I had to jumpstart the coffee pot.

As my dad once said, It’s so cold out there, I had to jumpstart the coffee pot.

I’ve been known to say that sometimes coffee is just a caffeine delivery system and sometimes it’s a spiritual experience. Some days, it is both.

Coffee, is, and has been, my favorite beverage for decades. I drink it hot year-round. I drink a whole pot by myself before I ever step foot out of the door in the morning.

I cannot, and do not wish to ever, live without coffee. I even bought a gas grill for the primary purpose of being able to make coffee during power outages. I bought lots of BTU power, but it still takes forever to heat water.

I even have a spare coffee-maker to throw in the trunk on road trips. Those puny things in motels are all but useless not to mention the two little packets of coffee provided (1 regular, 1 decaffeinated). The travel pot also serves as the backup pot. This is how much I want and need coffee. There are always two.

I drink it black in a mug that is small by other coffeeholics’ standards. Like good whiskey, I sip my coffee. With a big mug, it’s cold before I get to the bottom.

Each night, I set up coffee for the morning, hit the timer button and toddle off to bed. This insures that the coffee is raring and ready-to-go when I stumble down the stairs trying to orient body and mind to an existence that seems more dream-like at 6 a.m. than my dreams.

Yesterday, on Facebook, a friend happened to mention that she’d gotten a brand new Cuisinart coffee pot and did I want her old one which was a snazzy red. I told her no, because I have a snazzy white Cuisinart albeit an older model.

Her original status update had to do with why she poured in 12 cups of water, but the reservoir only showed 10. We also discussed why, even after topping off the reservoir, 12 cups of coffee only produced 10 cups.  (Presumably, if we didn’t top off the reservoir, the brewed amount would be 8 cups.)

It’s one of the mysteries of the universe. It’s not just this particular brand of coffee-maker, but all of them.. I’ve never had one that produces the same amount of brewed coffee as water I pour in.

The immediate supposition is that two cups are lost as steam during brewing. Two cups is a lot of water. Really, I think I would notice two cups of steam collecting under my kitchen cabinets. I mean, really, wouldn’t it drip from the cabinets?

I have no suppositions about the reservoir.

Another mystery is why every single coffee-maker carafe dribbles. ‘Tis near impossible to pour a cup without having to immediately grab paper towel and wipe up the mess on the counter. I do pour carefully. I pour slow; I pour fast; I pour medium. I pour from great heights and I pour with the lip of the carafe touching the cup – there’s always that dribble.

For a long, long time, I was uncommonly fond of, and unapologetic of, Maxwell House French Roast coffee. All that fancy, schmancy stuff in coffee shops was wasted on me. And don’t even get me started on Starbucks. The first time I had it, I gave the cup back to them and told them they needed to make another pot because that one had gone bad. They did. The second cup was worse.

I did develop a fondness for Columbian coffee (though not Starbucks’). However, with the quantities I drink, it was hard on my stomach. I returned to Maxwell House French Roast.

And then they new-and-improved it to the point where it was undrinkable (unless that was the only coffee I had). I fumbled around in the coffee aisle at the grocery and eventually switched to Folgers.

With a twist of fate, I discovered Tanzanian Peaberry. Now there’s a coffee bean a girl could love. I bought 5 lbs of beans from a mailorder place and reached coffee nirvana.

At times I would run out of the Tanzanian and at other times I just couldn’t afford it. Folgers was the old standby.

During the course of yesterday’s Facebook conversation, we discussed the penchant for Cuisinart’s built-in grinders to gum up. Mine will be fine for weeks and weeks. Then, one morning, I will wake to half-a-pot of semi-brewed coffee and half-ground beans all over the countertop. This is not an event that provokes a good morning.

Wouldn’t you know it – shortly after closing Facebook, I made a new pot and the damned thing gummed up, overflowed, and thoroughly messed up the counter I had just cleaned.

So cursing and stomping (and calling my friend names because she jinxed it), I cleaned up the mess. I unplugged the pot and began cleaning out half-ground beans. There was one spot near the top of the brewer that I couldn’t get to. I turned that baby upside down and used the sink sprayer attachment.

Since I had the damn thing all torn apart, I decided to clean it. I poured in vinegar and I poured in water and I turned the pot on to brew. Nothing. No lights, no camera, no action.

I checked the breaker box – fine. I plugged the coffee-maker into another outlet just to be sure. Nothing.


I dragged out the backup coffee-maker – a Melitta that never did grind right – and got out the Folgers. All was more or less well, though I was still mad.

This morning, I stumbled down the stairs and realized I’d forgotten to set up coffee last night in the excitement of Chef Boy ‘R Mine’s 10 p.m. arrival. It took a minute to register and without thinking, I hit the power button even though the Melitta was sitting next to the Cuisinart. (Neither maker is particularly small and only an early-morning fog explains this.) The Cuisinart saluted, slipped into gear, and brewed me a nice pot of vinegared water.  The supposition here is that the electronic parts had gotten wet and just needed drying time.


I poured water and Folgers into the Melitta and hit brew.

The Folgers is right tasty this morning. I only got 10 cups and there’s coffee dribbles on the counter, but still I have cup of coffee and all is right with the world. Sometimes coffee is just a caffeine delivery system and sometimes it is a spiritual experience. Today it is both.

Good thing. It is so cold out there, I had to jumpstart the coffee pot.

Usury and Plunder (or Bank of America Must Die)

A few months ago, Ann Minch posted the following Youtube video:

I felt her pain while chortling with glee. A year or so ago, Bank of America ended up with my mortgage – one of those last minute shuffles before the Great Credit Crisis of 2008 became public knowledge.

The change in my mortgage company didn’t concern me. I’ve had a Bank of America credit card for years with nary a problem.

But then, BUT THEN, there was The Incident this summer.

My card was declined at the Bob Evans. I called the number on the back of the card thoughtfully provided for just such situations, punched in my account number, and spoke to a woman in Customer Service who was very nice and assured me this wasn’t a problem – a sort of “these things happen” smiling voice on the other end of the phone. After we sorted things out it shook out that I had shorted my last payment by $2.  I offered to pay it then and there, but their billing process wouldn’t allow me to just pay the $2, I would have had to pay the $2 plus my next payment which I hadn’t gotten a bill for yet.  Ms.-Smiling-Voice-These-Things-Happen told me the $2 would be tacked onto my next bill and all was well in Credit Card Land. I was amazed, confused, and flabbergasted just enough not to ask if it wasn’t a big deal why was my card declined.

I get the new bill – they want my regular payment plus the $2 plus a $39 late fee. I’m a wee bit annoyed. Again, I call the number on the back of the card, punch in my account number, and am immediately routed to the Collections Department (not Customer Service) where Attila-the-Credit-Hun informed me that since I was late on a payment, I was charged a late fee. I told Mr.-Jerkdom-of-the-First-Order that I had made my payment in a timely manner as I had all my other payments for years and years including my mortgage payment and that accidentally shorting a payment by $2 didn’t seem to warrant a $39 late fee. Mr.-Hun-the-Jerk-of-First-Order disagreed.

TWO DOLLARS. TWO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Two dollars was enough to throw me to the wolves in the Collections Department. But the story doesn’t end there. Oh no.

Several days later, I get a letter. Due to the “delinquency” on my account, they were slashing my credit line and shooting my interest rate into outer space.

I called Attila.

Attila-the-Asshole is not a reasonable human being.

In my best Scarlett O’Hara, I announced to a red sky at night that I would pay that damn card off, refinance my mortgage, and badmouth Bank of America every chance I got.  As God is my Witness, I’ll never be usuried or plundered again.

Unfortunately, it’s taking a long time to pay that card off and given the Sucky Credit Crisis, I anticipate refinancing isn’t going to be the cakewalk it was the last time, so I’ve just been stewing in my juices and occasionally glaring at the Huntington branch of Bank of America when I drive by.

I haven’t used that card for anything. I will move into the Huntington City Mission and turn tricks in 41/2 alley before I’ll use that card.

I’m thinkin’ Attila must have gotten laid, because a couple of days ago, I’m paying bills and I notice my credit line has been restored and my interest rate is back in the stratosphere (higher than it had been, but significantly lower than Attila’s spleen venting of a few months ago).

So, I’m a little less willing to turn tricks to avoid the card than I was last week, but I still don’t intend on using it. I don’t piss off easy, but when I do it can be for life. (I’ve been boycotting Dole for 25 years and I can’t remember why.)

We have a perfectly wonderful local bank where I’ve had my checking account for 25 years. They’re solvent, were solvent, and didn’t need a dime of bailout money. Why I got hooked into Chase, Citi, Bank of America and all manner of Too-Big-To-Fails is beyond my ken right now. All I know is that as soon as I can, the locals are getting all my business – mortgage, credit, retirement accounts, and any future lottery winnings.

I was too afraid of trashing my credit score to join Ann Minch in her boycott – my finances are precarious and I didn’t need something else to worry about. But I admire her. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it’s something like “a satisfied customer will tell three people, a dissatisfied customer will tell 9.”  Ann Minch went beyond that.  She not only told thousands and thousands, she stood up to their bullying and won.

Bank of America must die – hopefully at least 7 people will read this (I’ve already told two).

A cup o’bloomin’ tea.

Tea can provoke a need for candlelight.

Tea can provoke a need for candlelight.

My family are not tea drinkers. We had iced tea (no sugar – sweet tea was for communists), but we weren’t hot tea drinkers. Oh sure, the parents would let me order tea when I was 8, but they thought I just wanted it for the little silver pot. I did, but I also enjoyed the tea.

I got introduced to “Russian Tea” when I was 14. It was a dark black tea with cloves, dried oranges, cinnamon, star anise and something else. It was the first tea I ever had that was supposed to be lumpy and leave dregs. I’ve searched multiple states and multiple countries for it with no luck. Just last Christmas I found a reasonable substitute at a bookstore – Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice (with orange and cloves). It’s a lovely tea and I’ve grown fond of it.

The well-used kettle.

The well-used kettle.

I’m an unrepentant coffee drinker. Folks are astonished at the amount of coffee I drink. I’ve been told I’d fit right in at an AA meeting. I drink a pot of coffee before I even leave the house in the morning and another throughout the day. During the day, I’ll often also brew green tea. Or chamomile. Sometimes an Oolong.

I enjoy the ritual of tea – the boiling, the steeping, the pouring, and the accoutrements.



I like trying to “read the leaves.” I stir and watch the steam swirl. I deeply inhale the fragrance. Coffee is gulped, tea is savored.

I drink my coffee black except for the very rare occasion I have dessert – in which case heavy cream is required. But tea – now tea positively requires additives mostly because of tea sets – you have to put something in all those containers and if you’re going to put something in there then you have to use it.

The very-special English teacup.

The very-special English teacup.

I love tea sets and tea pots and tea cups. Coffee is everyday – utilitarian. Well, mostly it is. Sometimes coffee is just a caffeine delivery system and sometimes it is a spiritual experience. Tea, however, always provokes ritual. Sugar cubes, creamer, lemon, honey, Demerara sugar, spoons, tongs, pots, trays, kettles, shortbread cookies, and comfortable rockers.

Tea is not a beverage, it’s a mind/body experience.

The even more special dragon cup (and tea service).

The even more special dragon cup (and tea service).

I like a little Mozart with my tea.

My teapot collection, while not large, is diverse. Some of it is very formal even if I do almost always drink tea in faded jeans. The tea cup collection is far more sparse. I vow, now and again, to get more, but I’m usually overwhelmed by the choices.

Tea is almost always enjoyed in well-faded jeans.

Tea is almost always enjoyed in well-faded jeans.

Lipton’s black tea is fine. Cheap herbals are fine. Luscious imported teas, delicate whites, organic herbals and the like are, of course, much more appreciated. I love to hold the cup close to my face and breathe in the steam and aroma.

A couple of years ago I discovered in a magazine the “blooming teas.” These immediately rushed to the top of my “must have” list. Showing restraint, I did not order them and when Chef Boy ‘R Mine asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told him. My restraint centered on the fact that without the special teapot, the wonder of blooming tea is not fully realized.

Blooming tea.

Blooming tea.

Blooming teas are hand-tied bulbs of tea and other botanicals including dried flowers. When the boiling water is added, the bulbs “bloom” and one ends up with a floral arrangement in their teapot. It doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Said tea requires a glass teapot and a tea candle so that the blooming tea is visible. Brewing this tea is most spectacular in a dark room. The blooming teas are almost always one of the white teas; hence the tea is an amber color. With the tea candle shining upwards through the bottom of the pot, the view of the blooms is wondrous – a Monet water lily with a golden cast. The ritual of tea takes on a whole new facet with these bulbs.

Tea often demands a good book and a comfortable rocking chair.

Tea often demands a good book, an afghan and a comfortable Victorian rocking chair.

Still, I like the old standbys. Oolong is a favorite because it has the same mouth feel as coffee. The cinnamon/clove/orange tea is great heavily sweetened and drunk on a cold winter night. Chamomile is spectacular with honey and lemon.

When in England in 1998, I learned to drink tea with cream. I was in a little tea shop complete with white table cloths and a platter of “biscuits.” The tea was served with cream and sugar. When in Rome and all that. It was quite lovely and there are some days I just I have to have tea prepared that way along with some Walker shortbread cookies.

My 13th birthday china.

My 13th birthday china.

It’s always been interesting to me how and why we acquire the habits we have. I’m not sure why I’m so entranced with tea, but I suspect it’s the cups and teapots. I have more dishes than any one person can justify, because I love dishes. Now there’s a habit I can’t begin to explain – fine china, hand-turned pottery, hollow-stem champagne flutes, sushi plates, whimsical turkey soup bowls – you name it, I have it.

Tea is ritual – it’s the very epitome of right here right now.  It slows me down, centers and grounds me.  It’s a lovely respite from real life.

[If you’re into tea and ever in the D.C. area, don’t miss Ching Ching Cha’s – it’s a Chinese tea house that will, I promise, rock your world.]

Eager Capitulation

Retro tech.

Retro tech.

Back about 2001 or so, my family got their panties in a tangle when they discovered I was traveling the state and eastern seaboard without a cell phone. Now, I’d traveled years and years before the advent of cell phones, but suddenly it was a problem. 

Now they had some good arguments: the one that swayed me was the fact that pay phones are an endangered specie. I also was tired of explaining that I was the last person on the planet without a cell phone.  So. I got a spiffy little prepaid cell phone with which I was happy But then people started calling me all the time and no amount of YOU CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT THIS CALL IS COSTING ME got through to them. At 50 cents a minute, I couldn’t afford the convenience.



By then I was convinced of the need for the damn thing. I wandered into an AT&T store and came out with an NEC phone that rocked my world. It was simple and didn’t try to make toast, take pictures, play music, or iron my sheets. It made calls and it had a great calendar that synced nicely with my Outlook contact list. For $29.99 a month even my chattiest friends could call me without me gritting my teeth.

Then I discovered that people think that because you have a phone you should answer it unless on life support or in a job interview. I continue to be astounded that people fail to realize that the phone is for my convenience and I answer it dependent on personal whims. That’s not ever going to change. My first full-time job was as a switchboard operator and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with phones ever since. I once lived for 3 years without a phone to try and get over the trauma of those early employment years – 42 ringing lines, 8 hours a day, all day, 5 days a week, and two Saturdays a month.

In any event, I went days without turning the cell phone on. You can’t imagine (or maybe you can) how that enrages people. Then there’s my mother who hollers “pick up, pick up” into my voice mail. Now granted, she only calls me when things are dire, but I’ve yet to get her to understand that voicemail is not an answering machine. (Her confusion is understandable – at home I have an answering machine, I screen all calls and I don’t “pick up” most of them.)

Well, just as I was getting to be dependent on the cell phone, AT&T sold to Cingular and my phone, coinkydink, didn’t work half the time and no amount of talking to customer service did any good. Enraged and in full tantrum mode one day, I went to the Cingular store prepared to have a meltdown. Fortunately, one of the kids I knew from the university was working. After a calm, reasoned explanation of my wrath, I was given a new phone at no charge.

Turns out it was the Motorola Razr. I had no idea that it was the trendy phone of the moment and younguns everywhere were saving their money to get one. I hated it. I do not want to hold my tongue just right, hit the right center side of a microscopic button, and say 12 hail mary-ies just to get my address book to open. I don’t know why anyone would.

The Old Blackberry

The Old Blackberry

I also do not want my cell phone to be smaller than my lipstick tube. I want to be able to find it in my purse. I do not want it to be thinner than a credit card. In fact, I’d like a cell phone the size of a cordless phone handset. That would make me very happy. In fact, I railed for some time about how I’d like a cell phone that was tucked inside of an old fashioned black receiver – big honking, heavy thing. [Note: they don’t make those, but they do make a nifty “earphone” thinger – see the picture.]

Less than 24 hours later, I took the Razr back. My cute little university boy wasn’t there. I had to have a meltdown.

I walked out with a Blackberry. It was the first “smaller” version of the classic Blackberry. It didn’t have the QWERTY keyboard, but it was 4 times the size of the Razr.

Man, I loved that phone. It was simple, direct, synched with my Outlook and had dedicated buttons for features and a nifty track wheel conveniently located on the side. After a couple of months, it occurred to me that I wasn’t using the data capabilities and it was stupid to pay for it. I cancelled the data plan. I also cancelled the text message plan.

I didn’t understand until recently why having a Blackberry with no data plan confused people. Apparently, I was the last person to be allowed to do that. Now, if you want a Blackberry you have to pay the additional data fee.

Well, Cingular sold everything back to AT&T and regular as clockwork my phone became unreliable. It’s also very old. As my use of it dwindled, I decided paying for 450 minutes a month when I was using 20 was kind of silly. So, I converted the Blackberry to a Go-Phone account.

After years of railing about the evils of cell phones, addiction to the little monsters, etc. etc. to wit and tut tut, I found I missed knowing that I could call anyone anytime without fear of being out of minutes or talking too fast because of the 25 cents a minute thing.

And after years of railing about multifunctional phones that do everything besides connecting one voice to another, I found myself wanting the Blackberry 8900 because of its camera.

The beautiful, coveted 8900

The beautiful, coveted 8900

Cameras, specifically, were the target of my ire. I said often and loudly, “I do not want my phone to take pictures.” I also said, “I don’t want it to play music. I don’t wanna surf the web on my phone. I just want to make a phone call.”

I thought this pining for the 8900 was temporary insanity and would wear off once my hormones stabilized. But then a friend got one. And then my son got one. My eyes narrowed into green, blazing slits of uncontrolled coveting.

Given my hatred of phone dependence and previous railing of phones that do everything, I cannot justify this.

But here’s an attempt:

  1. I’m really loving this blogging thing and I like giving y’all pictures to illustrate my blathering. I don’t want to carry my camera around everywhere (it’s bigger than your average digital), so a cell phone with a camera seemed kind of smart. The 8900 boasts a 3.2 megapixel with a decent resolution. (The picture quality is better than my first digital camera.)
  2. I also like responding to your comments in “real time” and I’m notified by email when comments come in, but if I don’t have access to the email, I can’t respond. Voila! A web enabled phone solves that problem.
  3. I’m now working two jobs – one of which has me out late at night. I feel safer with a phone, besides which a multifunction phone will alleviate some of the boredom of the wee hours.
  4. I just want it.

So. I’m cruising the Amazon site for birthday presents and there was the come-on deal – no activation fee, no shipping charges, and the 8900 for one penny. ONE CENT. ONE.

I dithered about that now-mandatory data package thing. I dithered about how much all this was going to cost me – my one cent phone. I dithered that they didin’t have it in a brilliant red. I dithered about 4 hours before clicking “add to cart”.

The thing finally arrived today. There are some things I’m not happy about, but I’m hoping it’s just a learning curve glitch and it’ll be second nature in no time.

But wouldn’t you know it – it’s cloudy and a little drizzly outside and I can’t get a signal. Cell phone reception in the barn is always hit and miss, but dammit, I got a new phone. I’ve got the data package. I’ve got texting minutes.

Fortunately, I’ve got wi-fi, so I did get to test that out. I’m hopeful that tomorrow I can explore my new phone and learn all its secrets and take a million pictures of people from the front seat of my car.

So. If you want to send me a text message, email me and I’ll give you my number.

I’m tickled with a phone that at the moment is incapable of making a phone call. Go figure. It’s a big ol’ goofy world and I’m the leading lady.  Happy (early) Birthday to me!

[Note: The spiffy old-fashioned phone receiver thingie doesn’t fit in the new Blackberry – I’m going to have to find an adaptor – bet that ain’t gonna be easy.]