Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All aboard the Cutie Express

(Please note, nobody is paying me diddle to write about tea. I'm just talking to you.)

So Mike's parents took us to Charleston for a few days as our Christmas present this year. Isn't that awesome? We just got back about an hour ago and I wanted to write about one thing we did before I forget all the important details. I have the worst memory when it comes to day-to-day stuff. I have to write down what I do every day in my little calendar at work, or else I honestly can't remember my life. And I've been out of my office for a while now, so it's going to be a real challenge trying to catch up when I get back. Luckily Mike can usually fill in the blanks, but that also makes me feel even worse about not being able to remember things.

Anyway. So this morning we went to the Charleston Tea Plantation. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law both like tea, so they wanted to go on a tour of the place. When I found out yesterday that we were going, I was not excited. I don't drink tea, I don't care about tea, and I figured it would just feel like a field trip. Except instead of missing school, I'd be missing out on shopping or sleeping or eating hush puppies. So I was expecting to have a pretty lousy time, while having to feign excitement and interest so as not to hurt Mom's feelings.

But y'all. It was SO interesting. We took a trolley tour around the plantation, and the trolley driver, Bob, was just about the cutest man of all times. He was charming and sweet and made the cutest jokes. He knew so much about tea. Some heifer from Pennsylvania kept asking questions as we were leaving, so I couldn't even tell him how much I enjoyed it and ask if he wanted to come home with us. But also the owner of the plantation, a man named Bill (one of only 28 professional tea tasters in the US, by the way), talked to us about tea via cassette tape throughout the trolley tour. And I SWEAR, that man talks EXACTLY like John Malkovich, which is not easy to do. We never saw Bill, so I'm not fully convinced it WASN'T John Malkovich. But even if you don't find tea interesting, as it turns out that I do, it would still be cool just because of the way Bill talks. And did I mention Cute Bob the Trolley Driver? Who passes out lotion made from the tea for you to try as you start your trolley tour? His wife makes him put it on every time he comes back from fishing.

So here are some of the truly fascinating things I learned about tea today:

1. All tea (black, oolong, and green) comes from the same plant. There's only one plant in the whole world that produces tea, and the different types of teas are simply processed in different ways. Also, tea plants are super eco-friendly because they're resistant to pests and disease so they don't require any pesticides or fungicides, and Bob says even deer don't like to eat the plants, so they don't have a single "predator." Plus the soil doesn't have to be tilled so there's no soil erosion. Tea is awesome. And the part they harvest is just the 3-5 inches from the top of each plant. That's where the tasty tea leaves grow. A tea plant can be harvested every 14-21 days, so the plantation has 20 different fields of tea plants. During harvest season, they harvest one section each day, and by the time they start again, the first one has new growth to harvest! Bob told us there are 3 workers who do the entire 127-acre plantation. ALL the planting has to be done by hand (!!!) and the fields have to be weeded and such by hand. Can you IMAGINE??

2. The tea plantation in Charleston is the ONLY one in all of North America. Tea plants need humidity and rain and a certain type of soil (Bill Malkovich told us tea plants looove rain but hate wet feet, so the sandy soil in Charleston helps keep the roots dry even when it's humid and rainy). The tea they produce is called American Classic Tea, and Bob said that in 2010 they're joining the digital age and getting a website where you can order! In the meantime you have to call to order, I think, and their little html website has the phone number. It's here. They had the raspberry tea for us to sample and oh MAN was it good.

3. Ireland is the biggest per-capita consumer of tea. The Irish drink an average of 9 pounds of tea a year, and Bob told us that one pound of tea makes 200 cups! HOLY CRAP, Ireland. And tea is the 2nd most commonly consumed beverage in the world.

4. 80% of the tea consumed in the US is iced tea. In South Carolina, or at least the part where I live, people don't ask for "sweetened iced tea," they just say "tea." When I worked in restaurants I always knew the non-southerners because they asked for "iced tea," or as Mike's mom still specifies (she's from up north), "unsweetened iced tea." Here, it's weird to drink what we just call "unsweet" tea and not need Splenda or some sort of artificial sugar, and hot tea is just a crazy people's drink. Hot tea. What are you, 100? Carol Brady on Christmas eve?

5. You can decaffeinate your tea! Did y'all know that? This is the single coolest thing I learned today. Here's the text from the little how-to paper:

Studies show that heat releases caffeine. Therefore, you may enjoy your tea with naturally-reduced caffeine by using the following methods:

ICED TEA: Pour cold water over the tea bags- DO NOT BOIL WATER- and let sit overnight on your counter. In the morning, remove bags, add sweetener if you like, then ice and drink! (This is sometimes called "Moon Tea," but you may also leave your tea on counter during the day while you are at work.)

HOT TEA: Pour boiling water over your tea, and let it sit for 60 seconds. POUR OUT THAT FIRST CUP. Then pour boiling water over your tea again, and enjoy!


I love how they tell you that it's sometimes called moon tea, but don't worry y'all you don't have to make it when the moon is out. And the joke at the end just slays me. But isn't that cool? I mean it probably doesn't turn it totally decaf, but how HANDY not to have to buy a totally different kind of tea when you want tea at night but don't want to be unable to sleep. And as Bob says, "maybe you like caffeinated but your spouse likes decaf- this little trick can save marriages!" Oh he was precious. And do you know what's the last thing he said to us? Here it is.

"Well it's been a pleasure driving y'all around. Go get some tea (there were free samples) and maybe buy some to take home, and take back home with you a little of the Charleston philosophy for living. And that's to start the day slowly, and taper off from there."

Seriously, if you are ever in Charleston, you have to go to this place. I think Bob is the only trolley driver, but if he's not, just stand there and wait until he's on duty. And try not to let any chatty heifers on.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maybe some kind of neckwear? A nice book?

Last Friday, at 5:30 in the morning, Mike flew to Phoenix for a work thing. The thing lasts a week, so he won't be home until this Friday, which means that, for me, this is the longest week in recorded history. I can't even remember how many times yesterday I thought "it's only Wednesday?" It has not been pretty. And to make matters worse, up until Monday, I thought he was coming home on Wednesday. I sent him an e-mail to ask if he wanted me to pick him up from the airport and he said "You think I'm coming home on Wednesday?" Oh man was I bummed. Two whole extra days without him at Christmas(time).

So I've been staying with my parents, who only live about 2 miles away, and with my cousin, because it's just lonely to be alone. And yesterday my sweet friend Laura agreed to take me in for the night. After work I went home to get my things (pillow, firetruck pajamas, monsterberry crunch). And do you know what was waiting for me at home? Presents! Mike had hidden presents in the house for me to open while he was gone, and he left notes for me about where to find them. It was so awesome. He got me jingly Christmas jewelry, and a really marvelous sparkly headband that I plan to take off for showers and haircuts only, and these amazing red-and-white striped candy cane socks that I totally would have worn to work today if they didn't have a furry band around the top that made the calf-area of my pants look weirdly fatter than the rest of my leg. Ordinarily even that wouldn't have been enough to deter me, but we've got a board meeting today and the other girls who come to it are disturbingly glamorous and I totally do not fit in. Maybe I've got frizzy hair and my clothes aren't tailored, but I draw the line at being the frizzy unkempt girl with the lumpy calves.

But the best present was the last one in our guest bedroom. Y'all. I have the best husband in the history of husbands, because that turkey booked an earlier flight home from Phoenix and he was waiting to take me to San Jose for special nachos. Also we watched the SYTYCD finale. Does he get me or what? I don't know what I did to deserve such a supremely awesome man, but yesterday was for sure the best day of 2009.

So now I am finally feeling Christmasy. Mike is home, and I have festive accessories, and tomorrow I'm skipping out early in hopes of finishing my Christmas shopping. All that's left is my dad, Mike's sister and brother-in-law, my aunt and uncle, and one last thing for my sister. Well, and now I have to figure out what I can get Mike that says "Please never leave me because no one else would ever treat me half as good as you do." Any idea what that might look like?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just say "It's almost 2010, you mean, inelastic tub of lard."

This week I've been thinking about some things I'm not satisfied with in my life and how silly it is to sit around thinking about what I don't like. I'm so lazy. So I'm going to make a list of some things I'm hoping to do differently, and that way I can focus on the good things and be more proactive. Sometimes I am not very good at that, despite having read that Steven Covey book several times.

1. I need to stretch more. It may sound silly, but I am so, so inflexible. You know those sit-and-reach tests where you sit with your feet pressed against that wooden box and lean forward with your arms out and push the metal thing as far as you can? Yeah, it hurts me to just sit on the floor with my feet against the box. I can't even touch my toes when I bend over. It's bad, friends. And how long does it take to STRETCH every day? Not even 5 minutes. So there's no excuse.

2. I need to exercise. I would say exercise more, but that would imply that I exercise. Which I don't. I've been taking for granted the fact that I've lost a little weight this year just by eating less (and maybe drinking more water), but I keep complaining about how clothes don't fit right and how I don't feel pretty and how much happier I'd be if I were just fit and thin, so I'm going to need to get busy. I think my best bet will be getting up earlier to use the treadmill and/or exercise bike (we have both, in our home, and still I don't exercise), since by the time I come home from work all I really want to do is eat ice cream and go to sleep. Probably ought to get rid of the ice cream too. Also, my church's Family Life Center offers several fitness classes, and they are free, and I don't know what brain troubles were keeping me from taking advantage of THAT before now, but I'm going to start going to some or all of those in January. I also have several Jillian Michaels dvds and can go walking over my lunch hour. So really, I ought to be a fitness maven already. I know that the sooner I get into the shape I want to be in, the happier I'll be. And the happier Mike will be, because it's got to be tiring to hear "I'm fat" and "I hate everything" as often as he does and to still see me as an attractive person who splits infinitives.

3. Floss a lot more often. Again, it's small, but it's pretty important. Floss costs way, way less than fillings, which I will have 3 more of soon, and nobody has to stick a needle in my gums every time I floss.

4. Don't be such a downer sometimes. It's far too easy for me to look at the few things that are wrong than everything that's right, and that tends to make me a sad and mopey person nobody wants to be around. It is not hard to be positive and optimistic when you've got as many good things going for you as I do, and I am a true heifer for not always feeling very thankful. And happy. Everybody loves a happy person, and nobody loves a heifer. Words to live by.

There are probably more, but these 4 are what I'm going to work on for now. If you encounter me not doing these things, preferably all at once, slap some sense into me. Tell me I'm not being a highly effective person.