Tea Time

April 1, 2013 at 12:58 am (Personal) (, , )

Most Southerners like their tea one way: iced and syrupy sweet. You think that’s two ways? Not in the South! 😉

Maybe it’s because I went to the UK in my teens and fell in love with the concept of “tea time” or maybe because I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada, actually taking part in afternoon tea, where the world stops at 4p no matter what you’re doing. I actually love tea, both hot and cold, and I enjoy trying new ones.

Although i’ve tried a LOT of teas, i’m still very much a newbie at this. I can vary the temp a bit, but i don’t have a newfangled machine to do it for me…not yet, anyway. I’ve gotten away from bags and now I use the real stuff: loose tea. I can thank my buddy, Nik, for that. Also, thanks to him giving me one of the best gifts ever with Steepster’s Tea of the Month club, through which I have greatly expanded my knowledge of teas, and, hopefully my palate as well.

I wrote a review and some tasting notes for 3 teas that are near and dear to my heart. On any given day, I might declare any of the three my favorite. They are Samovar’s Ocean of Wisdom, Teavana’s Rooibos Chai, and Della Terra’s Ayurvedic Serenity. All three are terrific blends incorporating some of my favorite spices: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and chamomile, among others.

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I’ve found that most folks tend to fuss about cinnamon, Like fuss and cuss. Now, thankfully, I’m in the minority there. i LOVE cinnamon. Bring it on! The more, the merrier, for the most part. Ginger, on the other hand, is slightly opposite…not so much because i don’t like the flavor, because i do. Mostly, it’s because it tends to initiate a migraine, which doesn’t make me very happy. However, and very thankfully, I have no neurological issues with these three. They are so good that I think I would just have to accept the migraine and take medication. Yep, they’re THAT good.

Its goodness shouldn’t be a great surprise to supporters of Ocean of Wisdom, which has been my favorite tea for a couple of years. I mean, honestly, it was custom blended for His Holiness The Dalai Lama. To me, that just says, “Wow”. It also says the dude knows good tea 😉

Seriously, though, I first had this tea just after I’d started drinking loose teas, when I was in San Francisco for Macworld. A group of us went to Samovar’s for tea, and I was hooked after my first sip. I simply could not get enough. I kept discovering something new with each successive sip, with just layer upon layer expressing itself. Maybe it was just the first time I’d had a truly excellent cup of tea that wasn’t Earl Grey.

Regarding the tea itself, Ocean of Wisdom has almost a subdued heat to it that builds to a strong finish, almost the way good Mexican food has a way to sneak up on you before you realize what has happened. It is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, so it’s actually really good for you. Considering all the health issues I’ve had for the past few years, maybe I need to just hook up a permanent infusion and see what happens. This rooibos blend contains cinnamon, cloves, ginger, licorice root, and black pepper. Normally, I run from licorice, because I don’t typically like it, not even a hint; but (you knew there was a but, right?) I don’t really taste it here, which is a good thing, because I would hate to run from this tea. These tea leaves are a dark reddish brown that leaves you with a gorgeous clear red tea after steeping that just beckons you to, “Come. Drink.”

There are many levels to this one. Just when you think you’re done, another layer pops to the surface—or does it come up kicking and screaming and gasping for air—the way I was when I made it a bit strong, so that it took my breath away and my throat burned long after the last drop.

Still, Ocean of Wisdom sets the bar against which all other teas are judged. This is the closest to a perfect cup of tea that I have ever had. I can’t imagine anything else even coming close to this one, but it will be fun trying to find a successor. Let the games begin.

(Note: The above photo was taken at Samovar Tea Lounge, Yerba Buena Gardens, in San Francisco just outside Moscone Center during Macworld 2011. That’s Pugsy, who goes everywhere with me, sitting on top of a pot of Ocean of Wisdom.)

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What’s in Your Geopack? A Look Inside the Geocaching Bag

November 18, 2012 at 11:04 am (Geocaching, Productivity) (, , , , )

What's in my Geocaching Kit?

Last month, I asked about the Top 5 geocaching tools in your bag.  This time around, let’s just dump that bag on the ground and see what’s there. I decided it was time for a reorganization, as I couldn’t find anything anymore. You know how it is.  You grab something in a hurry, then toss it back on top. Before long, nothing is in its place anymore and nothing can be found.  So, much like doing a nuke and pave of the computer, to start with a clean slate, I’ve done that with my Geopack, to start with an empty bag and gradually restocked it. Let’s see how it goes.

I took a photo of the empty bag, contents all nicely laid out and photographed.  Then I tagged it on my Flickr Photostream, partly so I could see what all I had, and partly to share with you, my geocaching friends. Here is a similar photo, although you will have to see the one on Flickr to get the annotated version (click the photo above to be transported to the Flickr pic).

The primary contents of my bag, and those most often used, includes the following: extendable mirror/magnet, flashlight, hemostats, tick key, whistle, duct tape, Field Notes, baggies and logs, insect spray, and hand sanitizer.  Not listed, but always with me, is my Smith & Wesson .38 Special.  I always have it, especially in the woods (we’re in snake country, remember?).  Thankfully, I don’t have to use it often, but when I do, I’m really glad to have it. I generally use the Geocaching App on my iPhone 4S, but I’m trying to learn to use the GPS.  The iPhone App is just so easy, plus I can log my finds as I find them, rather than having to jot them down and log them when I get home.

My primary bag is an XPS Camelback. It’s a small backpack, which is what I wanted.  I have some larger ones, but I wanted as light as possible. I tried to use a Dajo Adventure Gear waist pack, but I just couldn’t do it.  I tried several times, and the messenger bag style strap did help, but having all that stuff hanging around my waist and hips just drove me crazy.  I did like the way the Dajo pack was set up, but in the end, it just didn’t work for me. With the XPS, which I got on clearance for about $12 (great deal!), I keep the things we rarely use in the back, the things more often used in the front section, and the things we use all the time actually go in a little space between the front and back sections.  It works great because there’s nothing to open and close. We just grab it and go, then put it back when we’re finished. It’s not perfect, but it will do for now.  One day, I’d like to design a modular pack that would satisfy the needs of most of us.  Until then, I’ll be on the lookout for the perfect multi-tool and the perfect Geopack.

I was amazed when I checked out some of the bags of geocaching friends.  Some of them have everything but the kitchen sink in their bags. A grappling hook?  Really?  I suppose there might come a time when I might need a grappling hook, but if that happens, you can bet I took a wrong turn somewhere 😉 Another item that frequently appeared was a folding ladder. These have become very popular, and I might seriously have to check into one of these.  However, considering my luck (or lack thereof) with ladders, that might not be a good thing for me to have.

I did pick up a few useful tips.  I’ll be adding a few things to my bag very soon. One item that kept coming up repeatedly that I hadn’t thought about stocking in my bag was glowsticks. I’ve used some for swag on occasion, but several folks noted that they could be handy in an emergency, especially if the batteries went out on your flashlight and you were lost (or delayed 😛 ) in the woods. I just picked up a roll of neon colored survey tape over the weekend for marking areas, especially when on a not-well-marked trail, as it can be confusing to tell where you’ve already been.  Tie the survey tape along the way like breadcrumbs, and it makes it much easier to get back out…just grab the tape on your way out to leave the area as you found it.

Binoculars were another often mentioned item that I hadn’t thought about previously. It would make it easier to search some areas, especially those with dense ground cover when searching for the elusive ammo can, or for looking skyward for a very small nano. I have an inexpensive pair that will be perfect for tossing in the truck for occasional use.

What about you?  What do you have in your Geopack?  List any must-have items in the comments, or post a link to you bag contents on Flickr to share with the rest of us.  Until next time, be safe and cache on!

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Your Most Important Geocaching Gear: Top 5

October 15, 2012 at 8:18 am (Geocaching) (, )

You’re going geocaching, but you are short on space; therefore, you can only take 5 items, besides your GPS and a pen. What do you take? It’s nothing tricky…you’re not after anything particularly difficult. It’s just a normal day around town.  So, what do you take with you?  What are your go-to pieces of hardware? Mine are as follows:

Whistle. Good for general safety, as well as emergency use. Know the International Whistle Code: 1 tweet (no, this has nothing to do with Twitter): Where are you?; 2 blasts: Come to me; 3 blasts: I need help. 

Flashlight. I love this flashlight, first sent to me by GxProxy, and now I see them everywhere. It has a magnet on the back so you can stick it onto any metal surface. It also has a small hangar that pulls out from the back to hang it on your belt loop, on a branch, or just about anywhere else. It has a small bright beam at the end or a large flood on the face with, I think, 27 LEDs. It is very bright and just uses standard AA batteries. 

Extendable Magnet/Mirror. Good for poking around, looking under and around things, as well as retrieving nanos. We found one not long ago that required the use of a magnet to retrieve. It was stuck inside a space that, by design, was just snug enough to prevent anything from digging it out.  You had to use a magnet, or it wasn’t coming out. Clever. 

Tick Key. Here in the south, where we have the little buggers nearly year-round, this is a must. One day, after only a 5-minute foray off a path, I ended up pulling 29 (yes, 29!) of the horrid little things off me. Many of them required the use of this ingenuous little device. Using tweezers is bad because it can actually transmit the poison from the tick into your bloodstream by squeezing its head in an attempt to dislodge it. This gizmo extracts the tick without squeezing its head and releasing the poison. Brilliant.

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MultiTool. I initially put hemostats in this list, but had to retract that entry. I do keep a pair of hemostats in my pocket when I cache, usually, but being allowed only five tools, I eliminated the hemostats in favor of the multitool. I did this primarily because this particular multitool has a nice pair of needle nose pliers, which effectively replaces the hemostats. It gets into those narrow places to grasp a nano log out of its itty bitty cache, and also allows me to use its narrow end as a log roller for rolling up those pesky itty bitty logs. I’ve gone thru many a Swiss army knife and multitool over the years, but my current one is one of my favorites. Oddly enough, I didn’t set out to purchase this one.  Instead, it was a freebie with a tool I purchased from Kobalt. This one has not only my requisite needle nose pliers, but also has scissors, wire cutters, flat and phillips screw drivers, file, cutting blade, bottle opener, awl, and key ring. Quite a nice little tool. I’m always on the lookout for a better multitool, and while I have found a few that have a few more tools, I haven’t yet found one that has them all in this very compact size. This one fits nicely in my small hand, and is easy to grip because of the Kobalt’s “grippy” rubber coating. I have heard a lot about the Switch by Quirky, which has 18 different attachments that you configure yourself.  You can use a few of them or all of them, depending on what tools you want in the device.  It is a little pricey at $80, and the reviews are either glowing or downright awful, which makes me a little hesitant to make the jump.  However, it isn’t available at Quirky at the moment, which makes me think that maybe they are reworking it to address the issues in the bad reviews.  For now, I’ll just stick with my wonderful Kobalt freebie 🙂

I do keep all of these together with a carabiner, which makes it super easy to get one off quickly without having to deal with the rest (like using the pliers on the multitool without all the other things banging against my hand). 

What are your top 5 “gotta have ’em” geocaching tools?  Let me know in the comments.  Be safe and cache on.

 

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Get Your Cache On

April 28, 2011 at 11:06 am (Apple, Applications, Geocaching, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch) (, , )

Geocache

We’ve been having some nice weather this spring, and that can only mean one thing….geocaching!  Although fall is by far my favorite time for  geocaching, spring is a great time as well. It’s getting warmer, but the pesky mosquitoes, ticks, no-see-ums, and other undesirables (can you say  snakes?) haven’t come out enough to put a damper on things yet. We had a few great finds in San Francisco a few months back, and I’m still  looking for just the right place to drop off a couple of trackables that we picked up in the city by the bay. I’ve also been scouting around for some  good hiding places. It’s really no fun to be able to just walk right up to a cache…it’s a lot more fun if there’s at least a little bit of a challenge  involved.

For those who think a “real” GPS is needed, I can honestly say that my iPhone 3GS with Groundspeak’s official Geocaching app  (http://www.geocaching.com/iphone/default.aspx) has been nothing  short of amazing.  They have added some splendid updates to this app over the past several months, and it is truly all you need. Granted, if you  get way out in the boonies, you’ll probably have a hard time getting a signal. In those circumstances, maybe a dedicated GPS would be better. But, being mildly disabled, I’m not able to hike the rough terrain as I once could, so those areas are usually off-limits to me. I’ve used the Magellan GC with okay results, but I still prefer my iPhone. I can do everything I need to do right from the app, including posting photos and field notes, viewing maps (Google Earth street view, topography maps, and satellite views), recent logs, and more.

One of my favorite features is the simulated compass arrow that lets you know when you’re closing in on your find. You can just feel the adrenaline rush when it goes from 100 feet to 50 feet to 20 feet, then you engage your senses and start looking for the treasure. A couple of my favorite finds have included a small cannister attached to a piece of rebar that was stuck down inside a yellow concrete parking lot post, a test tube container hanging from a tree branch, and a piece of cable secured to a utility pole that contained a log when you unscrewed the coaxial cable connector. The “in plain sight” award goes to a modern sculpture at a local university that had a large ammo can sitting atop the same-color sculpture. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you would easily miss it.

Geocaching is a great activity for young, old (but young at heart), and everyone in-between. It gets you outside, makes you think, and can be done alone or with others. So, get up, get out, and start hunting. Be sure to let me know in the comments what your favorite types of cache are, and what type of device you prefer. Happy Hunting!

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