Black Coffee – A Dying Brew?

I grew up in a household where Mom and Dad drank black coffee; no cream, no sugar. When I started drinking coffee myself, I flirted with milk and sugar and the occasional splurt of chocolate syrup, but that didn’t last long. I grew to love the bitter yet satisfying taste of strong hot black coffee. Fortunately, the Crankee Yankee likes it that way as well.

I don’t believe I ever went to a fancy-schmancy coffee shop before I moved to Texas in the early ’90s. At the time, I worked for a woman who adored a certain famous coffee house (hint: it rhymes with “Far Clucks”). I don’t remember that we ever went there without her spending at least $30 on coffee! Mind you, we are talking about TWO cups of coffee, not a few bags of coffee beans.

It made me think about flavored coffees in general. Personally, all I ever ask of a cup of coffee is that it be 1) very hot, 2) black, and 3) no one asking me what flavor I want. I want COFFEE flavored coffee. Period.

I am flabbergasted by coffee houses who routinely carry “additions” such as:

  • Madagascar cinnamon
  • chocolate: milk, dark, white, marbled
  • flavored syrups; caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, etc.
  • milk; soy, coconut, almond, cashew, macadamia, etc.

…and who knows what all else can be had there. No doubt they also carry shavings from moon rocks, petrified alien vomit, powdered rhino horn, pixie dust, plutonium and antimatter; for a nominal fee, of course.

Right now, the only people I know who drink black coffee is the Crankee Yankee and me. When we travel and stop at any of the ubiquitous rest stops along the way, there is always a fancy coffee bar. Always. Even the truckers now appear to love “foo-foo” coffee these days.

I thought I had heard everything ridiculous about high-priced coffee until I heard about “*kopi luwak” coffee. Read on:


“Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee. The main factor of it’s high price is the uncommon method of producing such a coffee. It has been produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a certain Indonesian cat-like animal called the palm civet or also civet cat. This is the reason kopi luwak is also called cat poop coffee or civet cat coffee. The feces of this cat will be collected, finished and sold as kopi luwak. ….The short supply, in comparison with the high demand, the different taste and the uncommon production methods define the value of kopi luwak – the most expensive coffee in the world.”

Get this: a cup of this coffee can go anywhere from $35 to $100 per cup! Shoot, I could have any one of our four cats poop in my coffee for FREE!

Ah well, I have no doubt that hundreds of thousands of people are thoroughly enjoying their foo-foo coffee everywhere. More power to them, I say. For now, I am very happy to be sipping my second black coffee this morning; civet cat poop-free.

It’s OK; You’re Allowed…..

A word about labels and tags on clothing, bedding and pillows: once you buy clothing, bedding, pillows, etc., YOU are now the owner of these things. You are now allowed to pull off, rip off, cut off and utterly destroy all the tags and labels. Despite the scary message on pillow tags, once you pay for them and bring them home, they are YOURS.

Despite what you may have heard, the bed clothes police will not come after you once you snip off the bedding labels. Neither will the pillow police show up when you likewise remove their tags. Nor will the clothing designers send you nasty posts regarding altering their clothes–they are YOUR clothes now!

Speaking of clothes, just say you treat yourself to a gorgeous silky scarf printed with peonies; you love it, and you know you can wear it with many things. However, nothing ruins a pretty scarf more than having the tag still on it. I have seen more people wearing scarves with the tag (this is the maker’s cloth tag, not the sales tag) still flapping in the breeze.

There are only a few threads keeping it on; just pick up the manicure scissors and snip the threads already. I guarantee that the scarf will not unravel, nor will the designer of that scarf come after you for defacing their work. Again–YOU bought it, YOU own it.

Same with those incredibly itchy tags in clothing, usually right at the back of your neck. Snip them! And by the way, huge kudos to those manufacturers who no longer sew on those itchy tags;the information you need is now printed.

Here’s another issue: when you buy clothing, no one says you have to wear it “as is.” What do I mean by that? Say you bought a great-looking top; you try it on and it’s too long for you. Well, no one said you have to wear it that way.

Speaking just for me, I always tailor my own tops so that they hang mid-hip. This is the length that works well for me; I’m sure you know what works for you.

If you don’t sew (and FYI, most of these minor adjustments can be stitched by hand), go to a tailor; it’s worth it. You will look great; you now have a top that’s fitted just for YOU. Remember that clothing that fits YOU well not only makes you look terrific, but it also makes you feel confident.

Now—go remove your tags, all of them. It’s ok; you’re allowed. I give you full permission to do so. Likewise alter your new clothing; you paid for them, you deserve to look wonderful in them.

You’re welcome.


“From One to Ten, How Do You Rate?”

Of all the things a person can be asked, this is surely the most vague. First of all, why it is only one to ten? Secondly, what sort of “rating” are we talking about? Thirdly, who really cares? Any time I have been asked that question, I answer the same way: “I rate myself 100.” The asker says, “well, you can’t do that!” I reply, “Says who” And that usually ends it.

Think about it: when asked, are we rating looks? Talent? Honesty? Generosity? Kindness? Ethics? Religion? Happiness? Or does it mean something deeper, such as how good a parent/child/mentor/person you are, how you treat people in general; friends, relatives, the young, the old, the infirm, animals, the blind, the deaf, and so on?

It’s a lot more than a numbers game. If I really want to raise a stink, I will always ask the asker what exactly we are rating. That is usually enough to get them to go away. But if they persist, it can sometimes move to an interesting conversation with some interesting reveals.

I recently attended one of the most fun money raising events I’ve ever heard of; a purse auction. Several purses, some quite high-end; are auctioned off and the bidding is fast and furious. When the winner is presented with her new purse, the auctioneer then asks her to look inside. There can be anything inside from a beautiful necklace, gift certificates to local stores and luxury services, or cash.

While I watched all those purses go up for auction, I could hear women around say, ‘ooh! That’s a <insert well-known designer name here>!” Then I would hear some of them say that this or that purse was a “number 10.”

There it was again–that 1 to 10 rating! Some of the purses they were admiring didn’t do much for me; but my purse needs are pretty simple. Most of my purses follow the same requirements: they should be about 17″ by 12″, with a shoulder strap and a zippered opening, and have many pockets and compartments. I like them to be fairly lightweight (microfiber, etc.), but sometimes I do fall in love with a heavier leather bag. No rivets, fringes, doo-dads, metal gimcracks, etc. And they have to have a sturdy you-can-set-it-on-the-floor type of bottom. For the most part I like them to be black, deep purple, red, lime, turquoise or have a wild design. Most of all, they have to be below $50. A few bucks over that and you’ve lost me. But that’s just me.

So for me personally, a “number 10” bag would be deep purple microfiber, ziptop, shoulder strap and plenty of pockets, all under $50. Under $30 would be even better.

Taking this further, what’s the “number 10” of, say, lobster rolls? I grew up on lobster made with only these ingredients: lobster meat, mayonnaise and some salt and pepper, mixed well. This is the kind of lobster roll upon which I judge all others. There is a little shack in Wiscassett, ME, that sells hot dogs and lobster rolls. The lobster rolls have been praised to the skies by several well-known celebrities, talk show hosts, local news anchors and, of course, regular people. Here’s what that lobster roll is: hot hunks of bare-nekkid lobster meat on a hot dog roll, flanked by a tiny cup of mayo on one end of the roll, and a similar-sized cup of hot melted butter on the other.

MELTED BUTTER ON A LOBSTER ROLL?!?! As Dorothy Parker would have surely said, “what fresh hell is this?” This is a “number 10” lobster roll to many people. For me, it’s a big old number nothing.

So you see where I’m going with this; the whole ‘from 1 to 10, how do you rate <insert whatever here>‘ is ridiculous. How about we start asking people what they like about themselves, and why? If they say that they don’t like anything about themselves, take them out for a nice lobster roll.


“Motivational Services” and “Funeral Alternatives”

In the same day I saw two signs that got me thinking. One read “Motivational Services,” and the other read “Funeral Alternatives.” Since I have a twisted mind, all sorts of thoughts regarding these signs laid eggs in my head.What in the world could each of them mean?

Here are some “motivational services” I dreamed up:

  • Motivational Service #1: this one is to motivate weight loss. It’s essentially the old “carrot and stick” routine, only using a Big Mac instead of a carrot. You are placed on a treadmill set at top speed, trying to catch up to the Big Mac before you fall, hurt yourself or throw up.
  • Motivational Service #2: in order to reach your goal in business, you have to broad jump over a flaming pit. No fair cheating, and if you’re burned, you have to drive yourself to the hospital.
  • Motivational Service #3: the goal for this one is to see just how much you are willing to do in order to beat all others in business. Along with several others, you line up like a horse on the race track. A tiny jockey hops up on your back, and the goal is to run as fast as you can to the finish line first without passing out or puking.
  • Motivational Service #4: you sign up for an office get-away for you and your staff for “relaxation and renewal.” During the get-away, there are certain “trust” exercises in which you must take part, including the *Trust Fall. Only this time you have to do the fall entrusting yourself to your team, which includes all the people you’ve screwed over in business. Good luck!
  • Motivational Service #5: this one is highly recommended for those who procrastinate. In order to encourage reaching your goals, you are told to climb the ‘rope of success.’ You must climb a long rope hanging from a cliff, and at the top of the cliff is a big sign reading, “CONGRATULATIONS! You have achieved success! Welcome to a high-paying, low-effort job in the corporate world!” As you start climbing, the person at the bottom lights your rope on fire. As you are literally forced between a rock and a hard place, you’d better hustle.

Now the “Funeral Alternatives” really got me thinking: I could picture someone coming in to plan their funeral; nothing traditional–something really different that “fits” that particular person. Before I list some ideas, just let me tell you that the Crankee Yankee has asked me to give him a Viking funeral. The man really thinks that I am going to stuff his lifeless body into a boat, cover him with kindling, and set him on on fire before I push his dead butt out to sea. Sheesh.

Now here are some alternatives to your really alternative funerals:

  • Funeral Alternative #1: “The Chilly Willy” – this one calls for you to be freeze-dried. Once you’re frozen solid, someone hits you on the head with a mallet, and you crumble to pieces. The pieces are then carefully collected and placed in a tasteful urn of your choice. (This is a great choice for those of us who abhor heat and therefore do not wish to be cremated.)
  • Funeral Alternative #2:“The Hans Solo” – for those of you who are Star Wars fans, you will remember Jabba the Hut having Hans Solo suspended indefinitely in carbonite. Now, for an extra fee, you can have your carbonitized body placed in a tasteful frame to hang in the room of your choice.
  • Funeral Alternative #3:“The Harry Houdini” – for those who prefer a more dramatic ending, this may just be your cup of tea. Your dead and still-flexible body is neatly folded and placed in an attractive trunk, which is then locked and draped in several heavy chains. From there, you are taken out to sea and dropped into the ocean in a latitude and longitude of your choice. The best part? Someday some deep sea diver may haul you up, pry open the barnacle-encrusted lid and SURPRISE!
  • Funeral Alternative #4: “The Museum Piece” – this is a great idea for those who have an exhibitionist side. For this one, your body is carefully arranged in a pose of your choice (please choose something tasteful–after all, you’re going to be in it for all eternity). Your body will then be prepared in the same manner as beef jerky, and, when dry, will be transported to the museum of your choice to be part of an exhibit with others similarly prepared.
  • Funeral Alternative #5: “The King Tut” – a classic! This is an excellent choice for a person with an over-inflated sense of self (it’s also the most expensive choice). Your body is prepared by a special team straight from Cairo, Egypt, who are experts in the arcane art of mummification. Once your body is steeped in Colonel Akbar’s dressing of eleven secret herbs and spices, you are wrapped in handmade linen strips in the old pattern of the great kings of Egypt. You are then placed in a sarcophagus made from your choice of stone (granite, sandstone, or marble), and the lid, painted with your image and decorated with gold leaf and lapis stones, is placed over you and sealed for all eternity. For an additional fee, you can have real Egyptian workers build you a tasteful pyramid in the cemetery of your choice. As a free gift, they’ll throw in a nicely-framed plaque reading, “I win, losers!” to be put on display at the entrance to the pyramid.

If anyone from these two businesses are reading this, sorry!

*The Trust Fall is an exercise in which each person takes a turn in standing on a platform and falling backwards into the arms of their team.




One for the X-Files

I love Nate Berkus’s Veggie Ball recipe, and have made it often (I’m sure you can find it on his web site). However, it’s one of those recipes you pretty much spend the entire day making, so it’s quite a commitment. But it’s well worth the trouble–the recipe makes a lot of them, and they are great as a snack, side dish or even a main course. My mom found another veggie ball recipe recently, and today I made them.

This recipe was a lot simpler than Nate’s, and they were delicious. One of the ingredients is frozen spinach; thawed of course. So I mixed all the ingredients together, shaped them into 1″ ovals, and baked them for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Once they cooled, I ate some with BBQ sauce, and they were fantastic. I did a few things around the house and about an hour later, I decided to have a few more veggie balls. One or two of them had split in the oven, and as I reached for one, I noticed that there was a tiny little worm squirming its way out of the inside.

Mind you, I had already eaten about six of them. The only thing I can think of was that there was already a worm or two (yikes!) in the spinach. But here’s the mystery: how in the world did a worm survive a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes?? I guess at this point I’m more fascinated than grossed out.

But of course, the Crankee Yankee (my husband) has come up with his own unique theory, and here it is (queue up the X-Files music): he surmised that this little worm is an alien life form, come to Earth on a small meteor. Perhaps it landed in a field of spinach, still burning from its entry through our atmosphere. There it cooled in the field and became dormant. Then, and as luck would have it, it got picked up along with the spinach, packaged up and frozen. He went on to say that perhaps this worm can only thrive in a hot environment in excess of 450 degrees. In fact, he feels that, if it didn’t end up in the spinach and was left to its own devices, it would have eventually spontaneously combusted and dispersed itself into the atmosphere. It would then go on to be breathed in by the Earth’s population and therefore take over the world. Moo-ha-ha-ha!

He said it would make a great story. I told him I’d give it air time on Luluopolis and we’d see how it goes (Dear Stephen King: I don’t think you have anything to worry about). But I did also say, “Really?? This on top of ISIS and ebola?!”

So, Happy Halloween early, folks, and watch out for those fire-bred spinach worms from deep space.

Note: The veggie balls are now in our compost heap. We were going to leave them out for the skunks, but then they’d expect me to cook for them all the time. And they’d probably want more worms, too.