Tis the time of resolutions and here are mine: to do more writing, to return to familiar things that I have lost and to push back against the sense of doom with creative, crafty, thoughtful and community minded ways.
January is the precious slow time on the farm when the goats and sheep are ruminating and resting and getting ready to kid and lamb. It is time for us to plan and plant and rest and read and think and write and notice what i have missed. It's the time to make "more and less lists" . Things that i want to have more off or less off in my life!
The things I miss are things from “where I came from“ . Born and raised in Germany I view American ways as not the “one and only way” to do things but as one way to do things.
There are important things I have lost in the vibrant hustle of keeping up with a small dairy farm - And now is the time to reclaim those things. These are clearly things that I need more off!
In my book good things, worthy of more things are good in more ways than one -
Let me introduce you to good thing #1.
Kaffee Trinken! The Finnish have Fika, the Germans Kaffee und Kuchen, the Spanish “La Merienda” and the British have tea time (all day long) – but Americans have Drive-Through Coffee!
Ironically the worlds first ever coffee drive through was invented in Portland . Really!
Motor Moka, was founded in the early 90’s with the first branch across the (then brand new) convention center.
Motor Moka must have been cool though ( Portland in the early 90s was cool) -it also ran a radio station and a poetry journal!
By the late 90’s little cool Moto Moka was swallowed up by Starbucks and the rest is history- Starbucks today generates over 2/3 of its sales through take out of sweet, fatty and caffeinated things and the company has let go of its “third place” philosophy.
No longer does Starbucks offer communities a gathering place- most new branches are drive through only!
I want to push back against the sense of inevitability that permeates conversations about climate, environment, tech, consumption and society in general. There may be drive throughs everywhere but we don’t have to use them. We can do things different!
I look forward to doing small things to foster thoughtfulness and community.
Good things done with care- like a tea cozy fit to let my nettle tea steep for hours and of course a proper service for coffee break in the afternoon- Kaffee und Kuchen.
In Germany there are three tiers of Kaffee and Kuchen (I am really generalizing here!)
There is the workday one - in an office someone might pop out mid afternoon and treat everyone to “Teilchen” roughly translated to “bits” of pastry rather than a whole cake. The coffee would be brewed on site and served in a big thermos and everyone would have their own personal porcelain mug.
Then there is the weekend Kaffee und Kuchen- an ordinary Sunday occasion to bake for and invite guests. It is common to invite folks over to Kaffeetrinken (coffee drinking) rather than dinner! An idea worth emulating since it leaves a Sunday evening free for unwinding and preparing the week. I plan to add some aspects of British high tea and to serve savory bits (with goat cheese!) to make “Kaffee und Kuchen” a light meal that can replace dinner!
On special holidays there is special Kaffe und Kuchen The fine china Kafee Kanne, desert plates, cups and saucers and matching cream and sugar vessels! This is the occasion for Torte- like Black Forest Cake and not for pound cake! I saw a full set of these dishes at Goodwill the other day and it struck me how different it was from a drive through sippy cup- So many dishes! Think of the room required to store them, the time to wash them, the number of guests needed to make them feel necessary! It all seemed so appealing and overwhelming. I was not ready - so I passed.
But I am starting my year with a proper daily Coffee Break ritual! Each afternoon I make a cup of pour over with a bite to eat. And I shall read or write or think but not use my phone- the most challenging aspect for me!
I will focus on the small and very good cup with a dark roast (less caffeine!) in a perfect and pretty little pour over pot with a woolen cover to keep the temperature just so! Temperature matters greatly with coffee and it can make the difference between so so and remarkable.
The best temperature to brew coffee for maximum flavor extraction is 200F- another reason why Keurigs with their measly 192F cant deliver full flavor. And the best temperature to appreciate all it’s flavor notes is around 150 F. In order to make that perfect cup you have to retain your heat yet dark coffee in a pour over glass vessel radiates heat off like mad. Milk added to coffee cools it down further, as does a cold cup- Tricky - especially if you want to take your time at doing the pour over - right slow like!
Lucky for me- the answer is a woolen cover. I love felting covers for things- especially hot beverage covers like tea pot cozies and coffee covers and thermoses and mason jars!
A wool cover combines insulating powers with elements of personal expression when choosing colors and texture and finish and it all makes it special – for me!
Crafting a wool cover also fits nicely with my New Years resolution to push back against consumption and commercialization by reusing, making and sharing.
For those of us without access to good felting wools, tools and classes- Here is a hack:
Scour Goodwill for a wool turtle neck sweater. This is Not easy but doable. Goodwill has been flooded with fast fashion cast offs and natural fibers like wool, silk, linen and cotton have been crowded out by synthetics. If some magic genie where to snap their fingers and everything acrylic/polyester/Nylon where to disappear in an instant: Most of the racks would be bare. I actually counted the garments on one sweater rack – of over 70 sweaters only ONE was 100% wool! Do not let this discourage you- see it as a challenge. And while we are on challenges- consider signing up for the “30 Wears “ challenge- just google it. There’s even an app for that. One more thing about finding that wool turtle neck- even classy brands now mix synthetics into their wool sweaters. A few percent of nylon can help with fit and wear but any less than 80% wool will not work. Neither will “super wash”wool;– it is treated to never ever felt!
Cut off the turtle neck and save the rest of the sweater- it can make a laptop cover and a pair of booties with enough wool left over for dryer balls! (more in future Blog posts!)
Submerged the turtle neck in hot soapy water as hot as your hands can handle and massage it vigorously to make a perfect custom fit cozy. Pro tip- use dish washing gloves!
Rub and roll and squeeze between your hands until you feel the fabric stiffen up. It is now felting! Now take your vessel (tea or coffee pot) and stretch it to fit over it’s widest part. It should be flabby and loose. Continue rubbing it with bubble wrap and soap and more hot water until it shrinks snuggly around your pot! You can add a drawstring if needed for the hourglass waste of a Chemex or to close one end to make it a tea pot hood. Once felted the wool won’t unravel and is easy to trim as needed.
For those who would like to learn how to wet felt with raw wool- care to join me?
I am teaching felting classes this year and “Felting for Hot Beverages “
is the first class that I offer. It’s at once an introduction to wet felting as it is about new routines around hot beverages for folks that want their own tea/coffee break,
I have accumulated a selection of over 50 tea pot and French press and pour over sets all of them rescues from Goodwill waiting for their turn to start a new life!
Let’s start the year with something beautiful and useful and reused, something that we craft ourselves- making good things is a good thing. And of course, there will be Kaffee und Kuchen.