The best holiday tradition: Simplicity

be thankful

The word “tradition” flies around as frequently as falling leaves this time of year, with more than half the universe assuming that “traditions” are the norm. They are for some, but there are plenty of people out there who never really grew up with holiday rituals. It’s a great excuse for adults to poke fun at their own parents, but also causes a bit of anxiety when years later, they’re put in charge of bringing special occasions and holidays to life.

Here’s the thing: traditions don’t have to be a big deal. And, they can be updated each year to fit in with your family’s changing size, ages, marital, financial or health situations. (Sorry to sound bleak, but hey, life happens.) And if you haven’t yet started a family (or don’t want to ,) ), you can still do all the things mentioned here, just with half the mess and half the noise.

give thanks magnets 2

Your family’s tradition can be as simple as everyone piling into Mom and Dad’s bed with crayons and colored pencils, books, magazines, even tablets, and engaging in conversation about what’s happening in the world that morning, what kinds of foods the kids would rather eat than turkey and cranberries—and drawing a picture of said preferred meal; reading stories or poems aloud, or looking up new words (hence, the tablet); playing Go Fish, cribbage, gin rummy or backgammon; drafting a letter to Santa, making place cards for the table, or just snuggling and tickling and watching the Macy’s parade (or better yet, Sponge Bob) with breakfast popcorn (a mix of cereal and popcorn) and hot cocoa with marshmallows. This is especially wonderful when you’re not hosting or rushing out the door to get anywhere.

Other cheap, easy and fun ways to get in the holiday spirit, is to write a thank you letter to another family member (everyone can pull a name out of a cup and then big sisters/brothers and moms and dads can help the younger ones write to their drawn recipient). The letters can also be used as place cards, dressed up with a doodle or drawing of a turkey. (Thumbprints are perfect for making a turkey’s body.)

If you’re cool with getting a little messy, having the kids find rocks outside (they do need to run around a bit or they’ll drive you bonkers), and set out some washable paint so they can create colorful place markers that can be saved and used all year long.

painted rocks

Older kids can design an official menu, then incorporate that into the festive tablescape you’ll put them in charge of laying out. While they’re looking for rocks, they can pick up twigs, feathers, acorns, leaves and anything else they fancy. With your help, they can decorate the table making them feel a part of the special celebration. If you’re bringing out any family heirlooms, now is the time to share stories about their history (the objects and the person who gave it to you).

Leaf-and-Raffia-Placecard

thanksgivingtabledecoratingideaspumpkins

Thanksgiving-Table-Simple-P_thumb

Jazz up each place setting with mini pumpkins, bundles of twigs and feathers (you can buy these at the craft store) tied with twine or raffia, clementines embellished with whole cloves (it’s a Martha Stewart rip-off that I can’t take credit for, but do every year because they make the house smell amazing). My kids also

always loved making baked apples or apple rings, and this is something they can do while your working on the turkey and trimmings.

abked-apple

Speaking of turkey, one of the most coveted to-dos for kids as they get older (after they turn 14/15, the magic ends), is timing the turkey. They get to watch the clock, set the timer, help you baste the bird and get a lot of the credit when it is pulled out of the oven in all its juicy, mahogany glory. Designating someone as “candle lighter” always went over big at our house as well.

Less original, but requisite, is writing down what we are each thankful for and putting into a bowl, then everyone picking a slip of paper and reading it, guessing who wrote it. (Handwriting is usually a giveaway, but that doesn’t take away the fun.) We’ve also been known to go around the table and talk about what we weren’t thankful for that year, which is actually a positive and subtle way to encourage behavior change, tolerance, empathy, forgiveness and compassion.

snickmix8

click image for recipe; photo is from the recipe’s mastermind: Cooking with Chopin

Last but not least is family movie night—or afternoon, while the turkey roasts—everyone votes on what to watch, someone makes the admission tickets and someone grabs the blankets. After all, this isn’t just a movie; it’s snug time.

And when all hell breaks loose, and everyone starts fighting, there’s only one more tradition to uphold: outside with a basketball or off for a walk. Mom gets to stay in and get a few minutes peace.

OrangeCloves5a_thumb

Home(made) for the Holidays: Teachers’ Gifts

This post is dedicated to my daughter Nicole, who as a teenager said to me, “Remember when you used to be crafty?” 

christmas shortbreads

Many moons ago, when social media wasn’t invented, and I was in full-on childbearing mode (aka the decade of pregnancy), and it actually snowed for consecutive days, I was into all kinds of creative activities. Whether for the home or a gift, my hands were always busy sewing, baking, cooking, painting, gluing, decoupaging, measuring, sketching, and occasionally, melting (chocolate, crayons).

During the holidays, especially, I would go slightly overboard, baking individual gingerbread shapes (with copper wire hooks embedded at the top), decorating with royal icing and silver dragées, and then stringing with twine to make garland. I only used Martha Stewart’s gingerbread house-making recipe (reliable for making sturdy, large houses) and painstakingly knotted each hook so the “ornaments” wouldn’t slide, before wrapping them in holiday gingham tissue paper and cellophane bags.

copper wire

twinescissortutorial2

At that time, three of my children were in nursery  school and Pre-K, and there were no rules about teachers’ gifts or any organized collections taking place. It seemed logical to have my kids help (that being a relative word back then) with the gift-making.

gingerbread-ornaments1

Probably the easiest craft for them to tackle was pinecone bird feeders. And, since we live in the Northeast, with lots of trees—and birds—this fell into the “practical” gift category. And, low-budget; something to consider when giving out presents to several teachers and school administrators.

makepbbirdfeeder-1

Chocolate-covered pretzel sticks, rolled in Almond Roca crumbles, coconut, crushed chocolate-covered coffee beans and ultra-mini m&ms, were also easy for the kids to make. Just don’t have them do it on an empty stomach or before an activity where they’re supposed to sit quietly. I love this updated version.

Though it looks to be for Valentine’s Day, I can easily envision a Christmas or Hanukah version with mini dreidels or green and red m&ms, silver and gold spray-painted acorns or miniature pine cones or rocks to prop up the pretzels; and pretzels dipped in white chocolate as well as dark or milk, and rolled in appropriately colored ingredients. You can get small-sized cylindrical vases at the craft store, and keep the pretzel count to 3 or 5 to maximize your effort.

pretzel flower arrangment

Hand-painting one (or a trio) of terracotta pots, filled with potting soil sealed in a baggie, and glass vials of seeds also proved to be a successful endeavor that the kids enjoyed helping with and the teachers enjoyed receiving. While the kids painted the pots, I divvied up the seeds and soil. Had Pinterest been around then, I would have logged all of these ideas in step-by-step photos, but at that point, I am not even sure we had a computer in the house!

handpainted pot for post

One year, we made picture frames, using paper or wood frames purchased at AC Moore, a store I barely step into these days. The kids would draw patterns (or some semblance of) on the frames, paint them with tiny paintbrushes, then add glitter, rhinestones, scrapbooking icons or tiny flowers, depending upon who they were for. We did not put photos in them, because we figured that when the teachers were at home, they didn’t need to be reminded of their students—no matter how adorable they were.

Last but not least, and always a fan-favorite, were the homemade cookies, beautifully packaged in boxes layered with colored tissue paper (first wrapped as 2-3 cookie bundles in plastic baggies for freshness) or vintage cookie tins that I’d collect throughout the year. We’d do mini chocolate-chip sugar cookies cut into holiday shapes, regular sugar cookies adorned with red and green sprinkles, half-dipped in white or dark chocolate first… peanut butter cookies filled with mini m&ms and piped with dark chocolate zigzags, white chocolate-cranberry-almond oatmeal cookies diagonally dipped into white chocolate, and of course, old-fashioned gingerbread boys piped with royal icing.

No matter how much the teachers moaned and groaned each year that they’d gained 10 pounds during the holidays, each year they asked if we were making cookies again for the holidays.

cookechristmastree

OS_RC_1143_WD(Cranberry cookie courtesy of ocean spray; p-nut butter courtesy of Crisco. Click through to recipes.)

RecipeImage

More than the taste, I think their heartfelt anticipation reflected an appreciation for the time and effort we, and other families, dedicated to making them feel special. I think this is something we all need to remember, especially when budgets are tight. Homemade gifts aren’t cheap or “junky,” and have the power to make a much more lasting and meaningful impression than something picked up thoughtlessly amidst the rest of your holiday shopping.

Eventually, the schools swayed the class moms to collect donations for a larger, more sophisticated non-teacheresque gift such as dinner out on the town or a gift certificate to a boutique, and our crafty days began to wane. (OK, I admit there were A LOT of reasons our zeal for crafty endeavors died down.) And now of course, there’s Pinterest, so I am all about DIY’ing it up. I may be short on time these days, but since I am down to two kids at home and one heading to college next fall, I think I’ll have no problem jumping back into the creative zone. No doubt there will a zillion Pinterest boards to keep me busy during those “where did my kids go?” days. Leave a comment if you want some actual instructions. I’m a pro at making gingerbread houses.

gingerbread_man

#SGS: Why tune in, reasons 1-3

instagram sgs

1. The Speakers:
Turning the public onto the world’s forward-thinking leaders is part of SGS’ job, so if perusing the #2030NOW speaker list leaves you feeling a little under-informed, rest assured that you’re not the only one. There are certainly enough recognizable names that the wow-factor won’t be lost on you, but for those that you’re unfamiliar with, a handful of BING searches will quickly bring you up to speed. (Yes, that was a shameless plug for a few of the speakers.) The easier route is to click here.

2. The Mission:
What’s not to love about a group of very talented, motivated, well-connected, tech-savvy people trying to make the world a better place, all while building a global, inclusive social good community that understands the value of collaborative thought and action? The big question: How can new technology and new media create solutions for the biggest problems facing my community and create a better future by the year 2030?

3. The Conversation:
With three-days’ worth of panel discussions ranging from how technology, data and digital media will shape our world; to knocking out malaria via mobile technology; to improving healthcare, empowering women as global leaders and youth as peacemakers, #SGS is the ultimate think tank and destination for anyone who truly believes that we all have the ability to make a difference in managing world issues—individually and collectively. Read the agenda and get ready to join the online dialogue.

do it: Heritage Farm Fare

heritage-flyer

Cool things are happening in Philly next week, among them the Heritage Farm Fare, a celebration of food, nutrition and community. If you’ve never heard of Heritage Farm, you’re not alone; it was only recently that I discovered this wonderful farm, tucked into the campus of Methodist Home for Children, a former orphanage that’s evolved into a hub for community activities and outreach.

As a year-round organic farm, Heritage is able to impact families by providing fresh, seasonal produce—three acres full. Children are able to walk around the farm, and meander up and down rows of vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit, and temporarily forget about concrete buildings, convenience stores and fast food.

boy-berry

Workshops focus on food preparation, nutrition and sustainable, urban farming, and families are encouraged to dig in all with their hands and their taste buds. The bonus, is agricultural training, as well as critical thinking, planning, time (and occasionally, crisis) management, and problem solving. Learning how to resuscitate a dehydrated plant, rid a crop of pesky insects, irrigate during a drought and other on-the-farm issues, offer children unique opportunities from those experienced at school or on the playground. And though we all promote teamwork within our children, working side by side in what for the moment, IS a life or death (of plants/crops) situation, strengthens relationships and leadership skills.

This “bumper crop” of benefits for our community’s youth, is the best reason to come out and join the celebration. Saying, “Yes” to an invitation came easy for me; food and kids in one place is a win-win in my book, especially as mine are maturing way too fast. Events such as this, that unite families through the bounty of Mother Nature and an appreciation for the magic of a fresh-plucked tomato, carrot, blue/raspberry or handful of lettuce and fresh herbs, offer a special type of bonding, different from socializing over drinks or at a ball game.

girl-tractor

By now you’re wondering what’s on the menu. As you can see from this collection of logos, this is no sandwiches and chips affair (though I wouldn’t object to that), with adventurous preparations both on the plate and in the glass. You’ll see a lot of familiar chefs, all who have actively been supporting Heritage and other farms in our region for a number of years. The side dish, if you will, is a pot full of donated funds designated to help offset the costs of operating the farm. This, of course, being the cost of your ticket. Providing the evening’s soundtrack, is Doc Gibbs, former band leader on the Emeril Lagasse show.

participating restaurants for Heritage Farm Fair copy

All of the details are on the website, including location—Belmont Mansion Lawn—and those seeking additional information can contact Christine Moore at (215) 877-1925 ext.104 or heritagefarm@methodistservices.org. And, don’t forget to follow along on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Heritage Farm at Methodist Home for Children is located at 4300 Monument Road, Philadelphia PA 19131

belmont-mansion-view

 

Photos courtesy of Nina Lea Photography  

 

ShopMoxie Meets Philly

(this post is part of ShopMoxie’s “Best of the U.S. by Local Bloggers” series launched 9.12.13)

ShopMoxie Feature:
Best of Philadelphia

aka The City of Brotherly (in this case, sisterly) Love

So, about this gig… I recently decided that life wasn’t busy enough, or maybe it was just that I wasn’t writing enough… Anyway, I started a new blog (you’ll find a link buried somewhere in here) and in establishing myself as an independent blogger outside of my PR/Marketing biz, answered a query for ShopMoxie bloggers. I was very happy when I received a thoughtful email from founder Tom Tovar, who actually took the time to review my writing history, and my fledgling blog, inviting me to be a part of a Best of the U.S. by Local Bloggers series. As we exchanged emails, and learned more about each other (take it from me, this guy is interesting!), he really took me by surprise and offered me the opportunity to kick off ShopMoxie’s “Best of the U.S.” guest post series. Having spent many years writing such copy for Main Line Today magazine, I was instantly game. My only disclaimer, is that Philadelphia is full of wonderful businesses to frequent, as I am certain every city across the country is. Our collective picks are not meant to slight any of these businesses. If we had the time and the space, we’d cover all of our favorite haunts. However, what you are getting today, and in the coming days, is the tip of the old iceberg… places we know and love and feel strongly that you will too. So with no further ado, I present a handful of picks for my hometown, Philadelphia, U.S.A. Forget what you’ve heard about us in the news; we love our city. And, we really love our food.

Sophisticated night on, er in, the town: Presidential Suite, Hotel Palomar

Presidential Suite | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

We’re starting our Best of the U.S. Series at the top, literally, in the Presidential Suite.

The next time someone asks me for a suggestion on where to celebrate a special anniversary, birthday or momentous life event, I will definitely be pointing them to Hotel Palomar (117 South 17th St. at Sansom, Philadelphia; 215-563-5006) This past February, I had the good fortune of being part of a milestone birthday overnighter. Before you go judging my budget-consciousness, a little full disclosure: other than dinner and drinks, this was on a free ride. Now, I don’t have many swanky suite stays under my belt, but even with limited comparisons, it’s hard to deny the Presidential Suite’s fabulousness. Stylishly dressed up in traditional with a contemporary twist furnishings, each room is comfortable without being cold; decadent without feeling pretentious; it is clearly a Best of Philadelphia. If you’re into bathrooms, the lavish glass enclosed tub/shower with intricate mosaic floor tiling and Carrera marble will have you swooning.

Presidential Suite | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

We agree, a great bathroom does make all the difference in a hotel room.

Push aside the luxurious stretches of fabric separating you from the rest of civilization, and you’ll be rewarded with an interesting perspective on the city. In my case, that was a black and blue sky, dark clouds and scattered bursts of white and yellow lights…very much like a charcoal drawing. Any plans you had to go bouncing around the city, will likely fade away once you get a taste of the Presidential. Especially during the colder winter months, I recommend booking Square 1682‘s private dining room.

Sqaure's Mama's Squeeze Box Low | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Signature cocktails are always enjoyable, when they’re perfectly made and we trust you when you say these are best.

Our meal did not disappoint, nor did our gracious server, who not only knew his food and drink, but also how to dole The Lady Treatment. You’ll be tempted to run back upstairs to the comforts of Kimpton—and the luxe tiger and zebra patterned robes that await—but take it from me: suck up the full, tired feeling that comes with a delicious meal, and hunker down at the bar for one (or three) of the restaurant’s signature, and delectable, high-minded cocktails. Great sipping, great people watching. Be there AND be Square. If you’re lucky enough to get two nights in, take advantage of the in-house yoga and bike programs, which will make a handy excuse for taking those extra bites and sips during your stay. Here’s the scoop: Hotel Palomar offers yoga mats in room and an ON DEMAND yoga channel 24/7. If you call down to the front desk, they provide a complimentary roll out service including a delivery of flavored water and trail mix to your room for after your work out. And, there are complimentary bikes on premise for a joy ride around the city.

Worth the drive or the walk in the cold, rain, sleet or snow: Bloody Mary, The Dandelion

Bloody Mary | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Bloody Marys, then afternoon tea, oh my…we love it!

Another favorite haunt in that corner of the city, is The Dandelion (124 S. 18th St., 215-558-2500), a superb weekend brunch/lunch spot that serves up a wicked good Bloody Mary, along with a few other lascivious libations. (Be forewarned, this joint is multilevel and requires strong stair negotiating skills.) The vibe is reminiscent of The Standard Tap, in Northern Liberties, with lots of warm woods and a homey feel that leaves you thinking what a cool house it would make. Afternoon Tea pose a conundrum for patrons, with tea and cocktails available from 3-5pm. I haven’t had a meal there that I didn’t like, but if you need a recommendation, the EVERYTHING is worth the bite. How’s that for Best of Philadelphia?

Perfect Pairings: Couture and Customer Service…Nicole Miller

It is not true that all women love to shop, at least for clothes. However, when a big event is around the corner, and a figure-flattering dress needs to be procured, like, yesterday, my go-to is Nicole Miller in Manayunk (4249 Main St., 215-930-0307). And my favorite reason to go is store manager, Samantha Sciolla, who can read a woman’s body type within seconds. (Yes, better than you men!) Whether you’re looking for formal (charity ball, wedding, graduation), street or contemporary career fashions and accessories, this longstanding Main Street boutique keeps up with the trends without shunning the classics and they know how to combine couture with customer service. (There’s also a store in town, at The Bellevue.)

Couture and Customer Service | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Couture and Customer Service a perfect combination in our book!

My favorite “say yes to the dress” story actually does have to do with my wedding dress. I was shopping solo, carrying on about it being a second wedding, “…still want a gown, has to cover this, hide this…” After being banished to the dressing room, I hear a knock: Samantha hands me two gowns. “This is the one you’re going to buy; this is the one you’ll try on because you feel you have to.” I didn’t even bother zipping the second dress, and I’ve been a born again Nicole Miller customer ever since (there are some sweet sales throughout the year). The wedding dress story is just one of many similar scenarios where Samantha made getting the desired dress, skirt, blouse, boots, etc., possible and guilt-free. If you go, tell her I sent you.

Romantic Dinner with a side of the Best.Foie.Gras.Ever, Bibou

Best Foie Gras | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Give me liberty AND give me foie: Bibou plates up Philly’s finest.

Bibou (1009 South 8th St., Philadelphia; 215-965-8290) is not new (opened in 2009), however it is to me. I finally got a chance to visit this petite byob last spring, for my first wedding anniversary. I’d just met Charlotte Calmels, wife and partner of chef Pierre Calmels, earlier that month. After engaging in a lively conversation about cooking, dining, sharing food experiences with children, and more, I realized how ridiculous it was that I’d not yet dined there. In comes Open Table. Happily, I can report, unlike many hyped experiences, Bibou delivers. Every morsel of the 7-course meal (Chef’s Tasting) had my taste buds doing somersaults. Especially the creamy foie gras that was perfectly seared to a rich mahogany, and so buttery that I was licking my lips all night. Gorgeous stemware and decanters elevated our wine sipping several notches (save your best bottles for Calmels cuisine). Cap that off with attentive, but not overbearing service that left us plenty of time to savor each course (embarrassingly, I think we reveled in the food far more than our first-year memories), and we were in a state of absolute dining bliss. All you need to do for a similar experience is make a reservation.

Just outside the city limits…I Sea-food, I Buy It, Philadelphia Lobster & Fish

Tucked in a corner of Wynnewood, just around the block from the R5 Philadelphia Lobster & Fish (333 E. Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood; 610-642-1082) is a dangerous place for my wallet. Not only will you find a sublime selection of fresh seafood—personally cherry-picked by owner John Shon each morning—this quietly humming fish market stocks its cases and shelves with pristine produce priced far lower than its neighbors.

Seafood | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Knowing where to buy the best and fresh seafood in any city is key. Thanks for sharing this pick!

It’s impossible to go in and not come out with twice as many groceries as you need. It’s practically a ritual for me to wait to the last minute (about 90 minutes before friends are slated to arrive for dinner), to race over and make a flurry of purchases. Upon returning to my kitchen, and within minutes of pulling out the goods, it’s totally plausible that I can have a gorgeous selection of house-made maki, tekkamaki, and shumai dumplings plated; a tuna steak swimming in a wasabi-soy marinade, skate prepped for a brown butter lacing, or thick-cut salmon steaks seasoned with fresh and dried herbs ready STAT—all with time to spare for a quick shower.

Seafood | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Yummmmm – Best of Philadelphia here we come!

Talk about an easy button! When I really want to cheat, there are 15 different prepared entrees and sides available throughout the week, along with $2.99 containers of fresh, peeled garlic cloves, fully-cleaned mixed greens, baby bok choy and Brussels sprouts, sliced zucchini, cut-up mango, pineapple, honeydew, blood oranges and other quick-cook-quick-eat ingredients.

During planting season, you’ll be treated to an impressive curbside display of flowers and herbs, proudly tended to by Shon. Everyone I’ve turned on to this local purveyor agrees: it’s a feel- and taste-good shopping experience every time.

best-of-philadelphia

We love read.eat.Dew.write. and its founder/author. She’s an accomplished food and local scene writer who knows great places in several towns. We look forward to her picks!

Visit GetLocal@ShopMoxie often to look for more “Best of the U.S.” picks from read.eat.Dew.write.!

Register today to get more posts from this Best of the U.S. by Local bloggers series. Or, sign into ShopMoxie to create your own Top Picks and link to this or other great posts from around the Internet!

Coffee Talk: Liquid eXcellence

IMG_9351A few weeks ago, I followed up on an invitation to visit micro coffee roaster Café eXcellence in Audubon, PA. For those living in and around Philadelphia, the name of this boutique coffee company may sound familiar. Though it might be “micro” in size and capacity, the java coming out of Cafe eXcellence is macro in flavor.

Currently, the company offers just under two dozen blends from 25-plus countries, as well as a recently introduced line of herbal teas.

IMG_9374IMG_9376

The “factory  store” as it’s  billed, is  open  Monday-  Friday, from  8:30AM-4PM.  You don’t  need an  appointment to pop in and stock up, but because cuppings are a bit labor intensive, procedure calls for advance outreach.

We had the opportunity to meet with Anthony Valerio, the family-owned company’s president, at the end of our visit. Humble, yet passionate, he certainly gave off the impression of a guy who works hard, appreciates the business’ success, and who has lived the ups and downs of launching a niche brand in a very competitive market.

The tour itself was led by right-hand java genius, Irene Satterwhite (a fellow member of Les Dames d’Escoffier), whose passion would make her an impressive brand ambassador for any company. Her follow-through—from a casual conversation one evening to a series of follow-up emails—made an impression, as did the effort put forth during the tour.  I actually felt guilty toward the end of the tasting, because there were so many cups, spoons, coffee presses, and tea steepers left for Irene to clean up and put away.

IMG_9358

IMG_9357

I would have loved videotaping the entire  experience, because walking around, touching,  smelling and sifting, and listening required my full  attention—taking notes and photos was very  distracting, and diluted the experience. Throwing  caution to the wind and not recording the bulk of  the details resulted in an information gap,  however, everything you need to know is on the  company website. I can’t do better than this  graphic version of cafe eXcellence’s history, but I can vouch for its coffee being as standout as some of our region’s top contenders.

photo (2)

Just recently, I was dining out at Paramour (Wayne, PA), and after a ridiculously decadent meal, we got our hands (and lips) on a sublime bold cup of Joe. I remarked to our server, how satisfying the coffee was (and went into my usual schpeel about how a bad cup of coffee can ruin an otherwise amazing meal) and the light bulb went off when he revealed the coffee’s brand. I had known that Paramour served Café eXcellence, but it was nice to experience a moment of validation regarding the quality of this brand’s beans. (One of these days, I need to write about the fabulous meal we had there; took me by surprise.)

IMG_9382

Along with a front-row seat to numerous  pounds of just-roasted beans loudly  bursting  out of the 450-  525° roaster, visitors can take  home a  burlap or sisal bean bag (based on  availability) as a souvenir. (I happily  snagged  two for my son’s college  apartment—and put in  an order for two  oversized French presses.)

Here’s what the big coffee bean dump looked  like. (Caution: this video is wholly UN-pro.)

Roasting starts between 510-525°, depending on the weight of the coffee going into the drum… 85 lbs. starts at 510° and a 100 lbs. starts at 525°. The roast will finish between 450-475 depending on the roast profile.

The darker the roast, the higher the temperature—and, the least caffeine. (If you’re pulling an all-nighter, stick with lighter-colored beans/blends.)

The main event was the coffee and herbal tea cupping, a savory combination of Costa Rica El Indio, Sumatra Lintong, Full City, French Roast and delectable (and colorful) MajaTei teas: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Sencha Green, Strawberry Green, Apple Cranberry Green and Destiny Chai. In total, the fledgling tea program features 14 varieties of both loose leaf and pyramid teas. I’m not sure my photos do these colorful blends justice… the hues of some reminded me of dying Easter eggs.

IMG_9364

Regarding the coffee we sipped, each flavor had its own flair. Guided by Satterwhite, we thoughtfully engaged our senses, sipping, licking, lapping and sniffing to measure flavor, acidity, aftertaste, and body. The process was one cup at a time (and only a few spoonfuls at a time to avoid getting too hopped up), and as we moved from cup to cup, we took in hints of citrus, smoke, sweet fruit, and earthiness. We also noted that as the coffee in each cup began to cool, new flavors emerged.

As a French press or vintage Pyrex percolator drinker, I can’t speak for how this tastes brewed under different conditions, but prepared by our seasoned cupper, each spoonful was flawless. Check out the coffee bean tree and get a gander at some beans and bags…

IMG_9352

IMG_9341
IMG_9346

Biking to Beat MS

(via the warden ettinger group)

While I am always hesitant to share the same information on the majority of my social media sites, when it comes to spreading awareness about, and demonstrating support of, life-altering causes, such as multiple sclerosis, I feel compelled to reach out to as many audiences as possible. I hope that you will find this Bike MS: City to Shore spotlight informative and inspiring, and that you too, will help spread the word. I dedicate this effort to all of your friends living with MS, as well as one of my own. To quote Ian Harris, interviewed in the story, “Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease.”