Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quick update

So, I'm not dead for starters, lol. Just have been crazy busy with work; hence the gap between posts. I successfully recovered from the plague I had around Easter. Still not sure what that was and hope to never have it again. Thankfully no one else caught it. We actually had a fairly nice Easter day, good food, good friends/family, several naps. What more could I ask for really. The hubs took on the role of host, so all I had to do was "stand there and look pretty"-and yes that is a direct quote from my knight in shining armor. He cracks me up.

Haven't been able to make it back to church yet. If I'm not working, we have the stepsons and I'm not willing to give up my time with them for a pet project. I did try to get them to come with me, since they say they're xian, but they didn't want to go. We have however, had several lovely Sundays together, so it's worth the postponement in my mind.

Jobs, I'm down to one. It was to exhausting trying to work both places. I'd get up, dress for BK, grab my uniform for the HHA, lunch and dinner, then head out the door and not get home till after 8pm. Plus, changing cloths in the BK bathroom was less than fun. Now I'm just working at the HHA job. I've more than made up for the hours I lost at BK. I'm getting 40 plus hours a week. It would be better if I could get overtime or even just my mileage reimbursed, but you do whatcha gotta do. The upside is, I've worked it so I can stop at home between clients 3 days a week. This way I can eat lunch with my family, even if they're sleeping while I have breakfast and I'm at work while they have dinner. this week has actually been pretty light, but after last week I needed the break. I'll go more into that in another post.

So that's what's going on in my life. How's yours been?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Your much awaited tea post

Most people I know are not as passionate about tea as I am. A good cup of tea for them is a bag from Celestial Seasonings or Lipton in boiled water. While that isn't wrong, it just isn't the best way to have a really good cup of tea.

The supplies need for a good cup of tea are easy and cheap to obtain if you don't already have them. You will need:

Measuring teaspoon
thermometer-hot read
tea kettle-any make, model or brand it just has to boil water after all
a tea or press pot for more than one cup, your favorite mug if you only want one cup
tea, bagged or loose leaf (I prefer loose leaf)
tea ball, infuser or strainer if using loose leaf

Here's where things get marginally complected, but not very. You need to know what kind of tea you have. There's white, green, black and oolong from the actual tea plant, herbal teas don't actually contain Camellia sinensis (aka tea leaves). Nothing wrong with that, but good to know for brewing purposes. Just because I'm weird like that, herbal "teas" proper name is tisane, though it isn't important to brewing. It's pretty easy to figure out what kind you have. The majority of bagged teas in the grocery store are black unless labeled as white, green, oolong or herbal. A good rule of thumb is 1 teabag for every 8 ounces of water, though always check the packaging of bagged teas. Loose leaf you want 1 to 1.5 teaspoons per 8 ounces of water.

 Here's the temperatures and brew times you want for various teas:


Green-150-160F 2 or 3 minutes
White-175-180F 3-5 minutes depending on how strong you want it
Oolong-190F 6-8 minutes
Black-195-210F 4 to 6 minutes
Roobis-195-210 4 to 6 minutes
Mate-200-208F 5 or 6 minutes

Herbal-temperature varies depending on what herbs, spices, plants are used, though usually right around 200F works for most herbal tisanes

Pour water into your tea pot, press pot or mug then add the tea. If using a measuring spoon for loose leaf, do not pack the leave. This will bruise the leaves and cause a bitter tasting tea. Steep for suggested time and remove tea. Save your bag or infuser, tea can be brewed multiple times and still produce a delicious beverage.

Hot brew for iced tea

Same temperatures as above with half the water you need for intended finished amount, but double the amount of tea and brew time. Meaning if you want 8 cups total, brew in 4 cups hot water, add 8tsp of tea and brew for 4-12 minutes depending on tea. After its brewed remove tea, add 4 cups water and chill in the fridge. Though the hot brew method can cause your tea to cloud. It doesn't affect flavor, only appearance.

 Cold brew for iced tea

In 4 cups cold water add 6-8 teaspoons of loose tea or 6-8 teabags (teabags contain 1tsp of tea on average). Steep in the fridge for 8 hours, overnight works also. Strain tea or remove bags, add 4 cups water. Enjoy. This makes 2 quarts of tea, just FYI. Cold brewing will avoid causing the tea to cloud.

If you prefer stronger tasting tea it's better to add more tea leaves than extend the brewing time. Over brewing and water that is to hot is the usual culprit if your tea taste bitter or grassy tasting in the case of green tea. Other reasons for the tea tasting bad are poor quality leaves, fannings (tea dust) used in many bagged teas, improperly processed leaves and stale leaves. It really is worth it to spend a little extra on good quality loose teas.

There are several reasons for drinking tea, the number one reason being it just tastes good, lol. Tea from the actual Camellia sinensis plant contain polyphenols(the cancer fighting benefit of tea) and certain flavoniods. Green teas benefit over black or oolong is that it contains more EGCG(good for metabolism) and antioxidants. These are still found in black and oolong teas, just in smaller quantities. Oolong containing the smallest amount because of the length of fermentation. White tea contains higher levels of antioxidants than green tea, while maintaining the same levels of EGCG, polyphenols and flavoniods as green tea. Plus it's good for the skin. All the benefit, none of the "grassy" taste from the chlorophyll.The only difference of white, green, black and oolong teas has to do with the time the leaves are picked and how they are processed. They all come from the same plant. White and green tea leaves are picked earlier, the leaves are steamed then dried. Black and oolong tea leaves are picked when the plant has matured. The leaves are partially dried, crushed and fermented. Matcha, the traditional Japanese green tea, is grown in such a way to increase the flavor because of the chlorophyll and amino acid production. The leaves are then steamed, dried and crushed into a fine powder.

Herbal tisane do not offer the same types of benefits the Camellia sinensis plant offers-since they don't contain any "real" tea. They are a blend of herbs, flowers, roots, spices or other parts of some plants. While those plants may offer other health benefits, they do not contain polyphenols or the same beneficial flavonoids as "real" tea. They can be just as tasty though and are definitely worth drinking. Roobis and Mate are very popular right now due to claims they aid in weight loss. While they are very delicious, no tea or tisane has been found to actually promote weight loss. Only a healthy diet and exercise can do that outside of medical intervention.

Store your tea, loose or bagged, in an air tight container that blocks sunlight. Teas will start to loose flavor after about 6 months and go stale in a year from date of purchase. The container will slow the process, but can't stop it entirely. The tea will still be drinkable after going stale, it just won't taste as good.

Now that you know how to make a great tasting cup of tea, experiment with sweeteners. Honey is always a good choice, as is raw or rock sugar. Different teas will taste better with different sweeteners, so don't be afraid to try something new or unusual. Adding a sprig of mint or frozen fruit is a great way to enjoy iced tea as well. There is nothing better than a well brewed cup of tea. It can wake you up in the morning, calm your nerves after a scare, even help you sleep at night.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How I see the universe as an atheist

This universe is truly, randomly amazing. Pick any mundane object in your home, literally anything. I'll use a pencil simply because there is one sitting on my desk at this moment. If you don't have one in front of you, go get one. Don't worry I'll wait. No, seriously go get the damned pencil. There is a point to this I promise. Ok, now I'm starting to get a little impatient........finally.

So, now you've got your pencil (if you don't I can't help you). Look at it; and I mean really look at it. This simple piece of wood with graphite in the center represents so much more than your amazing ability to write or draw with it. It represents man's rise from bipedal primates to our current form. It all started with our ancestors desire to communicate in the written word. First we had to develop verbal language. Think about this, really, really think about this. Way back when we still lived in caves, someone drew a picture on a wall. Century passed and Roman scribes used a thin metal rod to make marks on papyrus (think of the wonder that allowed humans to develop into Romans!!). From there someone had to use their immense brain to realize that graphite made darker marks. Then they had to realize the graphite was brittle and needed something to stabilize it. Oh I don't know, how about wood? Pure genius. Then someone discovered other materials that you could put in wood and it would leave colors on paper!!

I mean we developed language! Paper! Civilizations! Art! How utterly and mind blowingly AMAZING is that!!!! Hey, it's my blog, I can make up whatever words I want to. Seriously, I can't use enough exclamation points. Are you astounded yet? Well, there's more.

Human curiosity has gotten us to a point where we can actually see the molecular structure of wood, graphite, paper, you. And you know what? Molecules are beautiful.

See. Do you see that?! That's a carbon molecule. The pencil has carbon molecules. You have carbon molecules. You are beautiful! Amazing!! Think of the way atoms and molecules come together to create you. That is where the true beauty lies.

Now, go pick another random object. Think of it in the same way we just did the pencil. This is how I view the universe as an atheist. I don't need a god to make my life amazing or wonderful. I don't need a god to feel connected to something bigger than myself. I'm part of a family, part of a community, part of a country, part of a continent, part of a planet, part of a solar system, part of a galaxy, part of a universe. As Carl Sagan once said "We are all made of star stuff". What could possibly be more awe inspiring than knowing that you are made from the same thing as a ball of burning gasses billions of light years away that possibly gives light and life to another planet? Well, everything! There is nothing that isn't mind boggling in it's seer awesomeness if you take the time to really look at it. My universe is filled with wonder.

None of this would be possible if humans had not followed the evolutionary path that we chanced upon. It wasn't written about in some holy text because when they where written, humans hadn't learned about molecules. They still believed diseases where caused by demons and angry gods. It is only through science that we've come to a point where we can communicate not only through words face to face or words on paper, but we can write words on paper or in cyberspace. Science and human curiosity brought us here. Hell, while the inventors may not have know it at the time, they used the scientific method to bring us the wheel and fire. Think of where we'd be without those two under valued discoveries.

So to anyone who looks on me with pity because I lack belief in a deity, don't. Save your sympathy for humans who really need it. Like the tsunami survivors, people facing genocide, starvation, discrimination and other real tragedies. Do it because they are human and not because they believed in the your deity or because they didn't believe in your deity. Not to over use Mr. Sagan, but he also said "For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love." So after all that, I'll leave you with this:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Finally made it to a church

Not sure what I was expecting, but had a huge anxiety attack. There where soooo many people there, it was terrifying.  Maybe church and social anxiety don't mix. I talked to some greeters there who where really nice, and one even set a folding chair up by one of the doors for me, which I really appreciated. Sitting in the pews I kinda felt trapped. After the service, which was nice but kind of loud during the hymns, I was ushered into the guest services area. The couple there, who's job is to answer any basic questions, suggested I come to the earlier service or skip service altogether and attend the Sunday school. Apparently you can watch the service online as well as get a DVD.

I took Little Man with me, just so he could get some play time with kids his age, and boy did he. The church is huge! They have a nursery for various age groups. He was in a room full of about 10-15 other 2yr olds. When I picked him up the attendants said he was the most popular kid there, playing with everyone and even going up to the shy ones and getting them to be involved in the group activities. He was really angry that we had to leave and shocked the attendants with his fit, lol. They said he was so well behaved they didn't think he could throw a fit like that. I laughed and said "well, he is perfectly 2". Being a guest, they gave him a baggy with a small stuffed monkey and a CD of children's music. That was nice.

While I did like attending, despite the anxiety, I'm not sure I really took anything away from the experience. What I thought I'd gain from going is a real mystery to me. I think I'll go back 2 or 3 more times to either the early service or the Sunday school. All I want is to get a better understanding of xians, but I'm not sure now that this is the best route. Only the future will tell I guess.