Thursday, February 28, 2008

Have Coffee Will Travel

I realize that I have a bit of an obsession. I know this about myself and though I’ve tried to overcome it many times in the past, I now realize that it’s a part of who I am and I’m ok with that.

I love coffee.

No, no, I LOVE it! It’s the most fantastic substance I’ve every consumed. Ask me to pick my favorite food—this is it. My favorite drink—no question. My favorite dessert, the one thing I’d take with me to a deserted island, if I could choose the last food on Earth—all coffee.

When I travel, there’s no exception. My boss makes fun of me, but I feel no shame. I recently went on a business trip to New York/Connecticut. Heather (my boss) and I stayed at the fabulous Ryetown Hilton (very rustic and cute—I loved it). When we first got our reservation confirmations, my first task was to call the hotel and see if they had coffee makers in the rooms. Most hotels seem to, but the Waldorf=Astoria did not! Upscale my foot! I was pleased to learn that the Ryetown Hilton did provide this (as well as a hairdryer and onsite fitness center. Whoo hoo!) When packing for my trip I had to decide if I was going to carry on or check my bag. With the new (not so new anymore) liquid restrictions in place, I knew I’d have to check my bag—how else was I going to get a 32 ounce bottle of coffee-mate on the plane? Of course I took coffee with me! Rely on the hotel brand? No, no. This is me we’re talking about.

I wasn’t sure if my bottle would survive the trip or the pressurization of the bin (that’s where the bags are under the plane). I asked Nick if I packed my bottle inside of a plastic bag would the bag pop. He said maybe, but the odds of both the bag popping and the seal on the bottle breaking were pretty slip. Great! I could bring my coffee. When I told Heather I was going to check my bag and why, she immediately understood—I had to have my coffee.

I’m happy to say that it made the trip. No leaks or punctures anywhere. When I checked into my room, I went immediately in search of the promised coffee pot. It wasn’t in the bathroom where I first thought to look, but rather in a cabinet next to the TV. What I saw there presented a challenge. Not only did I bring my own cream, but my own coffee as well. In my past hotel experience, I’ve noticed that maybe rooms are provided with enough coffee for two small pots. Well, I go through that in a couple of hours. It certainly wouldn’t last an evening and the following morning. I even packed filters! I was really on the ball…or so I thought. The coffee machine was, indeed there, but it was one of those pod brewers. I could brew two cups at once, but basically, there was no pot. The hotel had provided four pods (only 4 cups of coffee), but I wasn’t sure how I could conform my coffee and filters into a pod. Still, I was determined.

We had dinner and coffee in the downstairs restaurant, so I was good for the night. The next morning, I decided to give it a shot. I poured what was probably two tablespoons into one of my filters, shoved it in where the pod goes, poured in water and pushed the button. Slowly, a stream of brown liquid started to stream into the cup below. Success!

Or not. It was pretty weak. Ok, no problem. More coffee. I tried again. This time, only half of the water came out before the machine shut off. I was getting desperate here. To hold myself over until I figured this out, I put in one of the pods. Maybe the machine wasn’t working right. When I had a successful cup ready in a few minutes, I knew the pods were somehow the answer to my dilemma. I tried the pod coffee—ok, but not great. Good enough, though. Well, that would be at least four cups. I tried tearing off the top of the coffee filter, hoping that maybe room in the small filter area was the problem. This seemed to do the trick. I had to push the on button a few times during brewing, but I managed a more than decent cup of coffee. I headed down to the lobby to meet Heather and Don (our driver for the week) carrying a to-go cup (those were provided too!).

“How was your coffee?”

“Good.”

“The hotel pods aren’t bad.” Don said.

“Oh, yeah, I went through those pretty quickly.”

“Is that decaf?” Don asked.

“Uh, I’m not sure. This is like my sixth cup.”

We got to the office of our vendor (whom we were visiting) and were given an immediate apology for the broken coffee maker they had. Not to worry—someone was out at Dunkin’ Doughnuts getting a box of coffee. Was this like boxed wine? I wasn’t sure, but still, glad it was coming. I sat through the early minutes of our meeting, glancing at the door every few seconds. Was it here yet?

Living in Chicago where we had Dunkin’ Doughnuts everywhere, I was told often that this was the coffee to out coffee Starbucks. I’d never tried it though, but the hype was enough to put it in favorable light. When the log awaited box did arrive, I was terribly disappointed. This was good coffee? I had one cup but didn’t drink much of it. I would just have to be prepared tomorrow.

Before I’d left my room that day, I left a nice little note for the housekeeping staff. “Please leave extra coffee.” If I couldn’t stand dealing with my filters I could at least drink the pod stuff. When I got back to my room after dinner, I saw again, just four little pods. Sigh!

The next day (after struggling again with my filters all morning) we were told early on in our meeting that if it wasn’t too much of a distraction, would it be al right if the coffee repair person came in to fix the pot. YES! Bring him in! By all means. I have to admit, I was slightly distracted by the thought of good coffee. The pot he was fixing was my now coveted Krupps model that brewed K-Cups. They weren’t Gloria Jeans, but I was excited at the prospect of giving these K-Cups a shot.

There were a few glitches once the new pot was installed, but overall, I was quite impressed with the Krupps model. I CAN’T WAIT to have one of my own.

Over our four day trip, I used up my entire bottle of cream and the better part of my coffee. I really wish that I would have known ahead of time that my in-room pot took only pods. I would have found some other brand that made pods and brought them with me, but I certainly made do.

My next business trip in April is to New Orleans. Heather and I will be staying at the Chateau Sonesta Hotel. I’ve already called—they do have an in-room coffee pot in each room…and it’s not the pod variety. That is now on my list of things to ask hotels. My only challenge this time is that I’d really like to avoid checking my bag. It’s just a hastle and it got stuck in New York for three or so days (during Superbowl weekend AND a nasty snow storm). I’m thinking of shipping my coffee cream to the hotel before I leave. Nuts, I know, but I GOTTA HAVE MY COFFEE!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Deep enough to dream...Except for that buzzing noise!

I was in my car this morning, listening to a Chris Rice CD. The first song, Deep Enough to Dream, is a nice upbeat song. It’s a little abstract, but nice, just the same. It’s a song I know well.

“Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors I have never seen.
I join a million people for a wedding feast.
I reach out and touch the face of the one who made me.
And oh, the love I feel and oh, the peace.
Do I ever have to wake up?

Awakened by a familiar sound
A clumsy fly is buzzin’ ‘round
He bumps the screen and he tumbles down.
Gathers about his wits and pride,
He tries again for the hundredth time.
‘Cause freedom calls from the other side.
And I smile and nod and slowly drift away.”

Every time I hear this verse I have the same thought.

You jerk—get off your butt and let the poor fly out! Silly, I know. But that buzzing would be enough to keep me from nodding back off.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Majesty of God


There are two Christian radio stations that I listen to in Phoenix. One of them often plays sermons or other programs (as opposed to music) in the afternoons and early mornings. This morning, on my way home from the gym, I listened to a preacher—who’s name I don’t know—talking about the miracles that Jesus performed in the presence of his disciples. The first one he mentioned was the feeding of the 5000. (Referenced in Matthew 14:13–21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15). The preacher discussed how the disciples were worried that there wasn’t enough food, and then astounded (as was the crowd) and amazed when the food multiplied. The next miracle he talked about was just after this story where Jesus calms the storm. Again, those silly disciples worried.

I’m always a bit annoyed when I hear preachers talk about the disciples and their unbelief as though they themselves would have acted differently. Didn’t they remember in the boat how He’d fed the 5000? Of course they did! It was just earlier that day! But this was different. Their lives were in danger and they were afraid.

Let’s put it in a more modern situation. The bills are piling up. You’re not sure how to make ends meet. You have to eat, but the rent is due. Healthcare is more expensive. Gas has gone up, but you have to drive to work. Credit cards are looming and you can’t put another thing on your VISA. There’s just no money. I’ve been in this situation. Maybe not to this extreme, but who hasn’t noticed when the debits outweigh the credits? What do you do? You worry… But, silly you, don’t you remember when Jesus fed the multitudes? Sure you do. But you also remember how despite your prayers you still lost your job years ago or how your car wouldn’t start or you didn’t get that promotion…

Bad stuff happens. It’s unrealistic for us to think that God expects us to never be afraid of something bad coming our way. Guess what? Some day we’re all going to die. I know it, you know it, He certainly knows it. I believe that we Christians have nothing to worry about when it comes to death. I know where I’m going. But even then, it’s not death I’m afraid of; it’s the process of dying. Will I be shot? Will I slowly deteriorate? Will I be eaten alive by mutant frogs? I just don’t know. All of that sounds awful. I’d much rather just go to sleep. But even then, would knowing that I’m going to die that way make me not want to sleep?

My point is that remembering God’s miracles, whether those mentioned in the Bible, or those we see in our present lives, doesn’t change our humanity or our natural instinct to fear certain things. After all, bravery isn’t a lack of fear, it’s pressing on despite being afraid. I would hate to think that if I were one of the 12 or even one of the 5000 that I would be in the boat with Jesus, thinking all the while that he was going to take care of things and I wasn’t going to worry about it. When eventually he did wake up, calm the storm and nod off again, I’d be oblivious. Of course Jesus would take care of it! He always does. How then, would we give glory to God? That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? To reveal His Glory. The majesty of God ought to catch our attention such that we must take notice and be in awe of it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two by Two







Ivy has a toy Noah's Ark that Grandma and Grandpa Schleicher gave her for her birthday. It's a cute little plastic boat with three sets of animals, two each, and of course, Noah. Noah often finds himself in the midst of a storm by way of the dishwasher. Aparently, he belongs there. The animals, too, find themselves wet very often. I was taking a bath one day a few weeks ago, when suddenly, the bathroom door was opened and a zeebra decided to share my bath. He floated, so everything was OK. One can never tell what might find it's way into the ark. It has what I can only describe as a drawbridge at the base of the boat for storing the animals, and Noah has his pertch up on the deck.

Ivy seems to be learning how to put different things into different holes. Certainly, animals find their way into the ark, but so do other toys--whatever fits into that hole. She's starting to put her toys back into their bin...and back out...and back in... Nick and I bought her a princess car for her birthday--one of those that a toddler can walk behind and push or ride on. The seat folds up to reveal a hidden compartment. For days after we'd bought the car, we couldn't find the TV remote. It suddenly occurred to us to check the car--sure enough, there it was.

Yesterday, I hadn't talked to Nick for most of the morning. It's unusual for us not to talk every few hours while we're at work, so when I realized he hadn't called, I called him only to find that he'd called me eight times. Hmm. I must have left my phone in the car. I checked the car at lunch but didn't find it. It's at home somewhere.

I'd forgotten about my phone until this morning when while I was painting my face, I heard the little jingling sound of my phone with a low battery. Where is it? I heard it. I called it and stood still. It was in Ivy's room. Of course! Why hadn't I checked there first. She loves to play with phones. When she woke up an hour later, I called myself again. It was in the toy bin. I searched through it as best I could, but in the end, had to dump it out completely. Still no phone. Hmmm. I knew it was in there--I heard it ringing. One more time, I called it.

Suddenly, the ark was glowing. Sure enough, along with the zeebras, elephants and lions, my cell phone was rescued from the flood. Thank goodness! How did Noah EVER manage for forty days without his cell phone?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Not so much...

Um, yeah, that whole giving up coffee thing? Not happening. What can I say--I missed my morning java...and my afternoon java...and my evening java..and all of the other times of day when I gotta have my java. It wasn't so much an addictive thing--I've said before that I'm not addicted to coffee and I hold fast to that. I just LOVE the STUFF! I made it through October with not so much as a Gloria Jeans until Halloween. We took Ivy to the mall for trick-or-treating and there it was--Holiday flavored coffee (yes, that's right, it tastes like a holiday!). Then there was the peppermint mocha Coffee Mate, and the Starbucks white peppermint mocha--what's a girl to do? I gave in. I actually missed being the crazy coffee person. Shockingly, I did NOT win the award for person who drinks the most coffee at the Make-A-Wish holiday party. I guess I'm not that well known yet. (I totally drink more coffee than Marcia!) Still, the prize was a can of GASP! Maxwell House. Kinda glad I didn't win that.

So, I'm back to my old caffeinated ways. I'm still doing my best to eat as vegan as possible, cooking with soy milk, not eating eggs for breakfast, only the very darkest chocolate. Yes, that's right, I'm not eating much chocolate. I've been getting these bars that are 85% cacao. Most of them say "may contain traces of milk", but that also means they may not! I'm optomistic. But that dang cheese! It's so good! I guess it will be a while before I can claim to be a Skinny Bitch. Then again, do I really want to be thought of as that? Probably not.