bring on the bean…

January 1, 2013 § 6 Comments


It appears that Writers like a cornucopia of things that start with “c,” though be assured  the following are not in any particular order nor is the list by any measure complete:
coffee (the “think drink”)
cats (I don’t have one and am concerned that this signifies something in terms of writing success)
consideration of others (of our writing time)
crowds (to get lost in and for observeation)
corks (from wine, really good wine)
cute journals
calm (in which to write)
cool pens
carbon paper (yes, it still exists) (zen spot)

A favorite on the above list is Coffee, which does indeed pertain to my resolution list:

  • Drink it slowly (no pre-work drink-on-the-run)
  • Treat it as a luxury ( it is)
  • Have it in lieu of junk food, stress snacks, or sugar bombs of any sort
  • Enjoy with a friend as a catalyst to whatever else is going on and as a focal point, something to stare at thoughtfully while listening and formulationg thoughts and maybe even for toasting!

Summer…coffee…really? yes!

September 9, 2012 § 15 Comments

My Dad used to drink coffee even in the heat of the upstate New York summer (temperatures then and there averaged around 73 degrees farenheit).
“Why?”I once asked him, thinking that classic Coke was the only thirst quencher during the heat of an Adirondack summer.
He explained that though it might make him sweat, any resultant sweat would actually cool him down, especially when a foothills breeze kicked up.

He might have answered my young-pup self, stating that he just plain loved coffee.
Becuase he did.
Also, in the ’60s, it was promorted as “think drink.” I liked that idea and years later, while at college, I found coffee-and-a-cigarette to be just the morning eye-opener. (OK, not for long on the cigarettes…sometime after studying in France, I gave them up, not enjoying the feeling of an army walking across my chest when waking.)

I did not give up coffee. It’s like I inherited the coffee gene from my Dad (impossible, he was my step-dad) and I consider it a luxury, as dessert, as a meal (sometimes at work, yeah, I know what you’re going to say) and as a date with HM, whether we’re cafe-ing or sitting in the living room, talking, reading and sipping.

Here’s a favorite place in St. Louis that you just might want to try out. They serve free trade coffee and somehow brew it strong without that miserable burned acid kick that so many places proudly brew. When in town, give it a whirl. It’s Shaw’s. Shaw’s Coffee LTD is privately owned, publicly popular!

No make-up Fridays

September 8, 2011 § 19 Comments

On Friday mornings, I meet with my friend PZ for coffee at a local cafe. 
We get large coffees and finesse ’em nice with milk, sugar, cinnamon, shots of the various coffees in the huge carafes – whatever.

And we sit, outdoors whenever possible and in spite of the leaf blower guy who was so moved to have the parking lot spotless at 7:15 in the morning. Really?

We sit and we talk.
We don’t gab; we don’t gossip.
We talk.

And last week, when we had some serious stuff to share, we ended up laughing, out loud.
Right after we had shed some tears, the kind that require a tissue.
And THAT, my friends, is what made us laugh!!!!

OK, we don’t sit in public and cry like crazy suburban characters in a Franzen story.
But we do share stories and anecdotes about people we care about and love and how things are going, and often, the lives we see are so touching that we tear up.
Certain things, certain happenings and surely things related to our kids and dogs can have our eyes spilling quietly over.
We share a certain etiquette in the face of this  “welling up.” It’s ok to dab or swipe at teary eyes; neither of us comments on it to the other. It’s understood that it’s ok, that it, well, it happens.

So last week, there were discussions on the Kids, and how they’re doing and also discussion on the perserverance of human kind and then I mentioned that our ancient beagle Huck had died.
And that did it.
We went immediately from welling up to those silent splashy tears.
PZ also had recently lost a beloved dog.

And so it’s been decided in an offhand manner that perhaps no makeup should be worn on Friday mornings. 
Because Maybelline and Mary Kay can tell me ’til they’re blue in the face that their mascara is waterproof, like their foundation and blush, etc., but I can assure you – no, it is not.

Tomorrow’s Friday.
Coffee with PZ.
I will show up (eventually) at work and surely someone will remark that I look tired (yeah, it happens when I skip the maquillage.)
That’s ok.
I will have kicked off the day with a fearless BFF who is not afraid to cry or laugh. Out loud.

Home again…

July 24, 2011 § 14 Comments

We’ve been home a week since our sejour in Cali.
And not a single post between then and now!

If I ran for president, I would put 3-day weekends and 30-hour days on my platform.  Those extra hours in the day will be for sleep – I believe this nation is sleep-deprived – and for attending to and taking time out for,  one’s arts and hobbies.

Has anyone read the 4-Hour Workweek? Wonder if it’s a lot of blather.

Meanwhile, a little coffee and conversation with HM, a little time in the garden…getting caught up on Zen time.

PS…now reading:
HOME by Julie Andrews (please tell me she has a ghostwriter or, is she also an excellent writer on top of everything else? sheesh)
THE PINE BARRENS by John McPhee  (and I lived in Jersey and had no idea of the region…’til I saw THE SOPRANOS)
BEACHCOMBERS by Nancy Thayer (because it’s summer and I saw this book on the shelf and it looked…summery)
THE BLISS OF BLOGGING forgot author (sorry!!!) but need to read it since still, after several years, I’m trying to kickstart this blog)
FREEDOM by J Franzen (yes, I’m still reading it…egads, it’s long,  longer than other long books. OK, and I think I have writer’s envy, too.)
A stack of NEW YORKER mags, 2 VOGUES (july & august) and the 2 recent issues of POETS & WRITERS magazine.
ok, wait, was I complaining about time?

Back on the bean…

February 17, 2011 § 18 Comments

 I’d given up coffee for 8 months. Didn’t touch it. Went cold turkey.
But no one knew what a real winter we would have. And while away for a weekend a while back, I tasted the stuff, just a sip, for warmth. And comfort. And the next day, a half cup. And before I knew it, I was back on the bean. Drinking a full cup. And having a second one.

Sure, sure, they sing the virtues of a cup of coffee as part of daily intake, how it’s good for you, along with stats they excavate to prove its beneficial properties.

Well, all that aside, I drink it because it’s a luxury, a wake-up, a dessert, a treat, a friend on my desk, and represents one of those little “things” that gets you happily along your way during the day.
However, running late for work often trumps having time to get any coffee. And my mind goes to work on how I can get some of the gorgeous stuff so that when the lunch bell rings, there I am at Starbucks.

I’d like to break the habit again. Have a little more jingle in my pocket; a little less buzz pumping the blood pressure. Not gonna be easy. Not sure I will start with it this morning, either, tho’ already running behind my planned schedule.

I’m thinking of getting us a rooster, whose lovely raucous crow will wake us up and sets  us on our feet each morning. So lovely and natural, its crow will resonate throughout  the live long day, the startle of it keeping us awake and pleasant. And no caffeine.

Of course you can’t keep a rooster in a cup on your desk or sip it during a conference call or keep it in the cupholder in your car, not to mention coffee’s positive effects on writing!

Yes, two quite disparate the things, the rooster and the coffee.
Still, it’s under consideration. 

(This rooster is not real (anymore). He’s stuffed. No, I did not do it. This photo was snapped at the Missouri Botanical Garden display during the holiday.)

A winner of a writing place…

January 25, 2011 § 17 Comments

Bissinger’s is a chocolatier, in the business of luxe sweet treats since the 1600s but it wasn’t ’til the 1800s that the family came stateside.
St Louis has two stores, the newest one having opened in 2007 which I refer to as “the bistro,”   a sweet little location. 

It sounds all haute and unapproachable but – not true! The Central West End embues it even more with charm and allure.

You can sit and sip and socialize. There is plenty of room yet it’s cool-cozy. It’s modern but no hard edges.

It’s warm despite its front being nothing but glass – the better for people watching.  Yes you can sit and look out. Or, look in.
Whatever you like.
And there are things to buy if you want to take home something Bissinger-y.

And we went in, not intending to have anything really, other than the comfort of a lovely hot chocolate…

OK, not a great picture but look at the size of that hot chocolate compared to the “normal” size water glass! Oh, yum.  This is the stuff of comfort food in the dead of winter whether the sun is shining or not.

And, there are things to buy if you are so inclined.

And then, because the place is new to you and you are “exploring” and checking it out as a future “writing place,” your date (HM himself) might order a little something, just to see what the “fare” is all about. Egads – yum. A blue cheese and spinach quiche…and a double chocolate scone.  With butter. So British.

So, a writing place – really? Oh, yes. In the middle of an afternoon, with a little urban-ness and a discreet wait staff and the rich hush of a library gone sweet on chocolate, it’s the perfect place to write. Even if the only thing you have is your planner and a Bic stick pen.

Can chocolate replace coffee? Replace it? No. Complement it? Yes.
Thanks, I’ll take both.
They fuel the pen-to-paper activity.

You can order from Bissinger’s, too, and then just stay home and snack on the stuff.
But for a chocolate adventure, you have to go see…and sip…and sup a little.

Get out of the house, get out of your usual skin to sit down and do some serious writing. Changing venue/location changes everything about how you see the (same old) things on your page.

CHOCOLAT, of course!  We saw Joanne Harris two years ago when she stopped in St. Louis and as she started out on her evening “lecture,” I thought ohgeezshedoesn’twanttobehereandthiswillbeboring.
Oh, how wrong I was. As she warmed up (shy), the anecdotes poured forth and she drew us into so many stories we lost track of truth and ficiton. And she spoke of the sequel at that time to CHOCOLAT. If you loved the CHOCOLATE world, the sequel will be a bit of an adjustment. Titled  THE GIRL WITH NO SHADOW in the U.S.  (and THE LOLLIPOP SHOES in the UK), it takes place in Paris, following the story of the Vianne and her daughters.  (sorry, Johnny Depp, the river pirate, is not in the story.)

The write book at the write time…

November 21, 2010 § 8 Comments

Timing is everything.
And this book was there on my “library” stack just as I was about to flee the house rather than face down an impending deadline on a very short piece that’s giving me nothing but trouble.

HOW I WRITE   THE SECRET LIVES OF AUTHORS, edited by Dan Crowe with Philip Ottermann; Rizzoli, New York: copyright 2007  was just the bridge I needed.
It’s almost coffee-table size, but not. It fits upright on a standard book shelf.
The white cover has a giant bracket with a list of all the authors inside who will be divulging.
The paper stock is superior, holds the imprint perfectly and the photos and drawings within are so book-ish, colorful, sometimes b&w, hugely appealing. To a bookaholic little writer. 

There’s a Kafka quote just inside from his diary , 24 December 1910: “I had a close look at my desk just now and realized that it just wasn’t designed for quality writing.”

When you sit in a place long enough, you become very sensitive and particular about your tools – from the paper to the pen to the keyboard to the furniture you’re using.

Anyway, here’s the thing. The authors within this book are not dishing on how to write. They are talking in paragraphs about what one thing they keep around, what objects icons, totems, rituals, souvenirs or symbols they keep present as they write. And why. It’s all in their words, on one page, maybe two, with great fonts and graphics. And photos.
They’re funny, interesting, serious and sentimental.

The editors have compiled a fine work here, a glimpse into writing life. It could be a glimpse into any profession which might be equally as compelling. But on this morning when I’ve promised myself I’d snap this laptop shut by noon and be finished with my doggerel, this book is just the oomph I needed on my way to meeting a deadline.

And it would be nice on (my) coffee table. Along with some coffee, of course. (Are you listening, Santa?) 

Here’s a peak at some of the pages.
I am not familiar with the author (above) but after reading his entry, have decided he’s an excellent story-teller and character writer. The “stovchen” refers to the little stove under the cup in the picture; it keeps the tea in the cup warm while he writes. (You’re going to love his entry in this book.)

I don’t know Will Self, either (do I?), but love his writing method and his Post-its all put into “zones” and then it all turns into a book.

Jane Smiley might be a Pisces. I have to look that up (not that I’m zodiac-ally inclined) but the water thing could just be an indication. Her piece is so good.  You’ll hear her better in her books if you take a look at this entry.

Bourdain is brash, honest (tho’ I always feel he’s doing it for the camera, like Madonna) but this is a good piece. His “thing”, btw, is cigarettes. So ’50s.

Nothing like a shadowy pub full of characters to pump the “noir” in any crime… Ian Rankin is the UK’s no. 1 crime-writer/ seller. But oh, how we all love our English pubs!

There are plenty more, approximately 70 authors included in this book. But it’s not encyclopedic, nor is it even a tad boring. Love the format. Love the stories, true stories all.

I really should be raking…

October 24, 2010 § 16 Comments

And I will rake.
But first some journaling, and  a morning fire, outside. There’s so much tinder and kindling in the back woods.
The birds are singing, practically on the same note, just different octaves, and the breeze is gone.
There’s sun rather than the predicted rain.
There are no deadlines today; no schedule, no promises to keep (‘cept dinner, and pie!)
No one else is up yet.
Coffee, pen and paper.

BTW, the other chair (pictured) is empty and you are welcome to come and write by the fire! (there’s a table, too, and plenty of coffee and I promise not to talk.)

Recommended book:
None today.
And no reading other people’s writing.
Just doing one’s own instead.

Lunch hour…Monday

August 23, 2010 § 12 Comments

Strong coffee.
Strong bracelet: this one has a twist: it says “Write strong.”
Strong writing on magazine page.

Here’s to lunch hours far from the madding crowd, and when not writing, reading.
(OK, this is as far “away” from the crowd as I can get during the work week.)


May 22, 2010 § 15 Comments

I thought about reading.

But the sun is out, and  I’m up and about in wonder and awe. OK, there are workers banging around in our backyard, too,  (just beneath the master suite windows, actually) digging and tearing up our old concrete patio to put in some nice groundwork and angles and pavers and whatever HM planned with them. The dogs are up, pacing nervously from room to room on the tips of their toenails, their tails rigid with concern.

And yet HM sleeps. That man has a finger on the pulse of inner peace.

I’m outta here with my camera and shall come trotting back with something to share besides the coffee I’m set on getting…elsewhere!

HEY! There’s a book giveaway over at the Literary Lollipop! It closes on May 31. Go take a look; she’s added some “mystery’ to the prize!

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