Monthly Archives: February 2014


I was just thinking that I will never make it to the end of the day without getting some coffee, and then this post popped up. Oh, so sad!

Of course, if we just ran out of coffee I’m sure we’d all acclimate to some other beverage. Or just take speed. This might reveal me as completely ignorant, but I’m going to ask anyway: since there is widespread climate change, isn’t it possible that some new area might become suited to growing coffee? And more importantly, is anyone looking into this? My motivations for asking are totally selfish. I already spend probably “too much” on coffee (like there’s such a thing) and I don’t really want to decrease my intake out of necessity. That’s just not nice.

Coffee, come back!

The Bean Stream

It is, quite literally, the beginning of the end. For coffee lovers.

Brazil, one of the countries with the highest production rate of Arabica coffee beans, is facing one of the worse droughts it has confronted in 20 years. It has been reported that more than 140 Brazilian cities are being rationed water, with some cities only getting water every three days.

While this is a difficult time for the people of Brazil, the unfortunate situation also has a ripple effect on the better part of the world. Other countries around the world that would normally rely on the import of Brazilian crops are being denied food and resources because of the drought; and the first and foremost crop being affected is coffee beans.

An interview on NPR tells us that in 49 days, southeastern Brazil (where most of Brazil’s crops are grown) has gotten only 11 millimeters of…

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Only Fresh?

Chili and tomato sauce are things that I make from time to time, always using fresh tomatoes in my non-recipes. That is, until several weeks ago, when I had a bunch of fresh cilantro to be used but couldn’t find good tomatoes for less than a fortune. So I bought cheap canned tomatoes instead. The huge cans were on sale, so I got quite a lot of tomatoes. As it turned out, far more than were necessary.
First, I made chili. I used two large cans of tomatoes, not realizing how much that threw off my usual ratio. I seasoned until it smelled good. In the end, that wasn’t enough. Not only did I have more left over than ever before, it was not quite as good as usual. I still ate it.

A bit later on, I finally made tomato sauce. I only used one can this time (I think). In went the usual olive oil, and after simmering them long enough to have sauce rather than whole peeled tomato soup, all the usual seasonings joined the party. I tried it and found that it came out very nice. It tasted just like tomato sauce …

But not my tomato sauce.

The difference was notable. When you use fresh ingredients, the resulting flavors of the dish are–there’s no better word for it–fresh. (I realize I’ve now used this word a lot in this post, and I usually try to avoid that, but it’s the only word that really gets my point across.)

Perhaps it was the extra ingredients in the canned tomatoes: salt and added preservatives. That’s the first hint that it not only will taste different, but will not be as good for you. I do add salt to tomato sauce, but not very much. As a result, what I make is typically far healthier than any store-bought kind (large quantities of olive oil included).

While the canned tomatoes definitely saved me money, I have long been a believer in spending more for better quality, within reason. At times it’s a necessary sacrifice, and I’ll admit I’ve had more ramen dinners than I ever really wanted, but in general, the difference between fresh and pre-packaged items are worth it. Tomatoes can be a bit of a problem in winter, though, because they aren’t in season. However, it clearly depends where you go. Everything is always more expensive at Whole Foods and some of the local artisan co-op type places (City Feed, I love your coffee, but I cannot afford your groceries), but I got ten pretty nice roma tomatoes for $2 at Johnny D’s in Brighton Center yesterday. Knowing where to find the deals is key.

I’m not even a fan of frozen vegetables, for the most part. In some recipes they work just fine, and they’re certainly going to save you money, but I can’t help noticing a deficiency in flavor and crispness. Do a simple test: take some frozen broccoli and some fresh broccoli and cook them exactly the same way, for the same amount of time, and then compare them. If you come back and tell me you didn’t notice a difference, I’m not going to believe you. It matters.

I do buy frozen vegetables at times. Here’s another problem, though: I’m far less likely to use them than fresh ones. Knowing my food will actually go bad is a greater incentive to eat it. Seeing all the colors and options set out before me, rather than a collection of white bags with pictures of produce on them, gives me a much better sense of the food that’s available to me. Not to mention that some of the things I like to do with vegetables, like salads and sandwich toppings, are not possible with the frozen variety. Hell, I have a bag of frozen corn that seemed like a good idea at the time, but has been sitting in my freezer for at least two months now. I’m not a huge fan of corn, but I was going to make some kind of chowder-casserole concoction that never came about.

Anyway. Although it seems like buying frozen and canned food items is just a good way to save money, it doesn’t work for me, because I’ll leave them sitting for substantial lengths of time in favor of going out for a burrito or something. If I buy fresh produce, I feel much more compelled and in fact excited to eat it. So really, which option is more budget-friendly?

What Could Be Better?

Having acquired quite a large amount (probably too much) of things that I don’t necessarily need, I’m starting to become more discerning in my acquisitions and thinking about the things I really feel like I need. What would actually improve my quality of life in general? Bit by bit I’m starting to collect those things, but there are some that in my experience are just really difficult.

1. The first is winter-specific, and that is thin, warm sweaters and tops. I am not really a fan of bulky or chunky sweaters that tend to abound in colder-climated places. They do absolutely nothing for my figure, and this is (sometimes disproportionately, I’m sure) important to me. The one really cozy sweater I have is not very bulky and hangs nicely. I have one or two more fitted, long-sleeved tops that are not bad for providing warmth, but I still have to layer them with another sweater on very cold days.

While I’m on the subject, I also am in desperate need of winter boots that look good with skirts or dresses. I mean actually weatherproof, will keep out snow and rain, but also moderately dressy and don’t make my pencil skirts look ridiculous. A few weeks ago I realized that the cold itself was not my only reason for wearing jeans every single day–it was because I don’t like how my boots look with skirts.

I need items that help me stick to my style in the winter instead of just defaulting to jeans and the same few nice tops or layers of cardigans, scarves, and tees all winter long. I’m too fancy for my winter clothes. I will have to start trying to fix this problem next winter.

2. This morning I found myself really wishing for a travel mug that does not change the flavor of my coffee, but also keeps it warm. Any time I take coffee in my metal ones, it tastes odd, very different from how it tastes in a normal mug. When I use my ceramic travel mug, which I bought because it had a picture of a peacock on it, the coffee is cold within 15 minutes. And, occasionally, the rubber top tastes weird to me. I shouldn’t have to taste the lid of my travel mug.

I don’t think this is such a problem for everyone else. It’s not something I’ve ever heard others complain about, from what I can recall. I also want one without a Starbucks logo, and made from eco-friendly materials. Any suggestions?

3. For at least ten years I have been searching for a great skincare routine. In the past few years my acne has subsided a bit as my skin naturally became a little less oily, but I still have that pesky “combination” skin–some oily areas, some a little dry at times, others normal. I need a collection of products that are effective but gentle–because I hated using cleansers and such that would completely dry out some areas of my face. I need a routine that does not need twelve different products every day (my maximum that I’m willing to deal with is 7 or so), but really improves my skin in all ways–smaller pores, no blackheads, fewer blemishes, that “glow” everyone’s always talking about. And then it also has to make pimples go away more quickly; I’m sick of getting these spots that hang around for several weeks before they finally start to diminish, sometimes even with regular use of a spot treatment.

My current skincare routine is okay, having abandoned the harsher acne cleansers I used to use for some gentle, more natural products. In many ways they work much better for me, but I feel like my pores are getting larger by the day. Supposedly this is common as you age, but I don’t want them to be so huge no matter how old I am, so I’ve got a few brands in mind to try. I worry, though, that by the time I find the products that really work, my skin will be changing again and I’ll have to restart the search.

4. This is something that I assume I won’t have to buy, but is very hard for me to find: A time management guide. I have some issues with time management, one of them being that I hate routines that have me doing the same exact thing every day. Minor changes don’t count (like “today I have yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I’ll have eggs”). I start to get very restless and going back and forth to and from the same places and activities every day becomes monotonous before too long. So the most typical advice of mapping out your day and setting aside particular times to do things makes me resistant because I don’t like being so closely scheduled. I prefer freedom, flexibility, options. I need the room for spontaneity even if it’s only used once in a while, or I start to feel suffocated. So I need some sort of time management buddy that allows me to organize things without planning out each day precisely. I have yet to find one that works for me.

These are the most prominent in my mind right now. There are other things as well, but those are more of long-term goals. Like owning nice furniture that I actually want to look at. I like dark wood, probably because it always seems to look nicer. Even cheap dark wood looks like better quality than light wood. Of course, I’m hesitant to buy any furniture right now. Not only do I not have the money, but I don’t want to acquire so many large pieces in my current apartment. I’m still hoping I won’t be stuck there for that much longer.

So what about you? What things do you feel like you need to make your life better/easier/more enjoyable? I want to know!

Look Around, Try Something New

Ever been to Clover? They’re a vegetarian,  fresh-fast food joint with a few locations and a food truck or two.  I’m not vegetarian myself, but I’ve enjoyed their offerings every time I’ve been there so far.  This morning makes number 3, and it was definitely delicious. [Click the link in this paragraph to go to their website if you’re interested in finding out stuff about the business. You should, they’re cool.]

Circumstances collided this morning to make me desperate to buy a breakfast sandwich. I was on my way to Starbucks and happened to look up as I walked, for once, and notice Clover across the street. As I was thinking to myself, “They’re so good,” I saw their breakfast menu written on the window. For some reason I had been under the impression that they only did lunch, so I was surprised and immediately thought to hell with Starbucks, I’m going to Clover!

I got the breakfast sandwich, which is a freshly cooked egg, tomato, and cheese on pita. It’s not the typical egg sandwich–the bread is unusual and the egg I think was soft-boiled (that’s the only method I’m aware of that would result in the eggy end product on my breakfast…)–and that’s ok. It was delicious. Of course, if you feel like you need bacon on your sandwiches, you’re going to have to go elsewhere,  but you’ll be passing up something great!

I also got a coffee, even though I’d already had coffee that morning, because I have a hard time resisting coffee. They use the pour-over method, which essentially guarantees you a good cup of coffee. I’m not a pour-over snob, I promise. I drink as much regular drip coffee as the next person who likes things that are simple and easy to prepare (but not instant–never instant! yuck!), but I like pour over places because it means that your coffee is freshly brewed, every time. It takes only a few minutes longer than the standard Starbucks coffee.

What it all boils down to is freshness. They use local ingredients, actually fresh ingredients (not frozen), and everything is made to order. I know some people don’t think that really matters, but believe me, you can taste the difference. However, they don’t jack the prices up like some places would–in fact, I find them very affordable. I am sure I’ll be going back there for breakfast in the future.

And they have popovers! I don’t always like popovers, but sometimes I’m in the mood for them. Maybe I’ll try the popover sandwich next time.

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