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Archive for the ‘coffee’ Category

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.


gets my goat

In coffee on June 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm

are there cultures where asking how are you is not considered polite? because those are my people. up north, i would often get the what’s new query. answer being: i live in fort bragg, absolutely nothing new, duh. and if you know me at all, how i am is determined by the weather. we are either sunny or not at all sunny. every once in awhile i succumb to the popular trend of self-improvement through diet. but, sadly, i never come to any rays of godlight problems solved now and forevermore conclusions. instead, i always bump up against the same small sensible reminders . . . moderation is good, balance is key, portion size matters, and being fueled by food is the goal. also i find that even though eggs are a go-to food for many, i don’t think they sit well with me. best if i just include them in cake batters. and chocolate, high-quality and tasting of earth adventure & life itself, is awfully binding. again, best for me in cake form.

princessbut today i think i lighted on a perfect personal health adventure . . . a capricorn inspired menu! i already know the tail end is a power food source for me; i can never have enough tinned fishes, smoked salmon, ceviche, sashimi, and seafood dishes. i like goat meat and cheeses. my very favorite cheese is drunken goat from spain with a wine washed rind. today i picked up to taste-test goat gouda, goat yogurt, goat milk, and goat butter.  and we all know, as always, the butter will be key.




enter & win

In coffee on April 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Correctly identify any one of the following coffee havens and


anthony med impression laboulange

you’re welcome

cake happened

In coffee on April 2, 2013 at 6:46 pm

so my oven died in the middle of an attempt to make gluten and dairy-free chocolate cookies for my baby sister even though it goes against my religion to forsake cake flour, butter and milk. i cried buckets over my ruined holiday baking plans. when visiting family, i always show up bearing a bundt cake to ensure cries of delight as i come through the doorway. i considered cancelling my annual northern visit because i didn’t want to discover how a cake-less tanja would be received. but my sister insisted i should bring up ingredients and bake a cake in her kitchen. she is the boss of me so i did. cobwebbed cake tools were found in the back of her cupboards, a few inches of counter space were freed up in her busy kitchen, and a fresh toy paint brush stood in for a pastry brush. and from buster’s anonymous lemons gift, a zesty lemon bundt cake rose up. it was an easter miracle!

lovelemons lemon cooling success

my grandniece, isa, was impatient waiting for the cake to cool. i reminded her that she doesn’t like cake. she just likes schprinkles.


my favorite thing to do in mendocino is soak up all the sun shining on my sister’s front porch. my family’s favorite thing to do is force me to go for a hikey-poo regardless of the weather. getting battered by wind and rain and arguing about wearing enough clothing is mandatory. every year.

porch hike

my mother lives in a tower underneath double rainbows. she puts me up and puts up with me. she tucks me in and in the morning we have peet’s french roast and oatmeal with cranberries, banana and cinnamon. i still had room for my brother-in-law’s waffles after.