Starbucks Starbucks Everywhere

In case you hadn’t noticed, there are a LOT of Starbucks out there. In NYC, it seemed that if there wasn’t one on every street corner, it was only because they hadn’t finished renovating the new space yet.

In the ‘burbs I’ve found that it’s really no different.

Granted, there isn’t one on every corner – but that’s not the way things are referred to in the ‘burbs. Rather, for us non-city dwellers, it’s all about distance and, depending on where you’re from, you will either refer to distance as miles or minutes. For example, when I lived in Alaska, it was all about miles (“Girdwood? Yeah, that’s about 45 miles south of Anchorage”), however here on the East Coast, we tend to speak in minutes (“Philly is about 40 minutes from here with no traffic”). That said, I can tell you that in my area, there is a Starbucks probably about every 15-20 minutes. I pass four on my way to work. Two on the way to The Home Depot.

One of the things I have noticed with the rapid expansion of the Starbucks brand has been a slip in quality. Please don’t get me wrong, the coffee is still good, but the issue I find is in consistancy.

Where as before (say, 10 years ago) one could walk in, order an espresso beverage, and be assured that it would be exactly the same drink from Starbucks to Starbucks, it has now become something of a crap-shoot.

For instance, I love the Starbucks Marble Mocha Macchiato. Love it. Of the four Starbucks I pass by going to work, there are two that are the most convenient so that if I was going to stop in the morning, it would be at one of them. I did this for about a year and became so aggravated with the way my drink would be made. I’d watch and sometimes they’d forget the white mocha. Sometimes they’d put the shots in BEFORE the milk (for those who don’t know this, the signature of a macchiato is that the shots go in last). Sometimes they’d actually forget the espresso altogether. Sometimes they’d put so much foam in that when it would settle, I’d be left with only about half a cup of actual drink (which would understandably be sickeningly sweet).

And the service could be just as shoddy. Sometimes the barista I’d get would be very pleasant. Other times, they could be downright jerky…and let me assure you, I am not a sit-there-and-take-it kind of patron. If I’m pleased with your service, I will not only be back, but will tell everyone I know about how great you are. By the same token, if I’m treated poorly or am unhappy with the quality of something I receive, I will be equally vocal about it.

In any case, it got to the point where stopping at either of the two Starbucks that were most convenient along my commute could result in postively ruining my morning (and there are few things worse than being put into a bad mood before one even gets into work). I finally decided that I did not want to deal with this any further and instead began detouring slightly out of my way in order to stop at the Starbucks in Newtown.

My sister and I have long recognized this Starbucks as being one of the “good ones” in that the management and training of the employees is such that every drink I have gotten there has been perfect. Perfect. So pleased have I been with the quality, consistancy, and service, I’ve even called Starbucks to give accolades to this location. The Princeton Starbucks is another you-can’t-go-wrong location (the one on Nassau Street directly across from the University, not the one in the mall).

Now if they could only figure out how to repliacte this experience and bring all their other locations up to this standard, then I could feel free to stop at any Starbucks without trepedation…and that’s something I haven’t been able to do for years.

Longing for Guidance

Once upon a time, there was a library that went out of business – kind of interesting because I didn’t know libraries could go out of business… Anyway, this one did, or at least it was closing and apparently had to sell all of its books. My mom had gone and bought a bunch of them because I think they were going for the rate of about 10 cents apiece.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not) I still have the ones that she gave me. There’s a book of O’Henry tales which I love and a few others including one entitled “What To Do”.

What To Do was a book written in the 50′s or 60′s aimed at young girls/women as they were beginning to become adults and so strove to answer their questions about how they should be have – or what to do, if you will – in a variety of situations.

For example, what to do if a boy asks you out. What to do if you are having some friends over for a tea party or such. What to do if you want to begin wearing make-up. And so it goes.

On Jo’s suggestion, my plan was to pull out the famous What To Do book and blog occasionally about some of the pearls of wisdom found within its covers. Sadly, when I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it. I have absolutely no clue where it is… I’ve scoured my bookshelves and the truck in the attic where I had placed some of the overflow of books I had after moving from New York, but alas.

I still have a few more places to search in the attic just in case it somehow make its way into some miscellaneous box as things are wont to do in the flurry of packing during a move.

So my quick entry here was to set the stage for what I hope will be a series of interesting peeks into a completely different school of thought – generationally speaking. Of course if I can’t find it, then this entry was simply to inform you of its exisitance and lament that it is no more.

Naturally I hope for the former.

Habla Espanol?

I don’t…at least not really or at least not YET. It has been a lifelong goal of mine to speak another language fluently. I keep putting it off, but a fire gets lit under me whenever I visit another country because while I’m there, I’ll pick up phrases and words and I come back feeling like if I were to really TRY to learn another language…I mean REALLy put my heart into it…I could do it. And I bet it wouldn’t be as difficult as I might think. I did learn English, after all. Granted it was sort of involuntary learning and I don’t really remember learning it, but clearly I did since I’m fairly certain I didn’t come out of the womb speaking in sentences.

So I’m looking into Spanish.

I haven’t chosen Spanish simply because I want to know how to navigate the ATM when I accidentally hit the “Espanol” button on the language choice screen (this happened to me once and I’m amazed I actually stumbled my way through). No, my choice of Spanish comes from the fact that it’s what I studied in school so I do already have a base (albeit a small one) from which to build upon. And then there was last year when I went to Peru and was shocked at how much of the language came back to me during the two weeks I was there. By the time I left, I felt comfortable asking basic questions in restaurants or of people on the street. Pretty impressive since I haven’t spoken much more than a greeting or two over the last decade plus.

What’s holding me back, you ask? Well, the way to go if you want to learn another language as I understand it is through using The Rosetta Stone software learning program. I have the demo disc and can say that even in the few short sample lessons I’ve done, there are some words that stuck with me. Where I hesitate is due to the cost involved. It really isn’t that expensive I guess, when you consider the alternative (classes are WAY more), but I just haven’t made it a true priority I think.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that a person will find money when they need to if something is important enough. For example, when I was working my first “real” job in Alaska, I was barely making enough to eat, however I managed to fly myself home within the first year I was there which was NOT a cheap ticket. How? I have no idea now, but I can remember putting aside a little here and a little there until there was enough to pay for the ticket.

It’s all about priorities.

In recent months, my emotional health has been a larger priority so I’ve made sure that trips have been planned (and taken) which seems to be the primary thing (outside of God!) that keeps me from going crazy. Next priority down from that is my house which seemingly always has something that needs fixing or updating. I’m told that this is the perpetual state of things when you own your home, so I’d better just get used to it. And I guess all other things come after those two. Naturally Chena and Brighton are priorities as well, but they don’t cost me anything on a day-to-day basis really, so I wasn’t counting them as priorities which drain me of cash.

Not that any of this really matters to anyone who might be reading this, but to understand me is in part to understand that I am a total verbal processor. I must verbalize everything I’m thinking seriously about – either by mouth or pen (or keyboard). This is how I make decisions. I need to write it all out, mull over it, gather feedback when necessary, and then come to a conclusion.

Will I purchase Rosetta Stone? Probably… But I need to prioritize it.

Harry Potter Fans Unite

Well this is definitely a red-letter month if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Not only did the release of the new film (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix) enter theatres last Wednesday, but the latest, greatest, and final book of the famed Harry Potter series will be in book stores and mailboxes everywhere on the 21st.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am a fan…and I’d venture to say that almost everyone I know is as well. Sadly I was a late comer to the Harry Potter fanship. Mainly due to my personal rule to not pay much attention to the things that get (in my opinion) an abnormal amount media hype. In general, I’ve found that the books that make it big in the mainstream are usually not ones I find I enjoy or identify with as much as the lesser-knowns I stumble across or are recommended by friends.

I was living in the UK when Harry Potter mania was really taking hold. In fact, the casting call for the boy-who-would-be-Harry for the movie versions of the books took place while I was there. I can remember watching BBC when they reported that Daniel Radcliffe had made the cut and thinking that yes, despite the little I knew about the book, he did indeed look like what I would have pictured Harry Potter to be.

I changed my tune due to Jo mainly. Although my best friend had been pushing Harry on me for years, it was during a trip to Atlanta that my sister finally talked me into giving Harry a try. “If you don’t love it by the end of the first book, I promise I’ll never force you to do anything again,” she had said.

So I bought Book 1. I had all but finished it on the trip back to New York and could hardly wait to get my hands on the next 5 volumes. Not only did I love it, but I have since purchased all of the books in hardcover (I used paperback copies to read on the subway).

Now I sit and wait not-so-very patiently for the 21st to roll around… Truth be told, I even have a Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows countdown gadget on my iGoogle homepage. In the meantime, I’ll at least get to kill some time going to see Order of the Phoenix in IMAX 3D this weekend. That should help take the edge off.

The Art of Rescheduling

After my Montana debacle, I have finally rescheduled not only the backpacking trip, but also have figured out what to do with those 3 vacation days for this year.

So in September, I’ll be going to Ireland for a few days. This will be my second trip to the Emerald Isle. The first one was for just a weekend a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, this trip won’t be a whole lot longer, but I will at least get 4 full days there which is more than last time. Mostly I’ll be staying with some friends of mine that are missionaries there. They’re not missionaries so much in the standard sense, rather they are there to be “missionaries to the missionaries”. In essense, this entails giving the missionaries a place of respite and retreat. A chance to reflect and focus on their relationship with God. They even offered to provide me with a program similar to what they provide to the missionaries that come and stay with them. So of my 4 days there, I will most likely be spending 2 or 3 of them “retreating” myself and having an opportunity for some much-needed spiritual renewal. I’m really looking forward to it! Additionally, I hope to spend some time doing some genealogy research on my Irish ancestors that I’ve run into a bit of a brick wall with. More on that later.

As to the Montana trip, I have requested to reschedule for next June/July only this time I’m opting for the 6-Day Backpacking trip instead of the 4-Day. I really feel that this will be a better trip and ultimately I’ll feel less rushed and able to better appreciate Glacier NP. If you’re interested, you can read all about it on the Glacier Guides & Montana Raft Company site.

And so I feel my venture into rescheduling has been a success… In fact, as much as I wish I could have been in MT last week, I know I’ll appreciate the Ireland trip and an even longer backpacking trip next year instead.