Still Alone… Day 9

Still Alone… Day 9

I was born into a family of writers, but a writer I am not. So trying to blog, participate in the NaMaBlo, is difficult. It is frustrating because I have all sorts of thoughts bouncing around in my head, but when I sit down to write, I can’t think of anything.

Forcing me to put thoughts (on paper? Can I use that expression anymore?) forces me to expose the lack of depth of my ideas.

Well, I’m off to work, but maybe I’ll try to write more when I get home. If I remember. That’s another reason I’m not such a good writer. I don’t have that burning urge to communicate. But I wanted to get something posted because I know I have to write a lot to maybe force the writer within to come out. After all, it’s in the genes.

Day 5 of 15, Alone for the First Time in 30 years

Day 5 of 15, Alone for the First Time in 30 years

Boy, was that a good weekend. Did I already say that? What was the icing on the cupcake is that it was Daylight Savings Time. (Or was it the end of DST?) Fall backward and get an extra hour goes a long way.

I was feeling pretty good last night after having a restful weekend and feeling a bit productive on Sunday with some chores and odds and ends I caught up on. Went to sleep early to keep my cough under control, but this morning was cold and I slept in until 6:15! I’m almost walking out the door at that time, so it wasn’t a good way to start the day.

Work was work. I like the people, but there are other issues I’m having a hard time managing. I won’t go into detail here, but if someone from the workplace were to read this, it wouldn’t come as a surprise so I’m not worried about writing that. There are just things that have to be worked through so it can be a fun job.

It was getting dark when I left work at 5 and it was dark by the time I got home 50 minutes later. The animals were happy to see me. Dog spit up. There’s always some body fluids to clean up around here from the pets.

Right now it’s still a novelty to come home and eat whatever I want, not have to talk with anyone, watch anything I want (I normally control the TV anyways, but there are sometimes snide comments), and just hang. By myself. It’s Day 5 of All About Me. Will it get old?

Day 4 of 15, Alone for the Very First Time (well in about 30 years)

Day 4 of 15, Alone for the Very First Time (well in about 30 years)

Sunday I woke up feeling good. The cough from the cold I got about a month ago was not as heavy in my chest. It must have been that Xanax I took to sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep really, really helps me with colds. Who would have thunk that those health nuts were right?

I had a very pleasant weekend overall. I don’t ever want my family to think I don’t care or want to be around them. But there’s such a sense of freedom to do what I want, when I want, with nobody asking anything of me. I know it sounds very self-centered, and it is, but the reason I’m enjoying it so much is because I know it isn’t permanent. It’s a staycation for one. Me. Myself. And I.


Days 1 thru 3 of Being Alone

Days 1 thru 3 of Being Alone

I’m on Day 3 out of 15 of being alone for the first time in almost 30 years. I think there’s been the random night once or twice, but this is different.

My husband, Mark, is traveling with our son in Peru for a couple of weeks. So far, I’m digging it. And I bet most people who are reading this are a bit envious. For whenever I tell someone, usually a woman, that it’s just me, myself, and I for two weeks, they get this look in their eyes that tell me they are fantasizing about the experience. I may be wrong, but I think women crave being alone more than men.

When I came home for Day 1, it felt a little weird. What was I going to do? Turns out, I didn’t do anything. Fed the animals, ate some leftovers, watched TV and went to bed. It was boring and I thought about whether or not I was going to waste my great opportunity and just watch TV for two weeks.

Day 2 – It was Halloween so I made sure to get out of work on time because it was going to be an hour and 15 minutes to get home on a big night like that. Came home to feed the dog and then right back out to meet friends for a glass of wine at a new place. This is a couple that we normally see as a couple, but it was perfectly fine being on my own. When I came home, I went to my neighbor’s house to visit. They had a total of three trick-or-treater groups knock on their door. It was a rainy evening. I didn’t miss much.

Day 3 – A Saturday! Showered, paid bills and watched two movies by noon! That was a productive morning in my situation. Took the dog on a long walk for about an hour and then came back to watch more movies while I worked on a new website. I really enjoy those stupid Hallmark movies and even have an idea for one that I would love to develop. Wish I had talent.

I just returned from going back to my neighbor’s where we caught up a bit on some TV viewing. We started watching Sunday night shows back when Desperate Housewives was on. Now we watch Once Upon a Time and The Good Wife. And maybe a Shark Tank here and there. It’s always a good time to catch up on what’s happened during the week, watch TV and do a little gossiping.

I’m not sure I’ll get everything I want to do done tomorrow. I will have to leave the house to do a little shopping and visit a friend who is moving into a new condo. What’s scary to me is how much I don’t want to leave the house. I picture myself growing old and never going out or even showering. I’ll wear sweats all day, or anything with elastic, and will go out once a week to replenish my wine, cheese and prepared meals. I know what I’m capable of and it’s not pretty.


Ebola Madness

Ebola Madness

Ebola is a scary disease, and it’s a shame that most Americans watched silently while the epidemic hurtled out of control in a few countries in West Africa… and didn’t begin to pay attention until poor Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed in Dallas — after initially getting sent home from the ER at Texas Health Presbyterian.

I’m not surprised that the folks at Texas Health did not understand the significance of Duncan’s announcement that he had recently arrived from Liberia, because — as I said, we Americans weren’t paying all that much attention to the raging epidemic so far away.

But now that Americans are being diagnosed here in America, we’re not only paying attention – we’re obsessed. And that’s not such a good thing, either.

Thanks to breathless media coverage and politicians who have seized on the disease to spread fear and misinformation, the entire country is in a panic, calling for closing borders and mandatory quarantines for anyone and everyone who enters the US from one of the affected countries. Last week, a friend posted on social media that a medical professional had refused to see her because she had recently visited Ethiopia (which is 3400 miles from the countries with the epidemic).

And on Facebook this morning, I was dismayed to see a discussion among acquaintances about how “selfish” nurse Kaci Hickox is for protesting her quarantine after her working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone.

Selfish? A medical professional who has spent years in nursing people in underdeveloped countries under difficult conditions … is selfish?

If she’s selfish, what does that make the rest of us?

Science has had decades to study Ebola. We know that even if someone is infected, the disease cannot be spread until there are symptoms – and even then, you would have to have contact with the person’s body or bodily fluids. You are not going to catch Ebola by breathing the same air. You are not going to catch Ebola by sitting next to someone on a train or touching something that person has touched (unless he put it in his mouth first). Dr. Craig Spencer, the New York patient who was hospitalized last week, knew the protocols established over years of experience by Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Spencer followed them and reported to health authorities as soon as he started exhibiting symptoms.

The nation’s Ebola panic truly began when nurses Pham and Vinson contracted the disease after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan. But what of the other 70 or so people who came in contact with Duncan before he was finally admitted to the hospital? No one else in Dallas has been stricken with Ebola — not even the family members who were confined to a small apartment that likely contained linens and towels he had used while suffering from the virus. That’s a pretty good indication that the experts are right: the majority of us are in graver danger of dying from the flu.

There have been missteps in our response to Ebola, but I think this is understandable when dealing with something new. The CDC has been quick to correct their course: They did not have sufficient guidelines in place when they allowed nurse Amber Vinson (one of the two stricken nurses who treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian) to travel on a commercial airline. That won’t happen again. But they also likely prevented further infections in Dallas by moving Vinson and Nina Pham from Dallas Presbyterian to special facilities at the NIH and Emory University Hospital. Both women have recovered and have been released.

Quarantines are a necessary means of keeping the disease from spreading — but I believe that imposing them indiscriminately upon everyone who returns from West Africa is overreach. Exiling Kaci Hickox by to a tent without heat or a toilet is a terrible way to reward her for her service. Hickox was right to get on to social media and expose her mistreatment at the hands of the state of New Jersey. And as she has been tested and is definitely NOT INFECTED with Ebola, she’s equally right to protest the quarantine imposed in Maine, where she currently resides.

If New Jersey and New York are determined to quarantine health workers returning from West Africa, let’s do it right. I say we give them a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria and pamper them during their confinement. Instead of a quarantine, let’s give them a vacation – reward them for their sacrifices instead of treating them like pariahs.

Today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a 21-day quarantine for troops returning from West Africa. Let’s put them up in a suite, too and show them some real appreciation for a change.

At the very least, we should have a reasoned discussion about this before imposing quarantines willy nilly on everyone who might be exposed. And those discussions should be based on science – not fear.

Unfortunately, what we’ve had has been chock full of the latter. It makes me wonder whether we live in the 20th century – or the 14th.


Might-See TV

Might-See TV

I was born in the mid-1950’s, at the height of the baby boom. I have vivid memories of watching Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet in glorious black and white. My sister will confirm that as a child, I lived for the Fall Premiere issue of TV Guide, which I devoured and memorized and selected all the great shows I wanted to watch.

I loved television so much that I decided I wanted to work in production, and majored in it in college. I used to cut out early in the afternoons to catch reruns of Mary Tyler Moore and was only half-joking when I told people it was for research. And for a while, I pursued that dream, culminating in a behind-the-scenes job at The Tonight Show, as well as writing and selling a couple of sitcom scripts.

Of course, that was another lifetime ago. Why I left the wonderful realm of television production and entered the real world of working people is fodder for another post. The point I’m trying to make is that for a very long time, television was my LIFE. And I never got over the anticipation of the joys of a new season, sampling as many new series as I can and making the hard decisions when the networks would inevitably schedule three really good shows right against each other. Of course, those dilemmas did not last long, as the programs I fall in love with tend to die in the ratings.

Which brings us to the Fall 2014 season. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m finally growing up, but I’m finding very few shows that I care enough to DVR for an entire season. And that’s a problem, because I’ve been at home recovering from surgery — which means this is the first time in years when I’ve had the time to watch a lot of TV. As it turns out: it’s not so easy.

I have tried, but cannot get excited about all the series this year that are based on comic books. I love the look of Gotham, but that’s about it. The show is very well done, but there’s something missing. I don’t really care about the characters. They’re just … boring. Even the villains like baby Penguin Oswald Cobblepot and crime boss Fish Mooney just make me yawn. Needless to say, I haven’t even bothered to peek at all the other comic book series currently airing on the networks: The Flash, Arrow and Agent Carter.

I will say that I am still watching last year’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and feel it got a lot better as the series progressed, so I’m giving Gotham a little more time. I just wish the characters were a bit more fun to watch, like the ones on Sleepy Hollow. I tend to avoid horror-type shows, but Sleepy’s over-the-top scripting and sense of humor hooked me last year. It’s like Scandal, only with the Founding Fathers and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

I have to laugh every time CBS touts Scorpion, its series about a bunch of crime-fighting geniuses as a huge hit. The show is overwhelmingly stupid and I will be surprised if it lasts an entire season. And I won’t even go near Stalker, thanks to all its fear-mongering promos. Between breathless reporting on ebola, terrorism and crime, I get enough paranoia on the local news. I don’t need it in my entertainment programming.

Maybe my ennui is rooted in the long, long, network roll-out this year – from early September for a few Fox shows into late October or even November on the other networks. NBC waited until Tuesday to debut its highly touted romantic comedy Marry Me. Thanks to the CBS decision to air Thursday night football, some of their new sitcoms and returning Thursday series won’t begin for another couple of weeks.

By the way: The Marry Me pilot was worth the wait. Funny and unexpected, with lots of energy. Casey Wilson and Ken Marino are adorable as the engaged, 30-something couple. If they keep it up, it will be the best of the three rom-coms on this Fall’s schedules (the other two being A to Z and Manhattan Love Story). I like rom-coms. They’re one of my many guilty pleasures. I’m watching all three, even if I end up hating myself for it.

Other shows I’ve been sampling this year:

Madam Secretary – Not as good as The Good Wife, but good enough.

Jane the Virgin – AWESOME pilot. Crazy concept, but they made it work. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is a virgin who is artificially inseminated by accident and lives a real-life telenovela. It’s funny and charming and magical. I can’t wait for the second episode.

Selfie – This show, based on Pygmalion and anchored in the world of social media, is growing on me. I didn’t care for the way they characterized Karen Gillan’s Instagram-obsessed Eliza, but I actually LOL’d a couple of times watching the second episode, where John Cho’s analog Henry Higgins character gets hooked on Facebook. I was a fan of producer Emily Kapnek’s last series, Suburgatory, so I’m willing to trust her and continue to watch for a while.

Black-ish – This reminds me a lot of the Bernie Mac show, which I adored when it aired years ago. Not surprisingly, both were co-created by Larry Wilmore (who will be replacing Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central soon). ABC was smart to program it on the same night as Modern Family, The Middle and The Goldbergs – it fits right in. And like those other shows, it boasts a capable cast – from the parents (played by Anthony Andrews and the wonderful Tracey Ellis Ross) right on down to the kids (Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown and Marsai Martin).

The Mysteries of Laura – The tone of this cop show reminds me a lot of Castle. It’s not going to win any awards, but Debra Messing and Josh Lucas are engaging performers.

Red Band Society – I did not expect to like this series set in a pediatric hospital ward, and it felt ironic to begin watching it following my recent surgery. I was pleasantly surprised by its heart and its winning cast (I would follow Octavia Spencer anywhere). The plots are outrageous (they let teens who need organ transplants out of the hospital whenever they want? And admit an undocumented teenage cancer victim for treatment without parental consent or insurance?), but once you suspend your disbelief (and get reeled in by the sweetness of the cast), it’s an entertaining hour.

How to Get Away with Murder – This is the one everyone’s watching, thanks to the Shonda Rhimes connection — and so am I. But I’m not yet at a point where I’m lovin’ it. But Scandal took me some time to warm up with, too.

It bothers me that the networks have nearly given up on programming anything on Friday or Saturday nights, preferring to air repeats of shows they run earlier in the week. It saves them a ton of money, I’m sure – but the result is fewer opportunities to take chances on something quirky or original. I understand that viewership is down, but I am also old enough to remember when Saturday night was THE highlight of the CBS schedule, with Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett generating huge ratings from every demographic (because these were the days when families sat down to watch TV together).

That’s why I’m so grateful for streaming services like Netflix. Last Saturday, I binge-watched something called The Peaky Blinders, which is a British gangster series set in the era right after World War I (kind of a UK Boardwalk Empire). All I can say is: WOW. And that I’m sorry for the lag between when it airs in the UK and when we finally get it here (the second series is running on the BBC now and it will likely be another year before I get to find out what happens next). I recommend it highly.

And ask you: What should I view THIS weekend?

Don’t Say It’s Ovary

Don’t Say It’s Ovary

Sorry about the title of this post, which was meant to update you on last week’s total hysterectomy, when doctors removed my uterus, cervix and yes, both ovaries. I cannot resist a bad pun centered around a movie or song title, so it’s a good thing the whole ordeal is over or you may have been subjected to a flurry of posts with titles like “Come on Ovary,” or “Ovary the Rainbow.”

The surgery went well. I don’t remember a thing from the time the anesthesiologist shook my hand until I awoke in recovery, with my doctor smiling and giving me a thumbs up: No cancer.

We did not think the growths on my uterus and ovaries were anything but benign fibroids, but it’s good to have that confirmed.

The next morning, my doctor had told me a little more: “Your uterus was the size of a small turkey,” she said. She actually had photos of the surgery, which she whipped out proudly, the way I used to show off my daughter’s baby pictures. They’re pretty gruesome fascinating. She said she’d get me a copy after she’d finished scanning them and adding them to my file. I may use one for my Facebook cover photo.

I ended up spending two nights in the hospital. I have to say: the nurses are heroes. They took good care of me, even though I was cranky from the pain and the painkillers. That said, I’ll be very happy if I never have to experience surgery or recovery again.

But that’s not likely, is it? I’m pushing 60 and my life is bound to follow the same pattern I watched as my grandparents and parents aged. My days of unflagging good health are coming to an end. Maybe not next year or in five years – but I’m pretty sure there will be at least another issue in the next decade that will require some hospitalization. And I’ll probably be just as big a baby about it as I was about this one.

In the meantime, the recovery from this hysterectomy is going a lot smoother than I expected. Before going in, I kept comparing it to the c-section I had 18 years ago, and there were a lot of similarities. But one week after the c-section, I was more or less bedridden… while today, I am sitting at my desk and writing this post without the benefit of painkillers.

The ease of the physical recovery is a little bit misleading. I have been warned not to resume my usual routine too quickly, not to push myself into doing anything strenuous like housework. Um, I’m okay with that. Besides, I don’t have a lot of energy. My husband, who has been amazed at how easily I’m moving around right now is just as amazed that I’m not bored yet with basically just laying around and watching television.

This is where members of my family will shout, “Do you even know Donna?” Laying around and watching television is what I do best. And that’s what I’ll continue to do — for the next week, at least.

Over and Ovary

Over and Ovary

I am having a hysterectomy tomorrow and I’m not feeling good.

Physically, I’m fine. I am not in any pain, and ever since I entered menopause, I’ve barely thought about the uterine fibroids that plagued my life with heavy periods and dangerous anemia. They were supposed to shrink after my periods stopped, and most of them did.

But a few have continued to grow, and that concerns my OB/GYN very much.

I’ve taken a couple of blood tests to ferret out signs of cancer, and both came up clear. I’ve visited a City of Hope oncologist (at the direction of my OB/GYN), whose first reaction upon looking at my scans was, “Why are you even here?” He thinks the growths are benign. BUT…

“You don’t want to be sorry you didn’t take it out when you had the chance.”

He didn’t spell out what he meant by that, but of course I knew.  I was in the freaking City of Hope offices, waiting along with patients who really did need his expertise. Cancer is something I don’t want to think about — but once the possibility has been raised, it’s like a scab you can’t stop picking at. I can’t help it.

I have amazing, strong, wonderful friends who have faced life-threatening illnesses with grace and courage.

No one will ever say that about me.

I’m pretty sure I DON’T have cancer and my reaction to the news that I would need this surgery was something akin to Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief: I’ve tried lots of denial, anger and bargaining — and have been pretty depressed. But instead of finishing up with acceptance, I think I’ve rolled back over to denial, anger and bargaining.


I’m afraid.

I don’t like doctors. I don’t like hospitals. And although it seems counter-intuitive, I find it easier to face tomorrow’s events without knowing too many of the details, because if I know all the things that could go wrong, that’s what I’m going to be thinking about.

That’s why when folks offer me advice and links to articles I should read, thank them and turn away.

“Lots of people have this procedure. For your doctors, it’s routine,” my family says.

“You’ll be happy when it’s all over,” say friends who have already been through this procedure. I believe them.

I remind myself that I don’t actually need my uterus and ovaries any longer, that it will be a relief to put an end to monitoring their growth with uncomfortable ultrasounds every six months, that once these organs are out of my body, my doctor will be able to prescribe hormones to deal with my hot flashes — and wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Originally, the surgery was going to be laparascopic with the use of robotics — but the oncologist put the kibosh on that. Some of the growths have calcified and they are really kind of huge. So it may turn into something more akin to a C-section.

I’ve been through a C-section. I can handle a C-section.

Except that time I had a C-section, I got to come home with a beautiful baby, which made it a lot easier to deal with the pain and recovery. I find it ironic that this is happening just a couple of weeks after that child has left home for college. This time, all I get is the removal of a lumpy, misshapen uterus and ovaries that may or may not have something growing on them.

My doctor called me this morning to remind me of all the things I need to do before I show up at the hospital tomorrow.

A good friend took me to a nice lunch today, which was essentially the last solid food I’ll eat until tomorrow night. I’m grateful.

And afraid.

Many (not just two) Drinks Away

Many (not just two) Drinks Away

Over the fourth of July weekend, Donna and family came up, as well as my brother-in-law and his wife. The in-laws arrived Thursday and left Monday morning after I went to work. There were a lot of wine drinkers in the room… for days. Some champagne, too.

When I went to work Monday morning, I can’t say that I was hungover, as I didn’t have a headache nor was I dehydrated. But I think along with the anemia problems I have, I had a very difficult time focusing all day. I was very tired and my head was foggy like I get sometimes with the low iron. In the past I worked at home at my own business, so if I wasn’t feeling well, since I worked for myself I figured I was just hurting myself. Working for someone else was different.

I really struggled through the day and was almost embarrassed. I tried to put off answering emails that needed any critical thinking. Everything for me felt “off”.

I felt better by Wednesday, but on Friday my sister-in-law and her husband came for a visit. They stayed at a hotel and had other things to do during the day on Saturday, so the visit wasn’t quite as intense. But they, too, enjoy the red wine.

My husband was quite surprised when I said I was going to buy some wine before the second-weekend visitors arrived. “We have so much wine!” he said. I tried to withhold my shock  and control my mouth regarding his lack of awareness. Did he not see the trash being hauled out to the cans?

I did much better that second Monday morning, both because I think I my iron was slightly better and also because I had stopped drinking wine after Saturday (well, except for the mimosa while watching the World Cup on Sunday. Does a mimosa count?).

I haven’t had much to drink the last during the weeks because I find that my body tells me enough is enough when I’ve really had too much. I just haven’t felt like it. I’m very grateful for that.

This coming Thursday, however, I will be going to Blogher with Donna. We’ve had good times in the past and I figure the will alcohol will be flowing and I’ll quickly get in the mood. And while it will be fun, it won’t be the same as when I’m with our family. I guess that’s why we enjoy being around each other so much.

P.S. The Sodaro Felicity Cabernet picture with this article is that of a very nice wine. Try it if you get the chance to go to their tasting room. Yum.


In Quest Of: A Perfect Cup of Coffee

In Quest Of: A Perfect Cup of Coffee

Have you ever noticed how many blogs by women feature the word “coffee” or mention coffee in their tagline? A quick search on “mom blog coffee” pulled up Mommy Needs CoffeeThe Coffee Shop BlogBusy Mom (Better Parenting Through Coffee), Coffee Lovin’ MomCafe Mom, and Mommy Loves Coffee.

And that was just on the first page of results.

I could do another search for titles that include the words “Java,”  “Cappuccino,” “Latte” and “Caffeine.” The point is, there are a lot of women who cannot get through the day without their hot, caffeinated beverages, and I am one of them. I have a Pavlovian response at the site of a Starbucks logo, and an uncanny ability to remember the exact locations of coffeehouses I’ve visited — even in cities I rarely frequent.

I admit it: I am an addict. I go through periods where I try to cut down on my consumption (such as the nine months of pregnancy, when I switched to decaf) — but I always come back. I just have a hard time waking up in the morning, and need a little liquid kickstart. And I need it even more on days when I’m trying to write: Caffeine has been shown in studies to help increase women’s focus and concentration, and I have found that an extra cup has the power to jolt me out of my spacey stupors and back on track.

But I won’t drink just any cup of Joe. My favorite coffee beverages are the sweetened lattes, which have way too many calories to consume in mass quantities. I hate a brew that’s overly bitter or weak, and while I enjoy a good espresso, I don’t often make one for myself, even though I have a pretty good espresso machine. I’m lazy. I don’t want to take the time to heat the machine, measure and tamp the grounds — and then clean it — just for a single tiny cup. (We won’t even talk about the effort it takes to froth milk and clean the nozzle for a cappuccino or latte.)

So given these proclivities, it’s not surprising that I took some time out of a busy day earlier this month to attend an event showcasing the latest single-cup machine from Nespresso. The festivities were held in a pop-up cafe at LA’s famed Grove shopping center, and for most of those attending, the big attraction was celebrity spokesperson Padma Lakshmi. But for me, it was the coffee.

The Nespresso “U

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is the type of woman I like hanging out with. She loves good food and good drink and I could put up with her being so gorgeous long enough to enjoy a Girls Night Out in a trendy restaurant. She said that she had stopped drinking coffee in the United States because too often, it tasted like a hot, bitter liquid with grounds.  And then a friend suggested she try one of Nespresso’s machines. She bought one for herself and loved it — so her endorsement actually means something, as it comes from someone who uses the product herself.

The Good

The machine has a small footprint, so it does not take up a lot of counterspace. The water tank swivels so you can configure it to fit exactly how you want it.

It is extremely simple to operate: turn it on, drop in the capsule and let it go. You can modify the size of the pour: Ristretto is the smallest, at 0.85 oz, Espresso is 1.35 oz and Lungo is almost the size of an old-fashioned coffee cup, at 3.75 oz.  These are NOT Ventis — but the resulting brews are not weak and nicely balanced.

When you turn the machine on, it takes just 45 seconds to heat enough to brew a cup of coffee with 16 bars of pressure, which create a gorgeous crema float at the top.

The colorful, aluminum coffee capsules are also small and Nespresso sells a variety of attractive containers for storage and display. However, they’re really expensive (scroll on down to the section titled “Bad.”) The capsules are airtight, which ensures that your espresso or coffee will always come out fresh.

The U automatically pushes the empty capsule into a container for emptying and recycling later. There is also virtually no excess dripping, which is super nice.

Nespresso has targeted foodies and coffee snobs with this machine. It’s only available at Nespresso boutiques and high end department stores and cookware chains like Bloomingdale’s and Williams-Sonoma, which — whether you like it or not — gives the machine some cachet. But that means if you don’t have a retailer near you, you must order the coffee capsules online or by phone. It’s easy to do with membership in the Nespresso Club, where you can get personalized advice on which of the 16 “Grand Cru” coffee blends you like best. (The U came with a sample of each; I have been busy jotting down my tasting notes on each one so I can figure out what to re-order).

I love the ease of making myself an afternoon espresso pick-me-up or an evening decaf. It is no exaggeration when I say that owning this machine has changed my life (in a good way).

The Bad

As mentioned above, you can’t just run out to the supermarket to buy more capsules. And if you don’t have a Nespresso boutique near you, you will have to order by phone or online.

The capsules will run you about sixty cents a piece. This is expensive when you compare it to the cost of coffee by the pound, but it’s within range of the price of other single cup coffeemakers’ modules. It’s also way less than you would pay for a shot of espresso at Starbucks, and the flavor is better.

You cannot make cappuccinos or lattes with the U. Nespresso makes other models that include a frother. They also make an Aeroccino (seen in the video), which heats and froths milk.

Of course, as with any single cup coffeemaker, there is a lot of waste inherent in all those little coffee capsules. The good news is that Nespresso’s all-aluminum capsules are 100% recyclable. Nespresso will even pick your used ones up for you — if you live in Manhattan.

The rest of us have to do the recycling ourselves. That means taking them to your local recycling center, after you have washed out all the coffee grounds. You will also need to pack and bundle the used capsules tightly (because their small size can jam the machines that process the aluminum).

Another issue is Fair Trade – ensuring that the farmers use best practices and earn a fair return. For the last couple of years, I’ve only purchased Fair Trade certified coffee for my home. Nespresso’s coffee has been certified by another organization, the Rainforest Alliance, which aims to accomplish the same goals of sustainable farming with living wages. And here is where it gets dicey: The Rainforest Alliance has been accused of being a greenwashing program, because they will certify a product with as little as 30% sustainable content. (Nespresso says their goal is to source 80% of their coffee from the 40,000 farmers who are participating in their own proprietary sustainable coffee program.)

So that could be an issue. However, all is not rosy with the Fair Trade organization, either. There has been a rift between Fair Trade USA and Fair Trade International,  the organizations that issue the coveted certification. The bottom line is that it’s increasingly tough to tell what you’re getting, even when you make the effort to pay a premium so that the people who grow your coffee benefit.

This is one I’ll be chewing on for a long time — while sipping an espresso.

This article was previously posted at In Quest Of. We were given the Nespresso U machine reviewed in this post. Review our Disclosure policy here.