Our tree is still up so I’m still talking Christmas

It’s the kind of spousal stalemate when neither one of us is deeply committed enough to Take Action Now.

“Whenever you’re ready,” my husband says. “I’ll take the Christmas tree down after you’ve taken the balls off.” (Pausing here for “balls” joke–c’mon, you know you’re thinking it.)

But I know he loves that tree–an authentic 1950s tinsel one I found on eBay, complete with original individual branch wraps–so I don’t want to appear concerned that it’s up way past the point of reasonable explanation.

“Oh, I’m fine,” I say. “No hurry. Doesn’t bother me a bit.”

So that’s why we still have a Christmas tree up. But that’s a good excuse to brag on the awesome  presents my daughters gave me last month. I’m not sure where they learned such successfully creative gift-giving since I’m more of the put-it-on-your-Amazon-list-and-if-it’s-Prime-I’ll-get-it-for-you type, but I’m tickled to be the recipient of their much better approach. Plus, these are great ideas in case you need some gift-giving inspiration.img_0386(1)

  • Family photo session. Older Daughter did this for me & the grandboys once before (“You’re always taking pictures of them but you don’t  have any with you & them,” she said.), and it’s time to update. The first one was for Mother’s Day, and this time, for Christmas, she made a point of including Grandpa for a true family portrait. Even better, she booked with our favorite local photographer. When both the experience of having photos taken AND the resulting photos themselves are priceless, you know you’ve got a winner. Hijinks will definitely ensue.

 

  • img_0443(edited)Woman Power! Younger Daughter tapped into our mutual love for all things Woman with these two finds: a necklace version of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent collar & illustrator Lydia Ortiz‘ Little Feminist Playing Cards. I’ve pretty much felt like dissenting every single day for the past two years, so RBG & I are solid. And–shout-out to public education AND book-reading parents–Oldest Grandson, who’s in the fifth grade, accurately identified Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo & others. In fact, he did better than I did. Which is exactly as it should be.

 

  • img_0444(2)Warmth. You know that eureka moment when somebody gifts you something you had no idea even existed but as soon as you see it, you think “well, of course”? That’s how I felt when I opened Younger Daughter’s USB-heated gloves. If you’re like me & value warm & toasty fingers right up there with good hot coffee, get these immediately. Even if you don’t like coffee. They’re for computer work but I love these so much I’m getting an extra pair for the car. Take that, very-slow-to-warm-up car heater.

Daughters weren’t the only ones who excelled in their gift-giving this past holiday.

  • img_0384(1)My husband & I somehow lucked up with the best neighbors ever in the whole world. The. Best. Ever. We don’t deserve them, but there you are. Who else remembers & indulges my possibly obsessive love for all things pumpkin spice? There aren’t many, I can tell you. This collection of wintry coziness makes for the ultimate in comfort: Warming mug of coffee with a splash of Bailey’s plus a slice of fresh homemade bread with yummy pumpkin butter. Turn on the fireplace & endless episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” and I’m all set. See you in April.

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  • This was the year of Advent calendars. Thanks to ALDI, I introduced my people to the concept of opening a little door every day in December to find a little surprise–wine, chocolate, Hot Wheels, American Girl cuteness, etc. My middle brother & sister-in-law were so entranced with the cheese calendar we gave them at Thanksgiving that they one-upped us with a Jim Beam version for Christmas. Twelve little airplane-size bottles were are perfect for sampling & sipping.

Family, friends, woman-power, warm fingers and good food & drink. Here’s to 2019!

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P.S. Remember that nobody pays me or gives me anything or helps me in any way in exchange for a mention in “Coffee with Cathy.” Whatever you read here is from me alone, for no other reason than it’s something I like or saw or heard or feel or want to talk about. Of course, if Cadillac wants to gift me my dream car–an Escalade SUV–I’m open to negotiations, but other than that, I can’t be bought.

 

Pros & cons of burning the #$%^ out of your hand

Because I am trying to corral my natural tendency to be all emotional & whimsical & use words such as, well, “whimsical,” I decided to reduce this blog post to a simple, factual & objective list comparing the advantages & disadvantages of burning the (insert your favorite four-letter cuss word here) out of — or, more literally, in to — my hand.

First, the advantages:

  • It makes a really funny story — “See, it was morning & I really wasn’t awake yet & you know how sometimes you have to press down really hard on the plunger of your French press because it feels likes it’s stuck or something & so I pressed down really really hard but turns out it wasn’t stuck at all because almost all of the hot water splashed out & … “
  • It inspires creative descriptions from your newspaper-editor husband John Pitts — “I’m thinking maybe burnt grilled wienies? Burned marshmallows?”
  • It gets you out of doctor waiting rooms and into the coveted examining rooms very, very quickly.
  • Ditto emergency room reception.
  • You don’t have to tell people that it hurts like #$%^ because they can see for themselves that it hurts like #$%^.
  • It’s the perfect excuse for one of those lovely stay-on-the-couch-and-nap-all-day weekends.

Of course, there’s a downside to everything. Thus, the disadvantages:

  • I burned my hand and it hurts like @#$% and it looks even worse. That’s pretty much the major disadvantage here.

Actually, there are two other problems with burning my hand. First, it makes me lose my domestic-incident superiority over my husband, who recently had a nasty tussle with a sock — let me repeat: A SOCK — that ended with a pulled tendon (for him, not the sock) and surgery to pin it all back together. A French press run-in pales in comparison. But that brings me to the second disadvantage of burning my hand the way I did: the unfortunate involvement of coffee. See, I love coffee. I adore coffee. I love the making of it & the smelling of it & the drinking of it & the talking about it. I know that coffee would never, ever hurt me. Coffee is my friend, my soulmate. I can only surmise that, for that one French-press-plunging instant, there was some sort of cosmic rip in the space-time continuum that caused coffee to attack. It’s the only explanation I can come up with, although, granted, it HAS been suggested that perhaps the cause of this accident can be traced to a lack of paying attention on the part of the French-press operator, as ridiculous as that sounds. The investigation is continuing. But I have switched to pour-over in the meantime.

Cold-y Toddy!

Get it — Cold-y Toddy? See, we live in Mississippi where most people — unless they wear Mississippi State‘s maroon and white — go around saying “Hotty Toddy” instead of “Hello! How are you today? Fine? Great! Me, too.” You also know we live in Mississippi because everything I write about begins with football and because I know — doesn’t everybody? — that it’s 58 days until the first SEC football game of fall 2015 , which non-coincidentally also is Nick Saban‘s first 2015 effort To Take Over the World. He won’t rest until it’s done.

However, Nick Saban did not enjoy a shot of freshly made Toddy this morning, as I did. I’m assuming he didn’t, anyway. At least I can safely suppose that he didn’t drink a shot of fresh Toddy this morning that was made by ME.

Coffee on Windowsill

Toddy is the name of a company, brewing process and also the coffee itself. In 1964, a chemical engineering graduate named Todd Simpson discovered the age-old technique of cold-brewing coffee to produce a liquid coffee concentrate. He developed and patented a convenient way to make the concentrate, and the family-owned and -run business is still in Fort Collins, Colorado, 51 years later. While potent and silky strong, liquid coffee concentrate is less acidic than coffee brewed with hot-water methods. You can reconstitute the concentrate with hot water at a ratio of 1:2-3 for a steaming cup of morning wake-up, but that’s only for wimps who are afraid of the real thing folks who don’t like their coffee bold and complex. No, don’t waste your Toddy trying to recreate … you know … actual coffee, because Toddy’s true genius reveals itself in cold coffee drinks. That’s when its smooth richness combines with creamy milky sweetness over ice cubes for one perfect summer-afternoon refresher.

Toddy is easy to make at home. For about $40, you get a clear glass carafe with white plastic lid, a white plastic brewing container with removable handle, a 412hSp3lRXLrubber stopper, two reusable filters and the instruction guide/recipe booklet. Put the stopper in the hole that’s in the bottom of the brewing container, dampen a filter and put it over the stopper, place the container over the decanter, layer coarsely ground coffee with fresh cold water in the container (measurements in instruction guide) and let sit for 12 hours. Pull the stopper out, and when the concentrate stops dripping in the decanter (usually only a minute or two), remove the container, top the decanter with the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. But it won’t stay there that long.

Here are a few Toddy hints I’ve learned over the years:

  • Make it at night to enjoy a fresh shot in the morning.
  • Buy inexpensive whole beans and grind them/have them ground at the store on the coarsest setting possible. You’ll wear out your nice at-home burr grinder by doing a pound of beans at one time.
  • Don’t use flavored beans. The added oils will gum up the filter.
  • Lay in a supply of filters and stoppers by ordering a bunch at once.
  • Either clean the decanter, lid and brewing container in the dishwasher or simply rinse and scrub with hot water to avoid soap residue.
  • The cold-brew concentrate makes an impressive gift. Pour some into a wide-mouthed glass canning jar with a two-part metal screw-on lid (trying to avoid using the patented “Mason jar”) and add a burlap bow. I’ve actually never done this because I only thought of it just now, but it sure sounds like a nice idea.

So the next time you’re in Mississippi and somebody yells “Are you ready?” at you, reply with “Coldy Toddy, gosh almighty!” and see what happens. No, really, don’t do that. Just say “Roll Tide.”

An eggs-cellent adventure

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Spring breezed through the kitchen today when husband John Pitts politely wondered if perhaps I might possibly scramble him some eggs to fortify him for his wintry trek to work this morning. (I actually cook — I mean turn-the-oven-on-and-cause-pots-and-pans-to-become-dirty cook — about once a week and he’s always careful to use this one opportunity thoughtfully.) He had told me a couple of days earlier that he had brought some farm-fresh eggs home from his office and, as with most cooking-related topics, I nodded and said “Oh, that’s nice” while at the same time wondering if I could sneak yet another Amazon box past him and if it was Annalise or Frank (or maybe BOTH of them???) who killed Rebecca. You know — important stuff. But this morning, with ice creaking outside and gray snowy light filtering in and SCHOOL CANCELLED YET AGAIN, I was more than happy to do the wifely thing and cook my husband some food. And I’m glad I did, because when I opened this box of real honest-to-goodness eggs from honest-to-goodness chickens who walk around on the honest-to-goodness ground as nature intended, it was as if we time-traveled to the middle of April, with sunshine and flowers and butterflies and all things spring. Thanks, nature. We needed that.

Where has all the olive oil gone?

2014-09-17 16.13.45If you’re wondering where all those wonderful food items have disappeared to from your favorite T.J. Maxx, here’s the answer: They’re all at the Decatur, Alabama, store. I regularly (look away, husband John Pitts) check two T.J. stores with a couple of others on semi-regular rotation. And if you’re a Maxxinista (always wanted to have the chance to actually use that word), you know that the food aisle is one of the chain’s best-kept secrets: balsamic vinegars, olive oils, flavored salts, chocolates, dried fruits, healthy crunchy junk food, salsas, soft drinks — all with fancy gourmet-like labels not usually find on the Wal-Mart discount shelves but with Wal-Mart-discount-shelf prices. However, for the past year or so, seems as if the food selection at my T.J. Maxx stores has been shrinking. Used to be both overflowing sides of an aisle. Then, all of the food migrated to one side. Then it was just half of the side Now it’s even less than that. I couldn’t figure it out. Where are all the Stonewall Jackson jams? The Barefoot Contessa brownie mixes? The Turkish Delight from actual Turkey. What was going on? Turns out it’s an insidious plot to send all food items to the Decatur store. Or that’s what it looks like. More (shopping) research needed.

Also, dang you, Associated Press, for your switch to spelling out state names in text. Why did you mess with that? Just tell me why. But I NEVER will use “over” with numbers. NEVER. You can’t make me. So there.

My Dream Job

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This is the job I want — Vice President in Charge of Naming Stuff. You know these folks took their afternoon business meeting/strategy session to the open-air beach bar where pitchers of beer are $2 and the boss had told them “We need new names and logos for our soft drinks so DO NOT LEAVE THAT MEETING UNTIL YOU’VE COME UP WITH SOMETHING,” and they didn’t. I just hope that dr. perky and mountain lion (Capitalization, people. CAPITALIZATION.) never get together and have babies.