Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Coffeepot Conundrum

Call me obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive or a coffee snob, but cheap coffeemakers, and a few expensive ones, just don’t make good coffee.

I haven’t been drinking coffee for as long as most people my age. I didn’t start until the late 1990s.  A friend of my youngest daughter gave her a bag of O’Henry’s Southern Pecan Cream for Christmas one year, and I perked a pot for her in the coffeemaker I kept for parties. 

That bag of coffee started my quest for the perfect coffeemaker. A friend of mine, who keeps his Consumer Reports (CR)  magazine next to his Bible, firmly believed in buying a really good coffeemaker. CR said Braun and Krups were tops, so I purchased a four-cup Braun Aromaster. I loved it. 

I nurse a theory about what it takes to brew good coffee. I believe the water must be at or very near boiling temperature. I don’t like the pablum that passes for coffee at restaurants, church gatherings or friends’ houses.  In my coffee-of-the-month-club Gevalia and the 4-cup Cuisinart I purchased for my horse trailer, I have to use more coffee to get the same strength that I did with my Braun. In the long run, that costs more, and still doesn’t make coffee as well as the Braun. I tried a Keurig and gave it away. No matter what coffee I brewed in it, the results tasted like the plastic in the coffeemaker. 

So, when my Braun said, “Alvedersein,” naturally I went searching for one just like it. I visited Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Kmart. I searched major department stores online, along with internet sales sites, including the manufacturer. Apparently, Braun doesn’t make a four-cup coffeemaker anymore. I did find one or two used ones on eBay, but they must have been inlaid with gold, judging from their prices. 

My next step was to find a Krups. Again, I went through the same search process. Imagine my excitement when I  found a four-cup Krups for just $10, plus $4 shipping. It took more than two weeks to get it. As soon as I opened the box, I knew it was the kind you find in your hotel room on a little black tray with pre-measured packets of coffee. It has no permanent filter, only the filter basket, which is shallow and almost square-shaped. You can’t find a paper filter to fit it, much less a permanent one. 

The first morning I used it, I adapted a cone-shaped filter. I figured I was in trouble, though, when the coffee started flowing in less than a minute. “How can it possibly get the water hot enough to make good coffee in less than a minute?” I pondered.  But it was pretty good. Not Braun good, but better than most coffee makers, including the Gevalia 12-cup I had been using until the Krups arrived. The second day, though, my adaptation failed, allowing grounds to plug up the hole in the filter holder. That resulted in half the coffee remaining in the filter basket, half in the carafe, with coffee grounds in both. Ugh! 

When I emailed Krups, I found out that model was 15 years old, and they no longer make parts for it.  I was furious with the eBay seller for not stating it was a hotel-room coffee maker. I was about ready to either send it back or, gasp, try that $25 Black-and-Decker model with a stainless-steel carafe that I had spied at Target. If it didn’t make good coffee, at least the return process would be easy. 

However, I purchased a package of round Bunn-brand paper coffee filters cheaply at my local bent-and-dent store, and thought, “What the heck?” When I put one in the Krups filter holder, all I had to do was trim about half an inch off the top. Voila! It worked.
So, I’m keeping the hotel model... least until I can find another inexpensive, four-cup Braun.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Moses, Maggie and the Butter Dish


     Almost everyone has heard the lazy student’s lame excuse for not turning in homework, i.e., “The dog ate it.”  I could have used that one over and over again if I’d had Moses when I was a child.
     Moses is my 9-year-old American Mastiff. I chose him after an internet search, and flew to Houston, Texas, to get him. I brought him home in a small carrier that fit under the seat in the airplane. Today, at 115 pounds, he’d require a seat of his own.
     I’ve never had much luck training dogs. Moses had to repeat first grade, so we never went any further. He responds to, "come," "sit," and, "shake," most of the time. He’ll "stay," for a few seconds. He likes 98 percent of the folks he meets, but I never know who will fall into the two-percent category. He’s unpredictable. He might snap at someone for no apparent reason. He once bit a deputy sheriff who came to check on the burglar alarm. No skin was broken, but the deputy called twice to gather material for his report.  So I put him in an outside pen when anyone comes to visit.
     When I was having a doggie door installed in one of my back doors, friends admonished me, “A burglar could crawl through a door that big!” My reply was, and still is, “Let him try.”
     Moses is so tall that he can easily reach my kitchen countertops when he stands on his hind legs. He has eaten chicken thawing in my sink and a pork chop dinner that was cooking in my crock pot. So, everything edible that I don’t want refrigerated has to go on top of the refrigerator, which often gets quite crowded. I have a Scat Mat (a plastic strip  that sends out a mild shock when touched) that I can put on the counter to keep him off. I also have fake ones I keep on the sofa to fool him. So far so good.
     He’ll eat anything. Once I set some butter out to soften before baking cookies. It disappeared. For some reason, I thought a butter dish would deter him. I searched antique shops in Springville, Trussville and Tallahassee, FL, before finally finding a gaily-colored, hand-painted one last October in Cordoba, Spain. One day, I came home and found the top in the floor, where Moses had knocked it so he could eat the butter.


     But today takes the cake, or the butter, if you will. I forgot to put the Scat Mat across the countertop. I came home this afternoon to find the top of the butter dish missing and the bottom empty. I immediately knew what had happened. 
   You see, while Moses is tall enough to grab food off the counter, Maggie, my sweet rescue dog, is the one who likes to bury stuff. Somewhere in the three or four acres surrounded by an underground electric fence she has buried three flip-flops, two doggie toys, and one mud boot. I figure Moses knocked the top of the butter dish off the counter. Maggie grabbed the top and ran off with it. So, after searching the house and the driveway surrounding it, I spent another half hour scouring my woods, looking for signs of digging. Nothing turned up.
     I know it’s out there somewhere. It’s probably in the same hidey-hole as the shoes and dog toys. Maybe I’ll stumble on that hole one day.
     Yeah, and maybe one day pigs will fly.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Glove

For some reason, I’ve never been able to keep up with gloves, umbrellas or sunglasses. Like a puppy who escapes every enclosure, they wander away from my car, purse and house. One day here, the next day gone. Poof! Just like that. The latest example of Glove Loss has me wondering whether I might have a poltergeist living with me. The alternative is even scarier than that.

I’m partial to the Isotoner brand for my “nice” gloves, or those that I don’t wear to the barn. I had a nice pair of black Isotoner driving gloves a few years ago, but the left hand took legs and walked off.  As everyone knows, you never throw out the other one. The mate might turn up one day, or you might buy another pair just like them. In theory, the next single glove you lost would fit the other hand, and you’d have a pair because you had kept the first. In practice, however, you end up with two left - or two right-hand gloves. Works the same with socks and earrings. 

A few years ago, a friend gave me another pair of black Isotoners for Christmas. They were a little thicker than my “original” pair, so not quite as dressy, but I really liked them. Last fall I managed to lose that Gift Pair. But the circumstances are quite mysterious.

Spotting them in the passenger seat of my car one day, I decided to put them in my purse before they fell out of the car unnoticed and got chewed up by one of my dogs. (It happened to my good sunglasses.) A few days later, I got to ruminating on the way things fall out of my purse, so I put them in the shoe-box-turned-glove-box on my coat-closet shelf.  But a few days later, when I went to get them, one of them was missing. Not the pair mind you, just one of them. Or so I thought. 

I did a thorough search of all of my coat and jacket pockets, the kitchen table where I dump stuff when I come into the house, the shelf that holds the shoe box and my car.  I concluded that it must have fallen into the dark, mysterious depths of my coat closet when I tossed them into the shoe box. But I didn’t feel like tackling the job of a closet search, not knowing what kind of dust monsters I might find hidden there. 

So, I bought another pair of Isotoners during the Christmas holidays. They weren’t anything like the Lone Survivor, being thicker and black-and-gray in color. I tried to put the missing glove out of my mind. Imagine my surprise a couple of weekends ago when I was digging around in the canvas bag in which I carry my Sunday Bible and Sunday school lesson book and found a pair of black Isotoner gloves at the bottom. They were as unfamiliar to me as a foreign language. I had no idea how they got there, either. “These can’t be mine,” I thought. “This is a whole pair and I’m missing only half a pair. Besides, they’re thicker than the Lone Survivor.” When I went to my shoe box to put them away, however, I realized that the Lone Survivor was actually the original Isotoner I had held onto for years hoping its mate would return. I had mistakenly thought of it as the missing mate to the Gift Pair I’d received. 
I had been so sure of tossing the Gift Pair into the shoe box I would have staked my life on it. I had a picture of the scene embedded in my mind, clear as a Windexed-window. Only that picture showed a thin pair of Gift Gloves like the Lone Survivor.

I pondered all of this for a while, and finally came to the conclusion that I had, indeed, put away the thicker gloves, then took them out again and wore them to church and put them in my Church Bag.  Not only do I have no recollection of that action, I have no idea why I transposed the identity of my Missing Pair to that of the Lone Survivor. 

The only thing worse than losing gloves, umbrellas and sunglasses is losing your mind.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Critter Costs

My critters are eating me out of house and home. 

Seems like every week I’m spending a hundred dollars or more on hay for the horses, llamas, donkey and goat; for dog and barn-cat food, sunflower seeds for the birds, corn for the deer and fish pellets for the few remaining finned critters in my run-off pond. You might as well call the latter heron food, because when the pond becomes a mud hole in late summer, a blue heron treats it like his personal cafeteria.

I ran a Quicken report, and I almost fell out of my chair. Then I realized the 2013 report included the purchase of a used three-horse slant-load Sundowner with weekender package (tiny living quarters). Take away the trailer, and I still spent almost $7,500 on food, farrier visits and vets.

Actually, that amount included some “extras” this year. I bought two llamas and two ponies, plus two saddles. I had mats put down in my two horse stalls, which entailed ground preparation. I also bought a deer feeder with a timer so I can spread corn at a set time each day. It took me hours just to anchor it to the ground. I need stilts to put the corn in the hopper, but that’s a story for another post.

What it didn’t include was the money spent on trail riding, i.e., for diesel fuel, insurance on my dually, camping and riding fees.

I wish I could say 2014 would be cheaper, but that would be a lie. I’ve just signed a contract to have my shed-row barn extended, a lean-to built for my round bales of hay, and another shed built for my Sundowner. Then I’ll need to get an electrician out to add some lights and plugs. I really need a run-in shelter in my far pasture, too.

Are my critters worth it? You bet they are! I enjoy having all the pasture animals come up to me when I walk out to the barn. I love trail riding, and it’s fun to watch the birds fight for space on their feeders. I’ve even learned to identify some of them. My dogs offer protection from home invasion (especially my Mastiff), from loneliness and from the cold on a winter night. (Yes, they sleep with me.) I’m looking forward to seeing more deer once I’ve loaded the feeder.

I just wish I could count animals as dependents. I’d never have to pay income taxes again.