Tea-riffic…(Haha, I’m So Clever)

We all have our weaknesses, our little addictions. About a year and a half ago, while doing some shopping in Halifax with my inlaws, I discovered one of mine. I had noticed this store before, but never bothered to go inside. This time I ventured in and promptly stared in confusion at the giant wall of shiny, silver canisters plastered with labels of black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, and purple. I was a little flabbergasted, I admit, but the staff were almost unbelievably helpful, and after examining a couple of the canisters and feeling more than a little silly while sniffing at them, I left the store with my first packet of David’s Tea.

Those who follow my Twitter feed know that the day I just described resulted in a bit of an addiction. A lack of the stores near where I live keeps me from spending my life savings, but a location in the Toronto airport has allowed me to pick up a pack here, a pack there whenever I’m travelling to and from work, and I managed to bully my husband into picking me up a couple of containers for Christmas this year. My addiction has been well-supplied.

As I have quite a wealth of experience with the flavors of David’s Tea at this point, I thought it was about time I share some information on what I’ve tried, what I love, and what I suggest.

(And now seems like a good time to mention that I am in no way affiliated with David’s Tea, nor are they paying me in any manner. These are just the opinions of a very satisfied customer!)

Customer Service:
This may seem like a funny thing to start with, but I really felt the need to share my level of satisfaction with the customer service at David’s Tea. I’ve only visited three different locations, but I’ve dealt with approximately ten different employees, plus a customer service rep from their website, and I’ve thus far had nothing but good experiences. I’m sure that somewhere, at some David’s Tea location, there is probably a disgrunted brat of an employee who huffs their days away, but I’ve not come across one myself. Every employee I’ve dealt with has been extremely cheery, helpful, and friendly. They’ve helped me (and my husband) pick out teas, expressed their opinions and preferences, asked about my own preferences and made suggestions based on those, encouraged me to examine and sniff the teas, offered free samples, and in general just treated me as though I was a friend. Two employees in particular (both of whom work at the Toronto Pearson Airport location) happily take the time to ask me about my day and my travel plans while scooping up my tea. It’s just very calming and refreshing to have a happy face smiling at me and treating me well while I’m picking out my purchases. I’ve dealt with enough rude, ignorant cashiers and customer service reps to be able to really appreciate the nice ones, so keep it up DT employees!

Accessories:
It may seem a little silly, but part of what makes the tea so great for me is the accessories. Two months ago I purchased one of David’s Perfect Tea Mugs and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a clear mug (so you can watch your tea steep) and a very fine mesh steeping basket. There is also a cover which doubles as a saucer to put the basket in once your tea has finished steeping. I positively love it, and the basket is wide enough that it is fairly easy to clean by hand. By comparison we also have the David’s Tea by Bodum travel mug. At first I liked this one, and I do still like it for traveling, but it has a fatal flaw…it’s a royal pain in the arse to clean. The mug itself is long and thin on the inside, and the mesh filter that is meant to push your tea leaves out of the way tends to get gunked up pretty badly. The combination of these two issues pretty much demands that it be washed by a dishwasher; by hand just isn’t going to work. Since I spend so much time out West where I have only a small sink to clean my things in, this doesn’t work well for me.

In addition to the Perfect Mug, I’ve also purchased one of their Perfect Spoons. Basically it’s just a pre-sized spoon that measures out the exact amount that most David’s Tea recipes suggest (1.5 tsp), but it is awesome in its simplicity. I make a perfect cup of tea every time with its help.

OMG, the Actual Tea:
I’ll be honest, I’m up to about 30 different varieties at this point, and I’ve loved almost all of them. That may just mean I’m a tea maniac, I’m not sure. But for the sake of sharing, I’ll talk about a few of my favorites, and one in particular that I didn’t enjoy.

It’s difficult to choose an absolute favorite, but pretty high up on the list is Amaretto. One of the teas my husband got me for Christmas, this concoction of Lapaco, almond, apricot kernels, orange blossoms, rose blossoms, and flavoring smells exactly like a bottle of Disarona Amaretto. That is to say, it smells delicious. Seriously, I could just sit there and sniff the tin. But then, I’m a little looney. As far as flavor, it is a little weaker than some of the other teas, but when brewed a little strong it also tastes quite a lot like Disarona, only hot and without the alcohol content. Depending on your preferences, that could be an upside or a downside. I’ll let you decide, but for the record, for me it’s instant love.

Also high on the list is Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait. The mix of apple, hibiscus, raisins, carrot, yogurt bits, strawberry, rhubarb, and flavoring may be a little tart for some people, but to me it’s a delicious treat that makes me feel like I’ve had dessert. The best part? If you forget about it and it gets cold, it just ends up tasting like strawberry juice!

The last one that I’ll mention (before I end up giving you a blow-by-blow of every flavor I’ve ever bought) is Dragon Pearls. I was first attracted to this green tea simply because it seemed so neat…each of the “pearls” is hand-rolled from green tea leaves scented with jasmine flowers. As the tightly rolled little balls steep, they unroll (showing you just how meticulously miniaturized they really were) and release a very soothing scent. When I actually tasted it for the first time, I melted. Green tea is not for everyone, I know, especially not without some kind of addition such as honey, but personally I find Dragon Pearls to be incredibly calming and delicious. It is the kind of tea I would enjoy with some warm biscuits and butter. (Damn it, now I’m seriously craving some biscuits and butter…)

Now, to be fair, I have tried one tea that I did not enjoy at all. That one is Super Ginger. I bought it as a trial pack of teas meant to help when you’re suffering from a variety of ills. This mixture of ginger, green rooibos, pink peppercorns, black and white pepper, and flavoring is supposed to be a soothing cold remedy, but I had a seriously difficult time forcing it down. I found the overall flavor very spicy in an unpleasant way. It may have helped burn the cold out of me, but it wasn’t worth the cringing horror I felt whenever it was time to take a gulp. Better luck next time, DT.

So there you have it: yays and nays. But mostly yays. ๐Ÿ˜› Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a delicious hot cup of Cookie Dough tea to imbibe.

Epic Fail

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginโ€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

37. What to do if you’ve failed at the goals you set

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You’ve just gotta get back on the horse”? If you have, you should understand what I’m about to talk about. If you haven’t, what rock have you been living under for the past hundred years?

Everyone fails at goals. Maybe not all the time, maybe some more often than others, but everyone at some point in time fails at a goal they’ve set for themselves. It’s the nature of the situation that even if we have all the best of intentions, things will go wrong, other issues will intrude, and any number of problems will arise to keep us from reaching the end of the line. Maybe it’s something we can’t control, like the fact that our new job requires us to work 70-hour weeks and we can’t work on our goal if we want to be able to eat and sleep as well. Maybe it’s something absolutely controllable, like being just plain lazy. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is. It doesn’t make you a better or worse failure. Failure is failure.

But failure is also just a chance to start over again. Failure shows us what we’ve done wrong, which issues we failed to take into consideration, and what we have to change to do better next time. If you’re a really optimistic type, failure might even be motivation to try harder. If you’re the pessimistic type, things might be a little more difficult, but the same points still apply.

And excellent example of failure and moving on from it is rejection in writing. An author can put their heart and soul – and a ridiculous number of work-hours – into a manuscript, only to have it rejected by the publisher…and then rejected by another…and another…and another. Regardless of how good a manuscript may be, it is almost certain that the author will receive multiple rejections before (hopefully) receiving a publication offer. This situation really defines the whole “get back on the horse” thing because if these authors were to just give up, where would we be? Were you aware that J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections for the first Harry Potter book before finally getting published? We all know now that the Harry Potter books are well-written, well-loved, and have ultimately sold bucketloads. So why did she receive so many rejection letters? There are any number of reasons, but the point is that she had a goal set (to publish that damn book!) and she didn’t let failure upon failure stop her from continuing to try and try, getting back on the horse again and again.

It’s definitely hard sometimes…humans are naturally depressive and easily-discouraged creatures…but if the goal you’ve set for yourself is something that’s important to you, something that you know you’re not going to be happy just giving up on, then you have to press on. If you’ve done something wrong, figure out what it is. If outside issues are holding you back, figure out a way around them. And if the problem is just timing, situation, or reliance on others to react the way you need them to, you just have to keep trying, trying, trying, until all the puzzle pieces fall into place. In the end you’ll be better off for having to have worked for it, and the end of the line will be that much more beautiful when you reach it.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself, and I hope you’re able to hold on to that hope as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Just the Necessities

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginโ€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

31. I can’t sit down to write unless…

…I’m awake.

Okay, okay, I’m sorry; that was a little smartassish of me. But it’s more or less the truth. I don’t need any particular equipment, situation, reason, or emotional state in order to sit down and write. I just need to have some thoughts in my head worth writing.

BUT, there are a number of things that make writing easier and more enjoyable for me, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you about those:

– Obviously I need something to write on, and if necessary I can use pretty much any form of media, but if at all possible I prefer to use my laptop. I love writing by hand, but I find that it takes too long and a lot of times I’ll have lost the thought process I was relying on by the time I get around to actually physically writing the words down. I’m a pretty fast typist, so the same issue doesn’t apply when I’m on my laptop. Alternatively, using my iPhone or tablet doesn’t yield the same effect because I’m a traditional typist and holy hell is it hard to type with any kind of speed on a touch-screen.

– Silence is not necessary, as I’ve been known to write from the couch while my husband is killing video game zombies in the armchair two feet away, but some level of quiet is very helpful. I can, for instance, write while my daughter is watching Sesame Street, but I cannot write while she’s pitching a fit because she doesn’t want what I gave her for lunch.

– Some level of comfort is preferable. For instance, I’d rather write in pajama pants and a tank top than in jeans and a blouse. I’d rather write laying in bed, propped up by pillows, than at a computer desk. Comfort = happy = better writing.

– Just as a last little note, writing is always a slightly happier experience if I have a nice hot drink to sip on while I’m doing it. Coffee is nice, some kind of herbal tea is even nicer, and hot chocolate definitely tops the list. And while we’re at it, some kind of delicious snack doesn’t hurt either. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Day 1, New Adventure

It has been a loooooong day.

I got up this morning at approximately 1 am. Never a good way to start the day, but there you have it. I grabbed a shower, and tossed my luggage in the car while my husband was (groggily) getting his shower. Together we went in to wake the baby, and were surprised by her happy acceptance at being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night. The little bugger.

Then we drove to Halifax, a three hour drive in the middle of the night. Always a good time. ๐Ÿ˜›

Waiting at the airport was the worst, because while I was waiting to head down to security all I could think about was saying good-bye to the baby, which just made me feel more and more ill as the time went on. Strangely, once I’d said my good-bye and gone through security I felt much better, but up to that point, I definitely wanted to barf. Luckily the baby took the good-bye well. Don’t know if that makes me happy or sad.

Going through security was fun. (Ha.) I ended up having to take off my boots because apparently they have metal in the heels. Huh.

On to the flight deck! I’ll tell you, the airplane was not what I was expecting. Maybe it’s because I’d only ever seen the inside of an airplane via Hollywood representation, but I was amazed at how small it was. I’ve heard all the usual complaints about cramped seats and lack of leg space, but just the overall size of the plane itself really surprised me. I felt like I was in a toy. Really.

The flight itself was reasonably enjoyable. Contrary to my previous beliefs that I would be struggling not to vomit everywhere, I actually really enjoyed the takeoff. It was neat watching the ground disappear beneath us, and when we hit the clouds it was like a sea of fluffy snow in every direction. I wish there had been less cloud on the overall journey because I didn’t get to see much else, but it was still pretty neat. My only real complaint about the entire flight was the descent…not because of turbulence or anything like that, but because my ears felt like they were being stabbed by a hundred screwdrivers. I expected my ears would probably pop, since they pop just going over Kelly’s Mountain (hint: it’s not a high mountain), but I wasn’t expecting the level of pain that I experienced. O.U.C.H.

So I landed in Toronto and did the whole thing over again, except the second flight was longer and I was seated next to an exceptionally overweight man. I don’t want to sound mean or anything, but the guy’s arm and side-fat were spilling over into my seat and making me very uncomfortable. I can only imagine how he must have felt, squeezed in a seat that is far too small for him. Because of this little issue, the second flight was not as enjoyable as the first, but I occupied myself by watching Deathly Hollows Part 2 and an episode of Just for Laughs. This time, when we were descending, I tried chewing gum to help with my ears. It didn’t help. Even now, 7 hours off the plane, my ears still hurt and feel like they’re full of cotton. I’m getting a shower after I finish this post and I’m praying the steam helps clear my head because goddammit, ouch!

The camp itself is definitely a bit of a culture shock for me. As I mentioned before, I’ve never had the dorm experience, so I’m going to have to get used to things. The room is small, but nice, and there’s a women-only exercise room that is well-stocked. The dining area made me a little uncomfortable, simply for the fact that I don’t know anyone and the tables are meant to seat 4-6. I ended up sitting at the only table for 2 and shoveling my food in as quick as possible so I could get out of there. I’m not one for eating by myself, but I’m also not the type who can just stroll up to a group of people and ask to eat with them. Double-edged sword. In any case, the food was pretty good. There were several choices of veggies, meats, deserts, etc., and there’s also a “bag-it” room where you can get things like pre-made sandwiches and wraps, fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt and pudding, etc etc. It shouldn’t be too hard to find things to eat each day, is what I’m saying.

And now I’m sitting in my room, wondering what to do with myself for the rest of the night. I’m pretty exhausted, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. The hot shower might help with that, I suppose, but it’s also still really light out. It’s hard to believe that back at home it’s almost 11 pm. I’ve been awake for 21 hours. Yikes. Maybe I will try to go to sleep. ๐Ÿ˜›

Tomorrow continues the adventure! Wish me luck!

Strike one entry off the bucket list

Today is a very special day for me. June 7th, 2012, approximately 1:00 pm. Mark that date and time down.

What’s so special about this date? It’s not a holiday, nor is it someone’s birthday, or a special occasion like an anniversary. In fact, it’s a pretty normal, even boring day. I’m sitting on the loveseat in my living room, my husband is on his computer up in the bedroom, and the baby is out cold on her pile of pillows on the living room floor. When we three got up this morning we had breakfast (grapes and a granola bar for the baby, coffee for the parents), and we went to playgroup for a couple of hours. It’s windy and chilly outside and looks like it can’t decide whether or not it wants to rain.

So again, what is so special about this date?

I mentioned before, more than once I believe, that I’d never finished any story I ever set out to write, with the exception of one short fanfiction. Today, as of approximately 1 o’clock this afternoon, I can no longer make that claim. Today, I wrote the final words, an epilogue, to my zombie novel, Nowhere to Hide.

Don’t get me wrong…the manuscript is not complete. There is editing to be done, some discontinuities that need to be addressed, some scenes may be omitted completely, and new ones could very well be added. But for all intents and purposes, I have a finished novel. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has lots of (I hope) interesting characters, and plenty of conflict, suspense, and emotion. It may have some errors and some scenes that don’t stand up to critique, but it is a complete story that, if read, will make sense. It concludes.

I cannot express the level of excitement this fills me with. Let me repeat this point once more: this is the first fully original story I have ever written, beginning to end. How freakin’ awesome is that? I know for a lot of people editing is the worst part of writing, but right now it seems like a happy daydream because I have a completed story to edit!

Look out, world! This novel is one major step closer to being published, and this writer is one immense step closer to earning the title of ‘author’.