Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Writer. Communications assistant. Coffee drinker.

Kat’s Coffee Blog: Blue State’s Espresso Fizz

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. 

If you have worked as someone’s assistant for over a decade, you get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. Coffee. TV shows. iPhone apps. Odds are that ten years in, your suggestions to each other are going to be some of the most well-founded you will get in your life.

When I returned to my full-time job recently after my maternity leave, one of the very first things the Dean said to me was, “Kat, you have to go try the espresso fizz at Blue State.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s shots of espresso in seltzer water,” the Dean explained while we sat next to our office’s two coffee makers. (We don’t play around. We used to have a swanky espresso maker too, but it disappeared during my maternity leave and I am scared to ask what happened to it.)

He saw me somewhat scrunch my nose at the description. “Trust me. I’ve been drinking them all summer. It’s good.”

So I made my way to Boston University’s West Campus before a meeting and stopped by Blue State Coffee. Blue State is a small New England chain of coffee shops that makes strong coffee and supports many community organizations. They pride themselves on the craft of creating their drinks. Your espresso drink is going to take a few seconds more than most shops, but it is worth the wait. (Just know that when you plan on going before a meeting.)

I ordered a small espresso fizz with a shot of their house made vanilla syrup, and drank it straight up (no milk or cream.)  The barista poured a shot of vanilla syrup and seltzer into a cup filled with ice, and floated what looked to be about one and a half shots of espresso on top.

Not going to lie – I was a tad scared to take my first sip. But I then remembered who sent me this way.

All of the Dean’s buzz was correct. It was light and refreshing, especially as every sip pulled the drink’s layers of seltzer, vanilla and espresso. The homemade vanilla shot really elevates the drink to “all time great” status. There is a sophisticated sweetness to it that makes it a drink to savor.

I was sad that I only ordered a small. I’ve already looked at my schedule to see when I have another meeting up near Blue State so I can enjoy another.

The Dean was right, per usual. Why wouldn’t it be? You never want your assistant to be under-caffeinated.

Review: Five cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

How To Watch the Olympics When Your Time Is Limited

Let's TalkOlympicsWhen I watched the Olympics as a kid, I dreamed of being able to see every event I wanted, when I wanted. I learned to use my parents’ VCR just so I could tape the 1992 Winter Games and watch them over and over again. In the 1990s, that was the closest I could get to having the Olympics on demand.

Well, 10 year old me, guess what? We have Olympics on demand now, and it is spectacular.

For the last week, I’ve been taking advantage of all of the on-demand and replay options that these Olympics have had to offer. Between returning to my full-time job and having a 10 week old, I don’t get to see much live or even during NBC’s prime-time coverage. Comcast, my cable provider, boasts of offering 6,800 hours of coverage on the docket from Rio, and I’ve been playing catch-up and making the most of my limited Olympic-watching moments with a few of their key features.

Comcast’s Marc Goodman reached out to me before the games and pointed out a few of the features that I’ve been making the most of. On Saturday, I finally got to check out the Gold Zone, a NFL Red Zone-style option. You get to watch four sports at one time. It’s Olympic multitasking. It’s not just focused on U.S. teams and athletes, which means you get a good mix of all of the obscure events any Olympics have to offer.

Gold Zone

Also, it took me until Day 10 of the Games, but I finally found the hidden secret of the Olympics: the live track and field call room feed. I speak “Olympics” into the remote, and I get a list of every Olympic event currently on live on a network. Then I scroll down one level of the menu, and I can watch any event that’s streaming on NBCOlympics.com, including the track and field call room feed. It’s people walking on a small strip of track and getting psyched up for their races. It’s silent, but strangely captivating. It’s Olympic watching meditation.

track and field cam

And in what could possibly be the most important Comcast Olympics feature: all the Olympics and Olympic Trials coverage is available on demand until October 1st. That still may not be long enough to get through everything I want to watch, but I’ll be able to come close. The only bummer: I wish the men’s gymnastics Olympic Trials replays were the entire broadcast, instead of individual routines of just guys who made the team. If the USOC can’t allow the Trials to be livestreamed on YouTube like most USA Gymnastics events, I would love to see them give a similar level of coverage on the platforms they do have agreements with. But it is still better than what we used to have when I was a kid.

Though NBC has lagged in some of its coverage (especially in gymnastics,) being able to watch on demand both on the computer and TV has been a game-changer for me. For an Olympics-junkie like myself, it has been super helpful.

Kat’s Coffee Blog: The Switzerland of Cold Brew

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. Plus, it should force me to write more. 

Cold brew is one of the easiest coffee styles to brew at home, yet none of us seemingly want to do so. Maybe it is our collective impatience. Maybe it is because we don’t have enough room in our fridges (in my defense, my infant son’s formula is currently taking up a lot of space.)

It’s okay that you haven’t started cold brewing at home, because many shops have cold brew to their menus. Dunkin’ Donuts became the latest to do so this week. Like any good Dunkin’ Devotee, I had to try it on day two of its “official” release. (Some shops had it last week.)

Dunkin' Donuts released a SnapChat geofilter to commemorate the release of its cold brew offering. (Photo: Kat Cornetta.)

Dunkin’s cold brew is the Switzerland of the genre – neutral and nice. You’ll visit there for the bank accounts and beautiful winter, and it isn’t going to offend anyone in the process. That is my sleep-deprived way of saying it doesn’t have the strong notes of most coffeehouse or home cold brews, but still has just enough kick for you to tell the difference. It is smooth, but dials down cold brew’s usual strength of coffee flavor two notches.

It is a cold brew for the regular Dunkin’ customer, who typically likes their iced coffee with a flavor shot and “extra-extra*,” but desires to be adventurous on a late summer day.

When I want a stronger iced coffee and am out running errands in my suburban neighborhood, Dunkin’s cold brew will become my must-order.

Review: Three cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️

* “Extra-extra” is New England slang for extra cream and extra sugar. Coffee ordered this way is closer to an ivory color than the typical brown of coffee. If you order your coffee “extra-extra,” you are asking for cream with some coffee added. I do not judge others for their coffee orders, and believe there is a time and a place in everyone’s life where they may need to order coffee “extra-extra.” Do not feel shame for doing so. We need all types to make the world go round.

Posting a URL on Facebook: take advantage of the preview

So you want to post a link on your company or organization’s Facebook page. Did you know that you don’t have to include the long URL in the body of your post? Thanks to Facebook’s preview functions, there is no need to keep that ugly looking URL (even if it is a shortened link) in the text of your post. Plus, you can customize that preview to make it much more attractive to your audience.

A few months ago, I made a quick two minute YouTube video showing how I always make sure to delete the link, and then use Facebook’s options to customize the post’s preview. Take a look. If you aren’t in a spot to watch a video at the moment, some tips follow below:

Kat’s Facebook Page Post Tips

First off, just delete the link in the body of your text. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and it just looks repetitive. Some reason that the need to keep the link or at least a shortened version to ensure they are getting the tracking information from that link. Even if it is a shortened URL, keeping that link is not worth the awkwardness of how that link looks in the post. If you are using that shortened URL to create the Facebook post, you should still get the insights. Or, you can make the most of your Page Insights to see how much engagement (aka, people going to the link from your post) your post is getting.

Here is an example of the Facebook link insights on a page I manage. It gives me my Facebook specific clicks.

Here is an example of the Facebook link insights on a page I manage. It gives me my Facebook specific clicks.

Customize the image that appears in the link. (I reference this as “a topic for another day” in my video. I will eventually make a separate video about this, but until then, I’ll explain it in text.) Unless you are showing a gallery of items, you don’t need to use the gallery option for images, which Facebook seemingly defaults to if you have multiple images on the page. Just click on each image to delete each one from your preview.

You don't need to use Facebook's gallery option if you aren't showcasing a variety of items.

You don’t need to use Facebook’s gallery option if you aren’t showcasing a variety of items.

You can also choose an image separate from the ones Facebook automatically pulls from the link. I like to use a service like Canva or (if I am feeling especially creative) Adobe Illustrator to create an image that fits Facebook’s ideal image dimensions (940×788 pixels.) You then upload it via the dashed box with the plus sign you see at the bottom of your link preview. That keeps your image from being cutoff awkwardly.

Take time to customize the preview of your link. I think this is especially important if you are a news source or blog sharing your links on Facebook. The Facebook link preview will just post the first few lines of your post cut off at a random point. It will also include information like the date. You don’t really need any of that in your preview. Plus, instead of giving your reader the first lines of the post that you want them to visit, why not tailor that preview to a summary that will pique their interest?

Edit your post's preview to eliminate unneeded words and entice your readers.

Edit your post’s preview to eliminate unneeded words and entice your readers.

Facebook is so mainstream that users now have high expectations of how a professional organization or business will use the service. I think making sure your posts are neat and not repetitive will lend your Facebook page further credibility, and eliminating the URL and customizing preview options will give your page that leg up.

The PUPPS plan

I promise not to make this into a mommy blog. However, it is difficult to resist because there are some things I have experienced thus far that I found little to nothing about online. It is also hard to resist because I come from the “write about what you know” school of thought. I’ll always lean toward writing about subjects that motivate me. So while I promise I will still write about sports, social media and coffee, some parenting stuff will undoubtedly sneak in now and then.

With five weeks to go before my son’s due date, I started running into problems. One is a condition called PUPPS, and it impacts a very small amount of pregnant women. (I hit the jackpot!) Without going into detail, it feels like having a very severe case of the chicken pox and looks like you have some skin disease from an apocalyptic movie. (Google it if you want an actual description – I don’t want anyone to recoil away by reading the details here.)

The only cure for PUPPS? Having your child. Given that it is not harmful to the baby, you are left to suffer through it. You can’t sleep, you feel constantly itchy and you have to cover up when you go out, fearing that people will think you have some horribly contagious disease.

Not only did I suffer for a few weeks with my doctors not recognizing what was happening, but they had little to no solutions for me when I was ultimately diagnosed. Most doctors and midwives just shrug and tell you to take some Benedryl. I resorted to searching online for anything that would help. I was nervous about taking Benedryl while pregnant, so I tried to find any means to avoid that.

Important note: Even though doctors seemingly have little to offer when it comes to treating PUPPS, make sure you are checked out by your doctor ASAP anyway. There is a serious pregnancy complication that shares some of the symptoms called Cholestasis of Pregnancy, and it can be deadly. They can test for that with a blood test (I had it done, and it’s just your normal blood draw.) Make sure they test to make sure your chicken pox style itch isn’t that.

Some of the items that got me through PUPPS.Through trial and error, I found a course of mildly-effective treatment that allowed me to sleep for a few hours and let me leave the house without looking awful. I am not saying this will work for everyone and am not a medical professional. This is what worked for me, and hopefully, the below will prove somewhat effective for you following a PUPPS diagnosis.

    • Stop using anything with cocoa butter. When I started coming down with PUPPS, a nurse told me that it was just “stretch marks” all over my body and that cocoa butter was the only way to go. I stocked up on a thick cocoa butter lotion for stretch marks and a cocoa butter spray. Guess what? Cocoa butter makes this condition worse. So stop smelling like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and halt use of that stuff immediately. (But don’t throw out the spray if you have it. I’ll get to that later.)
    • Oatmeal is your best friend. Oatmeal baths worked wonders for me. While you can buy Aveeno Oatmeal Bath packets at Amazon and some drugstores, the most useful baths utilized ½ cup of oats powdered in a blender and placed into a sachet made of two layers of paper towels and twine. I dropped the full sachet in cool bath water and it proved much more effective, and cleaner, than the store-bought packets. I also only used oatmeal bar soap whenever I took a shower or washed my hands. The oatmeal soothed the irritation and reduced the itch.
    • Pine tar soap is not the end all, be all. When you search PUPPS remedies online, many people swear by using pine tar soap as a treatment. I tried it and it made my skin burn. Plus my husband said it made me smell like David Ortiz’s baseball bat. (But he’s on a retirement season hot streak, so maybe that is a good thing?) Pine tar soap didn’t work for me, and while it seems to have helped enough people to make it worth a shot, it isn’t always effective.
    • Ice, ice baby. Ice packs were also one of the only means of relief I could get on my legs and hands. Luckily, my lifelong streak of knee injuries meant that I have a rotation of eight (no lie) ice packs in my freezer at all times.
    • Sparingly use the strong stuff. When things got awful, I used 1/2% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream. However, I only used it on selected spots and made sure I didn’t use it on more than one limb at a time. For example, if my right hand was the worst at that moment and I needed to be able to type for work, I would apply the cream there and wait a few hours before using it anywhere else.
    • Venture outside. At first, I wanted to remain inside because I looked awful, but my husband recommended getting outside for just a bit (for my psyche more than anything else). Wouldn’t you know – the fresh air and sun (not direct sunlight, but just the warmth) made me feel 100% better.
    • Treat the dryness. After four or five days of this regime, my PUPPS calmed down and I stopped looking like patient zero. However, my skin was dry from the condition and all of the treatments. At that point, I moved on to a Soothing Oatmeal Cream (I used Walmart’s oatmeal cream, which is a generic brand of Eucerin’s.) I also reincorporated the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Soothing Oil Spray, but not anything else cocoa butter.

PUPPS tries your patience, which is the last thing one needs when they are massively pregnant. (Trust me, not much brings me to tears – this did multiple times). You have to figure out a treatment plan that works for you, and trial and error is the only way to do so.

(Disclosure: The links above are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase from them, I do get credit.)

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