Saturday, June 14, 2014

Our Day Out

On October 5, 2013, I took my Dad out for the last time.  It was a big day for him.  In fact, I would say it was as grand as a day could be for someone with his health conditions.  I've written about it in detail because I never want to forget any of it.  I’m sharing it because I hope those who love him will enjoy it as well.

It was hot that day and, as I rushed upstairs to get ready for a solo trip to the farmers market, I heard my Dad struggling with his portable oxygen tank.  He was sitting in his room, trying to hook it up himself so he could go outside, which was rare.  We couldn't figure it out at first.  It ended up that the washer was stuck to the valve that was removed.  I was getting ready to help him outside and I asked him if he wanted to go out with me.  And he said yes.

And I acted like it was nothing at all but, once I was out of his sight, I ran to gather all the necessities for such a trip – wheelchair, walker, oxygen tanks, backup valve, liquid oxygen, towels to pad everything.  Taking Dad out was not an easy task and he knew that.  I know sometimes he stayed home just because it was easier for everyone and I did not want to risk him backing out.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I asked him where he wanted to go.  He asked if we would have time to go to the Army Navy store and I told him that would be our first stop.  We’d figure out the market later.

I can’t remember if I had ever been in an Army Navy store but I found that I really enjoyed it.  My Dad had a wonderful time there.  And, despite his limitations, he was able to browse and pick out a few things.  He insisted that I pick a pair of warm socks for my husband.  I didn't want to spend any time looking for other things, but he seemed set on this.

He wanted to sit a bit and we found a comfortable spot in the shoe section.  Just after we settled in, I noticed we were surrounded by piles of army boots and was brought back to a dream I had almost three years earlier.  It was the first dream I had with any reference to my father’s death. 

In it, my mother and I were choosing head stones and other funeral related items.  I remember looking up at her across a table and saying, “This is significant.  Why are we choosing these things together?  Where’s Dad?  Oh my goodness, it’s Dad.”  And, in that realization, I rushed onto some porch type room and looked down at a pair of boots.  And as I turned in a circle, the boots multiplied to piles of boots.

Standing there in the shoe section, I was thrown and could have cried.  But symbols and signals such as this could not throw me on this day.  I wanted to be strong for him as he looked over several shoe cleaners and chose one that we both knew he would never use.  Even if he had the time, he would never be able to withstand the fumes.  But we picked through them anyway, because on this magical day out, my father was not dying.  On this day, we were simply shopping.

After this, he decided he should use the bathroom there before we left.  And so, the adventure began to find and assess the bathroom.  After being directed by the sales lady, I went to the back room to check it out.  Although I was delighted by the old-school feel of the back room and the surroundings, I was not feeling hopeful about my dad taking this long walk through the narrow, creaky doors, and into the over-sized and not very handicapped accessible bathroom.  On any other day, this would have been impossible, but not this day.  He said it was fine and muscled through.  And then we sat for a few minutes in the retro feeling break room, which was really delightful.

After all of this walking, on a lower dose of oxygen than he was accustomed to, it was time to switch to the wheelchair.  He was worried about making the switch and I told him I would take care of it.  I love how he still worried about me having to do too much.  This was always a concern of his.  He could not handle being an imposition.  And, after a few maneuvers, we were rolling to the checkout and out of the store.  He was laughing with the sales ladies and even enjoyed a good “country” moment where a long bearded man in overalls said something hilarious that I can’t remember now, but it might as well have been a cast member from Duck Dynasty walking through the door.  On his way out, my Dad told the ladies, “I’ll be back,” with a smile on his face and we were off to the next destination.

We headed to the Italian store in Germantown, mainly for balsamic vinegar.  My Dad was a connoisseur of balsamic vinegar and somehow, with all of the selections on the market these days, he could pinpoint and remember a good one.  This is another place with limited handicapped accessibility.  Our choice was park on the street and climb stairs or park in the parking lot and follow a stone pathway.  I pulled into the handicapped space and asked my Dad if he wanted to go in.  He sighed and sat for a minute.

“It’s such a pain in the ass.”

It’s funny, when I berate myself for crying too much still, I forget all the tears I held back during some of the hardest moments of my life.  I wanted to burst out and say, “Please Dad, be that pain in the ass!  I love all this freaking oxygen and tanks and walkers.  I freaking love them!  Because one day I won’t have this pain in the ass and I’ll miss it!”

Instead, I told him that it didn't matter and that I wouldn't have taken him with me if I didn't want to go through the trouble.  So, we were navigating this stone path with all the plants and shrubs growing over it.  It was kind of like we were in a jungle.  And, halfway through, we were laughing about the ridiculousness of it all.  Really laughing, and suddenly, there was no oxygen and my Dad wasn't frail, he was holding back branches and leaves and he had enough air to really laugh.  There, in the middle of Nashville, on an unusually hot October day, we both got to be silly, probably for the last time while he was on this Earth.

We still have that bottle of vinegar.  I actually grabbed a bottle of much more inferior vinegar the other day for a recipe because, suddenly, I can’t pour out the last drop.  Suddenly, I want to hang onto that bottle for a very long time.

And so, as we settled back in the car after our Italian market adventure, my Dad had endured more activity than he usually did in a week.  I asked him if he wanted to go home.

“No, keep going.”

And so we did.

My farmers market was closed by this point so we headed over to the East Nashville Farmers Market.  Last season it was located in front of a school on a small area grassy area, surrounded by tall trees that provided large patches of shade.  He got out and walked past a few vendors into the middle of the grass.  I was shocked that he went so far from the safety of the car.  I was standing there with him and he actually had to take off his over shirt, because it was so warm.  It was unusual for my Dad to be warm those days.  He sent me off to buy the things I needed and told me he was fine.  I shopped fast, afraid that this magical strength and energy would suddenly be stolen and I wouldn't be able to get him back to the car in time.  When I returned to him, I realized that time was coming to swap the oxygen tank so I left him there and went back to the car.

One of the memories most imprinted in my mind is the view of him as I headed back with the oxygen.  He was standing, so relaxed, just gazing up at the trees.  Everything was so green and the sunlight was beaming through, filtered by the dense foliage on the trees.  It was beautiful and he was right in the middle of it.  I actually still look for him in that little spot every time I pass that school, and I always will.

“It’s so peaceful here,” he said when I returned.

I offered to get the wheel chair but he felt he could walk it so I brought the car as close as possible and he did.  And, with just enough oxygen left in the tank, we headed to Five Points Pizza, because it is as close to a New York pie as you can get in Middle Tennessee.  Dad stayed in the car this time but I ran back and forth with the menu so he could choose something to bring home for him and my mom.  He never got to do that anymore, bring home food, and it was something he did often when he was healthy.

The pizza took forever and I kept running up and down the driveway to make sure he was okay because we only had one phone on us.  He kept assuring me he was fine and that I should relax.  And he was fine.  I remember balancing the pizza on the wheel of the wheelchair in the trunk and just hoping for the best because I didn't have much time to fiddle with it.  Amazingly enough, we made it home with just enough oxygen and a fully intact pizza, which my father had the energy to eat plenty of, even after that big day.

You see, lung disease steals a lot from you.  And there are so many things we take for granted when we can breathe.  It steals your words and laughter, when you have to conserve your oxygen to simply breathe.  It saps your energy so that you don’t even have enough energy to eat, or sit, but yet still do not have the comfort to sleep.  Walking, getting in and out of a car, and even taking a simple trip to the bathroom, takes a colossal effort.  And yet, somehow, we were given this day, a very normal day out together.

Looking back, it seems miraculous when, just less than two weeks later, my Dad’s nurse had to hold back her own tears when she told me he would probably never leave the house again.  And less than two weeks after that, I was picking him up off of the floor.  And just days later, only one month after this magical day, he left that broken body behind and went to a far better place.  Looking back, I think he knew that this would be his last day out.  I think he knew a lot more than we did.  And I can still hear him saying, "keep going."

I would have driven you to the ocean if I could have Dad, but I loved every minute of that day we had and I’ll be forever grateful for it.  Happy Father’s Day in heaven.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

About Me

I recently started to really get involved with some groups that share some beliefs with me.  As I started to share ideas, I realized that I had been holding back for a while now.  I realized that I was worried about saying something that offended someone or made everyone turn around, gasping in disbelief, and "kick me out of the club" because I ate a Girl Scout cookie, watched some network television or bought an orange from South Africa.   

Or... much more controversially, that I believe moms should stay home with their babies and just love them, no one should spend the majority of their adult life in an office cubicle and everyone should stop eating fast food (or doing anything fast for that matter.)

But then I thought, that's no reason to keep quiet. :)  

I included the following on my website - also a major work in progress - and just wanted to share it here.

I don’t fit into any “category” or follow any particular ideology, religion, political party or movement.  My beliefs stem from the very core of my soul.  They are influenced by my personal experiences and journey thus far.  I think we all struggle with the battle of who we were, who we are and who we want to be as we walk through this life.  I stopped looking at this as a battle recently and decided to embrace who I am in the present moment.  I am always a work in progress.  We all are and we will be until the day we move on from this Earth and beyond our bodies and minds.

I discover an overwhelming amount of new information and get the opportunity to witness the perspective of others every single day.  I used to be quiet and polite about my views.  I didn't want to offend anyone, make them feel bad or damage my reputation in “business.”  I have let that all go.  I am compelled to share my thoughts with my family, my friends and the world.  So, when you visit my site some days, you may feel understood, inspired or uplifted.  On other days, you may feel offended or outraged.  I promise, you will likely not feel apathetic, ever.  

I am happy that I do not fit into any particular ideology.  If I did, I would be concerned that my beliefs were not truly my own and, perhaps, simply acquired by blindly following others.

I'm closing with a couple of my favorite quotes today.

The deepest bonds with others are forged not through unquestioningly following the dictates of tradition, but by becoming the kind of person who practices authenticity and integrity - the cornerstones of meaningful relationships.
~ Dr. Melanie Joy

Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
~ John F. Kennedy

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Well, it has been a while since I have posted something.  And I always want to post something.  I just hate taking the time.  I literally spend most of my time playing, laughing, singing and dancing with one of my kids (okay, so my big kid doesn’t do a lot of that, but he makes me laugh, often.)  And I really rather do that than type, check grammar, find the right image, format, yada yada…


I have gone through some big changes and so I just thought it was time to share.

I’ve completely stopped eating meat and dairy.  I cannot label myself a vegan because I eat eggs from a local free range farm and I eat some fish.  I’d really like to talk about why I’ve made this change.  But first…

I’d like for everyone to take note that I was an avid meat eater, a lover of dairy, a cook that did not really know how to proceed without butter, a shopper that stocked up on as much sour cream as possible - it was my secret ingredient in everything and often garnered rave reviews from family and friends whenever they ate anything I made.

But wait, there’s more…

I made fun of people who ate hummus.

Fruits and vegetables would rot from sheer neglect in my refrigerator.

I once said (and I quote) “So I made cream cheese icing because, really, what’s the point of making any other kind?”

I’m sure you understand my point.

So the thing about this change is that it was not a choice for me.  It really just hit me one day, almost six weeks ago.  I had always known the horrors of factory farming.  And I have always been an animal lover.  I used to stop on the side of the road just to watch the cows graze in the pasture when I lived in Upstate New York for three years.  You think I would have gotten used to it, but I never did.  I gave up things live veal and lamb but I never questioned the neat little cellophane packages of beef, pork and chicken that I threw in my cart every week at the grocery store.

And one day, it just happened.  I caught a diagram that crossed my computer screen as I was reading some anti-consumerism material.  It really wasn’t focused on meat or factory farms so the diagram was out of place.  As a rule, I avoid imagery from organizations that fight for the rights of animals because I'm fragile when it comes to the suffering of innocent creatures and the pain lingers with me for days sometimes as I try to purge the images from my mind.  So I saw this image for a few seconds, maybe.  Our dog had just been injured, had surgery and was on the mend at the time.  I remember feeling so bad, watching her suffer through it.

And there I was…

Looking at the dog… remembering the diagram… the dog… the slaughterhouse… the confinement… the lack of any love…

And I was done. 



I was crushed under the weight of the pain, suffering and fear these animals endured, just to be slaughtered in the end. 

It’s not that I chose not to eat meat.  Suddenly, it was impossible for me to eat meat.  I was ill prepared for the change, with frozen chicken, beef and pork in my freezer waiting to be defrosted and cooked.  I ate graham crackers for a week.

Dairy was the next to go, in stages.  I gave up milk and most milk products about three weeks ago.  And just two weeks ago, I gave up cheese.  That was hard.  However, I am harder pressed to justify the degree of suffering we inflict on cows and their calves in order to produce the quantity of milk that we consume.

I gave up eggs for a while, until I found a farm I was comfortable with and, although they’re a little pricier, it is worth it to me to have access to farm fresh eggs and know the chickens are just walking around all day, and someone is literally picking them from a nest.  No beak cutting, wing clipping, "shelves," fake UV lights, hormones, or antibiotics - they can just be chickens.

I have to say that I have never felt so good physically without “dieting” and I feel as if a weight has been lifted off of me that will allow me to continue on the path I have chosen.  I’m a city girl at heart, an absolute prissy wimp when I’m near dirt, bugs, and other nasty things that come with the outdoors.  I realized, not too long ago that, in order to find true peace with life, I needed to connect with the Earth, and learn how to really live.  (As opposed to sitting in front of a computer, earning money, so I could pay others for the things I needed to live – but more on that later!)

In any case, a few weeks into my cruelty-free lifestyle, I realized that this was the first logical step of connecting with the Earth.  I could never have made a true connection while blindly contributing to the pain and suffering of innocent creatures.  And I have discovered that there is a name for my journey - AHIMSA - which means "to do no harm."  And I found this in Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis.  

A -  Abstinence from animal products
H -  Harmlessness with reverence for life
 I -  Integrity of thought, word, and deed
M - Mastery over oneself
S -  Service to humanity, nature, and compassion
A - Advancement of understanding and truth

I hope to post my feelings, challenges and adventures as I tread this new path.  I think the look into someone like me turning a whole new leaf – literally – will be very valuable to some. 

In the meantime, I am going to ask my readers (however many of them I have) to please consider just one thing for now.  Please take the step of knowing where your food comes from.  I am not going to be so bold as to ask anyone to change what they eat, a mere six weeks into this.  I am also not going to be so foolish as to think my personal plea will change what is on your plate tonight.  It is important though, for your mind, spirit and body, as well as this earth, for you to understand the conditions of the places that supply the food that we feed ourselves as well as our loved ones.

I truly believe if everyone witnessed just a single hour of activity at a factory farm and slaughterhouse, they would never eat mass produced meat again.

*Please consider that some resources are not suitable for everyone.  Understand your own sensitivity level.  For example, my heart cannot handle viewing EARTHLINGS and I even had to cover my eyes and fast forward a few parts of FRESH.

This Canadian campaign, launched with the support of The Toronto Vegetarian Association, is a great place to start.  The campaign is cute and their imagery is usually very kind to the viewer while still getting to the point. 

This is the facebook page for a book I ordered from Amazon as soon as I knew that I could no longer eat meat.  This book looks at our blind commitment to eating meat from a sociological perspective.  It is non-judgmental and very informative.  If you check out the Amazon page as well, the reviews are very helpful.

(and The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone)
I picked this up at the grocery store when I was feeling lost and alone in my quest to eat a cruelty free diet.  I found comfort that I wasn’t the “only one” thinking about this and some recipes to help me along.  There is also a lot about macrobiotics, which I cannot even wrap my head around just yet.

This is a powerful documentary that I have yet to watch.  I cannot even make it through the trailer.  However, I know this has helped many a vegan to get their significant other or a family member to understand their decision so I could not exclude it.

This film examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.

This is the documentary that started my thought process almost two years ago.  It is powerful and eye opening.  I will never take for granted what is in food that I purchase.

I just watched this a few weeks ago and, although it is not focused on a vegan lifestyle, you could not ask for a more informative film about the food chain, the why’s and how’s of food production and how it all went wrong.  This film also gave me hope.  As a minority often looked at as a wacko when I talk about our food system, I feel this film can educate so many more people to make healthier choices.

This is just to prove that no one should take themselves too seriously.  And who doesn’t need a little Ryan Gosling to brighten their day?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas to All...

I guess most people that know me well realize that I am not very religious.  I believe that religion is a man-made concept.  I have very strong spiritual convictions, but I do not follow a specific religion.  I mention this because maybe I’ll sound like a “bible thumper” here, maybe not, that’s a matter of opinion.

In any case, we are preparing to celebrate Christmas and, whether anyone likes it or not, Christmas represents the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  I would guess that Christmas was the very first holiday to be stripped bare of all meaning and turned into a marketing extravaganza.  We buy gifts, line our rooftops with lights, erect Christmas trees, don our finest attire, throw amazing parties, and prepare lavish feasts.  And, as the years and decades pass, we seem to strive to do all of these things bigger and better.  It seems as if this frenzied pace begins before the ever essential Black Friday and screeches to a halt in the wee hours of Christmas morning.  Why do we do it?  
What would happen if we chose not to do it one year?

Now I know many messages, emails, facebook statuses and tweets circulate about “keeping the Christ in Christmas.”  Could we really do that though?  Would anyone really do that? Yes, I'm even asking the Christians.  Let’s think about it for a moment.  I certainly do not believe everything ever written in the bible.  My son has referred to it as a “big game of telephone” and I think he certainly has a point.

However, I do believe that Jesus Christ came from meager beginnings, walked the earth spreading a message of peace and love, helped others and died by the hands of ignorance.  Regardless of my faith or spiritual beliefs, I believe most of this story simply because the behavior of everyone around Jesus is very typical of humans, even today.

I do believe that if you are going to accept your day off, or your double pay, shop ‘til you drop, and partake in all of the other festive cheer, you might consider thinking about the birthday boy for just a moment or two sometime during the holiday season.

I’m going to keep it basic.  After all, that’s all I know.

Jesus came from meager beginnings.  His pregnant mother gave birth among farm animals.  She had nowhere to go and no one took her in during her journey.  Were they homeless?  Were they dirty?  What was the condition of their clothing?  

I wonder how a 2011 version of this couple, with this woman preparing to bear a child, would be treated today.

Jesus did not care much for shopping.  I know that’s not exactly how the story goes.  However, imagine if Jesus roamed among us today and he asked us to stop doing business on Sunday.  Would you stop?  What about all the Christians?  Would you all stop shopping, working, and doing any business on Sundays?  How about all of you that quote the bible during your lively debates on hot topics such as gay marriage?  

What did you do last Sunday?

Jesus did not judge. Period.  (He wouldn’t even have judged that one word, incomplete sentence.)  Seriously though, he did not judge prostitutes, lepers and, in his final hours, he did not judge the very men that brought about his death for “they know not what they do.”  When did we forget this?  We know everyone does the best they can with what they have.  But we judge, we judge, we judge… It’s one of our favorite pastimes, right up there with shopping.  I struggle with not judging those who judge. :) Seriously, that’s one of my weaknesses.  So, I’ll make all you judgmental freaks a deal.  

I’ll stop judging you in observance of Christ’s birthday, if you live and let live for a day.

Jesus helped others.  He healed the sick, fed the hungry, loved the forlorn.  He shared everything.  He reached out to those who did not make the best decisions.  He was charitable without requirements.  Would we call this man, the son of God to so many of us, a “bleeding heart liberal?”  A dirty hippy?  (He did wear sandals and have long hair.)  Why are we so focused on ourselves that we cannot risk anything or step out of our comfort zones to help another?  Why are the rich so terrified of losing a small amount of money?  

Why can’t we take a few minutes out of our days to simply reach out and share some love with someone, whether we think they deserve it or not?

I just think that this story is so significant and we so often forget that the story is not about religion.  It’s about people.  I think the story has been clouded by some of the people that use it for the wrong reasons.  It’s all of that “cloudiness” that makes it easier for us to learn something from a fairy tale or fable than to take a lesson from the bible.  Let's face it, no one is using the words of Mother Goose to tell someone that they’re going to burn in hell.

So, don’t judge Jesus or his story by the misrepresentations of his so-called representatives and truly celebrate his birthday this year.

I’m sure many of you could stand making your feast a little bit smaller to share with someone less fortunate.

Break down our ridiculous social norms and knock on the door of that person you think may spend the holiday alone.  Invite them over.

Don’t shop, don’t facebook, don’t twitter… just live in the moment and love those around you.

Love someone that is nothing like you at all.  I’m sure you have a family member that you always gossip about or a co-worker that simply appalls you.  This year, just love them, regardless of how much you don’t like what they do.

And maybe, we can try this all out in the New Year as well.  We’re human, we will not be perfect, but we have no excuse for not trying.

Call me if you have trouble with it.  Seriously, I'll make you a latte, a cookie, or a cup of tea to help you through or we can just talk.  Change has to start somewhere and I'm willing to do my part.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It’s Thanksgiving

So many will feel grateful and give thanks and yet…

So many will feel burdened and hope for more.

And so much will happen today, just like any other.

Children will wake up to the smells of turkey roasting and the sounds of the parade.

And some will wake up cold and hungry to the sounds of gunfire.

Many will celebrate with family.

Some will think their family is too big, too loud, too small or too poor.

And some will be alone, in an airport, a hotel, a hospital, on a stage or under a bridge.

Some will long to be closer to the ones they love.

A turkey will be burnt beyond repair leaving everyone to eat only side dishes.

A flight will be canceled.

Someone will be very late to dinner.

Someone will not make it at all.

Someone will have to work.

Someone will eat less this year because they lost their job.

And someone will not eat at all.

Someone will cheat on their diet.

Someone will break a bone.

Someone will be sick.

Someone will witness the first breath of their child.

And someone will witness the last.

And the same will happen tomorrow and every day thereafter.

So please, as the stresses of the holiday season begin, don’t let little disappointments worry you.

Don’t take what you have for granted.

And learn to truly appreciate everything around you.

Because someone, somewhere, is wishing they had a day just like yours.

It’s Thanksgiving.

Count your blessings :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Modge Podge Roundup

Today is for cake baking and toy building, but I wanted to share my first roundup before it got too old.

Our little one will have her first birthday tomorrow and her present is in a million pieces, waiting for assembly when Papa comes home.  And while I remember all the "joys" of "assembly required," I'm sure we will not not sleep much tonight.  Let's see how much progress the toy industry has made in 21 years!  I'm sure we'll want to die tonight and be able to laugh about it once we catch up on our sleep, 5 years from now. :)

You might find it odd that we've bought some huge monstrosity from the Toys R Us marketing machine.  This completely goes against my pledge to not buy into the toy industry, with all their overpriced, molded plastic goodies.  We can build anything ourselves while teaching our child the skills she needs to be self sufficient.  I was overtaken by this one though.  It crept up on me.  I was powerless :(

Look at it!

It has a working doorbell for goodness sake!

Back to the Roundup!
I'm not sure how this whole blogging thing will work for me, but I hope everyone - you know, my enormous reader base :) - will be patient with me as I navigate this new area.  In any case, of the blogs I follow, I have noticed a few do a "roundup" where they post links to other blog posts and interesting articles.  I guess this is so freaks like me, who already have little time and issues with too much research, reading and googling, have yet more to read.

It's already a feat of great proportions for me to even start a blog without having refreshed my grammar skills, researching successful blogging strategies and banking 20-30 posts for the days (or weeks) where I become to overwhelmed to post.  I have perfectionist issues and do a lot of planning and not so much doing. :)

In my effort to change how I do things and step out of my comfort zone, here I am and here's my first unplanned, non-themed, haphazard "roundup."

Why a personal trainer is making himself obese… on purpose
This is a great article on Drew Manning, a personal trainer that has gained 70 pounds on purpose, with the intention of losing it, to better understand his clients' point of view.  I love that he acknowledged the addictive quality of processed foods.
"I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how intense and how real these food cravings are.  I think a lot of people associate the word “addiction” with drugs and alcohol, but I do believe this addiction (to America’s processed foods) is real and very similar. I know I’ll never know exactly what it’s like for every person that’s overweight and I don’t claim to, but at least I understand better than I did before when I never had to struggle with this. I hope to learn a lot more in the second half of my journey, from fat 2 fit."
Back to the Land, Reluctantly
I just loved the quote below.  I am definitely one that is finding my way with growing my own food. It's nice to see a level of success from someone that was a novice once too.
"My turn with spade and hoe started a few years ago when I found myself divorced and flat broke. My livelihood as a freelance writer went out the window when the economy tanked. I literally could afford beans, the dried kind, which I’d thought were for school art projects or teaching elementary math. And I didn’t know how to cook."

Southern Savers
For anyone living in the south, this is a priceless site for saving money.  If you hate the tediousness of couponing, as I do, this site does most of the work for you.  Although I do not buy all the processed food that most of the big coupon savings are for, there are other savings that are worthwhile!  Plus, they list some freebies, free movie rental codes and post saving opportunities for online shoppers.

Ana White

Never buy from Pottery Barn or any of those fancy-pants, overpriced stores again!  This site has building plans for almost any piece of furniture you might need for your home.  She includes cut lists and everything!

The Quaint Cottage

This site has building plans also but more so for smaller projects and accessories.

The Simple Dollar

I like this guy!  He teaches frugality, simple living and gives money saving ideas.  More importantly to me, he often inspires by illustrating that we are not just trading money to have certain things, we are trading time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DIY Lattes

Isn't it funny how someone will complain about the price of gas while holding a cup of coffee that cost them $4?  I figure an average Starbucks beverage costs about 25 cents an ounce (or $32 a gallon!)

That doesn't mean I don't love it though.  Coffee at home doesn't ever seem to be quite as good.  We had a good thing going though and my cup of coffee was sacred to me.  It was as perfect as it could be without being a latte.  Someone even asked me how we manage to make our coffee taste like "Christmas Morning" once.  However, as I methodically removed all of the processed food from my life, I had a frightening realization... my coffee creamer... had... to... GO :(

Oh my...

What would I do?  We tried milk, half and half and heavy cream but nothing seemed to create that magical perfection like the chemical laden non-dairy creamer.  The very first ingredient in this delicious powder is corn syrup solids.  I couldn't be any farther away from acceptable.  I was dancing with the devil every morning and it had to end.

I tried giving up coffee altogether and I almost died.  I'm serious; just ask my husband.  I think he had a bag packed!

So I thought for a bit and figured if I could make a decent espresso, I could figure the rest out.  After all, I'm Italian and quite savvy in the kitchen.  Certainly I could make a latte at home without spending an arm and a leg on some fancy machine.

After all, my goal is not only to eliminate processed foods and chemicals, I want to do this frugally, without gathering a bunch of equipment.  It's possible in every case.  It just takes work and, as a result, I appreciate everything that much more.

So I purchased an old school Moka pot.  My parents used to break this out during the holidays after big dinners.  A shot of liquor might have been added and there were the men, drinking espresso and making "the face" (as illustrated by Silvio of The Sopranos) after every sip.  I think "the face" meant that it was good, but this is a mystery we'll have to solve in another post.

So I was off to google to find this coffee pot.  I didn't know the name at the time, but that is the magic of google.  I found one at Amazon for under $30 and ordered it.  I read review after review and decided to forgo the frother.  One reviewer simply microwaved the milk, another used a pot and a whisk.

The pot arrived and sat in the box for several weeks, then on the counter for several days.  My excuse was that I needed to find ground espresso Finally, in a desperate attempt to cut my ties with powdered creamer, I broke the pot open and started reading instructions one afternoon.  After two exhausting hours of "breaking in" the pot, I finally experienced my homemade latte.

And, if I do say so myself, I captured my Skinny Venti Vanilla Latte right at home for less than $1!

The at home espresso aficionado will have you believing that you need fancy machines, steamers, milk frothers, tampers and so much more to experience a latte at home.  I'm sure they have an affinity for all the nuances of flavor, texture, aroma and temperature that a sommelier has for fine wines.  However, if you are just looking to replace your average coffeehouse drink, you can for a very small investment.

Here's what you need!

  • A "moka" pot - I ordered a 6-cup Bialetti from Amazon for less than $30.
  • Milk - I recommend skim.  You can heat your milk in a microwave or a pot on the stove.  We use the stove and wisk the milk to create the froth.  (The froth, we discovered, is completely aesthetic.  It makes us feel good but it has no affect on the taste of the latte.)  You can pick up a decent frother for less than $20, but I swear it is totally unnecessary!
  • Espresso grind coffee - we use Cafe Bustelo, it might very well be the cheapest option and we love it, so do all of our guests.  You can get crazy here with special roasts, fancy brands and different flavors.  I will say that Amazon is a great place to buy coffee and the price actually fluctuates often.  Watch for a low price and buy a bunch of it.  I just saved more than 20% by just waiting a day before ordering.
Then the rest is really all about personal taste!  You can play with your milk to coffee ratio to create lattes, cappucinos, macchiatos and more.  You can add flavors with extracts, syrups and spices and sweeten to your taste.

On a side note...
The minimalist in me, that secretly thinks maybe I will have to survive in the woods one day, was thrilled with the fact that I could actually use the Moka pot on a fire.  I spent weeks beaming with the satisfaction that I could sit in the woods, sipping delicious lattes even if the dollar does crash.  

Jarret asked where I was planning to get my cafĂ© Bustelo and milk.  Whatever… a girl can dream!