Sunday, November 30, 2008

FIt to a Tea

Bet you never wondered why a 'teaspoon' is called a teaspoon, or a why tiny little round candles are called 'tea lights', or what's so special about a 'tea towel'. So, today, while I prepared a pot of perfectly brewed Monkey Picked Oolong / Silver Needle blend tea and measured out 3 'teaspoons' of the leaves , the little 'tea light' went on in my brain. The 'tea-spoon' began as a measure for brewing a cup of tea!

With the popularity of coffee in this country, tea has been long over-looked. But it's making a comeback. Actually, tea has been recognized for its medicinal and taste benefits for centuries. It began as a beverage for emperors, and became a sought after commodity in Europe, enjoyed mainly by the aristocracy. As it became more available to the masses, it was still highly valued as a social centerpiece. Porcelain tea sets were so important to British families, the mistress of the house would dry them herself with a special linen cloth--her 'tea towel'.

I've wanted to cut back on the caffeine and coffee, and found that teas are varied and flavorful, and I've come to prefer tea over coffee. I am most intrigued by the health benefits of tea, and it's great to think that I'm actually enjoying something that's good for me!

If you are interested, here are some general qualities of the four main types of tea:

White -- the least processed tea, very high in antioxidants (studies show that antioxidants in white teas help to reduce the risk of cancer, particularly lung, colon, and skin cancer, and also strengthen your immune system and help with metabolism), very low in caffeine; excellent for hydration of the body and the skin, which acts naturally to reduce the signs of aging (fine lines and wrinkles); aids in detoxifying your body. A cup of white tea only has about 1% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

Green -- very high in antioxidants that boost the immune system and may help to reduce the risk of cancer (polyphenols), particularly lung, colon and skin cancers, helps to regulate your blood sugar, resist cavities and gingivitis, and it is good for your skin. Green tea also contains EGCG complex, which is very good for metabolism.

Oolong -- help to lower the intake of fat content from high-cholesterol meals and increase metabolism (this is why it is known as "diet tea"). The tannic acid in Oolong teas also helps to lower cholesterol levels. Good for the skin as well. Typically a very relaxing drink, although it does have a slight amount of caffeine.

Black -- Medical research suggests that black teas assist in lowering cholesterol, preventing the absorption of cholesterol into the blood, gently stimulating the heart and circulatory system, keeping blood vessels soft, regulating blood sugar, and lowering blood pressure. It can help prevent heart disease and strokes. Contains 20% of the caffeine in coffee.

And, all tea includes fluoride, which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the formation of plaque.

Good tea doesn't come in bags from the grocery store, but from a good tea store which sells loose leaf teas, which are higher quality and fresher. They can tell you how to brew each specific tea, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Keyboard Shortcuts

I spent about an hour the other day trying to find my old 'cheat sheet' that had keyboard shortcuts for punctuation, foreign language and symbols. There are lots of ways to use the number pad (for Windows) and/or just simple key stroke combinations for laptops (MAC and PC).

I never did find my old faithful list, but found a quick Internet search led to several listings online. None of them are as user-friendly as the one I've misplaced, but in case these would be helpful to anyone else, here are the links...

For MACs
For PCs

Next time I 'lose' my 'cheat sheet,, I'll just use my 'cheat blog'/. BTW... the photo has nothing to do with the posting,... I just wanted to make it a little more interesting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Ever been to a big parade celebrating the return of a hero(es)?

I was at the parade for the first Steeler Super Bowl victory, way back when. It was such a big deal that the mayor declared the day a holiday, and the businesses gave their employees the day off. And, in spite of the frigid temperatures, and long.... long... wait for the team to arrive, all of the fans stayed there for their opportunity to cheer for their city's heroes, and to be a part of the big celebration, and to claim some of the glory, almost as if we had something to do with it. The excitement bordered on worship as fans sang the Stiller song and called out the names of the players riding by.

This memory was sparked by something I recently read in Jack Hayford's book, The Reward Of Worship. Hayford is describing a scene from the book of Revelation (chapters 4 & 5), which he says is an account of the apostle John witnessing the moment when the Son of God, the Lamb, having defeated sin and death, returns triumphantly to the Heavenly realm to take His throne. The Heavenly fans have been waiting, and watching, maybe even holding their breath. But when the Hero returns, they break out in spontaneous praise, and worship. They can't help themselves.

There's much I don't understand about the book of Revelation, but having read this, it was as if a light went on in my little brain, and I gained a new pespective. Having experienced a little of fanaticism for our football team bringing glory to our town, I can only imagine the eurphoria inspired by the victory of the Christ, bringing salvation to the human race.

Hayford says that while the book of Revelation arouses speculation on its symbolism and end times prophecy, it is at its core a book about worship. When the heavenly beings continually declare, "Holy, holy, holy...", it's not because they are mindless robots caught in a habit, but they are so awestruck, tongue-tied maybe, that it's all they CAN say.

And, while it's great fun to cheer so fervently for the Steelers, the Penguins and the Nittany Lions, it's life-changing to cheer for the Lamb.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I used to have a sign on the wall of my office that said "Bloom where you are planted". It was meant to be a reminder to me to make the best of each situation and to do my best to thrive wherever I found myself.

We have a crabapple tree in our yard that blooms each Spring with glorious pink blossoms. When it's in full bloom, it evokes a sense of hope in the coming spring season of new birth after the dark, dreary, cold winter.

We're well into Fall now, have had some frosty mornings and even a few snow flakes. And we've also had some unusually warm weather for this time of year. But in spite of the above average temps, I didn't expect to see this when I opened the garage door ...

One branch of our little crabapple is in bloom! It's pretty, but odd. So, of course, I googled "crabapple trees that bloom in fall" and found that while it's not usual, neither should I call Dean Cain to come over and shoot an episode of Ripley's Believe It, Or Not.

A plant (tree) that blooms out of season is usually caused by some stress during the normal growing season, which throws off the tree's internal mechanisms that control flowering. So, when temperatures and/or rainfall repeat the conditions present during the normal bloom time, the confused tree produces flowers.

We were pondering this phenomenon. The tree's response to stress and changes in its environment, was to bloom! It dug deep into its xylem and phloem, and instead of shutting down, it made pretty flowers. This is certainly contrary to the pattern I see in my own reaction to stressful or confusing situations... I fret; I hyperventilate; I get, well, ... crabby.

The Fall blossoms won't be producing any fruit... we've got some yukky cold weather forecast in the next few days which will likely put an end to the blooms. But, I've read that the Spring flowering of the flowering crab probably won't be adversely affected by its Fall florescence. It will adjust and adapt and recover from the stress, and be back to its old self by Spring, and it most likely will flower and bear fruit in due season.

And so, for however briefly, the contrast of the pretty pink flowers amid the backdrop of the brown and bleak landscape is a reminder to me that perspective is pretty important. If we tap into the hope that lies within us, we can bloom in spite of the season, and may even look a little prettier in the process.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rewards of Honor

I went to the post office today to buy some stamps and found it was closed. I remembered then that it is Veterans Day, and I was glad that we have set aside a day to honor the veterans who have served our country.

A few weekends ago, Bruce & I traveled to Washington D. C. to visit our daughter and son-in-law. Ashley and Nate took us to the Iwo Jima Memorial, which we had driven past many times, but hadn't stopped to read the plaques and to reflect on the sacrifice of so many in one of the fiercest battles of WWII. While we were there, several bus loads of veterans who had fought in the Pacific Theatre arrived and assembled in front of the monument for a group picture and for some reflection of their own. They became the living part of the monument.

After the photos and the hushed conversation, they spontaneously broke into a poignant and loud rendition of "God Bless America". These men, heroes every one, weren't focusing on personal loss or the horrors of the war, but they were blessing the nation they served and reiterating the freedoms they fought to preserve.

Two days later, American citizens exercised the right to vote for the next president of the United States, as well as many local and congressional leaders. So many men and women who have served/now serve our country in the armed forces are part of the reason we can.