On Walkabout to See What's Out There

#38 Hip Replacement / Great Tea Adventure

By: BriarCraft, 12:19 AM GMT on February 26, 2012

I enjoyed my first cup of coffee when I was about 9 years old. It was a treat. It was special. It made me feel grown up. And it tasted really, really good with milk and sugar. By age 11 or 12 I was in the habit of enjoying a cup of coffee with my parents every evening while we watched TV. I don't ever recall feeling any sort of "buzz" from the caffeine. It just tasted good and made me feel good. At age 19, when I was out of high school and on my own, coffee was my reward for getting up and arriving to work on time. At age 42, I tasted by first latte and became a coffee connoisseur. What followed was a coffee adventure. I bought a coffee grinder and home espresso machine. I tried a wide variety of whole bean coffees and coffee blends, purchased from Starbucks as well as local mom-and-pop coffee roasters. Some were better than others, but I never tried a fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee I didn't like.

If you're young, you might scoff at what I'm about to say. If you've on the high side of 50, you'll probably nod and say yup, uh huh.

I've discovered what everybody does if they live long enough. Muscles don't recover as fast from excessive activity as they used to. Joints begin to take on the attributes of Rice Krispies, going snap-crackle-pop when you stretch. Gravity starts to have an effect where you wish it didn't. And sometimes your metabolism changes for no apparent reason.

Over the past year, my metabolism has changed and I watched my blood pressure gradually creep up. Until this last year, my blood pressure has always been in the neighborhood of 110/65. When it started edging above 155/90, I came to the conclusion that something needed to happen before I had a heart attack or stroke. While mulling over the possible need to see a doctor, I had an impulse to drink tea instead of coffee. I don't know why. I had some old Tetley Tea bags in a canister and I gave them a try. After a couple of head-achy days, while I suffered caffeine withdrawal, I decided that tea didn't taste too bad. And after just 4 days, my blood pressure started going down. After two weeks, it was back to the old 110/65. Based on what I found at the Mayo Clinic's website, my daily caffeine consumption has dropped from around 1000 mg per day to 150-200 mg per day. Big difference. Cause and effect. (Caveat: no medical advice given or intended here!)

So where am I leading with all this? Look at my history with coffee for a clue. I have now embarked on the great tea adventure. Learning about tea. Trying different teas from different sources. Having been a coffee drinker for so many years, I want the richer flavor of black teas and I'm finding a very wide variety of black teas to sample courtesy of internet shopping.

I haven't totally given up coffee. Once or twice a week, I treat myself to a fresh ground, fresh brewed cup of joe. While I've always liked coffee, I have to say the flavor seems even better now. And the new tea adventure is fun. Care to join me for a cup of tea?

tea tree grove

tea processing

single cup tea infuser

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Take the Other Road

By: BriarCraft, 6:16 PM GMT on February 04, 2012

Take the road less traveled. Go a different route. Enjoy the beauty in your own back yard. In the grand scheme of things, your back yard probably has a radius of 50 or 100 miles. I'm reminded of that on days like yesterday when I caught a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens between the trees. With blue skies and just a hint of haze, I grabbed the camera and the car keys and headed down the road a mile or two.

I pulled over on the shoulder in a couple of places to snap some pics. And not one, but two cars stopped to see if I needed assistance. I'm steadying myself on the trunk of the car, in jeans and flannel shirt, with a camera pointing at the mountain. And people ask if I'm having trouble. Those were friendly actions and I'm not complaining, but I am amazed. Maybe because I'm wearing flannel and have Washington plates on a dirty car, they didn't notice the camera. I felt further amazement when both people seemed surprised that I, a local, was out taking pictures of the mountains. Why would I do that, anyway?

Well, that got me to thinking about how people tend to take for granted the beauty in their own back yards. Those same people may scrimp and save to take a vacation trip far away to see beautiful sights.

Then, the other night on national news, there was a story about snowy owls at Ocean Shores, Washington. I did a double-take. And then did some research. I found a story in the Seattle Herald that has a nice slide show of photos and more at the Seattle Audubon Society's site. I never knew about snowy owls in my back yard. Evidently, they come every winter, but this winter is different. Between a cyclical population spike and abnormally heavy snows up north, they are visiting Washington in large numbers this winter.

Well, I can't pass that up. So tomorrow, I'm going to grab my camera and tripod, fill the gas tank, and head for the coast. The weather is nice. It'll be a fun day trip. I'll see some great scenery. And maybe I'll be lucky enough to spot some snowy owls along the way.

And now that I've set the stage for it, I'd like to suggest that WUfriends and lurkers take advantage of the next sunny day. And on your way to the store, take a left instead of a right turn and see what's down the road. Or visit a city or county park to see what's there this time of year. Or while commuting to/from work on the freeway, just take two minutes and pull off at a scenic view point, get out of your car, and take a quick look. Take the other road, maybe surprise the locals a bit, and turn a "regular" day into something special.

February 6 update:

I guess I could say the bad news is I didn't find any snowy owls, but the good news is what I discovered while looking for them. The Seattle Audubon website has a map showing where they've been sighted and I covered a large part of that area, but let me back up a bit.

When I left home, the temp was only 28F and there was a touch of fog, but the sun was shining. I drove to Longview where I got the car washed and then crossed the Columbia River to the Oregon side. Traveling along US 30, I entered Astoria about 45 minutes later. I immediately headed for the Astor Column, perched on a hill overlooking Astoria and the Columbia River.

Then I drove back across the Columbia on the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is a little over 4 miles long (21,474 feet, to be exact). Oh, how I wish the designer could have put a pull-out mid-span because the view was spectacular -- what I could see at 45 mph through the railing. Back on the Washington side, I took a detour onto Cape Disappointment, where I found some nice viewpoints. By that time, the temperature was a breezy 60F and was very pleasant.

Then I got serious about my snowy owl hunt. I had read that the owls prefer open grasslands and I found several such places on the Long Beach Peninsula and then along US 101 along the southern part of Willapa Bay. Continuing on US 101, I traveled north to Aberdeen, where the Chehalis River empties into Grays Harbor. There, I left 101 for Ocean Shores on the north side of the mouth of Grays Harbor. Ocean Shores is the place that made the national news last week with several shots of snowy owls. Lots of wild, open grasslands on the verge of the beaches in that area, but no snowy owls that I saw. At that point, the sun was going down, so I headed inland to Olympia and then south on I-5 back home to Toledo.

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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.