sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 26, 2014


ten on tuesday: things for which i’m thankful
posted by soe 3:59 am

Today’s Ten on Tuesday topic was 10 Things I’m Thankful For:

  1. Health: Between Rudi’s ski injury and Gramma’s fall and all the little and big things that have cropped up to affect those I love in the last year, I am particularly grateful that we all seem to muddle through them.
  2. Family: There’s nothing like hearing a doctor suggest that your loved one could have died to make all those niggling things they do seem exactly what they are: insignificant. Rudi and I are both lucky enough to still have our parents around, and my brother Josh totally has my back. Gramma has slowed down, but she’s nearly 94, and how many 40-year olds are lucky enough to still be able to converse with a grandparent? My extended family is a member smaller than it was at this time last year, which makes me appreciate those who remain.
  3. Friends: How lucky I am to have friends all over the country who care about me, including a bunch I’ve now known for more than half my life. They IM with me and text me pictures they think I’d like and leave comments here and visit and send packages and call and email and sing and bake for me and play games and help me decorate my Christmas tree and hang out on Friday nights in the summer.
  4. Cats: Posey and Jeremiah have now been in our lives for a dozen years and Corey nearly a handful. While they refuse to mop the kitchen floor in exchange for room and board, they do curl up around our heads at night and entertain us with their playing and nuzzle us when we’re trying to type and guard the bathroom from intruders when we’re in the shower. They purr and are soft and love us, even when we buy them food that’s good for them, rather than delicious.
  5. Work: I grumble sometimes about my job (not here, but in real life), but mostly I enjoy the people I work with and feel what we do is worthwhile. And even if neither of those things were true, it is not mind-numbing, back-breaking, or demeaning and it pays me generously when compared to the average earner.
  6. The Burrow: D.C. has a large homeless population, including a lot of families. While our apartment might be below ground and lack a bedroom door, it has heat and windows that open and space enough for us and a landlord who is happy to fix things that break. It’s conveniently located to transportation and shops and is in a safe neighborhood with trees and a park.
  7. Books: I am thankful that I like to read and am able to do so easily. I appreciate the nearby bookstores who sell me books and the library, who loans so many to me for free.
  8. Food: When so many go hungry, I am lucky to have plenty. My cupboards are never bare and I never go to bed on an empty stomach. I’m lucky to have so farmers markets available to me, farms within a short drive, and a garden in which to grow my own plants.
  9. Transportation: My 21-year-old car is still puttering along, next hopefully up to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. I have a bike that Rudi keeps in good shape for me, as well as access to a regional bike-sharing system. I can take a subway to work and a bus to the library. If I wanted to go to Baltimore or Richmond, trains would take me there and if I want to go further afield, there are three airports that will help make that happen.
  10. Music: How poorer the world would be without songs, and how grateful I am that I have such access to recorded music and live performances.

How about you? What are you thankful for this year?

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November 24, 2014


coffeeneuring 2014
posted by soe 11:53 pm

Having taken part in two of Mary’s events now, I was excited to see the Coffeeneuring challenge roll back around. I set off at the first chance I could:

RIDE #1
Location: Compass Coffee, 1535 7th St. N.W., DC

Compass Coffee

Date: Oct. 4
Drink: Hot chocolate
Distance Ridden: 2.57 miles
Bike Friendliness: I admit that because I took bikeshare over, I neglected to pay attention to whether or not there was anyplace to lock a bike up. The Cabi station is just up the street, though, and the library definitely has bike stands.

Thoughts: I’d followed the stories on Compass at the Post prior to their launch, so I was excited to make this my first stop on the first day. Since I don’t drink coffee, I debated among the non-java options and settled on a cup of cocoa. It was disappointingly weak, but the chocolate chip cookie I had to accompany it was delicious, and I enjoyed hanging out at the window-side bar seating with my knitting. Since they’d only recently opened, I’d probably give them another shot with a cup of cocoa, but I’d also go back for a cup of tea.


RIDE #2
Location: Ava Marie Chocolates, Peterborough, NH

Peterborough Rotary Club Park

Date: Oct. 15 (vacation rule)
Drink: Hot chocolate
Distance Ridden: 6.3 miles
Bike Friendliness: No racks. We locked our bikes together when we went inside.

20141015_163556Thoughts: So I accidentally missed the turn for the bike-friendly way up the river when Rudi and I left downtown Peterborough, where we left the car, and put us on heavily trafficked state road. Thankfully, it had a broad shoulder and we were able to traverse it safely until we could turn around and head back down river along the bike trail beneath golden trees in the peak of their autumn color. The farmers market we’d visited last year had moved, so we tracked it to its new location, but while there were coffee beans for sale, there weren’t any warm drinks. I ate a half pint of raspberries, we bought some more portable odds and ends, and Rudi procured a quart of coffee beans for his portion of the Coffeeneuring stop.

Tepid Hot ChocolateWe then pedaled over the hill to Ava’s where we’d stopped last year. The cocoa was tasty, as you’d expect from a chocolatier, but to call my cup hot chocolate would be generous, since somehow the girl at the counter had failed to warm the drinks more than above tepid. But once there’s whipped cream and fancy chocolate decorations on top, there’s not much that you can do without starting over, and it’s not like it was bad — just not warm.


RIDE #3
Location: Amy’s Bakery Arts Café, 113 Main St., Brattleboro, VT

20141017_133435

Date: Oct. 17 (vacation rule)
Drink: Hot spiced apple cider
Distance Ridden: 7 miles
Bike Friendliness: No bike racks (or maybe there was one, but it was occupied?), but we both locked to parking meters without incident.

20141017_134158Thoughts: I cannot tell you why I was in such a grumpy mood on a gloriously sunny fall day after spending a night in a hotel in Vermont (the heavy rain and a leaky tent on the previous day had made us pack up a day earlier than expected), but I was. We parked in a commuter lot and pedaled across the Connecticut River to New Hampshire, but the trail along the hill seemed (unsurprisingly — it was a hill!) to travel up-up-up and I did not feel equipped for it.

So, we turned around, rode back to Brattleboro, and stopped at Amy’s for lunch. Their hot cider is excellent — piping hot and well spiced. I added a bowl of soup and then returned to the line for some bread and cheese when I was still hungry. In a much better mood after the midday meal, I led the way up one side of the West River and then back down and up its other side. We needed to move the car, so we had to turn around after only a bit more riding, so we couldn’t go as far as either of us would have liked, but it was a positive end to a less-than-stellar start.


RIDE #4
Location: Hot Chocolate Sparrow, Orleans, MA

20141018_153115

Date: Oct. 18
Drink: Tea on the way out, cocoa on the way back
Distance Ridden: 18.14
Bike Friendliness: Across the street from the rail trail. Next to a parking lot. Two sets of racks. Tons of cyclists.

Thoughts: You can only count a stop once and only one stop a day, so Rudi and I stopped here twice for good measure!

20141018_134838While hunting around for a place to eat dinner the night before, we came upon this coffeehouse, right along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and I immediately made plans to stop there the next day. Rudi started out first and headed west along the trail, with the plan he’d meet up with me later. I stayed at the campground for a while, reading, before deciding if I was ever going to get to the beach, I’d better get moving.

Hot Chocolate Sparrow is only a few miles away, but by the time I got there, I was exhausted already and sent Rudi a pitiful text message over my tea and pumpkin bread saying how discouraged I was so early in the ride. Unbeknownst to me, he was already back at the campsite by then, so he quickly joined me, and after he downed a drink, we motored on to the shore.

20141018_163928

20141018_174325It was a nice ride, nearly all of it along the rail trail. We saw seals at the beach, skipped rocks, and breathed in the salt air for an hour or so before turning back toward Brewster. Although it meant we finished our ride in the dark (we did have lights), we stopped at the coffeehouse on the way back to use the bathroom and to build up a bit of strength. This time I opted for cocoa and blueberry pie. Yum! We added a bit of charge to our phones and then pedaled carefully along the trail in the dark.


RIDE #5
Location: The Coffee Bar, 1201 S St., N.W., DC

20141025_184118

Date: Oct. 25
Drink: A cup of tea.
Distance Ridden: 2.27 miles
Bike Friendliness: Bike racks outside.

Thoughts:20141025_184239 This was my funniest stop of Coffeeneuring. The Coffee Bar is a popular stop for D.C. cyclists and when I came back out to the patio with my cup of tea and biscotti, the only open table was next to someone I knew knew Rudi, Brook and his friend. I’d met them once before (also at The Coffee Bar), but suspected they might not remember me. I’m not much for pushing myself onto people (although the fact I struck up a conversation with the woman on the other side of me about the book she was reading might belie that), so I opted to say nothing, but it was impossible not to overhear some of their conversation, particularly as it took the form of (mostly benign) gossip about lots of other cyclists. “Wouldn’t it be funny if they started talking about Rudi,” I thought to myself. Not five minutes later, they did! (I wasn’t sure if they thought maybe they recognized me and they were testing me, but they conversed about a lot of other people, too.) Mary’s husband, Ed, made a surprise appearance later, too. (I wouldn’t have been able to identify him if Brook hadn’t shared with his friend.)


RIDE #6
Location: Capital Teas, 8th St., S.E., DC

20141026_153546

Date: Oct. 26
Drink: Assam tea
Distance Ridden: 10.2 miles
Bike Friendliness: Lots of racks along Barracks Row (and a Cabi station a block away)

20141026_172422Thoughts: We made the cardinal mistake this Sunday afternoon of planning a Coffeeneuring adventure without checking the closing time of our destination, which was District Doughnut. When we arrived on Barracks Row at quarter past three, their sign was turned to “closed,” but when they saw our disappointed faces, the workers opened back up. We were not the only customers to come in to buy sweet goods, but their beverage service was already turned off, so we, joined by our on-foot friend, Sarah, headed up the street to Capital Teas for drinks. We took them down to a pocket park to enjoy a pleasant afternoon.

After Sarah headed home, Rudi and I pedaled back toward Dupont Circle, making an impromptu stop at the Botanical Garden for some more sun. We also saw these sheets with murals made by child refugees in the Middle East along the sections of the Mall closed for renovation.


RIDE #7
Location: Qualia Coffee, 3917 Georgia Ave., N.W., DC

20141102_155241

Date: Nov. 2
Drink: Lapsang Souchong tea
Distance Ridden: 5.97 miles
Bike Friendliness: Racks on the sidewalk. Cabi a few blocks away.

Upshur Street Books on Its 2nd Day in Business

Thoughts: Upshur Street Books opened Nov. 1 and I was eager to check it out. Just a few blocks up from Qualia in Petworth, I found the bookstore darling and well-curated and early reports suggest it’s been well-received. I joined their membership program, so I’ll be back, probably for a little Christmas shopping.

After buying a book, I headed to Qualia for a cup of strong tea and some shortbread cookies. I was already partway through another book, so I read that while drinking my tea, soaking in the final sun of the day, and admiring the coffeehouse cat through the window.


RIDE #8
Location: Taqueria Nacional, 1409 T St., N.W., DC


Date: Nov. 9
Drink: Mexican hot chocolate
Distance Ridden: 5.58 miles
Bike Friendliness: Bike racks on the sidewalk. Several Cabi stations within a couple blocks.

Thoughts: I started out with some time in the garden before heading to Georgetown. I’d intended to hit Baked and Wired, but it would seem that everyone else in the world has now come to realize theirs are the best cupcakes in the city, and while I am happy to wait in line for a couple minutes for a treat that’s expensive and bad for me, I refuse to wait half an hour when other options exist. Since it was late afternoon, I decided to head down to the river and hang out at the park for a while, before swinging back up past the bakery to see if the line had dissipated. It had not. My next thought was to stop at Stachowski Market and get a piece of pie, but while they had pie, they did not have hot beverages, so I passed there, as well. By this point, I figured Rudi was home from his ride and I invited him to head east with me for a drink before dinner.

We waffled for a bit about where to go, before deciding on the Bakehouse (for a maple latte for Rudi). When we arrived, I asked him if he needed to pre-game his drink with a taco from next door and he thought this a marvelous idea. When we got inside, we discovered they’d added Mexican hot chocolate to their cold-weather menu, and we added that to our order of a taco and yuca fries. We ate outside by the fireplace (a fountain in the summer) and really enjoyed the hot chocolate. It was sweeter than most Mexican hot chocolates I’ve had, which tend to veer bitter, and they’d added some mini marshmallows, which, thanks to the rapidly cooling temperatures, did not melt and were fun to suck out of the lid.

And, yes, after we were done, we headed next door as planned. I had a bowl of chai and Rudi got his latte and said hello to some other cyclists he knew who were there. We read the comics and split a cookie and then headed home for dinner.


RIDE #9
Location: Big Bear Cafe, 1700 1st St., N.W., DC

20141115_160342

Date: Nov. 15
Drink: A pot of black tea. (I can’t remember the specific type, but it was their basic, unflavored black.)
Distance Ridden: 5.85 miles
Bike Friendliness: Several racks. Cabi nearby.

Thoughts: I spent longer at the garden than I’d intended, so my trip to Big Bear was later than expected, putting me there just before Happy Hour and shortly before sunset. I took their last piece of zucchini cake (yum!) and my pot of tea and headed outside to soak up the last few rays of sun. Their outdoor space is lovely — some of the best in D.C., I’d say — and I made use of it for eating, knitting, and drinking until I was out of tea, light, and feeling in my fingers. They tried to light one of their heat lamps for me, but it must have been out of fuel, so I took that as a sign it was time to roll home and close the book on Coffeeneuring 2014.


Total Coffeeneuring miles: 63.88 miles

Many thanks to Mary and all the other Coffeeneurs for such a fun event!

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pre-thanksgiving weekending
posted by soe 1:59 am

I’d hoped to have a Coffeeneuring post for you tonight, but instead you’ll have a weekending post today and the other tomorrow.

This weekend included:

  • Dinners with friends;
  • Sleeping in;
  • Reading;
  • Cleaning;
  • Laundry;
  • A bike ride;
  • Lunch outside in the sun;
  • Shoe shopping;
  • A trip to the garden to pick peppers (shriveled from the cold), potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, and lemon balm;
  • The weekly farmers market excursion;
  • Cocoa at a cafe with Rudi;
  • and

  • Quince preparation.

How was your weekend?

Clotilde’s Vanilla Poached Quince

You start out with quince:

Quince

The yellow one is ripe; the green one less so. Quince are naturally fuzzy, so you need to scrub that off before you do anything.

Quince: Ready for Poaching

You peel and core them and cut them up and chuck them in a pot with water and sugar (and to make Clotilde’s recipe, a vanilla bean).

Quince, Post-Cooking

After several hours at low heat, they turn pink and delicious and make your house smell delectable.

That’s half of the quince I’ve bought this fall. The other half (mostly under-ripe ones) will wait until after Thanksgiving.


Weekending along with Pumpkin Sunrise.

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November 23, 2014


mayor no more
posted by soe 4:10 am

Marion Barry has died.

The feisty, unapologetic, larger-than-life Barry may have been dubbed “Mayor for Life” facetiously by D.C.’s City Paper, but he made the designation his own and wore it like a mantle. Never was he without an opinion about the city or about how something affected it.

His entire career was devoted to helping people, first at SNCC (where he served as its first chairman), then through the non-profit he co-founded, and finally through the city political machine, where he served on the Board of Education, in the Council (where he was shot in the line of duty), and as mayor. And he did many good things for people and for the District over the years.

However, it cannot be said that Barry lacked pride in what he accomplished or in himself. As with many people (particularly men) in power, he seemed to feel himself above the law — and a victim to it when it took him down. Certainly it can be argued that his own addictions made him slower to react as drugs became a growing problem in the urban landscape.

His misdeeds and personal failings will paint how the nation remembers him. And it isn’t wrong for those things to be counted in a final tally.

Yet, I understand how he continued to be elected to the council to represent Ward 8, something that outraged and confused many of my peers as we moved in from elsewhere with our own desires to see and help D.C. move forward with its urban renewal. In an area of the city where poverty, unemployment, illness, and past mistakes haunt a large percentage of its residents, I can see how they would have seen Barry as continuing to represent and champion their views. When they — or their kids — needed jobs, or a turkey to put on their tables at Thanksgiving, Barry came through for them, or at least seemed to make an effort at a time when the case could be made that their needs were considered far below people in wealthier sections of town.

Say what you will about him (and people will say plenty in the coming days), I really believe Barry cared about his constituents — and they about him.

May he rest in peace.


I should not be allowed to write just before bed because I misspelled Marion Barry’s name as Marion Berry when I first published this and awoke realizing the mistake I’d made. My apologies for the error.

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November 22, 2014


weekend plans
posted by soe 2:28 am

Here are some of the things I hope to accomplish this weekend:

  • Paint my nails. (I took off the old polish last week, to pave the way.)
  • Cook the quince. (I bought more on Thursday to accommodate trying a couple more recipes.)
  • Finish my book. (I just have a few chapters to go.)
  • Spend several hours outside in the sunshine on Saturday (and again on Sunday if there is any).
  • Dig up the potatoes from the garden and pick any ripe peppers.
  • Write a coffeeneuring blog post.
  • Finish some work. (I left a little early to get to dinner at some friends’ tonight.)
  • Mop the bathroom and kitchen floors and return the bathroom cart to its rightful location.
  • Assess my Christmas card situation. (I can’t remember what I have left over from last year and therefore if I need to buy more than I have.)
  • Buy parsnips at the market for Rudi’s Thanskgiving dish.

What’s on your agenda this weekend?

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November 21, 2014


herbed up, samoas, and not eating my words
posted by soe 2:10 am

Three beautiful things from the past week:

1. Thyme lemonade with cider, served warm.

2. There are girl scouts at the alpaca festival selling cookies.

3. Mere hours after I chastise Rudi for placing a glass bottle where I thought it could easily be knocked over and move it to a place obviously more safe, Corey jumps up on my new spot in pursuit of a giant cricket, scattering things in his wake. A saucer is lost, but the bottle survives. (Cat and insect also escape harm.)

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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