Six: The Toddy Brewing System

I didn’t like coffee until I was 26 years old. I cannot tell you how I started regularly drinking it, but I can tell you the first cup I drank. I was on a Delta airlines flight from ATL to LAX. Coming off a long day at work, and seriously dragging, I ordered a cup of coffee and hoped for the best. And it was something…the caffeine jolted my system until I crashed dramatically. But, unlike my previous mentality of “coffee tastes awful,” I kinda liked the stuff and decided to experiment.

LA is a great place to do just that. On this hunt for coffee truth, I discovered ice brew at what is still one of my favorite coffee shops. I drink everything now; hot, cold, espresso beverages, good, bad, whatever. But my favorite continues to be coffee that is not brewed with hot water. The lower acid content allows you to taste the individual notes of the beans and roast, and also makes it easier on the ever creeping heartburn of my aging esophagus.

At first, I would make small batches in a french press, but my household consumption forced me to grind too often. In comes the Toddy. This little wizard is perfection. It is easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to store. After you rinse the fiber filter, just throw it in a ziploc in the freezer. Pedro in Glendale, CA will be receiving a Toddy in the mail from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Yes, I used a coupon.

TIP: You can use your spent coffee grounds as plant fertilizer! 

Thing 5: Your Local Museum

Happy Small Business Saturday! Escape your family and go to a museum. As I remarked in my viral tweet earlier this year, I hate when we refer to visiting our local historical and cultural institutions as “playing tourist.” You should be visiting these places all the time! Sure, the decommissioned submarine at your City’s harbor may not warrant an annual visit (maybe it does!?), but plenty of museums and historical sites are changing up their exhibits and programs constantly. And sign-up for email newsletters or follow places on social media to watch out for special events and programs.

Go to lots of them, and go often! Become a member, if you have some money. Many memberships are tax deductible.  Check to see if your membership (or a slightly elevated membership level) will get you reciprocal benefits at other museums. I save several hundred dollars a year being a member of The Whitney.

If cost is an issue, lots of museums have free and reduced days monthly, just check their website or social media feed for information.  Or see if you can take advantage of Free Museum Day!

Kerri in Falls Church gets two tickets to visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

TIP: If you try and give everything in a museum equal viewing time, you are bound to be overwhelmed or disappointed. Give yourself permission to pass things over. Develop a strategy: stop at what catches your eye, stop at every third thing, only look at things with circles in them, or just skip entire galleries and wings you have no interest in. Let yourself really focus and absorb a few things instead of trying to do it all. Memberships can help with this, as it gives you a great excuse to drop in for an hour whenever. But do challenge yourself to see new things, especially if they are showcasing parts of history or the art that many museums have often ignored.

Thing 4: The Shop

Today is Black Friday. So, we shall celebrate Black excellence (I know that isn’t how this works; we should celebrate it every day).

LeBron James. I am a LeBron stan through and through. King James and I both grew up in the Cleveland area at the same time, and while that certainly contributes to my affinity,  my Bron love is based on so many different things. I don’t care that he left Cleveland (twice), I do care that he is smart and handsome. And funny. And a great human. And you should definitely follow him on Instagram.

So what is today’s thing? LeBron recently debuted a show called The Shop on HBO. Only two episodes in, it is an original look at sports, all told through conversations in barbershops across America. Famously told to shut up and dribble, LeBron has used his platform to create a show that gives audiences an engaging and honest look at the too-often ignored human side of athletics; including race, fame, family, work, and so many more topics. Plus, episode two is in DC and features Drake!

Isaac in Stoneham, MA has been gifted my HBOgo password to watch The Shop and any other HBO shows that suit his viewing needs.

TIP: Many airport hotels have day passes to their gym facilities. These include showers, and sometimes pools. I guess you could even workout too ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Always double check in advance, and don’t be afraid to tweet/call if you hear rumblings on the internet but can’t confirm on the website. These can be a lifesaver (ok not life, but mood) on layovers, especially if there are not adequate or open lounges. My personal favorite is at ARN.

Happy Thanksgiving: Parmesan Stock

Today is a day of food excellence (and probably some disappointment). I am sure many of my dozen readers are rushing around to try and make a dish or full meal. Thanksgiving is about the food, and so for Thing 3, I gift you a way to make even better food.

Maybe you’re already making your own stocks. Maybe you’ve never let a poultry carcass go unboiled. But as a lifelong vegetarian, I have always felt slighted by the stock phenomenon. Sure…there are good vegetarian stocks. And I toiled (and boiled) away for years, garnering results just a tad better than store bought Tetra Pak stocks.

But then in 2015, the New York Times published this recipe.  And stock greatness was thrust upon me. Parmesan stock is not just for risotto. Though if I ever hear you are making risotto without making your own stock, I will shame you. Just ask my friends from the culinary-themed villa adventure I partake in annually outside of Parma, Italy (“you’re not going to let these perfectly good chicken duck bones go to waste, are you?!”).

Back to this stock- I use it for basically everything. The first time I made it, I diligently saved up parmesan (and other similar hard cheese rinds) from my own consumption in my freezer. I eat A LOT of cheese, but it still took forever. I soon discovered that most grocery stores (ones that cut cheese from a wheel in house) will sell you rinds very cheaply. It’s perfect for soups, risotto and other pastas, vegetarian gravy, and so much more. Don’t worry- it won’t be overly cheesy in flavor; just rich and delicious. Congrats to Matt in DC for being the lucky recipient of two quarts of liquid gold.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been about sides. And parmesan stock will improve your side game.

PS: I would rather be served one big beet than Tofurkey.

TIP: Your freezer is your best friend for all stocks in all ways. I use a ton of vegetables and all the tops, peels, and ends go in a giant ziploc in my freezer.  When it’s time to make stock, I throw these in with some fresh and dried aromatics, anything relevant in my fridge, and let ‘er boil. I recommend these containers (any size) for freezing your completed stock.

I’m so sorry vegans. If you are vegan, I will happily make you homemade vegetable stock and the vegan version of the best damn gravy there is. 

Thing #2: Marcelle Eyebrow Gel

This stuff is amazing.  I first discovered this brow gel through Birchbox and was completely smitten. It is so easy, which is an essential part of anything in my make-up routine. Also comes in a darker shade. Today’s friend recipient is Lizzy from Brooklyn, NY.

This will be my first thing that I will have another product from the same company on the list. I did decide to limit myself to a maximum of two products per company, as to not become a spokesperson for a particular line. I might highlight additional products I like from the line in the text.

Marcelle is a Canadian company, so make sure you are shopping on the US site (look for the little flag in the corner, as not all products are available in the US and carts are not convertible).

TIP:  When confronted with a rude or assuming question, statement or opinion, and being extremely direct and shutting things down is too trick not appropriate (cough cough Thanksgiving), consider disarming the conversation with phrases I have lifted from years of reading advice columns: “What an odd thing to say” or “what a strange question.”

 

Thing #1: Coconut Jelly Mask

Seasons Greetings…let’s begin the season ooffffff thingggssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!

My first thing is these weird coconut masks, and the lucky recipient is Meg from Alexandria, VA. I first discovered these beauties on a trip to Vietnam two years ago and I absolutely fell in love. They are super hydrating, and have an additional perk that you can look like this. They smell slightly strange but I think that’s just what you get when you plop a gelatinous coconut on your face!

Sadly, they are very hard to get in the US. Sometimes they will pop up on Amazon, but not consistently. After becoming extremely ill in Hong Kong earlier this year, the one shining beacon of the whole ordeal was that I was forced to rebook my transit with a layover in Hanoi, and could load up on jelly masks.

I’ve looked in to ordering them in bulk through Alibaba, so there might be A LOT masks coming my way soon.

TIP: Are you going on a flight over 10 hours? Bring a sheet mask. And do it ON THE PLANE. Sure…you’ll look strange but your skin will thank you. Oh, and I wouldn’t use these coconut masks on a plane (they are VERY drippy…try these instead).

Favorite Things 2018

Every day, from November 20 until December 23, I will gift one friend one of my favorite things. You can find all of the things here, in addition to the sage advice I offer alongside the items. Let’s have some Holiday fun!