rebeccmeister: (cricket)
The early stages of getting an undergraduate set up on a project require a lot of hands-on time. I am trying to get one working on quantifying enzyme activities, starting from the square one of "Prepare a solution with this molarity." The initial time investment is challenging when I have so many other things competing for time and attention, and when I need to revisit the list of enzymes to figure out which one will be the cheapest starting point.

Aside from enzyme activities:

-Leafcutter manuscript revisions (it's working! It's going to get shipped off somewhere, although of course I'll need to sink a whole bunch more time into it first).
-Gearing up for the start of the circadian experiments
-Final pieces of the cricket video project setup (it's getting so close!)
-Last-instar feeding project heating up
-Revising and polishing job application materials + website (Have I mentioned recently how much I appreciate my current boss? She's being a tremendous help on this front!)
-Data analysis for Nebraska feeding experiments and the first round here
+ I will be leading article discussion at lab meeting next Tuesday

-

At home, P has been gently nudging me to participate in the backyard ceramics venture. I gave in last night and tried throwing with some of the recycled clay. Centering the clay on a kick wheel is more challenging than on a motorized wheel, but then the actual throwing is easier at its slower, more controlled speeds. The recycled clay was starting to get too sticky, and had a couple of bad air bubbles because I didn't wedge it quite enough. I also didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to throw, so in the end I just put everything back on the plaster table again.

When I have so many things going on at work, I'm not that motivated to do much at home. Throwing also made me miss Bridget. I really need to quilt first, before getting back into ceramics.

We visited Caffe Trieste this morning. I suspect that something about their coffee caused immediate gastrointestinal distress, which makes me sad because the cafe itself was a welcome break from recent weeks of boutique-feeling establishments.

Caffe Trieste

Caffe Trieste
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
Fortunately, the highs outweigh the lows, by a long shot.

Several years ago, [livejournal.com profile] annikusrex took a splendiferous End of Law School trip to Scotland, where she got to enjoy all the Scotch and beautiful countryside. She also took photos and gifted me one as a large print on some really cool paper. Seeing as I have generally been terrible about putting artwork in frames, I requested that a subsequent gift series consist of framing the print. Then, of course, shipping a framed print becomes a project in and of itself. And so yesterday evening, I received the long-anticipated beautiful picture! I'm looking forward to hanging it up in a good spot that will encourage contemplation in a landscape-y fashion. It will also provide encouragement for curation of the art gallery which is the bedroom, heh.

So that's a high point. A low point is tied to another weekly high point: as is our usual, [livejournal.com profile] sytharin, [livejournal.com profile] scrottie, L and I biked to a coffeeshop this morning for breakfast. This time we went to a place that feels over-wrought, Artis Coffee. A little overwroughtness can be okay, but in the world of coffee sometimes people take things a little too far. Regardless, the espresso was lovely. What was not so lovely was what happened when we went to unlock our bicycles and RAC discovered that someone had made off with her Novara trunk/pannier bag. She had locked her bike up in plain sight and was basically watching it the whole time we were enjoying breakfast. I was kicking myself because I should have realized that strip would be high in petty crime due to its proximity to areas with a lot of criminal activity. I was also incredibly lucky that the thief did not make off with *my* pannier instead, which was expensive (the Arkel one) and contained all my bike tools, my coffee mug, and a favorite wool shirt. While RAC's bag was a loss, it was not a catastrophic loss.

Lesson learned. I won't be complacent about leaving stuff on my bike again, even though it's a hassle to haul everything in with me.

I have such mixed feelings about that neighborhood. It's very close to the boathouse, and Catahoua Coffee, two blocks away, is nice and seems reasonably down-to-earth. But it's also full of Nouveau Riche stuff like Whole Paycheck and Crate and Barrel and the like. Bleagh.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I bought a wee fern at Berkeley Horticulture last weekend, and decided that today was the day to transport it to work. It was so pleasingly hipster to cart it in my water bottle cage, so I took a photo of it to be my representative Coffeeshop Bike Ride picture for the week:

Highwire Coffee

The picture is zoomed-out to remind me that there's a Middle Eastern grocery right behind it, and also a cheese shop just down the block.

Highwire Coffee is a local chain that served up artisanal toast and good caffe latte in a bowl but without overboard latte art:

Highwire Coffee

They're close to a branch of the Berkeley Public Library, too. The back patio looked pleasant, based on a quick glance, and unlike Algorithm Coffee, which is right around the corner, they had plenty of individual seating. Better artwork, too.

After I parted ways with [livejournal.com profile] sytharin and L, as I was riding through an intersection, I heard a dismaying "POP!" sound, and, out of the corner of my eye, saw something fly off my bike onto the pavement. The fern's ceramic pot apparently couldn't handle the stress of being squeezed in a water bottle cage and rattled over rough pavement. So much for that twee notion. It's now transplanted into a ceramic mug I haven't been using. I kind of want to start a small fern collection. Or a small succulent collection. Or both?
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
I don't think I wrote an update on last week's Bike-Friendly Friday coffeeshop destination. We visited Catahoula Coffee, which is just to the north of the Aquatic Park. I bike past it on my way to and from the boathouse. They had some delicious pastries made in house by Sam's Patisserie, including the savory biscuit pictured here:

Catahoula Coffee, Berkeley

This week, with [livejournal.com profile] scrottie out of town, L, [livejournal.com profile] sytharin and I rode to Oakland to visit KiloVolt Coffee, a place that looks largely like a door on the side of a warehouse from the exterior. Inside, it looked pretty hip, and not just because RAC's in the picture.
KiloVolt Coffee, Oakland, CA

The tiles on the wall behind the counter reminded me of Paris subway tiles. "Done up" might be the best way to describe the interior.

They also had artisanal toast:
KiloVolt Coffee, Oakland, CA

I got some because it reminded me of my former roommate, RH, champion of the cheesy toast.

From a flyer in KiloVolt, I learned that I missed the Bay Area Pun-Off, which happened last weekend.
KiloVolt Coffee, Oakland, CA

Maybe it's better that way.

KiloVolt's all right, but I liked the people working at Catahoula better. It felt like more of a family establishment. More homey, less pretentious.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
After my third Bay Area "Bike-Friendly Friday" coffeeshop bike ride, I feel as though it may just be that this area doesn't quite hit my sweet spot in terms of what I'm looking for in a coffeeshop. Meadowlark, in Lincoln, was just too good. They had a reasonable selection of food offerings (mmm, good pie), plus great espresso (including affogatos), and they had great hours for both the morning people and the night owls. They were also within easy biking or walking distance of my apartment and had ample seating for those looking for a place to sit and work for extended periods. Plus they were next door to the grocery co-op.

There are places in Seattle that fit this category, too. Cafe Allegro, for example. Also the erstwhile Someday Cafe in Davis Square in Medford, MA. If Lux in Phoenix hadn't started to spray for pesticides, I'd be even more highly enthusiastic about them, too.

Out here, there isn't anything within easy biking distance (~1 mile), although there are things within moderate biking distance (2-3 miles). Places that could be good seem to keep really limited hours, catering towards the morning crowd, perhaps because there's no business advantage to staying open late.

One place that stands out to some extent is the People's Cafe, which strongly reminds me of the Oxfam Cafe on the Tufts campus where I used to volunteer on Sunday nights. Ahh, the Oxfam Cafe. Usually there were only a couple of people who would visit, so mostly it was a chance to hang out and listen to various jazz CDs in the collection while learning to use a little home-use espresso machine that would regurgitate a reasonable beverage (according to my as-yet-unsophisticated college student palate).

We'll keep trying, though. One place a week. Maybe once we start venturing further into Berkeley I'll find something more to my liking.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
The first time I visited Australia was when I was in the midst of clarifying my relationship with coffee. I'd come to the conclusion that if I wanted good coffee in the Phoenix area, I'd have to make it myself. That was before places like Lux (warning: overengineered website) and Cartel (yes, also overengineered) existed. The only nearby coffeeshops were Mill's End (now extinct) and Three Roots (also extinct), both of which served up cups of disgustingness that were disgusting and not worth paying money for. Better to drink water.

I devoted a considerable amount of time to reading about what goes into a good caffe latte, from the beans to the milk, and learned that the coffee's grind was an important consideration. At the time, the best way to get an even grind was with a burr mill, and burr mills weren't cheap - they cost about as much as the espresso machine I'd been eyeing, in the $200-$300 range.

Second-best were hand-cranked coffee grinders, such as the cast-iron wall-mounted one my father used at home. The box-style ones were around and available, but I wanted something slightly more durable and wall-mounted. I found what I was looking for in a marketplace in Melbourne, and it was worth the hassle of hauling it all over Australia to have it for grinding coffee at home. I still use it every day.

But it seems that I'm not the only one who has been looking for the intermediate solution, and now I'm tempted to upgrade. I came across these options recently, while pondering whether I want to switch where I order coffee online (the locally-available coffee beans are uninspiring).

I probably won't upgrade anytime soon, because there are other, more important things on the List of Things to Acquire. But it's good to know that more options now exist.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Before it started to rain today, my father and I rode bicycles over to Nervous Nellie's in Ballard. They almost scored 5 out of 5 points on my dad's scale, except there was no bike parking in sight. You can click on the pictures for slightly enlarged versions.

Dad notes how Nervous Nellie's scores in his notebook


Toast! And not just any toast...Swedish toast (at least, for my dad): toast with butter and cheese. I got boysenberry jam, which was delicious. They use Great Harvest Bread, and you get to pick out your own mug from a huge rack of mugs. I was tempted by the pirate mug, but it didn't look like it would hold enough coffee.


Resisting change: When he realized where we were in Ballard, my dad took me to see a small house with a big story. Apparently a developer had been scarfing up all of the land around this home, but one little old lady refused to sell out. So the developer ended up having to build the massive development around the old home. Partway through the building process, the builders befriended the lady and helped her out around the construction--she was pretty frail. She died some months ago, but the house is still there, for now.


My current knitting project: Now that all of the gifts are done for a while, I get to knit something for myself. It's my first cable-knitting attempt--arm-warmers. With size 2 needles, this project is going to take forever. Maybe they'll be done by next fall.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Well.

If I had more functioning neurons at the moment, I'd rattle off a lengthy recapitulation of the events of the weekend. As it is, my neurons don't seem to want to talk to each other much, so here are some highlights:

On Saturday, a bunch of my friends and I drove (or rode) up to Sedona to Oak Creek Canyon to go hiking. We got off to a bit of a late start, so the hiking only really began at around noon. The first section of the hike is along dusty trails through pine forests, and then the trail comes to an end at mile 3 and the REAL hike begins, wading along the creek bed. It was the sort of hike where pictures can't do justice to the experience (though they might reveal the amusing practicality of socks and sandals).

The most entertaining stretches were one section where we had to edge along a ledge while up to our knees in water (the rest of the creek bed would have required swimming), and a second section that did require a brief doggie paddle or breast stroke. Oak Creek was kind of a nice counterpoint to the Grand Canyon, because it was large and beautiful but the hike was mostly flat and not nearly so strenuous. Another favorite was a section where the creek fanned out across a wide, flat rock bed, and the water was only about six inches deep. The group had a good time skipping rocks across this stretch. The light was especially beautiful when the sun began to set.

On Sunday morning, I had a good time with the push-mower, mowing our expansive back yard. If left up to my own devices, I think I'd choose a yard without any grass, but given the effort required to transition to a non-grass yard that looks halfway decent, I'll settle for what we've got. Whenever I mow, though, I can't help but think about Wendell Berry's essay about the joys of learning to use a scythe to mow.

I have a feeling that my collection of gardening devices is going to expand over the next couple of months. I already have a pitchfork (yes, Mom, pitchfork and not potato fork), grass shears, pruning shears, a hand rake, a hand shovel, and a push-mower. But the pruning shears were a bit hard to use on some of the larger tree branches, and I'm going to have to round up some kind of branch-shredding device for the branches I pruned off. Mmm. I love gardening. Who knew?

Subsequently, R and I arranged to fetch a new (used) couch and loveseat from someone who is moving, and now suddenly our house feels a bit more civilized and settled, and we have a place to read and accidentally fall asleep. As an added bonus, it has a pull-out bed, so if you're looking to visit Arizona...

Finally, this morning, 'twas back to rowing among some of the glorious lights and colors of the hot Arizona summer. Sure, it's hot, but the colors are incredible. Oh yeah, and I should also mention that stuck-up coffee has arrived in downtown Tempe: a shop called Cartel Coffee served up a delicious latte for me this morning. If they have wireless internet, they could become a new favorite place for me to get work done, though they don't have many tasty edibles around.

And when all's said and done, that's a fairly comprehensive retelling.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
This evening, I was inspired (divinely? demonically?) to go through a few old boxes of things and see if I mightn't get rid of some junk and consolidate a bit. In the process, I encountered an old poem that I wrote in college and it gave me a few chuckles.

Here you go, for what it's worth (definitely not high-caliber, but amusing nonetheless):

Coffeeshop Love

You were drinking tea,
While my single-tall-vanilla-latte
Was long ago reduced to an empty, sticky mug
in the hopes that I could read uninterrupted

You were reading A Beautiful Mind,
but I wonder if that was what drew you
to this place.
I wonder how many times you've
struck up this same conversation,
how many times you've
been lonely

I don't trust this coffeeshop love--
it gives me caffeine jitters
I came here because you don't know me
to hide in gruff anonymity

By now it's too late
and I'm left with the guilty secret
of your name
as I sneak away
stumbling home.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
Before I launch into any sort of retelling of the day's events, I must share my review, or, rather, diatribe, of Royal Coffee Bar, a coffeeshop in downtown Phoenix that had been recommended to me by a Seattlite in the Sea-Tac airport. RCB is conveniently close to the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, but I must declare that if you are in search of a nearby coffeeshop, you should go to the Fair Trade Cafe and Gallery instead (although I seem to recall hearing about a change in ownership, so no guarantees). Please.

Anyway. At RCB, I was treated to the most mediocre service imaginable--I had hardly realized such a degree of half-assedness was possible. The utter icing on the cake was the barista's pathetic half-attempt at latte art that came out looking like "Oops! I kind of tried to make a little flourish on your drink! Oh look! It's brown and white!"

But let me start at the beginning. When I pulled up on my bicycle, things looked moderately promising: RCB is housed in a modernesque, industrialesque building next to Sweet Pea Bakery, and has a large outdoor seating area with plenty of small tables complete with small, desert-friendly plants (finally, I thought to myself, someone who understands good coffeeshop seating!). After arguing extensively with a nearby tree, I managed to lock up my bike to a traffic sign, and then entered the shop through its oversize glass door. Upon entering, I noted simple, contemporary furniture and numerous careful placings of the shop's charming filigreed logo, and then I stepped up to the counter to place my order. Several moments later, the barista saw fit to help me.

I should point out that based on other experiences in the Phoenix area I no longer hold individual baristas responsible for poor service--it's up to a business's management to carefully hire and train employees and decide when they are qualified to serve customers (in the least, Starbucks got that part of the equation right). That said, it's a crucial judgment call to not let an underprepared barista run the show. Ahem. Oh, in addition--I won't claim my time behind a cash register makes me more or less sympathetic than the usual customer, but I'm at least aware of the basic requirements for the job.

I shall proceed.

Now, on to my experience. I have given up on ordering drinks with fancy language, so I asked for a twelve-ounce latte. I asked for it because it's always the same thing, despite the fact that some irritating companies have obfuscated and hyperinflated the language of drink sizes while other companies have failed to give their beverage sizes properly descriptive names. If 12 ounces is large, that's what I want. If it's small, that's still what I want. The barista indicated through grunts and gestures at the available ceramic cups that she was unclear whether I wanted an eight-ounce latte or a twelve-ounce latte. I reconfirmed my order by pointing to the properly sized cup. That clarified, she took approximately four hours to get some coffee grounds into the portafilter basket (that's the handle-thingy that's locked into the espresso machine). I kid you not*. I'm willing to wait for a good thing. Note the crucial placement of the adjective "good." Amusingly, she had to grind additional coffee to fill the second half of the portafilter. I point this out because really good espresso places will be careful to freshly grind the coffee for each and every drink. Now if it's a busy place and they're using pre-ground stuff, fine. This place was neither busy, nor established in my mind as good, and the occasional customers seemed to confirm this opinion. They did appear to carry their own brand of beans, which should signify that they are attempting to be the latter. But let's carry on.

She brewed the espresso. Any tamping technique could not be observed from my perspective, so it cannot be commented upon.

Then she looked around and after removing her head from where it was lodged somewhere deep in her posterior* she located the upturned milk pitcher on the drying rack. Then she sloshed some milk in it. Then she found a thermometer and dropped it in. Then she steamed the milk. Then she attempted to clean off the steam wand with a dry cloth. Needless to say, this did not appear to do much other than smear around the already caked-on milk.

And then--only then--she poured the milk in with the espresso, ending with the aforementioned wimpy flourish. Having had ample time to survey the available baked goods, I then requested a cookie. She located two plastic gloves, donned them, picked up the cookie and put it on a plate, and then threw out the two plastic gloves.

After I paid and received my change, she seemed to notice that I had a large number of bags with me (two panniers full of food) and exclaimed, "Oh! Would you like a hand with carrying your cookie?"

In my head, I though to myself, "No, woman. I'd rather not have anything to do with you, ever again." Out loud, I said, "I'll make two trips." I couldn't bring myself to drink that drink and eat that cookie inside of the place in her presence, so I absconded with my things to the outside, where I could eat and drink in peace.

The cookie was all right. I think the salt used to make it was too coarse, because occasionally I would chew into gritty, salty bits, but aside from that, it was a chocolate chip cookie. But by that point, it really didn't matter anyway, because any enjoyment I'd anticipated from drinking the latte and eating the cookie was utterly ruined by the process of acquiring it. All I could do was think of Ratatouille and the pleased food critic at the end and, in contrast, how I presently felt.

I realize that the above description illustrates a degree of snobbery with respect to coffee. Let it be known that my favorite coffeeshop in Seattle (Cafe Allegro) does not provide latte art. But they *do* provide timely and straightforward service and a pretty delicious drink, without any false promises or pretenses. And the milk gets added to the espresso before the espresso has gone cold (crucial for proper flavor). It's far worse to give people false expectations and let them down than to keep expectations simple and then meet them.

As mentioned towards the beginning, I've thought quite a bit about the mediocre service available at many of the Valley coffeeshops, since I've experienced so much of it. Our neighborhood establishment in particular has occupied my thoughts in that regard, since I'm so frequently exposed to its peculiarities and horrors. This thinking has made it abundantly clear to me that it's small-minded to point fingers at any particular individual in such a business, or to heap high praises upon a single party. And again, I'll readily admit that Starbucks at least has that part right, in theory. Part of the half-assed phenomenon is Valley-wide (with occasional exceptions), and I only wish I had some way of making my complaints understood, for the benefit of all involved. Baristas who do a superb job benefit from recognition of a superb job, just as those who do a shoddy job must learn to shape up or ship out--even if your job is intellectually simple, have some pride, man. Perhaps the present barista was brand-new to her job, or suffered from some other complaint unbeknownst to me. Still, it's the job of the business to provide some consistency in their quality, and her half-assed attempts to make latte art suggested to me that she has some concept of what good coffee is, but an utter lack of any practical knowledge of how to achieve it.

Needless to say, it will take quite a bit of cajoling to convince me to ever go back. I fail to understand how coffeeshops here manage to stay in business, except through sheer lack of alternatives on the part of their clientele.

*There may be some slight hyperbole here.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
In semi-diligent preparation for a tremendously long bike ride next weekend (to Tucson, and possibly back, 120 miles a day), I decided to ride the Jolly Roger to the Downtown Phoenix Public Market yesterday along a route recommended by a market vendor who regularly commutes to downtown Phoenix. For those to whom it matters, I took Mill through Papago to Van Buren, and then took a right on 36th street (with a minor accidental detour on 38th) to Roosevelt, which basically goes straight to the farmer's market.

The market was moderately crowded, so after sitting down to eat a croissant another couple asked if they could share my table. The wife then felt obliged to have a "conversation" with me about violence and rapists on the loose these days and how she's in favor of the death penalty/etc (she was a little bit shocked that I had ridden my bike from Tempe). I didn't really feel like having any kind of conventional discussion, so I asked her if she'd ever killed anything and she said she'd killed a chicken and a duck before. That was about all the polite attention I could muster, so I got up shortly thereafter to continue my shopping. I learned that my favorite sandwich-bread bakery has bread loaf punch cards, and then headed further on my way.

My second destination was the newly relocated Willow House coffeeshop, which apparently was forced to move because of a rent hike. The new location is in a slightly grittier part of town, which is something I actually appreciate because it makes for more interesting scenery as I bike. For instance, I passed by a row of tiny shacks that were roughly 2/3 the size of my Garage and which made me wonder how their inhabitants got by. One had a satellite dish on the roof. There also tend to be more people out on the streets in such neighborhoods, which I also like. The "nicer" neighborhoods in this suburbia tend to be utterly devoid of human contact, which is sad and shows up in the lonely glances exchanged in our Craigslist Missed Connections ("We were stopped at a traffic light and I glanced in your direction and you were hot. Let's hook up!"). It's a bit tricky to be out and about in such places as a white woman, but I'm okay with that because I spend most of my life as a majority member and I think we learn from our discomfort.

Anyway, the Willow House has managed to retain its vibe in a slightly cleaner setting, and though it's not a favorite it was a'ight. From there, I decided to stretch out my ride a bit further with a visit to a place called Figs home & garden (Yelp reviews here). The reviews are pretty much spot-on, though if you're a wrought-iron fanatic like myself the place could be quite dangerous to visit. One potential drawback is that things are appropriately priced, which is to say, expensive. But they generally looked well-made and I didn't leave in an exhausted Pottery Barn-style stupor (I cannot stand expensive, mass-manufactured furniture). I did spot an incredibly expensive dresser that I liked (I've been casually hunting for one but am quite particular about what I want), but I don't think I'll be buying it any time soon.

On the way home, I rode along the Grand Canal for a stretch. The Canal waters are the lowest I've ever seen them--stretches were bare mud and green scum, and all of the debris that has been thrown in there jutted out at awkward angles. I spied several large fish and fishermen, but no other particular items of note.

After I reached home and ate lunch, I headed out to what I thought would be open studio time for ceramics, but the building was dark and still, so I swung by The Paper Studio and managed to escape with my wallet largely intact. After a trip to the grocery store, I had managed to log a total of 41 miles.

In the evening, J, [livejournal.com profile] trifold_flame and I went to the Phoenix Symphony to hear a few pieces by Debussy and Mozart, and a good time was had by all.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
This morning I took the bus up to the old location of Espresso Vivace for breakfast. I sat at one of the granite counters that wrap around the edge of the coffeeshop, ate an almond croissant and drank a latte, and looked out of the windows between reading passages of Life is a Miracle. It is a good book and perhaps I'll re-read it at some other point. I kind of want to add in some ifs, ands, and buts, but at the same time it is refreshingly articulate and humble--proper, to use Berry's own term. He writes about coming to know a place and the long time it takes to learn the stories of a place, which is a fitting subject for me while I ponder how I relate to Seattle and to Arizona.

From there, I walked north, down along Broadway, passing by new Condominium Complexes (Brix is such a displeasing name) and old apartment buildings and trying to put my finger on what I like and what I dislike. For a while I thought about how much I appreciate the moss that gradually creeps up everything over time. That's a substance that is not cultivated but lends appearance. Eventually I reached Le Fournil and remembered the time when that section of road was abandoned and the Flower Lady sold flowers out of the back of a truck instead of the concrete shop. At Eastlake and Boyer I turned right and walked the familiar path between my house and the boathouse (the Pocock Center), and observed in that neighborhood several new houses that seemed fitting in their landscape. Perhaps it was the eaves, or the carefully chosen surfacing material, or the placement of windows, or the size of the projects, or the green between houses--I don't know for sure.

This afternoon, I'll travel out to the airport, and then travel back to Tempe, where I'll pretend I'm ready to resume some other aspect of my life.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Marionberry croissant from Le Fournil?

Yes, please.

A reminder of Le Fournil's pastry case, in the event you'd forgotten:


And this makes me consider that since I have to return to Fremont to pick up a belated Christmas gift for my cousin, I should also make a trip over to ETG, Seattle's oldest coffeeshop.

Tra la.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Part way through the ride, I devised a useful map.

98.1 miles round trip by my odometer, with a low temperature of -2 degrees celsius. Beautiful, screaming hills, mountains, prickly pear shimmering like emeralds in the sunlight. Lots of ravens and a few turkeys.

For my father, a coffeeshop in Patagonia. No bike parking (but no theft either), for here, not whole wheat, asked if whole milk was okay, and I'm not sure what kind of coffee. No latte art, but good foam. I'm holding a lucky penny; we passed up the other thirteen cents.


For My Father

rebeccmeister: (smitten)
What a glorious way to spend a Saturday morning: [livejournal.com profile] trywhy and I visited two farmer's markets and Lux, and did probably around 35 miles of biking on pretty much every kind of bike-able surface aside from crazy mountain biking trails. I forgot to set my odometer before we set out. The best part was spotting a giant red stuffed hippo wearing boxing gloves, floating along the Grand Canal.

The market at Vincent's was...okay. There isn't much reason to go back, although it was a cute experience to try out. I got to meet one of the jam-makers whose jam I have bought at Whole Foods before. They also had pretty-good pastries and some awesome tasty mustard.

At the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, I realized that the bakery that makes the sandwich bread that I buy is actually a pleasant bike ride away in Scottsdale. I smell another expedition...

It's really fun to have a biking excursion buddy. With two bikes, it's just so much easier to occupy an entire lane and force cars to go around.

Edited to add... I forgot to mention the insane lighting shop called Hinkley's Lighting Factory, which I'd gone past before but had never stopped in. Let's just say there were some whacko $50,000 chandeliers in that place. It was amazing and surreal.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I use a wee moka pot every single morning to make myself a latte with breakfast (one could say I'm perhaps a wee bit addicted, but who cares?). I love the thing. But its little rubber gasket is starting to fall apart in a bad way, leading to all sorts of leakage and spilling. My question to you, dear readers, is: do you think I'd be able to find a replacement at a hardware store? If not there, where?

I'm hoping my wee moka pot will have a fate similar to my father's, which has kept him company for years and years. This one's not even a year old yet, but is beginning to show a bit of wear. That's what I get for buying a cheap one.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Yesterday I decided I needed to get out of the house, so I caught the bus to downtown Phoenix to stop by a few of my favorite haunts. The bus ride there was a bit more interesting than usual--we passed by a large, black plume of smoke and a pretty serious-looking accident. The guy in the seat across from me snored quite heavily, but there weren't any crazy bums on that ride so things were all right.

The market was somewhat crowded--it had rained during the night and cooled down to 77 degrees in the morning, and the cool air inspired many others to travel to the market as well. I believe the rain came from remnants of the hurricane that hit Mexico pretty hard. Around here it was a welcome relief, although temperatures will rise again through the end of the week. Ahh, rain.

Anyway. I bought a loaf of sandwich bread and some peaches and apples, and then walked up to the Phoenix Burton Barr Public Library. The top floor is closed for recarpeting, but that wasn't my purpose in going anyway; I wanted to see if I could find any good Phoenix-area bike maps, as part of the grand project of making my own Moleskine Bike Travel Book for the Phoenix area. One of the reference librarians in the geography department showed me a few of the decent maps in the collections, but unfortunately I don't think they offer any free maps. I might end up buying copies of the maps that were available, though, because they provide more street-level detail than most of the regional bike maps. Next I just have to figure out how many I need to buy and how to modify them to fit on book pages. Either that or I need to keep looking at maps. I did learn the name of the company that has produced most of the area bikes maps, so I might also check with them to see if they can offer any book-formatted options. Obviously my budget's pretty limited, but I'm willing to spend some money if needed.

So that was nice. Afterwards, I hopped back on the bus up to Lux to drink some halfway decent coffee and eat a cupcake. Sometimes I feel like going there makes me aware of how dissatisfying things in Tempe are, which is discouraging. The reprieve is nice, though, and I don't think I should become complacent about mediocrity. I also grabbed a delicious tomato-mozzarella-basil sandwich from Pane Bianco.

I also just looked up the location of a local record store, Stinkweeds, and noted that it was just a short distance north of Lux, so I decided to try walking there. Lo and behold, I found it tucked amongst a small set of other local shops just a half-mile north of Lux. I wish I had realized that sooner because I've been haphazardly looking for a nice record store for a while now. As an added bonus, there's a super-nice clothing store next door that carries alternative clothing labels (including some local stuff!): clothes that actually looks cool and nice for a reasonable price! They weren't cheap, but were affordable. Heartening, I tell you.

The owner of Stinkweeds was working the register and told me that she's actually the Executive Director of Local First Arizona, which used to be known as Arizona Chain Reaction. It's an association and directory of Arizona-owned and operated businesses, and is designed to promote supporting them instead of the Wal-Marts and Targets and Urban Outfitters of the world. So yeah, that was pretty cool and I'll definitely be going back. If I could afford the commute I'd be tempted to relocate to a liveable pocket of Phoenix to get out of the half-assed strip-mall that is Tempe. Stinkweeds used to have a location near downtown Tempe but moved out because the soul of Tempe has been gutted out by malls and developers. What is worse, the institutional memory at ASU is short-term, so not so many students know or care about supporting local culture. A few businesses have stuck things out, but many more have been forced to close or relocate.

After that, it was back home to put together some food for a party at my advisor's house--she hosted a float-in movie (movie-watching from the pool), which was wonderful. It felt like being surrounded by an extended family, with kids running around and splashing in the pool while we all talked and ate too much delicious food.

Snobbery

May. 18th, 2007 09:49 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Yesterday while weighing out leaves I started talking to P about everything that is involved in producing delicious coffee (he had expressed surprise at the discovery that coffee doesn't always have to be bitter and invited the elaboration on the subject). I was impressed by how receptive P was to learning about the subtler nuances of good coffee.

Today I almost tried to explainofy my dislike of Starbucks (aka the Big Bad Mermaid), but I caught myself in the middle when I remembered I don't always have to have a rational explanation for my behaviors or opinions. I wasn't quite in the right state for an extended conversation about good coffee anyway.

I think I've been striving for some obscure gourmand goal, without entirely due reason. It's nice to enjoy truly delicious food, but not at the expense of being miserable eating anything less than truly delicious food. This is not to say I should try to have less discriminating taste. But occasionally I forget how lucky I am in this country, where there are so many different delicious foods available for the eating. In other places, and at other times, humans have been forced to survive on much simpler fare, and they have done so quite successfully. I've also been fond of the phrase, "There's no accounting for taste," but I'm beginning to think I need to come up with an alternate phrase, because the above phrase is a catchall for a subject that could be more interesting if elaborated upon.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
It has already been a lovely day, and it's not even 1:00 yet. Before it got too hot, K, M and I went on a nice, long, not-too-strenuous ride through the nicer parts of Scottsdale, and stopped for coffee at La Grande Orange. Things were a bit busy there, but the mid-ride latte really hit the spot and I felt pretty good by the end of the ride. It was nice to not feel exhausted by the time I got home.

After that, I did a few small home-improvement projects and got to put my shiny new drill to use (ah, how I love power tools). My kitchen towel rack is now firmly reattached to the wall, and I also put up one of those magnetic strips to hold my kitchen knives, which had previously been homeless. I have also been getting supplies together to build my bike ceiling suspension system, although I just discovered that I'm going to need to make another trip to the hardware store before I can install the finalized version. Some parts don't fit together quite as nicely as I'd hoped. Go figure. I also need a stud sensor before I start putting holes in things.

I just love having the time, energy, and inclination to devote to these sorts of projects. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I might even work on a few sewing projects this afternoon.

As a random aside, my father once pointed out to me that my mother really likes to hang things from little hooks/etc. I clearly share that trait with her. It's amusing to notice things like that about myself.

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