What the hell have I been up to?I’ve

What the hell have I been up to?

I’ve been sans computer for a while, so my very minimal blagging was on Tumblr. I got a Chromebook a couple weeks back, so ideally I’ll get to posting more soon.

I’m Yelp Elite now. My reviews are overwhelmingly positive, unlike a lot of Yelpers. 93% of my reviews are three stars or higher. 50% of my reviews are four or five stars. (The only time I’m really harsh is if you have a job working in a nice, climate-controlled office with little potential for personal injury and limited interaction with the general public and you’re still a douche. It’s a pretty exclusive category.) I’m actually not sure what Yelp Elite is FOR. There’s some promotional parties for things, but basically it doesn’t mean anything? I Yelp because it’s helped me find new things to do and places to go when I’ve moved cities, and I like reviewing things that don’t need reviews. Like the Pike Place Gum Wall. Ew.

Anyway. I’ve been writing a bit more. I’m 5000 words into a project. I hear talking about it makes you less likely to actually do it. I’d like to have something one can actually hold by September or so.

I have a dog, Ludo, who eats free time and craps out love. Seriously, he’s wonderful, but I get significantly less sleep with him around. And I’ve had a video game for a month that I haven’t yet played. But going to the dog park is probably the best thing ever. My next post might be all about how to make dog biscuits. Stay tuned.

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So what the hell am I up to?

I’m the worst at blogging. Since moving to Seattle, I’ve gotten a job and a dog. I also don’t have a computer. Mine didn’t do well in the move, I’m stuck using Jarod’s. I have a smartphone these days so it’s not much of a hardship.

Seattle!

It’s Facebook-official, so that means I can post it here. Over the course of December my husband and I are packing up our stuff and our two cats and moving from central Florida to Seattle!

Fortunately we’re not going overland. If we were, we’d end up adding about ten hours to the trip and hugging the south and the coast, because I’ve played the Oregon Trail and I know you don’t go out west during the winter unless you want to get lost in the snow, break your arm and die of dysentery. Instead we’re boxing up a portion of our stuff, giving away the rest, selling the car, and flying.

Yipes.

Magnets for Sandy

Hurricane Sandy wrecked a whole bunch of stuff that I care about. I don’t live in the area, I’m not qualified to join the relief effort, and I don’t have a ton of money. But I have a bunch of melty beads, and you want an awesomesauce magnet, so let’s make this happen!

Apologies for the terrible picture. They're nicer in person!

Apologies for the terrible picture. They’re nicer in person!

Pricing scheme:

$2: I’ll send you a randomly-chosen magnet plus a handwritten holiday card. I already have a couple dozen of these beadsprites made, you’ll get one of those.

$4: I take requests. It has to be 8-bit, a single character or object. You get this and the card.

$10: Custom sprite based on your DnD character or whatever. Caveat: Your character has to have a recognizable design. If you’re some Liefieldian monster, that’s your own fault and you should just donate the money yourself. You also get the holiday card.

Also, if you donate a dollar or more directly to the Red Cross and can show me proof, I’ll send you a post card. Everyone likes getting mail, right? Email brokeveggie@gmail.com with proof and your address. (Or the address of someone who deserves random postcards. I don’t particularly care who gets it.)

Married life

Husband: I don’t think that guinea pig thing is true.

Me: It is! Oh…the circles thing?

Husband: Did you see it happen?

Me: No, but my small animal science teacher said so in high school.

Husband: Let’s get a guinea pig and test it!

Me: No!

Husband: You never let me do anything.

Me: You won’t let me have a goat!

Husband: That’s true.

Me: I’m blogging this exchange.

Husband: Just be sure to tell them I’m winning.

And then he tripped on his face, looked ridiculous, and gave me a trophy for being right about everything ever. The moral of the story: I control the family press release. CHECKMATE.

The Checklist

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

All humans should be able to level a Magikarp to a Gyarados, identify the difference between a Voltorb and an Electrode, and beat Whitney’s Miltank in a Nuzlocke run. Maybe not the last part. Points for knowing what a Nuzlocke run is!

Oh, Heinlein. I can’t do half of that shit, and I can only write a sonnet if you’re willing to excuse some fucking terrible liberties with the English language. How often does any of this come up?

Here’s my list: bandage a wound, research basic shit, negotiate public transit, follow current events, read, write coherently, handle their banking, cook meals that include protein and vegetables, understand and use contraceptives, launder their own clothes, manage their hygiene, speak adequately, listen well. Bonus points for being able to walk a few miles, sew a button and do basic household maintenance.

Not everybody can do everything, but you know… points for effort.

Even Cats Love Chai

She stole this box out of the recycling

“That smells delicious,” thought Tumble, “I wonder if my head will fit inside?”

Tumble loves boxes and hates recycling. She spends a good deal of her time trying to knock over our paper bin or lolling around inside it.

People always say they want smart pets, but Tumble is annoyingly smart. She gets bored easily. She’s possessive and jealous. When I moved in with my now-husband, she used to gently claw my head or my wrists at night. Not enough to harm, just enough to send a message. “I’m allowing you to live for now, soft human, but I could totally eat your eyeballs. Mm, eyeballs.” My husband got Tumble from a rescue when she was just a kitten and she’s absolutely devoted to him. If I was second in bed, I’d find her sprawled in my spot. It is surprisingly hard to move an eight-pound cat who doesn’t want to be moved.

Sometimes at night I’ll wake up to the repeated “Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.” of Tumble opening and closing our kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I’ve babyproofed our cleaning supplies.

She’s curious to the point where it’s sometimes a problem. It’s cute that she pushes open the bathroom door when you haven’t closed it all the way. But Tumble needs to know what you’re doing. She needs to taste the water in your glass! How else can she be sure it’s safe?

The box won this round. She rolled around like that for like five minutes.

The extremely masculine hand belongs to my husband, incidentally.

My taller half is in the habit of leaving a glass of water on his nightstand, and then getting annoyed when Tumble sticks her face in it. I will buy him a sippy cup for Axemas.

I’ve always heard that people don’t adopt black cats and dogs disproportionately to the rest of the adoptable pet population. People say it’s based in superstition, but I imagine it’s also because it’s so damn hard to get a picture that isn’t just kitty laser eyes and shadow. And also superstition. Tumble is only bad luck in that she keeps breaking glasses.

She’s annoyingly bright. I can’t overemphasize this. If my husband lets his alarm clock go for too long, she bats him in the face with her paw and headbutts him until he turns it off. If she wants your attention, she will get it, goddammit. It is adorable how loyal she is: if I’m awake and he’s not, she’ll follow me around. When he wakes up, she comes running over and demands attention.

Tumble is basically a scarf that loves you. If I’m alone in the house and I’m working at the computer, she’ll spend a lot of energy trying to get into my lap. I can’t type with her there, so I put her around my shoulders. She’s not that big, but she’s long and stretchy and will sit there for hours or until I get too warm.

Tumble hates recycling and loves boxes

Oh, Tumble.

The tea, by the way, is Tulsi chai. I usually make my own from Ceylon and cheap spices (international-style markets are amazing) but it was given to me as a gift and it’s pretty good. It’s a little pricier than I like for bagged tea, but that’s what made it a good gift, something I wouldn’t buy for myself. And it’s 100% Tumble-approved.

We have two cats, incidentally. The other one prefers coffee and isn’t quite as comfortable getting her picture taken.

She didn't like boarding with our friends.

She’s actually a marshmallow, I swear.

True story about the coffee. When I rescued her, I was working at the evil empire of coffee chains. I gave her one of my work shirts to sleep on while I was getting to know her and she’s been known to try to open bags of ground coffee.

How to Make Tea

I’m a Yankee living in the south, and I’ve learned the hard way to specify unsweetened every time I order iced tea in a restaurant. Tastes vary, but the sweet tea they serve around here is what I would make if I was baiting an ant trap. So sweet that my teeth melt and I hear the ghost of Wilford Brimley. “Diaaabeeetuuus. Diaaabeeetuuus.” I like sweet things, I do not like weird mustachio’d ghosts.

(Edit: It’s come to my attention that Wilford Brimley is still alive. To which I say “Really? Really? Are you sure?”)

Diabetus

The ghost of bagels past. Holy fuck, I love bagels. Someone should bring me a bagel because they love me.

My tea doesn’t invoke the ghost of Wilfred Brimley. If it’s sweet, it’s usually a mellow, natural sweetness, or I’ve used honey instead of sugar. There are four components to a decent cup of tea:

  1. The tea itself.
  2. Water.
  3. Temperature.
  4. Steeping time.

This isn’t an exact science — I’m sure someone, somewhere, treats it that way, but screw that, I have other things to do. The quality of the leaves matters, but a good tea will be terrible if you screw up the other steps. Hot water releases the deliciousness from the tea, but it can become bitter and unpleasant with too much heat for too long. Just like people!

Acquire tea. My bread and butter is an inexpensive Ceylon (that’s fancy tea-speak for Sri Lanka) tea I bought at an international supermarket. If you’re looking to order tea online, I recommend Davidson’s Tea. That link is for a pound of leaves. Seems like a lot, I know, but I can drink that in a few months. (It translates to pennies a cup, which is far less expensive than a soda habit.) I like the way they package their products too, no unnecessary bulk.

Diabetus!

This is so cute I could puke rainbows.

Ceylon is a great starter tea. It’s good hot or iced. You can drink it with milk and sugar, if you’re so inclined. I knew a British guy who insisted that this was the only way to drink tea, but he was a tool, so make up your own mind. I like honey sometimes, but I like to taste the tea itself.

Water: If your local water doesn’t taste great, that might translate to your tea. Ceylon is a black tea, the strong flavor hides the mineral taste of my local water supply. More delicate teas demand filtered water if you’re going to get the best of their milder flaors. Either way, don’t bother buying bottled water for this. We’re connoisseurs, but we’re not going to be ridiculous. A filter is just fine.

Temperature: Your water has to get warmed up somehow. Don’t own a kettle? A pot on the range is fine. I don’t recommend heating water in the microwave. I use this one because it was incredibly cheap. It’s also easy to travel with. It’s light and you can fill the inside with other things. The only drawback is that it dribbles when you pour, so watch your lap and any wooden surfaces that aren’t well sealed.

(True confession: I left my electric kettle at my family’s house when I was travelling. I’m not willing to buy another when I’ll be visiting them by Thanksgiving, and it would cost as much to ship as to buy a new one. I’m being a little irrational about this, but I’m not buying a new one! So I’ve been making tea the stupid way: boiling water in an ibrik, a Turkish-style coffee pot, and then pouring it in a tea pot, or worse yet, using my drip coffee machine to heat up a bunch of water for herbal tea. Yes, I have two coffee-related devices. Three, actually. I’ll post about them sometime. Don’t be like me, I’m a little ridiculous.)

I keep hoping my cheap kettle will die so I can buy a nicer one without feeling wasteful, but the Rival hotpot is actually really sturdy. It’s fast, too, and more energy-efficient than boiling water on a stovetop.  When it dies, I want this one because of the variable temperature settings. You can microwave water, I’ve never seen a reason why not to, but if you’re making a whole pot of tea it’s really hard to gauge how hot it is and how long you should be microwaving it. Something easy to pour with a heating element is easier, and tea snobs will say it’s all around better.

Not mine even a little bit.

Pictured; a kettle I don’t own. Looks nice enough though.

Tea, like food (and people!) can get overcooked with too much heat. Ceylon tea is robust and can take a rolling boil. Other teas will be damaged by too much heat. With green teas, I take the water off of the boil and let it sit for a minute. White teas are even more delicate, so be careful.

Steeping time: British people like their tea strong, I’ve been led to believe. I suspect this is because they put milk and sugar in it and that’s the only way the flavor of the tea comes through. If you want British-style tea with milk and sugar, go for it, steep your leaves for the full five minutes that it says on the package. Go ahead, I won’t judge you. Tastes vary!

To generalize horribly, people in China tend to steep their leaves for many short steeps as opposed to one long steeping. If you’re using whole-leaf tea, this allows you to extract the full flavor of the leaf. I prefer this for my own tea, particularly because it saves money. If you use a pot with a strainer, take the leaves out at the two minute mark.* You can re-steep the leaves until you stop getting decent flavor, just add a minute to each subsequent steep. You can compost the leaves, too.

*This might sound long if you’re familiar with this sort of thing. Bear with me: Asian-style tea usually uses smaller quantities, so shorter times work better. If you’re using a chunky-bodied British-style teapot, you’ll want more time.

I haven’t written about amount of tea based on water volume because that will vary based on the seller’s instructions and your personal taste. The trick is to not pack it in too tightly: give your leaves room to expand.

There are many rich cultural traditions around tea, but I’m an American. We’re the golems built of scavenged bits of other cultures. Pick what suits you best.

The virtual tea party

Conan! What’s best in life?

Tea time? It's always tea time.

Tea clock by Hamed Saber

A comfortable place to sit, a good pot of tea, and friends to share it with.

It’s a lot of work to throw a tea party. You have to find a day when everyone can make it. You have to clean the house and sometimes rearrange the furniture. Refreshments must be made. Conversation has to be steered away from sensitive topics. Clean-up must be done afterwards. If the party’s successful, you’re expected to host another.

There’s no substitute for the real thing, naturally, but one can hold a decent salon online. You like tea? Cool, me too! You’re in the right place. You like cooking weird things, reading voraciously and crafting? Holy fuck, are you Pinterest? Let’s be lady-bros!

The philosophy of Biscuits For Tea: try to like stuff. I’m going to post about stuff I enjoy and we’re going to have some goddamned positivity in here. It’s okay to dislike things, but in general, I make an effort to like things up until they suck. And while I enjoy irony as much as the next twenty-something, I try to approach things in a sincere, genuine manner.

Welcome to my virtual tea party! We’re reclaiming tea parties for people who want to drink tea from little cups.