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When all else fails, raid the recycling bin.

January was intense. A lot has happened in our world and to my friends this month. While I have been active and keeping informed, I’ve also enjoyed some downtime.

Books

This month, I finished up some books I had started and read another book by someone who is becoming one of my favorite authors.

I enjoyed The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Cron and Stabile). That is, I enjoyed it after reading the part about Ones, which I am now 97% certain I am. I can’t really call my experience through that chapter “enjoyment,” but it was helpful.

My favorite book I’ve read this month is Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I have a whole separate post planned about this book, but for now I want to talk about this author. I love his characters and how he develops them. I need to buy all of his books and study them with fervor. I want to write characters that well.

TV

This is Us. I am firmly seated on this bandwagon. Stupid awesome show. It makes me cry and cry. I love  them all, but Randall is my favorite. Also, I am happy to see Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley throwing off shirts again. I support this.

I’ve also been on a superhero kick (I mean…even more than usual). So clearly I am rewatching/binge-watching Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Smallville. For some reason, I see the need for heroes these days. And by heroes, I do mean Cat Grant, Iris West, and Felicity Smoak.

Life

I had…fun? That’s not exactly it. I had moderate anxiety and the tiniest of panic attacks graciously buffered by camaraderie and humor and overwhelming kindness and the joy of seeing both old and new friends at the Women’s Rally/March in Denton. I enjoyed lunch and dinner with friends to talk about it, and my hope was given a little boost by those conversations.

My parents visited last weekend. We ate a lot, and my mom and I watched romantic comedies, and before they went home, my friend Margarett brought them a puppy to take with them. His name is Butch, and he is corgi/shepherd, and he has got that whole puppy eyes thing down. I’m sure there will be pictures aplenty in the months and years to come.

I’ve taken up my seasonal knitting habit again. It’s so calming. This year, I’m obsessed with blankets. If you visit, I might try to pawn one off on you. Many of them will be going to supplement the United Methodist Church’s donations to homeless shelters, because how many blankets do I really need? I am currently working on one in blues and grays that will act as a bedspread:

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Writing

I totally skipped my January newsletter this month, but I had something to share at my Mastermind group, so there’s that. I am working on about four very different projects. I think I can finally admit that having several projects going at once is the key to my sticking with a writing schedule and ever getting anything done. I am exhausted, exhilarated, and happy.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – hop over, read what others are into, and share your own post!

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September is always such a tease. It gives us a few cool days. A friend whose birthday is in the middle of the month says that Jesus always makes the weather nice for her special day, and I’m inclined to believe her. It always manages to make its way back up to the 90s at some point during the month, though. I could do without that.

Looking forward seemed to be the theme of this month. I am about to start October Unprocessed and 31 Days of Movement, so I have been collecting recipes and ideas for exercise that fits into a busy lifestyle. So I have stacks and stacks of cookbooks and get-your-life-together books all around the apartment.

September was full of friends and food. The DFW Story Feast had fondue night. There is a particularly telling picture of me where I am not at all looking at the camera but rather am focused on the smothered piece of bread at the end of my fork. I do love cheese. We meant to art journal that night, but…cheese.

I tried Hypnotic Donuts and Cultivar Coffee for the first time.  They have branched out from Dallas and made their way up to Denton, and I’m so glad that they did. Sonja and I each had a donut and then went back for poutine and a chicken biscuit. And it took me the entire time I was there to realize where I had seen this couch before:

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My grandmother had this exact same couch. If you look closely, you can see the pictures of the pheasants. This made me feel oddly at home. It seemed fitting that I should be eating biscuits and drinking really strong coffee near this couch.

That’s right.  Getting all my bad habits out of the way before I start an October of eating and doing things that are good for me.

Other than cookbooks, I have only read two books, but I enjoyed them both. Cassandra Clare’s City of Heavenly Fire was a quick read and a nice (albeit very predictable) conclusion to the series. But Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair was my favorite. I feel bad for it, being my favorite in a slow reading month. It’s not hard to be the better of two. But even if I’d read twenty books this month, it probably would still have been my favorite. It was clever cornucopia of literary references, and it made me want to read everything mentioned.

As far as music goes, I have had either Rude or All About That Bass stuck in my head all month. I only find one of them tolerable. It’s been tedious. I would like to say that this is teaching me patience, but I’m pretty sure it’s just fueling my rage.

Micah and Raven both had birthdays this month.  They’re getting so big, and I see them so rarely. I might have to make a dash to Fort Worth in October to visit.

So that’s my September. What was your September like?

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – join us!

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July is pigtail weather. July is also finding-things-to-do-indoors weather.

What I did:

For July 4th, I made Sloppy Joes (Mom’s recipe that is basically meat, ketchup, and sweet pickle relish – also good on lentils but drain the relish first to avoid soupiness), Caprese Salad bites (although mine didn’t look that pretty…in fact, they were mostly assemble-yourself bites), and White Sangria (after comparing several recipes, I just dumped peach nectar, vanilla vodka, brandied peaches – aside: delicious – and Moscato in a pitcher) and made everyone come to me.  Then I watched the fireworks from my couch.  Happy.

The DFW Story Sisters came to Denton this month.  So naturally, we hit the square.  We started at Jupiter House, wandered through Recycled Books and SCRAP, and followed dinner at Abbey Inn up with ice cream.

Michelle, Steve, and Savvy came to visit the next weekend.  They brought over Mr. Chopsticks for lunch, and then we spent the afternoon on the square collecting leaves, looking at books and candy, having a little dance party, eating ice cream at Beth Marie’s, and having dinner at LSA. 

 

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Her fannish glee in mid-squee.  We swear she picked Smallville up all on her own with no coaching. I love this little face!

Supper Club hit Wine Squared again this month.  I think we’re in love.

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What I read:

I again spent the month looking over cookbooks.  I’m going to stop pretending this is a seasonal thing. Cookbooks are my jam.  Ohhh…jam cookbook! *plots*

Moving on…

My two favorite recommendations:

 – Joy the Baker. If it were possible to make love to a cookbook…

And apparently, others have felt the same.  About every ten pages or so of the library’s copy, I would find crumbs or flour dust between the pages.  On the one hand, I totally understand.  These recipes demand immediate baking.  On the other hand, come on, people!  Library books are communal books!  All the more reason to buy my own copy, I guess.

Everything I have tried so far is glorious, but I especially recommend the vegan pumpkin walnut bread and the banana rum cake with brown butter frosting.  Or the goat cheese-pepper-cocoa truffles.  Or the coconut macaroon ice cream. Oh, I can’t choose.  Just buy it and make it all.

– The Runner’s World Cookbook. Part of me thinks, “Most of this information is on the Internet somewhere.  I could just look there for free.” I can’t bring myself to settle for that, though, when all of it is right here, neatly organized into one beautiful book. 

Reasons I will be buying this book:
1. The charts and lists. It gives a easy comparison guide for different grains, fats, and proteins. 
2. A basic whole grain pancake recipe, followed by two pages of batter and topping variations – most of which I would have never thought of on my own, and I experiment a lot. I can’t wait to try the Speakeasy Special and the Sweet Southerner pancakes.
3. Chicken Not Pie. As a loather of chicken pot pie, I appreciate a recipe that takes everything I would like about it and leaves out the rest.
4. Steel Cut Oatmeal Risotto. This is an example of my favorite thing about this book – they took food I love and made in a slightly different way to make it new and interesting.

To watch:

This is a short list.  I’m making my way through Boston Legal.  It’s hilarious. I recommend it, if for no other reason than to see William Shatner and James Spader in flamingo costumes.

My favorite things people did on the Internet:

  1. Luke Harms tells married men how to act around women.
  2. Beth Morey takes on sex and marriage.
  3. Robin Korth became my hero. 
  4. Confused Cats Against Feminism.  Because they’re cats.
  5. I joined Equal Exchange’s Red Cherry Challenge – will you?
  6. All the #FaithFeminisms – but especially this one by Abi Bechtel.
  7. Reason #482 to love The Bloggess.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – come on over and tell us what you’re into!

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The word “we” makes me anxious.

My gut reaction to “we” is to feel left out. I’ve been part of that magical twosome, whether romantic or otherwise, that gives me a rant-listener, a breakfast partner, a perpetual plus-one, and a person who will call me out when I’m siding with the melodrama in my head. I also know what it’s like to go from “we” to “just me…again.”  It’s not pretty, even when it’s for a good reason or for the best. That transition makes me want to make friends with more of these:

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But then I breathe and look across the table.

And there’s Marvia and Alison and Kati Rose and Miah.

There’s always a new “we,” and if I don’t remember to say that, I am only telling half the story. God always gives me a new “we.”

I am a textbook introvert.  Read any list on how to approach those who need solitude to recharge their energy, and you’re pretty much reading a manual on how to get along with me. But I also have a pesky characteristic called connectedness.  I see patterns in everything, and I see how they work together. Give me a minute, and I can tell you how everyone’s actions affect everyone else. This can make me annoying at parties (or at work…or to the unfortunate soul sitting next to me on the bus when I first read the article that is going to piss me off that day…). I was once given an actual soapbox as a gift – partially as a nod to my fondness for standing upon them and partially as a jab at my physical shortness (to which I replied, “I don’t need height – I have minions.”). Connectedness is inherently communal.  So while community may not exactly energize me, it does seem to be a habitual, necessary occurrence in my life.

I have a lot of “we’s” –

  1. Online writer communities – I can never get away with not writing, not with Story Sessions and Andilit on the prowl.
  2. Supper Club – Bonded by our love of food, reading, and TV, this is a group who is not afraid to hear what I really think and is not afraid to tell me what they really think.
  3. Christ the Servant Lutheran Church – I’m new to them, so we’re still figuring each other out.  But they couldn’t be kinder or more welcoming, and I am learning a lot.  It’s nice to find a place where I feel both safe and challenged. Also, they let me be on their outreach team.  My first task? Taking inventory of our current coffee supplies and figuring out a budget for us to move toward being more intentional with fair trade purchases. And when I said no to working with the children (I love many specific children individually, but in packs or running about in public, they kinda freak me out. I blame working daycare.), they listened.  The first time. I’m so happy.
  4.  Various friends I met through Christ Fellowship and The-Church-Formerly-Known-As-Normal-Street (after all this time, I still don’t know the current name of the group.  Wow.) – Even though I am no longer meeting with them on Sundays, these are still the people I would call in an emergency. When I think of my very best friends, in Denton and beyond, I can trace almost all of them back to one (or both – love you, Steph) of these groups.
  5. Maggie and Michelle – They get their own space. They are often my first sounding board and my first readers. If you looked at the text messages on my phone, you would see that over half the total messages I send are to one or both of them. If I ever become obnoxiously wealthy, the first thing I’m going to do is pay off my student loan.  The second thing I’m going to do is buy each of them a house and hire Maggie as my personal assistant and Michelle as my social media coordinator so that they can move back to Denton. So, start making plans, you two.
  6. My family – This is the part where I get weepy with gratitude.  My family is my greatest support. My family is the reason I can’t say mean things about Republicans in general (even though the loud, extreme ones in the media really have it coming).  My conservative parents, sister, and brother-in-law are the most generous, most helpful, most supportive, most responsible, kindest, bravest, funniest, and just all around BEST people I know. I am who I am because of them, and I will be who I’m becoming because of them. I am lucky, lucky, lucky.

I might not have a plus-one right now, but that’s okay.  Because I have a plus-twenty.

I have the community I need.

Who’s your “we?” I’m linking up with Marvia’s Real Talk Tuesday – join us!

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Big Mike’s Coffee Shop is great.  It’s located right across the street from UNT campus in the same location and under the same ownership as Voyager’s Dream (before The Man ruined Fry Street…but that’s another story for another time). Their website lists my three favorite things about Big Mike’s – independent, local, and fair trade. They are also ecologically minded.  They save their coffee grounds and give them to local gardeners for their compost piles. I also like how they take care of the students.  They used to be a 24-hour shop, but now they are closed from midnight to 6:00 a.m. most days.  However, during dead week and finals week, they reinstated their around-the-clock hours to support the students cramming during the wee hours of the morning. And on graduation day, they offered anything on their menu at half off for graduates who came in their caps and gowns.

Also – there are signs like this:

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(I swear I waited to take the picture until after I had ordered.)

Sounds like this would be my favorite shop in the world, doesn’t it?  So why haven’t you heard about it before now?

Confession:  I only go to Big Mike’s in the summer.

  1. Yes, they take care of students.  But so do I.  I take care of students 40+ hours a week.  So I don’t really feel the need to go hang out with students after work.
  2. Summer, early morning, and Sundays are the only times I can find parking anywhere near the shop.  Could I walk there?  Sure.  Am I likely to do so?  Lol…no.
  3. The atmosphere in summer is really laid back.  In fact, all of Denton is more laid back in the summer, because many of the students go home.  And because many of the students go home, it’s even more important in the summer to support the local shops that I want to see stay in business, particularly the shops whose clientele is predominantly students.

Summer at Big Mike’s is great.  I can walk in, order, sit at a table and stare into space, and no one thinks anything of it (or if they do, they keep it to themselves).  The baristas don’t try to rope you into small talk while making your drink.  If they talk at all, it’s to say something that’s actually interesting.  I have never been forced to talk about the weather in Big Mike’s.

I realize that this might be a point against them for extroverts or normal people or people who are uncomfortable with silence or people who have narrow views of what constitutes good customer service.  But for introverts, Big Mike’s in the summer is like Mecca.

My typical order at Big Mike’s when I’m not going to stay for long is a macchiato.

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Little shot of espresso marked with foam.  And their espresso is gooooood. Sometimes, I even order them when I am going to stay for a while, but then I end up getting four of them, and that’s a terrible idea.

For a while, they had hazelnut milk, but I’m not sure they offer it anymore.  I could get a hazelnut latte made with hazelnut milk. Glorious. That was my go-to drink when I would make a coffee run for Maggie and me before HOST meetings.  Good times.

So if you’re in Denton in the summer (maybe you’re at a conference at UNT), don’t drive all the way to Starbucks just because it’s what you know.  Go to Big Mike’s.

 

If you would like to contribute to the Coffee Shop Road Trip, you can follow that link to the original post for guidelines.  The original deadline has been extended. The new deadline is forever.  I am having so much fun, I will forever take posts on this subject.

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Seven Mile Cafe is where I send people who don’t know Denton very well and are looking for a good breakfast or lunch.

  • It’s easy to find (basically, turn east on Congress from Carroll, and in a few blocks, you’re there).
  • It has ample parking.  If the lot is full, there are plenty of places to park on the street.
  • Its menu starts with the coffee offerings, as all good menus do.

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(Also, its cups are really cute.)

First, let’s talk about the food.  The food is good and hearty.  It took me two meals to eat the hamburger, and I can put away some grub.  I have had almost all of the Benedicts, as that is usually my breakfast-out of choice, and I like them all.  The pancakes and cinnamon rolls are good, and they can make the cinnamon roll vegan, which means I can eat it without scraping off the icing.  In fact, see all those green leaves on the menu?  Those are the vegan items.  For a restaurant in Texas, this is a pretty impressive selection.

But my favorite thing to eat here?  The loaded potatoes.  In fact, I just purred out loud thinking of them.  I might have to go get some right after I finish this post.  I know they’re not hard to make, but it’s the end of the semester, and my kitchen and I are tired.

Also, when you get the potatoes at Seven Mile, you can get them with this:

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(Big ass bottomless French Press.  Maggie – sadly – not included)

The bottomless coffee is strong and plentiful, and it’s roasted right next door at Seven Mile Coffee Co.  Triple win.

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(Again with the cute cups)

Seven Mile Coffee Co. doesn’t just roast the coffee.  It is a full coffee bar with coffee-shop style seating and its own coffee menu, and from 8a-3p, you can order anything from the menu at Seven Mile Cafe, and they’ll bring it over to you. Basically, they let you choose your own atmosphere.

This is the greatest idea.

This allows me to go during the lunch rush and avoid the crowded cafe.  I can cozy down in an armchair, sip my coffee, eat my potatoes, and read my book, enjoying a blessed hour of quiet before I go back to work.

Also, when you order coffee at Seven Mile Coffee Co., the people making it know what they’re doing and will talk to you about it.  Some customers might not like this, but those customers are wrong.  One should prefer to buy coffee from people who know it well and can articulate this knowledge. They also offer Stumptown coffee, which is one of my top three non-local favorite coffee companies. I usually get the coffee that is roasted in-house, but I appreciate the offer.

So if you’re driving through Denton and you need sustenance, Seven Mile Cafe and Seven Mile Coffee Co. are worth a quick venture into the middle of town.

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I am starting the Coffee Shop Road Trip with a shout-out to Stefanie, who is joining me in this endeavor to direct people all over the place to delicious coffee, regardless of where they roam.  Stefanie launched her stretch of the drive earlier this week in a fantastic post about Mudsmith on Greenville in Dallas. Believe me when I tell you that a Contessa will be mine by the end of May.  Oh yes, it will.

Denton, Texas, is a great place to love coffee.  It is home to two universities, so there are a lot of people in town in serious need of caffeination and a place to make it happen. There are at least three local coffee roasters (Bookish Coffee, Coffeewright Roasters, and Macaroni Island Coffee, coming soon to their very own post near you).  And there are quite a few coffee shops that offer their unique atmospheres and perspectives to the town.

Enter Zera Coffee Company.

This is a picture taken on my old phone of their small (yes, that’s the small) French press and the remnants of their Mexican hot chocolate. Their coffee is amazing.  I usually get the French Press or the Red Eye.  I also highly recommend their frozen and blended drinks.

One of the first times I walked into Zera, I ordered a caramel macchiato.  The man behind the counter looked pointedly at me and said, “So…do you want…” Then he paused, like he was trying to find a nice way to ask if I wanted an actual macchiato or that nonsense that is misnamed a macchiato at a popular coffee chain whose name may or may not rhyme with “car-trucks.”  I assured him that I wanted a real macchiato, and he gave me an approving nod.

I knew I had found a friend.

When you walk into Zera, it’s like you’re walking into someone’s living room.  The room is full of mismatched furniture.  You have your choice of couches, comfy chairs, and tables.  The music that you will hear will probably be worship music, as the shop itself is a Christian ministry.  In fact, it’s completely run by volunteer labor so that as much of the proceeds as possible can go to support Denton Freedom House, a church with a prison outreach as well as a men’s home and job training that helps people reintegrate into society.

I like Zera best in the afternoon.  If I need a change of scenery when I’m writing, I choose Zera.  I can stay there for hours, and it’s usually mellow enough that the environment isn’t distracting.

If worship music or financially supporting a Christian ministry are something to which you are opposed, you probably won’t be able to get past that in order to enjoy the coffee (nor would I expect you to).  But the coffee is delicious.  I have never had anything there that I didn’t like.

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