Posts Tagged ‘home’

Hello City!

Like begets like and sitting in my chair on a beautiful day today would have meant more of the same in the near future. No run was scheduled for today, but I had the camera and workout clothes, so I changed out (to keep my work clothes from getting icky) and decided to talk a walking photo tour of my current favorite short run route in Downtown Richmond. Sadly, as soon as I got to the top of the floodwall, the most scenic spot on the whole route, the batteries in the camera died. Go figure.
14th and Cary Streets
14th and Cary Streets. The former home of These Four Walls and 10,000 Villages. This section of Cary Street and 14th have been hit very hard recently by closing businesses.
The Turning Basin
The Turning Basin at 14th and Dock Streets. One day I am going to take one of the Canal Boat rides they offer in the Spring and Summer here.
14th Street Flood Wall
This is the gate for the Flood Wall at 14th Street. It is kind of hard to imagine that they can close that gate and keep the James River at bay if necessary. I hope we never see the need to do so.
Mayo
Crossing the Mayo Bridge. The Bridge passes over Mayo Island in the middle, so this is the first half, the northern side of Mayo Bridge. Lots of birds use that sandbar in the river for shelter.
Looking West
Still on the northern side of the Mayo Bridge and I am looking west on the James River, towards Belle Isle and way off in the distance, directly behind the train bridge, is the Lee Bridge.
SouthSide
This is the southern side of Mayo Bridge, south of Mayo Island. You can see the rapids and the southern flood wall in the distance.
Looking Back
This is how the City looks as you approach it from the south on the Mayo Bridge. It was such a beautiful day.
End of the Bridge
This is the end of the Bridge and my destination. The paved switchback-like path is my goal. It takes you off the bridge and inside the flood wall to a paved path along the River.
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This is a great spot to put in a canoe or kayak or just to walk along if you want to explore the southern bank of the River.
Under the Bridge
Peering under the bridge just to make sure no trolls are lurking under there. The Mayo Bridge is one of the oldest in Virginia; you can tell. No one decorates a bridge like this anymore. The concrete details are beautiful.
Bridge
You can see more of the bridge and its details, including the concrete obelisks in this shot, as well as the City looming up over the River to the north.
Looming
The flood wall looms large over you on this route. It is both comforting and slightly disconcerting. In the distance, you can see the top of the Southern States grain elevator behind the wall. I cut through the Southern States parking lot on the loop back to the office. The grain dust is a definite downside of this route.
Lonely
One of the reasons I love this route is it is very quiet. As you go along the paved path in the cool shade of the flood wall, you are sheltered from wind and noise. The sound of the rapids have died away. The cars that seem so loud along the bridge are hushed. The only noise I heard today was the chirping of birds and the hushed sound of large vehicles off to the east on I-95.
Train Gate
Trains have gates in the flood wall as well. Just beyond the train tracks, the solid concrete wall comes to an end and the flood wall becomes a massive hill of rocks and earth, leading east towards I-95.
Steep
I am not kidding when I say the flood wall gets steep. This is looking up at the top of the rock/earthen flood wall from the lowest point on the paved path.
JRB
This is the I-95 James River Bridge that I cross twice a day, every day. Since I started running this particular route, I watch it keenly when we head home and can see it as we drive south. The bridge looks smaller from my perspective on my runs, and the path I run on looks miniscule from way up there on the bridge on the ride home.
Flood Wall Hill Part 1
Now it is time to go from River Level to the top of the flood wall. The hill is climbed in two parts. This is the easier part.
Road to the Sun
I call the second half of the climb the “Road to the Sun.” I have yet to run up this hill without having to stop to walk.
Hello City
This was the last photo I got before the camera died on me. I am almost on the same elevation as the James River Bridge, and it was a nice view of Richmond on a particularly beautiful day.

While the route is a lonely one, it is not too isolated. I see a couple of people along the way every time I go; tourists, runners, and today, people out fishing and canoeing. Two weeks ago, a bald eagle soared above me as I closed in on the Southern States grain facility. Today, one of the peregrine falcons tailed along behind me for much of the distance. Almost impossible to see in the view screen, I took several desperation shots to see if I could score just one decent photo. Here are the only two that you can even tell are the bird.
Falcon Falcon
Days like today make me particularly appreciative of my city and its surroundings.

Recovery

Wow. It is September 1. The unofficial start of Autumn. I am not sure where August disappeared to, but the summer is over, for all intents and purposes.

We are into Day 5 now without power after Irene, but despair has yet to set in. We are weary, worried about a whole freezer full of frozen meat, and I am getting anxious watching Katia spinning up in the Atlantic, though she at least remains fairly disorganized and a long way away, but all things considered, we are holding up very well.

One of the things I am most grateful for is that during Pennsic pack out, Byram had set aside our brand new Coleman camp stove for storage in our trailer at Pennsic. I asked if we could bring it home as a “just in case” thing and he acquiesced. That stove has been such a blessing, keeping us in hot coffee and hot food. The only major thing we lack is hot water to wash, but we have taken up friends on the offer of using their shower, and with deep gratitude. It is much easier to face a dark night with clean skin.

I bought a pack of candles to put in our lanterns since we have used up a lot of the smallish pillar candles. I also picked up a whole slew of glo-sticks of various shapes, sizes, and colors for Grace, now that she is back from Nana and Papa’s house. She has water color paints and acrylics, play-dough, and the whole back yard to turn into her own personal mud bath if she so desires (for a kid who can be wildly fastidious, she sure does like playing in the mud). I bought henna tattoos for her and Ama (my mom) to play with, and am trying to come up with other entertainment ideas for around the house as well.

I had not done any driving around much after dark so I was really stunned to see just how dark it was in my immediate area last night. We have power up to the next block over, and then it is just pitch dark. That meant we all got a phenomenal look at the stars last night. I have never seen so many stars in the Richmond sky before and it was quite impressive.

There is a relaxing aspect of the whole situation from about 8 p.m. each night. We get home and we move franticly around to get as much done as possible before dark. Cook, eat, wash up, clean up indoors and out, run errands, make visits, etc. But once the deep dark sets in, we settle ourselves either on the back deck or inside in the living room, and we chat. No rushing around, no television, no internet, we just sit and chat or read and relax. I am accepting the enforced downtime with a grateful heart because once power is restored, the real work of recovery will begin. Between laundry, sorting and tossing food, restocking perishables, and such, we will be very busy probably for several days. And the whole time will be with the specter of Hurricane Katia looming in the Atlantic, with no good idea where she is going to go; we will be getting ready for that possibility at the same time we are recovering from Irene.

But that’s life. My family is back together, the weather is gorgeous, and the company has been wonderful. That is more than enough for the moment.

Winter is Coming

I have the hardest time knowing what to say these days, and I am sorry for the lack of posts. While I might not know what to say, I have had little trouble putting my hands to work. I have taken to combating the chaos in my family life with work of my hands, back, and brain.

The message hit home loud and clear a couple of weeks ago that if Byram and I want to see the dream we share of having a little homestead in the country together, we have real work ahead of us to accomplish that.

We have to get our suburban house appropriate for sale, without sinking too much money into it. A tricky line to walk. Given the market, we simply cannot get a good return on equity on any major improvements to the house, so we need to fix what is truly broken, put some lipstick on the pig (as it were), get it on the market and not be in a hurry.

We have to scrimp and save and make every penny squeal. Not being first time homebuyers, not having significant savings, and being that it is unlikely we will get a huge return on the house if we do manage to sell it, we need to sock away every dime we can towards a down payment. Frugal is as frugal does, and we are going back to a Dave Ramsey-like frugality.

So I have the motivation, I found the deals, and we have started putting some sweat equity into the house. Our downstairs halfbath is only a 5’x5′ space, and it seemed like it would be a relatively easy room to reclaim from the previous owners’ who had clearly watched too many episodes of While You Were Out. To that end, I have been stripping contact paper, cheap paint, ancient wallpaper, and puttying holes and sheetrock damage.

We settled on a creamy white color for the top half of the walls, a color called “Cream and Sugar” and since I am not going to bother replacing the deep green marble-like tiles, I decided to keep the lower half of the wall a deep green, but this one would be a solid color, and I would do a better job than the previous owners.

Seriously. I counted at least 4 different shades of green swiped willy-nilly across the wall. I am guessing (hoping) that was the effect they were looking for, and not that they were just swiping paint randomly on the walls.

We picked a green called “Deep Spruce.” Richer, grayer, and greener than the current blend of bright forest greens. I was horrified momentarily when I opened the can last night and this is what I saw:
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Yikes. Fortunately, a really good mixing turned up the deep spruce green I believed I had purchased.

Here is the new (wet coat) green going over the old green.

And once dry, the color deepened to a green so dark as to border on black.

(The big swath of dark green on the right is my handiwork.)

It might wind up being too dark. It is hard to say yet. Tonight, I will roll the middle of the walls (last night was all brushwork and crawling behind a toilet to paint around the plumbing), and by Thursday morning, I should have a much better idea of how all of this will look when it is finished.

The chair rail and moulding will be painted bright white to help contrast the melted white chocolate color of the walls, and to tie it in with the bright white trimwork in the rest of the basement. I took the vanity mirror down and am painting its silver-spray painted frame a chocolaty brown color, again, to tie it in with the dark wood paneling and dark wood mantle in the rest of the basement. The silver-spray painted whicker woven shelf is also getting a coat of the same chocolate brown spray paint, but when I find something decent and similar in size, second hand (new shelves are expensive!), it will be replaced altogether.

Once the paint is cured, the vanity and shelves are dried and rehung, I am going to move some of my Alphonse Mucha prints from my Mom’s bedroom to the walls of our newly finished bathroom. Even though the prints are all women, there is something fairly masculine about that artwork, and will make the bathroom look decorated without looking feminine, or at least, that is sort of my hope.

I mean, this is a bathroom in the Man Cave, after all.

So this is where we stand today:
(Ugh. I would like to show you but apparently Photobucket has had enough of me for the day.)

All other news is related to the SCA, Pennsic, some knitting, some reading, some running, and cooking.

We went in with another family and paid for a freezer pig, much like we did with our Bessie Cow early this spring. We also were given a free smoker. We have since eaten home cured and home smoked bacon.

Yum.

I have been trying to do more of the cooking to relieve some of the burden on my Mom who is overwhelmed with real life right now. I actually enjoy cooking and enjoy just whipping up creations based on what I have in the fridge and the pantry.

I am re-reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, in anticipation of getting my hands on the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, which came out today. Honestly, it was all I could do not to be at the store at midnight; but I am such a freak that since all I have to this point are the paperbacks, I really don’t want to own a hardback.

So for now, I am waiting and rereading the previous offerings. I just finished A Clash of Kings last night and started A Storm of Swords immediately thereafter. I am enjoying them both more and less the second time through. Since I have a better understanding of what is coming, I am getting a better understanding of some of the hints that have been offered to this point. It is becoming a guessing game; I like trying to outguess the author, just like I like to have guessed who the killer is in a typical murder-mystery t.v. drama, long before the reveal.

At the same time, I am getting a little done with the excessive violence, particularly the violence against underage girls. Now that I have seen the HBO mini-series, I am starting to imagine some of these scenes having to be played out on the screen now, or the steps the producers will have to take to censor some of this stuff (which they did for A Game of Thrones, but AGoT was tame compared to the books since). But there comes a point where you start to wonder just how much is GRRM looking for shock value. We hate Theon. We hate Jeoffrey. And the Boltons. And the Mountain. Do we really have to keep decending down the ladder of depravity to make sure the readers properly hate these men?

And while I may hate the levels of violence, I can’t keep from reading the books. GRRM can say what he likes about the “realism” of his books, but when you have zombies, giants, direwolves, wargs, and Others, what you still really have is a fantasy series that keeps dipping into some pretty dark places.

GRRM will keep writing, and I will keep skimming over the worst of the stuff, and will be sitting, waiting for the next installment to come out, no matter how low we go.

What does that say about me???

Ah well, it doesn’t really matter because Winter is Coming.

Kitchen Essentials

Byram is going back to his low-carb lifestyle and I am working to get back to gastric bypass dietary basics. To do this requires some shopping and some planning of meals again, and trying to accommodate my whole family’s tastes and preferences without having to make multiple meals every night. It is possible, and even pleasurable when I am in the habit, but since Thanksgiving, we have all been pretty slack. In getting back to it, I am thinking hard about what I need to have on hand for us to all be successful and what needs to get jettisoned.

What are your grocery essentials?

I never had “essentials” before my surgery. Back then, I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to what I was eating, why I was eating it, or even, as crazy as this sounds, how it really tasted. I bought what was cheap, what was on end caps, what I was familiar with, and what seemed simple.

Now there are things I really don’t like to be without in my fridge or my pantry. Here is my list that comes to mind:

In the freezer:

-boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-pre-seasoned pork tenderloin
-93/7 Extra Lean Ground Beef
-family Sized Flash Frozen Vegetables: broccoli, mixed veggies, California blend (my favorite), Brussels sprouts, peas, cauliflower, and spinach are our favorites.

Lean meats and frozen veggies tend to form the bulk of our meals. That is why I have a freezer full of this stuff because I buy large quantities of it when it is on sale.

In the fridge:

-eggs – I have between 1.5 and 3 dozen on hand at any given moment. When possible, I love having fresh eggs from the farmer’s market too. They are the best of the best.
-pre-minced jarred garlic
Sabra Roasted Garlic Hummus – NOM!
-Fage or Oikos Greek yogurt – I cannot even eat ordinary American-style yogurt anymore.
-fresh, presliced mushrooms
-cucumbers – even when they are $1.50 each, even 2 of them are cheaper than a bag of tortilla chips and make perfect “chips” for hummus and salsa dipping
-low fat 1% milk – Grace only drinks milk or water and I like it for my homemade lattes, so we go through at about a gallon per week
-shredded cheeses – all flavors, all blends, you name it, I use it
-block cheese – we like extra sharp and Colby-Jack the best
-parmesan cheese – the real stuff. This is my new best friend; you get so much flavor for so little; it is pricey but a little goes a long way and I can make a $5 wedge last 4-6 weeks or so with regular usage.
-baby carrots
-low-carb tortillas – they are good for lots of things, but I like them especially for making into chips or making breakfast burritos
-lemons and limes

In the pantry:

-dried herbs – particularly Italian blends, thyme, parsley, and basil. Seasonings are my new best friends.
-paprika – I love it; I don’t know why, I just do. I use it in everything these days, and I just discovered smoked paprika. Divine!
-canola oil – since 80% of my meals start with sautéing a diced onion and you need a little fat for the perfect sauté, canola is my choice. Olive oil is too strong a flavor, with too low a smoking point, and too expensive for me.
-onions – see above. We love love love onions, provided they are very well cooked.
-sundried tomatos – these are a recent discovery. Like the real parm, they are a little pricey, but you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. I like chopping a couple of them up and putting them in an omelet with parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese.
-canned sliced mushrooms – great for throwing into just about anything
-egg noodles – the lowest carb pasta available. When we are being very carb conscious, I don’t use these much at all, but they work very well provided we do not gorge on them. I like them in my “All-In” skillet meals or “All-in” soups. A nice way to bulk it up without excessive quantities of carbs. Only 27 carbs in a cup, which is not bad when that is the amount I add to an entire pot of soup or skillet meal.
-canned tomato products – paste, diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, puree, whatever. You name it, I use it.

Extras:

-Protein Powder – Byram uses it more than me. I still haven’t quite gotten over my serious aversion I developed during my post-op 4 week liquid diet of protein shakes, this stuff is too important for me to avoid it forever. Funny story about my post-op liquid diet – around day 10 post-op, I was forcing down my shakes, gagging on them, not understanding why they tasted so violently disgusting to me. I had to hold my nose. It wasn’t until I took a sip without holding my nose that I caught a wiff of sour milk. It turned out, my milk had gone sour and I had been downing protein shakes made with sour milk for several days. I blame the Percocet for the misunderstanding. Still, a year later and knowing the reason those shakes were so horrific, I still cannot forget the gaggy feeling I had downing those shakes, and the aversion remains.
-Sugar-free syrups- I am in love with Torani’s SF Salted Caramel right now, though I had to get it straight from their website. I also have Classic Caramel, French Vanilla, and Almond Roca.
-Nuts – I like “premium” blends of nuts that contain no peanuts. Just my preference. Byram likes peanuts and almonds in particular.
-Instant espresso powder – to save me from my $5 a hit addiction at Shockoe Espresso. I greatly prefer the Ferrara brand over the Medaglia d’Oro brand, but I cannot find Ferrara locally. Mom brings it to me from Harris Teeter down her way.
-peanut butter – I love it on apple slices

This sounds like a lot, and it is. It is not even everything that goes on my regular shopping list, but it is the stuff that I subsist on or the stuff that inspires me to create new and wonderful things to subsist on.

So, what are your kitchen essentials?

Thinking Out Loud, Mostly

The flags everywhere are at half staff.
Half Staff
I would genuinely like it if every news-carrying website I visit would stop showing two pictures: the first being the picture of Congresswoman Giffords being carried away on a stretcher, exposed in her panty hose; and the second is the mugshot of Jared Loughner and that horrible leer. You could say just stop looking at the news, but it is part of my Yahoo mail and my homepage. She deserves a better, more dignified image (to be fair, most photos of her are portrait shots, and much nicer), and he deserves no visibility, whatsoever.

It is a gorgeous, if chilly day here in the River City. One of those days where I am grateful to be wearing my wool socks. The sky is that January Blue; different than a July Blue, very distinct to me. The photo above is a perfect example of January Blue. Clear, cold, and crisp. A good day for a short walk.
Shockoe Slip
Starting next week, I hope to start running again. It was back on Thanksgiving Weekend that I sprained my knee. I would like to report that the knee in question is back to 100%, but sadly, it is not. After almost two months of rest the fact that it still aches, and sometimes quite sharply, tells me this is going to be a long time in healing and that it is going to hurt whether I work it or not, so I might as well get moving again. I sat at my spinning wheel last night, listening to my running mix on my MP3 player, and caught myself picking up serious speed on the treadle as various songs took my mind back to hot, humid days spent circling around the Canal Walk on my lunch hour. I felt the need to run again.

The Go With The Flow socks for January have come to a practical standstill. The first one was cast off last Friday, but I haven’t gotten more than an inch beyond the toe of the second once since then. I have been insanely busy at work, knitting on Ishbel, and believe it or not, spinning, as mentioned above. I received some delicious Colonial top from Ashland Bay for Christmas; 16 ounces total, and I am working on the peacock blue/green batch first. The color is divine and Ashland Bay’s products are always a joy to spin.

Speaking of Ishbel…
Kidsilk Haze
That is the Kidsilk Haze. The colors are inverted, but I thought the shot was a neat one. You can see just how fine and ‘hazy’ the yarn is. A perfectly fluffy yarn. Perfect for its intended recipient.

This weekend will see clear skies and warmer weather than we have seen in a while. The gardening bug has bitten me, same as it does every mid-January. I have spent an inordinate amount of time floating around the Baker Creek Heirloom seeds site, as well as making lists, planning imaginary measurements in my mind (they are imaginary until I actually get the measuring tape out this weekend) and thinking about things like “What does my family actually eat?”

I am thinking about things like Swiss Chard, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, and of course, tomatoes. I am pondering things like starting such plants from seed and the inherent difficulty therein. The selection at my local nurseries for started veggies is absolutely abysmal, and they have not always been more productive than stuff I have started from seed.

I don’t have any answers yet for what my garden is going to look like or how I am going to start seeds or what heirloom varieties I am going to try versus modern hybrids, but spinning my mental wheels thinking about it all is certainly not the worst way to pass these dark winter weeks. Every year I do something better than I did the previous year; every year I learn something I didn’t know before. Eventually, I am going to get this right.

Maybe this will be the year?

New Year, New Knits

First of all, Happy New Year to you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming and reading what I have to say.

WordPress sent me a lovely little summary of my blog in 2010. I only wrote 53 posts for the year in 2010. Just a hair more than a 1 per week average. Back in the old LiveJournal days, I would post 7-10 times in a week sometimes; I don’t remember having all that much to say back then, but that didn’t seem to stop me. One of my goals for the New Year is to try and step up the quality of my posts this year.

So 2010 is over. I salute it for being an incredible year of changes and good fortune for my family and myself. I remember watching the Times Square ball drop closing out 2009 and thinking good riddance to bad rubbish. This year, I watched the ball drop and wondered if 2011 could even come close to being as good as 2010, and being filled with a mix of doubt and hope. On the one hand, it is hard to beat a year as good as this one, and on the other hand, you get what you expect. I really should raise my expectations.

I believe you set the tone of your year with how you handle New Year’s day. I spent the day knitting my first sock of my SCSC2011, taking Grace to the park and then out for hot cocoa at Starbucks, and spending time with my family. It was a lot of fun taking her to the park and for cocoa, though I have created an unpleasant little Starbucks diva. I was not very impressed when the plaintive whine escaped the backseat after Mass yesterday morning – “I wanna go to Stawbucks! I want hot cocoa!” I would be more grumpy about it, but that is exactly what my inner three year old sounds like when I am in a bad mood and was a sugar free, non-fat caramel latte.

Still, I was not amused by that unhappy shriek. Grace is at her whiniest stage ever and while I know it is temporary, it is not much fun. She has a ridiculously short fuse and can go from snuggly and pleasant to crocodile tears and full on freak-out in .23 seconds. Not pleasant. But while her tantrums are miserable, she is also amazingly sweet and seems to have a deep capacity for affection and kindness right now.

And, while I might be biased, and it is a mother’s prerogative to be so, I think she is beautiful.
Grace
The park is a great thing, by the way. Grace is old enough for me to mostly turn her loose to play, making sure she is playing nice with the others, and that the others are playing nice with her, but not having to help her up every ladder or talk her into braving the big twisty slide. I can knit, she can play, and we all go home happy.

Speaking of knitting:
Go With The Flow
Pattern: Go With the Flow socks.
Yarn – Classic Elite Alpaca Sox in Russet (apparently). This was the souvenir yarn from our Charleston trip last month.
Needles: 2.75 DPNs
Modifications: I am knitting them toe-up as is my want, and I did a crazy slip-stitch heel in spite of the short row heel, to make a cushier, somewhat thicker and hopefully tougher heel. It worked out, but short row heels aren’t exactly mindless to begin with, but adding in slipped stitches and making sure they line up was much more challenging.

I have some concerns about the socks. Not the pattern, it is quite nice, but the socks themselves. I did not realize that the yarn is not a superwash when we got it in Charleston. I also didn’t grasp the fact that it is a 2-ply yarn, further reducing its longevity. It does have a beautiful halo about it, which will be soft and warm, but doesn’t do wonders for a pattern where stitch definition is really the whole point. So the yarn is fairly delicate and will not hold up to tremendous abuse; not ideal for my wash and go husband, but I am of the mind that they are socks and they will not last forever no matter how well we care for them. Byram has been warned that they will last longest if they are reserved for weekend lounging and bedtime socks. I think he is less impressed with them as a result of the inherent fragility, but I know Byram, he will wear them with pleasure in the end, and I really do not care how long they last (well, let’s have them longer than a month or so, please) as long as they warm his feet and look nice doing so.

So I wouldn’t use this yarn for socks again in the future, though I do think it would make a phenomenal pair of mittens and matching hat.

February Lady Sweater is plugging along. I am about 5 inches down into the gull lace pattern, which has proven to be infinitely easy to memorize and track, so I adore it. I do not have to drag the pattern around with me everywhere to work on the sweater. Unless it blocks out much larger, it will not likely fit me, but I know of a lady who is small enough for it if it does not expand as I hope. (Somewhere, I hear Byram’s head spinning off…)

Ishbel will be started this week as well, which should be a fun and relatively fast knit, even if the mohair is a little intimidating. Does anyone have tips for blocking mohair? Steam block? Wet block? I haven’t any idea…

Thank you again, dear reader, for coming and reading, particularly those who come day in and out and read whatever it is I have to offer. I will leave you with my ‘Stawbucks’ diva.
Total Diva

Sharing My Addiction

A quick addendum to yesterday’s rant, then I am going to move on. My husband noted that it was hysterical that both parties did what government is supposed to do, which is come to the table, hammer out details, and reach a compromise that is most beneficial to their constituents, only to come out on the other side and find NO ONE is happy. It is true and it is sad. I think the point I really wanted to make yesterday and wasn’t able to because I ran away with my writing was that I believe our government, and I mean both sides, has painted itself into a corner that there is no getting out of without some serious pain. Pain now or pain later is the only question. I am not yet either for or against this plan, I just see the reality of it will mean. President Obama’s deal is designed to bring the pain later. And honestly, the largest part of me is totally okay with that. I don’t want my taxes to rise. I don’t want the long term unemployed to lose their only remaining safety net. So, for now, kicking the can down the road is the most attractive option. It just means pain later. My prayer is that we will get smart thinkers who can get us out of the hole we have dug for ourselves between now and when the chickens come home to roost. And on that note, I am moving on.
Coffee!
That is a homemade latte. Actually, I confess it is more cappuccino-esque than a latte, but I’m working on that.

I have gotten addicted to large, sugar free, non-fat caramel lattes from Shockoe Espresso, and will fall back on Starbucks’ Skinny Caramel Macchiato when not in Downtown Richmond. There are all kinds of good reasons to down a latte post-gastric bypass – they are high in protein. For every ounce of milk in your drink, you score a gram of protein. A 20 ounce latte usually has about 16 ounces of milk, so, call it 15 grams of protein (I tend to round down protein estimates to fall on the safe side). When sugar free and non-fat, they are not terrible sources of calories and really, they are very worthy calories; skim milk is generally 10 calories per ounce; so 160 calories for the milk, a few more for the sugar free syrup – that’s not so bad. Milk is of course a great source of calcium and other vitamins and minerals that are good for you. If cow’s milk isn’t your thing, they have soy milk too. The caffeine is a good thing as far as I am concerned; your mileage may vary based on your surgeon’s requirements. There is decaf too. The large size can be so filling that I often treat it as a meal.

There is one major downside. Whether they come from Shockoe Espresso or Starbucks, my favorite drinks run right about $5 a hit. There was a point when I was buying 2 or 3 a week. A WEEK. I am trying to dial it back down to 1 a week now, but it is still taking a toll on our budget, so that is where the homemade version came in.

I don’t have an espresso machine, so I have to do the best I can with what I have. Here’s my recipe for the drink above.

– 3 shot glasses of water
– 3 rounded teaspoons of instant espresso powder
-16 ounces of milk
– 3/4 shot of sugar free caramel coffee syrup
-Smuckers Sugar Free Caramel Sauce (for drizzling on top to make it divine)

I start with putting the milk into a sauce pan on the stove and get it heating on medium heat. Then I measure the three shots of water into a larger glass and put it in the microwave for a little over 60 seconds, until I can see it boiling. I pour the syrup into the Very Large Mug (VLM). With a wire whisk, I whisk the milk briskly to produce a large quantity of foam. Once the water is heated, I add in the three teaspoons of instant espresso, stir very gently, and pour it into the bottom of my VLM and go back to whisking the milk. I keep whisking until I am content with the temperature of the milk and the amount of foam. I don’t heat the milk too much, maybe on the high end of warm, but short of really hot because the espresso is quite hot and there is no reason to make the drink too scalding. Once the milk is ready, I add it to the VLM and use the whisk to reserve the foam for the top. Then I drizzle the caramel sauce over the foam, ala Starbucks Caramel Macchiato.

I worked as a barista for a hot minute at a Joe Muggs Cafe inside a Books a Million. I warned them when I started at Books a Million that I did not want to work the coffee bar, but within a week they put me behind the bar, which I ran for a few days, and then they decided I should manage the bar (with no pay increase, though). I promptly gave my notice and got the hell out of retail. However, I have never forgotten my exposure to the coffee bar, and that all came in handy when I decided to try and save myself from the dreaded $5 drink.

Obviously, the strength of the espresso, the flavor of the syrup, and everything else about it is to your taste. My first drink was not nearly strong enough. My second one could have doubled as paint thinner. I am finally getting the flavor right; now I just need to get the consistency of the milk better. I am not a fan of the foamy cappuccino style drink. I prefer the creaminess of the steamed milk latte with just a light, smooth foam on top, but I haven’t yet been able to achieve a foam that is creamy enough for my taste, but sturdy enough to support a little caramel drizzle on top. I do like playing mad scientist in the kitchen though, and if I figure it out (without a milk steamer) I will certainly let you know.