Category Archives: Delicious Drinks

The Smell of Books and Coffee

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, NY
Wednesday, 23 December 2020

[REPOST OF AN AUTHOR FAVORITE]
Originally published from West Valley City, Utah, on Thursday, 29 September 2016.

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I’m nestled into my favorite corner of the cafe at Barnes & Noble, sipping a pumpkin spice steamer.

It’s not just any Barnes & Noble, it’s MY Barnes & Noble, the one I’ve worked at for over 12 years.

And it’s not just any corner of the cafe, it’s MY corner. The corner with the little round table with the burnt-orange top, with my back to the wall, a tucked-away spot where most people won’t even see me, where I can sit and write and think, all without interruption.

In one short week, it will all come to an end, and I will have my last day working for BN. Today I had a teary-eyed moment. Three of my regular customers came in and I realized I wasn’t going to see them any more: Vincent, Jason, and Antonio. I had to walk away and look out the window to regain my composure.

And then, then a woman showed me her leg. I work near the downtown shelter and she was thin, dentured, and homeless. She had a hole in her leg. She had gangrene and her ankle was very swollen and grey, discolored.

I was feeling very emotional after all this, so I sat down after work in my little corner to do what I like to do, something which brings me peace and recenters me. Writing.

I’ve seen it all here.

I watched a man with a black American Express card drop $1,000 on books like it was no big deal. I’ve seen professional women with sparkling fingernails and the longest of eyelashes, wearing beautiful suits and shining shoes, carrying luscious leather totes which cost more than I make in a week.

I’ve seen distinguished-looking men with blinding white shirts, fresh from the dry cleaner, wearing expensive gold rings from prestigious universities and sports teams, whisking around to important meetings.

And I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum, too: the heroin addicts, the people who steal travel blankets and booklights to use as flashlights, because they sleep on the streets. I’ve seen people with meth-pocked faces and women with dirty fingernails and cancerously dark shoulders bared from tank tops, the kind of brown you get from the heat of too many homeless hours under the harsh sun.

I’ve seen people with brown and decayed teeth, and people with the whitest of veneers. I never knew there were so many kinds of people in one small city.

And speaking of the city, I used to shy away from it. I used to not apply for jobs if they were downtown, because I’m a country girl, and I was afraid.

But now I’ve conquered this fear, and take pride in knowing I take a train to work, march confidently around city streets at all hours, and am afraid of no one and nothing.

But back to my beautiful store. There are so many things I’m going to miss.

The children and teen departments. Truly, those books were loved and cared for, in the five years I was department lead. It broke my heart when my manager transferred me to a different area.

The store’s shadows. The way the sun hits the chairs by the magazine area in the morning, the slats of those old wooden library chairs in shadow on the seats.

The way the sun slants into my cashwrap window in the afternoon, casting the shadow of window frames in brilliant squares, or the pattern of the balcony’s wrought-iron table on the padded green carpet behind my cashwrap.

The magazine stand. I will miss browsing dozens of gorgeously glossy cooking, house and home, current events, and travel magazines each month, without having to spend a penny. But trust me, I do. Some of them are so pretty I have to take them home. So. Many. Mags.

The gift department. I will miss seeing new and lustworthy stationery come in, cards made of colorful cotton that soaks up the ink of my black felt tip pen. 

I’ve had a thing for stationery ever since I was a teenager, buying it by the boxful at the Greenport Hallmark.

The journal wall. I will miss it. What writer doesn’t love the promise of blank books? Leatherbound, smelling like a tack shop. My favorite elastic-closure journals which lay flat. Peter Pauper journals with secret pockets in the back. Bombay journals with leather straps to tie them shut.

Tote bags. I will miss the temptingness of totebags. Whenever I purchase a new one, I’m convinced. Convinced, THIS is the tote bag which will finally organize my chaos into some semblance of order.

I will miss the excitement of seeing summer tote bags come in every spring, with comfy rope handles and nautical stripes, and then, end of summer, the fall totes, charcoal grey and squash-orange felt totes.

The books, oh the books! I will miss leatherbound Barnes & Noble editions with titles stamped in gold and silver, heavy to lift, gold leafed edges.

Trade cloths with dust jackets and embossed and foiled lettering. Trade papers with thick stock covers, cool covers designed by Penguin.

And yes, even mass markets. I will miss mass market paperbacks by Signet, with thoughtfully designed covers.

Bargain books. I will miss the unexpected thrill of seeing a book I coveted at full price be reissued at bargain price. Like Barbra Streisand’s My Passion for Design, total and complete satisfaction, in knowing I got a book which was originally $60 for the low, low, Litko discount of $7.

The cafe. I will miss the anticipation of each August, knowing Pumpkin Spice is coming, and with it the unmistakable following of fall. And then, eggnog arrives!

I will miss going to the ice chest in the counter of the cafe each morning, pulling back that stainless steel cover, and filling a cup with ice water, so I can make it through a day of required questions and chatty conversations with customers.

I will miss the burnt-orange of these cafe tables, scraped up against the scuffed mahogany brown walls, and the familiar clunk, clunk, clunk of the opening barista putting chairs down to the black-and-grey tile floor for the day. I will miss the smell of maple-walnut scones baking, and the distinctive whir and whine of the espresso machine.

The music department. I will miss rummaging in the discount bin section of the music department, finding classic CDs for $4.99. I will miss learning about artists I might never have discovered, like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Gnarls Barkley, Lukas Graham, and Keane.

I will miss the familiar phrases, the ones I probably mumble in my sleep:

“The bathroom? Head to the polka-dotted wall.”
“The Rite Aid is on Main Street, right by City Center TRAX stop.”
“We don’t carry Bic pens.”
“We don’t sell Sharpies.”
“They have gum and mints at Rocket Fizz.”
“We don’t carry postage stamps.”
“The food court is at the south end of the mall, down near the movie theatre.”
“I dunno when they’re gonna put some more stores in this mall.”
“Thaifoon has been gone for a few years now. I miss it too.”
“The souvenir shop moved nearer to the convention center.”
“See the Gone With the Wind poster on the wall back there? Travel is in the little room to the right.”

I will miss the crazes. Harry Potter, Sudoku, adult coloring books, manga, Pop figures, blind boxes. I wonder, what will be next?

I will miss the customers. My favorites.

Craig, the distinguished, silver-haired estate attorney, who loves children’s books like I do. One Christmas season, after purchasing his books, he, face flushed, dropped money over the counter to me, then almost ran out of the store.

Dianna, the financial advisor, with her long black wavy hair and pink lipstick, who bought her grandson’s groceries while he attended college downtown.

Bree, the energy plant owner, with her short blonde hair, she ate a whole watermelon every day, and had the prettiest complexion.

Mike, the grey-haired, retired musician and cement truck driver, who came in the morning for his USA Today, after he got his coffee at McDonald’s in the food court.

On my last day, I kissed him on the cheek. He turned his face and kissed me on the mouth, hard. He loved me, I knew it all along…

Randall, the grey-haired Vietnam vet, who rode his bike to the bookstore for years after his cancer diagnosis, and bought history books. I wonder where he is now. Is he still alive?

Vincent, the African American UTA bus driver, who once sung Motown to me. He was the first man to notice me after I left my husband. I kissed him on the lips for the first time on my last day, and he bought me Ashes, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Antonio, the burly Indian who wears plaid shirts the size of picnic blankets, loves manga, and has a strong, beautiful, regal face like a brave chief…

Jason, the photographer and Fidelity guy, who’s seen BOSTON as many times as I have. I kissed him on the cheek my last day, and he ran from my store, blushing. I know, my coworker saw him on his way back to work…

Sharon, the white-haired older lady who buys Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair, wears the cutest brimmed hats, and calls me Vicky. I don’t have the heart to correct her. I think her husband emotionally abuses her…

And dozens and dozens of others.

I will miss the tourists. The giggling Japanese girls who invariably buy calligraphy pens and ink. The Europeans who buy maps of Montana and Wyoming and Idaho, as they’re headed off to Yellowstone Park.

The people on the way to the airport, who want to pick up a quick paperback to dull the pain of flying in cramped quarters, seated by strangers.

The conference attendees who come from all over the world, seem flummoxed by our American money, and want to know:
Where’s a good place for lunch?
How do they get to the train?
Where can they buy medicine?

I will miss the familiar, resounding thunk of the break room door. The employees here, they’ve kept me young(er). Each one different like a snowflake, dozens and dozens of employees. I cannot go there right now, or I will surely cry again.

I will miss the Nook counter. I stood behind it once with someone I deeply loved and admired. There was just enough room for the two of us…

Maybe, just maybe, when I walk into a Barnes & Noble in the future, I will be able to smell the books and coffee. Sometimes, customers come in and stop suddenly, just after the front doors, and breathe in deeply, exclaiming, “I love that smell! Books! And coffee!”

And I’m sad and a bit jealous, because I haven’t been able to smell it for a very long time. I come home and my children tell me they can smell it when they hug me…

I’m looking forward to so many things, one of them being the smell of books and coffee. Again. When I visit Barnes & Noble, I will be able to smell the books and coffee, again…

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[RECOMMENDED LISTENING]
Hopes and Fears, Keane, 2004.
St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley, 2006.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights, 2007.
Lukas Graham, self-titled debut album, 2012.

[RECOMMENDED DRINKS
FROM THE BN CAFE
FOR THE NON-COFFEE DRINKER]

Passion iced tea.
Not with lemonade, and with no added sugar. This is an herbal tea and served over ice, so it’s a great low-calorie alternative and really refreshing when it’s hot out. (You can buy a tin of large Tazo tea packets from some grocery stores and make a pitcher of this at home.)

Pumpkin spice steamer.
A steamer is warm milk with flavoring. Most people drink their pumpkin spice as a latte, but I take mine as a steamer. A steamer can be made with any flavoring the cafe has on hand. (If you want to make one of these at home, pour a little sweetened condensed milk into a mug and dust in some pumpkin pie spice. Microwave until it’s liquidy, fill your mug with milk, microwave again, and stir.)

[REFERENCES]
“The low, low Litko discount” is a line taken from the movie About Last Night, 1986, TriStar.

Familiar Frosty Mugs

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 9 August 2018

A few years ago, I got a bunch of glasses like these at Deseret Industries in Logan, Utah.

I’d been wanting some thick-walled glasses with handles which I could put in the fridge to get nice and chilled for sodas or root beer floats.

You’ve had a cold drink in a plastic glass, of course. It’s okay, I guess, but an actual glass is so much prettier, feels better to the hand, and seems to keep your drink cold that much longer.

Anyways, these glasses are packed away, and now we use some other glasses, tall ones without handles. All my mugs with handles are short ones, though, and better for things like a cup of hot chocolate or herb tea.

The other day I stopped into a thrift store I don’t usually go to, because they’re going out of business, and have huge banners advertising 50% to 70% off.

I found a couple of good vintage cookbooks, some Trixie Beldens, and lo and behold, two mugs just like the ones I used to have. I got them for 50 cents apiece, and brought them home!

Continue reading

Lucky Gypsy’s Tea

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Saturday, 17 March 2018

I just rearranged my combined living room/dining room (LRDR) last week, to accommodate all my thrift store chairs. I now have eight coordinating chairs, and this pretty much makes me deliriously happy!

I’m not ready to take pix of the entire room yet, as I still have some cluttery piles to get rid of (No way! You?!), but I wanted to show a little sneak peek of my fab chair material.

The other day, the sun was beaming in my windows. “So what?” you ask. Well, turns out that’s kind of a big deal, because this has been the worst March on record. At least, my record of being here for two months of March, as an adult.

We’ve had three Nor’Easters in March, and the month is only half over!

So, I decided to rearrange a little bit, just to cheer myself up. Ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve had my loveseat under the south-facing window, a really pleasant spot. I decided to move it onto the west wall, though.

I mentioned I had some new old chairs, right? Did I tell you I have eight dining room chairs now, and they make me deliriously happy? Ya, maybe I did.

I was determined I had to fit all eight of them into my LRDR, because the seat fabrics mix and match so well.

Two of them are covered in orange and yellow brocade, and they’re the ones I’ve had for about a year now. I’ve mentioned them in my blog before.

A few months ago, I was cruising Warren Street, where all the antique ships are. Now, just to preface, I gotta tell ya, you have to be careful on Warren Street, because some shops are super expensive.

I dashed into one store about a month ago, because I’d been driving down Warren in the dark, and saw a great big, beautiful poster of Freddie Mercury in the front of the shop, hanging on a wall, peering out onto Warren, beckoning me to enter.

When I inquired how much for the poster, the shop guy casually said, “14 THOUSAND something something.” Okaaay…

Yeah, so, let’s get back into my budgetland, the reasonable one. There’s this other place on Warren, called Second Show, and it’s very affordable. It’s merchandised much better than a Goodwill or Deseret Industries, and prices are pretty low. The proceeds benefit Columbia Memorial Hospital, and you can pick up a crystal goblet for 50 cents or $1.

Or, you can get four dark-wood Broyhill chairs, two with arms and two without, all with immaculate olive damask seats, four chairs for $30.

And then, as if that’s not enough, you can turn around and see two more chairs to love, in honey-colored wood, with seats covered in fabric of yellow, orange, olive, and gold stripes. Two chairs for $12.

You should have seen me, cackling and cramming them into my sedan. Let’s just say, it took several trips to get them home.

So, getting back to rearranging that day. I decided to put two chairs with olive brocade seats (the ones with arms) under the LRDR windows, separated by a small table with butterflies.

I don’t think you need to have big end tables. If you’re like me, they gather too much…stuff.

So this end table, it’s just big enough to hold a lamp, and a shamrock plant I brought up from downstairs. It’s the very first plant I’ve had in any of my places, since I killed all my plants in a UHaul about 19 years ago. That’s another story for another blog.

And the lamp? It’s a fab Hollywood Regency one I got at Antigo on Warren Street, for only $25. The shade isn’t quite right, but for now, it’ll do. I also got another Regency lamp that day, but it has no shade at all, so for now, it’s languishing, unused.

And lemme tell you, in the afternoon, when the sun comes through those south-facing windows, the crystals on the lamp base send happy little rainbows all over my LRDR floor.

Somehow, when I type “happy little rainbows”, I’m reminded of Bob Ross, the painter on TV, with his soothing voice and impossible afro, saying “happy little trees”…

So then, I put the two chairs with striped-seats on the north wall, separated by a waist-high entertainment center. I’m not really sure what to use this for, since I don’t have a TV and don’t really care.

For now, it holds my CDs and a small collection of DVDS, but I’m thinking I’ve gotta get some books in there, too. My books are like dirty socks, collecting in piles around the place, multiplying overnight.

Ewww, did she really just compare piles of books to piles of dirty socks? This chick is weird. Hahaha!

Around my dining room table, I have the other two Broyhill chairs with the olive damask seats (the ones without the arms), and the two chairs with orange and yellow brocade seats.

I tried it with all four olive damask chairs around the table, thinking they all should match, but it just didn’t work in the space available.

The chairs with the arms don’t work right in such a tight space. Anyone sitting at the table would have a very hard time maneuvering into and out of a chair with arms, since there’s not a lot of room to push a chair back.

I’m pretty happy with how things turned out, that I was able to fit all eight chairs into the room, along with my loveseat, a rather large china cabinet, and the entertainment center. Oh! And my trunk! I use it as a coffee table, in front of the loveseat, and it’s olive-colored.

There was just no way I was gonna put any of those eight chairs into another room, considering I was so pleased with how all the seat materials coordinated.

I made ’em fit. It was almost as exciting as playing 100 straight games of Tetris in the mid 90s. Hahaha!

Then the other day, the sun was shining in, a perfect day to take pictures. Finally!

I’d made a batch of Frost’s Oatmeal Muffins which turned out really well. And, even though I make this recipe quite often, because I love them and so does my skinny little Thing 2, they don’t always turn out right.

Usually, these muffins just melt in your mouth, but the batch I made last time turned out a bit tough. Don’t know if it’s because I overstirred the batter, or because I overbaked them, maybe it was both. Distracted baking never ends well…

I’ve also found a new herb tea to love, Gypsy Cold Care. I sampled it at Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, and really like its slightly licorice flavor. Me buying an entire box of it has nooooothing to do with it having the word “gypsy” in the name, hahaha. Just kidding, it totally does.

I decided to make up a little tray and just sit under the window, having tea for one, just me. Enjoying the sun beaming in on my shoulders, the rainbows on my floor, a warm muffin with lingonberry jam, and a cup of hot tea.

And also, the satisfaction of gazing around my LRDR with eight matching chairs, fully knowing I moved here 1 1/2 years ago, with only nine suitcases of stuff…

I feel like such a lucky gypsy.

 

 

The Smell of Books and Coffee

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  Thursday, 29 September 2016

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I’m nestled into my favorite corner of the cafe at Barnes & Noble, sipping a pumpkin spice steamer. It’s not just any Barnes & Noble, it’s MY Barnes & Noble, the one I’ve worked at for over 12 years. And it’s not just any corner of the cafe, it’s MY corner. The corner with the little round table with the burnt-orange top, with my back to the wall, a tucked-away spot where most people won’t even see me, where I can sit and write and think, all without interruption.

In one short week, it will all come to an end, and I will have my last day working for BN. Today I had a teary-eyed moment. Three of my regular customers came in and I realized I wasn’t going to see them any more: Vincent, Jason, and Antonio. I had to walk away and look out the window to regain my composure.

And then, then a woman showed me her leg. I work near the downtown shelter and she was thin, dentured, and homeless. She had a hole in her leg. She had gangrene and her ankle was very swollen and grey, discolored.

I’m feeling very emotional after all this, so I sat down after work in my little corner to do what I like to do, something which brings me peace and recenters me. Writing.

I’ve seen it all here: I watched a man with a black American Express card drop $1,000 on books like it was no big deal. I’ve seen professional women with sparkling fingernails and the longest of eyelashes, wearing beautiful suits and shining shoes, carrying luscious totes which cost more than I make in a week.

I’ve seen distinguished-looking men with blinding white shirts, fresh from the dry cleaner, wearing expensive gold rings from prestigious universities and sports teams, whisking around to important meetings.

And I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum, too: the heroin addicts, the people who steal travel blankets and booklights to use as flashlights, because they sleep on the streets. I’ve seen people with meth-pocked faces and women with dirty fingernails and cancerously dark shoulders bared from tank tops, the kind of brown you get from the heat of too many homeless hours under the harsh sun.

I’ve seen people with brown and decayed teeth, and people with the whitest of veneers. I never knew there were so many kinds of people in one small city.

And speaking of the city, I used to shy away from it. I used to not apply for jobs if they were downtown, because I’m a country girl, and I was afraid. But now I’ve conquered all that, and take pride in knowing I take a train to work and march around city streets at all hours and am afraid of no one and nothing.

But back to my beautiful store. There are so many things I’m going to miss.

The store’s shadows. The way the sun hits the chairs by the magazine area in the morning, the slats of those old wooden library chairs in shadow on the seats. The way the sun slants into my cashwrap window in the afternoon, casting the shadow of window frames in brilliant squares, or the pattern of the balcony’s wrought iron table on the padded green carpet behind my cashwrap.

The magazine stand. I will miss browsing dozens of gorgeously glossy cooking, house and home, current events, and travel magazines each month, without having to spend a penny. But trust me, I do. Some of them are so pretty I have to take them home. So. Many. Mags.

The gift department. I will miss seeing new and lustworthy stationery come in, cards made of colorful cotton that soaks up the ink of my black felt tip pen. (I’ve had a thing for stationery ever since I was a teenager, buying it by the boxful at the Greenport Hallmark.)

The journal wall. I will miss it. What writer doesn’t love the promise of blank books? Leatherbound, smelling like a tack shop. My favorite elastic-closure journals which lay flat. Peter Pauper journals with secret pockets in the back. Bombay journals with leather straps to tie them shut.

Tote bags. I will miss the temptingness of totebags. Whenever I purchase a new one, I’m convinced. Convinced, THIS is the tote bag which will finally organize my chaos into some semblance of order. I will miss the excitement of seeing summer tote bags come in every spring, with comfy rope handles and nautical stripes, and then, end of summer, the fall totes, charcoal grey and squash-orange felt totes.

The books, oh the books! I will miss leatherbound Barnes & Noble editions with titles stamped in gold and silver, heavy to lift, gold leafed edges. Trade cloths with dust jackets and embossed and foiled lettering. Trade papers with thick stock covers, cool covers designed by Penguin. And yes, even mass markets. I will miss mass market paperbacks by Signet, with thoughtfully designed covers.

Bargain books. I will miss the unexpected thrill of seeing a book I coveted at full price be reissued at bargain price. Like Barbra Streisand’s My Passion for Design, the satisfaction of knowing I got a book which was originally $60 for the low, low, Litko discount of $7.

The cafe. I will miss the anticipation of each August, knowing Pumpkin Spice is coming, and with it the unmistakable following of fall. And then, eggnog arrives! I will miss going to the ice chest in the counter of the cafe each morning, pulling back that stainless steel cover, and filling a cup with ice water, so I can make it though a day of required questions and chatty conversations with customers.

I will miss the burnt-orange of these cafe tables, scraped up against the scuffed mahogany brown walls, and the familiar clunk, clunk, clunk of the opening server putting chairs down to the black-and-grey tile floor for the day. I will miss the smell of maple walnut scones baking and the distinctive sound of the espresso machine.

The music department. I will miss rummaging in the discount section of the music department, finding classic CDs for $4.99. I will miss learning about artists I might never have discovered, like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Gnarls Barkley, Lukas Graham, and Keane.

I will miss the familiar phrases, the ones I probably mumble in my sleep:

“The bathroom? Head to the polka-dotted wall.”
“The Rite Aid is on Main Street, right by City Center TRAX stop.”
“We don’t carry Bic pens.”
“We don’t sell Sharpies.”
“They have gum and mints at Rocket Fizz.”
“We don’t carry postage stamps.”
“The food court is at the south end of the mall, down near the movie theatre.”
“I dunno when they’re gonna put some more stores in this mall.”
“Thaifoon has been gone for a few years now. I miss it too.”
“The souvenir shop moved nearer to the convention center.”
“See the Gone With the Wind poster on the wall back there? Travel is in the little room to the right.”

I will miss the crazes. Harry Potter, sudoku, adult coloring books, manga, Pop figures, blind boxes. I wonder, what will be next?

I will miss the customers. My favorites. Craig, the estate attorney, who loves children’s books like I do. Dianna, who buys her grandson’s groceries while he attends college downtown. Bree, the energy plant owner, who eats a whole watermelon every day and has the prettiest complexion. Mike, the retired musician and cement truck driver, who comes in the morning for his USA Today. Randall, who rode his bike to the bookstore for years after his cancer diagnosis, and bought history books. Antonio, a burly Indian who loves manga and has a strong, regal face like a brave chief. Jason, the guy who’s seen BOSTON as many times as I have. Sharon, the older lady who buys Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair and wears cute brimmed hats and calls me Vicky.  I don’t have the heart to correct her. And dozens and dozens of others.

I will miss the tourists. The giggling Japanese girls who invariably buy calligraphy pens and ink. The Europeans who buy maps of Montana and Wyoming as they’re headed to Yellowstone Park. The people on the way to the airport who want to pick up a quick paperback to dull the pain of flying in cramped quarters, seated by strangers. The conference attendees who come from all over the world, seem flummoxed by our American money, and want to know where’s a good place for lunch? How do they get to the train? Where can they buy medicine?

I will miss the familiar, resounding thud of the break room door. The employees here, they’ve kept me young(er). Each one different like a snowflake, dozens and dozens of employees. I cannot go there right now, or I will surely cry again.

I will miss the nook counter. I stood behind it once with someone I deeply loved and admired. There was just enough room for the two of us…

Maybe, just maybe, when I walk into a Barnes & Noble in the future, I will be able to smell the books and coffee. Sometimes, customers come in and stop suddenly, just after the front doors, and breathe in deeply, exclaiming, “I love that smell! Books! And coffee!” And I’m sad and a bit jealous, because I haven’t been able to smell it for a very long time. I come home and my children tell me they can smell it when they hug me…

I’m looking forward to so many things, one of them being the smell of books and coffee. Again. When I visit Barnes & Noble, I will be able to smell the books and coffee, again…

dscf3680

[RECOMMENDED LISTENING]
Hopes and Fears, Keane, 2004.
St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley, 2006.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights, 2007.
Lukas Graham, self-titled debut album, 2012.

[RECOMMENDED DRINKS FROM THE BN CAFE
FOR THE NON-COFFEE DRINKER]

Passion iced tea.
Not with lemonade, and with no added sugar. This is an herbal tea and served over ice, so it’s a great low-calorie alternative and really refreshing when it’s hot out. (You can buy a tin of large Tazo tea packets from some grocery stores and make a pitcher of this at home.)

Pumpkin spice steamer.
A steamer is warm milk with flavoring. Most people down their pumpkin spice as a latte, but I take mine as a steamer. A steamer can be made with any flavoring the cafe has on hand. (If you want to make one of these at home, pour a little sweetened condensed milk into a mug and dust in some pumpkin pie spice. Microwave until it’s liquidy, add milk, microwave again, and stir.)

[REFERENCES]
“The low, low Litko discount” is a line taken from the movie About Last Night, 1986, TriStar.

Hot or Iced, Twice as Nice

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BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Salt Lake City, UT  I  Thursday, 11 August 2016

Today was my day off and I had a lot to do, so I got up early. Thing 1 was just about to go to bed (teenager!) and wanted to chat a bit, so while we talked I made hot chocolate. From scratch.

I’ve been making it for many years, and there’s nothing too hard about it, it’s just the recipe right off the side of a canister of Hershey’s cocoa. We all love it and think it tastes much better than those powdered packets.

Sometimes, like this morning, I make too much, and if I put the pan in the fridge, no one finishes it off. But today, I knew it would warm up outside and I would be hot and cranky (who, ME?!) after I got home from errands. So I put the remaining hot chocolate into two tall glasses, the thick-walled ones I like to put root beer in, and popped ’em in the fridge, top shelf.

Sure enough, when I returned home in the early evening, after registering Thing 2 for 8th grade and then going back-to-school clothes shopping at the mall (kill me!) I WAS hot and cranky. How well I know myself…

But there, in the fridge, was a tall, cold glass of chocolate milk, in a chilled glass, just waiting to be stirred up. And then I added some ice cubes. Have I mentioned my ice fetish? Yeah, pretty sure I have!

We’re reaching the point of the year where the weather is becoming somewhat unpredictable, a bit chilly in the morning, yet still uncomfortably hot in the afternoon. We’re also coming up on back-to-school time. Thing 2 goes back on Wednesday, 17 August, since kids in Utah start earlier than kids in the east.

And Thing 1, well, he graduated high school in May and is taking a gap year now. How weird to know I’m not sending him back to school at the same time as his little brother. Sigh…

But anyhoo, back on topic. It’s really nice for kids to wake up to the rich, delicious smell of hot chocolate in the morning. It’s satisfying to me, as a mother, to see them head out the door, to school, with a tummy full of warm stuff, or to come home on one of those bleak, rainy days and have a pan full of it sitting on the back burner, tightly covered, to keep it just the right amount of warm.

Try out this recipe, and then try it two ways: hot in a mug with marshmallows on a cold day, or iced in a tall glass on hot days.

HOMEMADE HOT CHOCOLATE
1/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
1/2 cup white sugar (can use 1/3 cup and it tastes fine)
1/3 cup hot water
4-6 cups milk
dash of vanilla

Add the first three ingredients to a 3-quart sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the milk and vanilla. Thoroughly warm, but do not allow mixture to boil again, or it will develop that weird milk skin. (And that stuff’s just creepy.)

You can add a dash of cinnamon at the end, if you want your children to publicly declare their love for you. Mine did…

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Let’s Talk About Drinks, Baby…

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Salt Lake City, Utah  I  Thursday, 9 June 2016

DSCF6707LEMON-YELLOW LIFE

No party can be a true success without great drinks.

Just putting that out there for you to think about. Drinks are defined differently by each person, but here at My Copper Kitchen, I’ll focus on non-alcoholic ones, because that’s what I know and what I do best.

At the very most basic level, drinks quench my thirst and keep me hydrated. Thinking about that tentless backyard wedding in July in Colorado six years ago, when I had the misfortune to be wearing a black shirt, and the sun was positively blazing down. How welcome an ice-cold bottled water would have tasted! Unfortunately, the bottled water had been placed by the chairs in advance and was already warm…

DSCF6691GLORIOUS WATER

DSCF6687THE COOLEST COOLER

At the next level, a cold can or bottle of my favorite Cherry Coke or Mountain Dew Throwback or Purple Stuff or a bottle of Vitamin Water XXX, when it’s icy cold from the fridge or cooler, it tastes pretty good.

But at a much higher level, a beautiful mixed drink lifts my spirits and is an absolute work of art. Thinking about that amazing speakeasy in downtown Salt Lake City. They know their stuff and make the meanest mocktails around: a pineappley drink with candied ginger garnish on a thin bamboo spear with perfectly square ice cubes. A rose-colored drink with a sprig of rosemary stabbed through a slice of lime rind. There are no ho-hum virgin pina coladas here, nor are there any boring, brain-dead bartender Shirley Temples in plastic glasses, either.

DSCF6811COZY CONVERSATION CORNER

DSCF6806PINEAPPLE-GINGER BABY

DSCF6808ROSEMARY LIME TIME

A drink made with care and precision is an absolute work of art. I can taste the passion that went into making it.

Just because I don’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean all I want is a boring old Sprite. I’m not five years old, I’m a discerning adult. I like nice things, and I want a fancy drink, too, in a sparkling glass and with a creative garnish.

One of the best wedding receptions I ever went to had an Italian soda bar in addition to a full alcohol bar. I can’t TELL you how many I drank. (Well I could, but then I’d have to kill you.) I could go on and on, too, about the reception and the pasta bar, the white candles on all the tables, and the amazing view from the venue, all the way out to the Great Salt Lake at sunset, but my favorite part was those Italian sodas. I appreciated how the bride had thought of me and the other non-drinkers at her reception and planned something fun for us, too.

So, when you’re the one hosting a party, nail down your selection of drinks and then, all you have to do is throw in some snacks (say, chips and salsa from Chili’s To Go, coupled with Costco’s Santa Barbara Mango Salsa with Peach, or some of my Easy Guacamole with Santita’s tortilla chips) and small appetizers, as simple as frozen chicken and cheese Monterrey taquitos from Costco, warmed up for 15 minutes in your oven, and you’re pretty much good to go. No fuss, no worry.

The hostess with the mostess knows the first thing to do when a guest arrives is offer him or her a drink. Just like at a restaurant, the server ALWAYS takes your drink order first. People feel more comfortable among strangers with a drink in their hand, and you want people to always feel relaxed and welcome in your home, right?

Giving guests a drink to hold instantly makes them feel more comfortable and helps set a celebratory mood.
-Adam Bluestein

Here’s a list of suggested drinks. Go nuts! It’s better to have too many than not enough, especially since if you have some left over, you can store ’em away for later.

I’m not saying any of us have the budget to have all of these drinks and garnishes and fun things at one party at any one given time, but this is a springboard of ideas to pick and choose from.

DSCF6736BRAZILIAN LEMONADE AND LEMONADE CAKE AT TINA’S

DSCF6761THE SPARKLING HOSTESS VISIT’S REAMS

DRINKS
Bottled water. And I’m talking ice cold. Warm bottled water is nasty, so don’t even go there.

Juice. Boxes or pouches for children, and bottles for those adults who don’t drink carbonation. Large bottles or cans of pineapple, tomato, and orange juices, as well as lemonade for making mocktails.

Milk. Have some little boxes of vanilla and chocolate milk if you’re having a lot of toddlers at the party. Also have some sweetened condensed milk on hand for making Brazilian lemonade, and regular milk for Orange Julius-type drinks.

Soda. Caffeinated and non-caffeinated, regular and diet. Red creme, orange and grape are hits with kids, I’ve noticed. Coke, including cherry- and vanilla-flavored. (Of course, a plain Coke can be doctored up with some maraschino juice and cherries.) Diet Coke too. And to be fair, throw in some Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. Mountain Dew is a must, especially among teenagers. (Hey! I like the taste, is all. The caffeine isn’t the draw for me.) Speaking of teenagers, the manga crowd loves their Ramune, a Japanese soda which originated with bubble gum flavor. Purple Stuff is a perennial favorite at our house. Finally, and most importantly, stock up on 2-liters of gingerale. (You can keep three of them cold with ice in a large stock pot, like in the first photo in this blog post.)

A keg of Virgil’s rootbeer is a real hit. You can drink it straight or use it for rootbeer floats. It will drip on your floor, so make sure there’s a cloth underneath if it’s inside.

Mexican drinks. Jarritos and Sangria (this is not wine!), especially if Mexican food is being served.

Sparkling Cider. IMO, Martinelli’s is the very best and least expensive, especially if you can buy four-packs at Costco. Have plenty of this on hand if you’re celebrating one of life’s special occasions: a christening, baptism, bar- or bat-mitzvah, quinceanera, Sweet Sixteen, graduation, wedding, or anniversary.

Party Punch. OMH, I have the best recipe for Purple Party Punch, which I’ve shared with you before, and my friend Chloe, the expert barmaid, sent me an Orange Creamsicle Punch recipe I’m dying to try. You can also make up pitchers of Brazilian Lemonade. To help punch stay cold without diluting it, freeze ice cubes made of punch or make an ice ring. Small bits of fruit or herbs (especially mint) are a nice touch in your ice cubes, too. Or buy special molds and make interesting shapes of ice.

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GARNISHES AND SYRUPS TO HAVE ON HAND
Citrus fruit: Limes, lemons and oranges, both wheels and wedges, and pineapple slices and chunks.
Maraschino cherries: Stay away from store brand and go for a name brand, like Mezzetta, they’re much larger and nicer. Choose ones with stems and keep in mind they will sink to the bottom of your drink.
Berries: Raspberries and blackberries, fresh and not frozen. Keep in mind these will float on top of your drink.
Vegetables: cucumber chunks or spears, cauliflower florets, and cherry tomatoes, for garnishing savory drinks, such as V8.
Grenadine. Try to buy one made of actual pomegranate juice if you can. In a pinch, Rose’s will do, and it’s available at all grocery stores. But maraschino cherry juice will accomplish the same effect of a rosy pink in your drink, although it isn’t quite as dense as grenadine, therefore doesn’t sink to the bottom as well.
Pure vanilla.
You KNOW how I feel about Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste, right? It’s pretty thick so put it in a hot-water bath to loosen up the flow. Do not microwave it!

DSCF6832LICORICE STRAWS

OTHER FUN STUFF
Licorice sticks to use as straws. Red Vines have much larger openings than Twizzlers, and you can even get them in colors other than red. Take a nibble off each of the ends and pop ’em in your drink.

Colored or striped straws. I recommend plastic. I tried out some fun striped paper ones I found on clearance at Sur la Table, but was disappointed, as they got soggy and droopy too quickly.

Coasters and cocktail napkins. You can get fun, snarky Anne Taintor-type ones at Sur la Table if you’re having a girls’ night party, or a variety of other colors or patterns. I got some fun coasters at Charming Charlie’s, a clothing accessory shop.

Plastic glasses. I recommend crystal clear ones. Yes, those red ones are fun and popular, but they scream FRAT PARTY to me. You want the color of your drink to show through the cup, too, especially if you’re serving a beautifully layered mocktail. If you want cups to do double duty as bowls for something like fruit salad, choose the shorter, wider ones, such as Dixie Crystal Clear Plastic Cups.

Real glasses. Thick Mexican cobalt-rimmed glasses will keep your drinks cold longer and you can buy them at Pier 1. Wine goblets add an elegance to your party nothing else can touch. There is always the right glass for each drink…

DSCF6852CHERRY LEMONADE AND CHIPS

ICE, ICE, BABY
Let’s talk about ice. I have an ice fetish, I surely do. Someday, sweet sweet someday, I want to have an ice chest built into my kitchen counter, just like they have at Barnes & Noble cafes…

Sonic Ice. Otherwise known as pebble ice, you can buy this in bags at any Sonic, even through the drive-thru. It works well for making slushy drinks, as well as for displaying food or canned and bottled drinks on beds of ice. Think of the seafood display at your supermarket…

Cubed ice. Put it in a cup and pour your drink over top for maximum cooling, instead of dropping the cubes in last. Twirl glass slightly to increase coldness of the beverage, or use a bar spoon to stir.

Square cubes. They don’t chill as fast as smaller types of ice, but they’re just plain pretty in a drink and will take longer to melt. They’re the perfect-size to get decorative with: try adding mint leaves or pansies or citrus peel curls to them to create little works of art.

Rod-shaped cubes. These work well for bottled water, as the shape fits through the smaller bottle opening.

Make sure to have plenty of ice on hand. Buy fresh bags of ice, rather than relying on the stuff from your freezer, which may taste stale or odd. Stock up with more than you think you need as nothing puts the fizzle on a good party like a sudden shortage of ice.
-Adam Bluestein

So, there you have it, folks, an introduction to my virgin drink bar. Have fun experimenting with different drinks, glasses, garnishes, and ices. The possibilities are endlessly entertaining.

DSCF6870MY DISHY DRESSER

 

[RECOMMENDED READING]
Town & Country Handbook for Hosts: A Practical Guide to Party Planning and Gracious Entertaining, written by Adam Bluestein and illustrated by Jose Luis Merino. Hearst Communications, Inc., 2006.

Cocktails For the Four Seasons, text and photographs by Jenny Park & Teri Lyn Fisher. Peter Pauper Press, 2014. Beautiful drink photographs and garnishing ideas.

Mocktails: The Complete Bartender’s Guide, written by Kester Thompson, photography by Oded Marom, and foodstyling by Amit Farber. Penn Publishing Ltd., 2012. Full of great mocktail recipes and pretty drink photos.

[RECOMMENDED LISTENING]
Ultimate Sinatra, Frank Sinatra. Capitol and Universal Music Enterprises, 2015.
Medusa, Annie Lennox. BMG Records (UK) Ltd., 1995.
The Best of 25 Years, Sting. A&M Records, 2011.

[REFERENCED RECIPES]
Easy Guacamole
http://mycopperkitchen.com/easy-guacamole/
Originally posted in May 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen

Purple Party Punch
http://mycopperkitchen.com/purple-party-punch/
Originally posted in February 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen

[RECOMMENDED LINKS]
http://www.eater.com/drinks/2015/7/24/8962889/a-handy-guide-to-5-types-of-fancy-cocktail-ice

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2014/12/29/how-to-make-pebble-ice

http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/drinks/a14766/ice-in-cocktails-070512/

Legendary Lime Jell-O Drink

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On Monday, Thing 2 was a sickee, and stayed home from school, which was very unusual for him. He was complaining of a sore throat and stuffed-up nose, along with feeling he was about to throw up.

So, I kept him home and I called in to work. Of course, technically he’s old enough to watch himself, so he could’ve stayed home alone, but what a lonely feeling for a still-small twelve-year-old. I like to take care of my kids, just as my mom took care of me.

So, yes, I called in to work without a moment of guilt.

When someone in your family has a sore throat, a really great thing to make for him or her is Jell-O drink. It’s super quick and easy, too! All you have to do is boil water in the microwave and stir in the Jell-O powder. No waiting around for hours and hours like with traditional Jell-O…

HOW TO MAKE JELL-O DRINK
The amount of water you’ll need is the same amount that’s called for on the package, except you’ll be using ALL HOT WATER, instead of a combination of hot and cold. For a small package of Jell-O this is two cups of hot water, and for a large package, four cups of hot water.

So, boil the water in your microwave (I do this in a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup for easier pouring), then mix in the Jell-O powder, stirring very thoroughly until it’s all dissolved. Next, pour a tall glassful for your sickee and a small glassful for yourself, to test the temperature. Make sure to pour it directly over the sink, because there are invariably sticky spills.

Serve the Jell-O drink very warm, and did I mention to test it yourself first? You reallllly want to feel the warmth as it goes down your throat, but of course you don’t want to burn yourself or your sickee. Lukewarm Jell-O drink just isn’t the same. When it’s very warm, it’s sooooo soothing as it coats your throat, blazes down your chest, and warms your belly.

Well. I wasn’t sure if I had any green Jell-O in my pantry, and lime is our preferred flavor. Yes, the other flavors are good, too, but lime…

Hey! We live in Utah and green Jell-O is downright legendary around here!

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Way back in 2002, when the Olympics came to Salt Lake City, I was thrilled to realize the Olympic Torch was going to pass RIGHT BY where we lived!

It went from Valley Fair Mall, where I worked at the time, right down 3800 South, the street our apartment complex was on. So, I got up early on the appointed morning and dragged four-year-old Thing 1 along with me. (Thing 2 was just a twinkle in my eye still.)

And we saw it, the Torch, we did! It went right by, in front of us, as we waved our little American flags.

There was also an Olympic-themed tree at the mall and all kinds of huge banners around town. That figure skater is on the LDS Church Office Building, the second tallest building in downtown Salt Lake City, only barely eclipsed by the Wells Fargo building by two feet.

During the Olympics , there were two hot items. One was a snazzy navy blue Roots beret, but the hottest collectible trading pin featured a bowlful of green Jell-O with shredded carrots!

Ewww, keep the carrots, but there MUST be a box of the green stuff somewhere in my hot mess of a pantry, right? Things were downright scary in there and I couldn’t find a dang thing, so I figured since I had an unexpected day off, it was time to rectify the situation. (And yes, I did take before pix with my cellphone, but they’re downright shameful. I mean really? How many stale, half-eaten bags of Santitas tortilla chips do I need to keep? Again, ewww…)

So. While sickee was sleeping, I took everything out of the pantry, and I mean EVERYTHING, placing most of it on a nearby trunk we use as a bench for our dining room table.

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I had been storing the pantry food in boxes, thinking it would be easier to pull the contents out of the pantry and examine them. Wrong! It just made it so I couldn’t really see what I had.

This system just wasn’t working for me, so I broke down all the boxes and put them in my recycling bin. Have I mentioned I looove my little blue recycling bin? Yes, I think I have…

And then, everything went back in the pantry in a very OCD fashion. Cans on one shelf, boxes on the next, boxes and bags o’ stuff on the third, and down on the bottom shelf, extra Ziploc bags which don’t fit in the bottom drawer in the kitchen. Oh, and my stash of paper napkins.

You will never see a cloth napkin if you come to dinner at my house, even if it IS for Thanksgiving or Easter. I just don’t see the point of making extra laundry. I do use nice white paper dinner napkins for special occasions, though, like the ones made by Kleenex. Yes! You can wear lipstick to dinner at my house! But if you want cloth napkins, freshly pressed, you’d better head to one of Martha’s house(s).

But I digress. Let’s get back to my pantry.

Stack stuff neatly, so you can see what you’ve got at a quick glance. Group like items together and stack taller stuff in the back. I’m so proud of my pantry redo and it makes me happy to pull the doors open and be able to immediately find what I’m looking for.

There’s only one problem though, I never did find any lime Jell-O. I did find a box of strawberry though, and Thing 2 was quite happy with it anyways.

And lookee! Lookee! There’s plenty of extra room in there now.

Time to go shopping for green beans and green Jell-O and more kinds of soup…and I think I’ll put a grocery list pad and pen right inside the pantry.

Oh, and more Santitas tortilla chips! I even have some avocados ripening on the counter and two plump tomatoes in the fridge, waiting to be made into Easy Guacamole. (Find the recipe at http://mycopperkitchen.com/easy-guacamole/ and remember, Cinco de Mayo is just three weeks away!)

But this time the half-eaten bag of chips gets put on my counter and not back into the pantry…

[MORE INFORMATION]
To read more about Utah’s fascination with Jell-O, go to either of these links:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/03/jell-o-love-a-guide-to-mormon-cuisine/37929/#about-the-authors

http://articles.latimes.com/2002/feb/13/food/fo-jello13

To read more about each state’s tallest building, head to this link:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_by_U.S._state