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If you drink coffee...

And you like to add "stuff" to it, keep reading. (However, if, like my dad, you take it black, most of this post will be meaningless to you--except possibly the tip on Vietnamese cinnamon.)

I used to be die-hard in my coffee drinking ways. Anything but Peet's was a compromise, and I always ordered the same thing, a large "split." I would then carefully add about a teaspoon of half & half (just enough to very slightly lighten the color) along with 1 splenda. If Peet's wasn't convenient and I had to settle for another purveyor, I'd opt for a four shot Americano and would dress it up the same way. I found that an Americano had a better chance of tasting good than any drip being served. In fact, our local Diedrich's (prior to it being gobbled up by Sbux) used to produce a fabulous Americano. It rivaled Peet's.

Anyway, over the last year I've become significantly less fussy and much more foofie in my coffee tastes. I think that having a child is the reason. Special trips to Peet's just don't happen. So over time, my high maintenance coffee habit has been undone by my need for convenience. Buying coffee beans at Trader Joe's or wherever I happen to be when I realize I'm running low, is my new reality. And I've adjusted. More than adjusted, I now have a new favorite that I can make at home and I prefer it.

It took about 2 to 3 months of experimenting to find the perfect concoction. I still like my coffee very strong, but I now like it quite sweet. So now it's a compromise when I don't make my own! And the key to my newfound java joy? A milk frother.

If you like foam atop your brew, and you don't already own one of these handy gizmos, get one NOW. Seriously, this is about the best, most satisfying and useful product purchase I have made in years. I was so excited about how this tool took my hot beverage to a whole new level, that I ordered one for my best coffee drinking buddy, who just emailed me with a subject line reading "I LOVE my frother." I'm guessing any frother will do the trick. I chose the aerolatte version and purchased it on Amazon. It's under $20, so to get the free shipping you'll need to add to your order. And, while it does come with batteries, they died pretty quickly. In fact, about the only criticism I have of this frother is that I've had to replace the 2 AA batteries somewhat frequently. You'll know you need fresh power once your froth loses its ooomph!

And the device is small enough to take with you...I travel with mine! Bring it to work, on a business trip and/or wherever. You can quickly turn an okay cup of coffee into something above average.

So, here's my recipe for coffee bliss: brew 1/2 regular coffee mixed with 1/2 flavored coffee (My recent top pick is vanilla hazelnut from Sisters Coffee Company.) I use a Capresso CoffeeTec machine. It actually has a milk steamer attached to it. While the company advertises that it produces cappuccino worthy froth, it doesn't. It does, however, produce very hot milk fast, and the stainless steel carafe keeps the coffee very hot. (This is my second Capresso machine. I've had a few problems with the new one, but the company's customer service is outstanding.)

I sweeten my 20 oz cup of coffee with a splenda, a splash of coffeemate french vanilla and even sometimes a splash of sugar free hazelnut syrup. I then use my frother to create amazingly thick foam. Just microwave a little non-fat milk and froth away. Add the froth to your coffee and sprinkle with Vietnamese cinnamon. It's pure heaven.

Vietnamese cinnamon you ask? Yes, it's the best. It's stronger and sweeter. Delicious. I was never a "sprinkler" before. No cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla etc. Nada. But, then, at the urging of my friend Carolyn, I tried Vietnamese cinnamon. Wow. I was converted after one taste. After googling "Vietnamese Cinnamon", I discovered that others share the love. I'm not surprised.

So even if you don't drink coffee, consider testing out this type of cinnamon in any recipe. (You can find it at Whole Foods.) And while all of this may seem like a lot of drama for a cup of coffee, it's actually very easy and worth it. And since I typically savor about 40 oz daily, I want it to be extra special.

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