Monthly Archives: July 2012

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”. Or Not.

Everything you might ever want to know about English tea drinking. This lengthy article is not only informative but delightful and contains several quotable lines that I considered for my weekly quotes post but I couldn’t decide which one so here we are.

I am delighted to learn that most of the British drink tea from mugs, not those lovely, delicate little bone china cups. I always drink tea from a mug. I occasionally feel just a teensy bit bad that I’m “not doing it right” but the tea cools off so fast in those tiny, shallow cups that it’s practically down to room temperature before one can get the cup to one’s lips for the first sip.

I am slightly disappointed to learn that most Brits use tea bags. I’m a bit of a loose tea snob myself. I do use tea bags sometimes but only the better brands like Twinnings. Lipton is not allowed in my house, which greatly surprises people who think it has to be absolutely the best tea on the planet because it’s the most advertised and everyone has heard of it. When I use tea bags I do something like the teabag mashing method described in the article though I do more stirring and swirling than mashing. I always felt a bit guilty about this because I thought it was another way that I was doing it wrong but letting the tea bag just sit in the cup for the recommended three minutes gives it too much time to cool off. This is another delightful discovery – that I’ve independently and unknowingly “invented” a tea brewing method that is used by the people famous for tea drinking.

When I use loose tea I brew it in a French press, which I decided to try after having three tea balls break in less than two years. I let it brew for a minute to a minute and a half with a kitchen towel wrapped around the press to help keep it hot. That works fairly well for keeping the tea hot enough though it doesn’t yield as hot a cup as the tea bag mashing/swirling method.

Finally, there’s the matter of milk in tea. Now that’s weird. I’ve only personally known one person who took milk in her tea. I did try it myself with a vanilla “chai” tea and it was okay. To put milk in plain black tea though… I just can’t. I can’t do that to a perfectly good cup of tea.

My favorite line from this wonderful article though, is “Of course, as every right-thinking British person knows: the only really correct way to drink tea is the way you take it yourself. Everyone else is just Doing It Wrong,” to which I can only say, “Indeed!”

Thanks.

Gingery Revalation

I just recently discovered this brand of “ginger beer” at Atwoods. It’s very good. You can actually taste the ginger in it. Of course it doesn’t come in a sugar free, calorie free version so I can only indulge occasionally.

Ginger Ale Bottle

That “you can actually taste the ginger” might seem like a strange thing to say but I grew up with the notion that Canada Dry was the standard by which all ginger ales were judged. Moreover, the words “ginger ale” merged in my mind into one thing and when I heard it I no more thought of ginger than I thought of ale.

My husband’s experience is different though. He has memories of a superior, more gingery, ginger ale from the past and since he first mentioned it I’ve been on the lookout for different brands to try. This one gets a thumbs up though it is not The One.

By the way, I’ve always thought that ginger ale and ginger beer were the same thing but apparently there is, or was, a difference but it’s become somewhat blurry.

Quotes From Here and There

We found a fabric mall!! I’m not kidding – a whole row of shops (probably 20) of all fabric shops.here (Wow!)

People who have made car payments every month of their adult life cannot conceive that two tanks of gas per month is less money than pretty much any new car payment.there (They probably cannot conceive of only two tanks of gas per month either. Gas tanks on newer cars are so tiny you’re lucky if one tankful gets you through one whole week.)

Of course, we do have actual heroes amongst us. They are ordinary citizens, police, doctors, EMTs, firemen, soldiers, and more. They are the ones in the light pushing back the darkness.here

John Boehner calling out anyone for BS is like Jeffrey Dahmer bitching about Iron Chef.there

I’m sorry, I don’t care what etsy says, 1993 is NOT ‘vintage’. I sewed clothes that I can still wear in 1993. I’m pretty sure I’m not old enough to be vintage. Even if it’s 1960s it’s NOT vintage, it’s retro.here (Amen to that!)

Stupid Cat

I think I must have the stupidest cats in the world. Big loud scary propane truck comes up the driveway. My stupid cat freaks out! But does he go hide under a nice safe piece of furniture like a normal cat would do? No, he wants to go outside where the noisy thing is to get away from the scary noise. Outside equals safety in his strange little brain so that’s where he thinks he needs to go to be safe even if what he’s scared of is out there.

Water is the Best Sports Drink

According to a report in the British Medical Journal sports drinks may do more harm than good. Is anyone really surprised by this? It should be obvious that you shouldn’t rely on health advice from someone who is trying to sell you something. But it’s not that simple. Marketing claims spread and are repeated by sources that most people consider reliable – magazine articles, coaches, mom – and we don’t even think about where the claims originated. And it’s really hard to purge these beliefs once they’ve taken hold. For an example of this just read the comments on the article. Many of the commenters agree with it but there are just as many who insist that sports drinks are good, even necessary.

The article also says that, contrary to what we’ve been told for years, you don’t need to drink large quantities of water or other fluids to stay “hydrated”. Just drink when you’re thirsty.

The BMJ investigation contends that one of the “greatest successes” of the Gatorade Sports Sciences Institute, established in 1985, was “to undermine the idea that the body has a perfectly good homeostatic mechanism for detecting and responding to dehydration—thirst.” Instead the mantra became that thirst was a dangerously unreliable indicator of hydration, and sales of sports drinks quickly soared to a $2 billion industry in the US.

BMJ analyzed current hydration guidelines for marathon runners and found that, “drinking according to the dictate of thirst throughout a marathon seems to confer no major disadvantage over drinking to replace all fluid losses, and there is no evidence that full fluid replacement is superior to drinking to thirst.”

Of course this “news” will make no difference. The companies that make sports drinks will keep on making the same claims and most people will keep on believing them. Once a belief is established it’s little different from religious dogma.

Buying Luck

Nothing like this could ever happen to me. Mostly because I don’t shop at Goodwill or yard sales. I admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to that sort of thing. Even if I did shop at those places I doubt I would ever be lucky enough to find and recognize hidden treasures.

Another Fashion Show

Just me showing off again.

For this brown dress I used the same pattern as for the orange dress, New Look 6093. I love this pattern. It is the most fun to sew thing I’ve made in years. At first I was a little worried about those curved pieces but the skirt pieces go together like magic and the gathered bodice pieces are about the same difficulty level as a standard sleeve.

I made this one a few inches longer than the orange one and made it a bit bigger around the hips so the side seam pockets (not included in this pattern) stay closed a little better. It is so tempting to make more of these but it’s not as comfortable to wear as less fitted dresses. I mean it’s okay but it feels a bit too dressy for everyday around-the-house wear. And I have other patterns I haven’t used yet so I’m going to wait until at least next year before I make another one.

Brown paisley dress

Here’s a closeup of the fabric. I love these sort of antique-y looking colors and of course I always love paisley.

Brown paisley fabric

I just got another fitted style dress pattern. After months of arguing with myself about it I finally bought Vogue 8577. I have one piece of fabric that I think might do but I’m not sure if I want to use that. It’s an off-white with tiny goldish light brown vines. I don’t know if I would like wearing something that near white. It was in my mother’s stash but it might not have been something she chose. Right after she gave all her fabric to me last year I asked her what she had been thinking about doing with one of the pieces and she said that someone had given her most of the fabric. I’m glad I asked because I would have always been puzzled about all this fabric that I know wasn’t to her taste.

Anyway, I have one more dress to show off. I made this one just like the bright pink dress. This is such a comfortable, practical, and easy to make dress. I like the extended shoulders, the slightly curved V-neckline, and the simple collar. I’m definitely going to make at least one more like it.

Red, white and blue dress

I feel another orange dress coming on. I fell in love with a beautiful batik fabric – orange with a little brown and a tiny bit of green – that I saw at Walmart.

This past spring I was thinking, “I really don’t need any more dresses,” but as soon as HOT weather got here and I started wearing dresses every day I realized that I don’t have nearly enough. But I think I’m only going to sew one more summer dress this year. After that I’m probably going to concentrate more on quilting and maybe make a few fall clothes for which I already have the fabric.

Speaking the Language

Last week I said that that I do not like Isaac Asimov’s fiction. I deliberately specified fiction because Asimov’s nonfiction is not only informative but also highly readable and enjoyable. One book in particular, Adding a Dimension (which, sadly, seems to be out of print) holds a place of high esteem and considerable sentimental value in our family.

I can’t remember when I purchased this book. I might have still been in high school. My oldest son read it as soon as he was old enough. I can’t remember when that was either but I’m sure it was at a younger age than most people would expect and it clearly affected him for life. We still occasionally refer to the book in conversation, often obliquely.

I want to share the beginning of one of our favorite chapters. I’m sitting in the dark corner where our computer lives, typing this while trying to keep the book open so please pardon any mistakes I might make.

It is difficult to prove to the man in the street that one is a chemist. At least, when one is a chemist after my fashion (strictly armchair).
Faced with a miscellaneous stain on a garment of unknown composition, I am helpless. I say, “Have you tried a dry cleaner?” with a rising inflection that disillusions everyone within earshot at once. I cannot look at a paste of dubious composition and tell what it is good for just by smelling it; and I haven’t the foggiest notion what a drug, identified only by trade name, may have in it.
It is not long, in short, before the eyebrows move upward, the wise smiles shoot from lip to lip, and the hoarse whispers begin: “Some chemist! Wonder what barber college he went to?”
There is nothing to do but wait. Sooner or later, on some breakfast-cereal box, on some pill dispenser, on some bottle of lotion, there will appear an eighteen-syllable name of a chemical. Then, making sure I have a moment of silence, I will say carelessly, “Ah, yes, ” and rattle it off like a machine gun, reducing everyone for miles around to stunned amazement.
Because, you see, no matter how inept I may be at the practical aspects of chemistry, I speak the language fluently.
But, alas, I have a confession to make. It isn’t hard to speak chemistry. It just looks hard because organic chemistry (that branch of chemistry with the richest supply of nutcracker names) was virtually a German monopoly in the nineteenth century. The Germans, for some reason known only to themselves, push words together and eradicate all traces of any seam between them. What we would express as a phrase, they treat as one interminable word. They did this to the names of their organic compounds and in English those names were slavishly adopted with minimum change.
It is for that reason, then, that you can come up to a perfectly respectable compound which, to all appearances, is just lying there, harming no one, and find that it has a name like para-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde. (And that is rather short, as such names go.)
To the average person, used to words of a respectable size, this conglomeration of letters is offensive and irritating, but actually, if you tackle it from the front and work your way slowly toward the back, it isn’t bad.

He goes on to explain, clearly and quite entertainingly, the meaning and history of each syllable and by the end of the chapter you can easily pronounce para-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde. It will be worth whatever effort it takes to find this book in a library or used book store – read it and make your kids read it.* They will surely thank you for introducing them to the endlessly entertaining lifelong pastime of getting on people’s nerves by using “big words” and knowing all sorts of interesting facts.

*I should add that no one ever had to make my kids read anything. Really, if you want your kids to read just let them see you reading.

“Manly” Cities

Oklahoma City is number 3 on this list of Manliest Cities, up 22 spots from last year. (Tulsa isn’t on the list at all.) The criteria for manliness amuses me. It seems to me that it’s really the criteria for “redneck” or maybe “macho”. Criteria included professional sports teams, number of pickups and motorcycles registered, number of chicken wing and steak restaurants, number of western apparel stores, number of manly occupations, etc. It’s not surprising that 7 of the top 10 are southern cities.

Of course I roll my eyes at all of this. A man who drives an economy car and reads good books and can talk about them intelligently seems at least as manly to me as one who drives a pickup and prefers to talk about sports. But I’m a woman so what would I know? When guys worry about their manliness (and they all do) they’re only concerned about impressing other men.

Thanks

Quote of the Week

Once again I have failed to find a list of wonderful and clever quotes but I do have one great one from the awesomeness that is Leeann

It was exactly what I’d always imagined it would look like if you ran the soft-serve ice cream dispenser into the palm of your hand while coloring it with ashes and despair.

I swear Leeann needs to write a book! I’m sure it would be a bestseller then she would have enough money so she wouldn’t have to work in places like that anymore. (Which might mean less likelihood of a second book so there’s a downside. Hmmmm… maybe her second book could be about her household staff.)

I have a question, directed at the universe in general, and especially at people who manage stores: Why the hell do people who misbehave in stores get discounts? Don’t you know that just rewards and reinforces that kind of behavior? The woman in Leeann’s story should have been arrested or, at the very least, forcibly escorted from the store and told to never come back. (I actually saw a store manager do that once for a much lesser offense so it does happen.)

Random Linkage

Street scenes – I love the old-fashioned architecture.

No great story… – Really? I know I’m not capable of writing a great story so I’m challenging anyone who feels up to the task to write a great story that begins with someone eating a salad.

Country wired to self-destruct – Wow… I had no idea.

Suzanne Lalique-Haviland – An artist seen but not heard of

Words English owes to India – Fascinating. (via)

Escape – An inspiring bit of history

Oooo pretty! – I could make one of those!

Mondrian Pong – Hah!

Eco-friendly cat shelter

25 cute animal pics

Why Pretend? Read!

Andrea has found a list of 10 Sci-Fi Novels People Pretend to Have Read. (I’m glad he said “sci-fi”. “SF” is so pretentious.) I do not pretend to have read books. First, I have actually read enough classic, highly acclaimed, really big books to impress almost anyone I might want to impress. Second, most of the people I run into in “real life” (i.e. not on the Internet) are impressed (or sometimes puzzled) that I read any books at all, especially science fiction. And third, I would hate to get caught pretending.

It seems like an odd list. Why these 10 books. I have read some of them and I want to read others but not all of them.

1. Cryptonomicon – Yes, I’ve read it. It was an interesting and fun book.

2. Dune – Yes! (I include the first three books in the series) I read these several times before the movie came out. There’s nothing like reading Dune for the first time. Really blew me away.

3. Gravity’s Rainbow – No. I might or might not read this someday. To be honest, I generally find WWII era Germans to be dull and tedious but curiosity will likely lead me to read it eventually.

4. Foundation – No. Don’t know if I’ll ever read it or not. I know this is practically heresy but I haven’t liked any of Asimov’s fiction that I’ve read so far.

5. Johnathon Strange & Mr. Norrell – No. Never heard of it before but I am somewhat interested. I’ll put this one in the “definitely maybe” category.

6. 1984 – Yes. I feel that a lot of people don’t really get this book but I won’t comment because I’m sure someone would think I don’t get it either.

7. First and Last Men and Star Maker – No. Never heard of these either but they sound sort of interesting and they’re old enough to be available for free on Project Gutenberg so I will definitely read them.

8. The Long Tomorrow – No. The title sounds slightly familiar. I doubt I’ll ever read this one. Doesn’t sound like my cup o’ tea.

9. Dhalgren – No. Another slightly familiar title. Although I’m not a huge fan of Samuel R. Delany this sounds just interesting enough that I might give it a try.

10. Infinite Jest – No. Another one that doesn’t sound like my cup o’ tea.

Science Hero

I’ve been seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson on various science documentaries on the Discovery Channel and the Science channel for several years but just lately I’ve been seeing him a lot on the Internet. It’s not surprising that he has become a science celebrity because he’s quite entertaining. Unfortunately, the people who really need this probably aren’t listening.

A couple of quotes from Tyson’s book on Byzantium’s Shores

This ‘n’ That

I didn’t even notice until this morning that Friday was Friday the 13th. I actually like Friday the 13th. It’s almost always a good day for me and this is silly but it makes me smile to have a good day on a day that’s supposed to bring “bad luck”.

We know how to make it rain: just cook something outdoors. There was only a 20% chance of rain yesterday but my husband was frying fish in his new propane deep fryer and it started pouring rain.

Glow-in-the-dark fabric is cool but when I really think about it, I don’t want it. Especially not at that price! If I was going to spend that much on fabric it would be something that would be pretty in the daylight.

Holy crap! Yeah, I could embed that but for obvious reasons I’m not going to.

Quotes From Here and There

The Industry’s claim that they’re losing sales makes no sense with regard to items they don’t actually sell.here

Do not mess with people armed with pointy needles and high-speed Internet.there

But skill at making money is just that—skill at making money. It’s not evidence that you possess a unique economy-powering genius without which the rest of us would all be paupers.here (via)

So I made a cup of chai tea and grabbed a blanket, and Peanut and I snuggled on the freezing front step, her warming her hands on my mug, as we watched the rain fall into puddles on the path. And I was glad I wasn’t at work. And I was glad it was me freezing on that step and not another woman, paid a pittance to love someone else’s children. And I wouldn’t swap times like that for all the coffee dates in creation.there [sigh]

After all, there are plenty of real conservatives who support gay marriage and ObamaCare is about the most free-market solution possible for our health care problems (and was basically invented by conservatives).here

Feast. Your. Eyes.there