Tag Archives: Starbucks

Homemade PSL

Homemade (and Cheaper) Pumpkin Spice Latte

One time I went over to my boss’ home for coffee and paperwork. The coffee she was brewing smelled so good, I thought it was some specialty flavored kind. It tasted richly of cinnamon and milk.

Then she let me in on her secret: it was just regular ground coffee but she added a few taps of ground cinnamon to the top of the coffee grounds before brewing. It was like drinking flavored coffee!

This year, with the presence of Starbucks around the corner from my apartment (and really anyone’s apartment in Manhattan), I’ve been drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes like I have $5 to spend on daily coffee.

They are a deliciously warm and remind me of good autumnal times. But let’s be honest, they are full of sugar, fake sugar, chemicals and cost a million dollars (not really, but they’re not cheap).

So even though I don’t think I’ll totally quit my Sbux habit, I have come up with an equally (although less syrupy-sugary-sweet) yummy version of the #PSL that I can make at home.

While I’ve been a devoted cinnamon-shaker ever since that morning when I learned my boss’ trick, I never thought about taking it to the next level in terms of adding AAAALLLLL the pumpkin pie spices.

So that’s what I did: after measuring out my ground coffee, I sprinkled a good amount of cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg, a bit less of ginger and threw in some whole cloves (although ground would’ve been fine too) on top of the coffee, and brewed away.

The result was coffee that tasted like pumpkin pie! Without any added chemicals, syrups, sweeteners or sugar.

coffee, spouted cup, milk frother
coffee, spouted cup, milk frother

Now, you could just add milk and call it a day. Or sugar, or simple syrup if you like your coffee sweet.

But I took it a step further and warmed some milk up in a pot (not to boiling but almost) and transferred it to a mug with a spout (I have a special metal one for frothing milk but a measuring cup would do too).

warming milk

Using an aerolatte milk frother that we got for our wedding, and a technique I learned while barista-ing it up at my bakery gig, I added some creamy warm milk and latte foam to the top of my coffee ~ instant pumpkin spice latte!

So here’s the trick: either keep the frother near the bottom of the cup of milk and keep it steady to create some foam but also to generally steam the milk; or move the wand slowly up and then slowly back down to create tons of foam ~ more like cappuccino-style, less warm milk, more foam.

Maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon to top it off? And even if you don’t have the milk frother, just add warm milk to your pumpkin spice coffee, try it and let me know what you think!

Homemade PSL
Homemade PSL

This American (Unemployed) Life

Do you ever think a book finds its way into your life at just the right moment, when it seems  it was written for you?  Or maybe it’s that you’re able to pick out relevant themes from any book you happen to be reading?

This is how it was for me in reading Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating.   I had seen Ann Mah’s blog recommended on the French Word-A-Day email I receive, and upon further investigation, it turned out that Ann was getting ready to publish a non-fiction on French cuisine.  Well, loving all things French (some of my favorites outlined in this prior blog post), and especially a good memoir of an American abroad in Paris, I downloaded her book to my Kindle as soon as I could.

I was expecting a lot of food descriptions, recipes, textural images of the Provence terrain and Parisian location-spotting.  And I got all that.  But what I also got was a story.  The story of why Ann moved to Paris in the first place, and how she coped being there alone much of the time.

She moved to Paris for her husband’s diplomatic career.  Sounds enchanting enough.  She quit her publishing job to become the “trailing spouse,” something I didn’t know was an actual identifiable person/job/thing.  But this idea spoke to me.  (Her matters were further complicated when her husband was soon sent to the Middle East on a solo assignment, leaving her alone in Paris for their first year there.)

She writes about leaving her job to “leap into nothing.”  I never thought of myself as someone whose identity is wrapped up in their work, but nevertheless I felt disconnected, disoriented and out of the loop after leaving my job and home to follow my fiance to Ann Arbor for his career.  I felt a little worthless and unidentifiable.

I didn’t realize that “trailing spousehood,” where one person follows the movements of the other’s career path, is common, and reading about someone else’s experience trying to sort out their life somehow legitimized my choice.  Perhaps it’s the unusual few where both partners have the corporate-ladder-climbing careers in the same place at the same time.  I haven’t done any research whatsoever except for reading and talking with other trailing spouses, so this is all just my observation and in no way rooted in evidence, but it seems to me that oftentimes the trailing spouse either already has, or develops, a creative, entrepreneurial, individual, freelance, secondary or family-oriented life’s work for themselves.  Even if it’s the kind of profession that is easily transferrable from place to place (teaching, banking, etc.), career progression may still be halted/stalled/regressed by moving.

This is what Ann did.  She parlayed her publishing background into a journalism career that she could do from anywhere.  Even though she had writing experience with articles in numerous publications, she still struggled to find the freelance writing jobs she wanted in Paris, agreeing to chronicle orchid care, instead of expounding on her preference: food.

Right after the move, I felt like, “What am I doing with myself?” in that heavy way your ribcage gets when a bit depressed, but I knew in my head that this was the perfect opportunity to explore all sorts of other activities and relax a bit, which, for months, was really difficult because I felt like I should be doing some sort of work.  There may have been a mid-dinner break down or two in the early days.

I know they say children are happiest with routine.  That’s certainly the case for me too.  Pulling myself together, I made written schedules.  Even if it just said, “Wake Up, Read at Starbucks, Grocery Shopping, Laundry” that got me moving with tasks to accomplish and a purpose to my days.

Now that I’m finally stationed in Ann Arbor for a while, after traveling to and fro over the past few months, I’ve got a few different routines depending on the day and am genuinely happy with my existence as it is.  Everyday I practice the art of doing what I want to do and not doing what I don’t.  It’s hard not to obligate myself to tasks and activities that I think I ought to be doing, but each day I start over in striving to do what makes me happy that day.

My ideal day is filled with things that I enjoy doing (and a few things that are necessary but not necessarily enjoyable): I wake up, make a cup of coffee and check emails.  Then I might choose one room or chore to tackle right away; I find that I have the most energy right when I wake up and can usually clean the whole bathroom quickly, or at least make it presentable.  Then I might go back to any follow up emails concerning the wedding or sorority volunteer work.  I might take some time to work on this blog (which takes a surprising amount of time for me to finish), or run some errands.  I’ve gotten in the habit of going to Barnes and Noble for a Starbucks holiday beverage (fyi, if you are a B&N member, you also get a discount at the store’s Starbucks cafe!!) and to work on the blog or comb through wedding magazines (so much fun but so expensive….better to just read them, take notes and put them back, only purchasing if there are a lot of good pictures that need to be ripped out).  In the afternoon, I go back home and either do another round of follow up emails if necessary or make a snack, put in a load of laundry, and catch up on some DVRed or Netflix shows.  Right now I’m marathoning through “Gossip Girl” and “Scandal” and “The West Wing” complete box set is on deck.  Maybe I’ll start to feel bored when there aren’t any more addicting shows to watch!

Since Mark gets home relatively early, I usually start dinner on the early side, and I love watching “The Chew” on DVR while cooking.  For those that don’t know “The Chew” is a talk show slash cooking show on ABC with Daphne Oz (Dr. Oz’s daughter), Carla Hall (“Top Chef”), Clinton Kelly (“What Not To Wear”), and chefs Michael Symon and Mario Batali.  The hosts are kooky and silly, and it’s just a fun show with good recipes, cocktails and crafts.  It’s the kind of show I would like to be on if I could host a daytime talk show!  Also, if you fast forward through the commercials (and cooking segments that involve items I would never eat in a million years), an hour-long show is really only 30 minutes – perfect timing for prepping dinner.  Sometimes I think I can’t get a real job because I don’t want to be stuck at work until 6pm while Mark is home hanging out at 4:30!

I’m also excited to continue exploring Ann Arbor – the restaurants, the museums, and the surrounding towns  (I’ll write more about what we’ve already done in another post).

On the other hand, the seemingly continuous grey sky, cold temps, and perma-snow-coating make me feel not in the least bit obligated to go outside everyday.  Lounging (hibernating) on the couch with tea and a good book sounds like a great way to spend the winter months to me.  I just downloaded Ann Mah’s first book, a novel entitled Kitchen Chinese and am also in the middle of Taste by Anthony Terlato (on wine) and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (using this downtime to catch up some classics).

I think I’ve come around to this idea of trailing spouse, and I’m looking forward to going with the flow and finding happiness everyday in life’s little treats like craft projects, chopping vegetables, glossy magazines and pumpkin spice lattes.

NYC Fam, Friends & Food: An Excellent Thanksgiving

Last month when I flew into LaGuardia, it was a crisp fall day, the plane came in low over the Statue of Liberty, up the West Side of Manhattan and banked to the right over to the airport.  From my window seat, the trees looked like burnt siena, fiery red and pumpkin colored cauliflower tops.  This past week when I flew to New York, on a clear Thanksgiving morning, the plane took a southerly approach, and from my left-side seat, I got an eye-level view of the East Side of Manhattan as we crossed over Brooklyn and Queens.  This time, the trees looked like tiny brown matchsticks and the buildings gleamed white as the sun bounced off their unshaded roofs and windows.  As we got lower and lower in the sky, the glaring edifices gave way to a sea of brick, and we quickly touched down in the gentlest landing I’ve experienced in years.

Hailing a cab, we wound our way north, and reached our Upper West Side destination without Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade interference.  We arrived as my sister and her boyfriend were waking up, and I joined them at Starbucks for coffee, while Mark grabbed his first of many weekend slices of pizza from the smells-better-than-it-tastes stand next door.  The day was cold but sunny, and we decided to walk the crowded streets in search of a new winter coat for my sister’s boyfriend.  That was silly of us!  It was Thanksgiving Day – of course everything was closed.  Okay, plan B: let’s go walk in the park.  As we approached Central Park West, we were met by streams of people moving in the opposite direction as the parade route was clearing out, leaving piles of trash in their wake.

trash 1

Again, we weren’t thinking too intently because obviously we couldn’t get across CPW to the park due to the rows of bleachers and police barricades.  We walked down a few blocks until we were able to cut across, stepping over mounds of newspaper and Starbucks cups being swept up by city workers.

trash 2

We wandered through the park, which was jam-packed with like-minded tourists and parade-goers, until we reached Columbus Circle, where we took a warm break inside the mall lobby and watched as these holiday stars changed color beautifully.

columbus circle lights columbus circle lights 2

Thinking it would still be a number of hours before the Thanksgiving meal was served, we thought it best to try to find some authentic New York pizza on our walk home.  Before we got too far up Broadway, I impulsively bought a majorly delicious Nutella crepe (also the the most expensive crepe ever: $5 for plain Nutella!) at a sidewalk cart.  It was hot and gooey and perfectly folded into a triangle for walk-and-eat-ability.  I always appreciate a well-folded crepe.

Not wanting to revisit Mark’s pizza joint from earlier that morning, I quickly Yelped pizza places in the area and picked the best of the bunch: Rigoletto on 72nd street.  The small restaurant was new and clean, with a slate bar and a few beers on tap, and, most importantly, pizzas that looked fresh, not having sat in the case for days and days.  The pepperoni slice I had was a good start to a New York pizza weekend: crunchy crust, but not burnt, hot cheese that didn’t fall off in clumps and just enough sauce to not be overwhelming.  It was my sister’s Texas boyfriend’s first slice of true New York pizza ever!!!  So exciting!


Feeling just full enough, we returned to our aunt and uncle’s apartment in time to hang out and watch football with our cousins and welcome the rest of the family when they arrived: my parents, other aunt and uncle, more cousins all the way from LA!  Moving into the living room for the cocktail hour (signature drink = Dark & Stormy made with ginger beer), the only smudge on an otherwise perfect party was that my aunt who was hosting was quarantined in bed with a stomach bug.  We were so sad she couldn’t join us, but luckily she was having the meal catered and served so she didn’t have to worry about getting the food out to the table, and thankfully she recovered the next day in time for us to spend some time together later in the weekend.  I had such a fun time chatting with the adults and playing with the kids.  I love getting together with everyone, and I always feel let down when it’s time to part ways.

After a delicious traditional turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallow and all the other sides, the kids had to get to bed, and the rest of us tucked into the den to watch the Ravens beat the Steelers (woo woo!!!) before turning into bed ourselves, satisfied and happy.

Friday morning before my sister and her boyfriend headed back to Texas, we went to breakfast with my parents at Fairway Market.  This is a grocery store.  I was so confused when we walked in as to why we were eating breakfast in a grocery store, but upstairs is a small cute restaurant.  I had a buckwheat crepe with brie and spinach in what was turning out to be a pizza and crepe weekend.  I love when savory crepes are made with the traditional Breton buckwheat flour.  Savory crepes should obviously be made with a more savory flour, and I hate when restaurants use the same sweet crepe pancakes for both their sweet and savory crepes.

After breakfast, we relaxed back in the apartment before Mark and I set out that evening to visit a college friend and my cousins in NOHO and NOLITA (let’s just call it Lower Manhattan…East Village?).  Not wanting to take my huge puffy sleeping bag coat that would be a nuisance at a bar later, I took my chances with just a sweater and a pair of gloves.  By the time it was dark it was already so cold that Mark and I had to stop at Bahr Che on our ten minute walk from my friend’s to my cousin’s for a warming glass of wine and an antipasto of finocchiona (had to…wanted to…same thing).  The thinly sliced salami flavored with fennel seeds and served with chunks of warm bread hit the spot.  On to our next destination: my cousin’s apartment.

My cousin just moved into a new apartment, so of course we wanted to check it out and meet his roommate.  The two bedroom was a good size by NYC standards and was a good rest stop before moving on via taxi to Serafina in the Meatpacking District, where we met my other cousin for dinner.  I had a bright and peppery arugula salad and an interesting pizza, which was pretty much a regular cheese pizza with a pesto swirl and sprinkled pine nuts on top.  It was yummy with a chewy, super thin crust and good cheese flavor that was augmented by the fresh pesto.  During dinner, my cousin hawk-eyed Malcolm Gladwell, the famous unassuming author of such critically-acclaimed economics/human behavior books as Blink and The Tipping Point.  Cool!

After dinner we made our way across the street to Bar 675, an underground basement bar with nooks and small libraries carved out of the brick wall, where you can lounge with your eight closest friends and play games such as Jenga and Catchphrase.

bar lightsLuckily we arrived early enough to snag one of these coveted spots, and enjoy a few rounds of Catchphrase before more and more of our cousins friends came to join us.

bar 2Being the elder members of the party, Mark and I made our exit earlier than the others, but I think we hung in there pretty well, as evidenced by one lost glove and an 11:30am wake up time the next day.

Oh the next day…..I wasn’t feeling too great when we made the trek back down to Spring Street to meet one of my best friends from growing up for a lunch of, you guessed it, pizza!  At Rubirosa, Mark and I split a classic pie that was more of a margherita with medallions of fresh mozzarella and a very thin layer of sauce on a stiff but not crunchy crust.  I liked the cozy Italian cafe atmosphere and loved seeing a good friend.

We immediately went back home to relax with my aunt, watch college football (oh Michigan, what a nail-biter) and nap before pulling ourselves together for dinner with some ex-Baltimore friends at Jacob’s Pickles on Amsterdam Ave on the UWS.  It was a perfect pick with wonderful friends – cozy comfort food with amazing homemade pickles, big-as-your-face biscuits and Matzo ball soup.  The biscuits were my favorite part of the meal: crumbly and served with all the fixin’s: super salty butter, maple butter, honey and strawberry preserves.  The kosher dills were also delicious…as were the piping hot battered fried pickles…and to top it all off: a root beer float and crunchy hot fried Oreos!  I would highly recommend this spot for a totally unhealthy but deliciously filling meal.

Unfortunately we had to pull ourselves out of bed at 3:30am to catch our early morning flight on Sunday, but we were happy to be back home and in bed napping by 9:30.

On such a fabulously fun Thanksgiving weekend I am grateful to have the most loving friends and family.  I am also reminded to be thankful for all those people that made our Thanksgiving special…We heard a lot this year about the retail workers who are now having to work on Thanksgiving for the first time, and I agree that this should be one day when the stores stay closed, but let’s not forget about all the others that are also working on this holiday: the people at the airport, the pilots and flight attendants, the taxi drivers, policemen and women, the Starbucks servers, and the trash picker-uppers who are cleaning up all those Starbucks cups.  I hope they got a day off along the way to hang out with their friends and families.

trash sbux

Quick weekend tally:

2 crepes

4 pizza meals (including Mark’s extra slice Thursday morning)

5 friends to catch up with

17 family members at Thanksgiving

4 TUMS needed