Sunday, January 31

Weekend with the kiddos!

Miah and Jessie celebrated being a couple for 11 years this weekend! I went up to Champaign to watch Cecilia and Benjamin. Here are some pics. Cecilia is sick, with a runny nose and a cough. Sick babies are a sad sight. She was out of it on Saturday night, lethargic and wheezy. Ben was a happy two year-old.

(I like this foot picture because I do the same thing, tangle my big toes together.)

I like giving Ben the camera and let him take over. His understanding of how and where to shoot is much improved since November (sans the bathtub shot.)

I need to look up an animated character named Kipper. It's his new favorite thing. That and airplanes.

Friday, January 29

Happy Friday things

I like making things, photos, and chocolate. I about flipped a lid when I came across this little nugget after work. It makes me want to go to New York and find these Mast Brothers, and eat their home-made chocolate. Salt and pepper chocolate perhaps?

Kodak saw some birds in the yard yesterday and started chirping at them. Have you seen this in a cat before? Wikipedia has this to say: "Cats are also known to make chirping or chattering noises when observing prey, or as a means of expressing interest in an object to nearby humans. When directed at out-of-reach prey, it is unknown whether this is a threatening sound, an expression of excitement or frustration, or an attempt to replicate a bird-call." Here is a video from You Tube I found that resemble what my cats do. I think it's great!

Thursday, January 28


I am in love with making bags. I can't seem to stop buying fabric and getting pieces cut out. I have never used a pattern, and these projects are no exception, and each creation is something I'm enjoying from start to finish. This is the one I made for myself. I put a magnetic clasp in it, and am a big fan of that new flourish.

Wednesday, January 27

March 4th

Neil Gaiman's cat, Zoe, died on Monday. I can't help but be a bit sad. It makes me think of Pudder and Huxley and LC.

Sometimes there are people who need cats, sometimes there are cats that need people. Sometimes, it works out that both parties are lucky enough to find each other, and what happens seems a bit magical.

Baxter is on my lap right now, which in it self is a little miracle. I pushed him to the side twice since sitting down to type, but it seemed that was a posture he wouldn't be content with.

I have my first experience closing the shop tonight. 4-midnight. What a shift! The big news from yesterday is that Alec's husband got the call from D.C. about his start date for training, March 4th. So, Alec has one month left in the shop, and then she will be moving to East coast. One month, until I take over her job full time at Common Grounds.

We've gotten to be good friends in the two weeks of work. It will be a bit lonely to be working by myself after all of the chatting and sharing we've done. But I couldn't be more excited for her. She and Eric have been waiting for months to hear an official job offer. Now I know someone who works for the Secret Service.

Monday, January 25


Dan and I went to Bloomington this past weekend so I could 1) support Kristy in her journey to compete in the national competition for Male Impersonators, and 2) celebrate my birthday with some friends.

Friday night Kristy had a benefit show at the Bistro, with all proceeds going towards paying for her competition in March down in Oklahoma. Like most shows at the Bistro, this was awesome. There were some great drag queens there, each with some sort of national title (now or in the past), and Kristy's performances were also amazing to watch. The crowd was huge, and with the cover charge and the performer's tips, she made $300 over her goal. Yay Devin!

Saturday I met up with Kristy, her sister Keri, Val, and Trish, to go bowling. Some may scoff at the idea of bowling, but it is so much fun. My first three throws were all strikes, which prompted Dan to threaten to take me around in C-dale as his ringer to make some extra cash. We all had a great time, even with the legion of small children that were running and screaming about. Lots of cakes and party hats. Multiple birthday celebrations were happening at once. It was a bit overwhelming, all those kids being around so many loose projectiles.

Dan got me a pair of head phones for a present, which I got to pick out, and I pretty much wear them all the time now. The car ride home I was in my own head phone world, and last night, sewing was a dream. No more ear buds to hurt me! Thanks Dan!

My friends also made me feel super special, what with all of them having ridiculous schedules and they each carved out a bit of time. Alex had dinner with me on Friday and gave me a bunch of wine, and Kristy pulled some heart strings with a mess of photos of the two of us along with the sweetest little wooden box with a carved tree in the front. Inside was a compass ring. A compass ring! How great is that?!

This week will fly by, and next weekend I'm going to babysit my niece and nephew so the Parents can celebrate their many years together. It isn't their wedding anniversary, but their dating anniversary. 11 years my brother and his wife have been together. Whew!

I spoiled the kitties with tuna before posting, and they are now happily taking a full-belly nap on the living room chairs. Dan is cleaning up the dinner dishes, and in a bit we'll watch an episode of Band of Brothers. The little house here on Friedline is cozy and happy.

Wednesday, January 20

Getting along fine, thanks.

Work is great. People that have seen me around this week and last have warmed up a bit. Those that I've made drinks for are even more open to chatting. Today I met a man named Mike who was wearing a Boundry Bay Brewing hat. I asked if he was passing through Bellingham when he picked it up, or if he was from that area. "I still own a house in Bellingham! How do you know of the town?" That is where I went to college. It never ceases to amaze me how small the world can be sometimes.

I also met Tina, who loves to garden, and Sabastian, who didn't talk to me until today - forgoing the usual brow crinkle and grunt in exchange for, "I like the way you make my drink."

Andrea just finished her third master's degree and has no idea what she is going to do next. She goes to the gym every morning, sans Sunday, until she figures something out. Frank is snarky. Jason sits in the corner for about six hours a day working on his dissertation. Sam likes his cinnamon roll heated for 33 seconds. Barb is the no-foam latte.

I'm talking to people and I'm starting to feel like a member of the community. At some point I'm sure there will be some people that will eventually be my friends, but until then, I'm happy to learn their drink and regain my barista multitasking skills. My feet still hurt at the end of every day, which I'm not thinking will change, and it is proof I'm doing something again.

No pictures of work, but I have images from my birthday. It was a pretty great/relaxing birthday.

This is my birthday cake. German Chocolate from scratch. Yum.

My evening: watching football. Next to it is my birthday card from Dan.

This is my Dan hanging out with my Kodak

Saturday, January 16

Happy birthday to me!

I am 27.

So far today, my mom and Martin called singing the traditional duet, my brother called from his computer from the Orlando airport, even though I couldn'thear him, the ominous cave noise let me know it was him, and text messages are pretty much continuously *dinging* in. My sister, dad, mom, and Dan' parents have all sent me mail and well wishes, that I was beyond excited about. I love mail! I love my birthday!

Today I'm going to make a cake, sew a new wallet, and stay at home. Next weekend will be the trip to Blono for Kristy's benefit drag show, and then birthday bowling to celebrate with my peeps.

My paper whites are big and beautiful just in time to be my birthday flowers, and they are smack in the middle of the dining table. However, that spot also happens to be Kodak and Baxter's thoroughfare when they get their chase on. I don't know if it will hold up for the day, but it's so darn pretty at the moment.

Other things that have made me happy in the past few days:

Enjoy the day! Drink some coffee and enjoy the little things :)

Friday, January 15

Work week

One week at the new job. It is a fairly small shop, only takes one person behind the counter most hours. SIU starts up classes next week, which, I'm told, will be a whole different beast. We'll see.

As was assumed, there are huge differences between this shop and past shops. Not all bad, but so far I see contradictions is what they are telling me is important. I'm asking questions to gain as much clarification as possible, but for some things there aren't any answers. Thankfully, the owner has welcomed any and all conversation about things that come up.

( Coffee mumbojumbo follows)

For instance, when steaming a pitcher of milk, there are many different methods, temperatures, and textures that coffee shops make their drinks with. Tools can differ, with small 20 oz pitchers that typically make one drink at a time, or huge 1 Liter steaming pitcher for multiple drinks. Some shops steam their milk to 140 degrees. Others, as hot as 170. Every shop has a "right" way of doing things. Every shop has to think about how their techniques will be transferred to new employees so their drinks are consistent, and their patrons are satisfied.

The current shop I'm at uses the large 1 liter steaming pitchers. In the back, I found one small, 20 oz milk pitcher, which they call "the latte art pitcher." They don't do latte art, so no one has a reason to use it. I got the ok to bring it out to bar when I was working.

I was steaming a pitcher of milk for a single drink order with Jason, the owner, at the register chatting with the regular. When the transaction was done, Jason came over and we talked about steaming technique.

I don't use a thermometer (unless there is a specific temperature that a drink should be at). I have tempered my hand, knowing that I can hold the pitcher until it reaches 120 degrees, then I count for 4 seconds, and it reaches the desired 140 degrees, a temperature that makes the natural sweetness in the milk bloom, and allows the drinker immediate access to enjoying the beverage without having their body scalded or maimed.

Jason was trained to steam milk by sound. He said he knows when it reaches his desired temperate of 160-165 when the milk tone takes a dip to a lower pitch. I asked him to explain it while showing me. He did. I heard the tone shift. I asked about the consistency of the tone when either more or less air was added to the pitcher. He said it didn't matter, the tone would still shift at the desired temperate. I asked if he was willing to run an experiment, and he agreed.

I steamed a pitcher my way, and then took a thermometer reading when I was done. It was at 140. I asked Jason to steam a pitcher his way, to see if it was indeed where he said it would be. It was at 140. I asked him to do it again. It was at 150. I asked him to do it again. It was at 155. After the first pitcher of milk he steamed, he was shocked. He didn't realize he was so "uncalibrated." I asked him if his drinks were supposed to be served at the tone drop, or at 165 degrees. He said he was going to have to think about all of this and he would get back to me.

All of this was in good spirits. At the end, he was really excited to "have someone in the shop who thinks about these types of things." The current crew is great, just from a different coffee world. Everyone I've met has been warm and welcoming, and really excited.

(End of mumjum)

I asked Jason if he'd be up for a road trip to Milwaukee this March for those that wanted to watch the Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition. He got really excited and said he would think about who would be a good candidate to go.

What I appreciate about Jason, is he is passionate about giving his community a quality product, and to the best of his knowledge, he is offering that. He has acknowledged that he doesn't know a lot outside of the Crimson Cup philosophy (the company that helped him start four years ago, and who we still receive our beans through) and is open to hearing and changing things that would make his shop better. And really, there isn't much more that I could ask for from a boss. He doesn't see me as a threat. He doesn't see me as an upstart that wants to alienate his customers or cheat him.

Overall the shop is wonderful.

I have made, what seems like, reams of notes about what I would want in my shop, and what I will avoid. Even with that bit of info, this job has been worth it. One thing I will investigate more, is their delivery option. A coffee shop that has found a way to do delivery? Are their drinks good by the time they get to their destination? Are the hot drinks hot? Are the cold drinks diluted puddles of coffeedwater? Has the whipped cream deflated? Things I'll find out.

I'm really glad to be back in coffee, going through the gauntlet of proving to regulars that I'll make their drinks (better), and proving to staff that I'll be a great boss to work with. It's weird to think that when I leave this job, I'll be moving again, but that is three semesters away.

Monday, January 11

Friday, January 8

Gots me a job.

I get nervous about things that I have no business getting nervous about. Getting a job in the coffee world, for instance. I was finished being a nanny on November 26th, and actively put off applying for a job at the two coffee independent coffee shops in town until Wednesday. Why? I couldn't really tell you. I have a few stories out there about being able to enjoy my holiday, but really, I'm a scaredy cat, and I psyched myself out.

Two days ago I got over the hurdle and picked up applications. I filled them out, revised my resume, put together some latte art samples, and gave them back the next day. I left home about 2pm, and 45 minutes later I got a call from Jason, the owner of Common Grounds, asking me to come in for an interview today at one.

The interview was more of a chat - an hour and 45 minute chat. He told me about his business and how he saw me fitting in, and I answered his questions. Half way through, he laid it out saying, "I'm really excited to have you at the shop, if you think this is somewhere you'd like to be." After that, he dove into deeper shop talk, with figures, goals, hopes, and current trends. He offered me the job, and Monday I start training.

It feels so great to be going back to shop life! I was dreading the prospect of finding a job in an office or doing something where I would need to bust out my Dry Clean Only attire. Not that it isn't fun to be a Dry Clean Only employee, but c'mon. I want jeans and home made aprons! (Which, by the way, are both allowed at CG!)

The current store manager, Alec, is a sweet girl who is moving with her husband to WA. D.C. The husband got a job as a secret service officer (awesome), and they will be moving once he gets his detail.

So yay! I have a job! I am going to do something I like!

Wednesday, January 6

1001 Rules

I've been happy about my new blog discoveries this morning. I may be testing the capacity of Google Reader with the additions, but there are just so many great things out there!

A lot of people I know are having babies, or just had babies, or are thinking of having babies, so this blog especially caught my eye. 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son. I think it's a great idea to make notes that you think are important, or just practical. Rule 415 is helpful for sure, 57 makes one question if there is a local butcher, and the following are just spot on - 321, 243, and 196.

Honestly, there are so many good ones, (for people in general) that I'm thinking about getting the book.

Monday, January 4

New Year, new neighbors

We have a new neighbor. His name is Alex. He has a canoe on the top of his car. He and our land lord knocked on the door just before Dan finished cooking dinner, and now, he is unloading his car. I hate moving, and moving in January doesn't sound like it would improve the matter much.

We have a new addition to our comfy home. Meet the Paper Whites. A delightful little growing family, who just today have popped up to say hello. They are growing so fast! I can't wait for their potent smell to take over the house.

Their little stems get so heavy once they are big and tall, so I'm hoping this mesh cage will give them a bit of stability. It may be too close to their base to do anything. We'll see.

The Swift/Johnson house will soon be getting curtains! We made a decision! Now, we have to go find them and put them up. We also gave a letter of intent to our land lord, saying if all goes well with the funding for the school (ie: if the school has money to run next year) we will be resigning out lease. So, these curtains are a semi-long term commitment. Dan says he doesn't care what they look like, but we'll see once we start looking.

Also today, I finished a painting. I've been working on stuff for my friend Danny since...well, lets round off and call it a year and a half. Everything I started I hated, or was inappropriate to give to him. I told him I would so long ago...and he is moving to California soon, so I'm glad I've done something I'm happy with and is give-able. I hope he likes it. No pictures until he sees it first!

Friday, January 1

Beginning of 2010

Yay for 2010. I suggest you go to a site called and send your future self a note. I just had mine delivered that I sent last new years. It was encouraging to see how far I've come in a year. However, there will be no sappy farewell for 2009 here.

With plans to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas in Chicago, New Years was going to be in Bloomington like last year. Unfortunately, plans never came together, so Dan and I came back up to Chicago to enjoy the festivities. We went to Russ and Bomber's house to enjoy Super Mario Bros. for Wii before the party started (which is super fun and charming with its throw backs to the original game) then enjoyed the twenty to thirty people that came bearing food and drinks. James was playing DJ for a while, which got lots of people moving around, but even when it was just James dancing about we enjoyed the show. Every time I get together with Dan's group of friends, I get a bit dazed by how long they have known each other and how committed they've been to staying in touch.

I got to make Carrie's Baked Brie for the first time since Juneau. Brie on its own is wonderful, but to then warm it, and lay a glaze of brown sugar and whiskey with a few nuts on top - well, let's just say I'm glad Carrie made it so I can make it too.

A fun part to last night was getting dressed up. I was going to be warm and comfy after hearing it was going to be in the single digits, but after waking up from my nap to see Dan getting dressed in leather pants, I had to step up and enjoy the fun for the evening. So, Dan in his pants, shirt and fedora and me in a black dress with purple tights. We had fun.

I'm off now to write my FutureMe note, and make some goals for this next year. I hope the year starts off well for you as well.
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