Ah, this email spam. So people actually respond and fall for these? Really? Because this one is pathetic.

I am Mr Richard Greenwood. The Manager of a South African Bank, Cape Town
Branch in South Africa.
I will like you to work with me on a project that will be of good interest
for the both of us, if you have a valid
Bank Account that can receive incoming funds.
Thank you.

Is "Christmas" Dead at Starbucks and Now the PC Term "Holiday" ? Interesting.... Can't find Christmas Blend K-cups.

Last weekend I had to pop into Sams Club to pick up a box of k-cups, dog food and a couple other items.  I knew the coffee I wanted, so I grabbed the box and continued walking, but I noticed they had stocked the Christmas coffee and the thought flitted through my brain "Oh, they have the Holiday blend out..."  but since I don't really care one way or another about their Christmas blends, I didn't dwell on it or think about it past that fleeting thought.

Until this morning.

Did you notice how I interchanged the words holiday and Christmas in the paragraph above?

Darnit.  I think I fell for it.

You see, this morning I decided to look up the Christmas blend coffee at Sam's and noticed it wasn't called Christmas blend anymore.  I only found Holiday blend.  Of course I did a quick search of google and overwhelmingly found 'holiday' and 'Christmas' being interchanged and used as if equal but the "Christmas" packages seem to be only available from last year; 2014.  2015 was only turning up 'Holiday'.

One step further... go to the source.  Starbucks own online store.  

As of this post at 9:00 am today, they had no Christmas or Holiday blend available yet - but only the spicy blend for Fall.  Their holiday 'header' though showed the word Christmas - but also the number 2014.  Which means they haven't switched over to the 2015 Christmas header yet... and I have a feeling when it does, it might only feature the world "holiday" instead of Christmas.

Another search on their site for the Christmas Blend turned up this little bit of 'history' behind the Christmas blend Starbucks has released for 30 years.  Thirty. Years.  But... was last year the last year for it to be called "Christmas"?  Has Starbucks decided Christmas is a dirty word?

I'll be watching the store shelves and their site over the next week to see what happens to the branding and if in fact, Starbucks has gone over to the dark side of being overly politically correct and is afraid to use the word Christmas even though statistics show up to 95% of Americans celebrate "Christmas".

In the meantime, you can enjoy their press release from last year with the history of their Christmas Blend.

Source: Starbucks
November, 2014

Thirty years ago, before the first Starbucks latte was served, Starbucks created a special new blend of coffee as a gift for its customers.

Anthony Carroll, a 19-year partner (employee) on the coffee team at Starbucks, shares the story of behind the first batch of Christmas Blend.

“Back in 1984, Starbucks was a small chain of five Seattle retail stores that sold fresh-roasted coffee beans, loose-leaf teas and spices,” Carroll said. “Coffee was scooped by hand and packaged in paper bags, with a seven-day shelf life.”

Christmas Blend showcased Starbucks artistry in roasting with an expert blend of lively Latin American beans and mellow Indonesia coffees. The finishing touch was the addition of rare, spicy Sumatra beans, painstakingly aged for three to five years. The interplay of flavors makes it a full-bodied, spicy and rich cup of coffee.
“When Starbucks first introduced Christmas Blend, the company hoped it would develop a small, loyal following. But customers quickly snapped up the coffee just as soon as it arrived, buying it to give as a gift for friends and family or as a special addition to a holiday meal. In the days leading up to Christmas Eve, the stores were selling Christmas Blend just as quickly as it could be scooped and packaged.”

This holiday, the tradition continues with a variety of Christmas Blend coffees in half-pound bags for holiday gift-giving.

“Christmas Blend is a rich coffee that goes hand-in-hand with many holiday foods, including savory meals and rich desserts,” Carroll said. “It truly complements the flavors of the season.”

About Starbucks® Christmas Blend

In addition to the original Starbucks® Christmas Blend created thirty years ago, customers can enjoy Starbucks® Christmas Blend Espresso Roast, Starbucks® Christmas Blonde Roast, Starbucks® Decaf Christmas Blend and Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew Christmas Blend. It is also available as whole-bean and ground coffee, K-Cup® Packs, and Verismo® Pods.

Keurig, the Cup and Star design, Keurig Brewed, K-Cup, and the Keurig brewer trade dress are trademarks of Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., used with permission.

For more information on this news release, contact the Starbucks Newsroom.

Products I found listed on Amazon as of today (October 28th, 2015): 

Starbucks Christmas Blend Ground Coffee - 8oz (226g)
Starbucks Christmas Blend 2014, Whole Bean, 8 Oz (Pack of 2)
Starbucks Holiday Blonde Roast Keurig K-Cups (Pack of 1 - 16 Count)


Pondering over coffee.... Medical Myths That Even Some Doctors Still Believe (8 glasses of water a day? Myth. We use just 10% of our brains? Myth)

Medical myths...  something to ponder over coffee. 

This afternoon I was looking up information on Dr. Duncan MacDougall, and his studies on the mass lost by a human when the soul departs the body at death.  In doing so, I came across a totally different topic, but one I found equally interesting since I already knew most of these to be myths - but have often been frustrated to see them quoted online and hear them quoted in real life by people... who refuse to believe they are indeed myths.  This was found on the www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ website.

Sometimes even doctors are duped, say Rachel C Vreeman and Aaron E Carroll
Physicians understand that practicing good medicine requires the constant acquisition of new knowledge, though they often assume their existing medical beliefs do not need re-examination. These medical myths are a light hearted reminder that we can be wrong and need to question what other falsehoods we unwittingly propagate as we practice medicine. We generated a list of common medical or medicine related beliefs espoused by physicians and the general public, based on statements we had heard endorsed on multiple occasions and thought were true or might be true. We selected seven for critical review:
  • People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
  • Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser
  • Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
  • Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy
  • Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.
We used Medline and Google to search for evidence to support or refute each of these claims. Because “proving a negative” can be challenging, we noted instances in which there was no evidence to support the claim.

People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day

The advice to drink at least eight glasses of water a day can be found throughout the popular press.w1-w4 One origin may be a 1945 recommendation that stated: A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 litres daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 millilitre for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.w5 If the last, crucial sentence is ignored, the statement could be interpreted as instruction to drink eight glasses of water a day.w6
Another endorsement may have come from a prominent nutritionist, Frederick Stare, who once recommended, without references, the consumption “around 6 to 8 glasses per 24 hours,” which could be “in the form of coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, beer, etc.”w7 The complete lack of evidence supporting the recommendation to drink six to eight glasses of water a day is exhaustively catalogued in an invited review by Heinz Valtin in the American Journal of Physiology.w8 Furthermore, existing studies suggest that adequate fluid intake is usually met through typical daily consumption of juice, milk, and even caffeinated drinks.w9 In contrast, drinking excess amounts of water can be dangerous, resulting in water intoxication, hyponatraemia, and even death.

We use only 10% of our brains

The belief that we use only 10% of our brains has persisted for over a century, despite dramatic advances in neuroscience. In another extensive expert literature review, Barry Beyerstein provides a detailed account of the origins of this myth and the evidence disputing it.w10 Some sources attribute this claim to Albert Einstein, but no such reference or statement by Einstein has ever been recorded.w10 This myth arose as early as 1907, propagated by multiple sources advocating the power of self improvement and tapping into each person’s unrealised latent abilities.w10-w13
Evidence from studies of brain damage, brain imaging, localisation of function, microstructural analysis, and metabolic studies show that people use much more than 10% of their brains.w10 Studies of patients with brain injury suggest that damage to almost any area of the brain has specific and lasting effects on mental, vegetative, and behavioural capabilities.w14-w16 Numerous types of brain imaging studies show that no area of the brain is completely silent or inactive.w10 w17 w18 The many functions of the brain are highly localised, with different tasks allocated to different anatomical regions.w19 w20 Detailed probing of the brain has failed to identify the “non-functioning” 90%.w10 Even micro-level localisation, isolating the response of single neurones, reveals no gaps or inactive areas.w10 w21 Metabolic studies, tracking differential rates of cellular metabolism within the brain, reveal no dormant areas.w10

Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death

Morbid information about the body captures the imagination and reinforces medical mythology. In All Quiet on the Western Front, the author describes a friend’s fingernails growing in corkscrews after the burial.w22 Johnny Carson even perpetuated this myth with his joke, “For three days after death hair and fingernails continue to grow, but phone calls taper off.”w23 To quote the expert opinion of forensic anthropologist William Maples, “It is a powerful, disturbing image, but it is pure moonshine. No such thing occurs.”w24
This myth does have a basis in a biological phenomenon that can occur after death. As Maples and numerous dermatologists explain, dehydration of the body after death and drying or desiccation may lead to retraction of the skin around the hair or nails.w24 The skin’s retraction can create an appearance of increased length or of greater prominence because of the optical illusion created by contrasting the shrunken soft tissues with the nails or hair. The actual growth of hair and nails, however, requires a complex hormonal regulation not sustained after death.w25 w26

Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser

Another common belief is that shaving hair off will cause it to grow back in a darker or coarser form or to grow back faster. It is often reinforced by popular media sourcesw27 and perhaps by people contemplating the quick appearance of stubble on their own body.
Strong scientific evidence disproves these claims. As early as 1928, a clinical trial showed that shaving had no effect on hair growth.w28 More recent studies confirm that shaving does not affect the thickness or rate of hair regrowth.w29 w30 In addition, shaving removes the dead portion of hair, not the living section lying below the skin’s surface, so it is unlikely to affect the rate or type of growth.w26 Shaved hair lacks the finer taper seen at the ends of unshaven hair, giving an impression of coarseness.w31 Similarly, the new hair has not yet been lightened by the sun or other chemical exposures, resulting in an appearance that seems darker than existing hair.

Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight

The fearful idea that reading in dim light could ruin one’s eyesight probably has its origins in the physiological experience of eye strain. Suboptimal lighting can create a sensation of having difficulty in focusing. It also decreases the rate of blinking and leads to discomfort from drying, particularly in conditions of voluntary squinting.w32 w33 The important counterpoint is that these effects do not persist.
The majority consensus in ophthalmology, as outlined in a collection of educational material for patients, is that reading in dim light does not damage your eyes.w34 Although it can cause eye strain with multiple temporary negative effects, it is unlikely to cause a permanent change on the function or structure of the eyes.w34 Even in patients with Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease that features inflammation in certain glands of the body), decreased functional visual acuity associated with strained reading improves when they stop reading.w35
One review article on myopia concludes that increased use of one’s eyes, such as reading in dim light or holding books too close to the face, could result in impaired ocular growth and refractive error.w36 The primary evidence cited was epidemiological evidence of the increased prevalence of myopia and the high incidence of myopia in people with more academic experience.w36 The author notes that this hypothesis is just beginning to “gain scientific credence.” In the past reading conditions involved even less light, relying on candles or lanterns, so increased rates of myopia over the past several centuries does not necessarily support that dim reading conditions are to blame.w37 In contrast to that review, hundreds of online expert opinions conclude that reading in low light does not hurt your eyes.w38

Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy

The presence of tryptophan in turkey may be the most commonly known fact pertaining to amino acids and food. Scientific evidence shows that tryptophan is involved in sleep and mood control and can cause drowsiness.w39 w40 L-tryptophan has been marketed as a sleep aid.w41
The myth is the idea that consuming turkey (and the tryptophan it contains) might particularly predispose someone to sleepiness. Actually, turkey does not contain an exceptional amount of tryptophan. Turkey, chicken, and minced beef contain nearly equivalent amounts of tryptophan (about 350 mg per 115 g), while other common sources of protein, such as pork or cheese, contain more tryptophan per gram than turkey.w42 Any effects of the tryptophan in turkey are probably minimised by consuming it in combination with other food, which would limit its absorption according to expert opinion.w43 In fact, consuming supplemental tryptophan on an empty stomach is recommended to aid absorption.w44 Other physiological mechanisms explain drowsiness after meals. Any large solid meal (such as turkey, sausages, stuffing, and assorted vegetables followed by Christmas pudding and brandy butter) can induce sleepiness because blood flow and oxygenation to the brain decreases,w45 and meals either high in protein or carbohydrate may cause drowsiness.w46-w51 Accompanying wine may also play a role.w52 w53

Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals

In a search by www.snopes.com we could not find any cases of death caused by the use of a mobile phone in a hospital or medical facility.w54 Less serious incidents, including false alarms on monitors, malfunctions in infusion pumps, and incorrect readings on cardiac monitors, have occasionally been reported. Although no references or dates are given, one government website published an anecdote in 2002 describing how use of a mobile phone in an intensive care unit resulted in an unintended bolus of adrenaline (epinephrine) from an infusion pump.w55 After publication of a journal article citing more than 100 reports of suspected electromagnetic interference with medical devices before 1993,w56 the Wall Street Journal published a front page article highlighting this danger.w57 Since that time, many hospitals banned the use of mobile phones, perpetuating the belief.
Despite the concerns, there is little evidence. In the United Kingdom, early studies showed that mobile phones interfered with only 4% of devices and only at a distance of <1 meter.="" sup="">w58 w59
Less than 0.1% showed serious effects.w58 At the Mayo Clinic in 2005, in 510 tests performed with 16 medical devices and six mobile telephones, the incidence of clinically important interference was 1.2%.w60 Similarly rigorous testing in Europe found minimal interference and only at distances less than 1 meter.w61 Recent technological improvements may be lessening even this minimal interference. A 2007 study, examining mobile phones “used in a normal way,” found no interference of any kind during 300 tests in 75 treatment rooms.w62 In contrast, a large survey of anaesthesiologists suggested that use of mobile phones by doctors was associated with reduced risk of medical error or injury resulting from delays in communication (relative risk 0.78; 95% confidence interval 0.62 to 0.96).w63


Despite their popularity, all of these medical beliefs range from unproved to untrue. Although this was not a systematic review of either the breadth of medical myths or of all available evidence related to each myth, the search methods produced a large number of references. While some of these myths simply do not have evidence to confirm them, others have been studied and proved wrong.
Physicians would do well to understand the evidence supporting their medical decision making. They should at least recognise when their practice is based on tradition, anecdote, or art. While belief in the described myths is unlikely to cause harm, recommending medical treatment for which there is little evidence certainly can. Speaking from a position of authority, as physicians do, requires constant evaluation of the validity of our knowledge.

Summary points

  • Even physicians sometimes believe medical myths contradicted by scientific evidence
  • The prevalence and endorsement of simple medical myths point to the need to continue to question what other falsehoods physicians endorse
  • Examining why we believe myths and using evidence to dispel false beliefs can move us closer to evidence based practice

Supplementary Material

[extra: Web references]


Rachel C Vreeman, fellow in children’s health services research1 and Aaron E Carroll, assistant professor of paediatrics2

Contributors and sources: RCV and AEC are both health services researchers, whose research focuses on examining health policy and professional practices. They have both studied and reported widely on the most effective ways to improve children’s health. This article arose from discussions of how seldom physicians pause to examine the beliefs that they already hold as true. Both authors were responsible for the study concept and design, acquisition of data, and analysis and interpretation of data. RCV was responsible for the drafting of the manuscript and critical revision and is guarantor.
Funding: None.
Competing interests: None declared.
Ethical approval: Not required.
Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

Another in the cupcake series! ~ Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes

Source:  http://www.thebakingspoon.com/2014/06/starbucks-caramel-frappuccino-cupcakes/

Looking for 'coffee' inspired cupcakes for my ongoing post series, I was SO excited to find this one!  She did an amazing job!!!  So cute!  Unless 'cute' isn't your thing... then let's go with "so cool!".

Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes

Caramel Cupcakes

3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 package of Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of another pack of Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup white sugar
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 large egg whites
11/2 cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, sliced and softened
1/4 teaspoon salt

Caramel Filling

2 standard packs of Kraft Caramels
1/2 cup heavy cream

Homemade Caramel Sauce

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract


15 Starbucks green straws (just visit your local Starbucks shop and ask for some)
Printed templates (found at her website: http://www.thebakingspoon.com/2014/06/starbucks-caramel-frappuccino-cupcakes/  )

For the Caramel Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare cupcake wrappers and a cookie sheet.
Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until hot – stop short of a simmer. Stir in the instant coffee until well blended. Add the vanilla and set aside.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ground coffee and cocoa.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment until creamed. It should be slightly fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

Add 2/3 of the flour mixture and the sour cream. Add the remaining flour mixture and milk. Beat until smooth.
Scrape all the batter out into a separate bowl and wash the mixer bowl thoroughly.

Switch to the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. They will hold a stiff peak but they will still slip around a little in the bowl.
Fold the egg whites into the cake batter gently, folding the batter around until well combined.

Fill cupcake liners with batter and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Combine egg whites and sugar in a stand mixer bowl and place it over (not on) simmering water. Heat mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.

Transfer mixer bowl to stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools, doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks; about 10-12 minutes.

Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled looking at first—this is normal. Keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again.
Add salt and flavoring, mix to combine.

For the Caramel Filling

Unwrap all the Kraft caramel candies. Microwave with the heavy cream in 30 second intervals until melted smoothly.

For the Caramel Drizzle

Cut butter into evenly sized cubes and melt over low heat in large 3-4 quart saucepan.
Once butter is fully melted, add brown sugar, being careful to avoid the sides of the pan. If any stray sugar crystals fall onto side of pan, carefully brush off with a wet pastry brush.
Once butter and sugar are fully combined, add corn syrup and condensed milk. Clip on candy thermometer to side of pan.

Cook mixture on low heat (still continually stirring) for about a minute or two. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook/ stir until mixture reaches 225 degrees. Once the mixture is removed from heat, stir in vanilla extract. Set aside.


Print and cut out the templates. Carefully place around each cupcake wrapper.
Core out all the cupcakes. Insert the caramel filling mixture into each cupcake and place the top back onto the cupcake.

Pipe on the swiss meringue buttercream. Use a star tip to cream foamy effect.
Drizzle on the caramel sauce and pop on a mini green straw (one long straw can be cut into halves).

Related Products available through Amazon;
Dark Green Replacement Acrylic Straw Set of 8, Fits for 16oz, 20oz, 24oz Tumblers
Kraft Caramels Bag, 13 Ounce
Wilton White Standard 75 Baking Cups, Single Pack
Dress My Cupcake DMC1001 Solid Cupcake Wrappers, Emma White, Pack of 48

Another Coffee Inspired Cupcake! Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes.

Source: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/11/24/peppermint-mocha-cupcakes/

This coffee inspired cupcake theme is turning out to be a bad idea... I'm not normally a sweets kind of girl, but these cupcakes look so yummy!!   This one I think is a great idea for a Christmas time dessert but I like peppermint any time of year! 

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

1/2 c unsalted butter
2 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 T instant coffee*
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
3/4 c  flour
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c  light brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t peppermint extract
1/2 c buttermilk

Peppermint Vanilla Frosting

1 c unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3-4 c confectioners' sugar
1/4 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t peppermint extract
dash of salt

Cupcake Decor

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
crushed candy canes

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until combined, then mix in the instant coffee. Set aside to slightly cool.

In a medium bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.

Divide the batter between 12 liners in your cupcake pan. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes (the longer you beat, the creamier the frosting). Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if frosting is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon).

Decorate the cupcakes: Frost cooled cupcakes. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Top with crushed candy canes right before serving.

Idea: Coffee Themed Halloween Costumes!

As the calendar turned over to October this week, I started to think about Halloween and what my youngest daughter might be this year.  She isn't a 'little' anymore and is off at school, but she has a great creative mind and I love to see what she comes up with.  That got me thinking about costumes in general and I suddenly thought;  "What about a COFFEE costume!?"   And sure enough, there are hundreds out there on the net to search, get ideas from and brainstorm over. 

I chose 3 at random above from pinterest searches (the photos should link you there).  Most people make their costumes from scratch using all sorts of different items depending on their creativity, their budgets and what exact coffee-themed item they were dressing as (or dressing their kids as, which seemed to be the case most of the time).

A very popular idea is a "Starbucks" themed drink of some sort - which of course you have to make yourself as it's a copyrighted brand.    But I decided to look on Amazon for ready-made costumes - they do sell Starbucks logos to sew on your own fabric, dresses or aprons and they even have costumes for dogs.  If you want to be a coffee bean or a non-brand name coffee there were a couple options - just no branded logos.

Related products available from Amazon;

Adult Waving Coffee Cup Mascot Costume
Iced Coffee Pet Costume, Medium
Brown Big Coffee Cup Costume With A Logo And No Face
Coffee Bean Mascot Costume
Apron Bib Spun Poly Cotton Kitchen Aprons (2 Pockets) in Dark Green