Early Holiday Cheer

It’s that time of year again – the first of the Holiday Art Fairs.  For the next two days, I’ll be sitting in a room full of artists, people-watching (one of my favorite hobbies) and selling my wares to shoppers while listening to the same Christmas CD played over and over and over and over and over and then there’ll be a pause while the ladies in charge of putting that CD on have gone for lunch, then . . . .

over and over and over and …

Well, you get the picture.

Sigh.

Merry November, everyone.

It’s really the shit

Last month, my sister and I went together and — without selling either of our cars — bought a used SUV.  It was really affordable, seeing as how we were splitting the payment and insurance right down the middle.  We’d grown weary of constantly borrowing our mother’s Jeep whenever we purchased something large or oddly shaped, and they’re predicting a very bad winter this year, and we were tired of getting our Beetle’s stuck in the alley, unable to mount the 3-foot high wall of snow the plows would block it with.  What’d we buy, you ask?  A 2005 Hyundai Santa Fe, jet black, with leather !

The holidays are coming up, and we’re vendors at a Christmas art fair in a couple of weeks – it’ll be great not having to take both cars loaded with our set up and inventory.

Oh, speaking of the holidays, did I mention – MY SISTER IS UNEMPLOYED AGAIN!

Happy Fucking Holiday Season.

Yeah. Ain’t that special?   She gets called in to her supervisor’s office Friday afternoon, and told that — while SHE ( the supervisor ) loves her work and her (my sister), and wouldn’t part with her for anything, the Bosses hired some new guy and got talked in to replacing her.

But the best part …  You wanna hear the best part?

“We don’t offer any severance here, but — while I know you have every reason not to, we’d really appreciate it if you could work the next two weeks, then leave.”

I know, I would have told them to go fuck themselves with earnest and a hockey stick, but she needs the positive referral and a letter of reference if she ever hopes to get another job.  So there she is, working this week and, well just part of next.  I figure at this point, it’s more a testament to her character that she can stay there another 7 days than any lingering sense of loyalty.

I will admit, it’s nice to have a “wife” at home, especially during the holiday season. This job she had made her work through lunch and never allowed for holidays off, so every holiday she had to work. She would have had Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day off, but she’s had to work all the others, and that pissed me off. Now she’ll have time off, and she’ll eventually find a better job, one with holidays off, and a lunch break every day, and people who appreciate her !

Meanwhile, *Orchard Foods, LLC can go fuck themselves with earnest and a hockey stick!

*the preceding was a personal opinion, and not reflective of anything physically possible without aid of a two-way mirror and a couple of elves.

Tea, tea tea tea tea

So last weekend, I attended my first Northwest Tea Festival, a yearly tea convention/festival that has now become my favorite annual event. My only regret is that this was the third year, and I’d only just now learned of it !

For tea lovers, this was Nirvana  – there were tastings, classes, vendors, and all manner of new taste sensations. Unfortunately, I only managed to attend two different tea tastings and one instructional class, but every vendor’s booth had brewed tea on hand to sample and discuss.

Upon entering, each attendee was handed their own personal porcelain cup, for tastings and sampling, so you weren’t creating waste with paper cups or risking cooties having to share.

I can now say, with some pride, that I’ve tasted an 18-year old, $800 Pu’erh. The fact that it tasted like a cow pasture on a rainy day, or that it looked much like that which you scrape from a horse’s hoof will come as no surprise to drinkers of Pu’erh. That’s what it’s supposed to taste like. The older the Pu’erh, the more “grass-like” it’s flavor.

I was pleasantly surprised by some White teas. Their taste was less earthy, but interesting all the same.

And I learned about Dark teas, from Hunan, which are a completely new and separate category from Black, Pu’erh, White or Herbal, although their flavor is rather like a faintly brewed Pu’erh.

But the best part – the most fun I had that day – was being able to torture my out-of-state friend and fellow tea enthusiast, who would have sold one of his children to be there if his wife would have gone along with it. I sent him photos from the vendor floor, sent texts on the teas I was tasting, even showed him images of his favorite tea-book author who was giving a reading at the event.

Of course next year, he’ll be there, seeing and tasting it all for himself. And it’ll have moved, to a larger location, and with any luck will have doubled in size. We’d both love to take the Tea Blenders Certification course, which would allow us to get started in the world of blending and selling teas.

Nothing goes better with a good book on a rainy day like a hot, steaming pot of tea! Which reminds me, I think I put the pot on when I sat down to blog . . .

My Peeps and Peepettes

Don’t miss out on the September sale!  Visit Smashwords.com and pick up my eBook In The Time of Dying for free!

That’s right, FREE, but only until Midnight September 30th.  Just enter code SD55B at checkout, and it’s free!

Did you also know you can purchase all of my titles from the Barnes and Noble online eBook store?  I shitz you not!

All of em!

The Legend of Darkness and Light

In The Time of Dying

Ether 

Keeper, Madness, Tools of Extinction, Sha’erah

and When the Stars Walk Backwards

Go, Shop, Read, Enjoy!

Damned inconvenient

So my week/weekend was spent productively – had every window in my house replaced, had the space between my garage and fence cleared, leveled and graveled over to create a parking pad for the new SUV, and installed a lovely little fence/gate at the corner of the garage to re-enclose the yard after having torn down a fence to put up the parking pad. (the garage is reserved for both of our cars).

Only something just wasn’t quite right.

The fence, which is really pretty and installs in sections, is unfortunately installed now (by myself) on uneven ground. The yard slopes there, and that means the fence isn’t straight across, and the gate isn’t lining up properly.

It’s been bothering me, and last night – – in the middle of the night – – while I’m lying in bed listening to a lovely windstorm raging outside, it occurs to me how to fix the problem.

Only THEN my problem was the fact that it was almost midnight, pitch black outside, wet from a day of rain, and windy as all get out. All I could think of was getting out of bed right then, going outside and fixing the fence.

I wanted to do that so badly, it took me another hour to fall asleep!

I must have devoted a solid forty minutes to trying to understand why it wouldn’t have been a good idea to get up, put on some shoes, and go outside in the dark and wind, to fix the problem. Forget pants, I figured some shoes and maybe a flashlight, and I’d be good to go.

I probably would have done it, too, if I didn’t think my sister would have made me come inside.

Now I’m sitting here at work, frustrated that I’m not at home fixing that fence. I can’t even get to it for another few hours, since I’ll have to get off work, drive home – – stop to fuel up the car first and grab a latte at Starbucks – – then get home and convince my sister that we should go outside and do it NOW NOW NOW I WANNA DO IT NOW, rather than wait till the weekend.

Honestly, I have such little patience, it’s a wonder I can write novels.

What did the instructions say?

Do you read ‘em? Those instructions, or owner’s manuals that come with things you’ve bought or been given? Do you open up a box on Christmas and then, when all the morning’s excitement has ebbed and people are relaxing in cookie-comas, do you curl up on the couch in your pink fuzzies, slap on those reading glasses and dive headlong into the operating instructions or assembly diagrams?

Why the hell not?

That’s my favorite part about buying or receiving something fancy or deconstructed. Be it electronics or a bookcase from Ikea, I get all giddy thinking about curling up on the couch, cup of tea in hand, and reading the manual or assembly instructions from Page 1 to the end. It’s my second favorite part, the first being the new owner of whatever thing it is I’m reading up on.

Don’t you love it?

When you bought your car, did you come home, all excited and happy about the new purchase, then sit down that evening with the owner’s manual and read the whole thing? I did. I remember, back in ’02 when I bought my Beetle, it was Fall, and by the time I got home and came down from the extreme high of a new car, it was dark and cold outside. I curled up on the couch with the owner’s manual, stroked that massive, bound, multi-volume monstrosity with a loving hand, and read the whole thing, cover to cover with a huge smile on my face.

Every year at Christmas, someone gets something that comes with instructions, and I scream when I see them tossed aside while the new owner simply dives in, clueless, and starts pushing buttons or assembling pieces. I typically grab the instructions and go sit somewhere quiet and read them. That’s probably why I’ve gained a reputation in the family as the person who’ll be able to figure out how it works, or goes together, once the owner has given up in a sweating, angry huff.

Seriously, people, you do read these things, don’t you?

Do you KNOW the weight limit of the luggage rack on top of your car? Do you even realize what the optimum positioning of your rear passenger seat headrests ARE? Have you a clue what Slot A is, or how many Allen-head screws part C you have?

Honestly, sitting down with an operator’s manual is as exciting for me as curling up with a seriously good book from my favorite author. When the guys at work caught me reading the owner’s manual for my car, they laughed, but I didn’t care. While other people are struggling to make Shim A fit into Slot C using Screws L and H with Washers P and can’t figure out why it isn’t working, I’m already stacking books into my new Ikea bookshelf.

While some poor slob takes his or her brand new car to the gas station for the first time and struggles to find the release for that little door covering the gas cap, I mourn just a little bit for that unread manual waiting, untouched, in the glove box.

Someone worked long and hard to write that thing, you know. They spent days lining up the diagrams just right, double checking the arrows, making sure Slot A is properly depicted. “It is best to be two persons while assembling this furniture.” That doesn’t write itself.

Why, just the other day, my sister and I bought an SUV. It’s used, because when you’re purchasing a spare vehicle that won’t even be put in the garage, it’s foolish to buy new. So I knew there was a chance we wouldn’t find the owner’s manual. Just as sure as I knew I’d be able to go online and print a freshly minted copy, if need be. So you can imagine my surprised delight when we got home and discovered, Joy of Joys! there in the glove box – the original owners manual !

Looking like it had never been cracked open before, I lifted that beautiful, heavy book from the glove box and carried it inside. It was bound in leather, black and lush and soft like the seats themselves. I rushed to make a pot of tea and found my reading glasses, then curled up on the couch, in my happy place, and spent that evening reading the manual from cover to cover.

Now I can say, with confidence, that I am fully versed in the clutchless gear shifter, the operation of all-wheel drive with traction control, and everything in between. I can quote you on anything from the weight limits of the luggage rack to the proper care and maintenance of leather seats. If a light on the dash comes to life, I won’t panic, because I know what it means. If I insert a CD, I know which button to press for Track 3. After maneuvering that big, black, beautiful thing into the drive up at Starbucks, I can roll down the window without even looking to see which button to push.

Because I read the manual.

I studied the instruction book from cover to cover.

And I loved it !

 

 

I love Fall!

How much do I love Fall?

I love Fall SO much, I’m going to celebrate by giving you one month to download my eBook In The Time Of Dying, for FREE!

Just go to Smashwords to buy my title In The Time of Dying, and enter code SD55B at checkout, and you’ll get the title for free, all through the month of September.

So celebrate the brat–er–children being back in school, curl up on the couch with some tea, and enjoy a good book – FREE.

Tea part Two

My new teas arrived from Numi on Monday, waiting patiently for me on my front porch when I got home. I had to bribe my sister to step outside and bring in the box for me, since it’s Fall Spider Season. Don’t tell Pete or Renee, because I’ve been telling them we don’t have spiders here. Truth is, every Fall, we get these outdoor orange striped things that build webs between stuff, like my front door and the wrought iron railing. So in the Fall, you never walk between two bushes, two posts, a tree and a wall, without looking first.

They’re harmless, completely outdoor-only, and not at all large by standards other than my own squishiness.

Anyway, why am I talking about spiders when this is about tea?

I ordered these from Numi, one of many quality sources for really good teas. First up, I knew I had to try the Aged Earl Grey, an Italian Bergamot Black Tea. As with all teas, part of the experience is the aroma, even when the tea you’re about to drink isn’t laced with florals, you take a wiff of the loose tea, or open up a bag’s outer wrapping and give it a good snort.

The Aged Earl Grey presented with a fine, delicately sweet aroma that brought a promise of a good dark pot to ward off an evening’s chill. Unlike the Republic of Tea’s Earl Greyer, which is a very fine tea indeed, this one didn’t present as a wake-up tea or something strong enough to hold up a tall building, but it was decidedly less delicate than a Lady Grey.

I admit, from the Aged in it’s name, I expected something heartier smelling and seriously blackened, but after some thought I realized it’s more an aged wine, delicate yet full bodied.

Brewing a cup, you find it darkens quickly, and one bag gives you two very dark, well steeped cups of tea. I noticed I couldn’t smell the Italian Bergamot, which is an orange, and drinking it I can honestly say I didn’t taste orange, but there was a lightness to it that was unexpected from such a dark cup. It was smooth, like fine aged wine, and had a mellowness you find in good quality cheese. Great tea for evenings or dark, rainy days – although for a seriously dark, gloomy day nothing beats Lapsang Souchong.

Next up was a cup of the Berry Black, a Raspberry and black tea that smelled very faintly of berries. This tea brewed up slightly less dark than the Aged Earl Grey, but I still got two well steeped teacups from one bag. The aroma of berries is very faint, and easily overwhelmed by the scent of the black tea itself, but even with the first sip I could taste fruit.

Partway through the cup, I couldn’t help feel this would be a great tea to sooth a horrible cold, or even a flu. There was a hint of citrus, not that slap in the face you’ll get when you’ve add a tad too much lemon to your tea (good for sore throats and colds, but not recommended otherwise), just a mild sensation of citrus fruits hidden among the tea that was both lifting and soothing. The Raspberry comes in as a finish with each sip, quietly lingering on the back of your tongue, but not setting up a lawn chair or anything.

I saved the Chinese Breakfast for this morning at work, expecting a very strong kick in the face along the lines of Gunpowder Black, so you can imagine my surprise when the first sip brought to mind Vanilla.

Assuming my tastebuds were compromised by the pretzels I was eating, I continued drinking the tea and stopped eating the pretzels, still somewhat surprised by the mildness. The aroma was more of a Darjeeling than a Yunnan, but admittedly those aromas are quite similar. As I’m working my way through this cup, I still believe there’s a hint of the Darjeeling in there, but it lacks the lift at the end of the swallow you get with a great Darjeeling (some of you might recognize Darjeeling by its more common name: Chinese Restaurant Tea). There’s a lightness there, but it is decidedly a Yunnan. The more I sip, the less Darjeeling-ness I’m feeling.

Every time I bring the cup to my lips, I detect that aroma of vanilla, but the actual flavor is barely there, almost as unnecessary as an A-cup bra. It’s there, but hardly noticeable and doing nothing of importance. It is exactly as they describe: “A distant and hard to place floral quality”.

I was expecting the kick you get with Scottish Breakfast, or Gunpowder, but it isn’t there and I don’t miss it. As I was telling my friend and fellow tea enthusiast Pete, instead of that kick in your face, alarm going off, wake-up tea, I’m getting a gentle, more thoughtful way to start the day. There’s no dark lingering aftertaste that would interfere with whatever I was having for breakfast. Unlike the Scottish Breakfast, which I adore btw, there’s no heavy, mask-the-haggis-on-your-breath aftertaste. The perfect compliment to any food.

If you’re one of those people who thinks Tea is Tea, you pick some up at the store, it comes in a box full of little bags, and it sits in your cupboard for decades because Aunt Rose cancelled her trip last minute – – then you stopped reading this post after the spider mention.

If you’re still easing your way into the Wonderful World of Tea, then I highly recommend you try any of these. Chinese Breakfast, Aged Earl Grey, or Raspberry Black. They’re very enjoyable teas that won’t overwhelm you, good starters for those still not sure if they’re ready for a Lapsang Souchong or Indian Tea Dust. I purchased mine online, directly from Numi, but if you don’t like online shopping, you can find Numi teas at World Market or any store that has a good selection of teas and organic fair trade items.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to boil some more water…

Tea Time

Oh Glorious grey skies, chilly air and dew-swept hair!

Well I’ll stop there. I haven’t written poetry in ages, but the tides of summer have swept aside today, ushering in glorious Fall-like weather after a week of upper 80’s. Last night, even though it was still pretty hot inside, I couldn’t take the wait any longer. I brewed up some tea, Darjeeling, and sat on the couch blissfully sipping.

I’m a tea-snob in the same way I’m a coffee snob. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks coffee, but it damn well better not have come out of a can! I prefer my tea loose-leaf, but don’t mind bagged so long as it’s good tea.

No Liptons or that, what’s it called…the crap my mother keeps in her house . . . Ah, Red Rose. Blech. You use that with lemon when you have the flu.

Shudder

No, for good tea, you gotta shop for it. Name brands don’t matter, it can be Numi, Ministry of Leaves, or even Stash from your grocery shelves. But it has to be TEA. You have to know the name, and the leaves inside that baggie. No generic “tea” for me, thankyouverymuch.

Today, in anticipation of the current 7-day forecast of 60 degrees, cloudy and wet, I’ve ordered three teas to add to my always-present stash of tea:

Chinese Breakfast (Yunnan Black). Aged Earl Grey (Bergamont Black). And some Berry Black (Raspberry Darjeeling).

Once the weather settles in for serious Fall-ness, I can break out my supply of Lapsang Souchong, one of my all-time favorites that I never have to share (for some reason, the lovely scent of burning wood turns everyone else off. Go figure). No matter, I’ll happily share with them my Big Green Hojicha, or some of the Darjeelings, Earl Greys, Yunnans or assorted Blacks. Scottish Breakfast is a big hit, so is Lady Grey – much like a good dark Earl Grey with sweet floral and citrus notes.

So pull up a couch, grab that blankie and a good book (preferably one of mine) and settle in for the afternoon.

It’s TEA TIME!

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