Tag Archives: tiny details
I like my coffee strong, dark, and sweet, so I like coffee-flavoring syrups. Did you know it is easy to make your own, customized syrups that taste better than store-bought? I start with the most basic simple syrup recipe and add whatever suits my taste. Both microwave and stove top work well for me, so I have included directions for both.
What is your favorite coffee flavor?
Basic Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Cinnamon Stick Syrup
Add 1 cinnamon stick (3-4 inches long), broken into pieces
Vanilla Rum Syrup
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla (Mexican or some other really good kind), and
1 teaspoon rum or rum flavoring
Stir all ingredients together in a clear, microwave-safe container that holds at least four cups. (I use my four-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Cook on high for two minutes, stir, and then heat until bubbling but not to a rolling boil. Stir about every minute and keep a close watch so it does not boil over. Cook at a “bubble, not boil” for about five minutes in total.
Stir all ingredients together in a small saucepan that holds at least four cups. Heat to a low simmer, but not a rolling boil. Stir occasionally. Simmer for about five minutes in total.
Taste Test & Finishing
When the sugar is completely dissolved and the solution is thicker than plain water, you can check the flavor: Scoop up about a half-teaspoon of HOT syrup and let it cool before you taste it. If you prefer a more intense flavor, you can simmer for a little longer and consider adding a little more of the flavor add-ins. When you like the flavor, let the syrup cool.
If your add-ins are not dissolved (like the cinnamon stick), strain out the pieces with a strainer and cheesecloth. Pour the syrup into your preferred containers. I prefer easy-to-pour bottles. Use right away or store in refrigerator.*
*I always store mine in the refrigerator and have no idea how long it lasts because I use the syrup quickly!
Brian’s fortieth birthday was last week so I wanted a fun and memorable way to celebrate him. Even though we live 250 miles apart, we planned to meet at his parents’ house for his birthday dinner on his actual birthday (and other engagement festivities during the weekend).
Out of Nowhere
Brian knew something was up when he was setting up for college Bible study the night before his birthday. A few students were already in the room when one of the girls stuck her head in and motioned them to come outside. When he walked through the hall a few minutes later, the students immediately stopped talking. Near the beginning of Bible study, the ringleader gave him an envelope that contained a decorated plastic zipper bag and a note from me. He was about halfway through the letter when the students began throwing ping-pong balls at him! On each ping-pong ball, I had written a milestone from his life and a note from me.
The last part of the letter explained:
To honor and celebrate you on your milestone birthday, I have prepared an unconventional highlight reel of a few of the experiences, achievements, and blessings of your life so far. Enjoy!
The next morning, on his birthday, Brian stood chatting with colleagues who share the same office area and told them about the students’ ambush from the night before. He went to his morning class and was trying to call the office secretary when she and the rest of his colleagues came “charging in and throwing ping-pong balls.” Brian was so surprised that he gaped at them, still holding the phone until it went to voicemail. He was not, however, as shocked as the student who was caught in the crossfire next to him!
Flashback: The Setup
Over a week before Brian’s birthday, I secretly recruited my co-conspirators via email and Facebook and then mailed them each a box of decorated ping-pong balls. They may have thought it was a weird request but both cheerfully agreed to help and to enlist others.
Back to the Birthday
After birthday dinner with his family and some relatives, Brian opened his gifts and wisely (or cautiously?) saved mine for last. The first package held a large jar and I asked if he knew what it was for.
“I have an idea.”
“You’re probably right. Where is that bag I suggested you keep handy?”
“In my car.”
“You should really go get it.”
“Oh, really?” He grinned as he started out of the room slowly and looked behind him. When he saw me going to get something, he began moving quickly in the direction of the car. I called after him, “Take your time!” but he didn’t listen and was back in the living room before we finished passing around the ping-pong balls. Brian sat there smiling and laughing while we all threw our projectiles at him and even his grandma joined in the fun!
Side note: The jar I liked and purchased to hold the ping-pong balls did not come with a lid, so my dad made a custom lid out of walnut.
People ask how ping-pong balls became a symbol of our relationship. The short answer is that I have a vivid imagination and Brian listened and then added his own romantic spin. It has escalated from there.
If you noticed that my last two Lows & Highs posts left out a day, you may have wondered about my counting skills. The omission was intentional because, as someone wise told me, “That day deserves its own post.”
Brian proposed on December 11.
If you don’t like proposal stories, it’s cool if you want to stop reading now and join in on the next post. If you have not already read Ping-Pong Ball Sweetness, please do because it gives some context.
On Tuesday, December 11, I was on my way to work when I received a text message from Brian that he sent me an email and the link inside would explain. When I got to work and read the text, I opened the email to read, “Abby, Here’s the start of a little something to celebrate your graduation. Love, Brian.” When I followed the link inside, it took me to a YouTube video that was set as private and I could not view it. I sent off a text of my own and Brian had the video fixed a short time later.
The video was of Brian explaining that he wanted to do something special for my upcoming graduation, so he made me several videos. Every couple hours, he emailed the link to another video. The six videos featured him in different locations that are meaningful to me around my hometown: The campus building where we have weekly college student Bible study, the adult ed center where I volunteer, my parents’ house, and so on. In each place, he told me something he notices and admires about me.
Mid-afternoon, Brian sent the fifth video and texted me, “I just hit send on the next one. Hopefully these have made u smile all day.”
I replied, “Oh, they have definitely made me smile! If I didn’t already want to spend forever with u, the videos would have convinced me.”
“That reaction makes me smile. I’m glad I’m sending them all in one day instead of piecemeal.”
Around 3:30 p.m., he sent the last video where he sat in his office over four hours away and said even though I said I did not want graduation gifts, he had some help and a present was waiting for me at home.
I worked the next hour in suspense until I could leave for the day. Since I was sure Brian was waiting by his phone to hear my reaction to his gift, I sent him a text that I was on my way home but had to stop at the store for a few things first and would let him know when I got home.
At home, I entered through the back door and saw a path lined with ping-pong balls, leading through the kitchen to the living room. I shed my bags and coat and followed the path to where Brian stood waiting in a ping-pong-ball heart.
Surprised, I asked, “What are you doing here?” as I walked over to greet him. Yes, it was a silly question. As Brian pointed out later, I should have known as soon as I saw the ping-pong-ball path but I was surprised to the point of being flabbergasted because I came home expecting a nice bouquet of flowers or something similar. My memories are blissful and a bit hazy after this point. He got down on one knee to propose, and then pulled out a ring box and opened it but I could not take my eyes off his face. After I said, “Yes, of course” and we were hugging, he said something about putting on the ring. “Oh, yeah, I didn’t actually see it before.”
He showed it to me again and helped me put it on. Then he told me my plans for the evening had changed and our parents were meeting us for dinner at six. What he did not tell me was that his sister and my sister, brother-in-law, and baby nephew were also meeting us! It was a sweet surprise and we had a terrific time celebrating with our families.
After Brian and I recounted the story of how he proposed, my mom looked over and told Brian he did a good job, “You gave her a story.”
Brian made this video to announce our engagement.
How would you describe your family in one word?
Lively! We are an active, almost-never-bored*, story-telling, teasing bunch. At gatherings with the extended family, the party starts when we arrive. We got a little livelier yesterday when my sister had a healthy baby boy! Eli is my parents’ first grandkid and, boy, are we all glad he is here!
*Bored was a bad word when we were growing up. Mom used to tell us, “There are no such things as boring places, only boring people. If you’re bored, you must be a boring person…”
What skill or ability has always come easily for you?
Organizing. According to my parents, I was born organized and they have no idea why. They tell stories about how, as a small child, I used to line my toys up according to size, shape, color, function. When I was five or six, I found my mom’s handful of personal organization books and proceeded to read all of them. I may have been the only elementary student in the world with my own filing system, card file, and personal organization notebook. No, I am not OCD and everything does not have to be perfect, but I do enjoy order and planning.