Winter is coming. Wait. Dammit, it’s here.

Happy that the cold snap was over, I packed the bare minimum of warm clothes with me for this whole weekend. I needed space in my suitcase for books that I’ll be trying to sell on the Island. I figure I didn’t need to do the 4-layers thing anymore, because it was no longer as cold as it had been a few weeks ago.

Then this happened.

Fuck you weather. Fuck you.

So not only is it freezing again, it’s now dangerous for me (snow + injured spine + cane = possible re-injury). And it’s snowing on the Island, too — so Sunday, when I must travel by bus and legs, is going to suck. Oh, and by the way — I’m coming down with a cold right now. This fresh hell is going to make my nose run so hard you’d think it was training for the Olympics.

Seriously, weather? You couldn’t hold off till Monday?

To those of you who are so excited about the snow before Christmas: I’m happy for you. Really. Just note that it will probably be gone by Tuesday. Meaning it’s showed up to make my life miserable and nothing more.

Yes I am ascribing hateful motives to the weather it’s out to get me I tells you.

 

Christmas

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, and I’ve come to love it in recent years.

I used to loathe it — having the door slammed in your face by your father while you sobbingly beg him to speak to you for a moment on Christmas Day will kind of ruin the holiday for you, and that wasn’t even the FIRST instance of him doing something like that — and avoided Christmas cheer as much as I could. I was a regular Grinch. I refused to decorate, and only got gifts for people under a sense of obligation and under duress. (The one exception being for my best friend, who loves the holiday — and no matter how much I hated the holiday, I loved her more and wanted to see her happy.)

My feelings of hate towards this holiday started to switch when I met the Ogre. He dresses up as Santa every year, you see, and it seemed weird to hate Christmas when I was madly in love with Santa. Also, suddenly having a big family to spend the holiday with made it seem more like Christmas.

So for the past 3 years I’ve enjoyed Christmas, and I thought I was looking forward to this year’s, too.

Until I realized this week I don’t have any money to get anyone any gifts.

Other people will be getting me gifts. I won’t have any way to repay the favor and will likely just put my name on the gifts the Ogre gives to his family member, as if I had any part in it.

I like being showered in gifts but only if I can reciprocate. I hate feeling like I have nothing to give in return to people who give so much to me. (This is an emotion expressed by the various characters I write, too.)

Often, my fallback would be to give gifts of my own books or things I’ve knit or crocheted — but that’s not really an option this year. I can’t afford to give any more of my books away, and only about 2 people on my gift list would actually appreciate a knitted or crocheted item.

Long story short: I’m praying for a Christmas miracle to happen in the next few days so I can get my loved ones something, at least.

Accomplishments

Yesterday I finished proofing the print copy of Stranger Skies, made edits to the file, and sent the files off to the printer’s.

I’m glad I actually sat myself down and proofed the thing. I was feeling a bit “BUT I’VE DONE IT SO MANY TIMES ALREADY” when I got it and didn’t want to proof it. Turns out there were a few rather large errors in it, which of course means I need to update the ebooks again.

Still, feeling accomplished about getting the print book done. We should have the first run printed by the end of the week, hopefully. They will be ready to ship by Christmas.

I’m doing a special on pre-orders, so if you want a paperback of Stranger Skies for $16.95 instead of the regular $19.95, this is your chance. Will ship to anywhere in Canada for five dollars. Still working on US shipping, so if you’re in the US stay tuned for that.

Other accomplishments:

– Didn’t get crying-drunk at the Christmas party last night, like I did last year. To be fair, last year they had eggnog and rum, which I’d never tasted before. This year there was no eggnog and I just had my own Bailey’s, so it was far easier to moderate my intake. Hooray!

(I don’t often get crying-drunk; in fact it usually never happens. But eggnog + rum tastes really good and I got super excited last year over it and…yes. Couldn’t moderate. So this year it was a goal to not get so drunk at the party. Because crying-drunk is just fucking depressing.)

– Went and shipped 7 boxes today! 6 of them held copies of Bellica for the James Tiptree Award judging panel! They might actually arrive on time. Send prayers please.

– I watched Love, Actually today with Jenny Trout and a bunch of awesome folks on Twitter. I guess maybe it wasn’t an accomplishment? But I feel accomplished, so there.

Now, dinnertime. I am off to stuff my face.

Confessions of a Coffee Snob: Decaf isn’t that bad

I am a coffee snob. I have been for ages. By coffee snob I don’t mean “I like these two specific coffees because they were agreed upon at the Annual Coffee Snob Convention.” I mean I like it a certain way that’s particular to me even if another coffee snob may think my tastes are horrible. Yet I agree with other coffee snobs when they say Tim Horton’s or Folgers is toxic waste, not coffee.

I prefer coffee that stands on its own. If you have to put milk or sugar (or both) into coffee to make it bearable, it’s not good coffee. It’s not necessarily bad or terrible coffee — it’s just not good. That doesn’t mean I drink my coffee black — I prefer sweetened coffee. If I’m making coffee at home, I’m adding honey or agave to it. But the coffee I buy to make at home can stand alone, sans milk or sugar. (That doesn’t mean all the coffee I have at home is like this; I’m currently in an economic state where most of the coffee I have was given to me by people who love me and, moreso, prefer dealing with me after I’ve had my morning coffee. None of it is bad coffee, but some of it doesn’t stand so well on its own.)

If I choose to go out for a coffee, I’m not looking for black coffee. I do not expect the coffee I get at a coffee shop to be coffee of my liking; my tastes are particular. Hence, when going out to a coffee shop, I get one of those flavoured drinks that most coffee snobs sneer isn’t coffee. Sorry to disappoint you, fellow snobs. It is. It’s a coffee-based drink and so long as it’s not Timmy’s or Folgers, it’s still coffee. It may not be great, good, or even bad coffee — it may be terrible. But it is coffee.

Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like flavoured drinks, especially holiday inspired ones. They’re a form of comfort food for me. Despite my lack of money I try to get a pumpkin spice latte each autumn, or it doesn’t feel like fall to me. Christmas has become my favourite time of year, because there are at least two special holiday drinks that I adore on the menu. There’s coffee in them — enough for me to taste, enough for me to get a shot of caffeine if that’s what I need. And it’s not bad coffee. (Lots of people complain that Starbucks coffee tastes burnt. I don’t complain, because I kind of like that burnt taste. It reminds me of Turkish coffee.)

I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a teenager, and I’ve been a snob about it since I worked as a barista. For many years, I was in complete agreement with my fellow snobs about decaf. Decaf isn’t even real coffee. Decaf is pointless. Decaf is disgusting. DEATH BEFORE DECAF. Friends of mine have even said they’d consider getting that as a tattoo.

I never considered it, and I’m really glad. Because three years ago, I ran a restaurant.

(Sort of. I was managing the restaurant but because of a lot of issues that were beyond my control, we never officially opened. So I did a lot of before-opening, behind-the-scenes work, hoping to get it set up so another person could take over my management at the end of the summer, when I left the small town to go back to school. Powell River is basically dead in the winter anyway. Regardless, it never happened.)

A page from my planner during the time I ran a cafe. Filled with copious notes.
Two pages from my planner during that time. It’s a lot of work.

Part of my job in the pre-opening stages was deciding on what coffee we would serve. (I should say, this wasn’t really a restaurant; it was a café, with plans of food, coffee, live entertainment, books, and vintage furniture…exactly my type of place.) First, we went around town and sampled the competition, to see what we were up against. It was not stiff. If you want a decent cup of coffee in Powell River, your only bet is Breakwater Books. They scored an 8 out of 10 on our rating scale. Starbucks was a close second, scoring a 6. All the other coffee places didn’t even make a 5.

So I wanted to go with Salt Spring Coffee. They were local, which was important to me, and they were no doubt far better quality than the coffees mainly available in town. Most cafés in Powell River go through the same supplier.

The person I chatted with at Salt Spring, Kevin Burk, was amazing, and it makes me sad that the café never got off the ground, because I would have loved to continue having a professional relationship with him. He sent me a box of sample coffee. Not just tiny bags — full bags of Salt Spring coffee, so I and my team could try them and decide if Salt Spring was the way we wanted to go.

Included in that, of course, was decaf, which we had to try. (The Peru single origin.) I had never had decaf in my life before; I was not looking forward to it. But I couldn’t make an informed decision without trying it, so I brewed up some in our French Press and gave it a whirl.

To my ultimate amazement, it was quite good. It reminded me of, again, Turkish coffee. It certainly wasn’t something I’d choose to drink on a regular basis, but this decaf led me to wonder from where all the ire had originally come.

Yes, caffeine is amazing, and surely I cannot live without it. Yet I wonder how much of my good mood after a cup of coffee is attributable to the caffeine itself, and how much is psychosomatic? Does coffee put me in a better mood because of the chemicals, or does it put me in a better mood because it’s a comfort food for me?

I think it’s a combination. I still drink decaf, after all. I have to, now. Before, when I was young and carefree and able to sleep anywhere, at the drop of a hat, I could drink eight cups of coffee and go to bed an hour later. (Not just in my teens, when caffeine apparently has different effects on your body, but in my early and mid-twenties, too.) Now, in my late twenties, if I have caffeine after noon I’m risking being up until 4 in the morning. If I drink decaf, I have a chance of actually sleeping. This is so important to a person with a as-of-yet-undiagnosed-but-definitely-real sleep disorder.

Most importantly, I’m still in a good mood after a cup of decaf.

I no longer agree with my fellow coffee snobs when they scream, pitchforks and torches in hand, DEATH BEFORE DECAF. Now my rallying cry is I’D REALLY RATHER PREFER REGULAR COFFEE BUT DECAF BEFORE ANOTHER SLEEPLESS NIGHT, PLEASE.

It may lead to my getting kicked out of the clubhouse but I won’t waver on this. Decaf tastes fine to me, and that’s okay. If it doesn’t taste fine to you, that’s okay too. My approval of decaf coffee does not, so far as I’m concerned, revoke my Coffee Snob membership card, and you can pry it from my cold-because-I-haven’t-slept-in-three-days fingers. Because the second I give into peer pressure, I’m just another conformist douche incapable of forming an independent opinion and sticking to it. And I’d rather not have that be the only definition of coffee snob.