Author: Blinkie

Personal Thursday: Things I’ve Learned as a Sewing Noob

As my tag says, I knit because the needles aren’t sharp. Dexterity is my dump stat — I’m an astoundingly clumsy person and to be honest it’s only my high pain tolerance and solid durability that account for the fact that I still have all my limbs and most of my organs. However, there’s been a gap in my textile skills that’s been itching at me for a long time: sewing. Sharp needles, unforgiving machinery, it pretty much spells disaster for a person like me. And yet, with the help of books, the internet, and my mom (who even gave me a vintage 70s Kenmore sewing machine), I’ve embarked upon this path of folly. And now that I’ve been sewing for like a whole two weeks now, I figured I’d use this Personal Thursday post to share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. Don’t forget to put the presser foot down. You might have been laughed at in college for owning an iron and ironing board, but who’s laughing now? Hang some scissors on a retractable badge lanyard and wear it every time you work on sewing. It is your new best friend. Put the presser foot down. A clear grid ruler is also your new best friend. Cheap cotton muslin makes trying new things less scary. Having a borrowed manual for a different model of sewing...

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Personal Thursday: Why I Can’t Write About Me

I’ve kept an online blog since 2002. When I was younger I’d occasionally try keeping a diary, but I’d always forget about it after a page or two. Something was missing. Then, as an overcaffeinated undergrad in my early 20s, I discovered that LiveJournal had the missing element: an audience. LJ has the setup that most social networks have now. You have a place to post your own updates and a feed of updates from people you’re following. So even my most boring, inane blog posts — and there were many — were still read by my friends. I had an audience, and it was easy for them to comment on my posts to give me feedback. I had someone to aim my words at. Today LJ is a quiet place. I haven’t posted there since November 2013. Instead of my LiveJournal I now have this blog, hosted on my own domain and prettied up with WordPress. When I first set it up I made a few posts about mundane personal things like my Thanksgiving preparations. But since then it’s been strictly “business” — and by business* I mean coffee. Why is that? Several times I’ve decided to go back to posting personal stuff, but each time I’ve run into a wall made up of two questions: What should I write about? Why should anyone care? The answer, of...

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Review: McCafe Roundup (McDonald’s)

This blog has been really Starbucks heavy of late. That’s the stuff that gets me the most hits, but I feel like I should break it up every now and then with something different. After all, there’s tons of places to get coffee and/or tea drinks, and at least some of the ones without green aprons should get some attention. So today I’m gonna bring you something a little different: Here’s some short reviews of coffee drinks from McDonald’s. The McCafe line is, as far as I can tell, an attempt to jump in on the growing popularity of coffee drinks that aren’t just brewed coffee. While many swear by McDonald’s coffee (when they’re not heating it to the third-degree-burn zone), not a lot of people think of going there for a latte. I assumed the drinks were being made from some kind of premade mix, but when I ordered I spotted some actual bean grinder hoppers behind the counter. Judging from their website, McCafe drinks are made more or less like drinks at a coffee shop — with espresso and steamed milk. So how do they compare? To find out I went in early one morning and ordered four drinks: a Mocha Frappe, a Caramel Mocha, a Mocha and a French Vanilla Latte. While other customers were casting dubious glances at the chick who’d just ordered four coffee...

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Learn to drink tea!

A little while ago I wrote about how to “learn” to drink coffee, and admitted that I didn’t originally like coffee. Some of you may have noticed that I mentioned I didn’t originally like tea, either. But I clearly drink it now! So what happened? For years I was frustrated at how I couldn’t stand tea at all. It’s a cheap, healthy drink. You can stick a few tea bags in your purse and then all you need is hot water for a good beverage! All kinds of tea are recommended to help with colds, sore throats, etc. But every time I tried tea, I just couldn’t drink it. What was I doing wrong? First of all, just like coffee, cheap tea will not help you like it. So ignore those boxes of tea bags your office has in the break room for free. Don’t bother with the nameless tea that comes out of the spout at your local fast food restaurant. You don’t need to spend top dollar on fancy tea but you should stay away from the super cheap stuff. Second of all, don’t assume that you take your tea the same way you take your coffee. I always drink coffee with sweetener and cream, so I figured I needed that in tea too. I’d make a cup of tea, pour in sugar and milk, stir it...

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Learn to drink coffee! Part 2

Last week I talked about how to get started drinking coffee when you can’t stand the taste. Here’s part two! Okay, so you’ve found a drink you like or at least can stand. Now what? Well, now you dial down the sugar and dial up the coffee. There’s a few ways to do this; one way is to order your drink with an extra shot of espresso, or with a pump or two less flavoring. Another way is to switch drinks — as a rule of thumb, coffee drinks that are lighter on calories are usually more coffee-flavored. Remember, you can always ask your barista for recommendations. The last step of the process is usually to step away from lattes, mochas, and blended drinks and actually drinking regular coffee. This is the hardest step and if you never get to this point, that’s fine. I personally prefer lattes to regular coffee a lot of the time, and I never drink my coffee black. But if you’re having trouble being able to finish a cup of “regular joe”, here’s a few pointers: Crappy coffee is not gonna help. Neither will coffee that’s too dark (I’m looking at you, French Roast). The Pike Place Roast they usually brew at Starbucks is decent, but if you really want to taste some good coffee, find a Starbucks with a Clover machine and ask...

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What I’m Drinking: Cold Brew

One of the downsides to brewing your own hot coffee in the morning is that it requires measuring, filling, and operating equipment before you’ve had your coffee. This leads to all kinds of bleary-eyed brewing mishaps, like forgetting to put the espresso in the machine before brewing a shot (guilty), forgetting to put water in the machine (guilty), forgetting to put something under the spout to catch the coffee (oh so guilty) … it’s a recipe for disaster. Well, have no fear because there is a delicious solution to this problem, and it’s called cold brew. Now, this is not the same thing as iced coffee, which is generally brewed hot like regular coffee and then cooled down. Cold-brewed coffee doesn’t involve heat at all! And in fact, in some ways it’s easier to make than traditional coffee. Here’s the basics: you mix ground coffee and room-temperature or cold water, you let it sit overnight in your fridge (or on your counter, depending on the temperature), and in the morning you just need to filter out the coffee grounds and your coffee is ready to drink! It’s the sun tea of the coffee world. It comes out just as strong, and even a little less bitter because the interaction between the coffee and the ground beans is different when no heat is involved. If you Google up some instructions...

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Learn to drink coffee! Part 1

Believe it or not, this is something that’s come up many times over the past decade and a half. “I want to drink coffee, but I just can’t stand the taste!” “I need caffeine, but coffee tastes gross!” “I don’t like the taste of coffee, what can I drink?” I’ll let y’all in on a little secret: I didn’t used to like coffee either. Couldn’t stand the taste. My early caffeine fixes were all from soda, because I didn’t like tea either. What happened? Well for one thing, I got a job at Starbucks. That training gave me a ton of knowledge about coffee roasting, brewing, and drink recipes, and the time to experiment with different combinations. The first thing I realized was that I’d been doing coffee all wrong. I figured that since I didn’t like coffee, the solution was just to load as much sugar and cream as I could into whatever cheap coffee was handy. Needless to say, the result was less than tasty and didn’t particularly incline me to drink more. If you don’t like something, then buying the cheapest version of it and trying to choke it down is not necessarily going to be productive. Over the years I’ve developed a method for “teaching” people to drink coffee. I can’t guarantee it will work for everyone, but I’ve had good success with it on...

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Pumpkin Spice News

As you may have read on the internet — especially if you’re as coffee-obsessed as I am — the Pumpkin Spice Latte is coming back early this year. Here’s the dates: Official launch is September 2nd. However, through a series of “challenges” on social media, people can “unlock” the PSL at their local Starbucks as early as August 25. The PSL is traditionally a fall drink, which has some people crying foul at the early release. After all, it’s still August and already we have Halloween candy going on sale, and even some Christmas merch appearing in stores. The tendency in retail is to draw out lucrative seasonal sales as long as possible in the hopes of drawing in more money. On the flip side, however, drinks that evoke a certain season might reasonably be marketed during a time when people are preparing for that season. Like the first turning of the leaves (if you live in a place where leaves turn, which I don’t), the PSL could be considered as much a sign that fall is coming, as a sign that fall is actually hear. I think that’s the feeling that Starbucks is trying to get in on — a seasonal drink as a sign that the season is coming soon. Last year, Starbucks realized the social media potential of this drink and pushed it hard on their...

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What should I order at Starbucks?

This has to be the #1 question I've been asked over the years. People walk into Starbucks, see the unfamiliar terminology on the menu boards, get overwhelmed and feel completely lost. That's one of the reasons I started a website waaay back in the early '00s with drink info on it, to help people navigate the menu. The problem is, “What should I order?” is a hard question to answer without context. It's like “What should I order at McDonald's?” or “What book should I buy from Amazon?” To give a useful answer, you need to know the asker's preferences and what they're in the mood for. I'll list some of the more common things people have in mind here and my suggestions for what to order. And remember — when in doubt, ask the barista. I just want a coffee. Go ahead and order a coffee, that's totally allowed. If they're in the middle of brewing a new batch, or if they've stopped brewing the coffee you want for the day, they may offer you an Americano, a French press, or a Clover brew. All of those are pretty good options. I want something kinda sweet but not too expensive or fancy. Try the vanilla latte. It can be made hot or cold, depending on what temperature of drink you're in the mood for. I want that thing...

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Review: Fizzio Lemon Ale (Starbucks)

The third soda in the new Fizzio lineup is the Lemon Ale. While not as well-known a flavor as root beer or ginger ale, and not alcoholic as its name might imply (it’s an ale like ginger ale, not like actual ale), the Lemon Ale still makes a good third member to the trio. When I ordered it, the barista identified it as her favorite of the three offerings, and I can see why. Like its soda siblings, this drink is not too calorie-laden (80 calories in a tall) and is made from concentrate and then freshly carbonated with the new and mysterious Fizzio carbonation machine. The result is a soda that is quite sweet, and not at all tart like one might expect from a lemony drink. I expected this drink to basically taste like a carbonated lemonade, but there’s more to it than that. It seems to have more citrus flavors in it than just lemon — in fact, it reminded me a little bit of the Peach Green Tea Lemonade. It’s fruity and very tasty, while not hitting you over the head with lemon flavor. If you like the various tea lemonades at Starbucks, you’ll like this soda. Bullet-pointed summary: What: Fizzio Lemon Ale Where: Starbucks Options: Just the size Verdict: A fruity, lemony soda that is much more on the sweet side than the tart...

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