Favorite Thing Friday: Coffee Rescue

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A few weeks ago, I got the shock of my life when I went to the grocery store and my coffee wasn’t there. I think my heart stopped beating for a few minutes as my entire world fell apart at my feet. How was I going to start my day? With French Vanilla? No! With regular coffee? Are you kidding me? It’s Hill’s Brother’s Double Mocha Cappuccino or nothing!

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Best. Stuff. Ever.

For non-coffee drinkers, this probably sounds insane. The rest of you know what I’m talking about. There should be a rule that manufacturers and/or stores have to give us a heads up when coffee distribution changes, so we don’t go into cardiac arrest.

I searched multiple stores to no avail. Every store had the French Vanilla flavor (which I hate), but not the Double Mocha. Then, I took my quest online where I did find limited success.  Hill’s Brothers wanted $21.00 for a case of six, which wasn’t bad until they wanted to charge me $20.00 for shipping. What?!

After recovering from sticker shock, I set upon the long journey of finding a new coffee brand. This is no easy feat for someone who prefers lattes over simple coffee brews. I went through about five different brands and countless mix concoctions, but I never found the perfect recipe. Though, I did get close with Maxwell House International Cafe. By combining the flavors of Suisse Mocha and Original Cappuccino, I got a strong enough taste, but I never achieved the correct “body.” I know, I’m starting to sound crazy, again.

This went on for two weeks. Every morning began with hope, but ended with a scrunched up “yuck” face. Something had to give. The only option left was to go to the website that has everything – Amazon. Normally, I’m not a fan of ordering food of any kind from amazon (it’s not a grocery store!), but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The stars aligned and I found exactly what I was looking for and it was eligible for free shipping! A week later, I had six beautiful containers of Double Mocha Cappuccino mix. My mornings have been fantastic ever since.

Thank you, Amazon. 🙂

p.s. Some might ask why I didn’t just go to Starbucks and order my favorite drink ever, a Tall Cafe Mocha. Uhh, that gets expensive when I add five extra cups of coffee to the four a week I already buy (for writing sessions). Besides that, I like something a little lighter in the morning.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Favorite Thing Friday: The Beehive

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Along Main Street in Danville, Indiana there is a unique place to grab a cup of coffee or a scrumptious piece of bakery. The Beehive is the brainchild of Betsy Bassett, an Indiana resident who had a dream to combine local farm fresh treats with the ambience of a coffee cafe.

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The inspiration for The Beehive.

I stopped by the The Beehive to pick up my usual Cafe Mocha, although I must say I was tempted to try something called a Nutella Latte, (from what I hear this is a huge local favorite!). It only took a few sips to know I had found a really special coffee shop. The Beehive’s Cafe Mocha is a little on the sweet side, but the sweetness is balanced by a subtle earthy flavor. As it cools, the relationship between sweet and bitter only deepens into a beautiful blend.

The cafe itself is warm and cozy.  A fireplace with soft chairs sits at the rear, while cafe tables topped with potted garden plants fill out the front. Nestled into the side wall is a small organic food market that carries national brands along with locally grown produce and dairy products.

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Inside The Beehive – cafe and food market

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Sit by the fire with a cup of coffee at The Beehive!

For those ignoring their diet, The Beehive offers a fantastic array of baked goods. Choosing a snack from the bakery is easier said than done. Everything looks delectable and is baked fresh daily. I finally settled on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar and I was not disappointed! Layers of doughy peanut butter goodness hug chocolate ribbons and chunks with absolute decadence.

If you ever happen to be in Indiana, it’s worth visiting Danville to check out this gem of a cafe!

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See you at The Beehive!

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c.b.w. 2013

Favorite Thing Friday: Coffee Journal

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My aunt has a knack for giving interesting and unique gifts. A few years back she sent me a cool little book called the Coffee Shop Companion.

This perfect gift hit two of my loves with one shot. First, I love journals of all shapes and sizes. Second, I am basically obsessed with fancy coffee. In particular, I love a good Cafe Mocha (it’s my muse juice, after all!).

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to find coffee shops so I can try different varieties of my favorite drink. It’s interesting to explore the local flavor or interpretation of a Cafe Mocha because each place leaves a distinctive mark on the drink.

Throughout my travels, I dutifully made notations in my journals about all the Cafe Mochas I drank. For example, I maintain the best Cafe Mocha to be had in Europe is in Killarney, Ireland courtesy of the Lir Cafe. It’s been five years and I still haven’t found a better cup of coffee. As much as I love Starbucks’ version of the mocha, this place takes the top spot!

Clearly, I enjoy a Cafe Mocha more than most! Hence, the perfection of a journal dedicated to nothing but recording every delicious cup of coffee. Not only are there blank pages to record details, but the journal is peppered with coffee quotations and factoids.

  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, following only petroleum, and it is the most consumed beverage in the world besides water.
  • As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move . . . similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally, and writing ceases to be a struggle. – Honoré de Balzac

On my recent trip to Northern Wisconsin, I was delighted to discover that most small towns in the region have finally jumped onto the coffee cafe bandwagon. In the week I was there, I visited five different coffee shops and ordered my coveted Cafe Mocha. Some were positively divine, while others made my face scrunch up like a sour patch kid. All experiences were recorded in my coffee companion:

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I swear I never drink more than one cup a day!

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Notes of a very picky coffee drinker!

Memories of a Cafe Mocha at Horhay’s Java Saloon still linger on the palette. Mmmmm . . . .

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What is your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Muse Juice

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A recent post on writenotright got me thinking about what fuels my muse.  Whenever I sit down to write, a number of elements are needed to please my fickle muse. She’s a little more cooperative when the Top Ten List is in play:

1)    A clean computer.  Most of my writing is done on a white MacBook, which gets dirty easily and often.  If there’s even one small smudge of dirt, I’m so consumed by the need to clean it I can’t write a thing.  Before heading out to my favorite coffee shop, I always check to make sure its clean.  Awesome tip: I’ve found Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is the best product to clean a matte finish Mac.  It zaps every stain and makes my Mac look brand new.

2)    My “spot.”  I’ve been going to the same Barnes & Noble café for the last five years.  My novel was born there and so was this blog, along with countless other writing projects.  In particular, I have a favorite table that lets me observe the door, the café, and the book floor.  It’s a great spot for people watching when I need a character in a pinch.  I’ve made some great friends among the employees and the regulars, which makes this place a true second home.  Not to mention, they make great coffee!

3)    A Tall Café Mocha.  The title for this post comes from my favorite cup of coffee. This stuff is truly my muse juice as it has had a place next to my computer from the very beginning.  From outlining to revising the third draft I have relied on my muse juice to keep me focused and relaxed.  Besides that, its chocolate coffee.  What more could I want in life??

4)    Chocolate of some kind.  This really doesn’t need an explanation.  (It’s a food group, you know!)

5)    Spiral Notebook.  This applies to my Big Notebook or a small memo book I use for scribbling notes.  Before I type anything I usually need to work it out on a piece of paper the old-fashioned way.  The Big Notebook keeps me focused when I’m writing sections of a novel, while the memo book is used for rough drafts and lists of words I jot down after scanning through a thesaurus.

6)    iPod. Music is an essential part of my writing process.  Every project has a playlist to put me in “the zone” of the story or the character, (See How Music Helped Me Write A Novel).  If I’m writing a random piece, like a blog post, I select an established playlist to set the mood.  For example, right now I’m listening to Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful album from  my “Feel Good” playlist.

7)    Goals.  If I don’t set some sort of goal, I’ll end up wandering on the internet or staring off into space.  A large project usually means a word count goal, while smaller projects could be something as little as finding one right word.  The idea is to create a reachable goal that matches to scope and size of my current writing project.

8)    A Jolt of Motivation.  To get in the right mindset I check out the literary quote of the day on my iGoogle page, read a few inspiring blogs, or take some time with a photograph or piece of artwork.  Seeing the creative output of others motivates me to join the ranks and create something all my own.

9)    My banged up Thesaurus.  The cover is ragged and held together with packing tape.  A crack in the binding makes the book open automatically to #626 every time.  It’s from 1972 and is by far the best thesaurus I own (never mind how many thesauri populate my shelves).   It has the best index, includes older phrases that I love to use, and its organized in Roget’s original system, which is far more useful than an alphabetical listing.

10)  Pencil Pouch O’ Supplies.  My pencil pouch is loaded with ballpoint pens, highlighters, pencils, USBs, and sticky notes.  If I’m working on the Big Notebook I’ll toss in a pair of scissors and a glue stick.  With this stockpile, I’m prepared for anything.

Luckily, most of this fits in a standard messenger bag with exception to numbers two and three.  With so many variables it’s amazing I get anything done, but somehow the words come and the story unfolds.

What is your muse juice?

c.b. 2011

A Cup of Coffee in Muswell Hill

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Muswell Hill is beautiful little community in North London that boasts Victorian homes, a small town feel, and a Starbucks.  Being a hardcore addict of hot Café Mochas, I naturally gravitated towards the iconic green mermaid sign on a daily basis during my three week stay.  Not only is Starbucks one of the few locations in the neighborhood that has free Wi-fi, but I was also assured of a good cup of coffee.  Now, I love the Brits, but coffee is not their forte.  I’ve learned my lesson many times over that if you want a good cup of coffee in London you have to go with a brand name.

Within just a few days I found my groove in the one Starbucks that occupies Muswell Hill Broadway, (the main street of the neighborhood).  Isn’t it cute?

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What I noticed immediately was how easily I was accepted into the ranks as a regular.  Not only am I foreigner treading in a non-tourist area, but I am a stranger within a very tight knit community. Instead of becoming an outcast, I was extended a warm invitation to sit down and relax.  The people that live here did not give me  the “Oh my God, another tourist” leer that is common in the city center.

The cafe occupies a building that outdates Starbucks by quite a few decades, which gives the place a lot of charm.  There are two levels of inside seating (upstairs and downstairs) and two outside seating areas.  The upper level is divided into two sections, with the coffee service station in the middle.  The front “lobby” has a window bar and two tables jammed in along the walls.

While the back room is a little more open, the floor slopes towards the middle and causes every table  to tilt at an angle.  It drove me nuts at first, but then I realized most floors in London buildings slope in one direction or the other – older buildings don’t like to follow the rules! Nine tables are crammed into a space that would better accommodate five,  so personal space is nonexistent.  I could literally read the computer screen of the person sitting next to me.  While a tad unnerving, the close quarters actually creates a sort of kinship among strangers. Everyone gathers in this place for the same things – a cup of coffee and a place to sit.

The space downstairs is a little larger, but it feels like a cave because of the low ceiling.  Several tables have soft chairs and the lighting is more subdued, which makes the room feel warm and cozy.  It’s quiet during the day, but by early afternoon it becomes the hangout for teenagers who just got out of school.  Teenagers and caffeine always make for an obnoxious combination!  Some things never change, no matter where you are in the world.

There are two tables on the sidewalk out front.  If its not raining, they are always occupied by moms with strollers or smokers with a cigarette in one hand and a book in the other.  Out back is a patio with tables covered by a large umbrella.  This is where the larger groups congregate, even if its pouring rain.  The patio also plays host to the smokers who want to sit inside, but still need a cigarette break.  The door leading outside is constantly in motion and very often left open by those with no etiquette.

As in the rest of Europe, prices vary depending whether you choose “to stay” or “take away.” Staying in costs a bit more (usually around 10p) than take away, which creates a much slower pace within the cafe.  Those who pay to stay, take full advantage of that extra pence they’ve spent and settle in for a long stay.  Those with laptops are plugged in, others sit with newspapers stacked high, and writers toil away in their journals.

Now that I am home and sitting in my usual coffee cafe, I can’t help but think of my “spot” in Muswell Hill.  I miss how the musty smell of rain fuses with the earthy aroma of coffee, how the air conditioning kicks on even when it’s cold, and the sound of quiet conversations in more languages than I can understand.  Most of all I miss the people – the regulars – who showed up every day at the same time.  There’s the older couple who share sections of two different newspapers, a pair a teenage girls who stop by each day to spill the latest gossip, and a young man who spends hours taking notes from a propped up book.  And I’ll never forget the employees who made my coffee each day.  The most memorable is a girl who has the longest dreads I’ve ever seen. She is one tough cookie that refuses to be pushed around by rude customers.  Then there’s a cute curly haired man who never stops smiling, a shy black haired Czech (I think) boy who barely says a word, and a tiny Asian girl who is still learning the ropes.  Though we barely spoke, I miss them and remain thankful for how quickly they learned I’m the one who always orders a Tall Cafe Mocha, (with cream).

c.b. 2011