Did I even post #1? Eh screw it. 

This is my Confession 2: Comforts.


There are things I will compromise on, but in the winter there is one thing I will not compromise on, and that is the chance to have at least one nog on the rocks.


No rum. There is only one kind of rum I liked and all I can remember is that it was kind of weak.

I’m not supposed to be consuming alcoholic things right now, anyway.

This is my brand. I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

A nog on the rocks a night. A nice thing I can have at night… With a digestive aid of course. This isn’t lactose free.

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100 Things REBOOT #2: Tea, plus bonus tea review: Bensons House of Tea All Day Blend

Since I was about 10, I’ve loved tea. I LIKED it before—preferred it iced, not oversweet most of the time; if it was to be sweet SWEET tea it had better be strong enough to knock over a godsdamned house, that’s to be sure. I’ve been basically fiending on it since we accidentally discovered it would work on my ADHD instead of the drugs.

I couldn’t focus, and one day my uncle asked me if I’d tried this tea right here, this green tea that was just really freaking strong that he couldn’t figure out how to make potable to save his life, and in the week it took to figure out how to brew Ceylon teas (remember, we’re Black Americans living in Black America, and this is the mid 90’s at the time, there aren’t resources in our area for tea at the time other than the occasional Claudia-centric Babysitters Club book), the both of us were so mellow and focused that my dad–his brother–wondered if we’d been replaced with pod people. This same week was my appointment for my suspected ADHD. Having heard about this alphabet soup my uncle comes with, as does an aunt. My doctor notices how much more mellow and focused I’ve become, and Unc and I mention the tea adventure. That’s where we learn the beginnings of tea research, and how stimulants (like the ADD/ADHD pills and caffeine) work in managing this thing.

We take one look at each other and go, “Makes sense.”

Dad and the aunt that went with us take one look at each other and go, “Whut?”

Since then my tea fascination has only expanded, from strictly “this is delicious” to “So if this ails you I can throw this that and the other into a pot and have a fix for you, yeah?” That brings us to the bonus section here: a tea review!


BHOT: All Day Blend

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No, this is not a comically large spoon or a comically small cup. I typically drink my tea from demitasse-sized or espresso-sized cups, and if I sweeten it I don’t use much—excepting my Lousiana-style iced tea, which is strong enough to knock a house over and sweet enough to convince an idiot not to blackmail your friend. The clarity is very nice, and the scent is crisp, almost coffee-like.

At first I thought it was my brewing method—

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But I’d run a cycle of CLR through the thing, which removes hard water deposits from the brewer, and the carafe had received the same treatment. Little tip: when you use this cleaning method, run a second full carafe of plain water through the machine before you brew anything, to prevent any chemical from getting into your cuppa.

Little known trick: If you own a little four-cup Mr. Coffee-style brewer, you have one of the best ways to brew loose leaf tea out there already. Because the water is never AT boil, it’s nigh impossible to cook your tea to death and overbrew it. Further, your leaves have plenty of room in the filter to expand, and you don’t have to monitor temperatures quite as obsessively.

Oh, right, don’t forget to use a filter. Otherwise you have a reeeeeeeeeeeeal bitch to clean up. As an added bonus you can get a second full-strength brew out of those leaves, just like if you used a tea ball or other more traditional infusion method.

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This is only a teaspoon and a half of leaves. The general rule is a teaspoon of leaves per person per pot and an extra for the pot (assuming you’re brewing traditionally.) I like strong tea but decided to go with the usual strength. They expand like whoa, and you can see why I said to use a filter if you’re going the Mr Coffee (renamed Mr. Tea for me here) route. In fact, the presene of Ceylon in this blend means you have wicked tannins, and they’ll bake up as hot tea tends to do to them. If you want to minimize the staining in your mugs and the amount of tannin floating around (because it does aggregate), double up. Use two filters. (No more than two. You’ll flood the brew basket.)

Taste 1, straight: STRONG. assertive and coffee-like almost. It’s potent, and has this light but sweet air that almost doesn’t need anything.

Taste 2, with monkfruit sweetener: This is a VERY EASY TO OVERSWEETEN tea. I only used a slxth of a packet and it was overdoing it. If you sweeten this, make it a strong cup.

Taste 3, with sweet cream and a little sugar: OKAY, STOP. WHAT GAVE YOU THE RIGHT.
This is delicious. Sweetening it by itself is NO for me. It just DOESN’T WORK. But with cream, OH GOOD GRIEF. I’d brewed the entire four-cup (translation: four-person intended) thing and drunk two thirds of it like this, just shotgunning one after the other in disbelief. Adding cream to this tea gives it a nutty, almond-like richness. It becomes like a dessert that you want to eat.

b3df0afdcb6b38cf76764b9fb50d1d4fHere, have a glamour shot of cream tea with tiny spoon in a tiny cup.

Verdict: If you like a black tea for all occasious, aren’t frightened off by loose leaf tea, and suspect that you might be a liiiiiiiitle bit of a tea snob (I will willingly admit that I am), GET THIS TEA. If you’re curious about what good tea tastes like, GET THIS TEA. If you like te, GET THIS TEA.

TL;DR: GET THIS TEA.

SNAP Judgements and why I'm not a fan. A Rant on Food Stamps.

Tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch are both put together. Birthday debauchery day is done, and thanks to BUREAUCRACY! I’m staring at a month sans Link assistance—meaning $35/10 days is the food budget until they fix it. (You don’t live on minimum wage—you scrape.) Luckily the problem is fixable in 2 weeks and I played Stockpile this month, so I have a nice little stash of frozen meat and meat-alikes packed for just such an emergency.

I hear people all the time griping about people gaming the system, and I will admit, the system does have a few huge, glaring flaws—but most of the complaining I hear is ‘Oh, this person bought a bag of chips and a peach soda, they don’t NEED that program’ and not on the real problems, which is the people you catch trafficking their benefits for an equivalent amount of things that aren’t eligible. While for some this can include drugs and alcohol, it just as often involves things like diapers and straight out cash.

I’ve seen it. People I know have been there. (I was always too paranoid to do it, even if it meant I was going without the meds that kept my foot from being one giant blister.) And while there needs to be some reform to the system, griping when a guy buys a Twinkie—wait, those don’t exist…OK, an apple pie—and a Red Bull instead of some celery and a bit of meat? That solves nothing.

What people do not seem to realize is that SNAP benefits—the formal name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps—are not meant to be the sole source of food. They’re there as much needed assistance—as I said earlier, you don’t live on minimum wage you scrape.

“But Rai!” I hear you say. “Why would a single woman even need such things?”

I’ll tell you!


Congratulations! You’re me on payday! You skip into the building to pick up your paycheck (Let’s call it weird and say that you have the day off for some unknown reason). Timing couldn’t be better, since rent’s also due this week (we’ll assume the beginning of the month). You open the envelope to discover that you have—oh, generous hours—$360 to work with. Sounds nice, right? Keep in mind that this is an atypical check. Maybe the great Dogakittenspacewestern Con was in town.

Got the check still? Good. Let’s run along, shall we, to the bank/grocer. You deposit the whole damn thing, because you’re paranoid about losing cash. All transactions will be on a card now.

  • Your rent’s due! That’s $170. But there’s a $5 service fee for the secured money order. You’re down to $185 now—which hurts, and you try not to think about that as you put the rent money order in your wallet.
  • A text message pops off—your phone bill is due in four minutes (ok, maybe an exaggeration, but it IS due that day). You reply to the message and pay the bill—the dollar sign with wings flies off of your screen as $61 leaves your clutches. You’re down to $124, now.
  • Did you remember the bus pass? If not, now’s the only time you’ve got! For a month, that’s $72 bucks! You now have $52 to work with. Now the only thing left–
  • –is light bill—oh. Wait. You’re four bucks short, actually. If it wasn’t for the fact that you put that $5 from your tips in with the paycheck, you wouldn’t be able to pay that $58 bastard.

You begin the month on a loss, therefore, before you’ve bought so much as a bag of chips and a bottle of vitamin c-fortified punch to keep your blood sugar from dragging its busted-up legs across the ground just to beg you for a morsel.

…you’d be screwed if it wasn’t for that program now.

Next paycheck is more forgiving—you have paid off the biggest bills—but it would’ve been dicey.

Now keep in mind that there are people who want to discontinue this program. All because they got cheesed off that someone bought something that wasn’t leafy green with their benefits/assistance.

Go ahead. Discontinue. Opt out. But what the HELL am I supposed to do?

Don’t pass blanket judgements based on one person. You don’t know what they’re coming from, what they’re trying to do. The guy who just bought Doritos and Monster Zero-Cal Energy Drink on his card might’ve just spent the last of his cash on his meds.

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*click* *crrk* *KA-CRACK*

My knee is making interesting noises. As a precaution, I’m going to see my doctor (and if he gives me bullshit about my weight again I’m going to tell him that even dropping to only 1500 calories a day and working the job I do and working out, the weight just Will Not Fuck Off. …almost said ‘bugger off’ but here in America that’s considered tame—probably because no one learned its actual meaning, and this makes Nigella Lawson’s lament in last week’s episode of The Taste that much more interesting, as she was basically able to drop a Precision F Strike that didn’t even get noticed.)

 

I can tell it’s trying to do a thing because the day before yesterday, it woke me up—by sliding right the fuck out of joint. Cue Onion Knight-like howl of pain as my brain tries to parse what just happened so I can fix it. Even if we can’t DO anything about it, I do believe I can get a stronger painkiller. Kinda need it. I have lost all faith in this knee.

 

Which makes the fact that I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the other one in search of my Memory Stick even odder. (I’ve had some highly irritating days recently. I’d like to beat the fire out of some AIs, maybe improve my Kefka.)

 

I’ve also spent some time trying to click my brain back on so I can write. I’ve fallen into a bit of a slump and can’t eve focus straight. The good news is flipping my mattress so that the part that’s caving in is on the foot end did help a bit, but I still am going to need a new mattress very soon—it’s a tad crowded.

 


Heads up!

 

100 Things makes its official return on 2 February. Be ready for some STRANGE rambles, sometimes.

 

Got Noms?

 

I am going to begin working test kitchen operations again. Everything that I’ve cooked up is now going to be noted, recorded, and set up for repetition and refinement. I’ve also been introduced to one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen, Cooking With Dog, and its huge bank of recipes has inspired me to try actually doing something again. Who votes Valentine’s melonpan?

I DO STRANGE THINGS WHEN I’M BORED.

For instance, after getting out of the doctor’s office today—a few bad bouts of dissociation; not knowing where I am and how I got there is starting to get REALLY FREAKIN’ OLD—I made a trip to the pharmacy. It took forever to get the prescription in—X goes wrong, Y doesn’t fix it, Z asks if I can have more time, and P, D, and Q all decide that they ALL have to get this done right here and right now and could I please sit back down and drink my goddamn tea wait as they get the prescription ready, please and thank you.

 

Rather than sit down I walked a couple laps around the store and landed in the bread aisle. My target: these gorgeous pretzel buns. They have a wonderful sepia coloration, with vibrant cream-colored slashes in the top of the bun, making an ‘X’ across the top. Advertised as ‘a tasty blend of salty and sweet,’ I decided to give them a shot as a test kitchen project. And since my meds were STILL not ready, I checked out those items to wait.

 

It wasn’t until I got outside that I could taste the bread—conveniently (or maybe because of hitsuzen) the bag had fallen open, spilling one bun out into the grocery bag, the plastic conveniently forming a flexible hotbox and concentrating the delectable aroma. If you asked me, I couldn’t really describe it—it was pretzel-y but bready at the same time, and smelled pastry-sweet without being pastry—a quick poke and you KNEW you were dealing with bread, not pastry. I ripped off a corner of the bottom, took a whiff—my first mind was “Where’s the yeast smell?” I tasted the surface—it tasted like a pretzel, vaguely bittersweet, and with a tang I can only describe as baking soda (vital in the making process, actually). Yep. This was a pretzel.

 

It was high time I took an actual BITE of the thing. My teeth were greeted by this soft, springy surface, a wheaty-sweet taste that didn’t taste like bread—only like soft, soft pretzel with a sweet finish.

 

When I get home I nuke the remainder of the roll—the sweet smell intensifies, and the entire bun is SO soft, I almost think the microwave was moist somehow—it wasn’t—and taste that. The flavor is stronger, sweeter, and the roll is so soft it almost feels like biting into a marshmallow. I finish it off with a schmear of Benecol. January now has a project. It is—

*fanfare*

“I’mma make this.” *pins a little Quinn’s Kitchen flag into one of the remaining rolls*

 

*crickets chirp*

 

…as I said, I do strange things when I am bored.

On Finding the Meaning of Thanksgiving.

For some of you out there, you are getting ready to celebrate a holiday known as Thanksgiving. A uniquely American holiday, it commemorates the teamwork and camaraderie that allowed the pilgrims (does anyone else think it’s more appropriate to call them ‘expatriates?’ Because ‘pilgrim’ is too religious for my blood…) to survive the harsh conditions they found in the New World. Working together with native Americans, these people learned how to use what they found here and not only survive, but thrive.

(That whole ‘oops we totally brought a bunch of foreign germs and you’re all going to get really sick, so sorry’ thing shall remain un-expounded upon.)

However, at the same time, I can’t help feeling a little bit conflicted about the whole damn thing.


It’s always felt a little weird for me to celebrate Thanksgiving. Tracing my ancestors as far back as we were able to in the year 1999, I learned of the first (black) member of the family. A slave woman from coastal Africa, she escaped with some slick tricks—step one, make herself useful on trips. Step two, make herself useful on a trip heading to the free North. And step three, BOUNCE. Bingbangboomfreedom!

Tracing my mother’s side of the lineage was more difficult. I learned her mother’s name, but never had the chance to meet Ms. Maria Argupitha Garcia Martinez (Unchanged for unfindability!) For the record, if anyone knows this generously nomenclatured woman, please dish. I’ve googled, bing’d, dogpile’d and even Alibaba’d her name and found nothing.) And as difficult as Grandmother was to find, Grandfather was even more so. See, he went by one name, and kept to himself near the border (no fence, no problem).

I never had the chance to meet either of them. But I’ll never forget what my mother and my uncle Saul* told me: Grandfather was a medicine man. A real live (oh, shush. You know how I mean) shaman. My uncle, on telling me this, then gave me a box of unset rough turquoise. I would later ask my father if my uncle was being facetious—and as it would turn out, he was not. But he was loath to talk about that side of the family, and it would be all I could find out: the records stop fairly quickly in the whole legibility department.

*Name changed at request!


.Here’s where I start feeling a little weird about it: neither ancestral side of my family came over in that quest for freedom from the Anglican Church. One side had been here long before, and the other side came long after, against her will. One side had no real reason to celebrate, and the other—well, being dragged from her homeland and then bought and sold like a horse really has no merits to celebrate.

It wasn’t for a while that I began to think of it a little bit differently. After finding out that I was a little blue preemie that very nearly kicked her mother off this mortal coil, I started feeling kind of lucky. Blessed, even.


This year, a whole lot of bad happened. I got out of a destructive relationship. (Not entirely willingly. Stockholm Syndrome, what what) I got deep into a barrel. Climbed out of said barrel when the taste of alcohol became more unpleasant than the flashbacks and voices I was trying to shut up. Had a huge mental break when the flashbacks got stronger, and was sent to the loony bin when I admitted I wasn’t sure if I was going to be waking up the next morning. Formally diagnosed with PTSD that had been allowed to slowly fester over the last three years. Went on more meds than anyone I’ve met.

It wasn’t easy.

So very often, I caught myself saying, “Fuck this. I’m gone,” but the little part of my mind that was sane still went, “Really? You haven’t done anything you thought you would. You’d be ditching friends—and all because you hurt? Suck it up, you selfish little bitch” and I didn’t go through with it. Whenever I was about to do something profoundly stupid, they’d stop me. I stuck it out because they stuck their necks out to help me.

And I’ve yet to thank them all properly.

So here it is.

I am thankful for all of you for not letting me quit this life.
I am thankful for the motivation you all give me.
I am thankful for the people who would forcibly stop me when I started to do something stupid.
I am thankful that I am still alive to have people to thank for keeping me that way.

And now that I know it’s going to be just fine, I sign off and say:
Itadakimasu. (Thank you for the food.)

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