Welcome to Mocha Muse Coffee Shop!

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jayni in FedoraI hate coffee, but . . . I love coffee shops!

This creates a dilemma, because I find all of the sounds and smells of cafes and coffeehouses very inspirational for writing.

I would love to carve out a couple of hours each day in which to sit in a funky little coffee shop and write my heart out.

But, since I don’t drink coffee and I don’t like tea and my gluten-free, sugar-free, flour-free, corn-free diet prevents me from indulging in confections . . . well, you get the point no doubt: I can’t pay my way for java house writing.

So to preserve the atmosphere of conversation and creativity; to capture the wild musings of our minds; to provide a free space for sensory experience, I’ve created a virtual coffee shop.

Now, if we imagine the sounds in the background, perhaps the Mocha Muse can be used as a place to break routine, loosen up some latent stories, roust memories, stir emotions, animate dreams . . . and give birth to whatever is percolating within the soul.

  • Enjoy my personal reflections on muse-inspired, random days.
  • Browse through the artwork hanging on the walls (click on Beadery and Cartoonery tabs).
  • Curl up on the sofa and read Mocha Muse’s own newspaper, The Grind, on aimless, arbitrary, and accidentally-whimsical Monday mornings. (Which means we go to press when the waitress is in the mood!)

Grounds up!

P.S. If you’re having trouble summoning up background sounds, try this ambient enhancer. Let the noise machine transport and deposit you into the heart of coffee shop culture. Maybe to your favorite seat next to the window – or –  to that special booth that curls like a comma in the corner .  .  .  !

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies with Sunshine Glaze

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Originally, I baked these cookies for Super Bowl LII. For homage to my Dad who was a native of coal-mining Pennsylvania and a lifelong Eagles fan. (Or Ig’-els, as he steadfastly pronounced their name!)*

Sadly, he died five years too soon to witness their ultimate victory.

I wanted something bright and happy to send to Dad, which always sends me back to yellow .  .  . the happiest color I know.

These cookies have a soft, cakey texture and a refreshing lemony burst of flavor.

 

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon Freshly Grated Lemon Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 2 Tablespoons Poppy Seeds
  • 3/4 Cup Butter, Softened
  • 1 Cup White Sugar
  • 2 Large Egg Yolks
  • 1 Large Whole Egg
  • 2 Teaspoons Pure Lemon Extract

Baking Directions

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Step 2:  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, lemon zest, coriander and poppy seeds. Mix well with whisk and set aside.

Step 3:  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until it forms a grainy paste. (I like to do this manually, but an electric mixer works well, also.)

Step 4:  In a small bowl or measuring cup, lightly whip egg yolks, whole egg and lemon extract with a fork. Add to butter and sugar, and mix until fully combined. (If using electric mixer, beat at medium speed.)

Step 5:  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. (For electric mixer, use low speed. Be careful not to overmix.)

Step 6:  Drop with a small cookie scoop (or rounded tablespoons) onto cookies sheets covered with parchment paper.

Step 7:  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes for soft cookies. Remove just as edges are beginning to slightly brown.

Step 8:  Transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool surface.

Glaze

  • 2 Cups Powdered Suger
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Dash of Fresh Lemon Zest

Glazing Directions

Step 1:  Mix or blend until smooth.

Step 2:  Once cookies have cooled, drizzle glaze on top using a fork or spoon. This really depends upon the consistency of the glaze and your desire to be creative. Fork drizzles are the most fun to play with. I’m still experimenting with this art!

Step 3:  Sprinkle some fresh lemon zest on the top of each cookie. This adds a nice, invigorating burst of sunshine to each bite.

Yield: 3 Dozen

Enjoy with a smile!

 

*If anyone recognizes this pronunciation, please share with me its origin. My Dad had no clue that his diction was unique.

 

 

Animal Farm Yoga

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Animals - Farm

Have you ever practiced yoga with barnyard animals?

Well, I’ve recently had the experience of sharing asanas with pigs.

More specifically, a couple of micro pigs named Barbie and Elvis. Pigs - Teacup

It all happened quite accidentally when my yoga teacher decided to cancel her Sunday morning class. This class was one of the highlights of my week, after which I’d stroll down the walkway to a favorite cafe and have brunch while basking in the sunlight on the outdoor patio.

Oh, it was so charming and delicious. I had plenty of time and inspiration to eat, read, write, daydream. Once finished, I’d meander onward to do a few errands and then calmly drive home.

A perfectly blissful way to spend a Sunday until my teacher stole the bliss. And left me frantically searching for a replacement.

So when I heard that a local landmark restaurant was offering Sunday morning outdoor yoga classes, I leapt at the opportunity.

On Sunday, I drove through an arched canopy of ancient cottonwood trees, parked, and walked the rest of the way to a patio with a cobblestone surface and an air temperature of 48 degrees. Surrounded by dense vegetation, I was enchanted, if rather disappointed, by the rustic conditions. A large gathering of folks sat lotus, watching me vaguely hesitate.

How could I walk away? I’ve practiced yoga for 40 years. My pride (yes, big contradiction here!) wouldn’t let me surrender to defeat.

So I paid $5.00 and unfurled my pristine Manduka mat on the rugged surface. I took off my fleece-lined boots and pretzeled into a full lotus – barefoot.

It didn’t take long before a perky young woman arrived and settled in about a foot away from me. I was curious for a moment, but then she began to speak through a headset, and I realized she was the teacher. Now I had no where to hide and no way to voice my suffering.

She announced that the outdoor heaters were not working, so we’d have to tough it out. Then she commanded downward dog.

I obeyed.

While triangularly facing my mat, I felt fur tickling my right ankle. Hmmmm.  I didn’t have time to investigate, as the vinyasa was in full flow.

I did discover the source, though, as I chaturanga-ed down from plank onto my mat. It was a slow descent. I saw it coming, but not in time to hop up into tree pose.

Standing on my mat was a miniature pig, on whose back I was about to land – and – in whose muddy cloven-hoof prints I was about to eat clods of chocolate soil.

Not appetizing, but I muscled my way through it like any good yoga soldier would.

When I touched ground, the teacher introduced me to Barbie, and then to Elvis, and said they regularly join the class. Being the new kid, I guess I was chosen to be pranked this particular week.

An hour later, I resembled a mud wrestler, but – by golly – I made it through the entire class.

And just when I thought I could relax and lie down in mud-clodded corpse pose, I glanced forward. There is teacher doing handstand pushups, while sipping from a Margarita glass each time she reached ground level.

Hmmmmmm again.

What do pigs and Margaritas have to do with serious yoga practice?

I’ve wrestled with the connection.

Perhaps the adorability factor of micro pigs? But, yoga doesn’t ask to be adorable. It’s self-contained and fully satisfied within itself.

Alcohol and handstands? Is a libatious reward really necessary on the mat? I thought the reward was invisible and quietly personal. And, non-alcoholic.

No judgment. Just confusion.

To assuage this confusion, I drove home, sat down at the kitchen counter, and took a luxurious bite of my most recently baked creation: a salted caramel-stuffed chocolate cupcake with coffee liqueur-drenched mocha icing.  Salted Stuffed-Caramel Chocolate Cupcake

The same color as the mud I’d eaten, but, SO much sweeter and soulfully satisfying!!

There may be some satirical, Orwellian connection between pigs and yoga, but I’m not eating any more of it.

I’ll bake my own.

And share the recipe if requested.

 

 

 

Mom’s Mocha-Toffee Bars

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About 35 years ago, my mom held a summer luncheon in our family home. She made these bars for dessert, and I fell in love them. After I returned to the Southwest, she sent the recipe, which I cherished and saved in my recipe file.

Mom's Mocha-Toffee Bars Resized

And yet, somehow, I never baked them until a week ago.

Perhaps to honor her passing, I was destined to wait. I was given time to reflect upon her love of the color brown. The color of earth, of solidity, of groundedness that she decorated our childhood homes with.

My earliest childhood home was actually painted mocha at mom’s request. Likely because she made a killer yellow cake with mocha frosting that the entire neighborhood craved, yet they rarely had the pleasure of indulging in because my dad, brother, and I usually engulfed it on its first night of creation.

Having said that, I’ve pondered the obvious fact that perhaps I named my blog after my mom in a surreptitious way that even I never uncovered until now. “Now” as in this very moment of typing these words on my chiclet keys. Amazing how and when connections are recognized!

Mocha-Toffee Bars

  • 2 Cups Brown Sugar – Firmly Packed
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter, Softened
  • 1 Teaspoon  Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Coffee Liqueur
  • 1 Cup 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1 Egg – At Room Temperature
  • 1 Cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts or Pecans

Baking Directions

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13″ x 9″ baking pan and set aside.

Step 2:  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and flour.

Step 3:  Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Remove 1 cup of crumbs and set aside.

Step 4:  To the original large bowl, add baking powder and salt. Using a whisk or fork, lightly beat in coffee liqueur, 1/2 and 1/2, and egg.

Step 5:  Continue beating until batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.

Step 6:  In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together chocolate chips and nuts.

Step 7:  Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top of batter in pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts on top of the layer of crumbs.

Step 8: Use a long, flat spatula to spread topping evenly over the top of the batter in pan. (I find that using my hands is also effective.)

Step 9:   Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.

Step 10: Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool bars in pan completely before slicing.

Step 11: Using a serrated knife, cut into 24 bars. If you’re using a non-stick baking pan, you might consider a serrated plastic knife for this process. My husband recently surprised me with a Bakeware Buddy Knife that seems to be ideal for protecting pans from damaging scratches.

Step 12: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I used a cake platter with a glass dome to store mine, and they were moist and delicious on the fifth day.

*High Altitude Note: This recipe has been tested from sea level to 5000 feet. I suspect that altitudes above 5000 will also do well, however, always best to be prepared to experiment.

Indulge in mocha!

The Sounds of Seething

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Retro flower pot shape bike at a coffee shop.

Coffee Shops, Cafes, and Diners have been, and will likely always be, my temples of contemplation and revelation.

Practicing private thoughts within a bustling public setting works as a nice balance for my mind and soul.

Recently, I sat in a nearby, faith-based coffee shop/bookstore. The patrons were primarily college students – early twenties – discussing philosophical concepts while intermittently glancing at their screens.

They appeared to be harmonizing secular with sacred, in soft tones of curiosity and respect. Their vocabularies were as vast as our Western horizons, and they punctuated their speech with a potpourri of world languages.

To me, an eavesdropper, their conversations sounded lyrical. Almost like improvisational poetry. I felt inspired being nested in such artful ambience.

The moment pushed me higher.

Caused me to recall my own college days, where as an English major, I was in love with words. With the raw materials of my art form.

In the arms of such purity, I was nearly 20 years old when, during an all-night dormitory pow wow, I was coaxed relentlessly into uttering aloud the “F” word. It was liberating. I suddenly had a new relationship with the word. I was less fearful of its power.

Over time, I’ve dared myself to speak aloud every forbidden word deemed as vulgar or offensive to someone, somewhere.

Several of these words became familiar friends; others remained forbidden from my speech.

Eventually, I became uncomfortable with my free usage of cheap, easy words instead of giving space to speaking with specificity and grace.

People, both public and private, have stood me still with their eloquence, and kept me at attention until I absorbed some essence of their artistry.

Until I remembered my own love of language and admonished myself for loosening grasp on this romance.

Most recently and most powerfully, Michelle Obama sent me back to my origin: “.  .  . when they go low, we go high.” A phrase I’ve internally chanted like a mantra each time I seethe with enough emotional passion to drop verbal bombs of destruction.

I succeed and I fail at this.
I reinstate the mantra.

And rest in the eternal truth that all beings will be accountable for their own actions and reactions. That there is no need to judge, ridicule, or make demeaning statements about others’ efforts.

Engaging in inward seething judgment – a seething that remains either silent or shouts outwardly – actually retards my advancement as a human.

It does nothing to adorn my own consciousness. So why indulge?

Instead, if I can love myself enough to forgive myself, I can far more easily forgive others and dissolve any seething words brewing in my inner vessel.

And, just in case I’m too puny to silence my ugly words, I can always subdue the tendency with the bite of a sweet confection:

Pumpkin Cake - Minus Bite

In this case, a dense, chewy pumpkin cake .  .  . recipe compliments of THESWEETWORLDSITE.

I embellished my version of the cake, but her elegant simplicity is enough to associate me with the power and the glory of beautifully heart-crafted and purified creative language. And remind me of my ever-present choice:

The Sound of Beauty or the Fury of the Beast

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My choice; my reckoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye Boys

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There’s a certain timbre in the coffee shop this morning. Porcelain colliding with wood, with more porcelain. Hushed voices. Whispers mixing with the steam of hot coffee rising.

As I glance back over my shoulder, I think of 2017. I see a mental billboard – a roadside advertisement featuring the famous bad boys. The lineup of naked egos exposed in their full self-glorification. 

Some courting felonies, some hoping for misdemeanors.

 

It was a year of cause and belated effect.

It was the truth of existence in operation, and a multitude of us watched with consciousness and remembrance of our own battles with the many flavors of abuse.

It was the year that Newton’s third law was made apparent to all.

It was a moment of satisfaction for me.

And to those celebrated offenders, I say:  “Bye Bye Boys. You’ve had your day. Now it’s time to go away.”

 

For all the unknown, the unexposed – may you wrestle with you consciences, have tea with your demons, and learn your lessons profoundly. Police Mystery Man

I am cordially indifferent to your individual plights.

 

I have only one sorrowful loss in this whole mess:  Garrison Keillor. He’s been my inspiration and a source of cynical, wickedly humorous Americana entertainment since 1980.

I’m angry that his fictional small-town tales and homey music have been removed from the terrestrial radio waves and the intergalactic currents.

Radio theatre is a dying art, as is impromptu storytelling.  I want the best to remain for as long as possible.

So desperate was I to find a replacement, I searched Podcasts and settled on “Welcome To Night Vale.” It seemed like a strong contender until I reached the episode of the three vomiting dogs.

Too rude, crude, and unattractively graphic for my taste. I unsubscribed.

Now, I’m back to the eloquent emptiness Garrison left behind.

And my anger deepens. I don’t know if it’s directed more at him or at Minnesota Public Radio. It’s a selfish and selective anger – Yes.

I want my small-town fantasy safely back on the radio each week, while I want him to scurry along and correct his wrongdoing.

Just get it right, Mr. Keillor. You’re an Anglican, a man of fair faith and intelligent virtue.

Just get it right with the Lord and get back on the airwaves.

Please.

From all of us at the coffee shop .  .  . we thirst for your witty gossip, disguised as provincial-minded chatter, to stimulate our decaffeinated minds.

One smart conversation begets another. And soon we can again have a community of cafe culture that enlivens the imagination.

I raise my cup of mocha chai to you. I need this gift restored.

 

 

Mocha Chai

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I began this blog with a dilemma: hating coffee, but, loving coffee shops.

I’ve spent the past couple years reflecting upon the thrills and memories that coffee shop ambience sparks within me, and also experimenting with some confections and drinks that my taste buds associate with coffee shop culture.

Last year, I developed a recipe for a Mocha Smoothie that worked well for my caffeine-free lifestyle. This year I have a soul-soothing alternative for anyone seeking a warm, nourishing drink.

Mocha Chai

For a 12-ounce mug:

  • Combine 8 ounces of Rice Milk and 4 ounces of Water in a small saucepan.

Add:

  • 2 Whole Cloves
  • 2 Cardamom Pods
  • 2 Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 1″ Piece of Cinnamon Bark
  • 1/2″ Piece of Fresh Ginger Root (No need to peel)
  • 1 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder

Step 1:  Stir together and bring to slow boil over medium heat on range top burner.

Step 2:  Once the liquid begins to boil, reduce heat slightly and allow mixture to gently boil for 3 minutes.

Step 3:  Cover pan and let sit while placing in the mug:

  • 1 Teaspoon Dark Maple Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Oil (Udo’s is my favorite)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Coffee Liqueur
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chocolate Liqueur

Step 4:  Pour liquid from pan through a strainer into the mug.

Step 5:  Stir well.

Sip and enjoy on a chilly evening. Or, anytime, really. It’s a drink that warms and relaxes the body, mind and heart.

Celebratory Muffins

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Sweet Spud Cranberry Muffins

Well, I wrote about intending to bake them for New Year’s Day.

And these Sweet Potato Cranberry Muffins with a shot of bourbon were a resounding success, so I’ll share the recipe:

  • 3 Cups Unbleached White Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 Cup Maple Sugar
  • 2 Packed Tablespoons Orange Zest
  • 3/4 Cup Sweet Potato Puree
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Oil
  • 2 Eggs (at room temperature)
  • 2/3 Cup Half-and-Half
  • 1 Shot of Bourbon (roughly 1 ounce)
  • 1 Cup Cranberry Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh or Frozen Cranberries

Recipe makes 12 hearty muffins.

Step 1:  Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners, because these are moist and dense little confections.

Step 2:  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Step 3:  Zest two medium oranges (or as many oranges as it takes to yield 2 packed tablespoons) in a small bowl. Rub the zest together with the maple sugar, using your hands to mix thoroughly. Whisk mixture into dry ingredients.

Step 4:  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sweet potato puree, almond oil, eggs, half-and-half and bourbon. Pour slowly into the flour mixture, using a wooden spoon to stir. The batter will be thick and rather sticky, so just stir as steadily as possible.

Step 5:  Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 full. (I found that 2 cutlery spoons worked well for this delicate operation!) Place a liberal tablespoon of cranberry sauce on top of the muffin batter. Top muffins evenly with remaining batter. (Again, this is sticky work and I found the 2 cutlery spoons to be most effective.) Once each muffin is covered, go back and hand-place several whole cranberries on top. Lightly press each one into the batter.

Step 6:  I bake at 5000 feet and use a cake tester to determine if the muffins are finished. These required 20 – 22 minutes. For lower altitudes, I would recommend checking at 15 – 17 minutes. When tester, or toothpick, comes out clean, remove pan from oven. Carefully remove muffins and place on a cooling rack.

Sweet Spuds in Progress

They store well for several days on a cake platter beneath a glass dome, if you can resist that long.

Enjoy!