Caffeine altar: creating special space for your rough mornings

Caffeine Altar
My caffeine altar
Back in my wild-partying days, I used to do this thing for myself: before I went out, I'd get my bedroom all set up to be the perfect come-down/hangover den. I'd make the bed and fold back the blanket. I'd leave the twinkly lights on. I'd set a glass of water on the bedside with a couple Advil, right next to the stereo remote. Basically, I got really good at anticipating my compromised mental/emotional state, and pre-creating a space to make it a little easier.

In my kitchen now, I've used the same idea to create the perfect caffeine altar. After too many years of stumbling around in the morning slopping my tea around in an exhausted haze, I decided that I could do better. It's not like it's unexpected — every morning I wake up, stumble into the kitchen, and switch on the kettle. Sometimes I'm so tired that I literally just stand there, dazed in my bathrobe, waiting for the water to boil. Why shouldn't I anticipate this morning moment and make it a little easier on myself? Why not do what I'd done back in my early 20s, but instead of anticipating a post-party come-down, I could just anticipate a sleepy morning?

Here are the ingredients of my caffeine altar:

  • Placemat to hold the space (somehow, this is very important)
  • Electric kettle
  • Teapot
  • Spoon rest (most recent addition, after too many honey-slicked spoons made a mess on the place mat)
  • Tea Timer
  • Notepad for the daily To Do list
  • "Gay Peary" painting for the gazing uponst

None of these items are particularly special, but combined they create a morning moment, as it were. By anticipating my compromised morning mental state, I'm able to make the whole process go a little bit smoother, and a little bit more pleasantly. No more honey glooped off my spoon (there's the spoon rest). No more wondering if the tea is ready yet (there's the timer). No more hunting around for a pen when I think of something I need to do (there it is!).

In some ways, I feel like this is what really makes me a bonafide grown up: I'm able to anticipate my own comprised states, and make plans to compensate for them. GO ADULTHOOD!

  1. I love this! Making plans to anticipate your own comprised states–that is a fantastic way to describe Adulthood. I have a running list of things I *want* to do to feel like a grownup, things I feel like I *should* do to feel like one, and things I just *do* do (*snort*) This is something I semi-do, in a less structured way, but the way you shown it as an actual space has motivated me to set mine up in an intentional manner ^_^ Thanks for sharing this!

    6 agree
  2. In what I refer to as my "drug days" I used to something like this, setting up my lines before going to bed (or even before going out at night!) filling the coffee maker, setting out my bathrobe, etc. Then I could just roll out of bed, snort up a line, put on my robe, punch the button on the coffee pot and shamble into the shower. Good days those were!

    5 agree
  3. I don't have a space as such, but I do have a morning routine. (In my job, Spaces and Routines are a Thing.) Alarm goes off. Roll out of bed. Grab mugs out of dishwasher on my way by. Put kettle on. Get back into bed and cuddle with husband. Kettle boils. Feel grateful that electric kettle has a "keep warm" setting so I can continue cuddling with husband without water getting cold. Get up. Make tea. Open curtains. Give dog a pat on my way by. Do daily calendar thing. Take out teabag, add milk, and bring husband tea in bed.

    At this point I'm awake enough to work out, eat breakfast, and go to work. And yes, "she makes me tea every morning" is top of husband's 'why-I-love-her' list.

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    • That's super sweet of you to make your husband tea every morning! It made me laugh, though. I love tea but my husband hates tea, so if I made him tea every morning it would *not* endear me to him. :P

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      • He's English, and he loves his tea! His mum used to bring him tea in bed each morning when he was growing up, and now I do the same. It's one of those little things that is super-easy and he really appreciates, so we're both happy.

        He hates coffee, though! I generally only drink it when I'm out.

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    • Yay! My partner does this for me, and it's definitely near the top of my list about him.

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  4. Aw, this is adorbs!

    While I have not gone this far, my kitchens both at home and at work are arranged so that I can assemble a cup of coffee with the least approach to actual consciousness, and it makes mornings so… achievable. (Major advocate of "arrange kitchen as nearly as possible to being able to cook blindfolded" here.)

    1 agrees
    • I have cut processed sugar and carbs out of my diet basically by doubling my liquid intake, we have crappy tasting water and our Pür water filter is so slow that I end up not drinking anything at times. We brought a stainless steel 25 cup percolator in for a party and I got hooked on tea again. I pour my hot water into a large 24 oz glass and set my tea bag in it while the Pür slowly trickles water into a 38 oz bottle and I have it times at just about 4 mins, perfect brewing time. I sit in the kitchen, fix up my tea while the water fills up and either pour the jar full of filtered water into a pitcher or the hot pot, this way if I am in a hurry and can't fill the pot once or twice I still have excess water.
      Having hot and room temp filtered water available at all times means I have no excuse not to drink as much as i can ( i will sometimes fill the jar 2 or 3 times while cooking and empty the hot water into the gallon pitcher and wipe it down with vinegar then refill it)

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      • I prefer tepid water but we do have a ice maker so that saves us fridge space where a gallon pitcher would block a lot of stuff

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    • There is something so wonderful about a well-arranged space, isn't there? It takes some work and re-arranging when you get into a new place, (and re-evaluating things if it needs work!) but making it so little things aren't a fight, like making a space by the door to put my bag rather than trying to remember to bring it to the bedroom every time, just makes life so much easier.

      3 agree
  5. I'm actually a super morning person (I wake up fairly easily and am ready for the day. I hear that this is an unusual feeling? haha) but this is a cool idea. I think for me this would be a good nighttime go-to-bed with calming tea and a nice soothing picture.

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    • Yeah, I think the caffeine altar could be applied to any special-time drink. The idea is just to make a little intentional space to have a small moment of quiet while you wait for your sanity-beverage.

      4 agree
      • I can't tell you how pleasant it is to have a proper, grown-up liquor cabinet with all our glasses and alcohol inside, with cocktail tools, a jar of home-made bar nuts, and a shaker on top. :)

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      • I am re-naming hot cocoa "sanity-beverage" now.

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        • Ooh, there are so many lewd joke opportunities, too: "I gotcher 'sanity beverage' right here!"

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  6. unrelated (feel free to delete this comment later if need be!) but where did the editz button go?

    2 agree
  7. I love this! Having a quiet, pleasurable morning ritual helps me enter the whirlwind of the day. Meditation with coffee.

    I have to divide my space up into two spots, though: my hot beverage shelf, composed of my favorite mugs and beverages, and a coffeemaker on the other side of the kitchen. I have a groggy moment choosing my mug, enjoying my little corner, and then just enough of a walk (yeah, 5 steps is a walk at that time) to help get the blood flowing in the morning!

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  8. I really do love the fact that the mat makes the space. It says 'I keep this here' instead of 'I left this here'.

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    • Yes, the mat is really the thing that ties it all together, taking it from a bunch of stuff next to each other to a caffeine alter :) The art is the icing on the cake.

      4 agree
  9. I have a similar approach to coffee in the morning, and have my french press behind the electric jug, with the coffee and scoop on top of the bread bin next to it. Actually thinking about it, all the hot-drink making supplies are within arm's reach of the jug, and the breakfast cereal is in the cupboard underneath! The one thing I make sure to do is fill the jug before i got to bed, that way I can turn it on and not have to worry about sloshing water everywhere in the morning!

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  10. Anticipating and preparing for times when you aren't at your best is something I hadn't thought about before.

    My husband's job is unpredictable and sometimes he doesn't get time to have a proper lunch break. However when he gets tired/hungry he also gets stressed and finds it more difficult to find something quick to eat.

    I'm going to talk to him about getting in some food that we can leave at work for times when he needs a quick and easy lunch that he can eat on the run. It'll be tricky as he doesn't eat onions which are in most ready meals, but I'm sure we can find something suitable.

    Thanks for the idea!

    4 agree
      • That does look yummy, and a great alternative to sandwiches. *Bookmarked!* However our problem is for days when there's been no time to prep anything and he's too grumpy to face the crowds to buy anything.

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        • I'm not a 'prepare everything on Sunday' sort of person, mostly because I just don't have the will power to not eat whatever I made for lunches at breakfast-lunch-snack-dinner time through the week. I am however a 'buy the same thing for lunch everyday' sort of person. If you reeaally don't have time, finding the one cheapish-healthyish thing you know you can get somewhere can be sort of relieving. But I'm lazier/more anxiety driven than I am healthy or cheap, so maybe that's just me.

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        • My partner has the same problem. It's not my nutritional ideal, but I've bought him some instant noodle cups, soups, etc, because it's a least better than nothing.

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      • I'll keep an eye out for something like this over here – it looks like it might work well for my favourite carnivore! Thank you :)

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        • this is why my husband and i used to always keep Slim Fast bars and shakea around. Neither of us were on the diet, but it was a great way tk have a an instant meal. yeah, its usually not actually enough on its own, but it curbs the hunger enough to bring you back to the sane place where you can actually look for food.

          3 agree
    • I always have some nuts or crackers (or sugar-filled cereal…) or an apple on me, in my car, or in my cubby at work. I get cranky if I don't eat regularly. Add a wedge of cheese and it's a grazing lunch! The altar idea though… it makes something that could be so frustrating – the wait, the spilling, the OMG I'm so tired/bored/whatever why do I need to wait for this beverage/snack when I could be sleeping/doing something else… it takes that and makes it special. Intentional. And that spins the whole feeling around. Instead of something you have to do, it's something you GET to do… I love it. I want to use it somehow with my workout corner…

      2 agree
      • Workout corner:

        A little area rug to designate the space;

        A dock or other music/entertainment station, according to your preferences, so you can just walk up, plug in, and get to work;

        A little journal to record your workouts (be able to celebrate going farther, longer, increasing reps/intensity, etc.) and how you felt about them;

        A little art that you maybe switch out sometimes, bonus if the art comes with inspirational quotes;

        A small rack/basket of towels (even just face cloths) for drying sweat, or any sweat-bands you enjoy using;

        A basket for any light equipment (yoga bands, balls, weight anklets, yoga pillow, whatever);

        Perhaps you could also do with draping equipment with a sarong or blanket, if only to discourage yourself from using, say, the weight bench as a coat rack like my old roommates did. If it doesn't look like a flat surface it suddenly becomes less useful as a junk collector.

        Just some thoughts to get you started!

        1 agrees
    • My husband has the same problem (and some days so do I!). Desk-stable stuff can include peanut butter, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix, those tuna packets, nuts, microwaveable soups/pastas, jerky, sausage, fruit cups, etc.

      My favorite is the Nile Spice brand of dried soups (though some flavors are better than others). I find them at my grocery co-op. He could even get a little electric water heater pot if he likes soups and noodles.

      2 agree
      • I have the same problem too…as a workaholic and very active vegan I need a lot of food in a day to get enough calories and when I get hungry it goes from "I could eat" to "emergency" very rapidly. I have Larabars and ProBars (<—new discovery, these are SO so good and wholesome) in every purse/desk drawer/gymbag. Lots of good stuff on Colleen's list there too!

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  11. Like this. We have a Tea area and a coffee area and it would be nice to put them together when we get into our new place but I need some trays first so the coffee grinds don't escape everywhere.

    If I remember when on a work day I get my breakfast things ready e.g bowl and spoon out, mug and t bag and spoon out. It seems daft, but it saves time.

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    • TRAYS. Oh my god, how did I not think of this? I *do* get coffee grounds everywhere, and I had just kind of accepted it as a part of life. A part that sucks when it gets all over the bottom of the clean dishes you're trying to put away.

      2 agree
  12. what i like to do is put all of the drink stuff (coffee, tea, cups, etc) in the cabinet right above my kettle

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    • This is what I do, and I have it all in a vintage cake pan so my coffee, sugar, teas and some "Emergen-C"s are all up there together and I just set the cake pan on the counter next to my coffee maker until I have made my coffee/tea and then stick it right back. It's on the shelf above my mugs. I love this system.

      (Edited to add: the only reason I noted that my cake pan is vintage is because it's painted/enameled with cute things that make me smile. I think I "stole" it from my grandma-in-law or my mom but every time I see it, half-asleep as I reach up to grab caffeine, I smile. So just a cute tray would serve the same purpose.)

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  13. It's the notepad that really does it for me. I don't think I could convince myself to stand still and do nothing while waiting for tea to brew. Plus I really love making lists.

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  14. I love the idea too, of *rewarding* yourself for getting out of bed. Instead of a harsh alarm and a slapdash breakfast while hurrying out the door, I really like the idea of having an "ahhhh" moment.

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  15. We have a little coffee/tea station with tea kettle, rack of coffee mugs, and the french press that sits on a tiny jut of counter between the stove and the doorway. The cupboard above has all the coffee and travel mugs (right on the way out of the kitchen toward the front, door!). It's a defined space so I don't bother with a tray or placemat.

    But we also have a little "bar" set-up, on the sideboard in the dining room contained in a tray. A couple rocks glasses, the shakers and muddlers, two strainers (the coiled wire and wire mesh for double straining) and a little pitcher that would hold about six 6-oz cocktails if necessary. It also has a little butter dish with a couple cheese knives and cocktail onion/olive/cherry sporks, which really never get used for cocktails but they COULD be and they coordinate with the rest of the cocktailing decor (and well, pickle plates and a cocktail are not unheard of as midnight snacks aka dinner in my house). You'd never guess that neither of us has been a bartender LOL.

    I really want to take a section of the sideboard and make it a "breakfast station." Put all the cereals in nice-looking but morning-workable containers with a stack of bowls, a rack of spoons, and all you have to do is grab the milk. Heck, if I could convert one door of the sideboard into a mini-fridge, I'd do it, just for a half-gallon of cereal milk and some coktailing condiments/garnishes. Hmmmm and suddenly I think I may have found a reason to put a tiny mini-fridge in the dining room…

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  16. I totally took this post to heart and have created my own "hot beverage altar"!! The cupboard Ive put everything on was being used as a catch all and now it has an amazing purpose!! Love it!! Thanks for the awesome idea!

    1 agrees
  17. When my parents first got married in '77 dad made an alarm clock/timer with a power outlet and every morning for the last 34 years they wake up to the sound of the kettle boiling and enjoy a cuppa listening to the radio.

    1 agrees
  18. This is wild; I just yesterday made my own caffiene altar (which I dubbed the 'lazy station') complete with pour-over coffee and tea accessories, my makeup box so I can do up my face while the water's heating, and the SAME DAMN RED Hamilton Beach electric kettle. I thought I was such a genius coming up with the lazy station, nice to know that I'm not the only sleepyhead out there!

    0 agree

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