Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

It’s beginning to feel a lot like….autumn.

Over the last week in the lovely Garden State, a cooler breeze started pushing through, and I couldn’t help but get a bit excited. Fall is in the air, and with it, the haze and smog and humidity of summer seem to be blowing away. We’re not quite out of the warm weather yet, but the first hints of the fall crispness are here.

I love the fall. I love being able to put on jeans and a sweater for the first time of the season. I like digging out my light jackets and hitting the trail to enjoy the fall foliage. I enjoy turning on the TV and watching a Penn State football and drinking a beer. I’m not usually one to light a lot of candles, but during the fall, I love filling my house with autumn scents, like apples and cinnamon. And though it might be a bit juvenile, I still like to tromp through the fallen leaves on my walk to and from the train station.

I am also obsessed with “fall flavors.” Nearly every year a group of friends and I go apple picking. The orchard also maintains a country store with excellent produce and fresh-baked goods. One of my favorite things to get there are apple cider donuts. While these are available year round, in the fall, they make them in front of you and serve them hot. They are to die for. They also sell apple cider by the glass, either warm or cold, which is a lovely way to wash down a donut. I always buy at least a gallon of cider to take home with me, and I spent many a night during grad school writing a term paper with a glass of hot apple cider by my side. I was excited to see that Dunkin Donuts is selling apple cider now. I’m definitely going to have to wander over there and check it out. I’ll also have to make a trip to Starbucks to get a pumpkin spice latte.

For me, fall always brings a sense of excitement and possibility. Perhaps it because I’ve still spent a majority of my life where the year starts in September, or maybe it’s just that the temperatures cool and I finally have a bit of energy after languishing in the hot summer sun. Whatever it is, I always find myself making plans and experiencing a sense of rejuvenation once fall comes around. I know that spring is considered a time of rebirth, but I experience the same feeling in the fall. Two seasons are down and there are two more to go for the year. Halloween and Thanksgiving will be here before I know it and Christmas isn’t too far away either. Fall gets me excited for all of these events. I’m ready to gear up for the end of the year, just as long as I have a delicious hot fall beverage in hand.

It’s time for another Our View From Here book club. This time, we’ll be reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Check it out next week when we discuss what we thought of the book and feel free to comment on our posts about what you thought about it!
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In Memoriam: Thanksgiving

Am I the only person that remembers the quaint holiday of Thanksgiving? You might recall that it’s the day most people have off from work between Halloween and Christmas. The one that doesn’t require presents or costumes?….Still doesn’t jog your memory? Ummm….it’s the day before Black Friday? Remember? …There it is! I knew you’d get it.

I feel increasingly bad for Thanksgiving (you may recall from a previous post that I have an issue with actualizing inanimate objects and concepts). Ever since people started stringing up lights and going all out in decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving has increasingly gotten the shaft. I guess it just can’t compete with the costumes and candy of Halloween or the presents and lights of Christmas.

In my mind, Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday. It’s one of the few left that hasn’t been overly commercialized. You don’t have to worry about presents or spiffing up the house with decorations. You don’t have kids ringing your doorbell all night looking for candy. Unless you’re the one cooking the dinner, all you really have to do is show up somewhere, eat, drink and be merry. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Then there are the leftovers….pumpkin pie for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch and a second go around of turkey and all the fixings for dinner. Excellent.

I also think that Thanksgiving is a holiday where people are the most real. No one’s trying to fake that they really like that ugly sweater they just received and no one feels forced to go to a religious service. Thanksgiving gives us a time to relax with one another, catch up, maybe watch some football or play a pickup game. In any case, of all the holidays, I think Thanksgiving is most about togetherness (yes, I’m sure many of you have Thanksgiving horror stories and I’m probably being overly simplistic and naïve, but I’m feeling sentimental and warm-hearted toward Thanksgiving right now so just work with me here).

Poor Thanksgiving. No one appreciates it anymore. Everyone is just rushing to get to Christmas. I’ve even heard some stores (Sears, I think?) that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Really? Is it too much to ask to have one day where Christmas and the need to shop and buy the perfect gift is not shoved down our throats? Well I am not jumping on that bandwagon! I plan to give Thanksgiving its proper due. Until the day after Thanksgiving, I will scoff at people who already have their houses decorated for Christmas; scowl at the Macy’s Christmas windows and tree on my way to work; mute the TV commercials advertising Christmas specials; and shake my fist at those festive red Starbucks cups. After Thanksgiving, I’ll be as jolly as a fat elf drunk on eggnog, but not a moment before. Long Live Thanksgiving!

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Caffeine Genetics

I like good coffee. 

(Wow, that sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it.  Maybe I should just quit while I’m ahead today, with mind-blowing observations like that!  Is your life changed from having read that?  Good, then I’ve done my job.  You’re welcome.)

Beyond that, though, I really really don’t like bad coffee.

(Still cookin’ here.)

In my case, it’s a learned behavior.  I came of age during the Great Coffee Revolution: the birth of Starbucks and the mainstreaming of Gourmet Roasts.  My parents always make coffee at their house; and they always buy the good stuff.  So, when I started to drink it, there was always a really rich, aromatic blend available.  My sister learned to brew coffee when she was five years old.  By the age of seven, she was the go-to coffee maker in our house.  I focused my efforts on drinking it, rather than making it (which, I still feel was a smarter strategic choice).

So, my coffee snobbery has deep roots.  I turn my nose up at Maxwell House and Folgers.  I buy the best beans I can afford from artisanal roasters, I grind them myself and every morning I brew a press-pot.  If coffee isn’t brewed strong enough, I feel cheated.   I prefer dark roasts over light roasts, but they have to be done right.  I have a great deal of disdain for Starbucks, because I think they over-roast their beans to achieve a rich flavor, but everything ends up tasting burned. 

When I travel to tea-drinking societies, I drink tea more often than coffee, but only because the coffee tends to be instant.  If I do drink instant coffee (only out of necessity: heading to the airport, need something to stay awake before leaving the hotel room), I double the dose of powder, hold my nose and wait for the caffeine to kick in before I start making any big decisions….like where to find something decent to drink.

Because coffee-snobbery is a family affair, when I travel, one of the best gifts I bring back is coffee.  My parents babysit for Roxy when I go away, so I bring gifts from my travels.  In Indonesia this Spring, I spent four days looking for good beans, I bought some that were just ok.  When I got back from shopping, my host had bought me two pounds of incredible coffee, so when I got home, I gave away what I bought and kept the good stuff to myself.  (Go ahead, ask me if I regret being selfish:  I don’t.) Last fall, I returned from Colombia with an amazing kilo of Colombian coffee.  Two days later, I left for Norway, a country that consumes good coffee, but doesn’t produce it.  Four days into my stay in Norway, my mom called me on Skype. 

“We drank all that coffee.  When are you bringing back more?”   

Told you….I come by it honestly.

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