Pressing the Blog

Transfered some old Blogger/Blogspot posts to WordPress. I think it’s cool that WordPress can do this. Generally, I’ve been way happier with WordPress as Blogger made me want to pull my hair out in clumps. I really don’t like that look for me. WordPress, so far, has actually motivated thoughts like, “hey, that’s cool!” Sometimes, I even say it aloud and smile. This look is much preferable to the baldspotted-head-with-strands-sticking-out-between-my-fingers one. I hardly ever used Blogger as a result of this nasty side effect.

Chinese Restaurant Tea Extraordinaire – a Tea Review

While searching for a replacement to the Teavana Iron Buddha Oolong tea I could no longer get, there were other discoveries along my journey. So many teas to drink! Which is just fine since I love tea and there are some that I’m rather pleased to have tried.

Next up is an Oolong which, to my happy little taste buds, is very much like the kind of Oolong found in many Chinese restaurants. (Naturally, it depends on what the restaurant serves as some have other options like Jasmine.)

When I purchased Iron Buddha tea in the first place, I was actually looking for Oolong similar to what I’ve tasted at a number of restaurants over the years–a rich, earthy oolong. Iron Buddha tea turned out to be a wonderfully delicious poor match and it became a favorite. But I still enjoyed the restaurant kind and came to realize that this was a more fermented and roasted Oolong.

According to some resources, Chinese Oolongs tend to be less fermented and therefore more green, while Taiwanese or Formosan Oolongs, more fermented. So my findings go somewhat completely against that as I found the more fermented Oolongs to be a better match for the kind served in Chinese restaurants, while my favorite replacement for the lightly fermented Iron Buddha Oolong turns out to be from Taiwan. Individual results may vary.

The closest tea I’ve found so far to match the taste of Chinese restaurant tea is [roll the tea kettle whistle], Wuyi Organic Oolong ($22.99/lb or about $2.88/2oz), purchased in “bulk” at Wegmans, sourced from China.

For comparison, Teavana’s Eastern Beauty Formosan Oolong is also very yummy. It too is an oolong which is fermented longer and is a darker (less green) Oolong. Eastern Beauty [which has now also been discontinued] is more delicate, lovely, but missing some of the heartier notes of Wuyi. It’s just not the same.

General Information: Wuyi, as it turns out, is oft advertised as a “weight loss” tea. I can’t comment on the weight loss claims, but I’ll let you know if that changes. Since it is more fermented than Iron Buddha, however, I do feel the higher level of caffeine, so that alone may burn an extra calorie or two.

Genuine Wuyi is grown on the Wuyi Mountains in Nanping prefecture, Fujain China. (I don’t know if what Wegmans carries is genuine Wuyi or just a similar style, but the label reads “Wuyi.”)

Leaves: The loose leaves of Wuyi are mostly all brown with hints of darker green, gold and charcoal here and there. The leaves are longer, looser and appear to be lightly twisted as opposed to rolled into pellets. They don’t expand terribly much in the 190-200 degree water, but tend to take up more room per dry weight in a storage container than the greener oolongs. I want to call this “fluffy” versus dense. If Iron Buddha Oolong is dense, Wuyi Oolong is fluffy.

Flavor & Aroma: It has a lovely flavor which instantly reminds me of a good version of the tea served in many Chinese restaurants. There is a distinctly similar taste. This is what I was looking for when I’d gotten stuck on Iron Buddha. The flavor of Wyui is not the drinkable perfume that is Iron Buddha, but earthier, heartier, maltier, with a natural sweetness, a slight metallic base and lightly chestnutty roasted flavor. There is somewhat of a warm peach aroma. It isn’t as strong or dark as black tea, but clearly more intense than green tea with virtually zero green or vegetal taste.

It works well for a couple of infusions, but not as many as Jade Oolong, Iron Buddha, or Monkey Picked Oolong.

Wuyi Oolong is completely yummy if you like this kind of tea and would do well to help wash down a heavier meal which is probably why it, or something like it, is served so often in restaurants.

Enjoy!

Hey, we had an earthquake. I mean, “HEY, EARTHQUAKE!”

Just making a note of it. It was 07-16-10 and registered a 3.6.

We had one here several years ago. Both times I was sitting on the couch when it hit and both times I thought the cats were doing something like scratching their claws or generally attacking, causing the couch to shake. Our couch is actually a slightly rickety futon and our cats are fairly hefty, so something like this isn’t hard for the cats to do. The difference being, when I got up off the couch to scramble the offending cat (or cats), they were both completely clear of the couch and just looked at me as if to say, “hey, what the heck are you doing oh mighty provider of food?” At which point I just shrugged. It only occurred to me later that, “hey, it’s kind of strange that the couch was shaking itself.” One might have assumed we were haunted or had an earthquake or something.

Clearly, my brain does not readily register earthquakes as the most logical answer to a shaking couch. I was only able to put two and two together a couple of hours later when I read that we’d had an earthquake. I’m partly going to blame this on the fact that it happened really early in the morning and I was not entirely awake yet. Yeah. But it’s also because we just don’t have many earthquakes ’round these parts and there are any number of other things which may cause similar shaking. I feel a little bad for blaming the cats, though. They were probably much more puzzled than I was.

Testy Little Thing

Dammit Jim, I’m a graphic designer, not a doctor!

But, I’m mostly just curious to see if I can type stuff on my Pod while not on any wi-fi networks, and then upload later when I am connected. I probably could have achieved the same result, by writing something else and then posting it without mentioning the testing aspect. None might have been the wiser.

So for your amusment, I’ll share a spectacularly misquoted quote which I uttered earlier today. (Today being 07/20/10.*)

Me: “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a geologist!”

(Shudder. I put my geek to shame.) I am SO turning into my mom who is widely known to say the mixed-up, backwards wrong words, almost right meaning, at a dazzling rate.

The correct quote from “Devil in the Dark” regarding the silicon-based Horta is this.

Bones: “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer.”

I guess I should thank my lucky stars I didn’t say, “geographer.”

Dear Brain,

BRICKLAYER! The correct word would be, “bricklayer.” Not that you did’t already know that, but please make a note of it so there will be less fail in the future. Thanks for playing. Please come again.

D

In Search of the Iron Buddha: A Tea Review

Iron Buddha Oolong tea from Teavana was one of my all time favorite teas! Teavana sold it at $10/2oz for many years, and I thought it would never end. It did. Teavana discontinued it, instead offering only Monkey Picked Oolong (good, but expensive at $25/2oz) or various flavored and scented Oolongs. Those are fine too, but are no Iron Buddha Oolong! And I’m no tea expert–my teacabulary is at noob level, but I have been drinking tea for most of my years and I know what my taste buds like. They like good tea–it can be green, black, oolong or herbal, but there are some which absolutely sing in my mouth and I have a hard time getting enough.

Now, alas, I can’t get any more Iron Buddha Oolong and so began a quest. I’ve tasted quite a lot of teas along the way. Side-tracked by greens at times to be sure, I thought Ti Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy also sometimes called Iron Buddha) might be a good replacement because of the word “iron” in the name. Ti Guan Yin is very good too, but there is a much better match as far as flavor and that’s what matters to me.

Drumroll please… actually lets make it a kettle whistle. [Kettle whistle]

The winner is Jade Oolong Tea ($53.99/lb or about $7/2oz) sourced from Taiwan and purchased in bulk at Wegmans. Oolongs can vary a great deal in their amount of fermentation so that some are closer to green teas and others lean toward black. This oolong reminds me of a Chinese green in appearance and it’s very similar to Monkey Picked in many ways (only less expensive), but there isn’t anything quite like it (except other teas which are like it). Wegmans was a nice choice for experimentation since they offer bulk teas which can be purchased in small quantities. That way I could easily and relatively inexpensively taste all of their oolongs, of which they had quite a few, and compare to my last remaining bits of genuine Teavana Iron Buddha.

Color and flavor: Jade Oolong Taiwan brews up a light golden amber with a complex orchid yumminess. Not as overtly single-note floral as jasmine teas, this has the clean, clear complexity of a fine daytime perfume in teacup form. There is a pleasant amount of astringency, only the slightest waft of grassy green and almost no roasted flavor at all. It is anchored with a hint of earthiness. Delicious!

While some may find this or Iron Buddha too strong, I say (hopefully politely), “You’re doing it wrong!” Perhaps complaints of the strength is part of what prompted Teavana to discontinue Iron Buddha. It may seem obvious, but if it’s too strong for you, be careful not to over steep–use less tea or brew for a shorter amount of time. Since this tea works exceptionally well for multiple infusions, you may enjoy the second or third infusion best. I love the first brew, but if you don’t, consider pouring it off and chilling for iced tea. Subsequent infusions tend to bring out the mellow, earthy flavors. Each one is different. I like them all.

Leaves: The leaves are a deep jade green that are rolled tightly like pellets, but not as tight or fully round as, say, gunpowder green or jasmine pearl teas. Small before steeping, they unfurl elegantly in the 190-195 degree water as they release their flavor–transforming into beautiful, detailed, full, large leaves. These will quickly expand to fill a tea ball or even a tea strainer if you’re not careful. Cramped tea leaves results in less flavor, more wasted tea and the inability to visually enjoy the leaves as they unfurl. I suggest using a really large tea strainer or adding tea directly to the pot and pouring all water into cups after brewing for 3-4 minutes. The large leaves are easy to strain.

This tea is lovely through multiple infusions as subtle nuances evolve.
Time for more!

Copyright © 2010 Deb L. Kapke

Missing Vacation

I’m missing my vacation. You haven’t seen it have you? No, ’cause I haven’t posted any photos yet. [snort] Working on it! More than that though, I miss being on vacation. I’d like it if my vacation lasted all week or even two instead of a partial week, but I’ll deal.

I feel like blogging vacation memories may be a bit like the verbal equivalent of old family vacation slide shows. So if you start to drift off to sleep I’ll try to give you a nudge.

After wrangling a few car (and other) issues, we hit the road putting a hefty chunk of miles behind us before we stopped at a Cracker Barrel where we all indulged in dessert–me, blackberry cobbler; Dave, double chocolate Coca-Cola Cake; and the mini-me had a kid’s ice cream sundae. Yummo on all three counts. (Hey, don’t fall asleep yet.)

Like the time warp that it is, the Old Country Store side of CB sucked a bit too much of our time, but we scored a peg game for my dad and some other goodies including a wire-twisting-beaded-shape-making bracelet thing which some call Magic Loops and others call a Flexi-Sphere. I had one as a kid. We also picked up Nik-L-Nips and Razzles which Dave and I both enjoyed in our childhood. Our daughter has been officially introduced to the joys of candy that turns into gum in your mouth. Not much else to do while driving, so I’d snack on fried pork rinds (a strange favorite for long drives) and a 5-Hour Energy drink to help keep me on the road and avoid stopping at a hotel or planting the car into a tree.

The stay with Dad was great! My Dad makes some seriously awesome pulled-pork BBQ. And he’s pretty much been making it every time we visit for a while now ’cause we like it so gosh darn much. There’s a local place where we can get pulled pork BBQ and it’s good, but my dad’s is AWESOME! He also made us his super-delicious ribs and we got to enjoy copious leftovers of all. While we don’t normally eat much meat, we completely enjoy loading up on any nutritional requirements bestowed by meatiness while we’re with Dad. To top it all off he made Bananas Foster which is also totally awesome in a meatless bananas and ice cream sort of way.

We played with the dog, boated on and swam in the lake. Dad’s black lab thinks it’s pure heaven to jump into the lake to fetch a tennis ball and she will do it until her 10-year-old body is about to drop from pure exhaustion. Good dog!

Sara played imaginative games. She was a dolphin, a baby octopus (on the run from an Inkasuarus), a mermaid and a puppy. Lately, Sara has been assigning me the role of “bad guy” with most of her imaginative play. For example when playing Harry Potter, she’ll be Hermione, Dave will be Harry, a guest friend will often be Ron, and I get to be Voldemort. I’m not sure what exactly it means that she likes to make me the bad guy. But play at the lake was no different. She made me the octopus mom for a while and then decided I was the Inkosaurus “Ink-o-saurus(?)” which is apparently a giant, evil, dinosaur-octopus hybrid borne from Sara’s imagination. It shoots its victims with a foul ink and is generally monstrous so that other creatures run away. My cutie-pie still seems to like me fine for the most part in real life, though, so that’s good.

After playing mermaid as well as puppy and dolphin with Sara, Dave eventually discovered the joys of playing inanimate floating raft. He floated in his life vest in the warm lake water and did nothing at all (aside from getting too much sun). Ah vacation!

A couple of dragonflies seemed to find my shoulder a particularly attractive landing spot for their special kind of dragonfly love dance and I expect quite a little population explosion. The amorous couple left and returned several times. Sara was highly amused. We also saw a large green and black dragonfly as well as a red and black one. Dragonflies are such a work of art and we wish those too would have stopped long enough for closer examination.

Fireworks were spectacular! This was our first year boating out to the “bridge that does the fireworks” show near my dad’s. We’ve heard about it for years, and I have to say that it, indeed, ROCKED! The boats are allowed to get close enough so as to be under the umbrella of sparks as they rain down in pops and crackles. You can feel the sounds in your body. The glittery blossoms can be so enormous as to take up well more than half of the sky. My camera couldn’t zoom out far to capture the whole thing–that’s how up-close and personal this show can be. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I’m a pretty big fireworks fan. This was the first year in many that we didn’t light a single firework of our own despite being in a state where nearly all consumer-class fireworks are totally legal. But the show was so good that it didn’t feel 100% legal, so there was plenty of explosion satisfaction.

The days passed quickly and it was time for the long drive home. We topped off the tank with gas from a convenience mart which not only had pumps with mechanical numbers that flip as you fill your tank, but signs which read, “Our Gasoline is Ethanol Free.” I’m not sure how they manage that these days… We also picked up a few Cheerwines to last the ride home. (Cheerwine is sort of cherry-flavored soda pop completely free of wine.)

Many miles further up the road, we stopped for more gas at a mini mart where I noticed the clerk was packing heat. I just don’t see that very often. Not sure how I feel about it in this case. I’m sure the clerk sees it as a way to discourage crime in his shop. It would definitely discourage me in case I was thinking of making any life-changing, spur-of-the-moment decisions to turn to a life of crime and rob this particular gas station right then and there. (But I probably wasn’t going to do that anyway.) I’m a little freaked out that the clerk (or owner) feels that the threat of robbery in broad daylight is so intense that he must wear a sidearm before dinnertime. Maybe he knows something I don’t. So, I’m thinking, I really don’t want to spend any extra time there, and I didn’t.

A few sore bottoms, a slightly car-sick child, then one more rest stop and we were home. It felt very good.

Copyright © 2010 Deb L. Kapke

To Market, To Market

The Farmers’ Market (and beyond) that is. I love fresh produce especially of the variety that I can’t find at my local grocery store–like tomatoes which have ripened while still attached to the vine and therefore actually taste like tomatoes; small, flavorful strawberries (not the giant, watery variety so common in supermarkets); and summer’s juicy, ripe peaches which got that way still clinging to their respective branches just yesterday.

Not only do I enjoy getting up and spending a little time under the sun on a Saturday morning (even on a drizzly morning like today), I also enjoy the knowledge that I’m helping support our local farmers. I want to do this! And I think more folks should. But this same part of me is in constant battle with the frugal part of me. Back in the day, our little section of Illinois was patchworked with green and golden fields of living veggies. In fact, corn grew directly behind my elementary school not more than a few yards from the playground’s swing set (under which stretched blacktop I might add). There, a farmers’ market or road-side stand was a place we could get excellent produce at an excellent price. The farmer still made a nice profit since he sold directly to folks, like us, who would enjoy the fruits of his labors on their own tables.

In contrast, our local farmers’ market near our current Northern Virginia home is virtually always more expensive than local supermarkets. I don’t mind this one bit for perfectly ripened heirloom tomatoes or those strawberries I mentioned earlier. For yummies like that, there is no comparison. And I like to keep in mind that many but not all (and maybe not even the majority) of our Farmers’ Market farmers avoid pesticides–it’s nice to hear so directly from the farmer’s mouth. But when it comes to the types of produce that are essentially indistinguishable from supermarket varieties I have a hard time paying what is often twice the price.  I really do like supporting local farmers, but I also have a budget.

As I carry my bag of sweet, sunshine warmed peaches I feel pangs of guilt passing lovely Farmers’ Market cucumbers, lettuce, or squash knowing that I’ll likely visit the big, evil supermarket later today and come away with a bag full the same for a fraction of the price. It isn’t that I don’t want to support you Mr. Farmer! I do. And I do. I just like to eat and I need to make sure I stay within my budget so that I can keep doing just that. It’s a yummy balance I can live with for now.

Copyright © 2010 D.L. Kapke

Pretty much sums up most of my day

My daughter: “Mom, we’ve been driving so long, I think I forgot how to walk.”

Me: “We’ve been driving so long I think my butt forgot how to not hurt.”

My daughter: [moaning] “I’m carsick.”

But, thankfully, it ended well.  I cannot say the same about all past driving experiences.

Daughter held on to her cookies–literally and figuratively.  She remembered how to walk just fine.

My butt remembered what it was like not to hurt from sitting in the car–it’s still a tad bit sore from a long weekend of fun and activity in contrast to the normal atrophy.  We had a great time.  Thanks Dad!

Aside from a few Simpsons quotes, Dave was quiet–just trying to survive the drive.  He did.  We’re home. We’re happy.

A great southern trip

Full of yummy stuff, fireworks, swimming and sunburn. Met an Inkasauraus. I think we may be bringing her home with us…

Happy and safe 4th of July!

Families, flags, and fireworks–does it get much better?

We’re adding a little bowling, Q, beans, slaw, bananas foster, blackberry cobbler, ice cream and Cheerwine to our day just to make sure we have all the bases covered. Was a little heavy on the dog slobber so far, but nothing that can’t be washed off in time for the light show to come.

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