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Archive for March, 2010

This happens to me almost every month — I have to stop and think about how many days there are.

Some months I know by heart. January has 31, February 28, October has 31, December 31. But those months in between — March, April, May, June, July, August, September, November — I honestly don’t know.

I use the fist method (aka the knuckle method). It sounds crude, and it is. I form my hand into a fist then act like I’m about to do a fist bump with a friend. As I’m looking at the fist from the top, I use the knuckles and valleys that my fist makes to count the months.

Knuckles stand for 31 days, valleys for 30 (except in the case of February, which is 28).


fist with months
Counting Months on your Fist, iPhone photo of ybonesy’s fist,
March 30, 2010, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



So, using the fist method we learn:

  • First knuckle hump is January — 31 days
  • Valley is February — 28 days
  • Knuckle is March — 31
  • Valley is April — 30
  • Knuckle is May — 31
  • Valley is June — 30
  • Knuckle is July — 31


At this point we run out of fist, so we start over:

  • First knuckle is August — 31 (this is when we remember that July and August both have 31 days)
  • Valley is September — 30
  • Knuckle is October — 31
  • Valley is November — 30
  • Knuckle is December — 31



If like me you were trying to remember if March has 30 days or 31, now you know. And you’ve learned an easy method to always be able to figure out how many days there are in a given month.

I know, I am a font of helpful information.

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Meet The Cherimoya, Golden Valley, Minnesota, March 2010, all photos © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


For me, grocery shopping will forever be a chore. Instead of rolling down the aisles with a wire cart, you might find me snooping around the deli section or hiding over by the Redbox machine. Last week was different. An ordinary trip to our local, and newly remodeled, Byerly’s (which opened in 1968 as the largest supermarket in Minnesota) sent me running to the fruit and veggie aisle. Waves of sea, grass, and olive greens chased the crimson, rufous, and cherry reds that lined the shelves in a visual feast. I admit, I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food. Especially, exotic fruits and vegetables. But then, exotic depends on your point of view.

When Liz plucked this armadillo shelled brown fruit off the shelf and pointed to its scale-like skin, I had to know more. Standing right there, next to the bananas and golden grape tomatoes, she Googled cherimoya on her BlackBerry. Names like soursop, custard apple, and strangealiendeathfruit popped up, along with a quote from Mark Twain describing the cherimoya as deliciousness itself. What? A literary fruit? I was hooked.

The cherimoya is believed to be indigenous to the inter-Andean valleys of Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Its cultivation spread in ancient times to Chile and Brazil. And though some think the cherimoya comes from Peru, others insist that the fruit was unknown in that region until seeds were sent by P. Bernabe Cobo from Guatemala in 1629, and that representations of the cherimoya on ancient Peruvian pottery are actually images of the soursop.

Wherever its origins, the cherimoya is the fruit that spread round the world. It is commonly grown and naturalized in temperate areas of Costa Rica and other countries of Central America. In 1757, it was carried to Spain where it remained a dooryard tree until the 1940’s and 50’s when it gained importance in the Province of Granada as a replacement for orange trees that succumbed to disease.

In 1785, the cherimoya traveled to Jamaica, then Haiti, and in 1790 to Hawaii by way of Don Francisco de Paulo Marin. The first planting in Italy was in 1797 where it became a favored crop in the Province of Reggio Calabria, before making its way to Madeira in 1897, then the Canary Islands, Algiers, Egypt, Libya, and Somalia.

The  U.S. was a late bloomer. Seeds from Mexico were planted in California in 1871. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture imported cherimoya seeds from Madeira in 1907. Though the trees have not done well in Florida, California had 9,000 trees in 1936, many of them killed by a 1937 freeze. Several small commercial orchards were established in the 1940’s, and, at present, there may be less than 100 acres in the milder parts of San Diego County, making this a rare fruit in this country.


The Wave, The Tomatillo, My Favorite Byerly’s, Golden Grape Tomatoes, Visual Feast, Golden Valley, Minnesota, March 2010, all photos © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Strange fruit. Because we didn’t know enough about the cherimoya to know if it was ripe or not, I still haven’t tasted one. Now I know that a ripe cherimoya will usually be dark green (though this is dependent on the variety), have a loosening stem, and give to the touch in much the same way as an avocado. The flavor is described as a mixture of mango, papaya, bananas and coconut. And the inside ranges in color from light green, to off white, to pink.

Yes, pink — from a tree that originated as a seedling, owned by a California man named Mr. Stevenson. Rumors suggest the pink cherimoya originates from very high elevations in the Andes. I’d like to pick up a cherimoya the next time I’m at Byerly’s. How adventurous are your taste buds? Have you ever tasted the cherimoya, tomatillo, or mangosteen? Tell us about your taste experiences with (what are considered this country) exotic fruits and vegetables.


Resources:

The Cherimoya, Jewel of the Incas – at CloudForest Fruits

Cherimoya - at NewCROP, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University

The Fruit Mark Twain & I Both Love – at the Grocery Fiend

Manual of Tropical & Subtropical Fruits: Excluding the Banana, Coconut, Pineapple, Citrus Fruits, Olive & Fig by Wilson Popenoe, Agricultural Explorer – Harvard University Library, published by the Macmillan Company, 1920

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My favorite coffee shop has light and green, is serene. The food is one of the biggest draws, a tortilla breakfast sandwich for $2.99, and it has bacon inside and a poached egg, cheese, lettuce, salsa. The best dish is a red chile tamale with a poached egg on top. I’m not a poached egg fan normally, so I know I love a coffee shop when it’s got me loving poached eggs.

Oasis is a furniture shop, also, an odd combination: coffee and outdoor and indoor furniture. If there were a theme to the furniture it would be serenity. Second time I’ve used that word when talking about Oasis. Several fountains throughout the place, wind chimes, wicker and bamboo chairs and tables, statues. Some statues are giant Buddha heads, another is Saint Francis of Assisi, the guy known for his love of animals. If Jim were a modern-day saint, he’d be St. Francis.

I like the color of the place, dark wood tables and the wind chimes and bird feeders come in all colors of blown glass. I like that my favorite coffee shop gets all manner of people, old, young, single, couples. Here, at the Starbucks where I’m hanging out while Em is getting a Math tutor lesson, 85% of the people who’ve come in don sports outfits, like they’ve just stopped in after a game of tennis or a jog. If this Starbucks were a city, it’d be Boulder—young, fit, and blonde.

I’m a loyal coffee shop consumer, a patron, I suppose. I will go to my favorite coffee shop at least once a week, not as frequently, I realize, as the loyal Starbucks patron. Some people stop in daily, drop that $5 every single day. I’ve seen stats that show how if you invested your coffee habit dollars into a good mutual fund you could within a few years have several thousands of dollars.

I am of that ilk, I’m afraid, the person who rather than fuel a coffee habit every day at my favorite coffee shop will save the money and drink my morning drink at home most days. But I’m still loyal, I still try to do my part to keep a coffee shop solvent. I’ll take my daughters to Oasis most weekends and together we’ll order drinks, breakfast, and if we’re real hungry, a couple of pastries to share. Oasis has the best pastries.

If I lived in Albuquerque, I’d hang out at Java Joe’s, which is across from Robinson Park, that old part of downtown where Mom used to shop at Arden’s. For all I know, Java Joe’s is the old Arden’s. Or there’s that newer shop in LoDo, the lower downtown district, that is so cool, it has a hidden patio that reminds me of being in another country. I’ve only been there once, last summer, and I hope it survived. Just like I hope Oasis survives.

Hard to imagine any of these Mom & Pop places competing with this Starbucks, though, the steady stream of jogging-suit-clad men and women. I swear at least 40 coffee drinks have been sold in the 40 minutes we’ve been here.




–related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MY FAVORITE COFFEE SHOP

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My favorite coffee shop is the Blue Moon on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Large windows facing an urban street; back-lit hideaways with less light, more cozy. Then there is my favorite table. I have two of them. The one across from the half moon string of lights over the serving bar. And the one right by the front door, up against the cooler. I would sit with my back to the cold white wall, facing the refrigerator wind that blew through the door a Minnesota winter. A writing group I used to be a part of met at the Blue Moon once a month. We called it the Blue Mooners. It has disbanded now.

Second favorite coffee shop? Diamonds in Northeast on Central Ave. The parking is limited but I like the checkerboard flag, that the owners are women bikers, that I can hide away inside what used to be the building’s bank vault. Are the walls green, yes, I think the walls are mint green with vintage lamps and tables. I don’t know how people make it in the coffee business. It was mentioned in the Writing Topic that people get into it because they love the product. We’ve got Caribou’s corporate headquarters here in Minneapolis. I’ve always tried to support them. Who can compete with Starbuck’s? And Starbuck’s may not even be the best — but they have the longest arms.

Kiev is sleeping next to me at almost 1am and I’m writing about coffee shops. She thinks I’m nuts and has left me in the dust with her zzzzz’s. Sometimes she snores her little cat snores. Mr. StripeyPants is more likely to take long, deep breaths. Long deep cat breaths. He does it when he’s frustrated or when I won’t play with him. Cats like three things: exercise (to them it’s play), food, and love. Now that I write the words, those are the same things humans need. Not necessarily in that order.

I’m fond of Tazza in Taos because I’ve got memories there with my writing friends, memories of sitting alone and jotting practices in my wire bound notebook with a fast writing pen. But there’s Taos Cow. I wrote there once, too, after a trip to the D. H. Lawrence Ranch. I have read my writing in coffee shops which, looking back, horrifies me. How in the heck did I stand up there and do that? It was a launching pad of sorts, the kind of thing you do when you’ve got nothing to lose. Maybe I need to get back into it. Coffee shops are forgiving. Also noisy. Writers and poets crammed between fiddle player and ragtime. We stuck it out. It’s important to stick things out.

All of the coffee shops have WI-FI now, which begs the question — how do they make any money? I read an article on how people would camp out in coffee shops for the free WI-FI and not buy any drinks. Or buy only one, then stay for hours chatting with their friends, writing, reading. Taking up tables and space. How do you balance the bohemian slant of a good coffee shop with the real need to make money. They need to make money to stay alive. Just like we do.

When I was a teenager, the coffee shop of choice was Dunkin’ Donuts. There was no Starbucks. No Peets, Caribou, or Java Train. No Diamonds, Urban Bean, or Anodyne. I had a friend who worked at Dunkin’ Donuts one summer. It was 1976. She wore all white (no hairnet but instead one of those creased paper hats) and served me a free cup of coffee when I came in. I’d watch her pluck lemon crèmes off the slanted steel shelves, and place them next to chocolate coconut cake donuts and fry-bogged glazed donut holes. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee smelled good, that old style percolator odor that gets into the nooks and crannies of a place. The price of a cup of coffee in 1970 might have been 10 cents, a quarter. Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar. For a cup of perked coffee, I’d stand up and holler.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, March 26th, 2010

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MY FAVORITE COFFEE SHOP

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 caffe tazza in taos

Caffe Tazza, sign of this famous little coffee shop in Taos, NM, March 21, 2010, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
You know the place. A quiet buzz about it, like the buzz you get when you drink what it sells. Café latte. Cappuccino. Chai. Espresso.

You go there because that’s where you like to go best when you have a free moment to write. The sound of people talking, milk being steamed, the coffee grinder — it’s white noise. Not so loud as to distract yet not so quiet as to hear your voice inside your head.

Unless you live in a truly rural area, your city or town probably has such a spot where people gather, maybe talk politics or business deals or religion. Maybe it’s more diner than coffee shop, but no matter, it’s a place you can depend on for a good cuppa Joe and a little peace of mind.
 
 
 
espressoSome coffee shops are as old and famous as monuments. Heck, they are monuments.

According to the Kona Joe website, coffee houses are part of the foundation of modern financial and shipping centers, not to mention cultural ones.

The New York Stock Exchange started as a coffee house, as did Lloyd’s of London—previously Lloyd’s Coffeehouse. The Baltic Coffeehouse became the London Shipping Exchange, and the Jerusalem Cafe became the East India Company.

 
 

Up until recently the runners at the British Stock Exchange were still called waiters due to fact it too started as a coffee house.

Other cafes evolved into centers for both the arts and sciences. Sir Isaac Newton hung out at the Grecian Coffeehouse. Jonathon Swift and Alexander Pope hung out at Old Slaughter’s Cafe.

The French and American Revolution were fomented in the coffee house. On July 12, 1789, Camille Desmoulins leaped on a table at the cafes of the Palais Royal and urged the mob to take up arms against the French aristocracy.

Due to the fact that much discussion of political intrigue and gossip occurred over a cup of Joe at these famous coffee houses it was only a matter of time before someone started writing these things down.

A man named Richard Steele decided to publish a weekly magazine on the most interesting gossip collected from the coffee houses. Correspondents were sent out to these coffee houses and wrote what they heard as narratives. This collection went on the become “Tatler,” the first modern magazine. London’s second oldest newspaper, “Lloyd’s News,” started as a bulletin board in Lloyd’s Coffeehouse.

 
 
 
 
hai cafe in hoi anThere are famous coffee shops all around the world and a heckuva lot of not-so-famous ones, too.

Coffee shops come and go. Coffee shop owners are, I imagine, a lot like bookstore owners. They go into the business because they love the product, and not just the coffee or the book but the whole experience. But independent coffee shops can be as rare as independent bookstores. When you find one, hold on tight. Tell your friends about it, and make sure to frequent it often.

I don’t know about you, but when I get to a new city somewhere, the first place I seek out is a coffee shop. It makes me feel settled. It gives me a place to go, to sit alone quietly and know that even though I’m hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away from everything familiar to me, I am home.
 
 
Do you have a favorite coffee shop, at home or in the cities you visit most? What is your special place like? Think about it. Why do you love it so? Is it a soothing place to be? Is it dingy yet homey? Do you love it for the dependable java or the people who work there and/or go there?

How often do you go and how long do you stay? Where do you sit and what do you do while you’re there? Do you order yours skinny, decaf, double, with foam?

Write about your favorite coffee shop. Hey, go to your favorite coffee shop and then write about it.

My favorite coffee shop. Fifteen minutes. Go.




the oasis that is oasis   buddha in oasis coffee

The oasis that is Oasis, ybonesy’s favorite coffee shop, March
2010, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



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then…


jumping jack wagon
Jumping Jack Wagon (in June), wagon at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, June 2008, photo © 2008-2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





and now…


jumping jack wagon in winter
Jumping Jack Wagon in March, wagon at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, March 21, 2010, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





-Related to posts Homing Instinct (in which the photo “Jumping Jack Wagon” first appeared) and Sunrise On Taos Mountain (Reflections On Writing Retreats), which includes a summary of several Taos-related posts on red Ravine.

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By Teri Blair



The Big Read, all photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.





Have you heard of The Big Read?


I found out about it completely by accident. I was perusing the CDs at my library, and saw one entitled The Big Read: An Introduction to My Antonia by Willa Cather. I took it home, and was enraptured by the 25-minute program. Ted Kooser talked about the significance of Cather to Nebraska, Garrison Keillor read excerpts from her book, and Colin Powell talked about the immigrant experience. What was this? The Big Read?


The Big Read began in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the largest reading program in American history. Their mission is simple: to restore reading to the center of American culture. Communities all over the country can apply for grants to explore one of the 31 Big Read titles. In addition to reading the book, related events are planned to last approximately one month.







When I plugged my zip code into The Big Read’s website, I was happy to find there was an event within an hour of where I live. On a Saturday in February my friends and I jumped in my Subaru and headed east to the small river town of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. As Thornton Wilder was from the Badger State, this community had chosen Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey. We walked into a packed house at the Scenic Riverway Park building. The local organizers of the program spoke, a representative from the National Endowment talked about what is happening with The Big Read across the country, and we heard from Wisconsin author David Rhodes. He read excerpts from his book Driftless, talked about Thornton Wilder’s writing, and led a group discussion about what Wilder accomplished in his work. At the end of the program, we were all given two new books, a CD audio guide (just like the one I had found at the library), bookmarks, and a reader’s guide.


We were invited to join book discussion groups, and to come back for follow-up events. Wisconsin Public Radio will be performing a reader’s theater, and the local community playhouse will present Our Town.


I love to read, but like most readers, I get worried about the future of books and people to enjoy them. A faster and faster world makes a luxurious afternoon with a good book harder to claim. I am happy to support a program that is doing something tangible…something to bring reading back to the people.


To find out more about The Big Read (and to plug in your own zip code) go to:

http://www.neabigread.org.


Thornton Wilder, David Rhodes, From The Big Read Series, all photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.




About Teri Blair: Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey fondly and frequently writes. (See Letter From Poet Elizabeth Alexander for the latest post on that group and Teri’s piece titled Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group for a step-by-step on how to start your own.)

Teri has written many posts on red Ravine. Her first guest post, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb early this year and wrote a follow-up piece published on red Ravine in March, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time.

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