Ice Cream Research

We lived in Texas for several years. While there we were surprised to learn the term “Cokes” refers to any carbonated drink. At a restaurant, the server asked, “What kind of Cokes do you want?” We’ll have Sprite, or Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer. Sprite Cokes, Dr. Pepper Cokes, Root Beer Cokes. That was Texas.

There are two things you don’t mess with. One is coffee, the other is ice cream. I have had coffee all over the country, and a few other countries. The coffee in Louisiana is served “dark” or “light”. The dark is heavy enough you can almost stand a spoon up in it. Good stuff. In Australia we asked for coffee with cream. The waiter looked at us like we were crazy. She brought us coffee with a bowl of whipped cream. There, you ask for flat white, long black, short black. Not coffee with cream. Gracious.

Ice cream is a serious matter. So serious, that recently we began doing research. We investigated local Dairy Queen’s to discover whether they were creating a proper Mocha-Chip Blizzard. The first time we asked if they could make a Mocha Blizzard, since it wasn’t on the menu, they said, “Sure!”, like it was a stupid question. We were delighted. When we received the non-turned-upside-down blizzard, we were less-than thrilled. It was vanilla ice cream with little flecks of chocolate. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we thought maybe the chocolate flecks were mocha flavored.

The unset of the research project required us to search out other Dairy Queen’s to discover whether the first Dairy Queen had made a mistake. When we visited another DQ, we asked the same question, and received the same response. We were thrilled to receive a golden-brown swirl of ice cream, standing tall in the cup, about a half-inch above the rim filled with the familiar chocolate flecks. It was delicious! A rich espresso flavor. We knew we were on the right track.

So, that meant we were required, of course, in the interest of proper scientific discovery, to revisit the original DQ, to inquire about their ingredients for what they called the Mocha Chip Blizzard. Obviously, to do a proper statistical investigation, to find whether the null hypothesis was true with regard to the number of chocolate flecks that were in each blizzard, we would have to completely melt the blizzard, count the chocolate flecks, then do the same with a Mocha Chip Blizzard from the first DQ. We decided our research would not reach to that depth. Taste preference would be enough.

At great risk, we took one of our grandsons with us, back to the original Dairy Queen, for the final test. We ordered two Mocha Chip Blizzards, and an Oreo Reeses-Pieces Blizzard for our grandson. When we arrived at the drive-thru window, I asked how their Mocha Chip Blizzard was made. The server said, “With Tiramasu Sauce and Chocolate Chips.”

Once again, we were disappointed. There was no noticeable espresso or tiramisu flavor. Only the familiar chocolate flecks.

At long-last, our ice cream research was complete. The second Dairy Queen served a proper Mocha Chip Blizzard, with a deep and wonderful coffee flavor, enhanced by the chocolate flecks. The original DQ needs to work on what they refer to as a Mocha Chip Blizzard. Like I said, don’t mess with ice cream.

Speaking of coffee, I need some.

Loving Tennessee

Recently, we enjoyed a week in beautiful Tennessee. While we were there, we visited the Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester, TN. What a fascinating place!

The early morning air was cool, but by the time we had been exploring the park for an hour, it was plenty warm. I did purchase a “Old Stone Fort” hooded sweatshirt, just to be sure.

The Old Stone Fort was built hundreds of years ago. The land in the area was used by Native Americans. It is incredibly interesting, and somewhat haunting to walk through what is left of the building. To think that the stones were placed so many years ago, and remain where they were carefully laid is amazing.

While we were there, people were fishing along the river. I don’t know whether they were successful or not. The beauty was smudged just a little, by some careless folks who decided to toss sandwich bags and plastic bottles along the rocks. Some thoughtless parent even left a dirty diaper laying by the water. Unbelievable.

Wooden stairways say so much. How many feet have used these steps? I wonder what the people were talking about. How many children complained of sore feet?

I was intrigued by this old sickle bar mower that was left to rust into oblivion along the river. I actually looked up the serial number and Google returned actual photos of the old machine. History.

If you make a trip to Tennessee, take some time and travel to Manchester. The Old Stone Fort State Park is well worth the drive. On a sunny day, the beauty is unmatched.

It’s time for coffee.

Lonely Docks and Sea Glass

I have always loved wooden docks. I love looking down at the water, watching the fish.

There is nothing quite like climbing into a boat while it is tied to the dock, starting the motor, untying, and heading out onto the lake. In the early morning, the quiet sound of the water curling back from the bow is so relaxing!

Lake life is wonderful. The beauty of the water with the sun glistening off the ripples is unbeatable. Walking the beach while no one else is around provides a quiet time for thought, or just time for nothing at all.

I don’t know what fascinates me so much about this pole with the light. I don’t know if the light works. There is an antique wooden pulley hanging from the top. At one time, it probably held huge sharks recently caught. Except it’s on a lake. So, forget that.

With the Great Lakes water levels being higher than they have been in many years, the beach has changed drastically. Some people don’t have a beach in front of their cottage at all. The lonely tree out in the water (above) was totally out of the water just two years ago.

We love searching for sea glass. Some people call it beach glass. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and we have a jar of pieces we have found. These were taken from the lakeshore just this morning.

This morning the lake was so calm we could hear the sounds of boat engines far out on the bay without being able to see them. The water was like glass. So beautiful!

The water, the sun, the sand, and a few clouds passing slowly overhead provide a gentle rest from the noisy world around us.

It’s time for coffee.

Free Fun

Do you love a campfire? Isn’t there just something about the crackling sound and constant change of the flame that is mesmerizing?

I love coming out to the fire pit after a great campfire the night before to see if there are enough remaining hot coals to start it up again. To be genuine, you have to start it naturally. No blowing on the embers. You have to find small, dry twigs, stack them over the hottest part of ash, and see if they’ll ignite. It’s a thrill to see that first flicker of flame.

Why keep a fire going on the second and third day? Just because I can. No productive reason, other than pleasure. Yes, just like a kid. Our record is four days. No charcoal lighter, no paper, just dry sticks in the coals.

Why do you like sitting by a fire? What is it that makes you stare? To me, there is a calming effect that is hard to match.

When I was a kid it’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down several times over. I remember making a stove out of a coffee can and a tuna can. I used a can opener to make holes around the closed end of the coffee can, lit charcoal in the tuna can, then turned the coffee can upside down over the burning coals. The bottom of the coffee can is the grill. My grill meat of choice was balogna. Baloney. Ummm, sizzling, curling balogna, fried to perfection in the garage.

There are lots of simple things to enjoy. A campfire is one. There is incredible pleasure in returning the second or third day and finding enough coals to ignite the flame again. It’s something about ashes that look cold, finding fuel, and discovering the coals are still alive. Flame. Not an inferno, just a nice, constant but ever changing flame.

Makes me want coffee. Where did I leave it?

These Taste Great with Coffee

To real coffee drinkers, coffee is a food group. You know that question about what you would want if you were stranded on an island? There’s only one answer. Coffee.

Coffee alone is wonderful, as long as you have something to munch on. No, really. Coffee, by itself, is amazing. Nothing else is needed. Except M&Ms with peanuts. The hierarchy of needs should be topped by coffee, then M&Ms with peanuts. After that, anything else goes.

Have you ever wondered why coffee is offered in just about every office of any kind, anywhere? It’s because serious-minded people know life functions around coffee. If coffee was removed, life would end as we know it. Nothing would work after coffee.

What to eat with coffee is a question discussed around the world. After M&Ms with peanuts, the next best choice is Dove chocolate. Preferably dark chocolate. The little hearts are just the right amount. Next on the list would have to be nacho chips right out of the bag. Have you noticed that the best nacho chips are in the bottom of the bag where you can reach in and masterfully grab a stack of chip crumbs? Lucious!

Another great companion to coffee is McDonald’s pancakes, no sausage, and extra syrup. The little plastic trays they have are great for eating in the car. I’ve done it many many times, syrup and all. No spills! While I was working on my counseling master’s degree, on weekends for over two years I had pancakes at McDonald’s every Saturday morning, without exception.

Every list of what to eat with coffee has to include no-bake cookies. We were recently introduced to peanut butter no-bakes, which are, essentially, the original no-bakes someone made and forgot the dark chocolate. I don’t know how you forget chocolate, but the resulting cookies were fantastic!

After M&Ms with peanuts and Dove chocolate, can you seriously come up with something better to eat with coffee than Bush’s baked beans? Come on! Really! Doctor them up with a little brown sugar and some barbecue sauce, and you’re sitting on the top rung. Coffee and baked beans. Oh, wow!

Here are a few more suggestions you might want to try with your next cup: Frosted Mini-Wheats, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Ritz Crackers, Mini-Saltene Crackers, carrots, apples, cheese of all kinds, potato salad (without mustard), hot dogs, cold bean salad, potato chips, raw almonds, sliced almonds, baked almonds, cashews, Cocoa-Puffs, and ice cream.

I think I have some M&Ms with peanuts somewhere.

Where’s my coffee?

That Coffee Thing

Have you ever wondered why you love coffee so much? Think about it. Is the taste so good that nothing else compares? Is the aroma of your favorite brew so delightful that pressure and anxiety disappear? Does the sound of coffee pouring into a mug open your imaginary special place? Do pleasant memories flood your thoughts when someone says the word “coffee”?

My first cup of coffee was more like coffee-milk. The little cup held less than a measured half-cup, but I remember it just like I’m holding it now. I talked my mother into sharing and I was immediately hooked. More than a half-century later we still have the canisters that held the ground coffee from which I always asked for a sniff.

I have again discovered the pleasure of perking coffee on our gas stove in an antique glass pot. Coffee creates ambience and the aroma lingers in the kitchen well into late morning. Painfully, I also discovered that glass cook-top stoves do not work well with glass coffee pots. A large bubble under the stem exploded spewing scalding coffee all over my hand. That was about fifteen years ago, so I was happy to find gas works well for old fashioned coffee making.

I really became a serious coffee drinker while my wife and I were dating. She knew how to make great coffee taste even better with just the right amount of cream and sugar. We found over the years that coffee was something we could enjoy in a restaurant cheaply. From the Golden Bear in Kankakee, to the Junction in Dekalb, the Sunrise in Geneseo, to Coco’s in Ft. Worth, all places we hardly had two nickels to rub together, coffee sustained us.

I have to say, though, there really is something spectacular about Kona coffee in Hawaii. Oh my gosh! You can make a meal out of it! Delicious!

I don’t understand people who don’t like coffee. There are people who can’t even stand the smell! There is something wrong with that.

I wonder what kind of coffee Jesus drank. Probably the same kind God drinks. Obviously, it’s not drip coffee because that type is really not that old. Probably one of those brewed by putting grounds right in the water and then boiling it until just the right moment. Things would have been a lot easier if there was a verse that read, “Thou shalt drink Maxwell House.” Starbucks is out of luck, they’re too new.

By the way, Sanka is not coffee. It shouldn’t even be mentioned in a conversation about coffee. Postum really isn’t bad, but it’s not coffee either. Tea is for another post.

Where’s my coffee?

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Just to make sure I don’t get nailed for copyright infringement, this is obviously a photo of the “Muppets Christmas Carol” when Marley and Marley come to heckle Scrooge. I love the part in the movie when Scrooge is apprenticed at Fozziwig and Mom’s Rubber Chicken Factory, and Fozziwig was going to make a speech. The two old hecklers in the balcony hollered, “It’s time for us to take a nap!” Fozziwig’s speech was something like, “Merry Christmas to everyone!” The Marleys said, “That was dumb! It was short! We loved it!!”

You often hear about the Christmas season being one of the most depression-causing times of the year. There are statistically more heart attacks on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year. What the heck?! It’s probably easy to figure out why.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time, maybe unconsciously, trying to recreate all of the cherished feelings of Christmases past. I think I’m not alone. It becomes exhausting, trying to make everything just perfect, like our memories faithfully recall, so that we can relive all of the best moments once again. The problem is it’s impossible. The past can’t be brought back, recreated, or experienced again. Every moment and experience is brand new, nothing is exactly the way it used to be. That’s not negativity or sarcasm, it’s the truth. And the longer we spend and the energy we waste trying to do something that can’t be done, the more likely it is the actual result will be depression and maybe worse.

Enough therapy, it’s time to remember some fun things.

Most boys at some time want a BB gun, and I was no different. Our dad was an avid hunter, so I naturally wanted to follow. I think I was ten when my wish came true. On Christmas morning I first opened a heavy box that was filled with little packs of BBs that looked like shotgun shells. That was the neatest thing ever. The BB gun I received made an annoying “pinnnggg” sound that was supposed to be like a ricochet. It wasn’t. But it was a BB gun, and I loved it. We spent Christmas Day in the basement shooting at plastic army men with the backdrop of a big box with a quilt folded up inside to catch the BBs.

Another great gift my brother got was a slot-car race track. With super-realistic video games that put you in the driver’s seat of a race car, it’s hard to imagine kids today being interested in slot-car racing, but back then it was the best! We had that track for many years and wore it out.

A gift my sister and I still laugh about was her EasyBake Oven. How I loved it! Yes, I meant to say “I”. My young sister, obviously, had to be shown how to do everything, so I did it for her. We made all of the goodies that first Christmas Day and just about made ourselves sick eating all of the little pies and cakes. (I just thought of something. That EasyBake Oven is probably why I love baking so much and now have people hollering “enough already!!” because all the sweets I made will probably last til April).

Reading back over the paragraph about the BB gun reminded me of the year, I think I was seven, that I received two six-shooters in a holster, designed after the old TV show, “Have Gun Will Travel”. Oh my gosh!! The basement was blue with smoke from the rolls of caps we shot at each other all afternoon! I’m amused how often I see six-shooters like that in antique stores. Until I finally got a BB gun, I took my holster and six-guns on hunting trips with our dad.

One last favorite. When I was fifteen I received my first HO scale train set. For the unaware, HO actually means “half-O”. O scale is the size of Lionel trains. I prefer HO, because, to me and many others, it’s more realistic, and doesn’t take up as much space. That Christmas was fifty years ago, but I still love HO trains, and am getting ready to build another big layout in the basement of our new home. And, by the way, we model railroaders do not “play trains” and we don’t care how fast they go, so don’t ask! They are not train sets, they are layouts. Now that we’ve settled that, I’ll move on.

Merry Christmas.

I think it’s time for coffee.

Ruled by Coffee

So what is this obsession with coffee?  It’s actually my dear wife’s fault.  We started dating on March 5, 1971.  We’ve been together ever since.  It was Mary who helped me see the light, and gently led me to a life of coffee.

I actually had my first cup when I was five.  My mother was an obsessive coffee drinker, and she let me have a little antique cup filled mostly with milk, and a little coffee and sugar.  I was hooked, but it wasn’t until all of those years later that coffee finally took a permanent hold.  As school years progressed, I would come home and find the cups of cold coffee mom left all over the house, and I drank them, dust particles and all.

When Mary and I began dating, coffee became part of our companionship.  Everything went better with coffee.  Oh, I obviously liked it before, but having this new beautiful girl in my life just made coffee taste that much better.  It was just so special having a hot cup, with cream and sugar, with her.  No matter where we’ve been, coffee was part of the journey.

Now, so many years later, coffee is still a part of our home, and always will be.  Coffee answers so many important questions, it’s a wonder why there are actually people who not only don’t drink it, but can’t even stand the smell of it.  What questions?  Easy.  What should I do when I feel depressed?  Drink coffee.  When I’m happy?  Drink coffee.  When I’m bored?  Drink coffee.  When I’m confused?  Drink coffee.  Excited?  Coffee.  Broke? Coffee.  Sick?  Coffee.  Procrastinating? (Pay close attention here, this is a real important one.)  Yes.  Coffee.  Procrastinators, especially, understand the life-giving, redeeming, rescuing, obsolving qualities of coffee.

If you don’t believe me, just take a quick look at the multi-billion dollar coffee industry, just in the U.S. alone!  What are they selling?  It’s not just a drink, it is the coffee experience that no other beverage can provide.  Water sure doesn’t do it, soda can’t, fruit juices, nope, booze doesn’t even come close.  Coffee.  The coffee hounds realized that coffee mesmerizes, hypnotizes, solves, mends, heals, sedates, and fixes.

During the holiday season, it is coffee that makes the twinkling lights brighter, Christmas trees smell fresher, gift buying and present wrapping (ugh) fun!  Christmas would not be Christmas without coffee.  Forget the egg nog and champagne.  Forget the cases of soda.  Just go crank up the percolator, drip, press, osmosis, instant (what??!  No, never instant!) coffee.  Sit back, let the aroma lift you to new heights of joy.  Afterwards, there is only one thing left to say.

Can I have another cup?

 

Country Fun

We love spending time outdoors, especially when we’re with family.  One of my favorite things to photograph is pathways.  There is just something about a path that is inviting.  All kinds of captions could be added at the bottom…the path and the destination are yours…where will your path lead you?  All kinds of things.

Michigan colors are unbeatable, in my opinion.  I know there are many beautiful places across the country, but we grew up in the great state of Michigan, and we’re thankful to still be here after all these years.  We have lived in other states, but always felt the pull back to Michigan.

Recently, we were with family in Tennessee and had the opportunity to visit the Gentry Farm.  What a beautiful day it was!  Lots of people enjoyed going to the farm to see the animals and end the visit by picking out a terrific pumpkin.  There are several old trucks that bring back lots of memories.

Tennessee is also a beautiful state, and we sometimes dreamed of retiring there.  Well, we’re already retired, and living happily in Michigan.  Tennessee is not too far away to visit, so we go whenever we can.  It helps that we have two sons and their families living there.

As long as coffee is involved, I’m up for going anywhere.  The trip is always made better with a mocha latte, extra hot, extra shot of espresso.

Speaking of coffee, I need more.

– Dale Parsons