Tag Archives: coffee

Travel: Girls in Grand Rapids

My college roomies and I reunited for our annual Columbus Day weekend adventure. This year, we went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, home of the roommate I had all four years of college. This occurred during Grand Rapids’s famous Art Prize, so we, of course, ventured into the delightful downtown. We had gorgeous weather, art was everywhere we turned, and downtown Grand Rapids has many wonderful dining options and coffeehouses.

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Here are my girls on a rooftop, where an interesting exhibit commented on America and war.

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This wall reflected light and dazzling color. Upon closer inspection, it was all made of plastic bottles!

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I am always drawn to water for the peace it brings me, so I was naturally interested in pieces that evoked water. Below is a graphite pencil drawing. Please excuse the poor image quality, but consider the fact that someone has captured a substance that constantly ebbs and flows with a mere pencil.

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Beyond Art Prize, we enjoyed great food and a beer fest at Founders during their Oktoberfest bash.  I am completely ashamed because we went to this amazing coffeehouse and I cannot remember its name. All I can tell you is they handcraft each cup of coffee, and my life-changing cup was black with honey. HONEY. I had never tried this before, and I cannot tell you how much I loved the combination. Also, this coffehouse was super busy, so they apparently have a reputation for well-crafted hot drinks. We also spent some quality time at Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery, enjoying an autumn lunch, cider, fresh, hot donuts, and, for a couple of us, the wine-tasting room. Our weekends are never super expensive or fancy, which is proof that with some research and know-how, you can have a great mini-vacation anywhere you go.

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Tasting: DeBrand’s Fine Chocolates

We are beyond blessed in my hometown to have one of the greatest chocolatiers in the world (seriously – their products are shipped all over the world). DeBrand’s Fine Chocolates is a family-owned, gourmet chocolate company that whips up decadent creations and sends them out in gorgeous packaging. Walking into a DeBrand’s shop is like walking into a chocolate gift box: impeccably decorated, all of the gold and shades of chocolate enhance the divine smells of chocolates emanating from the massive glass display case. These chocolate treats melt slowly and are so incredibly smooth and complex, you feel as though you’ve spent a fortune and it was worth every penny.

DeBrand’s just celebrated its 25th birthday, and they allowed all of us chocophiles to celebrate with them by offering 25% off of almost all of their merchandise. When I went to indulge, I picked up a mocha truffle for mom (her favorite), a coconut truffle for dad (his favorite) and a Sweet Heat bar (which is the most complex and sophisticated chocolate bar I’ve ever eaten) and the most incredible sea salt caramels I’ve enjoyed anywhere for myself. The only chocolates I had yet to try was DeBrand’s Faces of the World collection. I picked up a box of those, then we sat down with glasses of sparkling water (for palate cleansing) and commenced with a chocolate tasting…

The Tahini: Seasoned Tahini and sesame seeds with dark, milk, and white chocolates (DeBrand’s description). Now, sesame seeds with chocolate may sound bizarre to the less adventurous, but they give a nutty depth to the chocolate that is really rich. This ended up being my dad’s favorite of the collection.

The Ginger: Asian ginger blended with white chocolate (DeBrand’s description). I have never had ginger with chocolate in any form. While it was an acquired taste for all three of us, I loved how unique the flavor combination was, and this chocolate is incredibly smooth.

The Caliente: Chili powder, cinnamon and cumin blended with milk chocolate (DeBrand’s description). These same components are in my beloved Sweet Heat MyBar, which I mentioned above. The smell alone of this one is divine: cinnamon and chocolate make a beautiful marriage. This does not taste like chili peppers, if that is your concern. Rather, heat permeates the back of your throat as you swallow and you are left with warm chocolate comfort.

The Hazel: Hazelnut paste & chopped hazelnuts with white, milk and dark chocolates (DeBrand’s description). This is the one for you Nutella lovers, but this is gourmet Nutella. It even tastes more expensive, and does not have that sugary texture. This one is ridiculously smooth and melts slowly on your tongue, which is just a lovely way to enjoy The Hazel.

The Java: dark chocolate with crushed Ethiopian coffee beans (DeBrand’s description). This was mom’s favorite, which came as no surprise since her favorite DeBrand’s treat is the mocha truffle. This is the one for coffee lovers, and all three of us loved this one, too. Coffee is one of those things that beautifully compliments chocolate, and this one is strong and rich.

Now, if you haven’t already, go to the DeBrand’s website, and at least enjoy the visual decadence and descriptions. And, thank you so much, DeBrand’s, for all of the incredibly wonderful things you give our community.

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Before you judge me, know this:

I had this plan that I was going to blog much more regularly.  As with so many other things in my life, the unexpected came up and life got so busy and all of a sudden, too much time has passed for my liking.  The biggest factor has been wedding fever; the disease has taken over the household and isn’t going anywhere.  Don’t get me wrong:  I’m loving it and enjoying all of the fine detail planning.  My favorite part, though, has been the time spent with my little sister, whom I still cannot believe is getting married.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve done this, but I thought I’d put myself out there and expose more facets of my personality to you all.  Don’t judge too harshly. 🙂

I love cereal.  All kinds of cereal.  Not Raisin Bran, though; raisins and bran should never be in cereal.  I could eat cereal all the time.  And cake.  Oh my word, cake……

You all need to read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  I wasn’t even that far into it before I decided it was one of my favorite books.

I think about my college roomie at least five times a day.  She’s my bestie and I miss her all the time.

The cancellation of the whimsically delightful Pushing Daisies is still a sore spot with me, and I never tire of watching episodes on DVD.

Drivers who go flying around me only to turn in front of me drive me crazy.  So do impatiently angry drivers.  Are you in that big of a hurry?  Leave your house sooner!!!

Currently dominating my iPod:  The Civil Wars, Adele, the Angels & Demons soundtrack, The King’s Speech soundtrack, Sherlock Holmes soundtrack, Mumford & Sons, Ingrid Michaelson, and Coldplay (pretty much always on the dominant list).

I love going out and getting a cocktail.  I’m consistently a martini or red wine girl, but I have no interest in getting trashed.  I much prefer to nurse a drink over a great conversation with friends.  If you’re looking for a hard partyer, I am not your lady.

Speaking of which, I don’t have expensive taste.  I enjoy a great cup of coffee, a sunny day, running around in the rain, a good book, beautiful music, experiencing other cultures, art, films and history.  I don’t need expensive jewelry, fellas:  just give me some fresh flowers once in a while.

On that note:  I really want to be in a great relationship, and with my sister’s impending wedding, the little wish is becoming a nagging itch.  Although, if I had a choice, I think I might like to have a really small, simple wedding and a spectacular honeymoon.

I love local coffee houses and pubs/diners.  My favorite coffeehouse, Firefly, is an eclectic place with fabulous coffee and yummy food.  Local artists can sell their wares there, and you’ll find artists, theater folk, musicians, business people, and opinionated old men all relaxing for long periods of time.  As far as restaurants go, I’d much rather check out a little hole-in-the-wall place with amazing food and a great atmosphere than go to a well-known chain.

My biggest indulgence is a spa pedicure every great once-in-a-while.  My feet feel amazing afterward, and I love having painted toenails.  I can’t paint my fingernails because I’m way to rough on my hands; a manicure is just a waste of time & money for me.

The Liberty Mutual commercials in which people pay it forward by doing little things for strangers get me every time.

I adore babies.  I’m fascinated by their wonder at the world around them and they’re so cute and cuddly.

The Orthodox cross is tattooed on my right foot.  It represents both faith and family.

I’m easily over-stimulated.  I become anxious in big crowds or if I am in a place where I don’t have an easy exit.  I don’t get along with heights at all, though I love flying.  I’m very sensitive to textures as well, from food to clothing to wrinkles in my socks or bedding.  I’m quirky. 🙂

I love the beach.  Love it.  And, after living in Italy for a while, I am extremely anxious to experience the rest of Europe.

I don’t care what anyone says, I love Disney World.

If I had a million dollars, I’d pay off my school loans, help my brother & sister with theirs, and travel a lot more.

Whew, I’m exhausted.  That’s it for this post.  Oh, yeah, I can also be really flighty, as I get bored and distracted somewhat easily.

 

 

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Coffee

It is not a want, but a need.  An addiction, if you will.  I am unashamed.

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