The Geography of the Coffee Bean: The 3 Main Coffee-Growing Regions

the geography of coffee

Cabin Door Coffee

Coffee. It’s not just a simple plant in any old garden . . . coffee = landscape + climate + elevation.

Attention all Map-of-the-World Lovers!  Boots here, as promised, to talk more about the Geography of Coffee.   And to keep it interesting, I am going to keep it brief.  As our friend Bill Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”  Now I don’t know that my end goal today is Coffee Wit, but I am going to do my best to stir your interest in the geography of coffee.

Coffee is Geography . . . Geography is Coffee  

The 3 main coffee regions of the world:

  1. Latin America: well-balanced; crisp and bright acidity; more consistent quality
  2. Africa/Arabia: exotic; berry, citrusy/grapefruity, and spicy flavors; more unpredictable
  3. Asia/Pacific: full-bodied; spicy, herbally; depth; pairs well with savory
  4. These regions each have unique and distinct, geographically-inspired taste profiles.

All of this base-camp info will ultimately lead to me walking you through a coffee tasting at the end of all this fascinating Geography stuff.   Next?  We will look at how to “taste” coffee and identify the characteristics that help you to identify region.  But in the meantime, I am feeling some camp stories percolating to the surface.  I might have to explore some of those before looking at coffee tasting.

And if you are interested in this kind of stuff — I am! –then you will be surprised that you can not only taste but actually smell the geography of the bean before you even slurp.

So have some fun today just enjoying the flavor of your coffee.  Appreciate how very far those little beans in their burlap sacks had to travel to give you so much pleasure.

Who doesn’t want a map of the world on the wall? And it’s so inexpensive! I have two maps posted in my cabin: one in the kitchen and one in the little house with the crescent moon cut out of the door.

Rand McNally Signature Map of the World

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This paperback looks so awesome!  Who doesn’t want to know the secrets to happiness?  I am thinking: I must order this.

Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World

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Have you heard this music?  It is simply the best in collaboration, talent, creativity, and musicality . . . all from around the world.  

 Songs Around The World (CD + DVD)

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5 Lively Factoids on The Geography of the Coffee Bean

the geography of coffee

Cabin Door Coffee

Coffee . . . it’s not just an attitudinal thing . . . it’s a latitudinal thing.

Attention all Geography Cognoscenti . . . aka Map Lovers!  Boots here, as promised, to talk about the Geography of Coffee.  For all of you who haven’t had their coffee yet or for those of you whose eyes glaze over when they anticipate a pedantic and unsolicited lesson on coffee  . . . well, have no fear.  The thing you don’t know about Boots, the Badass Coffee Babe, is that she wants nothing better than to get back to splitting some kindling for tomorrow’s fire, filling the kerosene lamps while there’s still light in the day, and maybe taking a skinny dip in the lake to feel refreshed after all of the chores.

So, here it is . . . delivered in bullet points so that you can isolate the facts from the minutiae.  This is all good stuff that you can toss out to that cute barista while you’re waiting for your beverage.  S/he will think you are a geographical wonder.  Try it.  You’ll see how attractive knowledge is.

Coffee is Geography . . . Geography is Coffee

  1. Coffee beans carry their own unique geography with them.
  2. Geography IS a coffee profile . . . a flavor.
  3. Coffee is more than an attitudinal thing . . . it’s also a latitudinal thing.  It’s grown in the equatorial band between the two tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
  4. There are three primary coffee regions in the world. (We’ll get into these soon.  Promise!)
  5. These regions each have unique and distinct geographical profiles. You can train your tongue to identify them . . . which is why when you first smell and then take a sip of black coffee, your palate can tell immediately where those beans were grown.

All of this will ultimately lead to me walking you through a coffee tasting at the end of all this fascinating Geography stuff.  If you are interested in this kind of stuff — I am! –then you will be surprised that you can actually smell the geography of the bean before you even slurp.

So have some fun today just enjoying the flavor of your coffee.  Appreciate how very far those little beans in their burlap sacks had to travel to give you so much pleasure.

Who doesn’t want a map of the world on the wall? And it’s so inexpensive! I have two maps posted in my cabin: one in the kitchen and one in the little house with the crescent moon cut out of the door.

Rand McNally Signature Map of the World

http://amzn.to/2cu3Ih2

This paperback looks so awesome!  Who doesn’t want to know the secrets to happiness?  I am thinking that I must order this.

Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World

http://amzn.to/2cu1UVw

These mugs might not represent the coffee-growing latitudes . . . but you are going to look super smart when you bring up your newly-learned factoids when someone comments on your mug of the world.

3D Rose mug: Vintage European map of Western Europe Britain UK France Spain Italy etc retro geography travel Ceramic Mug, 15 oz, White

http://amzn.to/2bSv5Tn

3dRose mug_112942_4 Vintage map of the North Pole polar cap Russia Northern America Greenland geography travel theme Two Tone Black Mug, 11 oz, Black/White

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It’s Coffee O’Clock!

coffee-1300031_960_720

Love this art!

I feel like I am lagging today.  It is mid-day for many of you and I am just sitting down with this Friday greeting.  And late as it is, according to Boots Time, it’s still Coffee O’Clock and I want to wish all of you good people a Happy Friday Feeling.

There is something about the Friday Feeling that give me a boost of joy — the same feeling that I get each morning when I look at my first cup of Joe.  Why is this?  I don’t know.  Coffee is a beverage that packs a powerful boost — which I thoroughly appreciate . . . but I am also thinking that there is also a great deal of the Sense of Tradition that coffee brings to my day.

Cup_of_turkish_coffeeTradition.  What is it?  Google’s “define: tradition” offers this: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.  Well, this hardly defines my relationship with my first cup of coffee in the morning.  I distinctly do not recall having a cuppa with my grandpap or sharing a latte with my mother in a swanky coffee shop.  Maybe the word tradition is a misuse . . . I am now thinking that it is more a sense of Ritual.  Back to Google’s “define: ritual” . . . a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.  

That works for me.  Ritual.  A ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.  Is my Coffee Ritual religious or solemn?  Well that kind of depends on how much sleep I got the night before or what kind of day I am heading into.  I can definitely see how making my first latte of the day could be considered religious and solemn.

coffee and burlapI remember this old-timer that used to come on one of the pack trips.  At the time, I thought he was sort of different concerning his morning coffee.  He wanted to drink it privately, away from the madding crowd surrounding the campfire.  He would go off on his own, yet within eye-shot of camp.  He would find a rock or a log to sit on, turn his back on the other guests, and sip on his coffee.  Looking back, I can now see that there was a Ritualistic endeavor that he was participating in while enjoying some relative solitude with his brew.   That or he was super grumpy in the mornings and couldn’t stand the circular B.S. that the campfire tended to generate.  Either way you look at it, I have to hand it to the guy as to knowing how he liked to start his day.

What about you?  What is one of your favorite coffee rituals in the morning?  For me, I grab my cup of Joe and head to my desk.  I get myself settled, look out the window at the glorious day and I start to collect my thoughts via the keyboard.  The days that allow for this luxury I call special.  The days that don’t allow for this luxury I call my Friday Feeling . . . knowing that the next day is going to be wide open for my sense of Ritual of drinking coffee and writing.  I know that life is all-encompassing and it’s all wonderful, but I have to confess to super-enjoying the mornings when I am able to prioritize and enjoy my Preferred Rituals.   Simply put, it’s fun to be living my preferences.

Check out these cool coffee mugs below that give a shout-out to your Friday Feeling:


http://amzn.to/29QFeRe


http://amzn.to/29TRaNw

And I know some of these added gizmos seem kind of over the top but check out this inexpensive mug warmer to keep your Joe hot:

http://amzn.to/2aevZs8

Life is a super lively event and ALL days are good.  Make them even better with the ritual of some morning Joe!

Hello again . . . Boots is back in the saddle! Oh, and tip your barista!

Greetings to all of you good people!  I, Boots the Badass Coffee Babe, have been away — out on a trail gig — and have missed our coffee connection!  The past weeks, I’ve been out in the woods, away from any form of Internet communication, and restoring my Inner Outdoors Girl.  It has felt great!  And now I am back, so we can catch up on coffee. Tell me . . . What have I missed?

While out on the trail, I ran into a hiker, Niccolo, who was a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur from Italy.   We got to chatting about travel, trails, and coffee, and Niccolo said that he was curious about a lot of things in America but, once on the topic of Coffee, he asked why American baristas are so under-paid and under-respected.   Now, I might not speak Italian, but Niccolo was certainly speaking my language when it came to this conversation!

I really didn’t know how to answer to this — this not being one of those common questions that comes up when you start Coffee Talk.   I got to thinking about all of the things that American baristas have to be good at and their many multi-tasking duties.  I mean, just look at them.  They pull shots, steam milk, make eye contact with customers, do foam art, remember to ask about someone’s job interview, call back the next drink order to the register barista, and hand off your drink with a smile.   Impressive!

Now that I am back in town, I went to a busy coffee shop and observed the baristas in action.  Let’s take a look at what they have to do to serve an amazing cup of Joe.   A good barista . . .

  1. grinds coffee beans correctly so that the shots aren’t too long or too short
  2. tamps the grind into the filter perfectly
  3. pulls good shots
  4. times shots for high standards
  5. pumps liquid sugar into cups
  6. steams milk to satisfy requests (absolutely no foam, light foam, shaving-cream foam, dry cappuccino foam, bone-dry cappuccino foam)
  7. connects with the customers
  8. rinses shot glasses
  9. fills the bean hoppers
  10. continually re-adjusts the burr grinder to maintain perfect shots
  11. keeps everything clean and shiny
  12. re-stocks the refrigerators
  13. keeps the queue of drinks marching forward
  14. calls back drink orders
  15. works both the hot bar and the cold bar
  16. draws a cute smiley-face on certain cups
  17. asks about the family to the customers they know well
  18. smiles at you when s/he hands off your drink
  19.  . . . and I know that there are many other things . . .

This is a heck of a lot plates to keep spinning — all while maintaining a pleasant demeanor.   Now that I, Boots the Badass Coffee Babe, am back in town, I want to give a big shout-out to all of you baristas who work so hard to perfect your craft and to serve us fabulous beverages that many of us could never dream of making at home.

Just saying!  It makes me think of when I was young, pretty impressionable, flat broke, and just starting to work for someone who was eking out an existence on a history-laden homestead that he had inherited from someone who was as old as dirt.  The history of the place was pretty amazing and this old guy certainly knew it.  He was cocky and demanding and expected me to be his personal barista.   Well, I tamed that idea right out of him.

Sure, I was willing to haul the water from the lake and start the fire in the cookstove.  And I was even willing to grab a mug from the cupboard and set it to warm on the warming trivet.  But make the coffee?  Nuh-uh.  I knew that once I got roped into that lasso, I was going to be on call every morning at oh-dark-thirty to meet this buckaroo’s caffeine demands.

It’s weird to think that I wasn’t a coffee drinker yet.  I opted for healthful options that involved herbs and botanicals that now don’t even smell that good if I now catch a whiff of them brewing.   And this old-timer used the strangest contraption for making coffee.  He said it operated on a vacuum system  that involved some elaborate siphoning.  He expected me to learn how to use it and produce damned-good coffee, but I feigned ignorance (which was genuine) and confounded his expectations by making the very worst coffee (which was a ruse — I was smart enough to figure it out) that he swore — and I mean swore [#@$&*$$@!] had ever had the first day on the job.  I’ll give it up for the guy for having a colorful vocabulary.

I would call this a Big Life Lesson: There are benefits to Being Inadequate . . . this becoming a carefully-executed skill set of feigned ignorance that I happily applied to other areas of my professional life such as how to un-clog the paper in the copier machine on campus, how to clean the yuck out of the microwave in the break room, and how to sharpen a chain saw.   Some things are simply better left to those who feel more inclined toward responsibility.  And to showing others their higher state of abilities.   Thank God for different personality types is all that I am saying.

You’ve got to check out this old timer’s crazy way to make coffee below.   This gentleman’s contraption looked more Frankenstein-ian than this modern and sleek version, but it is the very same concept.  Who would have thought that you could extract coffee via a siphon?  Weird, right?  Go to Amazon by clicking on the images/links below:


http://amzn.to/29ROXI7

and how about this lower-priced one . . .

http://amzn.to/29SjLCz

AND . . . tip your barista.  As Niccolo pointed out, they are under-paid and under-tipped.   Your barista is partly responsible for your morning happiness . . . why not reciprocate with at least a very nice smile and a “Good job!”

Oh, and one more thing.  I am so excited to be back, I can’t stop adding coffee stuff!

Check out this new organic, Arabica coffee I found on Amazon.  I am going to try it out!  The name alone sells me — Happy Belly — let alone that it is organic, sustainably sourced and Fairtrade!


http://amzn.to/2aro1e5

PREMIUM COFFEE BY HAPPY BELLY

spacerHappy Belly makes artisan, small batch roasted blends like those found at your favorite neighborhood coffee shop, conveniently delivered to your doorstep. From growing and harvesting to roasting and packaging, ensuring our coffee’s freshness and flavor is our main focus.

Life is a darn good event.  Have fun, drink coffee, and tip your barista!!

 

 

 

Some Fierce Boots & A Dearth of Spirituality

putting on fierce bootsI 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.

What’s stopping you?  xox Boots

As for the boots below . . . I want!

Ariat Women’s Unbridled Roper Western Cowboy Boot

http://amzn.to/290EaIY

Ariat Women’s Showbaby Western Boot

http://amzn.to/292NZYV

Ariat Women’s Fatbaby Heritage Vivid Western Cowboy Boot

http://amzn.to/28WwNn8

Retro Percolator Coffee, Grandma Cussing in Polish, & All’s Well That Ends Well

old percolatorBoots 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.

percolator topIgnorance 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:

  1. Use excellent coffee of a coarse grind . . . Grind is Essential
  2. Use good water . . . Good Water is Essential
  3. 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 oz water for brewing any coffee with any method.)
  4. Spread coffee evenly around basket and place lid on basket put in coffee pot and put all of the Percolator Guts into the pot..
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. Set a timer for approximately 8 minutes.
  9. Do not over perk.  Turn heat off right away.
  10. Let the percolator sit for about one minute to let all water drain through the basket.
  11. 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

Or these?  Fun!
Diner Coffee Mugs Red Set of 6

http://amzn.to/1UJpLhl

Copco Brushed 4 to 8-Cup Stainless Steel Stovetop Percolator

http://amzn.to/1tE2MOM

Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator

http://amzn.to/1UJokzj

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

Happy Perking!

xox  Boots

Milky Way Love of the Galaxies . . . Happy Father’s Day

firewood-pileBoots 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.

monarch wood stoveSo, 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.

51302134So 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.

ardoch main streetIt 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.

What’s stopping you?

xoxox from your Badass Coffee Babe, Boots


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Dad, I raise a mug to you.


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Mobius Mitch, the Meal Mutiny, & Camp Muesli

camp at high lakeHowdy 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!

muesli IIBircher 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.

high lake camp.jpgI 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.

pack horseWe 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.

mobius stripMitch 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?

are-you-going-to-eat-that-funny-dogsNo 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.

muesli IVThis 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.

ice+cream+freezer+vintage+graphicsfairy5bwbgIt 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.

Bircher Muesli Recipe

A healthy breakfast from Food Network star Gordon Ramsay.

Ingredients2-1/3 cups rolled oats
1-3/4 cups low-fat milk
1 apple
1 tbsp runny honey
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
Apple juice to taste
Fresh berries
Toasted walnuts
Directions

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.

Recipe taken from https://houseandhome.com/recipe/bircher-muesli-recipe/

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
  • quinoa flakes
  • puffed amaranth
  • 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.


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As always, Boots here hoping that you will have happy trails and palatable meals to boot!

Life is a lively event.  Get out in the high country, drink coffee, and get to it! What’s stopping you?

A Love & Happiness Saturday morning to you!

saturday. love and happinessLove and happiness . . . this picture makes me feel good inside.  It makes me think of a rundown little honky tonk in a tiny town . . . one of those towns with crooked streets and more taverns than there were bakeries, grocery stores, and churches combined.  It was the place where my sister, Ranger, and I used to go dancing every Friday night.  Friday night dancing . . . we wouldn’t have missed it for all the Joe in Latin America, Africa, and the Asia Pacific combined — the music was just that good.

At the end of every night, the band would be casing up their instruments and the music man, Dan the Band Man, used to plug “Love and Happiness” into the speakers to quell our demand for “More!  More!”  His intent, I am guessing, was meant to settle us foot stompers down from a rousing rendition of “Congo Square” or “Love Shack.”

Well, after a night of dancing in this establishment, I can tell you that a Saturday-morning-after-Friday-night-dancing cup of Joe was just what I needed.  This place was a hoot and a half, and I am feeling a story coming on.  Yep.  I can just feel it.

For your Saturday fun and enjoyment, here is some music for you to enjoy.  I am dedicating these two tunes to Dan the Band Man and to Orville Johnson, who can play the best cover of “Congo Square” I have ever danced to — wishing them happy music and good coffee.

Love this version of Al Green’s Love and Happiness!

. . . and I have to add Sonny Landreth into this mix . . . so awesome!  All you have to do is listen to the first riffs of this song, and you know you are going to love it!

 

Life is a lively event.  Listen to music, drink coffee, and get to it.

xox Love,

Boots the Badass Coffee Babe

Ode to the Beat-Up Thermos, Marriage, & the Cycle of Life

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.

Pack_Horses_on_Hemis_TrailNow 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.

campfire and coffee brewingOne 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.

camping-shovel-1I 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.”


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Happy fulfilling trails to you from the bottom of my heart,

xox Boots the Badass Coffee Babe

pinto pack horse