Espresso Express: Moving forward, with caffeine!

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(Remember this guy? He’s gonna be WIRED!)

On the weekends, The Boyfriend and I like to treat ourselves to the best coffee in the area, at Zingerman’s Coffee Company. We go for the drinks, and the pastries, and it makes weekend mornings feel like something special.

For Christmas, I decided to ruin all that by surprising The Boyfriend with our very own espresso machine. Although I wanted to keep things on a budget (a difficult task when it comes to quality coffee makers and grinders), I was able to find some really great deals thanks to Consumer Reports and my friends at Zingerman’s.

Confident in the research I’d done, I decided on a De’Longhi espresso machine, a well-reviewed Capresso conical burr grinder (to get that fine, even grind necessary for a good espresso) and Bodum’s double walled thermo-glasses.

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(De’Longhi espresso machine and Bodum double wall thermo-glasses, 2.5 oz.)

These cups are probably the best part of the whole thing – made of two layers of light-as-air glass, they have a little rubber vent at the bottom to hold the pressure between the glass. This means you can fill with cold liquid with no condensation, or hot liquid and it won’t burn your hands or break the glass. Truly a unique design, not to mention pretty to look at.

I grabbed a few other add-ons, like a good tamper and frothing pitcher, and even scored a dessert whip for that cafe-style whipped topping.**

The surprise didn’t go quite according to plan, thanks to my trip to the hospital, but The Boyfriend was pleased non-the-less.

Finally on the mend, I made my move setting it up and getting it ready for our first cups.

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For me: a double shot of espresso brewed with vanilla powder.

For The Boyfriend: a tall rice-milk mocha with whipped cream.

For dessert: Freshly steamed hot cocoa with home-made marshmallows.

Coffee and hot cocoa whenever we want? Yes, please! Will it ruin our weekends at Zingerman’s? I think not – we have to get the beans from somewhere, after all.

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(You know you want some…)

Sitting down with a cup of coffee, on a weekday, with no work… something about this makes me feel inspired, like when you walk into a bookstore/coffee shop and sit down feeling important and worldly.
This, in combination with having been in the hospital for five days and now realizing that the year is coming to an end, has set my mind turning.

I think Chris Guillebeau of The Art Of Non-Conformity (one of my favorite bloggers) has a pretty good approach to evaluating things when resolving one year and beginning another.

The basics of his method are to look back on the year and pinpoint the things that went well, the things that went poorly, or the things that fell by the way-side and didn’t get done at all. Then to look to the future, and list not only the long term goals but what to focus on in the shorter term, and what feels most important for the coming year.

Looking at things in such simplified terms is a great way to map out, very roughly, where the borders are. Looking ahead can seem like a vast expanse of what-if’s and who-knows, but giving yourself check points along the way helps to define the edges of the path you want to take – strangely, I find this helpful even when I don’t know what that path is.

Guillebeau surmises that this is the best way for him to live a life of purpose, but I think in a simplified form it can be useful just for getting a grasp of what you want, of wrapping your head around your goals enough to have leeway but still stay true to where you’re heading. You don’t need to know exactly what legacy you want to carve out for yourself, just a sense of your own values and what’s important to you.

Using this basic outline as a starting point I can look back and see all the things that went well, and all the things that I had good intentions for that flopped. I think my biggest downfall for the year was my lack of physical fitness – something I really enjoy, but have been waylaid from due to unforeseen medical issues.
Realizing how much I missed being active, I can say pretty definitively that I want to focus more of my energy on that area this year. While I am a dog-walker and occasional runner/biker/hiker/etc., one of my favorite forms of whole-body fitness is Bikram Yoga – so that goes on the list for next year.

One of the things I can look back on and say I’m proud and pleased of is having started this blog, and being able to share myself with the world. I’m not interested in lime-lights and audiences, but the thought that my experiences might be relatable, might connect with someone, or might spark some kind of inspiration, makes the things I do so much more worthwhile. I’m not trying to fix the world of all its problems, but making a difference (even a small one) is what living is all about.
Taking into consideration what I’ve done so far, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m only just beginning to get my feet in the stirrups and ride. So I wonder, where might I want to go with this? Do I want to direct my energy towards education, towards charity, towards health? Having a clear-minded look at things helps me to see myself as a vessel of possibilities, and something potentially more than I currently am.

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These are just a couple examples of the things going through my head, of what’s sketched out on the notebook in my lap.

My New Year’s resolution this year is not to lose weight or read more books or become an athlete – I always want to do those things – it’s to look at things more clearly, and with purpose. To savor the things that I love, and discard the things I can do without.

Making resolutions always seemed silly to me, with lots of big words and talk but no real plan of action, or even a reasonable chance of succeeding. This year I’m setting the bar where I can see it, within reach, because if this rung is close enough to grab than I can move on to the next.

As pointed out by The Boyfriend, I tend to set pretty high standards for myself. While I hate to admit it directly, I can see that I let myself down frequently. Recognizing this, I want to offer myself the same room for error that I would to anyone else. Without room to fail (and be forgiven), it can be hard to even try.

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(“Part of this beautiful world needs me, and I need it too. Although everything I give will be flawed and insufficient, I must give it anyway, and then I must give more.” – Chris Guillebeau, The Tower)

For the first time I feel like I have a foundation to make root in, a place I can push off from, and the ability to take aim. I have a lot of growing to do, and with growth comes learning. This year has been full of lessons, and I’m sure that next year will be the same – I don’t want to miss a single one.

Highlights from this year: The Boyfriend, this blog, surviving six months of illness, and discovering (again and again) that I don’t have to force myself down a path that doesn’t make me happy.

What about you? What’s your plan of action, or resolution, for the New Year? What’s your biggest success or highlight from this one? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!


For more information on Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review, or to read some of his incredible travel/business blog, see:×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/

**Note: I share the brands and links to the products to pre-empt the questions in the comments. I am not being paid or compensated in any way by any of the companies represented.
Lucky them for free advertising, but I will gladly throw them under the bus if I don’t like their product.

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6 Responses to Espresso Express: Moving forward, with caffeine!

  1. Caitlin December 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    your espresso machine is glorious, and i love your little buddy ;)

    i like that approach to reviewing the ending year and making resolutions for the approaching new one. i need to sit down and get things in order soon. props to you for starting now ;)

  2. Willow December 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Thanks! It’s nice to wrap your head around things for the ‘new year’, but I think evaluating where you are and where you want to go can be useful at any time – no sweat if it’s before or after the actual day. :)

  3. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes January 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Happy New Year!

    I just nominated you for the Liebster Award, check it out!

  4. Willow January 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Thanks, I’m honored! I’ll be sure to pass the award on – things are a bit hectic right now – but hopefully soon. :)

  5. Julia Alexander January 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    I just found your blog a few days ago, and subsequently found this entry linked from your most recent entry. I have loved browsing through and reading, but this entry struck me particularly. I loved everything about it!

    I also have a question about the photos of your monkey buddy. I’ve been staring at it and can’t figure it out (although it could be the lack of sleep): how did you get the solid wood background like that? Is your table big enough to where with the right angle it just worked out that way? I

    • Willow January 7, 2013 at 2:04 am #

      So glad to hear it, thank you for commenting! I believe I was using a couple of removable wood shelves from a book case for those pictures… one underneath the little monkey dude, and one propped up behind him as the backdrop. :)

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