Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday? Not a Fan. But Cyber Monday, That's A Different Story.

I'll never forget the days of setting the alarm to get up at some obscene hour the day after Thanksgiving, to meet my mom somewhere for a morning of power shopping. My mom was a shopper like no other. You couldn't get her to exercise a bit, though she'd never admit to it; her treadmill, which she'd bought with the absolute conviction that she would use it every day, was a better clothes hanger than anything else, and under her bed were piled more than a few As-Seen-On-TV exercise gimmicks. But she could walk for miles at the mall or an art fair, carrying massive quantities of bags in varying shapes and sizes, and she'd never tire until a little after closing time. My mom was perhaps the best shopper of all time.

While I cherish my memories of shopping with my mom (I'm convinced she's my guardian angel of parking spots, and thank her every time I get "rock star parking" at the mall), I confess I'm not drawn to the sales in quite the way she was. The crowds, the noise, the pushing and shoving, the's not my thing and has a tendency to awaken claustrophobia and malcontent within me. 

I'm not tempted by doorbusters; I've rarely actually procured one. And I've always found that Black Friday shopping tends to whip one into a buying frenzy, so that one ends up back at home late that night, credit card smoking and surrounded by bags, boxes, and regret.

And ultimately, I don't need much these days. I have almost everything that I want, and I'd rather spend money on adventures and memories, than on electronics and clothes. Don't get me wrong- I'm neither Luddite nor Amish. My head can be turned by an iPhone or a gorgeous handbag. But few of the things I truly want are on sale the day after Thanksgiving.

That said, tomorrow is Cyber Monday, Internet shopping's answer to Black Friday. It's said that a vast quantity of shoppers do their holiday shopping online, from work, the Monday after Thanksgiving, hence Cyber Monday. And that's when I'll be doing some of my deal-hunting. Frankly, I've already done my shopping. Windows are already open on the Mac, displaying the few items I want; all that's left is to refresh and see the new pricing tomorrow morning....and to make sure I'm appropriately "cookied up" to receive my frequent flier miles from my preferred airline. :)

And that, my friends, is the beauty of Cyber Monday: no parking problems, no pushing or shoving, no long lines or rude, overworked salespeople. No driving, no waiting, no noise, no crowds, no claustrophobia, no overbuying, no regrets. Just a few minutes, a little clicking, and I'm done with my shopping and have the rest of the day ahead of me. It's eco-friendly, it's peaceful, and it's quiet, and I don't even have to carry a thing.

I kind of think my mom would be proud. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MORE Hamster Babies!!

This evening, we discovered that Imogen has had her babies, so we now have TWO litters of hamsters. I sure hope the pet store will take them!!! Should be an interesting few weeks coming up in our future. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

We Have More Hamster Babies!

Just last night, we moved our black female hamster, Fran Nancy, into a large aquarium. She was pretty fat and I thought she would be delivering soon, but I honestly had no idea she was this close. I was working at my desk this morning and heard the familiar ham-baby squeak, but I Fran's created this massive pile of cotton fluff and bedding so I wasn't sure...but then she shifted enough for me to see a wee little pink thing wriggling around underneath, so now I know...we've got more hamster babies.

Ned Nancy is happily ensconced in his own aquarium and Imogen and Lucky Smith are probably not too far behind with their own litter. In the meantime, Willa seems to be enjoying single life and exploring the house in her clear plastic ball.

More updates as we're able to count the new arrivals and take photos.

Best Pants Ever!

I recently went on a hunt for some awesome, comfortable pants. I wanted something that was comfortable for long flights and something that looked nice for when we go out to dinner whether traveling or at home. What I found was the Everyday Pant from Okay, so they're not blue jeans, but I'm telling you, these pants are like miracle pants. They smooth out all the unflattering stuff and pretty much just make you look the best you possibly can look. I don't know how they work; I just know they're awesome. I think I'll be wearing a pair of these on every flight from here till forever. They're just that amazing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Continuing With My Tea Trend...How Much Tea Do You Need?

As I've spent a little time these last few days studying tea, I began to wonder...there are all these great teas and they have all these benefits. But how much tea do you have to drink to get the benefits? I mean, if white tea hydrates my skin and helps me look younger, how much white tea do I have to drink to see the benefits? How long before I notice a difference?

So I did a little research and found this article that says four cups of tea per day is the minimum to get the hydrating and positive health benefits of tea. Wikipedia has this exhaustive rundown of the possible health benefits of tea and several of the studies mentioned indicate that four cups of tea per day is the amount to drink. There does seems to be some indication, however, that it's better if you don't drink the tea super-hot, but rather drink it about four minutes after pouring.

I'm super-excited about making my way through my tea cupboard. I'm enjoying reacquainting myself with all the yummy teas I've fallen in love with and I feel a sense of accomplishment (however silly it may be) when I make my way through one more tea tin. And because I have this self-imposed rule that I can't buy any new tea until I clear out that overflowing tea cupboard, it'll be so much fun when I finally am ready to explore some new teas!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wow, I Did Not Know This About Tea Preparation!

Awhile back, I bought a tin of Vanilla Coconut White Tea from Republic of Tea. I was super-excited about this tea. I love tea. I love coconut. What could possibly go wrong? 

Except...this tea, my first white tea, was bitter. Really, really bitter. Every time I made it, it was the same. Bitter, bitter, bitter. Until I myself started feeling a little bitter about having even bought the tea in the first place.

But then I did a little research and learned something: the water I was using to prepare my tea was too hot, and that's what was causing the bitterness. Who knew the temperature of the water mattered? Not me, that's for sure. I always believed that you boil water in your teapot, pour it in the cup with the tea and presto! Tasty hot tea. 

Not so much. According to Teavana (my latest discovery and my newest love), "boiling water is too hot for white and green teas and will make them taste bitter.  Letting the tea leaves sit for too long in water can also make your tea taste bitter or harsh." Teavana actually has a full chart showing the correct temperatures and times for brewing tea here.

You can either stand around with a thermometer, trying to get the temperatures right, or you can invest in a teapot that does it for you. There's a schmancy Breville teamaker that will heat the water to the right temperature for you, then gently lower the tea into the water, steeping it for precisely the right time before raising the tea basket again. It's pretty cool, but it's $249.99. The reviews are incredible, but after I thought about my needs, I realized I really only make my tea one cup at a time. I like having a different kind of tea with each cup, and I don't need a fancy teamaker to prepare several cups at once. So I found that my needs could easily be met with the Adagio Utilitea, which heats your water to whatever temperature is appropriate for the tea you're cookin'.

Problem solved. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For The Love of Tea

I've been a lover of tea for years. Red, white, green, black, herbal...I love it all, and I especially like trying all kinds of new teas from around the world.

For a long time, I've had two "go to" tea companies: Yogi Teas, for their tasty and therapeutic teas, and Republic of Tea, for their vast range, tasty mixes, and gorgeous tins, which preserve the tea's freshness for a nice, long time and happen to be easily recycled as decoupaged gift tins for jewelry and other small gifts.

One of my Republic of Tea favorites is a Ginger Peach black tea. This tea, made hot and with a healthy dollup of honey, is my personal comfort tea, because it reminds me of my mom, who introduced it to me. In our last days together, she and I would sit together in the evenings, sipping this tea and talking about life, love, and hope. When I'm missing her the most, this tea makes me feel closer to her. 

But I have a confession to make. I'm about to cheat on RoT. Leo and I happened by a Teavana for the first time recently and I've fallen in love. In particular, I'm enamored with these double-walled teacups we bought. They're amazing. They keep the tea hot longer and you never burn your hand holding your teacup. Plus, they're the perfect size. Amazing! I totally love them.

The other great thing about Teavana stores is that they have loads of samples of their teas available throughout the store, which is really fun and yummy. Note: don't buy a cup of tea to take with you. They're outrageously priced. Period. I mean, like $7 for a cup of tea. Worse than Starbucks. Still, the tea is top-notch and super high-quality, so I can't really complain.

Currently, I'm "not allowed" (my rule) to buy any new tea until I've made space in my overflowing tea cabinet, so I'm drinking tea like crazy. Today alone I started my day with a little RoT Get Lost red tea, followed it up with some RoT Orange Spice green tea, and am just finishing off a little rule-breaker I picked up at Teavana, a Samurai Chai Mate (come on, it was just a couple of ounces and hardly took up any room at all!), before heading back downstairs for a bit of RoT Vanilla Coconut white tea. I'll make it through that cupboard...I will!

Monday, November 15, 2010

FREE Chocolate?!

Did you know that Godiva Chocolates gives away FREE chocolate? I just found out! Here's the scoop: I'm a huge fan of loyalty and rewards programs, and frankly, I dig free stuff. And Godiva impressed me recently, because I totally forgot about how great this program is.

Leo and I wandered into the Godiva shop whilst noodling about a local mall. A sign about their rewards program reminded me that I used to be a member, and made me ask the sales associate if they still had my information. She looked me up and said, "Yep, and you still haven't gotten your free chocolate this month."

Seriously, people. So here's the scoop: all you have to do is sign up either at your local Godiva Chocolatier or online and then once a month, stop by the shop and pick up your free piece of chocolate (in December, they're giving away two pieces). Leo and I are both signed up. Plus, when you spend over $10, you get a free gift. And if you shop via the American Airlines e-shopping portal, you get four miles per dollar spent. It's win-win-win, and yum-yum-yum. :)