Boots here. Taking a nice little breather from all of life’s various forms of coffee goodness and cabin door delights. I came across this picture tonight and was trying to remember what possessed me to take such an un-artful picture and whether the clues in this image scream happiness or stress, celebrating or re-grouping. The moment must have meant something to me, one way or another — otherwise I wouldn’t have felt inclined to capture it on film. The clues: a bottle of wine, a corkscrew, two wine glasses, some junk mail, a phone that has been turned off, some ripe bananas, a clean stovetop . . . Hmmmmm.
This past year has been full of change. Lots of moving from place to place and lots of moving pieces. For those of you move frequently, you can understand how life sometimes presents many choices — choices that beckon and ask to be your dance partner for the next tune. For those of you who haven’t moved for 15, 20, or more years, you might not be able to comprehend the impact of all the chaotic transition that moving creates. And I feel a goodly bit of envy for you. You know where you want to be and you have found it. This is a rare thing in life and you should feel proud that you have found a place to hang your hat and scrape your boots.
I’ve moved from unrefined one-room cabins to primitive wall tents to fixer-uppers to fancy beach houses . . . and back to rustic cabins. Cabins with rotting floors to houses with the finest hardwood flooring. No running water to three (count ’em!) full baths. Kerosene lamps to the latest and greatest in recessed lighting.
With so much moving, details get muted, memories get slopped together like a North Dakota funeral hotdish, and stuff remains unpacked. Boy, does it ever. Items that felt to be so important to you when you were carefully packing them into boxes become forgotten. Unnecessary. You learn to make do with what you have. You realize that one wooden spoon is enough. Three bath towels are plenty. You’ve moved so many times that when you are heading home from town you forget to turn left to your new abode and turn right instead toward your old home. Habits generate your direction. You realize that you have been operating on autopilot. A thought takes hold: Maybe that’s why I keep moving so often.
You start to associate seasons, sunsets, conditions, and wildlife with certain residences. The house with the Canada geese. The house with the beautiful birdies. The house with the deer. The house with the glorious sunsets. The house with the stinky water. The house with the ultra-quiet nights. The house with the flickering lights. The house with the orbs. The house with the scary bat. The house with the wet firewood. The house with all of the glorious sunlight. The house with the smoking stove. The house with the cranky water pump. The house with the insane squirrel that kept chewing through the screens.
I am going to make the assumption that this photo op was cause for celebration because I can’t fathom why I would want to visually record a time of stress and duress . . . unless, of course, I was celebrating that I had survived some such mishap . . . which I guess makes stress, ultimately and in the end, a cause for celebration.
Maybe there is some mysterious circuitousness in this image . . . reminding me that even the survival of mishaps deserves some homage. At the very least a celebration that calls for a bottle of wine and a toast for two. From where I (temporarily) sit now looking out over the Sound . . . with memories of past dwellings mingling and steeping in this little pot of Now . . . there is this message, sometimes extraordinarily subliminal, that pops into every image: Life Is Good.
And what would life be without a Stetson to hang on the back of the door and a good pair of boots to slip into each morning? Everyone loves a Stetson and I, in particular, love Ariat boots. Something about the fit and the cut that make my feet happy.
Boots, feeling Brave and reporting for duty on The Skinny Jeans Crusade. Yup, your Badass Coffee Babe is here to dispel the myths that we allow others to sell to us regarding our own sweet body image. And, yes, I am ready to take on the Criminalization of the Innocent Yoga Pants.
It’s a factual truth that we are entirely too hard on ourselves regarding body image. I mean, come on, people. It’s ridiculous how self-critical we are when it comes to our bodily temple. We look in the mirror and think that we simply must have the perfect body and the perfect clothes according to societal and fashion standards. But for what? For whom?
And why? What’s the prize for having achieved some standard of Perfection? Would someone explain to me how all of this matters? Right? Isn’t true living more about who we are and what we say and what we do that really matters? Aren’t you tired of all of the self-imposed negativity? I, Boots, have had it with all of this bad-mouthing self-talk.
But there are those times when it feels good to feel hot according to our own personal Hot-o-Meter. Don’t we want to feel that inner satisfaction when our outer selves match who we feel like on the inside? And that our inner selves match who we feel like on the outside? Call it balance. Equilibrium. Stability. Sanity. Use whatever word in the lexicon that suits you, but I am calling it Being True to My Levi’s. All I am asking here is to be kind and to adjust your Hot-o-Meter. We all can’t fit into a size 2. That’s just factual. Be nice.
What with spending as much time as possible out in the woods and on the trail, I am the first to dispatch with outer artificiality . . . But I do believe in being okay with wanting my external to honor my internal. There’s nothing wrong with any of us trying to be our best selves.
So that is why I am here . . . dedicated to fitting our way through the spectrum of categories that defines our jeans wardrobe. I am thinking it’s time to get down and get real and exercise some humor. Why? Because maybe it’s time to take a real look at reality and poke a little fun at it at the same time. And I am thinking that it’s time to examine why we think we are “settling” when we wear our baggy, uni-sex pants with no waistline and no fasteners . . . what we fondly call our Yoga Pants.
Yoga Pants take on many different forms and prices. At the higher end of the Yoga Pants spectrum, you have your “fancy” pants that you buy from the expensive brands that advertise themselves as Authentic Yoga Pants. You know the kind. These are the pants that women pull on in the morning when they have to run to the store for half-and-half for their morning coffee. These pants are designed to look casually authentic, like the wearer is saying: “Attention all shoppers: I just left my hot yoga class (not true). . . and by the way, I paid a lot of money for these pants (true) so that is why I look so fashionable in my baggy pants with no fasteners.”
I realize that this is a heck of a lot for a pair of loose cotton knit pants to declare, but this is what some people believe. Really. I can’t make this up. These pants go for no less than $90 a pair, when on sale, and are no better than the leggings, the jeggings, the wide-legged sweat pants, or the solid-color pajama pants you can buy on the 90%-off sale rack at some bargain basement for $7.99. Call me cheap but I don’t need the little enlightened embroidered emblem on the back of my waistband to announce that my Yoga Pants are bonafide. Life isn’t this shallow. At least not for the Thinking Folk.
Can we all agree? All categories of shapeless pants without fasteners: they all constitute Yoga Pants. I care neither how much you paid nor from which boutique or bargain basement you bought them. They still come down to the simplest of terms: You just don’t want to put yourself into a pair of structured denim jeans with all of those restrictive zippers and pockets . . . which I think we can all agree that we are okay with.
Busting Through and Breaking Down the Gender Barriers of Yoga Pants
I remember this one boyfriend who belonged to one of my girlfriends. Let’s call him Brian. Brian was one of those men who thought he was a lot smarter than he actually was. I guess you could say that Brian thought of himself as an erudite person in Male Yoga Pants.
Brian sold himself as a “male kindergarten teacher” — much like the gender-assuming people who still say “female doctor” or “male nurse.” Brian was pretty proud of himself for having broken ranks and chosen a largely-female career.
In accordance with Brian’s Gender Infiltration, Brian wore Yoga Pants day in and day out. It’s not that Brian was heavy or unable to fit into a pair of denims. He was just lazy and couldn’t be bothered with fasteners. It wasn’t the best look for Brian, but who really cared. Certainly his young students didn’t care. And all of us in the Posse weren’t in Shannon’s shoes who had to look at Brian everyday in his sloppy pants.
I recount this story merely to emphasize that Male Yoga Pants, too, exist, and we can safely steer away from what we traditionally assume and think of as a a female-dominated fashion choice. Thank you, Brian.
So what the heck am I trying to say here?
Not a whole lot. It’s okay to wear Yoga Pants as your go-to fashion. It’s okay to want to be more comfortable than you feel in your Levi’s. It’s okay as long as you are okay with every thing associated with this conversation. Remember: there are no judges. Not even you. If you can dismiss The Pitiless Judge from the bench, you are miles ahead of many.
Boots’ Jeans Cupboard Takeaway:
Be who you are and become who you want to be.
Okay . . . I couldn’t resist adding some Yoga Pants that caught my fancy. If you are going to go baggy, you might as well make a statement. I think these Aladdin pants are fun, fun, fun! And you might as well make a statement with your comfort.
I remember the time when someone told me that I was buying way too many boots and heels . . . and that if I only spent the same amount of energy on my spiritual life as I did on buying new shoes, I would be a much happier person. Yep. Someone told me this as I was going through my urban coffee days — as a top-notch barista in a singularly-popular coffee shop, sporting a green apron and pushing beverages to the Needy Uncaffeinated .
This good-advice person’s name was Ernest, and I took his advice as Ernest being Earnest. At the time, I appreciated Ernest’s insights. After all, it isn’t often that someone tells you at the hand-off bar that you could use a whole lot more spirituality in your soul. It’s the sort of thing that makes you stand up a little straighter and take notice of your foot apparel for that particular day. And while Ernest certainly hit one of the nails on the head, there were yet a whole lot more nails dotting the board a’waiting some serious banging. It was a time of life when a whole lot of is were waiting to be dotted and a lot of ts were hoping to be crossed . . . in other words, I was experiencing Life just like everyone else — what with it being so uncertain and all. The best word for that time of my life could be summed up as: Major Transition. and we all know that Periods of Transition can use a Goodly Dose of Imminent Spirituality.
Transition. Not a bad thing, transition. I look back now, what with hindsight being so great and all, and connect the Scattered Dots that have led me to today . . . with Now being pretty darned great in comparison to Then. Life has its moments and its cycles. And I am the first to say that I am always glad when I am out of my Frail-Souled, Boot-Buying Paradigm. However . . . please, let there be a however in this story’s moral.
Here’s the However: Ernest’s Sage Words aside, there is nothing wrong with feeling a moment of joy when buying and wearing a super-cute pair of shoes or boots. This little tale is in no way meant to serve as a warning to those of you who have a passion for buying Boots, Heels, or Sandals. After all, the purchase of such items need not mean that your Soul is experiencing a Dearth of Integrity. It just means that you have Fun wearing your boots. Simple. I have spent many a happy hour, fighting off the Challenges of Transition as I danced my boot heels into oblivion on the dance floor.
I think of Ernest on occasion — especially when I am looking in my Shoe Closet. He was a kind soul who meant extremely well and who carried with him an Eye for Spirituality — and its Lack Therein. He was a good person who could see Life Conflict written on me and who believed that putting those Boot Dollars into a 401K would have served me in a much better way. Maybe Ernest was right. I don’t know, but I do think that his heart was in the right place by speaking up and putting it out there.
Life is a lively event. Wear your boots with fun in your heart, drink coffee, and get to it.
Camp coffee . . . camp toast! Camp toast is so much fun, I could write an ode to camp toast . . . although I don’t think I could write a more beautiful ode than OK Go’s “Last Leaf” video (below). This is such a beautiful song and their creative and fanciful and artistic use of toast is nothing short of exquisite. Please, do watch it. The melody, like a good cup of Joe, will stay with you throughout the day in a good way.
Camp toast. It’s like comfort food on the trail and so simple to make. Add some almond butter and slice some fruit on top of it all, and you have yourself a very hearty breakfast that delivers good hearty nutrition with minimal time expenditure.
When I think of Camp Toast, I think of a buckaroo named Bill. Bill was a Late Hire on our Whip-It Crew. Being on a Whip-It Crew involved going into a post-logged slash area and cutting out all of the little saplings and shrubs that were sprouting up, prior to re-planting. I am sure that there is someone out there who is going to say that there is no such thing as a Whip-It Crew . . . It doesn’t sound very woodsy-technical, I will agree — so I just want provide the caveat that this is what we called our crew for that and subsequent contracts involving the removal of adverse vegetation in a slash area.
Being on the Whip-It Crew was not what I would call Fun. It played with your mind and the day did not move quickly. The work involved tripping your way through acres of slash while being whipped about the face and body by lithesome sprouting trees. In order to get an early start to beat the heat, we had to wake up very early in order to get a cool start on the day. We would climb into the Crummy each morning to save gas and to afford the non-drivers some extra sleep. Who knew that we were way ahead of the Rideshare curve?
Much to our ever-heightening annoyance, Bill used to arrive late to the Crummy every morning. Every single morning. He’d come roaring into the Meeting Lot, a wide spot on Highway 54, in his ’72 Chevy — spraying an arc of gravel while chewing on the end of wadded up cigar. I am guessing that Bill’s overall effect was one of eccentricity and I’m sure funny as hell to anyone who didn’t have any alarm-clock association with him. But funny to us on the crew? Not so much.
I remember the morning Bill came skidding into the parking lot wearing some old WWII aviator goggles. The goggles being necessary as his windshield was blown out. When we asked him about it — how could you not? — he grumbled something or other about a Late Night and Trees that Jumped in Front of His Rig. Who knows what the real story was, but I am suspecting it had something to do with reading his fortune at the bottom of a gin bottle. You would have thought seeing some old Bull of the Woods cruising down the highway wearing these vintage goggles, his longish gray-black hair blowing back in the 55-MPH-generated breezes, would have been hilarious. Heck, he could have likely pulled over alongside the road and charged tourists good money for a ride in his plane-mobile. But to us? His chronic lateness stripped him of any comic relief. I can laugh now, but not so much at the time.
Check out cakespy.com’s blog for the recipe to make these jumbo cinnamon rolls! Link below . . .
Bill’s extra snooze time each morning cost us precious minutes at Carol’s Coffee Cup. Carol’s was famous for its fresh pie straight out of the oven and its hot cinnamon rolls the size of small dinner plates. You might think I am exaggerating, but it’s true. One of those rolls could send you into a sugar coma for the rest of the Crummy ride up the mountain to the unit. And it then took some serious suggesting to get us roused and ready to tackle the Whip-It work that lay ahead of us for the day. We would still be in that big of a stupor from all of Carol’s sugary goodness.
We loved Carol’s Coffee Cup — there was no other way to put it. We stopped there every morning before heading up the hill. Carol’s was a Dream Way to start out the morning. It made the morning tolerable, or as Bill would say: tol-uh-ble. I have mentioned the memorable pie and the cinnamon rolls and, even better yet, Carol’s version of a refill-to-go- was having one of the cheerful be-calico-aproned waitresses fill each of our Stanleys to the brim with Carol’s Signature Yuban before we loaded our sorry asses back into the Crummy.
Carol’s Signature Yuban had an extra sort of something to it that I could never quite put my finger on. One day I just up and asked one of the Aprons — what all of the regulars affectionately or otherwise called the be-aproned waitstaff — what it was about Carol’s coffee that made it taste the way it did. Pink Apron said that Carol sprinkled ground cinnamon on top of the grounds before it started to percolate. Carol figured that the cinnamon made it kind of special that way. I am guessing that it was Carol’s way of making Designer Coffee out of a sow’s ear, being that Yuban wasn’t what I would call the most premium hipster bean on the coffee house market.
I can’t really say that I was ever that fond of Carol’s coffee additive, but I had to hand it to her for pure ingenuity. And those cork-booted boys loved Carol’s coffee, cooking, and service. When they saw a piece of hot apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese melting on the top set before them, they felt like no less than King Solomon.
Snooze Button Bill was one of those annoying patrons who thought he owned the joint. He would cluck about the downside of our cinnamon roll rush while he ordered himself his standard 2 eggs (sunny side up), 2 sausage links, and 2 slices of white toast. Every single morning.
When Bill ordered, he would state his preference as to the runniness of his sunny side uppers, the brownness of his links, and the degree of toasting that should be accorded his toast. His order wouldn’t have been so bad for the Aprons if he had simply stuck to the same script each morning. But he didn’t. It was all a Lesson of Degrees with Bill. He wanted the eggs pretty firm or kind of runny or clucking back to the cook. The sausages were pretty straight forward, but he would send back the toast if it wasn’t Pure Palamino Gold.
Suffice it to say, none of the Aprons liked taking Bill’s order. Bill would extol his Varied Reasons for the Inadequacy of the Toast when he sent it back. He would go off on some commentary, saying that there is just something about burnt toast that says someone didn’t care enough to check the setting before pushing the lever down. Or someone simply was neglectful. Or someone had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Silly stuff that only cemented the Aprons’ and our opinion of Bill’s backsidedness.
Of course, the cook could hear Bill’s Toast Soliloquy, and I swear she would send out at least one Burnt Trial Balloon — all designed to get Bill’s dander up — before Bill finally got the Palamino-Gold toast that he demanded.
Out on the trail was something different. Cookie would pull out the campfire toaster and, after having had to listen to two consecutive mornings of Bill’s Palamino-Gold laments, we were all left on our own when it came to toast. We were wisely allotted two pieces of bread each morning for our toasting pleasure. If we weren’t mindful and we ruined our Toast Prospects by burning it to smithereens, we were on our own. Cookie’s philosophy was pretty much Eat the Toast or return it to the ashes from which it originally came. You can’t argue with good sense like that.
I actually enjoyed the whole Mindful Process of Toasting Bread on a Campfire. You would be keeping a steady eye on your bread and it would be just about perfect for consumption and then — whoosh! — an errant draft would kick the flame into high action and your toast might get a dandy scorch. I have to admit that I liked the Uncertainty of the Endeavor. And when it came to toast, I pretty much ate any degree of toasting — burnt or otherwise — that went with the benefits of butter and jelly. And it is always true that food — as is life — is always pretty darned great when you are eating in the Fabulous Outdoors.
One morning in camp, Bill asked us to watch his toast for him. He must have thought we were Better People than we were — otherwise he wouldn’t have given up his Toast Autonomy to the likes of us. Maybe it was all of those mornings that we had to wait for Bill to show up at the Crummy. Maybe it was in honor of the patient Aprons who had been putting up with all of Bill’s Toast Nonsense. Maybe it was Juvenile Revenge — pure and simple. We waited for Bill to vacate the campfire premises, and we proceeded to incinerate Bill’s toast to the color and texture of a charcoal briquette.
The mind has a tendency to wander back to the Glimmers of Unexplained Irrelevancy, and I am guessing that this is what has happened here. Bill’s role in this post’s Ode to Toast is obtuse at best. He merely serves as the MacGuffin that brings Toast to the Campfire in this story. The real story here centers on how great Campfire Toast is when you are out in the woods . . . or when you are sitting around your own home firepit.
And I’d like to say that there is some kind of moral to share about Respect for Timeliness or Be Kind to Waitstaff, but there isn’t. All the Great Incineration gained anyone was the way that we laughed our asses off until we snorted when Bill came back and saw his Beloved Toast nothing but a wafer of carbon.
Bottom line: You can’t expect generosity from others when you are always riding their butts or acting all inconsiderate. We finished the contract but after the Carbon Toast Experience, Bill’s demanding ways grew to be more humorous than harmful. He still arrived late to the Crummy and we still complained about it, but there you go. There are times in life when you can’t change circumstances completely and this was one of them.
Simply put: There are times when you just go with the flow . . .and I am thinking that this is the Way of Toast.
Bill the MacGuffin aside, take a look these awesome camp toasters. I know that some of them might look like Rube Goldberg mouse traps, but they are so warm and fuzzy and reminiscent of times gone by. You can watch your toast brown or burn, depending on your tolerance for carbon. Get on board and get one of these for camping. They are reasonably priced and they are fun!
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And what goes better with toast than a hot, steaming cup of Joe that is brewed to perfection. Imagine it. You are taking in the sunrise, the air smells so clean you could have sworn that it had been manufactured for this very moment, the birds are tweeting and twittering in the forest, and . . . wait! . . . was that a marmot you just heard whistling? Yep. You’re in the high country, your fire is crackling just right, the smoke is blowing just-so toward your blowhard Uncle Phil that is always waxing eloqent, and all is right with the world. Pour yourself another cup and get another piece of toast a’toasting. It’s the biggest goal you have to meet today. Life is pretty good, isn’t it?
And check out this functional and adorable coffee percolator. It is hearty, fun to use, stainless steel so it’s easy to clean and easy to pack!
Texsport Stainless Steel Coffee Pot Percolator for Outdoor Camping
And on a side note . . . in case you indulged a little too heartily with the brandy flask last night around the campfire . . . did you know that burnt toast will help a hangover? Yep. It will settle your tummy-brain upset just like that. Works every time! Maybe Bill should have switched his order from Palamino Gold to Burnt Black!
And you must watch this . . . I love this video! I guarantee that if you watch it once, you are going to watch it twice. So lovely of a tune and so imaginative. And that’s a heck of a lot of toast that went into the making of this very artistic video. Kudos to OK Go!
Boots here, signing off.
Wishing you happy trails of perfectly-toasted toast and a satisfying tale to go with it.
Life is a lively event. Watch your toast, drink coffee, and get to it.
What’s stopping you? xox Boots the Badass Coffee Babe
Boots the Badass Coffee Babe here to talk Percolator Coffee . . . Are you thinking that this brewing method is just too old-timey or outdated or un-hipster-esque? Does the image of a percolator bring back your mother’s or grandmother’s Wednesday morning kaffee klatch? Or a church supper? Or a rousing Saturday night of Polish polka on a waxed dance floor? Or Uncle Dean’s summer mountain cabin? Or old-timey conversating between the old folk sitting around a kitchen table?
I can’t think about percolators without hearkening back to my very early childhood and my morning-grumpy, bootlegging, Polish grandmother. It was at this tender age that I learned the life lesson that caffeine serves as an Adult Lifeline and Morning Saviour. And another thing that I learned: Don’t mess with Grandma’s coffee and no one will get hurt.
Ignorance is bliss, or so they say. What I considered to be an innocent Borrowing turned out to be an act of Brazen Temerity: I borrowed (translate: nearly lost) the glass plug that fits into the percolator lid for my playtime pleasure. I was setting up an opulent mud-pie party for my dollies and, after scavenging the kitchen cupboards and drawers for Items of Elegance, I came across the glass perking plug — which was to become the most perfect and elegant crystal teacup. I didn’t give it another thought until the next morning . . .
. . . when my caffeine deprived grandmother went on a cussing rampage while she looked for the necessary glass plug. Looking back, she probably dropped the equivalent of a few muttered F-bombs, but as for me being the Guilty Party who had absconded with such an Integral Element of her Morning Ritual? Well, I was quaking in my Buster Browns, I am telling you.
If you have never heard someone cussing enthusiastically in Polish, you will not understand how terrifying and mesmerizing this was to my innocent, yet guilty, little soul. To put it plainly, Grandma wanted her coffee and she wanted it bad. And I knew that my intrepid borrowing had led to this moment of extremely-motivating personal terror.
Grandma searched the dish drainer, the kitchen junk drawer, and garden bucket of peelings. It didn’t take long for me to realize the error in my judgment, the epiphany of which sent me on a reconnaissance mission to Recover the Crystal Grail. I found said Grail out in the sand box and, surreptitiously so, replaced it in the dish drainer that my grandmother had already checked 3 or 4 times. It was gritty and dirty and it bore all the signs of having been abused by someone who was not yet of an age that could fully appreciate the Sanctity of the Crystal Grail.
Sigh. I get it now. Mr. Shakespeare had it right: “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” My anguish could have been greatly minimized had I simply fessed up to Grandma and asked her to help me find it. I don’t know. I still feel mildly twitchy when I think back on this event. William Shakespeare wrote: “The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good an ill together.” In other words, All’s Well That Ends Well — as his play is so aptly entitled.
Mr. Shakespeare knew his stuff. Being a sensitive kid and a quick learner of Human Nature in the Morning, I was never to borrow The Crystal Grail again. All I can say is thank God for Saint Rita, the Patron Saint of Desperate Causes, for I was able to recover the Precious Plug. My grandmother received her morning dose of caffeine, and all was, once again, right with the world. Like Helen, in Mr. Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, life sometimes does end with a nice, neat ribbon tied ’round the Event. And like Bill tries to tell us: Don’t worry. Be happy. It’s all good. You’re gonna be fine. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things are going to turn out fine in the end. And don’t mess with an Uncaffeinated Grandma.
So, if you are like me and you like happy endings and you like to have more than one gizmo for making coffee in your kitchen, why not add one more? A percolator is fun, retro, and old school. It has all of these cool parts that fit together kind of like Tinker Toys, and you will experience the beauty of making coffee with Essential Parts of a Greater Whole.
And people who perk say that perk coffee is the best. After seeing my grandmother’s Tizzy Fit unfold, I am a believer. So why not try it? The percolator pot isn’t expensive to buy, and you will always be ready for whatever coffee emergency that may occur.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF USING A PERCOLATOR?
Why use a percolator . . . when you already have a French press or an automatic drip machine or a pour-over cone or an espresso machine? Here are some reasons why it might be a good idea to have a coffee percolator in your coffee arsenal:
You live in an area where you have frequent power outages.
You live off the grid.
You’ve run out of fine-grind coffee for your espresso machine and your grinder only does a coarse-grind.
You feel like doing something to honor Throwback Thursday.
Your grandparents are coming to visit and this is the only coffee they like to drink.
You like to try new things.
You are going camping and you want something that is super simple and unbreakable to bring along for your coffee brewing.
You like the look of a percolator on the campfire grate.
You feel inspired to belt out cowboy songs when you hear the percolator bubbling.
You feel a sense of magic when you see the coffee perking into the glass top plug.
You think of your grandmother and wish that you had learned how to cuss in Polish from her when you had the chance.
IS PERCOLATION A DINOSAUR BREW METHOD?
Is it a generational thing? Are percolators going the way of cursive handwriting and mental math? I don’t think so. There are many people who still use this method of brewing. And I know a few people who are pretty proud to make coffee with such a cool, retro looking pot.
HOW THE HECK DO YOU USE A PERCOLATOR?
This is a great question. And I’m not going to lie. It was TOUGH to find a decent video about percolating coffee to share with you. I came across this particular one with Quaker Anne and said Eureka! She walks you through the steps and convinces you that percolating is the way to go. I especially like the way she talks about her special coffee treat of adding pure maple syrup and cream to her coffee as she is relaxing at the end of the video. It looks like this gal knows how to savor and enjoy life’s little pleasures. Check it out. It goes for almost ten minutes, but it is kind of restful and meditative to watch.
Quaker Kitchen: Stovetop Percolator Coffee (9:56)
As Quaker Anne so wisely says: “That which is worth having is worth waiting for. I am thinking that QA is one smart cookie.
And here is a recipe/summary of QA’s How-To video:
Use excellent coffee of a coarse grind . . . Grind is Essential
Use good water . . . Good Water is Essential
Use the right proportions of water to grounds . . . Proportion is Essential: (I don’t agree with Quaker Ann . . . As a rule, I use 2 T. per 8 ozwater for brewing any coffee with any method.)
Spread coffee evenly around basket and place lid on basket put in coffee pot and put all of the Percolator Guts into the pot..
Assemble all of the pieces . . . oh, and make sure that the glass bubble is secure. You don’t want it to go percolating off the top of your pot. Messy clean-up.
Put pot on stove and turn heat up to a medium heat and wait for the coffee to start percolating. People who perk love this sound. And who wouldn’t? Coffee is on the way!
When coffee begins to perk . . . turn temp down so coffee gently perks. You don’t want a raging inferno perking into the glass bubble. Think Gentle.
Set a timer for approximately 8 minutes.
Do not over perk. Turn heat off right away.
Let the percolator sit for about one minute to let all water drain through the basket.
IMPORTANT: Pour the percolated coffee into a thermos or an insulated carafe. There will be no microwaving coffee on Boots’ watch! Keep it properly hot and you won’t have to reheat it!
And I like QA’s idea to use real maple syrup as a sweetener. Have you tried it yet? It is as special a treat as she describes.
Shopping tips:Buy a stainless steel or a granite ware percolator. Stay away from aluminum.
Have fun with this! I love trying new ways to make coffee, don’t you? Plus, it’s nice to have a dependable way to make coffee the next time a lofty windstorm pushes some giant Douglas firs down across the power lines. At least you’ll have your percolator to fortify your day with some Joe!
Life is a lively event. Percolate some coffee, pull up a chair, and get to it.
What’s stopping you?
Happy Shopping for Cups, Percolators, & Carafes below!
For starters, how about these Retro cups for your freshly-percolated coffee? I love these cups! Makes me think of all of those Kaffee Klatches that my grandma shared with her other Polish-speaking friends. I couldn’t understand a word, but I enjoyed their stories, nonetheless. Momugs Unique Retro Hit Color Ceramic Coffee Cup with Spoon and Saucer Set, 10 oz mug, Orange http://amzn.to/1Qee3iB
And for those times when the percolator glass knobs go missing! 2 pack Fitz-All Replacement Percolator Top, Small (2) http://amzn.to/1SdkNYk
And every kitchen should have at least one carafe: 304 Stainless Steel Double Walled Vacuum Insulated Carafe with Press Button Top, Quality Thermal Carafe, Water Pitcher with Lid, coffee Pots, Serving Pitchers Coffee Thermos, 2-liter,Silver http://amzn.to/1UJol6y
Panesor 2 Liter(68 Ounce) Coffee Carafe Thermal, Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Carafe, Hot and Cold 24 hours http://amzn.to/1YC0cV7
Boots here. Your Badass Coffee Babe shooting like a star from the hip today and telling it like it is. With the advent of Father’s Day, I am reminded of many things . . . memories of life-in-general this past year concerning my own father . . . times that now feel to be long ago and quite far away. I was thinking back to the summer when my father came to visit me up at my cabin and how, bored out of his gourd with no television for a week, he split enough firewood to last me nearly a month. I can still see that stack of split wood and that look of satisfaction of a job-well-done on his face, happy he was leaving me, his daughter, with the gift of time away from the woodshed splitting block.
These memories of life, love, firewood, and family have an odd way of percolating to the surface. During my time of living in that cabin, located on that effortful and toilsome trail, I met my share of fathers who wanted to share their love of the great outdoors with their sons and daughters. You can tell a lot about human nature by the way a parent introduces adversity and misery to their children regarding clouds of mosquitoes, leaking tents, smoky fires, forgotten necessities, and squirrel-pillaged rations. One father who stands tall in my memory is a man I call Caroline-y, a father who came huffing and puffing up the trail with his son Bud on one Especially-Rainy Day.
I was holed up in the cabin and feeling pretty darned certain that no one – and I mean no one – was going to be coming up the trail in all of that rain to ask about fishing, boats, horses, directions, or firewood. No, it was Flat Out Raining — a classic Pouring-Down-Your-Tin-Pants-Straight-Into-Your-Boots kind of rain. The kind of rain that says to you that you might as well just forget about the woolly sweater, the slicker, and the rubber poncho and just stay inside.
Anyone who has spent any time working out in the woods knows that, at a certain point, trying to “stay dry” under a steaming, streaming rubber poncho actually feels wetter than just going with the Literal Flow from the Heavens Above and accepting the fact that you are going to be soaked to the skin anyway. It might as well be God’s good replenishing water, rather than your own poncho-created condensation. There is some Measure of Liberation in just going with the way Nature is funneling life’s elements your way. Sometimes life is best if you don’t fight it and you just go with the Flow.
So, there I was. Rain drumming on the metal roof of the cabin. My feet propped up on the oven door and sitting just an easy arm’s length from my cup of Joe that was staying nice and hot on the stove-side warming tray. It was a day for getting caught up on my reading and for thinking about getting started on some chores that were on the list for Needing Doing that day.
I was dreaming my way through a supply catalog when the dogs came barreling out from behind the cookstove. They went tearing out the woodbox door– setting up a violent ruckus. I wondered, Who the hell would be out on the trail on a day like today?
Now the back door of my cabin didn’t set much more than 10 or so yards from the trail – the close proximity of which didn’t bother me much. I lived on a lake in the middle of a wilderness area surrounded by Absolute Nowhere that was only accessible by float plane or by trail. The trail to the lake was steep and had a way of winnowing out those who weren’t interested in mastering some serious elevation gain and the general hiking population, at best, was quite sparse.
The back door of the cabin was also my front door, as I never quite finished building the necessary deck and steps that would connect the Hanging Front Door to Terra Firma. You can bet that I kept the “front door” barricaded and locked from the inside, not wanting Anybody’s Fool to go through it and then ass over teakettle onto the dirt below, mistakenly thinking it was the nearest exit to the Bank. (The Bank being the Outhouse, thusly named by my illustrious predecessor.)
I suspected that the dogs might be barking at the arrival of the horses. Now these horses were a wily lot. They ran loose on the Rarity of Open Pasture – meaning that their only “fences” were purely topographical features – and it was a rip-roaring, two-dog-alarm when they tried to sneak in to the homestead through the criss-crossing game trails that led to the salt lick from the Bird Meadow. These horses were smart — smart enough to resort to covert actions, knowing that the odds were good to pretty-damned-great that they would be caught and captured and then put to work packing supplies up the hill from down below.
The sneaky devils generally came stealing in at nighttime for salt – or at least as stealthily as a one-ton animal can manage. The dogs barked with the same amount of gusto in the wee hours of the night upon their unannounced arrival, but I never felt obligated to go chasing horses at night – beings as their eyes pick up light much better in darker conditions than we humans can. The odds were certainly with them escaping against me capturing, what with me giving chase and tripping through the understory with a flashlight in one hand and a halter and oat bucket in the other. It was quite the scene to be certain, me stumbling and cussing and them flicking their tails and horse-laughing their rumps off.
Well, the dogs were barking beyond their usual call of Advance, dear woman! The evasive equines are noshing up at the salt lick! (In case you hadn’t surmised, I had some seriously eloquent canines.) I had no choice but to remove my backside from my place of comfort by the fire and check out the barking brouhaha.
I looked out the window and saw no sign of the Sneaky Devils up at the barn trying to get a nip of salt before bolting back into the forest. What I did see were two people, one adult and one kid who must have been about 10 years old, standing in the middle of trail looking puzzled by the anomalous sight of the cabin. They looked more soaked than two otters who just came in off the river for a spot of dry refreshment. The father was hacking and wheezing like a dedicated smoker and the kid just looked like a miserable human being who was not rightly into this whole idea of male bonding on this particular day of inclement weather.
I grabbed my slicker from the hook on the back of the door and went outside to ask them if they were lost. They explained that they were camped down below and saw this trail and wanted to see where it led. I think that their use of the collective pronoun we was a stretch, as the kid just kept his head down – trying to keep the stream of rain that was coming off his yellow-blonde forelock from getting in his eyes. I knew that feeling of Rain Misery and I felt for the kid.
I heard myself asking them if they wanted to come get warm in the cabin. The dad started to say Nah so I added, “I have water on to boil. I can make some cocoa for your wet friend here.” They came in and crowded around my table-for-one – a slab of wood hinged to the wall of the cabin that I pulled up and set on those rare occasions when I wanted to eat on a flat surface – generally preferring a chair leaned up next to the warmth of the stove.
They took off their wet gear — super-soaked cotton hoodies — and I went outside to give their gear a good shake and a wring before hanging it to dry on the pegs behind the stove. Having resumed their Station behind the cookstove, the dogs gave me forlorn looks each time one of them got pinged by a drop of water from the soaked hoodies. Truth: You just have to respect the look that a wronged and faithful dog can give you, so I moved the hoodies down the peg rail to a spot that did not promise future misery for the pups.
I made cocoa-for-two and managed to find a bag of wrinkly-looking marshmallows in the pantry that some long-ago camper had left with me in trade for the use of my ax. The kid didn’t mind that the marshmallows were old and seasoned. It was evident that he was simply grateful to be somewhere warm and dry.
The dad did all of the talking – giving up a string of bullshit stories from when he lived in the woods in the good state of North Caroline-y. That’s how he pronounced it: Caroline-y. He talked about the wood smoker that his Pap (Yes, he even said Pap) used to cure the venison and how they used to chop wood the same way I did.
It was midway through his yarn spinning that Caroline-y pulled a Milky Way candy bar out of his shirt pocket and started to eat it. Right there in front of the kid. The kid spoke aloud — which surprised me — as he hadn’t said a word up until then, and he asked his pap if he could have some. Caroline-y just gave him an appraising look and kept chawing away on his Milky Way while saying, “Sorry, Bud. Ate yours, Bud.”
The cabin grew a clumsy feeling – like a low-pressure Cloud of Awkward blowing through. It could have been the way I froze when I looked at Bud, who was looking mighty embarrassed for taking the chance to ask aloud. I walked over to Bud and plopped an extra handful of marshmallows into his still-steaming cocoa and said, “You’ve got to help me eat these, Bud. I’m allergic to marshmallows.”
The story really doesn’t go anywhere beyond this point, other than the rain stopping and me handing their more-dry-than-when-they-arrived hoodies back to them and pointing them back down the trail to their camp. For some reason that line of Caroline-y’s stayed with me though: Sorry, Bud. You ate yours, Bud.
In the years since, I have worked my thoughts all the way around that Sorry Bud line. I understand the concept of Real Life Tough Love and teaching young ones the value of not always being handed every darned thing that they might want or demand. Truth: the kid had eaten his own Milky Way on the trail. And just because you opt to consume your portion first, doesn’t mean that you deserve a share of someone else’s Delayed Gratification Efforts. Justice has a way of prevailing in Life when it comes to this. And it should.
But still . . .
Life does offer us a whole lot of Extenuating Circumstances as well. Take a Soaking Rain for example. Or Going Along with someone else’s Genius Plan to hike up to God-Knows-Where in a Drenching Downpour. Or not being dressed right for the weather. Or the thought that floats a little higher than Caroline-y’s brand of Sorry-Bud Justice is the one that says Why not say I love you without saying it out loud? Just hand over half of the Milky Way and everyone wins.
As you can probably tell, my feelings tip to the side of Extenuating Circumstances and saying I love you without using words. I think that there are always going to be other ways and times to teach the Real Life stuff to our loved ones. Why not extend the Magic of the Completely Unexpected . . . the warmth and the dry and the hot cocoa in a stranger’s cabin in the middle of a crazy downpour . . . just for that extra second longer and cut the damned candy bar in half and hand it over . . . all with a smile that says Ain’t life great?
I don’t know. Lest you think that I am judging here . . . I’m not. And I am. I think of that day and I hope that Bud knows that there are people in the world that will have his back, even if it’s only with past-their-prime desiccated marshmallows. Life has taught me that there’s a whole heck of a lot of grace to offer. And to be universally fair, I am hoping that Caroline-y gets his share of grace, too.
So that’s it from me, Boots the Badass Coffee Babe, on the brink of Father’s Day 2016. This is the first year when I do not have the need to send a greeting card or make a phone call to my father, as he passed away this past December. I think about the years when my Father’s Day cards were late and when I didn’t call on Sunday. It makes a part of my heart droop to the sad side, and I hope that my father understands.
That’s the thing about my dad. Even now in these Days of Loss, he lets me know. There are days when I can feel him extending me the bigger half of a Milky Way candy bar that isn’t rightly mine to have, and I accept it with a hungry gratitude and a thankfulness in my heart. If there is anything I have learned this past year it is this: Life turns on a dime. And it spins on an axis that is provided by our parents who bring us into the world so we can learn about the dizzying gift of extended grace.
It feels odd and strangely marvelous to think that I have stood on the same planet all of these years past with my father, streaking through the Milky Way together . . . and I wonder. Like looking up at a cloudless sky at all of its nightly glory, it’s hard not to wonder. I stand out under the starlight and I see the faint remnants of our galaxy and I send Milky Way love to my father, a man whom I didn’t always understand yet I loved all the same. And I know he loved me.
For all of those Milky Way moments of grace and love and forgiveness that you extended to me, I thank you, Dad. From the bottom my heart and to the ends of the Universe. Truly. I wish you a Happy Father’s Day.
This song is the BEST. Please, take a moment of quiet to listen.
Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers out there.
Remember . . . life is a lively event that will spin on a dime.
Share your candy bar, drink coffee, and get to it.
Boots the Badass Coffee Babe here! It’s nearly summertime, so I am thinking that it’s time to branch out into the Arena of Pie. Campfire Pie. You might be thinking: Pie out on the trail? Yes, indeed! with good old-fashioned Pie Irons. Check them out below . . . they are so much fun! I’m hoping that you find these Pie Irons to be as gadget-y and interesting as I do! And so simple and magical, too.
I don’t know about you, but there are stories galore that come to mind when I think Pie — stories that are steeped in family tradition from childhood holidays and birthdays and stories that take me back to a time when I found myself in the midst of an undeclared Pie War. I guess you could say that Pie is an Emotional Food that has the power to stir love, guilt, stubbornness, creativity, and forgiveness. And I don’t think I can think the word Pie without reminiscing about an important personage from my past whom I will call Pie King henceforth.
Pie King was an old-timer for whom I worked a short summer season in a remote fishing camp located up in the high country. The camp was in the midst of a roadless area that had with zero amenities, so you can imagine how beautiful and pristine it all was. Pure silence and clean darkness at night. No electricity, no running water, no telephone. Camp was only accessible by trail or by float plane, so business was slow and spotty — thus allowing for time better spent rowing, swimming, reading, writing, roving, and just plain thinking. And getting all of the chores done, too.
The chores that came with the job weren’t really all that bad: renting the occasional rowboat, bucking up some firewood, splitting wood for the cookstove, filling and trimming the kerosene lamps, doing a little bit of cooking, going down the hill to pick up mail from the Mail Boat . . . this sort of thing. It all kept me pretty busy in an unruffled sort of way. Pie King declared me Hired Girl #10 — a name that didn’t take a lot of figuring to figure out. I was part of a Hired Girl (HG) lineage — #10 in a string of outdoorsy women who had come and gone before me, leaving the HG legacy with an imprint stamped with their virtues, their idiosyncrasies, and their imperfections — all defined and assigned by Pie King.
Pie King had a habit of using the other Hired Girls’ virtues as a way to get what he wanted. He also had a habit of using the other HG’s imperfections as a way to get what he wanted. During the Pie War, I thought of Pie King as an Epic Manipulator, but now I would say that he was simply a Good Read of Human Nature. Most people essentially want to Please, especially so in the radiant light of a predecessor’s Halo of Sainthood. Pie King understood this Wishing-to-Please component of human nature. I wouldn’t say that he exactly exploited it, but I also wouldn’t say that he didn’t. After all, there are fine lines crackled and drawn all over life and, with enough backstory, I think the lines get a little blurred and sometimes even erased.
Mr. Pie King spent that entire summer trying to trick, guilt, dog, and wheedle me into making him a pie. I was also soon to learn that Pie King claimed to have worked out his version of the Zen of Pie thing. He said he could judge someone’s character based on their Relationship with Pie. In fact, Pie was one of my interview questions — one that, with Pie hindsight, I now know was the Weighing Grace as to whether or not I would become the Privileged Hired Girl who would be swamping this old timer’s boats, cutting his firewood, and laying his Morning Fire in the cold cookstove each night. The interview question: Do you know how to make pie? My answer: Yes. His answer: You’re hired.
Now I know what some of you might be thinking: Let the Wookie win and just make him the damned pie. But it was more complicated than this. I knew — or maybe I should say intuited — that once I made that first pie, I was going to be chained to the cook cabin for the rest of the summer. Which was NOT going to happen. Not on Boots the Badass Coffee Babe’s watch. And would you feel any differently? Option A: spend glorious, pristine days working outdoors in the unspoiled high country? Or Option B: spend the summer in a dark cabin peeling fruit, rolling crust, spicing filling, and baking the danged pie? I don’t need to tell you which option I preferred.
It wasn’t so much that I disliked cooking and baking, but between hauling water, breakfast clean up, morning chores, and the mandatory chess game at lunchtime — I wanted to be free to roam the great OUTDOORS. At first Pie King made passive references when I was leaving the cabin for my daily-afternoon-off: Wouldn’t a slice of pie taste good right about now? When that didn’t work, he wheedled. Then he demanded. He even tried pouting and giving me the silent treatment. All for Pie. I simply didn’t get it.
His was not a personality to give up a cause once he started to wave the flag. Nor was mine. I, being of sound and stubborn mind, body, and spirit, was not about to give in. The thought of firing up the cookstove mid-day to a 400-degree oven on a 90-degree summer day was NOT going to happen. If it had been the middle of winter? Sure. Why not? But middle of summer in the high country? No. Mr. Pie King was just going to have to wait until October started to chill the air with the promise of day-long fires. Above all, given the stories of Glorious Hired Girls past, I wasn’t about to start a precedent that I knew I was not willing to continue.
The Battle must ensue! Or so it seemed until one day when I was mucking out the barn. I was digging through some old camp boxes when I came across some old rusting Pie Irons. They were in need of a good clean-up, but they were certainly serviceable and a goodly remedy to our sparring match over pie or its lack therein.
That night after supper I got a good bed of coals going in the fire-pit down by the lake before surprising Pie King with the Pie Irons. It was one of those beautiful high-country nights. One with swallows and bats streaking and darting across the sky taking care of the mosquito population. Stars pricked the canopy while a dry moon hung above us while we baked pies. I kept the coffee hot above the coals while we baked pies in silence — a good earnest silence. The kind of silence that marked a truce and that laid to rest any animosity that had been brewing in the weeks previous.
Pie King asked me to run up to the cabin and get his stash of Irish Whiskey. We had nudges and we baked a few more pies to have for breakfast the next morning before letting the coals die down. He surprised me by laughing and saying he had to hand it to me for sticking to my guns. That I was skookum. That I was the longest hold-out that he had ever had in the Hired Girl line-up. And that I somehow still not only didn’t make pie but he made his own pie in the end.
I laughed, not really knowing what to say. How do you say thank you after waging such a war-of-wills and then sort of winning. Not the stuff of humility and grace. But still. I still think I read the situation rightly. I guess there is something to be said for diligence and perseverance in the face of battle, albeit a battle waged in the Pie War.
He told me that he had almost married once to a woman named Lorna. They had had a squabble over — you guessed it — Pie, among other things. Their incompatibility had reared its complicated head over an incongruous list of baseball, whiskey, cork boots, and general lifestyle. How Pie figured into it, I didn’t ask. I didn’t mine for details and he didn’t offer much more than he thought that Lorna was likely The One who had gotten away.
I wasn’t expecting any kudos for having been so damned stubborn to an old man who could play heartstrings like they were tuned on a fiddle. It’s sometimes hard to feel any pride when winning a tug-of-war kind of battle. But, looking back, I think he admired that I was willing to give as good he gave — and come up with a solution that suited us both in the end. Maybe that is what he had hoped would happen with Lorna.
Maybe this is what life sometimes is. A series of solutions that give as good as they take and that leave everyone feeling both pretty banged up and danged good in the end. A happy ending? I don’t know. I’m not the one with the Pie Zen experience.
We ended up having a few more Pie Iron shots of whiskey before the fire died down. The rest of the season passed without Grand Incident, and I packed up my duds in early October. Times change and we with times but not in the ways of Pie Iron friendship. I sent Pie King a home-baked apple pie up on the float plane each summer to commemorate a war well waged. He never thanked me but he didn’t have to. Sometimes you can let the Wookie win post-war.
Perhaps this story has gone for too long. Back to Pie Irons! Check them out . . . so much fun! Pie out on the trail? Grilled Cheese? Breakfast sandwiches? Fried potatoes? Sloppy Joes? French toast? Yes to all of these great trail options.
So check out the fun products and cookbooks below! I tried to find a good video for you . . . . and just wasn’t finding one. I did find a blog with some recipes (Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast and Stuffed Hash Browns) that sounded pretty though so I am sharing it with you below.
And is there anything that goes better with Pie than Coffee? (And Irish whiskey?) True, you might say whipped cream, ice cream, cheddar cheese, or yogurt . . . but they don’t call me Boots the Badass Yogurt Babe. I’m all about Coffee as you know, and I would contest that Coffee and Pie are the peanut butter and jelly, the peas and carrots, the wheat-grass and kale of the culinary world. You can argue with me, and you’ll win. After all, I’m an easy going kind of buck-a-rina, as evidenced by my summer of working out The Pie Accord with the Pie King.
Check out this super cool Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator — like the kind that Pie King kept going on the cookstove throughout the morning. I love the sounds of a percolator, don’t you? So retro, cute, and good!
Howdy to all of you super-outdoorsy souls who are planning your menu for this summer’s camping, climbing, rafting, bicycling, kayaking, or hiking trip. It’s a general truth that dehydrated meals are the way to go when you’re going to be carrying any kind of weight on your back or in your boat . . . and it’s also a general truth that while some of these ready-made meals that you buy in expensive outdoor stores are pretty darned good, others are, at best, kind of mediocre. Why not set mediocrity aside and start each day on the trail with a fresh and energizing cup of Bircher muesli? It’s easy to make, it’s healthful, and it tastes great!
Bircher muesli is one of those meals that tastes good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is a healthy and creative choice that tastes good if you roughly follow the script of oats, fruit, coconut, honey, nuts, berries . . . you get the idea. It’s made of good stuff that is easy to pack and you can prepare it in advance of the trip. And the best part? Muesli doesn’t require any cooking, which makes it an ideal choice for those trips that are going to include some dry camps. Easy, healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare . . . you can’t get it wrong.
I started packing my own version of Bircher muesli the summer that Mitch the Mobius joined the trail crew as Camp Cook. This particular crew worked trail up in the high High Country so the work season was short. We made summer base camp at one of the high lakes once the snow receded and the supply horses could make it up the trail. We operated as Trail Rovers who did trail maintenance, cleaned up camp sites, and packed out a whole heck of a lot of annoying garbage from the High Country. Depending on the destination, one might have to pack some overnight gear to cover the necessary miles — but, as a rule, we all generally did our best to return to camp each night to eat around the fire and sleep in our roomy, canvas wall tents.
We actually had it pretty good in camp, as it was stocked at the beginning of each season with gear and supplies, compliments of Sam, Jim, and Katy — our much-appreciated district pack horses. At the beginning of the summer, we had brief and glorious access to butter, eggs, cheese, and cream . . . and we even had an ice cream maker for our season-end Ice Cream Feed — the snowfields providing us with just enough “ice” to “freeze” the cream. Albeit, the ice cream ran a bit on the soft side, but it was pure 100% wilderness luxury.
Mitch the Mobius was what you would call an Unknown Quantity. He came from Havre, Montana, and was a self-professed jack-of-all-trades. I don’t know about the veracity of his self-professing, but one thing we were quick to learn about Mitch: He was an Ace Bull Shitter who ruled camp with a Mighty Spoon. What Mitch made, we were to eat . . . all according to the Rules of Mitch. And that was that. His was a simple system: Whatever we didn’t finishing eating the night before was added to breakfast. Whatever we didn’t finish eating at breakfast was added to dinner. And so it went. This might not sound that bad, but think back to your past few meals. And imagine combining them all together. Trust me. It’s a bad idea.
Mitch wasn’t that great of a cook to begin with . . . and then add to this fact Mitch’s Recycled Leftovers . . . well, dinner started to feel more like a punishment than a satiating pleasure. Example: If you’ve ever had Montana chili added to your morning oatmeal, you’ll know what I mean. Think about it. Do you add brown sugar and milk to the concoction? Or Tapatio sauce and alfalfa sprouts? Or do what we ended up doing and that was to add nothing at all and simply eat it for its value of mixed-media sustenance. It was always a tough choice, one that we didn’t feel we should have to be making. I mean how hard is it to make a simple, decent, edible meal?
No matter how much complaining we did, Mitch stuck to his Zero Tolerance Policy of Leftovers. Mitch added dinner macaroni to breakfast scrambled eggs, and he then added said macaroni-scrambled eggs to beef barley soup for dinner. There was no end to the ludicrous chain of combinations. Leftover Morning Coffee was used as the liquid ingredient for dinner cornbread –> coffee-cornbread went into the next day’s breakfast pancakes –> coffee-cornbread-pancakes went into dinner biscuits. I think you get the idea. You had the sense that what had been served as our first meal our first night in camp was still morphing itself in Mitch’s Petri Pot of Anthropological Proportions — resulting in an enduro of marathon indigestion that would only end when we ate our final camp meal in early September.
The more we complained, I swear, the more we were subjected to Mitch’s One-Man Campaign of Retaliation and he made even larger portions at meal time . . . meaning that even more Special Ingredients were destined to be added to Mitch’s next Mazy Meal. And on it went. We were caught up in Mitch’s Infinite Mobius Meal Plan of Frugal Retribution. As I could see it, there was no solution to the dilemma other than to take up fasting.
This is when I started to make my own Bircher muesli. I could guarantee that I was going to start my day right with food that wouldn’t sucker-punch my gut later in the morning. And it was simple. I would soak my muesli in my mess kit the night before and hang it in the bear bag. Voila! Instant healthful breakfast awaiting my morning.
The rest of the crew became privy to the Revelation of my Bircher meusli breakfast and, before you knew it, we were all hoisting Survival Quantities of muesli up the cable in the bear bag each evening. The result? We weren’t eating Mitch’s cuisine quite as desperately and Mitch’s leftovers started to back up on Mitch in a big way. Even Mitch couldn’t think of what to do next with his Salami Corn Salsa French Toast Chicken à la King if we weren’t going to consent to eat it.
Plus, the side benefits of us planning on muesli for breakfast is that we could snack on some of the raw ingredients for lunch when we were out on the trail. Muesli: a win-win choice. And a big Paleo Prize for us Rebels with a Righteous Nutritional Cause.
It all came round right when the district’s horse wrangler came up the hill to pack our gear out for the season. It was Tradition that the wrangler would come bearing berries for pie and cream for the ice cream maker. All of us were quite vocal, along with some strident cussing, that Mitch was not to lay the breath of a single fingerprint on our end-of-season Berry Pie a la Mode. No, as much as we all knew the rules of the trail to respect Camp Cookie, Mitch was not going to throw a tangle into our Ice Cream Soiree.
Which just goes to show the power of Tradition. We were willing to endure substandard, mean-spirited, frugal, gut-bomb meals for an entire season . . . but mess with our pie and ice cream? We became a pack of mama bears protecting our beloved cubs. The season was drawing to a conclusion, and we realized that we had somehow survived Mitch’s splenetic temperament and gastronomic combinations, for better or for worse.
I am happy to say, Mitch didn’t return to camp the following summer. We heard that he fell in love with some gal from Missoula whom he met while grocery shopping in the meat department of Safeway and they were fixing to get hitched. I wondered if she knew what she was getting into, what with Mitch’s extreme frugality and hard-line philosophy, but who can say what wins out in the ways of love? And food to boot? Certainly not me. All I have to say is congratulations and best wishes to the couple.
All Mitch matters aside, here is one really simple recipe for Bircher muesli to make at home. Once you read through the ingredients, you are going to see why there isn’t really any specifically-measured list of ingredients for this home and camp winner. And I don’t know a lot about Gordon Ramsay, but I am thinking that he knows his way around a muesli recipe.
Ingredients2-1/3 cups rolled oats
1-3/4 cups low-fat milk
1 tbsp runny honey
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
Apple juice to taste
Step 1: Put rolled oats in a bowl and pour on milk (or enough to moisten). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.
Step 2: Coarsely grate an apple over the oats, discarding the core and seeds.
Step 3: Stir in honey and plain yogurt. Add a splash of apple juice or a little more milk to loosen the mixture if it is too thick. Serve drizzled with a little more honey and topped with fresh berries and toasted walnuts.
AND . . . FOR YOU GOOD HIKERS, CAMPERS, GLAMPERS, RAFTERS, CLIMBERS . . . ETC.
If you are camping, hiking, etc. . . .
Don’t worry about the yogurt. You can bring powdered milk or you can bring a container of almond, coconut, hemp, or rice milk in its stead.
Substitute dried fruits for the fresh fruit and brown sugar for the honey.
I make the oat mixture ahead of my trip and then add almond milk when I get to camp. Muesli can be eaten by soaking it first overnight or soaking it when you are making your coffee or by eating it raw. It’s your choice! That is the beauty of muesli.
Here’s my general recipe:
rolled oats: start with about 2 cups and then go from there, depending on how many other ingredients you add
nuts: walnuts, almonds
seeds: sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp
dried fruits: apple, apricots, pineapple, golden raisins, cherries
coconut, shredded or flakes
cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla
Have fun with this! And check out the containers below for carrying your muesli mix and for your milk of choice.
Boots here to extol the virtues of Dutch ovens, S’mores, Guatemalan coffee beans . . . and to warn against the vice of imbibing too much Hooch and then finding yourself way out of your league when it comes to campfire games!
What you need for this twist on a campfire classic: A good fire? Check. Dutch oven? Check. Campfire coals? Perfect. S’mores ingredients? Check. Time to make some Dutch Oven S’mores!
This is a whole different take on making S’mores. I know that 1) poking the fire with a stick is a whole lot of fun and 2) tempting the flames with a marshmallow at the end of a stick is even more fun. Will it toast up buckskin tan or will it incinerate into a lump of carbon?
This Dutch oven recipe takes the wondering out of the equation. And everyone can enjoy their S’mores at the same time once you lift the oven’s lid. Also, making the S’mores this way eliminates that marshmallow-eating Chubby Bunny contest (a campfire game for amateurs, at best) that has a tendency to heat up between competitive cousins and liquored-up uncles. [Spoken by the wrangler who has seen too many campfire scenes that cannot be unseen.]
This way, while your treats are baking away in the Dutch oven, you all can turn your attention to telling ghost stories or to playing a rousing game of Shoeking! instead and see who just might end up hiking back down the trail the next day in his stocking feet. [Note: Now this game of balancing your boot on your toes and flipping it back over your head and not into the fire actually is morefun with liquored-up uncles.]
I’ll never forget the summer I watched a whole troop of good ol’ boys — all of whom looked to be bearing the Divine Punishment — leaving camp The Morning After with most of them missing at least one shoe. All I could think was Those damned fools were playingShoeking! There was something about seeing their hangdog expressions and the dust cloud that followed their shuffling sock-footed procession that still makes me bust a gut.
This shoe-less band of travelers, clearly having partaken in a goodly portion of Hooch the night before, was in such rough shape when they doddered past the cabin that they hired me on the spot to saddle up Eagle to carry the heavier items from their camp down the hill. I sympathized. Of course I did. But there was a part of me that was thinking that there was going to be a whole lot of footsore at the end of the trail along with all of the blame and cussing that I was sure to bear witness to. One buckaroo kept saying over and over, “My Gawd, my Gawd.” Whether he was intervening for his sole-less foot or for his soul-less quaff from the night before, I couldn’t tell. The other guys kept telling him to Zip It, Chet! — knowing that maintaining low morale wasn’t going to help a single one of them get down the trail any sooner.
Chet couldn’t refrain from his mantra of misery, so the rest of the boys started to call Chet “Mr. Tenderfoot” and other such insulting monikers with additional colorful embroideries. I tried not to crack up and just kept Eagle steered down the trail ahead of the shoe-less pack, thinking that there are some stories in life that you just can’t make up. This was one of those stories.
I just don’t know. Life is funny and it is strange. And thank God for stories that entertain the Disbelieving Parts that dwell within. I can’t really say that participating in this experience enriched my life in any way, but I did file it away in my mental folder labeled “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” You know the stories. The Fact-is-stranger-than-Fiction stuff. The stories that cling to our memories’ heels through time for no apparent reason. I would like to think that the things I carry with me have some edifying value from time past, but this particular tale? It simply makes me laugh my ass off when I think back to that day.
Truth: laughter is its own medicine and these boys had given me a goodly dose as a result of their misguided and high-spirited Shoeking! folly.
But sorry stories aside, let’s get back to stuff that really matters like coffee, chocolate, and campfires . . . My coffee pairing recommendation for the sweet side of S’mores? I am thinking a Guatemalan coffee for this particular sweet. There is nothing like Guatemalan coffee paired with chocolate . . . although Arabian mocha beans are pretty great, too. Check out this single origin Guatemalan coffee after you have stocked up on the S’more goodies. You deserve good coffee with your campfire treat. And what a cute bag that comes with it!
1 package (14-1/2 ounces) whole graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Prepare grill or campfire for low heat, using 16-18 charcoal briquettes or large wood chips.
Line a Dutch oven with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Combine cracker crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom of the pan. Pour milk over crust and sprinkle with chocolate and butterscotch chips. Top with marshmallows.
Cover Dutch oven. When briquettes or wood chips are covered with white ash, place Dutch oven directly on top of six of them. Using long-handled tongs, place remaining briquettes on pan cover.
Cook for 15 minutes or until chips are melted. To check for doneness, use the tongs to carefully lift the cover.Yield: 12 servings.
It really is worth buying a Dutch oven. You can make so many different recipes that benefit from its even heat. You can use it hanging above the fire, in the coals, and in your oven at home. I love this homely old cast iron pot that eloquently says, “Good Cooking!” You won’t be sorry that you made the investment in something that is so versatile.
Boots, signing off and keeping my bootlaces tight! xox
Hey y’all. Boots here. And as we are going into hiking, camping, and glamping season, I am thinking about ways to keep your coffee hot and your coffee cold. In other words, we are going to be talking about thermal mugs, insulated containers, and the good ol’ homely, tried-and-true coffee thermos in the next few posts.
I can’t even think of the word thermos without thinking about this one couple who used to go out with us on the annual pack trip into the high country each August. Bill and Doreen Banks were regulars, and they were always toting the same damned banged-up green thermos each year.
Now this thermos had to be one of the most trail-worn thermoses I have even seen. It was one of those tall green Stanley models that looked like it had been handed down through the ages since the dawn of Manifest Destiny. You couldn’t help but think of all the lunch hours and picnics that this thermos must have poured its way through to get that mean looking. It was scarred up, dented, and ugly, and it truly was a testimony to the quality of the Stanley company’s product line. It was still keeping the Banks’ family coffee hot through all of the abuse it had been subjected to.
This couple, Bill and Doreen, would prepare their coffee together each morning before we saddled up and headed out for the day. They liked to have a little coffee break with their lunch, and experience had taught them that we didn’t build a fire for just a quick lunch along the trail. Hence, the necessity for the beloved Stanley.
One of them would pull the coffee boiler from the fire while the other readied the Sacred Stanley to receive its daily sacrament of Joe. Usually Bill poured and Doreen steadied. Doreen would cluck about the importance of being careful while Bill filled the Stanley to the very brim.
The funny thing was that these two were so proud of their Stanley. Like it was a badge of honor that they were still toting the same crappy-looking thermos that Bill’s dad had used when he was alive and working for Boeing.
Maybe it was a lesson in equating age-worn with beautiful. Maybe the Stanley was a testimony to their marriage and a symbol of the trust that they shared. Or maybe it was a lesson in forgiveness the way that Doreen didn’t cuss Bill out when he splashed her hands with hot coffee as she steadied the Stanley. Or maybe they were just super cheap people and weren’t about to replace function with shiny new.
I don’t know. It was way out of my ken. Other campers would comment on the Stanley’s condition, and Bill would launch into the story about how his dad, Bill the Second, carried it with him to work each day for 20 odd years — all while Doreen would talk over Bill’s tale, adding minor and odd details as to how old Bill’s dad was when he was forced to retire or how many years ago it had been when the two of them had laid claim to the Stanley after Bill Senior’s funeral.
The year came when Bill and Doreen arrived in camp, still with their beloved Stanley. The first morning in camp, I couldn’t help but notice that the thermos was missing its lid. A small part of me wanted to laugh — thinking that there must have been some lulu of a story to explain the carelessness or forgetfulness that led to the decapitated Stanley. I assumed that we would hear, in full Technicolor, the chain of events that would explain why their Stanley was missing its salutatory cap.
I imagined that Bill had left the cup on the hood of the car after a roadside coffee break, or Doreen had forgotten it on some boulder alongside a creek while picnicking. It wasn’t until the next morning, when I overheard Doreen fussing over Bill and insisting that he let her pour the coffee, that I knew something wasn’t quite right. Bill’s hands shook as he tried to steady the thermos for Doreen’s inexpert pouring.
I came to find out later that night over campfire coffee nudges that the Missing Stanley Cup incident was a result of Bill having been hospitalized for several weeks in the months prior. Doreen dutifully brought him his daily coffee in the trusty Stanley during his stay, and it was believed that one of the nurses on shift had thrown the cup/lid out, mistaking it for garbage. The outcome of Bill’s hospitalization was still uncertain and they weren’t sure what would allow for Bill in the coming year, but they were grateful that they were able to make one more trip together into the high country before things had the opportunity to go south.
Well, you could have knocked me over with a flicker feather the next year when Doreen showed up. Alone. What surprised me wasn’t that Doreen was toting that damned Stanley . . . it was that it had taken on another function as Urn. Doreen was carrying Bill’s ashes in it and was wanting to bury Bill up in the meadow at Emerald Camp.
We made camp late that afternoon at Emerald Camp and, after dinner, Doreen asked me if I would grab a camp shovel and walk with her. She stopped at a spot that Bill used to called Turtle Pie Rock. I never knew why he called it that, but Doreen was clear that that was the spot for Bill. What surprised me was that Doreen wasn’t planning to scatter Bill’s ashes; the Stanley was going to be buried in the hole right along with Bill.
I dug for a spell until Doreen told me to stop. She laid Bill and the Stanley to rest, and I can’t tell you how enormous that moment felt. I have been to funerals before, and have shed my share of tears. But this. Seeing someone being laid to rest in one of his favorite spots on the planet in a damned thermos gave me pause. I could see how our physical selves all truly return to the ash from whence we came. The Cycle of Life is enormously dizzying and, if we are lucky, we have someone special in our life who we can hold on to to ease the spin.
We paused before I was instructed to fill the hole. We looked at each other briefly, and I had tears in my eyes. Doreen looked away and started to laugh. A sad laugh filled with stories, tears, fears, and thanks. Maybe a few regrets. Regrets that Bill wasn’t there to appreciate the irony about being buried in their Stanley thermos in the middle of the wilderness. A laugh that spoke of years that had been marked by the zeniths that spiked their days with their unexpected nature of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the breathtakingly simple and beautiful.
When we returned to the campfire, I laid a blanket around Doreen’s shoulders. I poured her a Coffee Nudge and sat with her for a while. No one else knew that she had just laid her best friend and husband to rest. It surely does occur to me that hidden sorrow has to be one of the most difficult things that we carry with us in life.
And it just goes to show. Maybe thermoses, like some marriages, are age-worn on the outside while they still keep the brew nice and hot on the inside. I really had to hand it to those two. And to Doreen in her commitment to lay Bill to rest in such a beautiful way. In spite of Doreen’s shaky year of loss and grief, she was still out doing what she and Bill loved to do, and she arrived toting that same damned Stanley one last time to prove that some things just don’t change. Won’t change.
Call this some kind of tribute to Bill and Doreen . . . or to Stanley products . . . or to marriage . . . or to fulfilling final wishes . . . or to high standards to quality . . . or to . . . I’m not really sure. Sometimes things just are.
Regardless, I think that this thermos has to be the best one on the market! Just call this Cabin Door Store post “Ode to Stanley and Bill.”