Friday, January 29, 2016

FOR SOME REASON, MY WORKOUTS NEVER WORKED OUT


Every January, a lot of people I know – many of whom still barely can move after eating their way through the Christmas season – become really enthusiastic about joining a gym or some form of workout club.

“By spring, I’m going to look like one of those Victoria’s Secret models, mark my words!” one particular friend tells me every year. She usually lasts only until about mid-February, then begs the gym for a refund and uses the money to buy a month’s supply of frozen pizza and anything covered in chocolate.

I, like zillions of other people, also once was gung-ho about trying to shape up. In fact, over the years, I’ve joined several exercise clubs (not gyms)…and never succeeded in losing as much as a pound. But I swear it wasn’t my fault.

Take, for example, back in the 1960s, when I joined Lillian Powell’s Figure Salon, the first salon of its kind in the Manchester area.

My one-year membership fee entitled me to unlimited use of the salon’s state-of-the-art equipment, which featured such torture devices as vibrating-belt machines and mechanized wooden rollers that acted like giant rolling pins to flatten flab.

On my first visit to the salon, an overly enthusiastic, leotard-clad employee who looked as if she hadn’t eaten a solid meal in months, took my measurements. She held the measuring tape so loosely, the numbers she jotted down easily could have been mistaken for Moby Dick’s. She then put me through my paces.

I learned an important lesson on that first night: never gulp down a glass of milk just prior to getting strapped into a vibrating workout machine. The employee hitched the belt around my hips, turned on the machine and walked off. For 20 minutes, I stood there, shaking worse than if I’d been standing near the epicenter of an earthquake, until she finally remembered me. By then, I felt as if the milk in my stomach had turned into a giant clump of butter.

The wooden rollers also were less than comfortable. The machine was about hip-high with horizontal rows of rollers going up the front and down the back of it. I was instructed to drape my body over the top and then let the rollers roll away my midriff bulge.

The entire time I was bent over the machine, I was acutely aware that my least flattering and most jiggly side was sticking up in the air and greeting everyone who entered the salon.

When my measurements were taken again a week later, the employee pulled the tape much tighter, nearly cutting off my circulation. Naturally, my measurements came out significantly smaller than the ones she’d taken the week before.

“Oooh!” she practically squealed. “You’ve lost a total of 10 inches! Keep up the good work!”

I had every intention of keeping it up, but a few days later, Lillian Powell’s Figure Salon closed without warning, and never was heard from again.  I was devastated…and angry. I had no idea who or where Lillian Powell was, but I secretly hoped she’d get stuck on one of her crummy vibrator-belt machines and jiggle herself to death.

Not long after that, I decided to enroll in a modern-dance class. I figured I could have fun learning some fancy footwork while getting a decent workout at the same time.

Once again, I was wrong.

The dance instructor, a barefooted young woman with straight black hair in a ponytail that nearly was as long as her calf-length black skirt, was more into “interpretive” dance. In fact, I spent more time sitting cross-legged on the floor and “meditating” about dancing than actually dancing. I could feel the girth of my hips increasing by the minute.

I wasn’t until the third class that she finally said, “I want all of you to stand up now and pirouette around the entire perimeter of the room.” She demonstrated several concise turns.

Eager to finally be moving and burning a few calories, I began to rapidly pirouette around the room. Within seconds, I felt so lightheaded, I had to lean against the wall before I keeled over.

“You’re not spotting!” the instructor shouted at me.

I cast her a blank look. I definitely was seeing spots, if that was what she meant.

 “Spotting!” she repeated. “You have to pick a spot on the wall and then focus on it every time you turn. That way, you won’t get dizzy.”

“Now you tell me,” I muttered to all three of her.

I managed to make it through the entire eight-week dance course, but I didn’t learn much about dancing and didn’t lose any weight. I did, however, learn how to pretend to be grabbing stars in my outstretched arms, and how to lie on my stomach on the floor for 20 minutes and envision myself as a fish, floating in the ocean.

Finally, a fitness center opened that seemed tailor-made for me. It featured something new called passive exercise machines. The brochure said all you had to do was lie on them and they would do all of your exercising for you. I was excited. I mean, getting a well-toned body while lying around doing nothing? What could be easier than that?

My first day there, I stretched out on one of the machines and to my delight, it methodically began to lift my legs – up and down, up and down. Soon, I was so relaxed, I fell asleep.

I actually looked forward to working out (a.k.a. doing absolutely nothing) on those machines every week. I never lost even a single pound, but I convinced myself my body felt tighter and firmer.

A few weeks later, the place went out of business. I seriously began to believe I was cursed.

One day, one of my friends called, excited to tell me all about a new women’s fitness center she’d recently joined.

“It’s fantastic!” she gushed. “It’s all women, so you don’t have to worry about men staring at your cellulite or bat wings while you work out. And you go from machine to machine on a schedule – kind of like playing musical chairs. They even give out prizes and free samples and stuff!  You should join! You’ll love it!”

“I probably would,” I said, sighing. “But there’s no point in it. A week after I join, the place will go out of business. I guarantee it.”

My poor friend had no idea what I was talking about.

So my favorite form of exercise nowadays is walking both of my dogs at the same time. Not only do they weigh a combined total of 175 pounds, they walk as if there’s someone wearing a suit made of raw meat just up ahead of us. As a result, I practically have to gallop to keep up with them. So the daily walks are an excellent workout for me.

And if a squirrel happens to run in front of us during our walk, it’s also a great way to remove wrinkles from my face…when I fall flat on it while being dragged along the asphalt.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

COLOR MY WORLD


 
When I was a kid, I used to spend hours coloring pictures in coloring books. I always had a box of 64 Crayola crayons (with a built-in sharpener) handy because back then, Crayola was considered to be the Rolls Royce of crayons. 

My childhood friend, Janet, always used to say, “Nothing smells better than when you open a brand new box of crayons.”

I can remember when I was about 10, one of my aunts, who was known for being…well, really frugal, asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Without any hesitation, I said, “Coloring books!”

So that Christmas, I was excited when I unwrapped three coloring books from her. Unfortunately, two-and-a-half of them already had been colored. My dad said she’d probably recycled them from a dumpster, but that didn’t stop me from coloring the few pages that still were left.

When I got older, I continued to enjoy coloring books – mostly the Barbie ones. I loved coloring Barbie’s dresses and outfits and pretending to be a fashion designer. This, I’m embarrassed to confess, was when I was in my 30s.

“Aren’t you a little old for coloring books?” my husband commented one night as I sat transforming yet another Barbie dress into what I considered to be a work of art worthy of someone like Vera Wang.

“Coloring is calming,” I said. “You ought to try it when you’re feeling stressed.”

He rolled his eyes. “Can you honestly picture me sitting here coloring Barbie’s evening gowns and underwear?”

“Don’t be silly. You’d use a boys’ coloring book – you know, one with stuff like race cars and Ninjas in it.”

I could tell by his expression he wasn’t even close to being sold on the idea.

Unfazed, I continued to buy coloring books and crayons every few months throughout the years, even though I often was teased about it.

About a year ago, however, things dramatically changed.

That’s when some company came up with the brilliant idea of heavily promoting coloring books designed especially for adults who were “experienced colorists.” Actually, these books had been around for a while, but not too many people were aware of them, mainly because they’d been sold primarily in art stores.

Even though I considered myself to be an “experienced colorist,” the particular book I saw advertised on TV contained such intricate, detailed patterns, I figured any adult without a perfectly steady hand and eyesight like a hawk would find them a real challenge to color. Still, I was more than willing to take that challenge.

“Adult coloring books?” one of my friends repeated, frowning, when I told her about them. “You mean X-rated ones?  What fun would coloring those be? The only crayon you’d need would be a flesh-colored one!”

I burst out laughing. “No, they’re not X-rated!  They’re called adult coloring books because the pictures in them have millions of fine lines and are really difficult to color. They’re advertised as being great for relieving stress.”

 She obviously failed to comprehend my enthusiasm. “How can coloring something so complicated make you relax?  I’d think it would give you a headache…or eyestrain.”

To my delight, my friend Colleen bought me an adult coloring book and a tin of 24 colored pencils for Christmas last month.  I excitedly leafed through the pages so I could select a picture to color right away. I’d known in advance that the designs were going to be more complicated than my Barbie fashions, but I actually was surprised when I looked closely at all of the fine details.  One beach scene, for example, contained about 700 rocks and 400 seashells, with a flock of seagulls flying overhead. Another picture featured a flower garden with more flowers than a florist’s greenhouse, and once again, more birds…all with intricate plumage. Some of the lines were so fine, I nearly needed a magnifying glass to see them.

I selected a picture of a garden tea-party and set to work on it. The colored pencils were a dream to color with. They seemed to practically glide over the page, and their colors were rich and bright. They made coloring with regular crayons seem dull in comparison. I was hooked.

Once I started coloring, there was no stopping me. I spent hours just sitting and coloring. I ignored my housework. I didn’t make dinner until nearly midnight, and then when I finally did, I forgot all about it until the smoke detectors reminded me I was cooking something. And by the time I let the dogs outside, they practically were crossing their legs. Even worse, my fingers, after gripping colored pencils for endless hours, began to ache and even get tingly.

But still, I continued to color.

Too soon, I realized that 24 colored pencils weren’t going to be enough. I wanted, at the very least, the 64 colors I’d had in my trusty Crayola box. So I went online to check out the brand of colored pencils I was using – Prismacolor Premier.  Believe me, I wasn’t prepared for what I found.

A box of 48 pencils was selling for an average of $40. The box of 72 was going for $85-$100, and the deluxe box of 132 was about $120.  The last time I’d bought colored pencils, they were only $1.50 a box. I couldn’t even begin to imagine paying nearly 100 times that amount for them. For that price, I’d become hysterical if I ever broke off one of the pencil tips while coloring.

It seemed as if the majority of my friends also received adult coloring books this past Christmas. Suddenly, I no longer had to hide my secret coloring addiction. Suddenly, I was hip and trendy instead of some weird old lady who always bought Barbie coloring books and crayons and had to hear, “Oh, your grandchild will enjoy these!” from the cashier.

I even went to Michael’s craft store last week and saw a display of about 20 different adult coloring books – most priced at an average of $12.99.  I looked through every one of them, my eyes wide with excitement. One book in particular caught my eye. It was about as thick as a New York City phone book and contained all sizes and shapes of mandalas in a variety of patterns – geometric, flowered, optical illusions, animals, and more.  It was $15.99.

I walked around the store for a few minutes, then returned to the mandala coloring book and looked through it again, already imagining which color schemes I’d use on each page.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Spending $16 for a coloring book is crazy!”

Ten minutes later, I walked out of the store with my newly purchased coloring book. And that night, I spent four hours coloring just one of the mandalas. My neck and hand were so stiff the next morning, I barely could grip my morning cup of tea.

So I colored another two pictures…strictly as therapy, of course.

I do realize that my coloring addiction is interfering with my daily routine and is seriously getting out of control. So I’ve decided there’s only one thing left for me to do about it.

Save up enough money to buy the box of 132 colored pencils.


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Friday, January 15, 2016

"THE FORCE" DEFINITELY WASN'T WITH ME


 


Two days before Christmas, I decided to go see a matinee of the new “Star Wars” movie. I figured the kids were still in school, and most people were at work during the afternoon, so the theater wouldn’t be mobbed.

Once again, I’d figured wrong.

I’m not at all like my friend Barbara, who loves crowded movie theaters. She says she enjoys the party-like atmosphere of a bunch of people cheering, screaming, laughing, singing along with the tunes in the movie and even dancing in the aisles.  When I told her I’d prefer it if I were the only person in the theater, she accused me of being anti-social.

I guess that’s because she’s probably never experienced the pleasure of sitting in front of someone whose feet were rammed about shoulder-blade high into the back of her seat all night. Or she’s never had to endure listening to the guy next to her giving a blow-by-blow description of the movie’s entire plot because he’s already seen it six times.

Anyway, I decided I’d be smart and buy my ticket in advance online so I wouldn’t end up driving all the way over to the theater only to discover the show was sold out.  I was relieved when I was able to get a seat for the time slot I wanted. Even better, I had a $25 gift card for that particular theater, so I used it to pay for my ticket. A page showing my name, the name of the movie, the time it started, and a confirmation number appeared on my computer screen. The instructions said to print a copy of it and take it to the theater as proof of my ticket purchase.

The parking lot already was full when I arrived at the theater a half-hour before the movie was scheduled to start, which I knew wasn’t a good sign. But, I thought smugly, I already had my ticket, so I wouldn’t have to stand in any long lines. I could just go right in and grab a good seat.

Chalk up another wrong assumption.

“You have to get a ticket for this,” the ticket taker said to me when I handed him my confirmation slip. “This isn’t a ticket, it’s an invoice.”

I looked over at the ticket line. It was so long, people were hanging out of the entrance door.  Groaning, I took my place at the end of the line…outside. As I stood there, I noticed that the majority of the people ahead of me were men. It made me wonder if they were playing hooky from work. It also made wonder if their wives knew where they were.

When I finally made it to the front of the line and gave my confirmation slip to the employee, she looked at it and said, “Oh, you have to enter your confirmation number in that machine over there.” She pointed to what looked like an ATM on the other side of the lobby. “It will give you your ticket.”

I glanced at my watch. The movie was starting in 15 minutes. I made a beeline for  the machine, but two other people beat me to it. The first man entered his number and apparently had trouble with it because he tried again…and again…and again. Finally, he gave up and walked off.

The next guy didn’t have any problem, so he quickly got his ticket, to my relief. I then got up to the machine and saw on the screen, “Please insert the credit card you used to purchase your ticket – for verification.”  I hadn’t used a credit card. I’d used a gift card…which was at home, on the coffee table.

So I tried entering just my confirmation number. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. Frustrated, I returned to the ticket line so I could ask the employee what to do.

“Oh…you used a gift card,” she said, frowning. “Well, try entering your confirmation number into the machine again. Only this time, don’t use the zero in front of it. That’s probably what you did wrong and why it wasn’t accepted.”

So back to the machine I went, muttering under my breath. I couldn’t help but wonder why the heck the employee couldn’t just have given me a ticket, seeing I had a confirmation slip. I mean, why did I have to keep dealing with a machine when there was a perfectly good human who could do the same thing a lot faster?

I entered my confirmation number into the machine – this time, without the zero. Then I waited for my ticket to pop out. It didn’t. I entered the number again. Still nothing. I checked my watch. The movie had started.

By then, I have to admit I wasn’t in the best of moods. In fact, at that moment, it would have given me great pleasure to set a match to my confirmation slip…and the ticket machine. I walked over to the ticket taker, who was holding back a huge line of people, all waiting to get into the next showing of “Star Wars” on a different screen.

“I can’t get my number to work in the machine,” I whined to him. “And the movie’s already started!  Can’t somebody help me?”

“Find the manager,” he said. “She’s the one with her hair in a bun.”

I rushed off, searching for a woman with a bun. I soon discovered that most of the female employees in the theater had their hair pulled back in either ponytails or buns. Just when I was getting tired of looking at the backs of women’s heads, I noticed a bun-haired woman near the popcorn machine. I ran over to her.

“Are you the manager?” I asked her.

She nodded.

I thrust my confirmation slip at her. “I can’t get this to work, and my movie has already started. I’ve been here for over a half-hour and I’m getting really, really frustrated.”

She eyed the slip and then said, “Well, let’s go over to the machine and see what we can do.”

She punched in my number and the machine immediately spit out my ticket. I felt like giving it a swift kick for cooperating for her, but not for me. She handed the ticket to me.

“Here you go,” she said.

I thanked her and took it, then looked at the line – once again out the door.

“My movie started 15 minutes ago,” I said. “If I have to wait in line with all of these people, I’ll miss half the movie.”

“I’ll take you to the front of the line,” she said.

I followed her and gave my ticket to the ticket taker.  I could feel the eyes of all of the people in line shooting daggers at me. If looks could have killed, I’m pretty sure I’d be in an urn sitting on someone’s mantel right now.

Finally, I got into the theater and grabbed a seat just as the movie’s opening credits were showing. I took a deep breath, relieved I’d apparently missed only the previews of coming attractions.

“Wait until you see the cool new droid in this movie!” the guy behind me said to his buddy. His voice was loud enough to be heard three rows away. “It’s called BB-8 and it’s carrying a secret map everybody’s looking for. This is the third time I’ve seen this movie! It’s really awesome!”

It’s a pity I didn’t bring Barbara with me.


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Friday, January 8, 2016

TRYING TO BREAK THE ANNUAL HOLIDAY WEIGHT-GAIN TRADITION



The day after Thanksgiving, my cousin decided he was going to start a serious weight-loss program. My first thought was, “Dieting during the holidays? Is he crazy? Why not wait until New Year’s Day, and join the zillions of other people who also will be dieting?”

But I figured he wanted to avoid what the experts refer to as the average annual 5-lb. holiday weight-gain.  I know from experience exactly what they are talking about. For years, I gained those five pounds every holiday season, often with a few extra thrown in for good measure.

One year, however, which I still refer to as my record-breaking December, I weighed myself on New Year’s Eve and was shocked to see a 9-lb. weight gain. I’m not sure why I was so surprised. I mean, there actually had been a few clues that should have warned me in advance. For example, the front pockets on my jeans had been sticking out like elephant ears because I couldn’t squeeze my hands into them to tuck them in. I’d also noticed that when I filled the bathtub to its usual level for a relaxing soak, it overflowed when I sat in it.

In my defense, I really did try to eat wisely during the holiday season that year. In fact, in preparation for my annual “season’s eatings,” I even read articles with titles such as, “How to Walk, Not Roll, Away From the Buffet Table,” and “Carrot Sticks…Not Just for Santa’s Reindeer!”

The articles gave plenty of calorie-saving advice for the holiday weight-conscious. They advised, for example, to stand at the salad end of the buffet table rather than the dessert end, to avoid temptation, and to sip plain club-soda with a twist of lemon instead of chugging eggnog. There also were several paragraphs devoted to the “instead of” eating method: Eat a cracker instead of a dinner roll. Eat one cookie instead of a slice of cake. Suck on a small piece of candy cane instead of reaching for the fudge and chocolates.

I was pretty sure the person who’d written those suggestions had just landed here from Jupiter. After all, if I were the type of person who could eat “just one” of anything, I wouldn’t have been reading diet tips in the first place.

Back then, the only way anyone ever would have seen me with only one cracker or cookie would have been if I were suffering from nausea or I’d already eaten a four-course meal before attending the party. And as far as drinking club soda, well, I might have considered it if something a little more palatable had been added to it…like chocolate syrup and a couple scoops of ice cream.
 
Actually, I did start off that holiday season pretty well.  At the first party, I emerged from the buffet line with only a slice of lean roast beef, a small serving of rice and some salad on my plate. And I washed it down with plain, bottled water. Then, after my meal digested, I still was so hungry, I returned to the buffet line and ate four slices of cherry cake, three sugar cookies, a cupcake with pretzel antlers on it, a handful of cashews and a cup of hot cocoa topped with about 45 mini marshmallows.

The next party I attended didn’t even offer any nutritious food. It was an all-dessert party. When I entered the room and saw the wall-to-wall sweets, I thought I had died and gone to sugar heaven. Many of the treats were such unique delicacies, I felt I just had to try them: mashed-potato candy, stained-glass cookies, dump cake and peanut-butter balls. By the time I left, I could feel cavities popping out in my teeth, zits popping out on my face, and buttons popping off my slacks.

Then, a couple nights before Christmas that year, I suffered a bad stomachache. Unfortunately, it was due to my own cooking. I wanted to make a two-layer white cake with chocolate frosting to have on hand for any guests that might drop by. I searched online for a good – and easy – recipe, but couldn’t find any that didn’t require whipping egg whites until stiff. I knew from past experience that I was physically incapable of making egg whites stiff…even if I sprayed them with starch. The only thing that usually got stiff whenever I tried whipping them was my upper back.

Finally, I found a recipe that called for unbeaten egg whites.

The finished cake looked picture-perfect. The outside was golden and puffy, and a toothpick inserted into the center of it to test its doneness came out clean.

All I can say is thank goodness I decided to sample the cake before I frosted it. The texture of it was like modeling clay. And for some reason, it tasted like bread – very chewy, doughy bread.

As I tried to get the ball of cake unstuck from the roof of my mouth, my husband came out to the kitchen and cut a slice of the cake for himself. I remained silent as I watched him take a big bite of it, mainly because I couldn’t open my mouth to protest.

His eyes widened and his lips tightened. “I need a napkin,” he said, but it came out sounding more like, “Uh neb a nabbin,” because his teeth were stuck together.

I handed him a napkin and he promptly spit the cake into it. The action was accompanied by a variety of “pah-tooie!” sounds. Needless to say, I began to strongly suspect I probably shouldn’t serve the cake to guests…not unless I wanted them to risk getting an intestinal blockage.
 
So I gave up on the cake idea and searched the Internet until I found a recipe for sugar cookies that looked simple enough to follow…even for someone  as oven-challenged as I was.

The cookies, unlike the cake, turned out great – tasty, not too hard, not too soft. In fact, they were so good, I ate seven of them right after they came out of the oven.  And later that night, I decided to taste the cake again, just in case it magically had turned moist and fluffy while sitting on the counter.

It still was the consistency of a giant wad of gum. Nevertheless, and for reasons I still can’t comprehend, I ate two pieces. They sank like bricks in my stomach.

Now that I think about it, maybe my record-breaking 9-lb. holiday weight-gain that year actually wasn’t due to overindulgence.  Maybe the cake hardened into a big lump of concrete somewhere in my intestinal tract.
 
                                                                
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Friday, January 1, 2016

THE 12 TEAS OF CHRISTMAS...ONCE AGAIN


Everyone who’s ever asked me out for coffee has quickly discovered I never order coffee, I always order tea. That’s because the only way I’ll drink coffee is if it has three sugars and half a pint of cream in it. In other words, it has to taste like coffee ice cream, with probably twice as many calories. Tea, however, I can drink black – with only one teaspoon of sugar.

The first time I drank tea, I was eight years old and my grandmother made it for me. It had enough sugar in it to instantly destroy my teeth. But I guess she thought all of the calcium in the heavy cream she also added to it would counteract the tooth decay. Anyway, from that point on, I was hooked.

Back then, just about everyone drank one of three brands of tea: Tetley, Lipton or Salada. They were plain black teas, nothing fancy or flavored, nothing herbal. My favorite soon became Lipton. I drank it with cream and sugar in it until I was in my mid-20s. Then I switched over to artificial sweetener and non-dairy creamer, thinking they were healthier for me.  The powdered creamer I was using, however, turned out to have a bunch of stuff in it that clogged arteries faster than if I’d poured bacon grease into my teacup.

Over the years, I tried other brands and types of teas in various flavors, but I always went back to my trusty Lipton. Then, I took a trip to England and found out what tea really should taste like. Every morning during my stay in England, I was served tea in bed, and it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. So the minute I returned home, I rushed to the supermarket and bought a box of English breakfast tea, logically thinking it was the same tea I’d been served for breakfast in England.

Believe me, it wasn’t. Not even close.

That’s when it dawned on me that the entire time I was in England, I never once saw a tea bag.  The tea always was brewed in a pot. So, because I still was so eager to replicate that delicious tea, I bought some loose tea and a teapot…and proceeded to brew something that looked like rusty water with specks of dirt floating in it.  It tasted even worse than it looked.

So it’s been Lipton tea bags for the past 40 years.  My friends, however, seem determined to expand my tea horizons, because for the past four Christmases, I have received a gift called “The 12 Teas of Christmas,” from different people. This year was no exception. I didn’t even have to unwrap the gift to know what was inside, I’m so familiar with the shape and size of the box. The teas included such flavors as ginger peach, cinnamon plum, Christmas spice, apricot, Japanese green tea and Earl Grey, whoever he is.

The tea bags, four of each flavor, are beautifully boxed. But I haven’t even removed the cellophane wrapper from the last three boxes, mainly because after I tasted the first three of the 12 Teas of Christmas, I was pretty sure I’d never want to taste the other nine. I guess when it comes to tea, my palate is, well… unsophisticated. And the worst part is, the “use by” date is always the next October, so I can’t re-gift the box of Christmas teas to someone who really might enjoy them next Christmas…not unless they celebrate it in September.

Even getting a cup of plain tea in restaurants lately has become a challenge for me.  For example, in one place where I ordered a cup of tea, I was given a cup of hot water and a ceramic container of assorted tea bags. I leafed through them and saw flavors like hibiscus, peppermint bark, pumpkin spice and cardamom cinnamon.

“Don’t you have any plain black tea?” I finally asked the server.

The look she gave me made me feel as if I’d just asked her to brew me another cup of tea using water from the toilet.

“I’m sure you’ll find a flavor from our selection that will please you,” she said, smiling tightly.

“Plain black tea pleases me,” I said.

At another restaurant, I was served my cup of tea and took a big sip of it. It tasted kind of like spoiled oranges.

“There’s something wrong with my tea,” I told the server. “It has a weird taste to it.”

“It’s Earl Grey,” she said. “It has a hint of oil of bergamot in it.”

She made it sound as if having an oily teabag was supposed to be a good thing. I had no clue what oil of bergamot was, but I suspected it had been squeezed out of old oranges.

“Can I switch it for some plain black tea?” I asked the server.

“This is the only tea we have,” she said. “Everyone thinks it’s an improvement.”

As far as I was concerned, this Earl Grey guy wasn’t improving a thing. I wanted my Lipton – or even Tetley or Salada – back. 

So this Christmas, I once again received The 12 Teas of Christmas, along with an additional gift box of Teas of the World, which included such tempting flavors as toasted coconut, organic dandelion, rose hip and fennel.  They sounded like something I should plant in the garden rather than drink.

Fortunately, I was in a store the other day and spotted, to my delight, a sale on Lipton tea bags. The usual box of 100 had a bonus of an extra 25 bags, all on sale for only $2.99. I bought three boxes.

I figure that should hold me for about a week.

Meanwhile, if guests come to visit me and I offer them a cup of tea, I probably should warn them it’s highly probable they just might be served something like three-year-old licorice hibiscus.



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