16

Soothing Summer: That Favorite Coffee Place

I didn’t do too much today, but I did go to Michelangelo’s on State Street to get some writing done.

There’s something about that one special coffee place that just makes it worth going to even when you’re not thirsty. It’s the place you meet up with friends, bring out-of-towners, and go to when you just have to get stuff done in the perfect environment. I’m going to save a lot of other comments about coffee places in Madison for another post I have planned, but suffice it to say that Michelangelo’s is…the one. There are plenty of other places, but the Starbucks on State usually has too many vagrants hanging around and the wi-fi never works; Espresso Royale has delicious drinks but also its fair share of strange customers; the Starbucks on University and Blackhawk is where I’m friends with all the baristas, so I just spend the whole time talking and never get any work done; and CoffeeBytes is just…the worst place, ever. Michelangelo’s has all the good stuff – good food and drinks, friendly baristas, a corner with comfy Friends-style couches and chairs, several different seating options – without any of the crazy people or bad wi-fi. Plus, I get a nice walk down State Street on the way there and back, so I burn some calories, get some fresh air, not to mention getting to walk past the popcorn shop and the chocolate shop, both of which leave their doors open in the summer so that the smells waft out onto the sidewalk.

Now, I’m going to look at some gifs of coffee.

7

A Free Coffee and An Update on Yesterday’s Goals

So, today, I went to my favorite Madison-area Starbucks, the one on University and North Blackhawk. Since they were out of cold brew, I decided to get an iced East Timor Peaberry. About halfway through it, I realized that it didn’t taste so great. I told the barista that it didn’t taste quite right, and they said that it was towards the end of their supply. They asked me if I wanted it remade, but I just asked for a regular iced coffee instead.

While I was sipping the replacement iced coffee and writing letters 9 and 10 of my 16 Penpals for 2016, one of the head baristas came over to me with a gift card, saying: “you come here often, you appreciate good coffee, and you took a downgrade from your Reserve coffee to a regular iced coffee.” I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted I take a $4 gift card.

So now I have a Starbucks gift card.

I had a somewhat productive day, with some of my goals accomplished, or started on, from my list:

  • Finished and returned 1 library book from the old stack, and 1 from the newer stack.
  • Exercised.
  • Wrote to 6 new blog friends.
  • Got 101 views on yesterday’s post.

Hey, it’s a start.

4

Random Thought Of The Day: Love Is…

Today, I gave chocolates and hand cream to my favorite Starbucks barista.

I mean, she smiles at me, tells bad jokes, and gives me caffeine, which makes her basically either my girlfriend or a secretary from a 1960s sitcom.

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers.

In other news, I just started writing my 16 snail mail letters for 2016, and I’m currently only at 9 takes. So, if you’re reading this, I’ve got seven more letters to send, so email me your snail mail address at jacobh1021 at yahoo dot com!

And if you haven’t yet, hop on over to my Terrible Hallmark Valentine’s Day Movie Generator and post a comment.

6

Ice Ice Baby

Stop, collaborate and listen, because even though I’m still feeling sucky, I made an amazing new discovery today. Well, it’s probably not new, but new to me.

I was making my morning up of iced coffee. First, I made the coffee in the Keurig, and then I put ice in a glass. For some reason, my fingers happened to be wet (I think I had just washed my hands; I hope I did) and while I was reaching for the edge of the ice cube to pry it out, my fingertips grazed over the top of the ice cube tray, and like magic, my wet fingers created a suction force that picked the ice right out of the tray.

I’ve got the magic, in me…

 

I don’t know how it works, but the grip of my one finger was strong enough to get the piece of ice to the glass, and then another, and then another. I don’t know why that brought me so much joy, but I guess you have to celebrate the little things in life.

It’s probably the same reason why that kid’s tongue got stuck to the flagpole in A Christmas Story (a moment which still scares the heck out of me) and this, from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

Obviously, this horse did not watch A Christmas Story.

MAGIC.

SCIENCE.

SCMAGIC.

 

10

Five Songs That Make Up a Happy Morning Playlist

Goooood morning from Madison. It’s the first day of school, and instead of sleeping in like I have been all summer, I actually beat my alarm clock up at 7:45 AM despite going to bed at 1:00 AM – if you know me, this is a miracle – and had the energy to emerge from the bed about 30 minutes later. Since then, I’ve showered, had an omelette and an iced cappuccino, played too much Secret Society, watched a podcast, done the New York Times Crossword, and read about 10 blog posts.

But back to today’s topic:

Waking up early is a treat, for me at least. It means I have the whole day ahead of me, and I want to start it right. Usually that’s the last thing I tell myself before opening my eyes again at 1:37 PM that afternoon, but you get the picture. Behold, this list that will get you up and at ’em on the right foot.

Five Songs That Make Up a Happy Morning Playlist

1. Zooey Deschanel, “The Fabric of our Lives.”

Yeah, it was from a commercial about cotton, but it’s just so peppy and morning-like that you can’t not smile. It actually sounds like it could be an actual jingle from the 1950s or 60s, sung by Brenda Lee or Little Peggy March. Zooey Deschanel is kind of annoying, but this song made her grow on me a little bit, like antique moss on a plastic potted plant.

2. Lena, “What A Man”

Lena Meyer-Landrut is one of the few talented progeny of Eurovision, and this acoustic morning-show rendition of En Vogue’s “What A Man” has just the right coffeehouse vibe for a low key morning. I used to listen to it while driving to the University of Houston, with hopes it would dispel any tzurris in my immediate future.

3. Corinne Bailey Rae, “Put Your Records On”

This song hearkens a summer morning with it’s opening words: “three little birds.” It’s like a gently flowing breeze to wake you up, rather than a harsh alarm clock. Honorable mention goes to Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You,” but CBR’s got a little more soul to enrich that morning java. Plus, there’s an awesome studio version on YouTube somewhere where she’s singing it while doing other stuff like directing the sound check and writing stuff down, showcasing her vocal talent and giving AutoTune the middle finger.

4. Oren Lavie, “Her Morning Elegance”

You can read most of the specifics about the song in this Masterpiece YouTube from about a year ago. If you don’t want to click (even though you totally should), I’ll give you the short version. The lyrics, combined with the bells, strings, gentle percussion give this song its morningness, plus the fact that it has the word “morning” in the title. Listening to this song brings back memories of misty mornings in Jerusalem, mornings in autumn and winter with a bit of crispness to the air and maybe some fog. Add some shoko b’sakit, corner makolet Israeli-style cappuccino, or one of those awesome breakfast trays, and it’s heaven on earth.

5. Dolly Parton, “Nine to Five”

You knew this one was coming, it’s pretty much unavoidable. Dolly Parton’s working-woman anthem is for those mornings when you just can’t drag yourself out of bed. The horns and typewriter sounds are just enough jazz to steer your ass to the kitchen for your cup of ambition.

Honorable Mention: “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray. Works best if you are actually in Baltimore. Or Ecuador.

So, enjoy the rest of your morning, as it’s almost afternoon here in Madison and my first class is in an hour.

I should probably put on pants.

4

Foolproof Food For Every Mood

These past few weeks, I’ve been trying to lose weight for the Phoenix/San Juan/Baltimore trip. I should be working more on packing my apartment and doing research, but this post will not be about that. I’ve been spending most of my days (when I’m not in bed) exercising and focusing on eating healthier. This week hasn’t been the greatest for my exercise, but as far as my dieting goes, I don’t think I’m doing that badly. I’m not focusing on being strict as far as time; I’ve been eating when I’m hungry, and stopping when I’m full. I’ve been avoiding any type of “zombie food,” like chips or pretzels, things that you eat subconsciously when watching TV or on the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My problem, though, is picking foods that are tasty, satisfying, and healthy. It seems like everything has something in it that’s bad for you, but here are some things that I’ve been consuming over the past few weeks that have kept me sane and helped me lose weight. Also, disclaimer, I know nothing about nutrition so this might all be wrong, but just go with it.

1. Protein shakes.

As everyone knows, it’s all about the protein. And the protein shake is the way to get it in the morning, after a workout, or at night. I’ve been having one with breakfast, and after a workout. Beware: some of them are very sugary and some contain animal products. My brand of choice is the Whole Foods 365 brand: organic and not too sugary.

2. Eggs.

The other main protein source, the ever-popular egg. My breakfast usually consists of four boiled egg whites, although I have been known to make a mean omelette. There is good stuff in the yolk as well, but also some fat and cholesterol, which is bad considering my personal family history.

3. Coffee.

The jury’s always out on coffee, but sixteen ounces of black iced coffee, sometimes with a half-packet of sugar, ups the caffeine without a lot of the fat of milk and/or syrups.

4. Tuna fish.

Tuna fish was a whole food group in my house growing up, so I have no problem eating it in any form, raw, cooked, or from a can. I don’t add anything but black pepper. I stopped putting mayonnaise in awhile back, and I recently had some mayo on a tuna sandwich at a restaurant and found that it had a bit of a sour taste that I didn’t notice before, so I don’t think I’ll be adding it back in. Also, it quantifies eating bread, because who can say no to tuna on rye? Especially if that rye has RAISINS in it. Thank you, Angelic Bakehouse.

5. Tilapia.

Cooking fish is really not as hard as everyone thinks. I just shove it in the oven for about fifteen and it comes out flaky and delicious. Woodman’s sells huge bags of frozen tilapia, so that’s basically what’s in my freezer, aside from…

6. Chicken.

I usually tell the world that I’m a vegetarian or pescetarian, mostly because I don’t want to have to explain kashrut every day of my life. And when I do talk about chicken to a friend who thinks I’m a vegetarian but doesn’t know about kosher, I just say that “I don’t trust restaurants,” or “I only like chicken the way I make it.” Both are somewhat true; restaurants are overpriced, and I’ve never disliked any chicken I’ve made. Metcalfe’s has bags of frozen Empire chicken, $16 a bag but worth it for the kosher symbol.

7. Iced tea.

Diet Lipton citrus green and mixed berry are my new roommates. They’re too awesome to pay rent, so I just let them loaf.

8. Sparkling water.

First, there was water. BUT THEN THEY MADE IT SPARKLY AND FRUITY WITHOUT ADDING SUGAR.

9. Nuts and baby carrots.

I’ll admit, the only snacky food that I do partake in are almonds and baby carrots. Seriously, just turn on the TV and stuff your face with a half a bag of carrots and some almonds. Your body will thank you.

10. Peanut butter/almond butter and jam sandwiches.

Oh PB&J, how I do love thee. Sugar free jam is the way to go, and chocolate almond butter is like eating Nutella, only not.

11. Salads.

Yay for eating salads! Boo for making them at home though, I usually go out and have huge salads at restaurants because I am lazy and veggies go bad too quickly.

12. Indulgences.

I do indulge, like everyone else, from time to time. But when I do, it’s on foods/drinks that have some nutritional value, albeit very little, but not horrible in moderation. My food indulgences: biscotti (one piece and I’m done), cheese (as a topping for salads/eggs only), and Chipotle (sofritas salads for the win). My drink indulgences: diet soda (usually just one can/cup at a restaurant), Caffe D’Vita (a little sugar, but not a whole lot), and lattes with skim milk and sugar-free syrup (usually a weekend treat).

My diet could probably use a few more vegetables, but overall, I’m not depriving myself of nutrients and eating healthy portions. And yes, I do crave Twizzlers, cookies, cake, pizza, pasta, Starbucks, but not enough to cave and get them.

Here’s to getting in shape for the summer.

Oh, and welcome to my newest visitors from Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. Apparently I’m big on the Arabian Peninsula; now if only the Yemenites would come and say hello.

0

Lids

Today, I woke up and got a cup of iced coffee before heading to campus.

Then, I went to campus, and having barely taken a sip, I left it on the floor of the classroom where I took my final exam, and then ten minutes later when I realized that I didn’t have it anymore, I went back to get it and there was already another class in there taking a final.

So I went and got another iced coffee.

At most coffee places, the cup sizes vary. The same can be said of a lingerie shop. Unlike Victoria’s Secret, however, to transport the goods more easily, a lid is helpful, whether the beverage is hot or cold. At good places – and Starbucks – the baristas give you a cup with a lid already on it. Just grab a straw and you’re good to go. However, life isn’t always this cut and dry. A good number of times you order a cup of coffee, you get just the cup and the drink inside it, leaving you to face…

THE LID TRAY.

Sitting among the pitchers of half-and-half and the multiple varieties of sugar packets, are a tray of carefully factory-formed circles that threaten you with a look. These…are the lids. In most cafes, the lids come in different sizes. This may seem like a simple task, but you will choose the wrong one every time. You reach for it, put it on…and it’s too small. Or too big. No amount of stretching or wishing can change its size. No amount of spatial imagining can allow you to pick the correct one. As you admit to your failure, you have two options to rectify the situation.

  1. Put it back. No one saw you, and your hand barely touched the thing, which only came in contact with that and the lip of the cup. Nobody will ever know the difference, you’ll take another and continue with your life. But wait…did a drop of your drink get on it that may not be identical to the next person’s drink? Did it touch any liquid residue on the counter? Did you attempt to put it on the cup but had unknowingly taken a sip at the register, therefore potentially transferring your germs? Fear not: there’s another option.
  2. Dispose of it. Toss that thing in the trash. It’s dirty. In fact, it never existed. But wait…it did, and since it’s plastic, it’s probably not recyclable and will be another piece of some out-of-state landfill that is plaguing our planet and slowly obliterating our ozone layer, thereby endangering the air we breather and that your children will breathe.

You only have two options. Both are equally painful, but it’s like a bandage – just rip it off and deal with it, because crying in front of sugar and stirrers is not the thing to do in public these days. Besides, they didn’t ruin your life – their artificially created, non-biodegradable friends did.

So, in conclusion, there is none. You will always fail.

Oh well, at least you have an iced coffee to cheer you up.

Until you leave it in someone else’s kitchen later that day, and then realize that you’ve been drinking from your waterbottle and you didn’t buy a coffee at all.

0

26 Years Ago Today…

1:35 PM EST. Baltimore, Maryland.

I don’t remember it, but I was there.

Happy birthday to me.

I woke up this morning, not feeling much different than I normally do, only rushed, because I had to get my checkbook (which I couldn’t find) and hightail it to the hotel to rendezvous with Mom and Dad to go to the bank, because my credit card got cut off through no means of our own, so basically, I have no credit card until next week. We then went to Starbucks, where my parents gave me a card and a 25 dollar gift card to Starbucks, which was really nice 🙂 and then I took them back to the hotel, they checked out, and we parted ways as I headed to kabuki class. It was fun, as always, and afterwards I grabbed a tuna sandwich at Walgreens and treated myself to a French Press at Starbucks on State Street – though actually, getting a French Press is not a bad deal, given the fact that it’s about two grande cups of coffee for $3.69. I shared it with Vincent, then went to find an awesome geocache at the top of a parking garage, then back home to eat cupcakes with Vincent again. Then I headed off to rehearsal, during the middle of which I jetted across the street for the APO meeting to which about fifty or so people showed up, and I gave out mass quantities of candy and then hustled back to rehearsal. Then, at 9, I went BACK to APO – not to the meeting, but the fellowship afterward at Forever Yogurt, where a LOT of brothers showed up, and then home, where I am right now, and I should be working on my presentation for tomorrow, but I’m not at the moment because it’s time to blog.

I feel like I should tell a story, so I’ll talk about how I got my name.

My full name is very very long and I almost never use it. It’s so long that it takes up my whole driver’s license. In fact, I once bet a Bulgarian women at the airport in Hartford that my name had more letters than hers, and I won. I used to hate my name, the fact that it was too common, easily confused with Jason/Jared/Jonathan/Johnny/Justin (and once, Judith, in a returned phone call, which is kind of ironic in a creepy way), and just too damn long to write on any form. But here, for the first time ever, I’ll break it down for you:

Jacob is my first name. I was named after my mother’s father, Jack, who died in 1971, long before I was born. He was born in Bryansk, Russian Empire (today: Belarus) and came to Baltimore at a very young age. He was obsessed with photography, video, and all things technological, which explains why we have so many strange and random home movies of my mom as a child in the 1950s. He worked for a uniform company in downtown Baltimore. My mother’s brothers both look a lot like him; he was very tall, and fortunately I got enough to the tall genes to make me the height of a normal human. Oddly enough, in my teenage years, we found his birth certificate, and we learned that his name was not, in fact, Jack; it was actually Jacob the whole time, with Jack as a nickname. Funny how that one turned out.

Richard is my first middle name. It’s the one I usually use. It’s also my paternal grandfather’s name. He was born in Gunzenhausen, Germany, and along with my grandmother, took the family out of Europe after Kristallnacht occurred in November 1938. He also died long before I was born, in the 1970s as well, I think.  Before the war, he was a viehhandler, or cattle dealer, and in America, he also worked in clothing, just like my other grandfather. He and my grandmother loved each other very very much, and he was very treasured and well-liked in the family, and also, reportedly, a good dancer. I have not seen many pictures of him, but when he was young, he was very, very good looking – unfortunately, I didn’t inherit all of his good looks, taking after my own dad, who looks like…who knows, someone in the family.

Aaron is my second middle name. It was a last-minute addition, due to the death of my great-grandmother on my mother’s side, Anne Gelb Feingold aka “Gigi.” She died shortly before I was born, either in late 1986 or early 1987. She was a tough lady, and reigned supreme as the queen of her family. She was born in Bystra, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and immigrated to New York City via Ellis Island. I never knew too much about her, and my sister doesn’t even really remember her. Before I went to Slovakia in January 2012, my dad told me that he thought that my grandmother had possibly come from Slovakia, and once there, he did some investigating, and emailed me that the town she was from was, indeed, in Slovakia, effectively making me one-eighth Slovak. Ironically, I was sitting at a bar in Levoca, Slovakia – about 60 miles away from Bystra. She spoke English and Yiddish, and once she got to America, told everyone that she had come from Austria – even the customs agents at Ellis Island – but she had in fact come from what was, at the time of her departure, Poland. I guess she didn’t want to endure the Polish stereotyping. She was a homemaker, and raised my grandmother and great-uncle. She was a very religious lady. I dislike the name Aaron, but the more I learn about my grandmother, the more interested I become in why she was the way she was.

Hellman is my last name. I am not related to Lillian Hellman (sigh), Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, or most likely any Hellman (or Hellmann) you know. It comes from the German word holle (her-la), meaning “the intersection of three streets,” specifically, the intersection of three streets in Gunzenhausen, the town where my grandparents fled from as a married couple, and the area where my family had lived since the 16th century. My dad and his father always were at loggerheads about how to actually spell the name. My grandparents always used “Hellmann” with two n’s, and my dad insisted on only one, because at one point in his life he saw my great-great-great-grandfather’s voting registration card from the 1850s, and he used only one. This is disputed, however, because we have not been able to locate said voting card, neither in Baltimore nor in the archives in Gunzenhausen. But, then again, my grandfather always spelled my dad’s name wrong, on everything, so maybe my dad has a point.

With that said, I should probably go back to working on my presentation for tomorrow, but before I do, I’d like to wish a happy birthday to: Benyamin Netanyahu (former Prime Minister of Israel), actresses Patti Davis and Carrie Fisher, richest woman in the world Liliane Bettencourt (owner of L’Oreal), Kim Kardashian (who wishes she was Liliane Bettencourt), and Judge Judy. 

Also, the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), the Battle of Aachen (1944), and the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC (1959).

Oh, and apparently it’s also International Day of the Nacho in Mexico and the USA. Olé!