Raise a cold One

I’m trying to decide if the dull headache and difficulty focusing is lack of coffee, or excess of immune system reaction to allergens, or quite possibly both. I mean, why not both? I have a tall tinkling glassfull of iced coffee at hand, and an allergy pill onboard, and any minute now, I’ll have a brain working at capacity again. You know the ‘you only use 10% of your brain’ is a myth, right?

Iced coffee, for you purists out there (I’m not looking northeastward toward my husband, no, not at all) because it’s been running 100F here in the Dallas area for a week. This was not a shock to me. Summers in Texas are supposed to be hot. Anyway, I now own a reflector shield thing for my car windshield, so I don’t burn my hands driving home after work, and I’m drinking my coffee iced more often than not.

Having had a conversation with friends recently about what we like to sip, I realized that it’s not just the tastes, and textures, it is the time to relax and lean back and share ideas. We do this online, through chat, but it’s different when there’s glasses and bottles involved – and I’m not necessarily referring to alcohol, as there’s a friend who is strictly Dr. Pepper unless it’s some ungodly sweet energy drink – it’s the in-person that counts.

I’ve uprooted my entire family, shaken the dirt off the roots, and am trying to see if the transplant will take. With a plant, that requires water. With a family? Well, tall glasses that tinkle while conversations take place can’t hurt. Even if my husband’s cold caffeine preference involves RC cola and mine is just the leftover dregs of the pot from the day before (made some of you shudder there, didn’t I? I’m laughing) and my kids… my son is drinking through the Mt. Dew rainbow. No, I’m not kidding. Not satisfied with the unnatural irradiated green stuff, they now come in blues, purples, pinks, oranges and yellows. Teenagers!

My creative brain is struggling, which is why this post isn’t about writing. It’s about the things that lead up to writing. The relaxation, the bouncing ideas off others to see if they can survive outside your own head. The writing can happen without that, sure. For me, it helps sometimes. Other times it’s not necessary, but I’m realizing that when I am under stress at the level I am… the level I’ve been multiple times in the past decade, really. I need the external validation. Which is probably a failing of mine, but you know what? Find your weaknesses and shore them up however you need to. It will make you more fit to tackle the world, and your writing.

My writing, which is not coming from the same place as anyone else’s, and I know this, which is why it’s weird to me to write a column on writing. Ok, sorry, that sentence went off the rails somewhere fast. Let me start over. I don’t think writers are normal. I know I’m not, at any rate, and I don’t think I’m special as a writer. I do think I’m unique, but I also think you are, and you over there, and yes, you too. What works for me might work for you, but you may have to apply your own spin on it. Picking up and trying what works for someone else is likely to fail, but maybe not completely. Just be willing to learn from ‘that didn’t work,’ and eventually you’ll find your own way. Me, writing for writers? I’m over here contemplating more iced coffee. It’s too early for anything stronger in my glass.

So what’s your beverage of choice? And what are you reading presently? Me, I’m about to buy a book on surfactants in cosmetics. Thrilling, I assure you. I’ve been working through a text on formulating cosmetics, and a handbook of natural ingredients (yeah, I was one of those kids who read through dictionaries and encyclopedias from front to back, and evidently I’m still doing it). Now you understand why writing fiction is a wee bit difficult in my current headspace.

41 comments

  1. Start the morning with hot cocoa (no dairy) with 1/3 tsp instant coffee. Outside of that tend to vary between water and diluted juices, with Coke for headaches and “under the weather” days. (Aren’t we always under the weather?)

    Heat index closing in on 110 today here, so yes, hot!

      1. Oh, and current reads: various books on Appalachian and Ozark folklore with an emphasis on the “cunning men and women” (research!), plus some of the latest Foreigner series by Cherryh (for fun, because sometimes you need to be away from current reality!)

        1. Oh, I’d love to get titles of the books you find useful for the folklore. My collection of North American-centric is weak.

          And escapism is a good thing.

          1. James Mooney’s History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees is an interesting place to start, especially since in the general Appalachian area there was a lot of trading of folklore.

            My North American folklore is also weak, hence why I’m doing research. Currently working my way through Roots, Branches & Spirits: The Folkways & Witchery of Appalachia by H. Byron Ballard, and have done a lot of poking on the internet about haints and spook-lights.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haint_blue

            I’ve also read various kindle samples of Ozark folklore, poking them to see what’s useful to get. It helps that I’ve read books on the cunning men and women in the British Isles in the past, which is where the Appalachian tradition came from. (Need to look up which books those were.)

            1. Thank you! My books are mostly in limbo – half are stored, and will be until we buy a house again. I keep saying I won’t buy more books, but I think we all know the reality there.

            2. Manly Wade Wellman tapped Appalachian folklore for his “John the Balladeer,” stories. Since he sprinkles references throughout the stories they might offer clues (as well as being well worth reading for their own sake).
              I’m a tea person. Got a pot steeping right now, waiting to see if it crawls over the rim of the French press. (I threw in all the stuff in the bottom of the tin).

              1. Oh! A few more books I’ve been using. Mountain Nature, by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert. Only in Asheville, by Marla Hardee Milling. And one that’s got amazing stuff for the whole States, Mysterious Celtic Mythology in American Folklore by Bob Curran.

                Six words: American vampires, and black dog legends.

                (Not to mention an Appalachian version of the “Two Bottles of Milk” folktale, where the ghost borrows a cup of milk a day instead of bottles….)

      2. A trick got from Crossover mentioning something or other — I think it was allergen free hot coco? It may have even just been in her comments– is adding just like baking coco powder for the hot stuff, especially if you’ve got instant espresso.

        Helps avoid the calories or, more importantly for me, the tummy response to a sudden splash of sugar.

        1. *Nod* Sugar to taste, a couple dashes of salt, heaping tsp. (more like 2 tsp.) Hershey’s Special Dark baking cocoa, 1/3 tsp. instant coffee. Mix it dry, pour in enough boiling water to cover it all, mix that, only then add more water and stir more. I’m apparently both lactose intolerant AND allergic to milk protein that hasn’t been cultured (bacterial gnawing!) so this is the best way I’ve found for a hot cup. 🙂

      3. Iced mocha (my useage)
        2 very heaping tablespoons of Hersheys’ dark cocoa powder (any good dark Dutched cocoa would be good)
        1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (I use Watkins pure vanilla extract, $$ but good)
        1/4 tsp salt
        1/2 cup hot water or coffee
        Dissolve cocoa, etc in hot water. Put it in a half gallon container, add milk and coffee (hot or cold) to fill, refrigrrate and serve over ice.
        John in Indy

  2. Ah, but the fiction you’ll write after you onboard all this new knowledge? I hoist my mug in your direction, and look forward to it!

    Currently: Black Rifle coffee, Silencer Smooth batch, with a level teaspoon of xylitol and a scoop of collagen.

  3. Iced coffee is a regular drink around here, but I’m from New England where I’ve seen someone drinking iced coffee on the coldest day of the year.

    My writing muse has gone astray these last few weeks. Which is a shame, because I owe someone a submission for an anthology in September. I just need to suck it up, inconvenience some electrons and bang out words.

    Drinking depends on the situation, location and people I’m with. There’s places and people I’m with that even though I’m relaxing, I’m still on guard. Part and parcel of the America we’re in today. In that case it’s fizzy water, of some non-sugared variety. When I can relax for real, I’ve never been a beer or wine aficionado. It’s distilled beverages, lately a Godfather, amaretto and bourbon with a dash of bitters on the rocks.

    But, yeah, too often lately I’ve been drinking alone. It’d be good to sit down, quaff some ol’ brain lubricator and ramble on.

    1. It’s not like the anthology editor knows where you live… Ok, realistically too far to show up on your doorstep with raised eyebrow and tapping toe.

      I rarely drink the strong stuff, although while I was working the weird shift I was having a nightcap every so often just so I could sleep. Good to be a daywalker again.

    2. It’s distilled beverages, lately a Godfather, amaretto and bourbon with a dash of bitters on the rocks.

      What is it with mobsters and amaretto? I’ve got one in my repertoire called “The Mafioso,” apparently a favorite of John Gotti’s lawyers: amaretto heated in a steamer, then topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

      1. It’s a very famous Italian liquor that pretty much has to be in a mixed drink to be drank (drunk?)– and the whole association with poison is probably not bad, either.

        1. It’s Italian in origin, not as good as Frangelico, but not as nasty as Campari.
          John in Indy

  4. Unsweetened tea, of temperature opposite the weather. Moroccan Mint, Irish Breakfast, and in the winter, sometimes plain Green, or late in the day, a Spearmint and Lemongrass. (Trader Joe’s when I can get it, Stash or Twinnings when I can’t.) Used to drink a little tea with my sugar, but for some reason preferred Gunpowder tea straight, and never went back. Now 44 years unsweetened!

    I thought dictionaries and encyclopedias were just larger compilations of words for my reading pleasure… they have other uses??

    1. Stuffing your brain full of trivial bits of data! Which sometimes come in handy, if you can remember where you learned that odd little datum.

      I generally don’t care for iced tea, although I do like the herbal versions. Black tastes tannic to me. Maybe I’m making it wrong.

      1. Lemons. Lots of lemon. But maybe it’s just not your thing. I used to drink it sweet, but a weird blood sugar episode made me decide to cut back on sugar and cutting sweetheart was an easy way to get started.

      2. Try Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice.
        And for an Irish breakfast tea, Barrys, available online from Barrys’ in Ireland.
        John in Indy

  5. Diet Dr. Pepper with lots of water as a chaser (weekdays it would be black tea and water.)

    Currently reading: folklore of trees (research for next Elect book), and _Im Zeichen des Löwen_ about Duke Henry the Lion for Day Job class prep. [Amazon.de is my friend, sometimes.]

  6. Mostly water. I have one cup of green tea per day.

    Reading? I talk about the epic fantasy/xianxia with mythos horror too much, it is now a boring answer. I’ve started reading Chris Nuttal’s The Cunning Man over on Royal Road. On AO3, I’m in the middle of reading a Grandmaster fic where Jiang Yanli gets turned into a fierce corpse shortly before Wei Wuxian’s death.

    Most of my non-fiction reading is a little too personally identifying. Recently was able to get some needed bits from wikipedia articles on mathematics of symmetry.

    I’m hugely scattered from sleep issues right now, and at the best of times am very distractable.

    Cosmetic surfactant book actually sounds a little interesting. I’ve never had any interest in cosmetics, but I recall reading about how paint worked. Does the book talk about the surface tension of skin?

  7. My wife and daughter drink iced coffee all the time. I’m not a big fan. And with my chemo side effects cold things are a big problem for me.

    We have horrible haze from the Canadian wildfires this week. Between that and my neck being out from the way I’ve been sleeping, I’ve had headaches most of the week. Yesterday I took the day off from work, it was so bad I ended up puking, and spent the rest of the day in bed. I’m not feeling too bad today other than a sore back.

    1. Make sure you’re getting enough magnesium — helps with headaches, helps with muscle aches, helps with sleep, and it’s a good excuse to eat chocolate. Not usually included in drinks that have the other electrolytes.

      Just don’t take so much that you have to poo more.

  8. Huh. WP ate my earlier comment. *shrugs* WP Delenda et al. To drink – Diet Dr. Pepper or black tea in the mornings. (If DadRed made the tea, I add a little milk.) Reading: An older collection of the lore of forests and trees (research for the next Elect book, and Familiars). _Poland: The First Thousand Years_ and _Im Zeichen des Löwen_ for Day Job. (Although the latter book might end up as the core of a Merchant story. Or it might not.) [Amazon.de is my friend for German materials at don’t-make-me-cry prices. Whimper sometimes, but not shriek and tear my hair.)

  9. Water. Lots and lots of plain water. Too cold makes my teeth hurt. No lemon either.

    Beef bullion is very nice (made with a cube and water in the microwave). Is that something like beef tea?

    As for coffee, before I had to cut way, way back on my caffeine, I liked mixing some coffee with milk. It made for coffee-tinged milk. Half and half proportions or adjust to taste. No sugar needed at all and skim milk worked fine.

    My current nonfiction is a feminist tract from 1991 analyzing Miss Marple (it’s for research). I’m still not sure if the author actually read Christie or Sayers (whom she also discusses) because some of the mistakes are weird.

    After that, something more enjoyable; Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost. It will be interesting to see if there’s much overlap with Honor: A History by James Bowman. That book was excellent.

      1. At GFS or elsewhere, look for Beef Base. Substitutes for boullion, but the first ingredient is beef, not salt.
        John in Indy
        Yes, it’s Sunday, drinking coffee, (Costco Jamaican Blue Mountain blend, with milk) not too acidic, very flavorful and aromatic. (Medium roast, whole bean).
        All: Thanks for the blog and for the comments.
        I need my daily dose of contact with intelligent people. John

    1. Oh, man, I hate feminist critiques of Christie and Sayers, but I also hate the “class” ones. Apparently quoting anything makes you a snob, and twice as much if it’s something that the academic hasn’t read. And if that’s not enough, you get the ones who turn around and quote Marsh, on how “inaccurate” Christie and Sayers were, about the lives of the rich and upper-class and noble. Bleh.

      Speaking as an American who started reading Sayers in sixth grade, I’ve never felt “excluded” by her quotes. Either I recognized them, or I recognized that it was a quote to watch out for. And it was great when I got to college and learned one of the madrigals in Gaudy Night, in an early music class.

      1. Speaking as an American who started reading Sayers in sixth grade, I’ve never felt “excluded” by her quotes. Either I recognized them, or I recognized that it was a quote to watch out for. And it was great when I got to college and learned one of the madrigals in Gaudy Night, in an early music class.

        I think a lot of these folks are just way over-sensitive. If they don’t understand it completely, right off the bat, then it must be Somehow Wrong.

        …don’t see what the point of reading is, if that’s their metric, but I’m sure they didn’t ask me!

  10. Drinking: when I write, I usually go for coffee. Don’t think it has anything to do with the caffeine, particularly, just that it’s my ritual: I get coffee, I go to the porch, I write.

    As for reading, I’m currently about as mindless as it gets: Mary Higgins Clark novel in an attempt to figure out if I’ve correctly deduced who the killer is by reading the dust jacket (to call Ms. Clark formulaic is an understatement, but heck, she did the formula very well).

  11. I’ve been mixing coffee with varieties of cocoa mix for quite a few decades now. Now, the first cup of caffeine is coffee with 1 tablespoon of cocoa mix. Derived from an Alton Brown recipe:

    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
    1/2 cup sucralose (usually the generic version of Splenda)
    1-3/4 cup dried milk

    Easy to make, a batch lasts a while, and is tasty. Last I looked, sucralose didn’t have any of the awful side effects of the other sweeteners.

    For dinner: Sun tea made with 2 bags of Orange Spice Stash Tea in 1/2 gallon of water. I add a tiny bit of lemon; my wife drinks it plain.

    Lunch: water. We have decent, but decidedly non-straight water. Guests are advised to drink bottled. The consequences of living in a volcanic area.

    Reading: Just finished Sarah Hoyt’s Trade Winds, and am revisiting RAH’s Farnham’s Freehold.

  12. I am reading this post at the Dublin Pub in Dayton, watching what is substituting for the Celtic fest. Given the title, ironic or appropriate?

  13. Always hot coffee in the morning with a scoop of collagen. I have a cold brew pot, so I’ll make that at night for the next day during the summer. Also, fizzy water with the Soda Stream. Best money I ever spent, that thing. I love plain fizzy water and with the soda stream I don’t have to worry about running out.

    As for writing, I’m having a hard time right now. I owe a MOTE prompt and I’ve stalled out on book 3. I’m going to spend some time tomorrow working on a weekly schedule and see what that does. The coffee shop I used to go to is finally back fully open, so I’ll start going back there as well.

    For reading, I’m bouncing around a bunch of different things. Crossover, thanks so much for the book recs! I need those!

  14. There is a coffee roastery VERY near me, here in Redneck Land in the foothills of the Appalachians. And that’s strange. It’s called Alma Coffee, and they have a YouTube channel where they do strange things.
    Anyway, they got me started on cold brew coffee a couple of months back, and now, it’s all I drink. I make up a batch, and keep it in the fridge, then add two scoops of cocoa, and two scoops of collagen, and it’s GOOD!
    I have discovered, to my regret, that it makes the coffee experience shorter. Since I’m not having to let it cool a bit, I’m more likely to gulp, and thus I’m finished with the beverage much faster. Still massively caffeinated, so I can’t just drink more.
    I’m reading Laura Montgomery’s “The Gear Engages,” which is almost ready for review, and I just finished “Me, Myself, and Bob” by Phil VIscher, and “When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough” by Taylor Schumann. I’ve got a couple of others in the queue, but will not mention them as it will imply I will write a review in an expedient fashion, which seems unlikely for I don’t know.

  15. My main vice is Pepsi with Real Sugar. When I’m behaving (yes, it happens!) sun tea made by the gallon with a family sized Luzianne and a regular teabag of something else, often Earl Grey or Constant Comment.
    Current read, binging a new author (to me) M.C.A. Hogarth.

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