10 Pounds

I got on the scale this morning because I do that from time to time. The scale said that I’d lost 10 pounds. I did a double take. I little spark of joy popped up from somewhere in my middle.

I mean, I’ve been trying to watch what I eat and get more exercise. But recently I’d been holding steady except for a pound here and there. I swear just last week, I weighed 10 pounds more. My stomach was a little touchy yesterday, so maybe it made a difference. And I haven’t been keeping as well hydrated! So maybe I only lost some water weight.

That’s when I noticed my pants on the floor next to the scale. Only not just next-to but also partly under one corner of the scale. The scale was a tiny bit crooked and cushioned by my pants. I’d accidentally overlapped a bit when I slid the scale out to use it.

I moved my pants. I gained nine pounds back. So I lost a total of one pound. Yay? Dave heard me complain from the bathroom and said, “towel rack, Dad.” Recalling an episode of the Simpsons where Homer is weighing himself and part of his belly was propped on the towel rack giving him a false reading on his bathroom scale. 

Towel rack. Pants. Sigh. 

One pound. Um. Woohoo! 

Tea for Tuesday – Ice Ice Baby

I know it’s not Tuesday. I almost finished this on Thursday. I thought maybe I could call it Tea for Thirstday. (Get it?) But now it’s Sunday. So … I’m just leaving it Tea for Tuesday. 

A class reunion in August and trip to visit friends near Nashville, Tenneessee, and later my dad in the Carolinas, reinforced my love for southern cooking and beverages. I visited a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store one too many times. 

I drank a lot of iced tea all summer long. Iced tea is almost as favorite a beverage as its hot counterpart. 

In the south, iced tea is almost always served sweetened. I’ve said before that in the south if it isn’t sweet then it’s just a hot beverage gone cold. I’ve been to restaurants that didn’t even carry unsweetened tea. Those that carry both varieties sometimes call sweet tea “Iced Tea” while the plain version is called “Unsweet Tea.”

I may not like sweet tea as syrupy as some (blame my Northern / Midwestern origins), but I love a good iced tea with the right balance of astringency, flavor, and sweetness. This Labor Day weekend is a good time to drink even more! 

Iced tea is natural and real brewed tea even has health benefits. It can be very economical. Plus you can control the sweetness when you make it yourself!

Not all tea is created equal — true for hot and iced. The tea matters! There’s a specific flavor I want. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Lipton and Luzianne both give a lot of the flavor I’m looking for. I’m sure I could make excellent iced tea using expensive, loose-leaf tea. But for me, nostalgia rules where iced tea is concerned. Why spend the extra money?

That said, I like several variations on iced tea — peach tea, strawberry tea, hibiscus tea, and half & half tea aka an “Arnold Palmer” (1/2 tea, 1/2 lemonade). All can be yummy. I’ll save those for another post.

For classic iced tea I use Family Size tea bags. It takes a lot of tea to make really good iced tea. One puny, single-serving tea bag will tint your water brown, but not much else (unless you want a really small glass of iced tea). 

As a busy mom, I find it easiest to make the tea in a 4-cup glass (Pyrex type) measuring cup with a pour spout. I usually heat the water in the microwave. (Be careful if you add tea to super-heated microwaved water. It can boil over. Use a container that is larger than you need.)

Directions on both Lipton and Luzianne are similar. I don’t change much at the beginning. 

1.) Heat 2 cups of water to a rolling boil (Again, be careful if microwaving. The boil may not actually roll until you add the tea, but still be hot enough.)

2.) Add 1 Family Size tea bag.

3.) Steep 3-5 minutes. (I leave it for about 7-10 minutes. Any longer can make the tea bitter.)

4.) Remove tea bag (squeeze gently) and sweeten to taste. (More on this, below.)

So here’s where I mix things up.

Luzianne’s instructions say to add an additional 2 cups of cold water and then chill (ya know, just relax a little). Lipton’s iced tea instructions start with 4 cups of water and 2 Family Size tea bags, but the ratio of water to tea bags is the same as Luzianne’s. Then Lipton says you should stir in 6 cups of ice cubes (or 4 cups cold water) and refrigerate. 

What? Water down my tea on purpose?

I personally don’t add extra water or ice to the tea until I’m ready to drink it. I let the tea concentrate cool some on the counter before refrigerating, or I just pour the concentrate over ice in my glass (some ice will melt). Even better than a glass, I often use an insulated stainless steel bottle with ice. It will stay cold for many hours and not “sweat” (no condensation on the outside). (I have too many stainless steel bottles. That’s another story.) Most of my stainless steel water bottles hold about 17 ounces, so I get a full bottle plus extra with 2 cups of tea concentrate plus ice.

It’s easy to add water later if you find the tea to be too strong. Adjust as needed. It’s not easy to make tea stronger if it gets too watered down. Plus if you keep the tea in the refrigerator, adding more water just takes up more space in the fridge. 

So just make the tea concentrate and be happy! And chill.

I usually like iced tea with a little squirt of lemon. Sometimes I add it, sometimes I don’t. I also like it sweetened. Individual sweeteners may vary.

It’s practically impossible to dissolve sugar in ice-cold tea (it takes a very long time). So add any sugar while the tea is still very hot.  About 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar for each cup of tea seems to be standard for sweet tea. But use more or less to taste. Stir well. Or make a simple syrup to add to the tea later. Simple syrup is just a lot of sugar dissolved in boiling water. Make sure it’s still a liquid when it cools (not hard candy). 

I don’t always want real sugar in my tea. I know. In the south, I’m probably considered a heathen. But sugar is bad for my teeth and not great for my waistline either. I already eat too much of it.

So what do I like? I like a mixture of sweeteners.

The following amounts are based on about a 14 ounce serving of tea concentrate served over ice (ice that will partly dissolve). Some of the water comes out with the tea bags, so it’s not a full 16 ounces any more.

If I’m going sugar free, then I like 2 packets of Stevia in the Raw plus 1 packet of sucralose (like Splenda). Stevia on its own tastes a little too weird to me. The sucralose seems to even out the taste nicely without adding too much weirdness of its own. Plus this way it’s mostly natural. Just 1/3 mystery ingredient! Both dissolve fairly easily even in cold tea. 

If I’m going to go a little wild (I know how to live it up, don’t I?), then I like Truvia Baking blend. It’s a mixture of sugar and Stevia. Since it has sugar, it’s best to add this while the tea is still hot. The flavor is close to real sugar, thanks to the, you know, real sugar. I’ve also mixed this combo with sucralose for a good sweet tea flavor that has very little sugar. That would be 1 teaspoon of Truvia Baking blend plus 1 packet of sucralose. Using Truvia alone, I’d go with 2 teaspoons. Adjust to taste.

Try some variations yourself and see what you like best. Enjoy and have a cool Labor Day weekend!

  

Happy 4th of July!

It’s full of stars … Somewhere. Near us it was fairly full of raindrops and unusually cool. The temperature was actually really pleasant. Could have used a little less rain, but the plants are happy! We celebrated with hot dogs, corn on the cob, yummy pimento cheese spread, and lots & lots of flags as the neighborhood was dotted with them. We heard a bit about Juno and Jupiter and generally relaxed. Have a happy 5th of July, folks!
(Breaking the adverb rule with gusto! And added pimento cheese! That makes everything better I think.)

My Feet are Happy

I am currently waiting in Hall D of the Convention Center in Washington DC. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were scheduled to start a Q&A here at Awesome Con over an hour ago. Their photo ops are running late, so Peter and Jenna are still op-ing while most of us non-photo-opers are trying to be patient.

I haven’t been to a con in years. So far, most of my day here at Awesome Con has been spent waiting. I’m not sure how normal that is. First we waited in line for our badges. It moved quickly. Then we waited for StarTalk Live seats. We enjoyed StarTalk but left a little early so we could get in line to get seats to see the Peter Calaldi & Jenna Coleman Q&A.  I left my daughter and her friend in that line while I went on a mission to get us food. Then I waited in the food line. We ate the food in the P&J Q&A line. Lots of lines. Lots of waiting.

I hear the waiting wasn’t so bad the other two days of Awesome Con. That’s good.

Our early-line-waiting paid off as far as seats. We have sweet seats for general admission to the Peter & Jenna Q&A. I’m talking non-VIP seats that are almost as good as many of the pay-extra-for-em VIP seats and even better than some of them.

But we’re still waiting for Peter & Jenna at the Q&A — it’s going on an hour and a half late now. The audience has all new questions at this point.

My daughter and her friend have run off to the Exhibition Hall. They got wristbands to get them back in to the Q&A hall. It’s full. I’m holding seats. While I really wanted to go to the Exhibition Hall, at least I’m not down there spending money and tiring out my feet. That’s something, right?

They announced that Peter and Jenna would be here soon. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. My daughter and her friend are back with a hat, a bow tie, and a needlework Minecraft chest in tow. Pretty cool.

Still sitting here. I managed a whole blog post! We’ve been promised the Q&A will start soon. Really. Probably really. Hopefully really. Maybe really.

My bottom is planted in my sweet seat. I might eventually have a good view. My feet are happy too.

Yay, it’s starting!

Tra for Tuesday: Bananas

One of these days I’m gonna post exactly what what goes down the first time around without fixing the many typos that proliferate from typing in WordPress on my phone’s tiny keypad. 

As it is now, each time I type I feel I have a one-in-three chance of hitting the letter I wanted. 

I’ll bet you’d never guess but this is actually supposed to be a post about tea (and on Tuesday) — Tea for Tuesday. But I made one typo then another and another and, combined with autocorrect, pretty soon the topic completely changed. 

It’s like 100 monkeys in a room with 100 typewriters. Something’s bound to happen but not what I planned. My fingers are the money’s, wait, see … My fingers are the m-o-n-k-e-y-s, monkeys.

Somebody needs to give my them a bandana, no a banana. No, that wouldn’t help either. 

Wait, I know what I want.

Perhaps you’ve seen spikes or horns? Some people have objects surgically implanted under their skin. (Do they find tattoos and piercings too blasé or mainstream?) Either way, useless fluff!

I want a stylus tip implanted in my finger! If that goes well, maybe I’ll do all ten. (Actually, maybe three or four would be good — thumbs and index finger. See, I’ve put some thought into this.)

Release the monkeys!

(I’ll drink more tea and write about it again soon, maybe even on a Tuesday.)

Tea for Tuesday: Numi Emperor’s Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m not even sure it’s MY cup of tea. It can be strange stuff — neither black, green, white, nor oolong. It’s an earthy fermented brew unique in both creation and flavor.​

Today, I’m reviewing Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh. Of all the pu-erh I’ve tasted this one comes out as a good, basic, organic starting place that is pretty easy to find (though you may want to shop for the best price or look for a sale) and gives a baseline for what to expect from other pu-erh.

At it’s best, pu-erh is earthy and woodsy. It can be almost pleasantly musty. Or it can smell and taste like moldy socks on a hot day. An old fish pond. Potting soil. Mushrooms. A hint of smoke. Chocolate. Malt. Sweet. And oily if that’s even possible. Sometimes there are hints of all of those flavors from the very same leaves. What the heck? Weird stuff.

Numi Emperor’s Choice Pu-erh has just a hint of fishy smell or essence of seaweed aroma and a hint of smokiness. After steeping for a few minutes it tastes woodsy and earthy with a hint of resinous-ness (is that a flavor or even a word?). I don’t find much of a mushroom flavor in it, but it can have a bit of chocolate and malt. Overall the woodsy taste is pleasant. The fishy smell seems to dissipate fairly quickly, but it can be off-putting if you’re not expecting it. The brew is dark and slightly reddish. I can steep a couple of cups from one tea bag, but not as many cups as some of the loose leaf pu-erh that I’ve tried.

Why in the world would anybody drink fishy dirt tea?

Not all Pu-erh tastes like fish or dirt. Pu-erh is supposed to be chock-full-o health benefits, as is most tea. But pu-erh is supposed to be extra good for digestion, cholesterol, and weight loss. That sounds good to me. Plus I just plain like trying lots of kinds of tea. I first tried pu-erh several years ago, and I’ve been trying it again recently. I’m still not sure that I like a lot of it. And I feel like the more I know, the less I know.

I learned recently that there are two kinds of pu-erh — raw (or Sheng Cha) and ripe (or Shu Cha). The raw variety is the kind that ages over many many years and develops a unique flavor. Sometimes it’s called green pu-erh. Or “aged raw pu-erh.” It can be pressed into bricks, cakes, disks, or tuo cha (little cup-or-bowl-shaped disks). Properly aged, it can become a coveted delicacy and quite expensive. If properly stored it will continue to age and change over time.

The ripened version is also aged, but with a lot less time involved. The fermentation process is speeded up to mimic what can happen to the raw green version over many years. So the ripe kind is usually aged for a few months. (It can also be weeks or years depending on the tea.) Moisture is controlled. Microbes are added. It can be loose (and later bagged) or pressed into the same shapes as Sheng Cha.Then it becomes “ripe,” is dried, and is packaged.

In the end, both Sheng Cha and Shu Cha end up a dark and almost reddish color with a mellow, complex flavor.

Ripe pu-erh is the tea you’re probably going to find most easily in grocery stores or American tea shops. This is what Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh is. There probably aren’t many microbes still living on this tea further maturing it, but it may change some with age and it has a very long shelf life.

Once you get used to Emperor’s Pu-erh try other pu-erh teas and judge from there if you like them better or not. Your tea really shouldn’t taste like actual moldy socks on a hot day or a dried fish pond, but just a hint of that is not uncommon. Enjoy! 🙂

  

 

Tea for Tuesday: Tea for Health and Wellness

Teavana finished up many sale items and rolled out with seven new tea blends this week as part of a new “Wellness” line. Each new tea has a specific health benefit as well as a lovely aroma and presumably good flavor too. I got to try one of them.

Their new blends are Defense, Purify, Rejuvenate, Recover, Rev Up, Comfort, and Serenity. These are mostly blends of actual tea as well as fruit or fruit flavors and sometimes herbs. I’m not sure if any of the ingredients are organic. The store folks said, “yes,” but I don’t see that on the website right now (I could be missing it). For blends containing citrus peels organic is the better way to go. Sprays sit on the outside of the fruit and can leach into the peel.

While you can’t tell much about taste from any of the Wellness tea names, you can tell more from the descriptions and the ingredient lists.

For example Rev Up is a blend of black, oolong, and green teas mixed with mango, apples and passion fruit for a lot of tea flavor enhanced with a tropical kick. It claims to boost your metabolism with the blend of tea. With black tea and oolong, it certainly has caffeine so there’s at least some real potential for boost there. I like that it’s a blend of real tea and a nice, but not overpowering, fruit flavor.

I was able to try Rev Up as an iced tea. It tasted like a real-tea iced tea along with tropical fruit. I most noted the mango flavor, but I’d say there’s certainly a blend. I think I’d like this one in the summer, but I could see drinking it hot in the winter as well. It is similar to their Limited Edition Holiday tea called Joy but mixed with a bit more tropical fruit instead of just apricot.

The new blend called Comfort contains ginger, orange peel, lemon, rooibos, chamomile, spearmint, fennel, peppermint, and more. Teavana claims these can help you balance yourself and feel good. I’m not sure how well that claim is going to sit with the FDA (we shall see), but I do know that many of those ingredients — ginger, fennel, and mint — can help settle nausea or an upset stomach. I certainly feel better when my stomach is not upset. This is one of the few Wellness blends with no actual tea in the mix. That’s good if you have an upset stomach as the caffeine of real tea can be rough on a stomach. Plus caffeine can make some folks feel unsettled emotionally too. Chamomile, on the other hand, is very gentile and soothing. My grandmother let me drink chamomile ea when I was a kid.

Other teas are Defense with extra vitamin C (I have no idea how much) and white tea along with spices, pineapple, lemongrass, and blackberry leaves.

Purify with jasmine-scented white tea, apples, hibiscus, rose hip, beetroot, orange, and rose petals. It says these ingredients will help to keep you hydrated. Well, drinking liquids certainly helps to keep you hydrated, so there’s that. The red from hibiscus and beetroots makes it a really pretty blend. The pigments in those are also good anti-oxidants.

Rejuvenate with gobs of caffeine (for a tea) from black tea and yerba mate is energizing along with spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Recover claims a detox affect with citrus, mint, and green tea.

Serenity is their relaxing blend with chamomile, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, lavender, rose, apple, lemon balm, beetroot, and orange. This is the other blend with no real tea or caffeine. It’s another pretty one to look at. Chamomile and lavender are usually considered soothing and relaxing. Lemon balm may help releave depression in some people.

I’ll look forward to trying some more.

On a side note, my order for sale items I purchased online at Teavana.com are all listed as “on hold.” Apparently, if one item ends up out-of-stock, the warehouse puts the entire order on hold (not their official policy according to their website, but that’s what’s happening to me and many other folks). We shall see if I get any of my order. Ugh! I may have to drink some Serenity or Comfort if this doesn’t go well (or check out some other tea vendors).

I hope all is well with all of you.

 

 

Happy New Year! 

I don’t know how it got to be 2016 already. At this rate it will be 2017 in about a month. Our cats seem completely unphased by the passing of the year. They ate dinner, so it’s sleepy time for them. 

Wishing everyone a wonderful year filled with fun, family, friends, laughter, and new things to wow and amaze you (in a good way).

Happy 2016, folks!

Wrap It Up, November

And that’s it for November.

Not quite as many posts as my goal, but I’ll take it.

NaBloPoMo.

Time!

Advance Warning

Earlier this Thanksgiving Day I burped. With all the food eaten and beverages consumed today I’m thinkin’ I’m not the only one. I hadn’t even eaten our Thanksgiving meal yet. It was a soda burp.

In my case, it lead to a discussion on whether or not people have advance warning before they burp (or fart for that matter), so that they can close their mouth or even excuse themselves to another room before cutting loose.

Years ago I had this same discussion with a co-worker, and dear friend, who complained that her husband (now ex) farted right there in their living room in front of her. On the couch even!

She’d tell him that he should go to the restroom. He’d argue that he had no advance warning, and therefore had no choice but to fart wherever he was at the time. She was somewhat offended by this. Her thinking was that he was just being lazy about where he dispensed his farts, and the claim of “no advance warning” was his unbelievable excuse.

In comes me. I was a little nervous about defending my friend’s husband as she seemed pretty certain that farting in front of others was uncouth. And really, her husband was a little uncouth sometimes in general, so it wasn’t a great stretch of the imagination to take his actions that way.

But no matter his other social manners I had to defend him because I hated to see him being unfairly accused. I wouldn’t want to be unfairly accused either. I too get very little advance warning that I might burp or “break wind” (if we want to be a little more polite here). So I told her that I rarely know ahead of time.

It was a surprise to her that anybody else would make this claim. While to me it was a surprise that other people get advance warning most of the time like my friend apparently did. It’s like some kind of magical fart-burp-ESP. Not me.

I almost never get a building of pressure to give me warning. Just, “frrrrp!” I’m sorry! I might shift my weight. Stand up. Sit down. And frrrrpppp! 

Today’s burp was the same, I was breathing in, breathing out, just like all the other times I breath, everyday, day after day.

Today, instead of the normal exhale that comes 99.9999% of the time, out came, “BRRRRURPPP!” I said “excuse me.” And, because I have the sense of humor of a five-year-old, I laughed.

I think I tend to laugh louder when I have zero warning. It surprises me. It feels like aliens have momentarily taken control of my body causing the burp. It tickles a little as it comes out. Then the aliens leave, and I once again have control of my body. Except for the laughter. (I can’t always control that either.)

I’m pretty sure the giggling kind of nullifies the “excuse me.” And it doesn’t help my argument that I had no advance warning. But I didn’t. Really!

My only advance warning was that I drank soda pop earlier, and that I was breathing. I didn’t feel it ahead of time at all (and don’t most of the time). And for those rare times I do feel it ahead of time, I try to be polite, but I don’t feel like I have time to go to another room. 

I briefly might know I’m going to burp. Then I burp. The End.

I’m probably not a very good role model for my daughter in this way. But I do believe her when she claims she didn’t know it was coming (except after the third time in a row I get suspicious).

Happy Thanksgiving Folks!

(This post was also for NaBloPoMo.)

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