French Press and Innovation

Not long ago our Jura Capresso coffee machine died. It was a calamity on the scale of a hurricane or your washing machine flooding your house.

It hit us hard!

Those of you who know us, understand. The whine of our Jura is the town-square clock of our home.

Isn't it beautiful?

But Jura was gone.

Enter the French Press, which in our opinion is the second best coffee around. Sometimes, if we are honest and if the person making the coffee is skilled, it is the best coffee around. We pulled out our old burr grinder and prepared to wait out the two week repair hiatus.

A funny thing happened.

Coffee became an event in the house. The first person up “got” to make the coffee, and we would pause in the kitchen to time and press and pour. The smell of the coffee slowly worked its way into our sleepiness. In the afternoon the coffee being made became an excuse to stop our work and sit down for a few minutes. If we had visitors, we served them first and then chatted while we made a second pot.

It was…lovely.

Now nothing beats the push-a-button-and-drink-your-coffee convenience of the Jura Capresso. But I sure liked the party around the Press.

It is worth considering, I think, how many of our “time saving” techniques have robbed us of something precious. We may be hungering for an side-benefit of doing things the old fashioned way without even realizing it. Whole books have been written about our modern isolation and our desire for community. Two or three of the interesting ones are listed below.

Unintended consequences of innovation.

We’re back to pushing our buttons to get our brew around here. The days of the French Press are gone again, for awhile. But as I consider how to build community and touch people’s lives, the French Press comes to mind. It might be time to be more mindful.

Note: I don’t agree with everything in these books…I just find them interesting.

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam

Suburban Nation

Third Places are sometimes more churchy than church

It slips my mind, sometimes, that someone reading my posts may not know where they are written. With very few exceptions, most of my writing is done in Starbucks. If I didn’t write the actual post there, I at least scribbled notes to remind me later of the direction I’m going to take.

I don’t know all the reasons why Starbucks is my choice, but one of them is because it simply isn’t HOME. I can come here and focus, be myself, daydream and create. At home, well there’s laundry to be done, a new magazine in the mail, roaming dogs who terrorize me at every opportunity. The stuff of life. I connect with myself better — sometimes — when I’m not so surrounded by myself.

The other day I listened to two guys do the same at Starbucks. One was a regular, Dan, and I never caught the other’s name. Let’s call him Fred. These two guys began jabbering, and when I got up to go, literally two hours later, they were still jabbering. In the course of the hours they covered politics (conservative, but Dan has a liberal bent that inclines him to social justice), chiropractic (Fred is a chiropractor, and was convincing Dan — accurately in my humble opinion! — that chiropractic care could help him recover from his recent shoulder surgery), the military (both served, one flew planes, the other loved them). They covered their families, their work habits, their Starbucks drinks. They circled back around to why character and integrity matter in politics more than party affiliation, though each were registered Republicans. In short, they connected.

It was a life group in action. What do you call it at your church? At ours, during various moments, they have been life groups, journey groups, small groups, affinity groups. Whatever your definition, these two men joined a small group.

But let me ask you this question: when was the last time you saw two men begin with a passing nod acquaintance and end up with an intimacy and a feeling of belonging to the same tribe over the course of two hours?

That’s the genius of living life out in the community, in third places, shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors and strangers. Alan Hirsch, in his new book RIght Here Right now, says that “We have to be able to speak meaningfully into a culture, but in order to do that, we have to seriously examine a given culture for clues to what God is doing among a people….what is good new for THIS people?” My friend Dan was doing that. He was listening to Fred and conversing with him where he was at, the conversation meandering. And because it took place in this third place, others were welcome to join in or not. Some did, interacting as long as time and circumstances allowed. Others didn’t, living their own lives.

Either way, small group was had here in Starbucks, and a whole bunch of us got to join in.

I’m making the choice to go for community wherever possible. After all, I’m, pretty sure that’s where Jesus hung out. I just wonder if he’d have picked MY Starbucks!

Missing shots?

It’s an old saying and you have undoubtably heard it before. I last heard it when my Pastor, at a leadership conference, was encouraging leaders to be BOLD in their choices.

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

And it’s true, right? This sports analogy has encouraged us to be bolder in our decision to step to the line and shoot. Go out there and do the Nike thing…just do it.

It’s a great motivator, but I am just so not a sports-type girl. I get it, but I have no desire whatsoever to take any shots. None.

Yesterday, however, my friend Steve Helm, a pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas, put that quote into a whole new light for me. Retweeting my Pastor, he said this:

Leaders be BOLD! You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Espresso your life!!!!!!

Oh. Now this I understand.

Think about it: why in the world would you want to drink a Frappuccino without the coffee shots? It’s just a milk shake. Why settle for a weak brew when you can add some espresso shots and transform it into energy, depth of flavor, pure coffee heaven?

What would our lives look like if we “espresso our lives”?

Would we be so excited to get up in the morning and see what’s new in God’s kingdom?

Would we be unable to stop the flow of creative energy?

Would new ideas no longer seem daunting, but completely doable?

Would we have more depth and exhibit more complexity of character in our faith and our attitudes?

And what about those infamous missed shots? How many times have we been standing in front of an incredible opportunity and missed it just because of fatigue, fear, uncertainty or complacency? We have all had phenomenal works of God come about because of one teeny, tiny first step that we took. Chain reactions get started that echo from earth to heaven. I have a friendship that is becoming precious to me and it started because of a rainstorm and my husband giving up his seat on a boat to a soaking wet woman. My friend and I have now walked through an amazing adoption (hers! No new announcements!)  and are starting to dream about new ways to impact the kingdom. All because of wet jeans and a caring act of kindness on David’s part. An espresso shot.

So what will it be? A cup of Folger’s? Or are you willing to go for it.

Take an espresso shot.

Why I breakfast at Starbucks


I LOVE to have breakfast at my fave Starbucks, and do so nearly every morning. And here’s the reason why: you just can’t beat the company! In my house you will only find, at the breakfast hour, me. And David if he isn’t in his office. And Jillian if she’s not already full-steam ahead in schoolwork. OK, and Melissa if she’s working with Jillian that day, and Laurie if she isn’t off working. And yes, sometimes Kylie if she’s home on break. So on second thought, my house is too busy at the breakfast hour! No wonder why I pile my Bible and notebook into my bag and head out the door!

And there is that company I mentioned.

Today was a prime example. I’ve been hanging out at the same Starbucks for quite some time by now (and yes, it’s a different one than my afternoon Starbucks, in case you are stalking me or missing me!). The cast of characters is beginning to feel familiar. My friend R.G. Ryan from Las Vegas would love this spot. Not only are the baristas entertaining, so are the customers.

  • Brandon is my buddy from Christ Fellowship. I’ve watched him grow up, and now he’s the “cop on the beat” nearly every day. When he walks in I have to do a double take to realize that yes, he has a right to wear that uniform and he does get to drive the cool car parked directly in front of Starbucks.
  • The Rabbi: he is probably at the store four days out of seven. He inspires me with his ability to multi-task and schedule. It appears to me that most of his counseling sessions in his official capacity as Rabbi take place over coffee. He gives some pretty good counsel, too. I’m not trying to overhear, but they usually sit in the set of chairs next to me. Most of the Rabbi’s people seem to struggle with fitting in, feeling like part of a community. He tells them to come to synagogue. And the coffee shop. And he always ends — inexplicably — by telling them to learn to play bridge and join his bridge group. I’m thinking of learning.
  • The Old Guys: this particular Starbucks seems to have quite a few 60+ men hanging out escaping their wives. I overheard one conversation one day that kind of broke my heart. After listening to two guys discuss their business dealings extensively, one asks the other “Do you know anything about charitable giving and deducting charity donations?” The other answered that No, he certainly didn’t. First guy says, “I’m thinking of finding a charity to donate to. I think it will help on my taxes. I think you can just deduct it from your income.”
    I was amazed. These were two successful businessmen at the END of their careers, and they had never yet thought about donating to a charity. Ever. Wow.
  • My morning Atheist: This morning I had a great conversation with an 85 year old Atheist gentleman who wanted to share my seating area. Since I rarely turn down gentlemen of any age if they are carrying chocolate (and he was!), I kindly “allowed” him to sit down. That started a long, long conversation that touched on religion (“If you need a crutch like that, I guess it’s ok…I see no evidence of the big guy, though. Do you?”), marriage (married 23 years to his first wife, who died, and 34 years to his second. A pro at marriage.), politics (“So what do you think about our president? You like him? You like his politics?”). All this before my first cup of coffee. He asked about my family, my church, why I read the Bible every morning, and what the unit mix of our apartments in Boston was (engineer who designed multi-family back in New York in the day). Bob sure knew how to keep me on my toes. When this 85 year old spit-fire finally decided he should head back home, I was exhausted!
  • Mary: before I could relax, Mary, the partially deaf and over-enthusiastic sports fan, popped in to find out if anyone of her buddies was around. They weren’t, which was a little bit of a blessing today since Mary is a loud and exuberant talker.

See what I mean? How could you match such varied compnay for a morning outing?

On a serious note, I love the community. I love being out and about with people from all walks of life, Rabbi’s to Atheists. I love the opportunities to learn, meet, discuss and drink some good coffee along the way. Life in Starbucks is a fraternity of coffee lovers with little else in common except geography and love of the bean. But that’s enough.

Starbucks North American President and Rick Cone


Congratulations to our friend Rick Cone on his visit with Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks North America!!!

Rick not only is a great Starbucks barista and manager (obviously!), but he also attended Christ Fellowship and hung out in general Saturday night “cool guys” area until he and his family moved to Nashville last year. Now managing one of my favorite stores in the Cool Springs/Franklin area, Rick has obviously continued to use his amazing people and leadership skills. Recently Cliff Burrows came to visit Ricks store and congratulate them on the amazing job they have been doing within the Starbucks company. Rick not only got to give Cliff a tour of his store, but he got to sit in on some leadership and planning meetings for the company.

Congratulations, Rick! Yeah, I know that on one level meeting the president of Starbucks is like meeting anyone else — only more caffeinated, I’d assume. But on another level completely, it showcases your heart and your mission. I know you are passionate about coffee, but that isn’t your only passion. And it is your leadership, your passion for people, and your heart to live out the kingdom in the community that was being recognized this week. And oh yes, that coffee thing didn’t hurt either! 🙂

Starbucks Via: how does it stack up so far?

I’m curious to hear what everyone is thinking about the new Starbucks Via packets. David and I have used them for quite some time, and won’t leave home without them anymore! Below you will find a list of my own posts about Via if you want to read about our experiences.

For those of you already sold, I just have to get this brewed coffee mug. It has slots around the base to hold the Via packets! Now if I could figure out the cream and sugar issues…


Life as a Coffee Addict

Starbucks Via: Perfect or Summer Travel

A Recipe for a Mocha Via…yummy

ONE coffee drink and Starbucks Via: Coffee news day!


David and I tried a new coffee drink called O.N.E. Coffee Fruit drink. It is a juice based on the whole coffee fruit, as opposed to just the roasted coffee bean in coffee. We stumbled across it during a foraging visit to Whole Foods, and of course had to bring it home!

O.N.E. is a cold drink. It contains various fruits such as acerola (Amazon cherry) and strawberries, grape juice and the whole coffee fruit. The flavor is sweet…like a juice. I think the grape juice flavor is the dominant taste. But there is a coffee flavor permeating through it, too. The coffee flavor comes at the start of the flavor profile, and kind of drifts through your senses. Then the juices take over with a sweet finish. Best description I can give. Overall I really enjoyed the sensation. In addition, the makers tout these benefits:

  • O.N.E. Coffee Fruit Drink is a high antioxidant, naturally caffeinated fresh juice.
  • O.N.E. Coffee Fruit Drink has a similar level of caffeine as a cup of green tea, and offers a mild, unique taste, accented by the sweetness of strawberries.
  • O.N.E. Coffee Fruit Drink is rich in antioxidants called phenolic acids.
  • Phenolic acids may help: fight the build up of free radicals, promote healthy lipid levels, and protect against oxidative stress.

So I guess I’d call that a win/win drink!


And in other, highly anticipated (in this household) news, Starbucks announced that they are releasing the VIA instant coffee packets nationwide starting September 29. You can read my review of Via here. Now quite seriously, all you Starbucks fans need to have a box or two of VIA in your cupboards. It has saved us so many times on long flights (or short) where the coffee served doesn’t deserve the name. In one case, the flight attendant came to US for coffee! And we happily donated one of our packets of VIA to the cause of better coffee everywhere. September 29.

Starbucks Iced Coffee from espresso: get your Agave Syrup first!


We are in the midst of packing up Kylie for college once again. The very items we so happily shoved to the back of our minds and closets we are now dragging out and packing up! This leaves little time for writing, so I’m going to share my secret to getting through the hot summer day and lots of pressing work: my iced coffee recipe. 

Marla’s Iced Coffee


2 Happy squirts of Agave Syrup (see below)

4 oz. espresso (or double strength coffee if you can’t make espresso at home)





Fill your ultimate glass with ice. Don’t be shy…put in about as much as a Starbucks Grande would hold, just shy of the top. Make your espresso, and while still hot add two squirts of Agave Syrup. You can buy Agave at any grocery store. It’s flavor is identical to sugar, but it has roughly the nutritional equivalent to honey. It has the advantage of being liquid, so it will melt nicely along with the coffee. While the coffee is still hot, pour it over your ice. Add enough cream to lighten it to your preference. Use a straw!!!

Oh, I love facing the end of the day with a cool glass of coffee in my hand. 

By the way, my laptop has gone mute. No audio whatsoever. My MacBook Air has been a faithful travel companion, but it needs to be able to speak to me! So away it has gone on trip without me. I am bereft. I am also reduced to bumming a laptop or writing in the middle of the hubbub of my family room. I’m just saying. I shall soldier on.

Gardening with Coffee Grounds, Peace Coffee


So many blogs to write…so little time!

I saw this an ad in Natural Home magazine by Peace Coffee. They are a sustainable, socially conscious, fair-trade coffee company. Go to their website and check them out. Peace Coffee offers these tips on what to do with leftover coffee grounds, which is something we have an abundant supply of in this house!

  1. Sprinkle used grounds around plants before rain or watering for slow-release nitrogen.
  2. Add to compost piles to increase the nitrogen balance. Coffee filters and tea bags break down rapidly during composting.
  3. To make a gentle, fast-acting liquid fertilizer, dilute a half pound of wet coffee grounds with five gallons of water.
  4. Mix into soil for household plants or vegetables.
  5. Encircle the base of plants with a coffee and eggshell barrier to repel pests.
  6. If you are into vermiposting, feed a little bit to your worms.

Thank you, Peace Coffee, for reminding us that there is a nutritive value to the grounds we through out. Pop them in the garden, instead! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if our gardens smelled like coffee??? Yes, I know it doesn’t actually work that way…the smell disipates quickly. But I can dream, can’t I? And in the spirit of true confessions, in our active homeschooling years, we did keep a worm composting farm. It was fun. Honest. For awhile. haven’t seen too many worms aroun d here lately, for which I’m grateful!