The Adaptable Brew

FOR THE LOVE OF A BEAN

In morning mist of history, someone invented a pot.

Somewhat later one of these pots, full of boiling water, sat over someone’s cooking fire and they decided to toss in some dried berries they found on a bush. And when they took a slurp of the dark, dark water covering the beans, they thought, “Hmm… I kind of like that!” Someone soon thought of crushing the beans to release more of this appealing flavor. And the rest is history.

After years of boiling the crushed beans in a pot some clever soul saw the potential for improvement by putting these grounds in a bag and pouring boiling water over them. His idea caught on; folks did like the taste better.

Some years later another inventive person thought of a longer, skinnier pot with a spout for pouring, a metal basket like a sieve to hold the beans above the water, and a pipe that would pump boiling water up and over the beans. This “coffee percolator” went over well.

While percolators were bubbling merrily on stoves all across the world, other innovative people were at work with wires, metal drums, dams and windmills — testing, adapting. Finally lights went on all across the land and homes were wired for electricity. Some manufacturer of coffee percolators saw and opportunity and invented a stove-less coffee perk.

People developed more refined tastes. The idea of water washing repeatedly over the coffee fell into disfavor. Innovative designers produced an appliance where the water dripped down over the grounds only once. This new drip coffee-maker went over big time.

Electronics were added a clock so the user could programme when the machine would start to drip. Presto! Fresh coffee in the morning. Consumers were delighted with this innovation.

Someone else, in an attempt to satisfy the world’s need for speed and convenience, thought of putting the coffee grounds into small pods — then designed a machine that would hold an individual pod and drip water over it, to produce a single cup of coffee.

Innovation didn’t stop there. Someone else adapted the idea by adding a reservoir to hold water and a heating chamber to heat enough water for each cup. An electronic panel lets users select the amount of water that passed through the pod, and the speed, which affected the strength of the brew.

Our daughter found one of these marvelous inventions on Kijiji some months ago and presented it to us as a just-for-anyhow present. So we’re up with the latest; my morning cup of coffee sits here beside me as I type this. And I see a bug has landed in it. Grrr…! Guess you can’t fix every glitch. 😦

As I write these words, more adaptations are being tested in laboratories around the world. Ideas to make brewing our favorite beverage even more convenient. Who knows when the next clever innovation will appear in the market place?

Alas! If this process continues, I fear the day may come when I can’t figure out how to operate a coffee maker and have to become a tea granny like my Mom.

Disclaimer:
The writer makes no claims as to the historical accuracy of this article. 😉

Daily Addictions prompt: INNOVATION

FOWC with Fandango: PRESENT

Word of the Day challenge: POTENTIAL

That Long Dark Night

Fandango’s FOWC Word prompt for today is: MEMORY

I appreciate these agreeable, simple words! This one should inspire a wide variety of responses. For my response I’m going to pull up a tidbit I originally posted in Dec 2013.

“Where were you when the lights went out?”

Remember that question, popular in the early seventies? Do you remember the incident it stems from? Can you remember the BeeGees’ song “When the Lights All Went Out in Massachusetts”? If you can, you’re as old as I am!

One day my mind went back to that long dark night, so I asked some friends these questions. They’d never heard of it. Some had heard that question, but had no idea what incident it referred to. Tsk, tsk! A whole generation has arisen (maybe even two already) who don’t remember when the lights all went out in Massachusetts.

But what year was that again? And what caused the power failure? And which states did it hit? I was pretty sure I remembered, but when I googled it, I found that I hadn’t gotten the basic details straight at all. All these years I thought the Yanks were to blame, but it actually started when Canadian electrical workers used the wrong size of wire in a power substation. (Blush!)

One book I refer to at times and enjoy reading just for the fun of it is Jack M. Bickham’s The 38 MOST COMMON FICTION WRITING MISTAKES (And How to Avoid Them)  © 1992 by Jack M. Bickham

Chapter 20 in this book is titled: “Don’t Assume You Know; Look It Up”
This is invaluable advice.

So, dear aged friends, without asking Mr Google, when did the lights go out all across the Eastern seaboard and southern Ontario and Quebec? And where were you?

 

Rethinking the Woodpile

Firewood pile

Fandango’s challenge for today: ACCOMPLICE
Ragtag Community Daily prompt: GROOVE

Which brings to mind a short tale I once read, one that goes back to the days when every rural home had a wood stove in the kitchen, a tree stump that served as a chopping block for splitting logs, and a pile of firewood near the house for easy access in winter.

The Seventh-grade boys put their heads together at recess one afternoon. They were feeling kind of bored and wanted to think of something fun and different they could do sometime. Several ideas were advanced and vetoed.

Then someone offered the suggestion: “Why don’t we get together after dark some night over at old man Haskell’s place and play some trick on him.” This suggestion piqued the interest of the others.

‘Old man Haskell’ was their community’s equivalent of Oscar-the-Grouch. Living just out of town, gruff, abrupt, and somewhat crippled, he didn’t have a lot of patience for young boys. He grumbled when they cut through his yard to go fishing and if he saw them hanging around town he’d scold them for being idle. They should be working hard like he always had to, and so on.

At school the boys sometimes mimicked his mannerisms. Grabbing a stick for a cane, hunching over and hobbling along, they’d turn and scowl at the other boys just like old man Haskell would. They never let teacher catch them at this, though. Teachers were pretty strict about respecting your elders.

“But what trick could we play on old man Haskell? Upset his outhouse?”

“Nah,  that’s old hat. But I have an idea,” said Len. “Let’s un-stack his woodpile.”

The others looked at him curiously. “We can scatter his firewood all over his old yard,” Len explained. ” I think that would be a great trick to play on him. He’d have to pick it all up. That’d keep him busy for awhile and he wouldn’t have time to gripe at us.”

One of the other conspirators beamed. “Yeah, let’s! Wouldn’t that be fun – and serve him right for being such a grouch.”

The fourth conspirator, Rudy, scuffed his toe in the dirt. He didn’t really see the fun in tossing wood for hours, but did see possible consequences. “What if we get caught,” he asked. Much as he wanted to be part of the gang, it niggled at him how his dad would react if he heard this? Rudy had been taught to respect older folks and other folks’ property.

“It’ll be dark,” Len retorted. “Old man Haskell will never see us. And for sure he’ll never catch us — you know how slow he moves. What do you think, guys? Let’s meet in front of his place at nine tonight and have some real fun.”

That evening four boys crept away from their respective homes. Just after nine o’clock Len and his three accomplices slipped into Haskell’s yard and began tossing firewood off the pile. It became a game to see how far they could throw it. Still, there was an undercurrent of tension. They worked quietly, glancing often toward Haskell’s shack to see if the curtain moved or the door opened, though they knew he was hard of hearing.

With four pairs of hands working, the woodpile was soon scattered all over the yard. When they were done, Len rubbed his hands on his pants. “Okay. Let’s beat it, guys.”

“Won’t it be a joke when old man Haskell gets up in the morning and sees this mess? Wish I could be here to see his face. Ha ha!”

Rudy had been quiet most of the evening, his conscience stirring uneasily. He made his way home again, hoping he could slip in without his parents hearing him? But could he face his Dad in the morning? His dad was pretty sharp.

He tried to not make a sound but his father heard him come in and questioned why he’d been out so late on a school night? Rudy was evasive, but finally revealed the prank. “But old m…I mean Mr Haskell is such a grouch. We thought he deserved it.”

“Yes, Mr Haskell does seem cranky, but you boys don’t know what he’s been through in life and what he’s suffering now with his health issues. It’s going to be extremely painful for him to gather up all that wood and put that pile back together.”

Dad looked at him quietly for a few minutes and Rudy blushed under his silent disapproval. Suddenly Dad stood up. “So let’s us play a good prank now — and a joke on your school mates at the same time. Come on. Let’s get your brothers up.”

Dad called Rudy’s two brothers and he and his three accomplices went back to old man Haskell’s place. Working in the light of the moon for several hours, they not only put his woodpile back together, but stacked all the wood much closer to the house so he wouldn’t have so far to go to fetch his firewood come winter. They were enthused about the task and made good time once they got in the groove. When the job was done, they surveyed the neat yard and exchanged satisfied smiles. Near as they could tell, Mr Haskell never heard a thing.

“Now, boys,” Dad said, “Isn’t a prank like this a lot more fun than just making trouble for an old man? When Mr Haskell gets up in the morning and looks out, instead of seeing a huge mess he has to clean up, he’ll see his woodpile has moved twenty yards closer to his door.”

“Oh, yeah. Wish I could see his face when he gets a gander! That’ll be a neat joke,” Rudy’s younger brother said as they turned toward home again.

Rudy’s older brother nodded. “One he’ll appreciate right well, I reckon.”

Rudy grinned as he thought of Len’s reaction. “Len’s eyes are going to bulge right out of his head when he hears about this.”

“Let’s not tell anyone we did it though,” Dad cautioned. “Let them keep guessing who came here after they did.”

“That’ll be the best joke of all.” Rudy imagined the shock the other un-stackers would get when news got around. He knew Mr Haskell would never keep quiet about his walking woodpile.

Swallows and Sweet Rolls — A Different Morning

Hello Everyone.

Ive had an unusual morning, the hours dappled with duties and naps.

I allowed a vision of fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast to lure me from my bed at in the wee hours. I noticed some for sale Sunday evening where I bought my milk and the thought of fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls buzzed around my mind all day yesterday. When I woke up at 4am the temptation to have some for breakfast overcame sleep.

This lure had an ally in our overflowing laundry hamper. I imagined having a couple of loads done and dried before the day got hot — a pleasant thought. Here in central Sask the air ALWAYS cools off overnight, a real blessing in the hottest summer days. By noon the trailer where we reside is toasty, being in the sunshine, un-dappled by overshadowing leaves. So it takes a fair bit to keep the place comfortable. Plus you don’t want to add to the indoor humidity by drying clothes. The earlier in the morning I can do the laundry, the better for us.

Upshot: by 4:30 am my bun dough was rising in the oven and a load of laundry was chugging away. I let the cat out, left the door open, and stood on our deck enjoying the fresh morning air. But a few minutes later the male barn swallow swooped past several times, quite close, twittering frantically. It’s rare he’d get that close; something must be disturbing him.

One thing about swallows: they know who their friends are. I find them friendly birds; if you pay them quiet, kind attention they learn to trust you — and will even come to you for help. I’ve observed different times when something is amiss, they fly almost by my nose, pleading for help in their own way. At the Villa one time a pair sat on a post right by the door, twittering in distress when a pair of English sparrows — a thousand curses on the species! — were invading their nest. Here, too, the swallows swooped around us to enlist our aid when those wretched sparrows stole their nest. You can’t mistake their little cries of “Help! Help!”

So I grabbed some shoes and went out to check their nest to see a cat or some other bird got into the building where they nest. Thankfully they’ve chosen a secure place. But there were several magpies — notorious nest-robbers — nearby in the back yard. Must have been what was bothering him; I chased them off and never heard anything more from the swallow.

Some people say barn swallows are so defensive they’ll attack people who come too near their nests. I haven’t found them that way. Or the birds here on the prairie haven’t learned to fear people? I go check their nest frequently these days to see if the little ones are cheeping yet and my presence distresses the parent birds a bit; they flap around some, but they’ve never dived at me. And it’s so sweet to see the little ones peeping out at you!

Anyway, the dough was rising, the laundry washing, the swallows settled, and I was free to check out the daily one-word prompts other bloggers have so kindly provided. I chose to use the following in this tale:

Daily Addictions: RESIDENT
Fandango’s FOWC: LESSEN
Ragtag Daily Prompt: DAPPLED
Word of the Day: DEVIATE
Scott’s Daily Prompt: PACKAGE

However, when you deviate from the tried and true, the normal routine — okay, I don’t exactly HAVE a normal routine, but for the purpose of this tale — you sooner or later have to make a course correction that will bring you back into the program again. If you lessen your hours of sleep in favor of sweet rolls and clean laundry, by 8 am when you’re ready to sit down and reply to the daily prompts as you usually would at this time, your eyelids become heavy and you start to nod off.

So I had a short nap and woke up in time to bake my buns. Which turned out very well. Wish I could send along a waft of cinnamon for you as you read this post.

By 8:30 am the buns were cooling on the counter and the second load was drying. Sweet!

I had an errand to do at the Villa, the seniors’ residence where I occasionally cook, so I packaged up half a dozen cinnamon rolls and took them along in case today’s cook might like to use them. I found one elderly gentleman walking down the hall and gave him a couple for his breakfast. did some sorting of recipes after I got home; I’d noticed quite a few in my Recipe box that I never use. “As you get older your tastes change”, they say. Truth is, as you get older you’re lean toward the old familiars.

Around 10 am I sat down to read, but soon fell asleep. As I said, less hours of sleep can play havoc with your schedule, but I think I’m awake now. I’ll reply to these prompt words, then I want to bake cookies.

Another deviation from routine: our church is holding Summer Vacation Bible School every evening this week and I’ve put my name down to supply four dozen cookies for tonight’s refreshment break. I’ll take my package of cookies over to church this afternoon when my husband gets home from his one-day-a-week book-keeping job in a nearly town.

Ah, I just got a pop-up from WordPress, offering to help me install a payment button! Hmm… You all know that you’re welcome to donate anytime, right? 🙂

Have a great day everyone.

Obedience Lessons

Caesar and the Sub

As usual, George didn’t bother with the buzzer at the main entrance, but walked around the corner of the apartment building to knock at the patio door of his grandson’s ground-floor suite. When he arrived he saw a huge dog staring at him through the glass. The great-whatever-it-was immediately announced his presence with resounding woofs.

Damien rushed to unlock the door. “Hey, Grandpa! Good to see you. Quiet, Caesar. This is a friend. FRIEND,” he repeated.

“I sure wouldn’t want to be a burglar trying to get in here with that brute waiting to devour me!” George stepped through the window into the living room area. “So this is your new hound?”

“Yeah, this is Caesar.” Damien ruffled the fur on the dog’s head. “Had him two weeks now and so far we’re getting along great. Really, his bark is worse than his bite.”

George chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to put that to the test. I won’t ever try sneaking in to surprise you.” He cautiously held out his hand to the dog and let Caesar sniff it. “Who sold you this beast?”

“A breeder south of town. His Great Dane had a litter, but some of the pups weren’t the purebreds he was expecting. Some other genetics got added to the mix at some point. He was rather dismayed about that, but gave me a good deal on this pup.”

“Yeah, I can see this isn’t a purebred anything.”

“I don’t care. I can tell already Caesar is going to be a faithful friend. When I take him for a walk, nobody’s going to hassle me. Anyway, Grandpa, sit down.”

George took a seat on the sofa and Caesar, with a happy grin, sat on the floor beside him. George reached out and gave the dog a cautious pat on the head. “So you’re going to trust me, are you, fella?”

Damien walked into the kitchen area and came back with a plate overflowing with a humongous submarine sandwich. “I was feeling hungry after our run through the park, so I was just fixing myself a sub. Do you want me to fix you one, too?”

“Sure,” George replied. “But make mine half that size. I don’t run through the park — or anywhere else — anymore.”

Damien grinned as he set his plate on the end table beside the recliner. “Yeah, I guess this would be pretty big for a lot of people. Ham, turkey, or both?” he asked as he headed back to the counter.

“Just turkey, thanks.” George watched Caesar walk over and sit beside the end table, his eyes focused on the sub. “You’d better hurry, Damien, or you won’t have a sandwich to come back to.”

Damien turned and saw Caesar sniffing toward the sandwich. “Oh, don’t worry about him. He’s well trained.” He quickly slapped together his grandfather’s sandwich, then opened the fridge door. “Do you want a drink with this, Grandpa? Cola or ginger ale, or iced tea?”

“Ginger ale would be fine.”

“Caesar and I have been going to obedience classes. We’re learning to communicate.”

“Obedience classes? Sounds like a great idea.”

“Yeah, we’ve had four lessons already. One thing he’s learned is not to touch any food until I say, ‘Nosh, Caesar.’ Then he knows it’s for him.” Damien grabbed pulled a can of pop from the fridge and shut the door.

George, who had his eyes on the dog, was amazed how fast Caesar devoured that sandwich once he heard the magic words.

“Uh, Damien… There was a little miscommunication here. I hope you still have enough fixings for another sandwich?”

Damien whirled around and saw his empty plate. He smacked his forehead with his hand. Caesar was looking up at him with eyes full of gratitude, his tail thump thumping on the floor. “Guess I can hardly blame him. I did give the command.”

George laughed. “It looks like he learned his lesson well. And now you have, too.”

“Yeah, I’ll remember this one,” Damien said ruefully as he reached for another sub bun.

🙂

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: LESSON

 

Letter from the Tropics

This letter is my response to various one-word challenges for today.

Beach scene

Dear Mom & Dad,

Not much doing here this evening so I thought I’d write you a letter — by battery-powered lamp-light, if you can believe it. My room-mate’s doing exercises to burn off the calories from last night’s feast. We were supposed to be lying on the beach enjoying a sunlit sea but they can’t schedule the weather here anymore than we can at home. Good thing our hotel puts a couple these lamps in every room. Now if only the air-conditioning would work!

Hope you like the postcard I’ve enclosed. Yesterday at the market I bought a bunch to send back to the folks at work with the usual, “Wish you were here.” Now I’m debating: should I leave them to envy me, thinking I’m having a wonderful trip? Or should I tell them the truth: we’re in the grip of a tropical deluge, wind and rain like you wouldn’t believe! And no power. 😦

Hurricane

There’s a beautiful sandy beach in front of our hotel just like you see in this photo — at least it was there yesterday — but it’s been evacuated because of the storm and the huge breakers rolling in. Hopefully the sand will still be there when this storm ends, not all washed out to sea.

The power went out at noon. You’ll be thinking, surely the hotel has generators? Yes, and the management got them running within half an hour. But by 2pm they ran out of gas. The shortage was investigated and we heard the janitor’s assistant was sacked when management found out he’s been selling gallons of gas to his poor relatives on the sly. They’ve ordered a delivery of more gas, but it hasn’t arrived yet, so we’re sweltering in this heat and humidity. Oppressive, our Prof says, for lack of a longer word.

You’ll see I’ve picked a postcard with the quintessential beach scene. Prof’s word for today. I told you in my last letter about Professor Hoffmeyer, one of the men who bought this holiday package deal. Of course we call him Prof-meyer. A lover of big words. “Oxford-educated and he can’t speak English,” Kyle says.

Kyle and Caylee are a young couple from Philadelphia. I doubt either of them is more than eighteen. Kyle has Grade Eight, he says, but I’m sure it’s only because teachers can’t fail anyone nowadays. Grew up dirt poor in some tenement slum — been together for a couple of years now. Two months ago they happened to pick the lucky ticket and won a two-million dollar lottery. Wonders never cease.

First thing Kyle did was buy Caylee an engagement ring. You should see that rock! They’re planning to tie the knot at some special place on this tour.

Of course as soon as their relatives heard the news, they all came to “borrow a bit” for some sudden emergency, so K & C knew they’d better make themselves scarce or friends and needy relations would bleed them dry. Smart move. A tropical holiday may not have been their best first choice but family can’t follow them here and we’re trying to help them acquire some dollar-and-sense smarts.

They seem like good kids, really. They’re ready to spend, but we plead with them to be careful. It’s amazing how fast money can disappear and none of us wants to see them flat broke a few years from now. One of the men on this tour is a retired banker and he’s taken them under his wing, giving some fatherly financial advice — something they’ve likely never had in their lives. The important thing is, they’re listening and learning.

Anyway, they don’t see eye to eye — or should I say tongue to tongue? — with Prof-meyer’s highbrow English. He means well, but he just can’t talk in one-syllable words. Yesterday when we hit the local outdoor market — where I bought this postcard, by the way — Prof looked over the scene and exclaimed, “Ah, the quintessential local market!” Kyle looked blank for a moment, then said, “It looks pretty typical to me. We have these in Philly, too.”

The rest of us grinned and adopted “quintessential” as our new buzzword of the day. We’re making a game of sticking it in wherever we can. And once we got our money changed to the local currency, Prof-meyer announced that he was going to “sally forth to acquire the accouterments of the typical tourist.” (Accouterments will have to be our word tomorrow.)

Kyle was stumped for a bit, then said, “Not us. We’re just gonna buy some stuff to show the folks back home where we been.”

“Be very careful, kids,” Prof warned them. “Folks here aren’t very conscientious with the truth about market prices.”

Kyle and Caylee looked blank until another tourist whispered, “He means they’re apt to fleece you if you don’t watch it.”

“Oh, that I understand,” Kyle told him. “We’ll be careful.”

Of course, before long we were surrounded by the quintessential haggling merchants and starving waifs begging coins, with the quintessential ‘Artful Dodger’ mixed in. And the usual gregarious sorts wanting to welcome you to their island with a hearty embrace while an accomplice slips your wallet out of your pocket. Prof lost his, but it held nothing of special value. Guess he’s traveled a lot in his day.

As we were leaving the church bells started ringing and Prof-meyer started spouting about the felicitous tintinnabulation. A few of us who heard him rolled our eyes and shook our heads. My roommate and I were behind Kyle and Caylee and heard him whisper to her that ‘Tabulation means counting, my math teacher told me once. So I think the Prof’s wanting to count the ting-ting-ting of the bells.” That gave us a chuckle.

Hey. The lights just came back on! The fuel truck must have made it through. Good thing, because they say this storm is supposed to last all through tomorrow as well. SIGH! So much for our tropical holiday — “palm trees waving in the breeze,” etc.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a good week. Wish you were here. 🙂

Love from your drenched daughter,
Contessa

Fandango’s FOWC:  QUINTESSENTIAL
RAGTAG Daily Prompt:  EMBRACE
Your Daily Word:  TINTINNABULATION
Word of the Day:  GREGARIOUS
Daily Addictions prompt: PLEAD