling trees on the north coast and awoke to identical twin girls jabbering in various languages at the foot of the bed on the east coast. friends and families were summoned from distant islands, the bay, and even just four blocks away.


the bride and her intended were gorgeous. the ritual sublime, notes-on-paper vows so heartfelt; venue, jazz band, catered food, cocktails, weather . . . all was perfection. cousin shared blessings from grandmother and uncle conjured up grandfather in his toast. there were so many beautiful people gathered together that the earth tilted on its axis a little.



a whirlwind weekend with happiness swelling in all the breasts. two kinds of people: unhampered by shyness or age-issues, most folk took to the dance floor. my brother and i found good coffee shops and numerous park benches to quietly celebrate.




there are no good questions

In coffee on September 6, 2018 at 1:12 pm

it was hot as hades in new york. we ducked into moma. for culture. for air conditioning. and for soy cappuccinos. we stopped by a help desk for directions and advice but the woman was ‘not in’. she had heard it all and no longer cared. having worked in customer service in one form or another my whole life i recognized the look in her eyes: there are no good questions.


i had been summoned across the land because kirya was taking me to court for not having a phone. judge john hodgman presiding. if you know how much i hate talking on phones and how far i will go to avoid it you can imagine how out of my element i was on a freaking podcast. it meant the world to me that the judge was as kind as he is funny. which is very. you can have a listen here: http://maximumfun.org/judge-john-hodgman/judge-john-hodgman-episode-380-dont-call-next-witness.

i am happy to report that working the counter at a bakery for these last two and a half years has not ruined hanging out in coffee shops for me. cherry on top is quality time spent with daughter. my daughter lets me follow her around the city like an imprinting baby duck. i am a little embarrassed that my new old-age dairy intolerance leads me to ask for vegan options. so obnoxious. but maybe we made up for it later when we went out for jamaican curried goat. and cocktails of course.




my brother in law lives less than a dozen blocks from me but the joke is that it is only when i (and my people) am moving about the planet that we bump into each other. so of course we are both boarding the same homeward bound plane in newark. he goes first because he is more fancy (just medium-fancy, he insists). as he rushes off his suitcase slips out of his hand and crashes to the floor. if i had an iphone i could have shared that on instagram. i am planning on going to an art museum downtown today like i am classy or something. if i had an iphone you could be sure my cardamom coffee and goodie would end up on instagram.



photos courtesy of kirya yvonne traber

In coffee on October 24, 2016 at 2:57 pm

we hear the train whistles blow every day here. last week i followed my sister onto a night train bound for oregon. we hurtled through a night and a day with a voice from above cajoling, teasing, admonishing, and cuddly ishmael in the aisles herding passengers and maintaining order. on the menu: lost souls, odd pairings, and kind strangers. travis shared the last breakfast croissant with me and raphael from switzerland approved of my plans to retire to zurich.



wanda planned the trip, made all the travel arrangements, and brought me a peppermint striped umbrella. and packed my raincoat. it rained a lot in salem. every day. never travel without a grownup. the plan for our three days there was no plans. other than finding gus, the last baby, and sharing meals. coffee dates too. the very best goodie i had was jean’s oatmeal cookies. jean runs a b&b enthusiastically just a few blocks from gus’s college. she enjoyed the challenge of working around all of our dietary peculiarities. in between guests, jean can be found climbing mountains on her bicycle.





gus is lovely. so lovely to be able to picture him in his new natural habitat now. lovely hugs. he was lovely when we lingered a day longer than the other parents. i attempted imitating his lovely posture and stride and have sore muscles for my trouble. we discovered lovely restaurants, museum, bookstore, and vintage antique store. i don’t want to talk about the apple pie. the stream running through the college has ducks.





trip began and ended with the love & support of eldest brother and eldest daughter chauffeuring and fetching us. also wanda and i have grown accustomed to being fed lavishly. i hear a train hooting across town right this very minute.



Both My Grandfathers by kirya traber

In coffee on June 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm

many of us are personally familiar with the sloshing-over fullness and balancing act a mother & daughter relationship is. but it is not everyday we are whisked to the lincoln center in new york city and seated in the front row to experience and absorb daughter’s retelling of the day the bay bridge broke. she plays herself at the age of six; she wrote a story about the importance of stories, the bits & pieces and the intangible star flash passed on through bloodlines, and how we are able to keep going even while losing so much and so many along the way. i was prepared to feel way too much, to not just leak tears but to quietly blubber and i did. it helped that on either side of me her (extremely proud) uncle & aunt succumbed too. i was not prepared for viscerally reacting every time her character called for her mommy. it doesn’t matter how grown your girl is nor that there is an actress playing you, perhaps a little too well, cued to respond. it’s an instinctive call & response: she hollers mommy! and you yell what?



we had just two days to fit in highlights in the big apple, beginning with early morning best neighborhood coffee. we found our way back to our lodging at all hours by recognizing the roses. the sun didn’t always sparkle during our visit but daughter did.





i just read an article today discussing how our brains aren’t really wired well for decision-making. these days we are bombarded with choices all day long yet we lack a capacity to prioritize between big and small decisions. daughter shared her little corner of prospect park where turtles sun on the rocks and she rests her mind. her partner accompanied us to donut plant, where we all feel safe & contented, but because they want to avoid being hurried and pressured while in line, they scroll thru the plentiful choices on their phone during the metro approach. smart cookie.



for our last meal, we put ourselves in the competent hands of our favorite eldest nephew. he is so thoughtful, considerate, funny that he effortlessly matched himself to my splendidino cocktail. we savored assorted charcuterie and fine cheeses paired with fig, honey, and spice. he has acquired a bicycle, sometimes traveling above ground rather than in new york tunnels, perhaps in preparation for returning to the bay area. he & his girl caught daughter’s last performance the next day and he gifted her a little lightning. our giant grand children. my tear-catching hankie is completely soaked.




ugly stepsister

In coffee on March 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm

she didn’t have any use for them herself and generously bequeathed them to me. so then i had a month’s worth of a food stamps equivalent for coffee dates. and i will tell you a secret: starbucks coffee, like peet’s coffee, is good. which isn’t that surprising if you know your coffee history and remember that the two used to be related. and even if you are not in the habit of frequenting starbucks because you are a peetniks they aren’t hard to find. there must be a zoning law here in town that requires a peet’s coffee drinker to be able to spot a starbucks out the window and vice versa.

sampled south berkeley’s shop first since it’s in my neighborhood. ordered a cup of coffee and a petite vanilla bean scone. the goodies selection is not particularly enticing but i wasn’t expecting much in that department. the shop is right next to a new bakery that specializes in retro desserts like twinkies and hostess cupcakes made with wholesome ingredients. partook of that fun with just my eyes since i didn’t have a voucher from my sister.



next time i came in i ordered a cappuccino and they provided a ceramic cup. the very next visit was after a run so i needed some lunch instead. i sat at the bar and chatted with the staff. i know they are instructed to be friendly, as they are at the peet’s these days too, but the smiles were genuine.





downtown starbucks has outdoor seating; especially nice these hot march days. coffee, water when i asked nice, and a free drink when i accumulated three stars. we were kinda parkling, i would say.




there is another starbucks downtown, catty corner to peet’s, with only indoor seating and a community table. a small group wandered in and then she said oh let’s go to peet’s instead they are much better and they giggled all the way out because she couldn’t believe she had made that statement so loudly in starbucks.


i met a friend for coffee up on college avenue. she wasn’t too squeamish to meet up at a starbucks. we could see a nice peet’s across the street. the shop is tucked into the brand new fancy safeway and there is a fresh artsy patio courtyard where you can enjoy your perfectly fine cup of coffee. i only have $1.82 left on my card which means i have just one more starbucks coffee date in my arsenal. looking forward to it.




In coffee on September 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

i don’t get much out of sightseeing because i’m too easily distracted by surface layers of recent going ons and personalities¬† to mine the historic depths landmarks have to offer. conversely, small fragments of sight and sound will trigger personal and even ancestral memories and i love to follow these trails of beginnings and belonging. buster’s hitching post up at the track is underneath a chestnut tree. today, a busted open shell had me remembering family walks in europe. crispy autumn air, pink woolen coat, my hand in a parent’s firm hand; either for comfort or to urge my lazy legs to keep moving. and, of course, i hadn’t left the house without a hanky in my pocket. those were horse chestnuts in the woods and dad would make up an absurd explanation for the name that we would all believe well into adulthood.


although i am allergic to all nuts, i always appreciate bakeries like crixa and fournee here in berkeley that offer up traditional european desserts with chestnut flour, hazelnuts, and almond crust or pastry cream. i might have to attempt hazelnut cakes from my swiss cooking book for my sister’s birthday next time because it meets her gluten & dairy-free requirements. i am not an emotional eater but i do notice myself stuffing my cheeks like an anxious squirrel when my bank account dwindles. as i ran in circles up at the top, small children of various nationalities, herded by their caretakers, flocked to the water fountain. they chortled and were merry, as children always are around water, and i overheard them discussing ‘habitat’. lower down the hill workmen were chewing up dangerous trees. good job.


coffee & dates

In coffee on September 2, 2014 at 7:12 pm

i spent the month of august pretending to be outgoing and wrote about it, everyday. lots of pretty pictures to look at too:¬† http://brownsugarsocial.wordpress.com/. caught up with actual friends and made some new virtual friends. i also started an indiegogo campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/publish-children-s-book. please feel free to move about the cabin and take a peek. cheery sun struggled to break through this late afternoon and we cheered every time it did. we were having an impromptu little jazzy cake & coffee gathering at the farmers’ market amidst all the invigorating greenery and summer fruits. i didn’t know actual dates were such a feminine ivory berry when they started out.







In coffee on July 21, 2014 at 5:50 pm

duchess“do you like to cook?” he asks. i answer in the negative immediately. he needs to know i am not a feeder. “but i like to bake.” i admit. which makes him suck in his gut and titter nervously. we are not suited at all. cooking for me is like gardening: i so appreciate other people’s gorgeous dishes and lush gardens but lack the energy or expertise to produce anything too impressive on my own. my baking skills aren’t particularly expert either. i have merely built up a repertoire of seasonal bundt cake recipes over the years to suit almost any occasion and satisfy my sweet tooth. we have traced my interest in baking back to my very early years when we lived next to mrs. carlinni. she always had a tin of fresh baked cookies on hand. it was a particular kind of cookie i have never encountered elsewhere and i can still conjure up a taste memory fifty years later. it was a wavy, free-form, large thin melt-in-your-mouth kind of cookie with powdered sugar resting sweetly on top. mrs. carlinni also had a large wonderful doll with lacy skirts on her bedroom bureau. she let me visit it often because i had promised not to play with it. i think there was a mr. carlinni as well but he didn’t have cookies or dolls so he wasn’t my hero. on the day our moving truck came i was found hiding under their bed. i didn’t want to move away. years later, my dad brought me back for a visit with mrs. carlinni. i was too shy to talk to her anymore but i happily partook of her cookies.

new york quickie

In coffee on November 2, 2013 at 7:06 pm

after an hour of standing in the slowly winding snake line with all the other travelers trying to catch planes, i made it to the now hurry up, pull, push, and shove your belongings thru in your bare feet part. caged dogs were ferociously barking but i remembered later that i had also heard a HOLD UP WE NEED A SECURITY CHECK HERE. the guard and i discussed the dog din as she spent extra time patting down my dreads. i told her i had seen the huge dog making all that noise and i was pretty sure it was actually a bear. we both shuddered. she released me and i turned to find that my baggage had been delayed. a gaggle of grown men were gathered around the wee bitters gift my daughter had given me trying to determine if it should be allowed on the plane. they shrugged and tossed it back in the tray. i gathered my things, jumped back into my shoes, and ran for my flight which i made only in the nick of time. no time for a pee-pee.


many people claim to love to travel. i stink at traveling but i do love being in other cities. i like sitting in other places. on park benches and in coffee shops, with family. i only had the weekend in new york, but daughter made sure we covered the important things while i was there. i stayed in a tiny strip of rooms: bedroom, coffeepot room, and bathroom all overlooking a sweet garden. daughter lived a dozen blocks away and brought over goat milk for my coffee. a full moon peeped in the window when i got up in the morning, church bells chimed close by, and geese were talkative as they flew overhead. a little girl in pink chatted me up in the garden and shared a snail shell she had found while sorting stones. we agreed that parking it next to my door looked really good. when i returned that night only a little snail trail remained.


saturday was just a wind up for my daughter’s last performance that evening. we went to the farmers’ market for apples, accidentally saw the best exhibit ever on the history of children’s books at the library, and had time for late afternoon coffees and goodies at grounded, a delightful coffee shop near new school. lot’s of people walking their dogs in that neighborhood. and the owners match their dogs perfectly. someone needs to document this phenomenon. next trip i will have a camera, i promise. daughter’s play was amazing. daughter was amazing. the play was layered like the jazz piece it referenced. it was both disturbing and deliciously funny. i got to sit with important people and people important to my daughter. every other minute i had to remind myself to pull my shoulders back down from my ears where they had climbed to. then i got to go out and get sloppy with the young people. they are all stars already; all those illuminated possibilities in their possession sparking out in pointed rays of bright light.

sunday we ran in the park. i love running with my daughter. we had to dodge pink-clad breast champions as they paraded thru the park underneath bright orange fall foliage trees. daughter both fed me lunch (gorgeous salad with turkey and her garlic roasted brussels sprouts) and took me to her neighborhood coffee shop for treats before we caught a train to harlem for dinner with her boo (and friends). such a privilege to be able to hang out with beautiful young people. even if my presence provides one of those “one of these things is not like the other” moments. monday i had to leave for home but not before we ran again in the park. this time we only had to dodge horses. daughter packed me a sandwich for later and i accidentally called her mom. she got me all the way to the air train and then let me travel the last bit alone so i could feel like a grownup. then there was the scary bear thing at the airport . . . i chatted all the way home with my lovely young-lady seatmate and it wasn’t even exhausting to do so. i regret not offering to friend her. my big brother picked me up at the airport because some people, no matter how much we age, will always need a grownup to collect us.