Miami nice …

January 20, 2010 § 10 Comments


Cafe cubano
Cuban espresso
Cafecito
Cuban shot…
Call it what you will, but a coffee anywhere on North, Mid- or South Beach is bliss in a cup.
Specially if one had given up caffeine early in December. Yes, purposely.
But HM ordered the Cuban coffee (pictured).
And wooed me with it. I broke down and tilted the tiny cup to my lips, and sipped. One sip. Mmmm…Not the most intellectual response, I know, but oh baby, luscious coffee laced with caffeine. And yet I demured. One sip and one sip it was. 
 Sheer luxury.

So what’s the big deal with Cuban espresso? 
I’ll leave a bit of that to irrepressible Wikipedia:

Cuban-style espresso is made by adding sugar to the container into which the espresso will drip, allowing the espresso to mix with the sugar as it is brewed. Some people believe that this results in a smooth, sweet espresso. A method commonly used to prepare a café cubano is to initially add only the first few drops of espresso to the sugar and mix vigorously. This results in a creamy, light brown paste. The remaining espresso is then added to this paste and mixed, creating a light brown foam layer, espumita, atop the coffee. A proper cafecito can be made using either an espresso machine or an Italian moka pot, macchinetta.”

Going south? Along with all the rest of the magic to be found in Miami, have yourself a Cuban cuppa jo.

Sunday morning scenes from the Cafe du monde …

August 2, 2009 § 16 Comments

NOTE: I went to the Cafe without a book … or notebook! But I was with HM, Laylou and Irish, so it would have been rude to sit and sip and read.  However, it’s a great place to “hide out,” observe all kinds of things and read.

The Cafe du Monde Coffee Stand originated in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market.  It is open every day, all day, that is, 24/7.  Except Christmas Day, and as its web site notes with tongue in cheek, it is closed on the occasional day that a hurricane passes too close to the City.

The mugs are thick and plain. The coffee, chicory flavored, evokes an “ewww” from many but the cafe au lait, omg, is excellent. I didn’t realize we had ordered the cafe au lait. Our waitress, a mere slip of a girl with an accent as big as eastern Europe, took our order and having heard us mention milk-and-sugar with our coffee, please, she delivered cafe au lait and now it’s my bigtime favorite. Laylou ordered hot chocolate and if you want to see our tiny table set with our coffees and chocolate and BEIGNETS, you can sort back a few entries to find it. The cafe’s website descriptions are short and to the point defining beignets as “square French style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar.”
(Note that beignets were also brought to the Crescent City by Acadians who made them as fried fritters sometimes filled with fruit.)

“Lavishly covered with powdered sugar” is akin to dumping a near-half pound of the sweet stuff on the beignets.
Oh, I couldn’t eat that, people say when you tell them about beignets.
Oh, yes you could.

Here is the Cafe’s menu:
White and Chocolate milk
Fresh squeezed Orange Juice
Coffee and Chicory (chicory is the root of the endive plant)
Beignets (these are served in orders of 3)

Here are other things around the Cafe where you can sit at your leisure:

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There are fans under the cafe roof and morning at the cafe is lovely, fresh, breezes off the Mississippi River which is less than a football field’s distance from the Mississippi.

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The Cafe is a convivial place, a meeting place, a time out, a reading place, an in-the-midst-of-everything place.

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No, this fine mule was not in the cafe! He was trotting along with a carriage on the street alongside the Cafe.

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It’s not always easy to find a seat at the Cafe but if you’re there early enough in the morning, you will also find it easy to park!

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A scene from our table! 
I noticed that there is very little ice in the city. They chill their glasses and their drinks, so you’re pouring a cold drink into a frosty glass. It’s rather nice, really and seems efficient.  Oh, but this was not true at Pat O’Brien’s, which is another story to follow.

Monday White …

February 23, 2009 § 6 Comments

HM was up first this morning. We rise like farmers, one or the other of us. The dogs, age 15 and 13, are up at 5:45, without fail. They go from senior canine snoring to full alertness with an intense need to get outdoors fast to take an immediate pee, sometimes taking the stairs so quickly, their feet stutter over one or two of the steps near the bottom before they clatter into the kitchen and stand at the glass door, waiting for it to magically open. It doesn’t.

One of us has to get downstairs just ahead of them and slide the door open.  The morning air, regardless of season, puts pep in their step and when they’re ready to come back in and stand barking at the door, you can hear their stomachs growling. It’s feeding time. Immediately.

The big dog herds whoever is the morning chef into the laundry room where stands the sack of (oh so delicious) dog food. Really, though, if it’s HM who’s up first, they get  toast and cheese and a bit of warm milk or warm something, I dunno. 

Yet when I’m first, you can hear them mutter under their breaths, something like  ‘the wife is giving us breakfast so stand by for cold dry dog food slung into our dishes. Well, it’s better than nothing.’

I see the resignation in the slump of their tails. And on such occasions, when I’m sure I’ve heard their derisive comments, I go to the extreme. I cook eggs AND toast, maybe break  up a few biscuits into the dish as well, and maybe a few pieces of chicken from the night before. In short, I cook for them, too. 

They don’t remember. They remember only the sweet routine that HM offers them. And so, this morning, he was up and singing. He’s been listening to old time radio at night and in the morining, he is singing. This morning, I lay there grabbing the xtra 27 minutes you get when you’re NOT the first one up, thus avoiding for the first time in days, the dog letting out, letting in and breakfast making as well as making the coffee, setting up the coffee cups with cream and sugar, and the pawing about in the fridge for something for each of us to take to work for lunch.

I sauntered down the requisite 20 minutes or so into his mission. HM was wiping crumbs from the counter as I slid onto the stool across from him.

“Coffee?” he asked.
“Yes, thanks. Lovely,” I said as he set a mug in front of me.
I was so happy to be served, glad we weren’t running around like maniacs getting ready for the day, not yet.

I picked up the cup, glanced at it before I sipped because it wasn’t my usual mug.
And I laughed.
“What?” he said, pausing in his countertop ministrations.
“I don’t know, this strikes me funny, that’s all,” I said, turning the cup so he could see what it said.

coffee1

 (But I think running for my camera and snapping a photo of this struck him funnier than my reaction to the writing on the cup.)

Book Selection …

coffee

COFFEE, TEA OR ME? by Baker, Jones and Bain, 1967 –  “The Uninhibited memoirs of two airline stewardesses.”   I remember reading it long before I should have, probably as a mid-teen en route to summer with family, and I remember kind of wondering ‘what the ____???’

One reviewer calls it ”  glam and strict”  in retrospect.  Uninhibited in 1967 , the book may be nothing short of hohum in today’s immodest world. If you haven’t read it, I can’t say that you should. If you have read it, I defy you to recount the plot (without looking at the TOC that Amazon lets you view. )  The title, however, became one of those ha-ha mainstream cliches that people like our parental units, would say jokingly at gatherings (once again, winning a reprimanding sniff from our Gran if she overheard their jokiness.) 

Hey, I just needed a  book that I’ve read that has coffee in the title to go with this entry.

Workshop: yay or nay? write on wednesday (last week)

August 19, 2008 § 3 Comments

I have to respond to Becca’s prompt from LAST week because it was a good one and a topic with which writers wrangle (fairly) constantly.

best workshop refreshment

best workshop refreshment

TO WORKSHOP OR NOT TO WORKSHOP?

I’ve been in two workshops.
The first was the offshoot of a class I took as “adult enrichment” at a Florida university. When the writing class was over, several of us got together to continue our writing discipline. Usually at my house. There were five of us. Four writing fiction. One writing non-fiction. We met weekly. We wrote and wrote during the week and at our meeting, we read our stuff aloud, with copies for the others, and then critiqued it. Typically, it went well enough. We kept at it for 18 months ’til several of us were moving away. By then, I had a nice little portfolio of fiction. But it wasn’t going anywhere. I still have it. Let’s not talk about my confidence in my fiction.
But here’s what that workshop provided for us:
1) tons of writing practice
2) some valid feedback: all of us “cared” about the craft; two were published fiction writers.
3) a “regular” schedule of meeting weekly and we were diligent about it, meeting for 3 hours.
4) made us each set aside time to get writing done during the week

The second workshop was an offshoot of a class that I taught when I moved here to the midwest. Because I was publishing as a journalist, they “let me in” to teach a class on writing at a local high school. I loved it. And the same thing happened here: when the class was over, 7 of the “students” wanted to keep going so we began meeting at my house, once a week – for 7 years!
Our goal: to have everyone get published
We were a mixed group: fiction, poetry, non-fiction, essays, plays
Though I enjoy free writing and think it’s a good exercise, there’s much more to a veritable workshop, I think, then sitting there doing a silent 45-minute freewrite. So, there was a curriculum.
 
So I made up excercises, we shared our  work written during the week, we studied other writers, we discussed quotes, we found publishing venues and contests, we discussed the veracity of writing life and we made ourselves stretch to appreciate the genres that others were engaged in. We took the occasional “field trip” to visit other groups, to see plays performed around the table via readings, and we hosted writers, often, to hear what they were doing and how, etc.

And so, everyone in the group published something within those 7 years together.
Several were accepted at writing seminars.
Three of us started hosting weekend workshops.
Our group met other in-process writers.
We read stuff we might not have ever read.
We critiqued each other’s work; some swerved from their original point to take direction; others stuck to their writing guns.

Ultimately, it worked somehow.

These were some of the most amazing people I have come to know. Three of us (four years later) are still in touch, regularly.  Our kids grew up around us, my neighborhood knew what night was “writing night” because of the cars parked on the street.  It was, in its way, a community thing. Writing is magic.

And writing this now, I realize how much I miss the group. Yet, we all grew out of it at the same time. We were and are very fortunate. 
My only regret? That I didn’t have them all carve their names in my dining room table.

I highly recommend that for anyone interested in having writing friends or companions, you start a group.
A FEW WRITING WORKSHOP RULES, from where I stand:
1)  Yes, have a facilitator.
2)  No, do NOT focus on food
– it will take over. Set that precedent from the beginning. They can eat before they arrive. Offer coffee, ice water, lemonade, etc.
3)  Encourage everyone to read their stuff aloud. Either make time for all OR rotate and rotate fairly, week to week. Sometimes a person does not want to read. Offer to read aloud his/her stuff for her. You watch – they’ll start reading it themselves after awhile. It’s important. Writing must also be heard. But do not use the whole time for reading aloud.  Mix things up. I digress…
4)  Control group size: Seven or eight in the group, tops, is plenty. Four is perhaps ideal – depends on the personalities and dynamics.
5)  Set a regular meeting time. Do not deviate from this to accommodate individuals. People who care will make time for it. But don’t worry when someone misses: this ain’t no college credit thing.
6)  Be upbeat; be excited about gathering. This is a unique, creative venture – show neither fear nor boastfulness.
7)  Talk about writing and books on writing and writing experiences. Chill on the family/kids/pet conversation. Stay centered on writing ’til you all get down to the writing business.
8)  Have a plan. You don’t have to be strict and detailed; be flexible but know where the session is going.
9)  Some sessions are better than others. That’s just the way it is. And that’s perfectly fine.

And so the writing pros out there continue to wage back and forth – are workshops wonderful or crap? Depends on you and who you’ve got with you. I vote for the “wonderful.”

Spontaneous Summer Shoutouts

August 16, 2008 § 4 Comments

Sonic – Here’s to the snappy drive-thru that’s no stranger to limeade, and with an added shot of raspberry – yum! And there are real chunks of lime in the cup that is big enough to swim in.  Between 2 and 4 o’clock (I think), they are half price, too. Great afternoon date drink – there’s plenty to share (buy 1 for 2 of you)!

Fritz – a writing friend for the past 12 years, she’s found a writing “home” in poetry which she writes and pastes in her own books along with pictures she loves and voila – she’s got herself a book in progress! Traditional publishing continues to be turned on its ear. Have you heard of her? No, she’s quiet. Have you read anything she’s written? Not yet. Can I publish one of her pieces here? I’ll have to ask.

KROC – at Sauce Magazine…this is not your every day editor. (In fact, the entire staff there is remarkable – there’s tons of energy, and very open, brainstormers yet all killingly attentive to detail and realiability).
I digress. KROC? She’s a newspaper colleague from a decade ago; we both continue to grow and bump into one another and she continues to throw unique opportunities at me. I love running with her ideas on paper.

Snarl – having moved himself into his college apartment, he let us (HM and me) visit, and gave us a glimpse of his student life as it ratchets up for another year. He asked me quietly about empty nesting, I said I’d be OK, he put his arm around me for a moment and asked his dad’s advice on best route for going and coming home. He’s blessed with charm and good timing. And helped his sister move into HER new digs yesterday.

IHOP
– Yes, I’m serious. When you gotta have breakfast-for-dinner, and you want a pretty menu and a short drive, it’s the place to go. All the food groups (OK, except for greens) are on the plate, they have frosty fountain Cokes and honestly, at the end of the week, when HM and I are on a date, it’s perfect. Hell, you can have coffee, too, a pot of it if you want to push the caffeine level and holler back at yourself half the night, dissing sleep, and meanwhile, it all has that breakfast feel. You can sit there for ages on Friday night: Leon, that’s the fri-nite waiter par excellence, (honestly, you’d think he was working at the Russian Tea Room with all the flair and courtesies he displays) knows everyone, discreetly – he’s not going to yell your name across the room, though. And suddenly, you’re being taken care of even when it’s only a matter of cheesey scrambled eggs, hash and pancakes (which you don’t really want, but Leon brings extra butter so you might as well have a stab at the short stack after double-buttering.) Ahhh. Easy comfortable ah.
Tomorrow night, with linen tablecloths and the clink of heavy silver and reservations, can wait.

What would you like to shout about?

fessupfriday…on Saturday

July 26, 2008 § 4 Comments

Conscience:  Well, Oh, did you write this week? Got anything to say for yourself?
Oh:  I just got home from work and I…
Conscience:  Tch. Tch. Let’s not dance around the issue.
Oh:  Well, I…
Conscience:  Come, come! Fess up, please.
Oh:  If you would just let me…
Conscience:  Really, we haven’t time for this hedging and hawing.
Oh:  OK! I didn’t get a lot done! I worked on my essay which is turning into a story and I have no idea where it’s going. I wrote a few blogs.  I wrote a lot of emails. I made some lists for things we had to get at Home Depot. I made some phone calls. I remembered my brother’s birthday, for Pete’s sake, and called him.
Conscience: Did you send him a card? Did you write him a note?
Oh:  Well, no, I…
Conscience:  There you go again.
Oh:  No, he loves phone calls. We always laugh.
Conscience:  And what about this query that’s pending, hmmmm? This query thing we’ve been hearing about for nigh on two weeks? And what about the short story challenge you made to yourself? Hmmmm?  Hmmm?
Oh:  I…
Conscience:  My, my, not an awful lot to show for a writer, I dare say.
Oh:  Hey, I talked about writing this week.
Conscience:  Well, now you have all weekend. You can bloody well sit down and get something…finished.
Oh:  Fine.
Conscience:  Good. That’s settled, then.
Oh shakes her head and goes to make coffee.

To be continued…

SIX WORD SATURDAY

July 5, 2008 § 4 Comments

HOW TO WAKE UP WITHOUT COFFEE.

Monday…

June 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

Ssshhh….listen.

I know – you can’t hear anything except birdsong and the pop-and-sshhh of the coffee machine. No sounds of me racing down the stairs, hollering “bye” to HM, clacking through the kitchen to my car, opening the door, throwing my purse in the passenger seat, sliding in, jabbing the garage door remote, turning on the radio, sighing as I glance at the dashboard clock (always fast), pulling out of the driveway, etc etc etc. 

Ain’t it bliss? It’s the first day of Staycation.

Check it out…

May 26, 2008 § Leave a comment

One of my daily blog check-ins includes “Swiss Miss” (http://swissmiss.typepad.com/) and she has posted info on a kids’ book, Tribal Alphabet.  Take a look on her site – you can flip through all the pages.

Best of all, this book, with its artwork and expanse, resonates for any age. I’m getting it for my coffee table and for the kids and for those friends who visit for coffee and conversation. 

Procrastination

May 25, 2008 § 1 Comment

There is little doubt that procrastination is an art. I have been finessing my “procrastinatory” skills for two days which included the following:

I needed to shop, for CDs of course, on which burn photos for an article.  This involved bringing Snarl along; he is the consumate tech shopper. Naturally we were distracted by the PS2 Grand Turismo game at the store – lo and behold, no one else was around playing it and we stepped up to the controls and dug in.

HM needed assistance around the pool, getting the furniture cleaned up, the flowers potted and the patio swept. The dogs needed brushing and as they leaned into it, I could only keep going ’til their winter fur lay on the grass in piles fluffy enough to fill a pillow. I raked it all into a recycling bag, leaving a tiny bit for the birds who use it in their nests.

Then it was necessary to bake an apple pie. Pies make Snarl smile and prowl around the kitchen, conversing with me, telling me stuff I might not otherwise learn from him as I skin and cut the apples, shake the spices into the sugar mixture, squeeze some lemon and add three chunks of butter, building a pie as the oven preheats.

Then there’s all that laundry. I love doing laundry, separating the loads, using the bluing on the whites, hanging the non-dryer items carefully, folding things when they’re done while they’re warm so you can nearly brush all the wrinkles from them.

A friend stopped by needing help with a PC. I had just brewed coffee. We sat and talked, holding our cups and forgetting to drink as we caught up on our lives and newsy bits.

I cleaned out a cupboard, dusted all the candleholders in the house and filled the “blank” ones with candles. I did two interviews, talked with my Chicago nephew and ran errands with HM to the bank and pool store. And exercised.

And now it is time to sit in the chair and get to work on two manuscripts as the thunder roils like a backdrop in a bad movie. And once into it, by the third or fourth paragraph, I will smile and wonder why I do anything else but write.

Odd how a passion has us dancing around in front of it before settling down to apply ourselves.

When do you procrastinate?

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