Iced Coffee with an Aeropress

I am a huge fan of my Aeropress coffee maker. I like that I can do one cup at a time (which cuts down on waste) and that you can tailor the strength cup to cup (by changing the amount of coffee grounds you use, how much water you add, or both). Now that we’ve entered hot and sticky DC area summer, I’m using the Aeropress to make iced coffee.

A friend described the Aeropress as a cross between a pour-over and a French press. It is, sort of. Essentially, you put a filter on the end of a cylinder, put the coffee grounds in, balance the cylinder on your mug (it has a flange to keep it stable) then add the hot water. Once you have the right amount of water for your brew, you put the plunger on and press the water through. This way, the filter retains the grounds, and the brewed coffee goes in your cup. Actually, the company calls it espresso, which is a little bit of a stretch, but it is certainly strong. You can then dilute it with hot water, for an Americano-type coffee. It’s faster than drip or pour-over, and far less sediment than a French press.

For iced coffee, you follow the same process, but add ice to your mug before brewing. I usually fill my mug about half to three-quarters full with ice. Less if I want to add milk, more if I’m planning for black. The hot coffee hits the ice, melts most of it, but gets cooled almost instantly, which avoids the stale taste you sometimes get with iced coffee.

Well worth it for a little summer indulgence. Good thing I fixed our ice maker just as the summer was getting hot.


Busy Bees…Happy Roses

The bees were very busy around the rose in the back yard earlier this summer. This rose blooms once, for about two weeks, then it’s just greenery (and a trellis for Morning Glory vines).

Busy, buzzy bee

The bees must have done their job. After we came back from vacation, I noticed we had rose hips developing. This is the first year that I’ve actually noticed them. I think a couple of things have contributed, other than the bees. First, the aphid infestation was negligible. Second, the powdery mildew that usually plagues the plant was minimal, even though it was a wet spring. So, lack of disease/sap-sucking parasites plus bees equals rose hips.

There’s a bee hiding in there, doing its bee thing.

Could be a good sign for other plants in the garden.

Athanasian Creed for Trinity Sunday

The priest at the parish we visited today (we’re on vacation, and traveling) did a great job with the homily for one of the most fraught topics in the Catholic faith, the Trinity. He started with the catechism (always a wise choice), and explained that many of even most analogies for the Trinity fall short, or even veer into heresy. From there he noted that there are several recognized Catholic creeds, each of which responded to a particular need of the Church at the time. This led him to discuss the Athanasian Creed, which focuses on the mystery of the Trinity. This being Trinity Sunday, it’s a great chance to post this early (4th or 5th century) formulation of the core mystery of the faith.

The Athanasian Creed

1. Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith. 
2. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire he will undoubtedly be lost forever. 
3. This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. 
4. We distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. 
5. For the Father is a distinct person; the Son is a distinct person; and the Holy Spirit is a distinct person. 
6. Still the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty. 
7. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. 
8. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. 
9. The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless. 
10. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal. 
11. Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being. 
12. Thus there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being. 
13. Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. 
14. Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being. 
15. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. 
16. But there are not three gods, but one God. 
17. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. 
18. There are not three lords, but one Lord. 
19. For according to Christian truth, we must profess that each of the persons individually is God; and according to Christian religion we are forbidden to say that there are three gods or lords. 
20. The Father is not made by anyone, nor created by anyone, nor generated by anyone. 
21. The Son is not made nor created, but he is generated by the Father alone. 
22. The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. 
23. There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, but not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. 
24. In this Trinity, there is nothing greater, nothing less than anything else. But the entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another. 
25. So that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. 
26. This, then, is what he who wishes to be saved must believe about the Trinity. 
27. It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
28. The true faith is: we believe and profess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. 
29. He died for our salvation, descended to hell, arose from the dead on the third day. 
30. He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. 
31. He is equal to the Father in His divinity, but He is inferior to the Father in His humanity. 
32. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ. 
33. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed to God. 
34. He is one, not at all because of a mingling of substances, but because He is one person. 
35. As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and man are one Christ. 
36. As God He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man He was born in time of the substance of His Mother. 
37. Ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, and from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. 
38. At His coming, all men are to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their lives. 
39. Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have done evil will go into everlasting fire. 
40. This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen. 

Firefly Time

On our way back from Thursday evening mass (one of the advantages of a parish that has the Traditional Latin Mass on Thursday is you get to celebrate Ascension Thursday on Thursday), we saw our first fireflies of the season. It was still light enough out that we could see the actual insects, not just the flashes. Coincidentally, I saw one in our garden in the morning on my way to work, but didn’t quite put together what it was until I saw the flashes in the evening.

All of the kids were mesmerized. The older two liked trying to chase the fireflies, while the twins were fascinated by seeing the whole insect. Thumbkin, who was on my shoulders, made gleeful noises and did his best to say firefly.

Firefly time is a bit magical, falling in the transition of dusk, when the shadows are getting longer and the light turns more and more grey before fading away. The streetlights haven’t quite come on, and things look otherworldly as the natural daylight comes to a close. The sparkles of the fireflies seem fittingly preternatural. I’m glad we all got to enjoy it, and experience the wonder through the eyes of the kids.

Jumping the Gun

This weekend the dishwasher decided to start acting up.  Friday it was fine, but looked like maybe the water valve was pushing out too much water, since there was some pooled in the filter area.  This happens from time to time, but it was a sort of warning flag.

Saturday I saw the mesh filter needed cleaning.  So I pulled it out and cleaned it up the best I could.  Note to self:  need to clean the filter more often.  I started the machine after dinner and…error.  It got most of the way through the cycle, but threw the error code that indicated it wasn’t draining.  Sure enough, it hadn’t drained completely.  Since it had basically completed the cycle, I didn’t need to hand wash, but started looking at all the appliance sales.  The timing seemed good if a replacement were needed but…wow, too many options and not enough time.  Since I’ve been down the road of changing out parts on this machine before, I decided to order the most likely culprits, and made a plan to see if there was something stuck in the drain the next day (and, if so, plan to return the unnecessary parts).

This afternoon I started to look at it.  I figured out how to run a test cycle and…error.  Thumbkin was very excited to help because it involved using a screwdriver.  He also got to help bail water out of the bottom of the dishwasher using a small cup and a baster to suction up the water.  After we got the water out, I took off the drain pump to see if it was in working order (it was).  The drain tube was full of water, but things seemed OK otherwise.  I put the drain pump back on after convincing Thumbkin that it was my turn to lay on the floor to look under the dishwasher.

There’s a piece on the inside of the dishwasher that helps cover the hole that goes to the drain pump.  I think this helps limit the flow of water and serves as a final piece to keep too-large pieces of debris from going through the drain.  When fully seated, it clicks into place and everything is flush.  If it isn’t fully seated, it will move in its place and interfere with the operation of the drain pump.  I’m not sure if it can actually hit the blades on the pump, or if the changes in water volume as it moves back and forth cause the drain pump to stop, but the machine won’t work if it isn’t in place right.  When I took the filter out on Saturday, I also took out this piece to make sure there wasn’t any debris stuck deep down.  It looks like I didn’t actually get it re-seated properly, which caused the error on Saturday, and the other problems today.

So, I’ve got a couple of dishwasher parts on the way as a contingency, and I wasted about an hour working on it all due to not being careful enough in reassembling the thing.  Well, Thumbkin may disagree that I wasted the time working on it since he got to help.  I guess it wasn’t a total loss after all.

Bike to Work Day-A Rant

My tradition for the annual bike to work day (or week…or month, in some minds) is to take the day off so I don’t actually have to bike to work.  It winds up being too much of a pain to navigate around everyone who hasn’t been on a bike in a year, and who aren’t entirely sure how to get to where they need to go.  Most of them are in it for the free t-shirt or other goodies.

This year, however, I wound up having to work, so was out in the thick of it.  I was apprehensive because the evening prior I saw lots and lots of people who were obviously trying to work out the kinks on their bikes and from their muscles.  At least most of them were off to the side, and not blocking the trail.  The morning of actually wasn’t all that bad, with maybe slightly more bikers than usual.  This may be because 1) I tend to head to work on the early side and 2) bike to work day participants tend to guess wrong on when they need to leave to get to work.  I was even able to use a wall-mounted bike rack when I got to work, which doesn’t always happen on a normal day.

The trip home was a bit worse.  I wound up behind several very slow moving bicyclists on the narrowest parts of the trail with the worst sight lines, meaning I wasn’t able to pass.  Well, maybe I could have, but I tend to be cautious when passing, especially since my brakes need adjustment.  End result–a more-leisurely-than-planned homeward bound commute.

So, if it wasn’t that bad, why do I try to avoid bike to work day?  Really, it comes down to the air of superiority of most bicycle commuters.  The feeling is that being on two wheels is superior to all other modes of transportation, and there’s outright hostility towards people who drive.  The reason I commute by bike is it’s the most efficient way for me to get to and from work.  Finding parking near my work is nearly impossible, and pretty expensive if you can find a lot.  Also, given traffic, it can take a while.  Public transport is complicated, with a transfer from a bus to the subway.  It winds up being a wash in terms of time provided the transfer lines up just right (and it almost never does).  The bike winds up being the most reliable, efficient method for me, and gives me more flexibility on arrival and departure.  So, it works for me, but I understand that bicycling does not work for everyone.  It’s just a different decision calculus, not a different moral calculus, and shouldn’t be treated as one.


Iris in Bloom


Shortly after we moved back, I asked my dad if he could send me some irises from his garden to plant in the eight-inch patch of dirt that runs along our front sidewalk next to the neighbors’ fence.  I needed something to replace the mess of daylilies that (I assume) the property manager put in to heighten curb appeal.  The problem is they were on the north side of a fence and didn’t get enough light to really put out flowers.  That, and it was a rather large variety of daylily, so we had leaves spilling over onto the sidewalk, but few flowers to compensate.  In short, it was a mismatch.  DSC08025

So, my dad sent me a box in the fall.  It was too late in the season to put the rhizomes in the ground (for fear of the plants putting out leaves, then getting hit with a freeze), so I overwintered them in our detached garage.  The following spring, I got them in the ground, probably too late in the season.  Still, they all sent up leaves, but no flowers.  I was worried that there wasn’t enough sun, but planned to give them one more year.  At least I was able to verify I had put the rhizomes in the right way so the leaf fan would be parallel to the sidewalk (the leaves fan out perpendicular to the rhizome, so to get the right effect, I put the rhizomes in perpendicular to the sidewalk, so the leaves would grow parallel, and fan out along the fence).


That brings us to this year.


We have irises.  The purple were the first to pop, followed soon after by the yellow.  The yellow have giant blooms.  We’ve also had a few dainty white ones with purple edging bloom, as well as a solid purple just in the past couple of days.  It definitely works, and is close to the effect I wanted.

I still have the challenge of less-than-ideal sun.  I suspect that’s why the flower stalks are very long and sort of spindly–the blooms are reaching for the light.  The rain has knocked a couple over, but I did manage to tie up the others, so I think we’re on the right track.  Also, not quite all of the plants have sent up flowers, but given that I have a mix (many of them actually dug from my grandfather’s place), it’s hard to say if the remaining few will bloom later or just not this year.  That’s part of the fun of gardening, especially when you’re receive plants from others–you never know quite what you’ll get, or exactly how they plants will perform in your particular setting.

Thumbkin Turns Two

Thumbkin turned two last week.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since his birth, but he (and the other kids) have certainly kept us hopping.

Since his birthday falls in Easter season (actually in the Octave this year), the celebration just keeps on going.  It’s fitting, then, that his favorite word is “Alleluia,” which he says every chance he gets.  Actually, I’ve heard him say it in his sleep while napping.  Yep, he’s our Easter boy for sure.

The older kids were on spring break, I took the week off work, and his grandparents came for a visit to help celebrate.  Since he was turning two, I gave him his first haircut, calling it a “big boy” haircut.  It’s basically a bowl cut (done without the bowl), but it does make him look much older (and, incidentally, like his older brother).  The day before his birthday, we took trip to the zoo where we made sure to stop at the lions (his current favorite animal).  On the day of, we had pancakes for breakfast and pizza for dinner (his favorite foods, both of which we did not do during Lent) and a banana cake (recipe at Smitten Kitchen), decorated with a lion, of course.

I believe he felt adequately feted, especially for a two-year-old Alleluia boy. DSC08010