Scarves and the coming PSL

photo


I sold a scarf!

I’m so excited, y’all. Every year I think “no one is going to want a Harry Potter scarf now,” and every autumn I continue to sell them. It doesn’t matter that it’s currently 85 degrees and climbing, nor that my hands are fried from simultaneously typing like a madwoman at work, slogging away on my new novel and spending much of an evening with a crochet hook in hand!

My Etsy business is still alive and helping to supplement my wedding budget (woo!). And I get to keep making scarves, which is my No. 1 favorite way to decompress (well, maybe No. 2 — I’d have to give the top spot to reading). I am happy.


PSL with leaves
Archived photo from 2012. Don’t get too excited.


In unrelated but also slightly related news, rumor has it the pumpkin spice latte will be returning to Starbucks on Sept. 2. Don’t ask how I know; let’s just say I have my sources (like, um, searching for the PSL on Twitter). After several fruitless Google searches, I found a few reasonably reputable sources who say Labor Day is the official kick-off. Not sure if that’s accurate, but I’m going to hold onto that belief like a beautiful dream.

If you think I’ve kicked my pumpkin habit, friends, you are sadly mistaken. It’s a little embarrassing how much I love anything gourd-inspired. Last year I completed my massive PSL taste test, a post of which I’m still rather proud, and I plan to continue my tastings this fall . . . though after losing 30 pounds, I might have to do it a little more sensibly.

Eh, well — maybe. I don’t have to wear that wedding dress for another two months . . .


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Pumpkin spice latte: a taste test

This love story begins rather simply.

When I was in college, loading myself up on caffeine was the only way to make it through endless classes and shifts at my local bookstore. I discovered something powerful then: coffee. That divine beverage was responsible for getting me through many a late evening . . . though I couldn’t always stomach the straight stuff. I need lots of milk and sugar. Enter the latte.

I began consuming espresso-pumped drinks in my early twenties, and that’s around the time the pumpkin spice latte — or the PSL, to those of us in the Cool Kid PSL Club — appeared in my life. Never one to shy away from anything pumpkin flavored, I started ordering them at my Borders cafe. That amounted to one per shift — and it’s just gotten worse since then.

Eh, and I wonder why I’ve gained weight.

As we all know, the yearly appearance of the PSL deserves a ticker-tape parade in Meg Land. My sister and I marked the time of its arrival and set a coffee date. Since it was still 90 degrees in Maryland in early September, we got frappuccinos — extra whip. I don’t do things halfway.

It’s been weeks since the PSL arrived in cafes and coffee shops across the land. I’ve made it my goal — nay, my mission — to try every pumpkin-themed drink in the Washington, D.C. area. Though I once declared Dunkin’ Donuts to have the best PSL, I’m going to contradict that. In three years, my horizons have expanded. But because I’m just one thirsty woman, I know there are many I’ve missed — including Panera’s PSL, which is surprising; I probably owe rent to my local branch. But the fall is young, my friends!

Any devoted PSL consumer knows their favorite drink comes in at least two varieties: hot and cold. You could get into even more gradations of this, based on whether or not you like whipped cream (I do) and spice (yep), plus whether your cold PSL is blended (like a frap) or simply on ice (like Dunkin’ Donuts’ drink). I’ve tried to sample as many varieties as possible, though my budget and stomach don’t always cooperate. Just know this sampling is not comprehensive.

To the nominees, I’d like to say what a difficult decision this was. Know that, in my eyes, you’re all winners — and you should be so proud of your deliciousness. Know that even the fifth best PSL is still a darn good drink, and I hope there are no hard feelings. You know I’ll be back.


the taste tests


5. Dunkin’ Donuts — cold (over ice)

Dunkin’ Donuts’ PSL is on ice, meaning it’s not blended like a frappuccino or milkshake — and that’s why it’s in fifth place. Because I drink it entirely too fast. It’s basically iced coffee with pumpkin syrup (in fact, that might be exactly what it is . . .), and I usually consume the whole thing before I’m even back at my desk. This saddens me — but also keeps me coming back for more. So well played, Dunkin’ Donuts.


4. Einstein Bros Bagels — cold (blended)

The blended PSL at Einstein’s is very much like Starbucks’ PSL frap — only more pumpkin-y. There’s no mistaking the autumnal awesomeness (like that?) of this one. My sister offered me a sip of hers — and I took three. It’s addictive. It’s sweet without being cloying — less sweet than, say, the Dunkin’ Donuts iced PSL. It lacks any of the distinctive coffee taste I expect from a Starbucks PSL, which might work for you.


3. Starbucks — cold (blended)

So rich, so creamy . . . so cold and fattening. It’s hard to beat Starbucks’ pumpkin spice frappuccino, which is easily my sister’s favorite. (And our PSLs, pictured above, are twins.) It’s dessert in a cup, and the filling nature of the drink might have you wanting to skip dinner — but it’s worth it. Promise.


2. Einstein Bros Bagels — hot

Of every beverage on this highly scientific list, I find the hot PSL at Einstein’s to be the most pumpkin-y. It’s also melt-in-your-mouth delicious and has less of a “coffee” taste and aftertaste than Starbucks’ version. It’s sweeter, lighter and creamier — for fans who prefer their espresso drinks with less espresso. I can respect that.


1. Starbucks — hot

The first. The classic. I’d never known love until Starbucks’ beloved PSL came into my life. Still the best-loved of all the beverages, the hot PSL has a special place in my heart — though I tend to order the iced version from DD more often these days. Mostly because it’s still hot in Maryland, and I sweat like a pig on a good day. But, you know. Mariah Carey and I know Starbucks’ hot PSL will always be my baby.


honorable pumpkin mentions


7-Eleven’s pumpkin coffee (with pumpkin creamer)

My mom told me she’d seen pumpkin coffee at her local 7-Eleven one morning last week, so I drove my little self over there at lunchtime to investigate. To my delight, both pumpkin coffee and pumpkin pie spice creamers were available . . . so I loaded up. And overdid it. Three creamers might have been a bit excessive, but whatever — I was really excited.

Though not technically a PSL, 7-Eleven’s brew is delicious — and the creamers add fantastic (and truly pumpkin-y) flavor. Just skip the sugar; you won’t need it. And you’ll be jet-fueled enough to empty your email inbox and your coworker’s before they’re even back from break. 7-Eleven pumpkin coffee will get you a raise, basically. So go you.


Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Though not a drinker, I can appreciate an occasional brewskie (case in point: I say “brewskie,” and I have no idea how to even spell that). Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale is quite refreshing, though it lacks the signature pumpkin flavor I’d expect from a drink with the gourd in its name. I can occasionally get a whiff of the nutmeg Blue Moon promises is in the brew, but mostly? It’s just a good beer. Or ale. Or whatever. But I like it.


Do you have a favorite? Are you a PSL fan, or do you run screaming away from my favorite drink? (That’s fine — I mean, we can’t be friends anymore . . . but it’s all right.) Feel free to share your thoughts or personal taste tests below.


Autumn, contests, awards and more

It’s September! A bright and shiny new month! And the start of fall, my most favorite of all seasons! Though the leaves are still that bright-and-shiny green, I’ve decided to throw caution (and sanity) aside and already whip out my fall wardrobe. According to my sister, today I’m rocking a look that screams “college girl in 1952.”

It’s really just an excuse to wear both my new red cardigan and houndstooth scarf — even in 86-degree weather. In an ideal world, I would look like an extra on “Mad Men” and channel Audrey Hepburn in my daily wardrobe . . . especially if that meant wearing a little extra something from Tiffany daily. But in this world, I’m just a run-of-the-mill writer who hopes she doesn’t look like a crazy vagrant most days. And she can keep her hair from frizzy badly enough to block out the sun, all the better.

I love the fall and seem to write these sorts of posts yearly — updates about life turning a new corner and exciting things that are afoot. On my mind now is the Indie Lit Awards, honors given by literary bloggers to the best of the best in new books out in 2011. I served on the literary fiction panel last year and had the best time — especially since that’s how I discovered Peter Geye’s Safe From The Sea, one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in a long time.

Now in its second season, the Indie Lit Awards are a great way to discover notable books in a variety of genres — and nominations are now open. Think about the books published in 2011 that you’ve devoured whole, then pushed into the hands of every reader in your life. We want the books that blew your mind. That changed everything. Nominate now using a simple form in categories including biography/memoir, GLBTQ, fiction and more. I’m proud to again serve on the fiction panel and look forward to our “reading list” being established from the nominations.

Next up on my list of random Meg thoughts: um, how delicious is Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin spice latte?! It’s out now and sent me tumbling into a delightful sugary rush yesterday afternoon. Starbucks is a bit behind the times this year, not bringing their concoction back until next week, but I’m all right with that. As long as I can get my ridiculous pumpkin fix, I’m happy. (And I promise not to post too much on my pumpkin obsession this year — I think I’ve already got that covered.)

I also wanted to thank everyone for their nominations in this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Awards, which are happening Sept. 12-16! I’m thrilled to have been long-listed in the Best Written Book Blog and Best Eclectic Book Blog categories and really appreciate the support! I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s festivities — it’s always a great time and a wonderful way to meet new faces in our book blogging community.

In somewhat related news, I recently learned that I did not win the “Jane Austen Made Me Do It” short story contest — and though disappointing, the talent on display in that competition was tremendous. Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Austenprose, will debut her Austen-inspired anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It on Oct. 11. Congratulations to Brenna Aubrey, author of “The Love Letter,” for penning the winning short story — and thank you all for your votes and encouragement in February. Writing “Spinning White Hair Gold” was an exciting challenge and I really appreciate having made it to the Top 10! Can’t wait to read the book this fall.

. . . Well, this was an amazing amalgam of material. I’m getting ready to venture north and visit Spencer’s family in New York over Labor Day weekend, and Laurie Notaro’s It Looked Different On The Model will be my eight-hour-car-ride companion! I’m also super pumped for my friend Erin’s wedding on Sept. 10 and am still depriving myself of anything chocolate, carb-heavy — or flavorful. My “diet” has been intense, but that bridesmaid dress is not going to wear itself.

Though it is snug enough to stand on its own.


P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Kristine Gasbarre’s How To Love An American Man, one of my favorite reads this year. Krissy and her publisher were kind enough to increase the giveaway to two copies, and I’ve extended the deadline to Tuesday, Sept. 6. Just share your family memories here to be entered.

Oh, how the latte has fallen from grace

You guys aren’t going to believe me, but I’m going to tell you a sad truth.

In the past month, I’ve had four — four — pumpkin spice lattes since my most favorite of all drinks was re-introduced at Starbucks, Panera, Borders and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Four.

Four drinks. Total.

I used to go through two or three drinks in a week, easy peasy. Lots of caffeine and syrup happening over here. When my coworkers would head over on the morning Dunkin’ run, I’d throw in a few bucks or be generously treated by my friend Kelly, a total latte enabler, and find a delicious steaming beverage waiting for me in no time. Not every day; I mean, I’m not an addict or anything. Heh. Um. But, you know, at least two times a week. Three, max.

But this year? This year I got one on Aug. 30 with Spencer at Starbucks, then put up a tweet about it. Considering it was still 90 degrees out, we’ll let that be an indication of my dedication to this drink.

And, you know? It was good. I liked it. As good as I remembered, sure, and I sipped it while watching Spencer’s face as he tried his. Considering he’s not much of a latte/macchiato/espresso drinker, he was brave to give it a try. And was lukewarm on the experience.

For me, pumpkin lattes are all about the thrill of tradition. It’s so exciting to realize that yes, autumn is here again! And all of those exciting, fall things are available! Like choosing pumpkins at our neighborhood patch or seeing Halloween-shaped Peeps, it’s a harbinger of the holiday season to come. The pumpkin spice latte is, basically, how I mark the passing of time.

Last year I called myself a modern latte Goldilocks, flitting through the countryside and trying every restaurant’s offering. This year I even added Borders to my sampling plate, so to speak, and  enjoyed the pumpkin creme latte available at their Seattle’s Best Coffee cafes.

But this year? I couldn’t tell you which one I liked best. Because I’ve had exactly one from each location, drinking them passively as my mind was on other things.

What’s happened to me? How has my enthusiasm for something I once loved with all my heart waned so greatly? Did I just officially burn myself out on the pumpkin spice? The last time I dashed into a Starbucks on my way back to the office, I ordered tea. A chai tea latte.

I love tea, but am I seriously cheating on my pumpkin latte with chai? Something I can get all year long, no complications? No anticipation?

I don’t know what to tell you, friends. I’m pretty upset about this.

And I think I’ll go drown my sorrows in another chai to take my mind off it.

The Modern Latte Goldilocks

pumpkinOK, enough messing around — I have found the perfect pumpkin spice latte. I know you’re all chuckling to yourselves right now, probably shaking your heads sadly as you realize yes, I’m obsessing about a tasty seasonal drink again. But since you all know me well enough to know my quirkiness and coffee devotion is just another of my cutesy quirks, humor me for, oh, one more blog post. (Or a few more — it depends on how much I’d like to wax philosophical here. I’m thinking very much.)

My friend Kelly’s birthday was this past weekend and, devoted friend that I am, I forgot. In order to make it up to her, I hopped in my car and got myself over to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts this morning. I managed to get inside with all of my appendages, which was a miracle in itself — those people in the drive-through line do not play. I was pretty sure one angry SUV driver was going to mow me down as I dared to cross in front of him to, you know, get inside the shop. I can barely open my eyelids too, people. Let’s play nice.

So I narrowly make it inside, order Kelly’s birthday donuts and casually glance around at all the brightly-colored ads around the store advertising — what else? — the pumpkin-flavored stuff they have. I resisted the temptation to get a pumpkin donut or muffin but the allure of a frothy, delicious latte was way more than I could handle. I may put on a great show, but my self-restraint can only take me so far!

And let me tell you — it’s perfection. Yes, I will boldly say that Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin spice latte is the best pumpkin spice latte. Ever. Starbucks’ is great, yes — and I do enjoy the frappuccino version, too. But it’s got a tinge of bitterness to it and, no matter how much cream or sugar you pour in that puppy, you’re always very much aware that you’re drinking coffee. And Panera’s latte? Yummy, yes, but it’s actually overly sweet. Like licking pumpkin syrup from the bottom of the cup. Much more of a dessert than anything.

So here I am: Meg, the Modern Latte Goldilocks. Because Dunkin’s version? Oh, yes — it’s just right.

Do yourself a favor and grab one. Like, today, if you can. Because I have a feeling a nationwide Dunkin’ Donuts latte shortage will be happening in the very near future . . . because, you know, I’m really thirsty. And fall comes but once a year!

Acting ridiculous in coffee shops — my new specialty

I wandered around in the rain on my lunch break today, hitting up all my usual Southern Maryland afternoon hotspots. It felt good to be up — and walking — outside of the office. I really do like having my own little nook at work, but anyone who’s ever worked a nine-to-five job knows that some days, you really have to just bust loose.

So I had a pumpkin spice latte for the third time in the past week — and it tastes just as good on each occasion! Palmer’s doing well with his no-caffeine routine, but I would never even attempt that. I’m addicted. And, apparently, I’m addicted more and more every day to taking random photos of inanimate objects — I’ve majorly been building my stock photo collection lately.

And the rain ended just as quickly as it started, though it’s been gray all day since then. A good day for hanging out, being silly and acting pretentious in a coffee shop — if only I had more time!

I went ahead and broke out the fall decorations at work today, too. I have my fall leaves and, of course, my foam pumpkin I constructed with my sister last year. Though I’m 23 years old and haven’t worked for a craft store in almost three years, I still love me some random homemade concoctions! I briefly took up woodworking, painting and quasi-jewelry-making while working for a hobby shop my first few years of college. I also expanded my crocheting knowledge, which I still use. But random foam things are my sister’s specialty. We’re both especially fond of making holiday-themed foam finger puppets.

Now, feel the power of the pumpkin.

And yes, my nameplate does identify me as “Miz Suga Spice.” Little known (and probably TMI) fact about me: I have a gold tooth. You can’t see it unless you crane my neck back and peer dangerously into my mouth, but still — it’s there.

Sorry to alarm you!

Pumpkin spice is back!

I don’t know how I’ve neglected to mention this already, but something very exciting happened yesterday — Palmer and I discovered that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks! He’s more of a Cinnamon Dolce type of guy, but there’s absolutely nothing — repeat — nothing I enjoy more than the pumpkin spice latte. Except for maybe the gingerbread latte.

Okay, yes — except for the gingerbread latte. I have a photo montage dedicated to my consumption of the gingerbread latte.

I now also have this gem of a photo, courtesy of my boyfriend. While it’s certainly not my most flattering shot, I’m posting it as an expression of my absolute excitement and dedication to the pumpkin spice. God bless you, Starbucks, and your $4 drinks. Gets me every single time.

And now I have the gingerbread latte to look forward to! The smooth, mellow flavor . . . The feeling of a million calories sliding down your throat and into your warmed tummy . . . Holiday music playing softly in the background . . . It’s a good life.