coffeecupcoffee-dryingpatio-coffeeresearchorgcoffee-harvesting-cherries-coffeeresearchorgHave you thought about your cup of Starbucks? What’s its story, anyway?
THE COFFEE BEAN: The United States imports more coffee than any other nation. In 2009 the average person in the United States consumed 9 lbs of coffee. Brazil is responsible for approximately 45% of the world's total coffee exports.
The coffee bean is a seed of the coffee plant, the source for coffee. The pit inside the fruit is called a berry or cherry. Even though they are seeds, they are called beans because of their resemblance to true beans.
PICKING/DRYING: When the coffee bean is ripe, it is almost always handpicked. There are two methods of processing the coffee beans. The first method is wet processing. The flesh of the berries is separated from the seeds and then the seeds are fermented–soaked in water for about two days. This dissolves any pulp or sticky residue that may still be attached to the seeds. They are then washed and dried in the sun, or in drying machines.
The dry processing method is used for lower quality seeds. Foreign objects are separated from the berries and the fruit is then spread out in the sun for 2–3 weeks, and raked regularly by hand. The outer shell of the beans turns brown and the beans rattle around inside. Once the beans are dried, all of the layers are removed from the beans (this process is called hulling). Occasionally, beans may be polished in a machine to remove that last little bit of silver skin. Beans are then graded and sorted, first by size, then by density. Beans of unsatisfactory size, color, or otherwise unacceptable, are removed. The green beans are bagged and shipped to buyers around the world−to coffee buyers and then to Starbucks!
ROASTING: The green coffee beans are heated in large, rotating drums using temperatures up to 550 F. The tumbling motion of the drums keeps the beans from burning. Roasting time depends on the desired coffee strength−seven minutes for a light roast to fourteen minutes for espresso.
GRIND: The proper grind brings out the most flavor. Generally, the finer the grind the more quickly the coffee should be prepared. Coffee ground for an espresso machine should be ground finer than coffee brewed in a drip system.
BREWING: Before you brew your coffee, take a moment. Smell their aroma. Think of the many processes these beans have gone through since the day they were hand-picked and sorted in their origin country. Consider the long way they have traveled to your kitchen. Prepare your coffee thoughtfully and enjoy it with pleasure. Many people have been instrumental in bringing it to your cup.
WRITERS CORNER: Like the journey of the coffee bean, as writers we travel a long road from the idea of a novel to its completion. Take time to research for accuracy, fully develop your characters and your plot. Bring it to its fruitful conclusion with care and thoughtfulness.
EVERYONE ELSE: Never undertake a project or a journey without a specific plan, whether it’s baking bread or taking a trip across town. Without consideration of whether you have all the needed ingredients, your bread could be dry and tasteless. If you don’t have a mental GPS of how to get where you’re going, you could end up in Timbuktu. (Metaphorically speaking).


The Swallows Return to Capistrano

capistranoThey say the swallows fly 7000 miles from Argentina every spring headed for Southern California. Perhaps one day, on the flight south, Father Sparrow spotted the San Juan Mission located on the plains, next to the wetlands. “Whoa, guys,” he may have tweeted, using today’s vernacular. “Check out that pond full of mud, those orange groves over yonder full of insects, and the lovely bare mission arches. Let us, forthwith, suspend our travels and build our nests here.” And all the tired swallows flew down to feast and build their nests and raise their young. The weather wasn’t that bad, either.

So every year after, they returned to the mission on or about March 19th to spend a thrill-filled summer, raising a family and blessing the mission with lovely twittering songs until mid- October, when they headed back to Argentina.

Along came 1939, and Glenn Miller wrote a song, immortalizing the swallows and the town, bringing tourists to San Jan Capistrano to visit the Mission, built in 1776, to see the miracle of the swallows returning every spring on almost the same day. City fathers rejoiced, making merry with parades and souvenirs, food and song…and made money.

]When the swallows come back to Capistrano

That‘s the day I pray that you’ll come back to me.

Enter the development crews who noted the increasing public interest in the fair city. They drained the wetlands, built shopping centers and cut down the orange groves to build apartment buildings and housings. And the town grew. In 1990, the church noted all the expanding tourism at the mission. They decided to remodel those nasty old bare arches left standing after the 1812 earthquake, so they knocked down all the swallow’s nests to renovate…and the swallows stopped coming.

Despite frantic efforts to bring the swallows back to the mission, which now includes fake nests on the arches and piped in mating calls meant to woo the birds, it’s all for naught. Only a few sparrows come to the mission these days. Most nest under bridges or in the eaves of the taco stand down the street. They say it was a combination of knocking down the nests, draining the wetlands and taking away their food source. Do you think?

Authors: Don’t risk changing your writing from a genre that has been successful. “Forget Victorian Romance,” some may say, “Try Horror-Fantasy-Thriller-Sci-Fi. You’ll like it.” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s not original, by the way. Stick with what you know. If you love writing Victorian Romance, forsooth, keep writing it.

Regular Folks: Remember family traditions. Bake the marble cake with lemon icing that your son always asked for on his birthday−even if he’s 40. Put up the manger scene at Christmas− even if the kids won’t be home this year. And don’t forget the note in your husband’s sandwich. One bite and he’ll find the note, saying, I love you. Don’t risk changing the traditions that made your memories beautiful. Don’t drive away the swallows. They may never return.


A Cat And Mouse Story

mousedroppingsONCE upon a time, or so the fable goes, there was a colony of mice who were tormented almost daily by the tattered old cat that lived down the way. Almost daily, as the less wary mice fell prey to the tattered old cat, the colony diminished in size. On a dreary day in the month of May, having heard yet again of the demise of another citizen, the mayor of the mouse colony called a town hall meeting to discuss this disturbing matter.

The mayor stood tall upon the top of a match box and shouted to his diminutive mouse constituents. “What can be done about this conundrum threatening our health and welfare?”

The towns-mice had no solution, having discussed the issue ad-nauseum and laying the blame to everything from feline over-population to unemployment.

One small mouse spoke up. “You all agree that the sly cat has made our lives miserable by the treacherous manner in which he sneaks around on padded feet. If there was a way we could be forewarned of his approach, we could scamper away and avoid his murderous attacks. Therefore, I propose that we break open the General Disaster Fund and purchase a small bell, string it to a ribbon and attach it to his tail.”

“Can’t happen,” said the Mayor Mouse. The General Disaster Fund is reserved against the day of a natural disaster, like a flood or famine. This is neither flood nor famine. We’ll have to raise a new tax to meet the demands of this monstrous issue.”

The towns-mice applauded and shouted in unison, “Let’s do that. Raise a new tax.” A motion was made and carried to tax each mouse according to his means, laying the highest tax on the worker-mouse as the wealthiest among them had tax breaks and the poorest received cheese subsidies. The motion was voted on and passed. They would announce a tax, purchase a bell and proceed with the plan. Faint music could be heard in the background as an old mouse stepped forward, “But who’ll tie the bell on the old cat’s tail,” said the wise old mouse. “Who’ll tie the bell on the old cat’s tail, so we’ll know when he’s around the house?”

The towns-mice, having no answer, and with meetings to attend, scampered away.

Then the old mouse said. “Foolish mice. It is easy to propose impossible remedies, harder to accomplish the goal, when you consider all the impediments.”

Author Corner: “I’m going to write a book about my life.” Foolish people. We laugh. Only another author knows what is involved between the plan and publisher. And then there’s the marketing! Only when one has a true calling to write can one devote the time, energy, commitment, perseverance, luck, and skill to begin, complete and sell a novel in today’s market.

Everyday Folks: If you have a seemingly insurmountable problem, try discussing it with someone with a different perspective. Then, listen to what they have to say. Now with all points of view on the table, you’ll have a complete understanding of the problem and be able reach a plausible solution.



Ernest Hemingway and CATS
Through the wonders of time-travel and internet technology, today I’m interviewing American author, Ernest Hemingway.

Elaine: “What is the most memorable thing you recall about your childhood?”

Ernest: “My parents had a summer home near Walloon Lake, Michigan when I was four years old. My father taught me to hunt, fish and camp in the woods. This experience instilled in me a passion for outdoor adventure and living in remote places. I guess it set the tone for my need to live an adventurous life.”

Elaine: “What was the first job you ever held?”

Ernest: “I worked as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star for six months right out of high school. They gave me a Style Guide which became the foundation of my writing. ‘Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.’ See the entire Kansas City Style guide here:

Elaine: “Tell us about your first publication.”

Ernest: “After returning from WWI in 1919, I took a fishing trip with high school friends into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The trip inspired the short story, Big Two-Hearted River, where Nick Adams takes to the country to find solitude after returning from war.”

Elaine: “I understand you were influenced by a number of famous people. Can you tell us about them?”

Ernest: “My first wife, Hadley and I moved to Paris in 1921 and I worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. While there, I became friends with Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gertrude became my mentor and introduced me to a number of artists and writers - Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro’ and Juan Gris. We collaborated on a book called In Our Times.”

Elaine: “I understand many of your books were inspired by your travels and adventures.”

Ernest: “A safari in East Africa in 1933 inspired Green Hills of Africa and several short stories. To Have and Have Not was published in 1937 while we lived in Spain.”

Elaine: “You love cats, right? You’re a man after my own heart.”

Ernest: “LOL. I learned to love cats when I lived in Cuba with my second wife, Pauline. My first cat was a gray Angora named Princessa (middle cat in photo). Two addition males were purchased and I wrote extensively about one of the kittens named Boise. At that time I was writing For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) based on my experiences during The Spanish Civil War.”

Elaine: “Wasn’t that was your most famous book?”

Ernest: “It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and sold half a million copies within months. That makes it one of my favorites.”

Elaine: “And then in 1954, you won the Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘mastery of the art of narrative and the influence exerted on contemporary style’ as demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea. That’s pretty impressive, too.”

Ernest: “I felt that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen or Bernard Berenson deserved the prize more than me, but the prize money was welcome.”

Elaine: “You’re too modest. Here is what you wrote in a speech to be read in Stockholm, as you were not able to attend to receive your prize. “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

Elaine: “You have led an exciting life. Can you leave us with any words of wisdom for writers and to regular folks?”

AUTHOR CORNER: “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes, like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
E. Hemingway.

EVERYDAY FOLKS: “I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” E. Hemingway

*Source: Ernest Hemingway - Wikipedia:




mule-header_01WHAT MADE THE GRAND CANYON? The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and is over a mile deep. While the specific process and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are subject to debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode the earth and form the canyon to its present day configuration.

A NATIONAL MONUMENT: President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of the preservation of the Grand Canyon. He visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. On January 11, 1908, President Roosevelt declared the massive Grand Canyon a national monument. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

VISITORS: Every year, a staggering five million people flock to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon’s sweeping views, hike the trails, shoot the rapids in rubber rafts and hop on a mule for a trip through the vast canyon.

MULE RIDES THROUGH THE CANYON: This summer, for the first time in more than 100 years, mule riders will be able to take in the breathtaking vistas while traveling along a new East Rim Trail built by the National Park Service.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE MOLLIES? A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. While mules can be male (Jacks) or female (Mollys), they cannot reproduce another mule. However, a female mule can be crossed to a horse which produces a Hinnies. Female mules are generally used on the Grand Canyon trail rides due to a more gentle temperament. While horses may tend to daydream as they walk along a trail, a mule knows exactly where they are going to put down each foot because their eyes are located on the outside of their heads, allowing them to see all four feet, which comes in handy on narrow trails, 6000 feet above the canyon floor.

Mules are the animal of choice for trail rides as they are more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, considered less obstinate and more intelligent and possess a strong sense of self-preservation. I think there is a lesson here?
(For more information about mules in general, check this website: http://luckythreeranch.com/website/mule-facts/

AUTHOR CORNER: Keep an eye on all four feet around you. Keep a correct balance between your writing and your promotion. Don’t daydream like the horse and lose sight of your perspective. Keep an eye on industry trends, communicate with other writers and maintain your social media presence. Don’t be discouraged and take your eyes off the trail.

REGULAR FOLKS: Like the Grand Canyon mule, be steadfast, less obstinate, sure-footed, and intelligent. Maintain a sense of self-preservation. Keep informed of things around you. Don’t let the mundane things of life get in the way of your plans for the future. And if you ever get to the Grand Canyon, after you’ve hiked the trails, and shot the rapids, be sure and check out the mule rides along the East Rim Trail. Let me know if you’ve ever done anything quite as adventurous.


Angels All Around Us. Fact or Fiction?

balaamsangelangel and bridgecolorDO OTHER RELIGIONS BELIEVE IN ANGELS? Angels are part of many religions including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism and are mentioned in the Bible as well as in the Qur'an and Hadith. All religions agree that angels are divine spiritual beings sent by God as messengers to comfort, or to protect in time of great need.

ANGELS IN THE BIBLE: The Bible includes many interactions and conversations between angels and humans. The most remembered− the Archangel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ.* Angels directed the shepherds to the stable where Jesus was born.** Following the Resurrection of Jesus, an angel rolled back the stone and spoke to Mary Magdalene.***

DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN ANGELS? In the US, a 2008 survey polled 1,700 respondents, and found that fifty-five percent of Americans, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life. Thousands of personal accounts have reported interactions with angels.

BALAAM’S DONKEY: One interesting story from the Bible describes the prophet Balaam who was instructed by God to deliver a specific message. Three times Balaam beats his donkey when it stops in the middle of the road. Finally the donkey turns and speaks aloud, “I can’t move forward? Can’t you see that Angel with a sword, standing right in front of us, blocking the road? Why are you beating me?”
Balaam answers, “Because you won’t obey. If I had a sword, I’d kill you!” Finally he sees the angel who delivers God’s message and Balaam obeys. (Loose translation.)##The amazing thing is that Balaam wasn’t the least bit amazed when his donkey spoke aloud to him. Instead, he argues and curses the donkey. Something to think about…But we’ll deal with talking animals another day.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The angels in the Bible are described as masculine. In the middle century, art and mythology depicted angels as female and artists added wings. Nowadays, angels could look like any one of us. The prophet in Hebrews admonished us to be kind, even to strangers, as they may be angels in disguise.

AUTHOR CORNER: Whatever success you’ve achieved as an author is due to many people who mentored and helped you learn your craft: writing coaches, critique partners, agents, publishers and other authors. Now you can be someone’s angel by mentoring, helping and encouraging new and budding authors. Be honest but remember, a kind word goes a long way to ease a tough critique.

EVERYONE ELSE: Donkeys can be stubborn and contrary. Sometimes they hold back when they should move forward. Angels lend a helping hand in time of need. Who knows? The person you meet on any particular day may need an angel. Or…he may BE an angel. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2**** It’s your choice. Donkey…or angel?

* Luke 1:26
** Luke 2:10
*** Matthew 28:5
****Hebrews 13:2
## Numbers 22

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