Trying Not to be a Background Character in My Life

We’re one year into locking down at home, and I’m doing my best not to become a background character.

So many people I talk to have no stories from the past year. Most of their time has been spent indoors eating, working, and sleeping. No adventures, no learning, no nothing. They’re just waiting to no longer be an Non-Playable Character.

I haven’t done anything amazing this past year, but I do have stories to tell if asked. I went on a road trip to Iowa when COVID hadn’t hit there yet. I took online bar tending classes. I did some online Bourbon, Rum, and Gin tastings.

On week-nights with nothing scheduled, I watched Netflix and Hulu. However, I did everything in my power to not live the life you would think Non-Playable Characters have when you’re not in the game.

Staying motivated wasn’t easy. There were days I stayed in bed. I also wore the same clothes for several days…

Even if there wasn’t an outdoor world, and even if I felt like I didn’t matter to anyone, I always tried to remember that I matter to me.

The local news makes it sound like we’re stuck in the current state until July. I’ve started exercising and working out in hopes of having one of those magical COVID Body Transformations. If life is going to feel like a prison, I might as well start practising my prison routine.

It will give me another story to tell when I see everyone.


An Open Letter to Charmin

Dearest Charmin,

This may be hard to believe, but ever since I was able to purchase my own toilet paper, I’ve only used you. For 13 years, the brand I loved, the brand I trusted, and the brand I knew that would always support me from behind was you.

From my youth until now, from UltraSoft to UltraStrong, you’ve been there to support me through my changes, even in my most intimate moments.

But I must apologize Charmin, because as much as you’ve supported me all these years, I was unable to support you now.

I worry a mark has come between us. A mark called, COVID-19.

You see Charmin, I tried to hold out. I ate more fibre, drank less caffeine. I put in so much effort, but still, you ran out on me.

I searched for you: high and low, near and far, deep and high. You were no where, and I had to turn to someone else for comfort.

I don’t want a bitter good-bye. I’ll do my best to remember our time together fondly. Maybe one day, our destinies will align to the same Target. For now, and for all the shit we’ve been through together, I want to say, “Thanks.”


Life Tea

QualiTEA Time Alone

I’ve run out of my supply of Teavana’s Maharaja Chai Oolong Tea. It’s been 3 years, but my bulk purchase near their end has ran dry. I ordered some Majesty’s Chai Oolong from Seepologie to see if that would satisfy my cravings.

I also ordered a bunch of other teas from other places, and tried my hand at making homemade boba.

Years ago, this used to be a tea blog. When I moved to Seattle, I turned into a coffee snob. Now that I’m stuck in quarantine, my coffee collection doesn’t offer as much diversity in its flavors, especially trying to drink it throughout the work day.

I’m finding tea to be a lot more relaxing throughout my time alone. Tea is restorative and meditative. Personally, I feel like I’ve been falling behind while working from home. Thoughts of productivity plague me, and I’ve been working extra hours to make up for it. Tea helps me to slow down and reflect. Flavored teas help remind me to have fun.

Since I’ve started drinking tea again, I’ve split up my work day. After morning meetings, I do a tea session followed up with a run. I feel more productive and less trapped in my own mind.

Here’s what I drank this week.

David’s Maple Syrup Oolong

Just as a warning, this tea contains Maple Sugar. Certain brewing vessels recommend not putting sugar in them, so I recommend using one of those in cup infusers.

The tea itself is wonderful though. As it brews, a rich reddish amber color fills the cup. The smell of pancakes, butter, and maple syrup fill the air. If David’s Tea made candles scented like this, I would have one in my office.

The first steep reminds me of what first got me into tea. It’s sweet, fun, and approachable. The flavors are artificial. It tastes good, but you could bottle this with some novelty name, and the sweetness and maple pancake flavors would be fitting. I don’t feel like a sophisticated tea drinker as I sip from my cup. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy drinking this from my cup, but it feels like a treat or novelty.

The second steep is closer to what I expect an Oolong to taste like. The tea had notes of toasted nuts and a maltiness to it. The scent of maple pancakes is still there, but this feels like I’m drinking tea.

This tea feels like a reminder of growing up. The first steep reminds me of my inner child. The second steep is like growing up, and remembering what was and embracing moving forward. I won’t say this tea brings enlightenment, but I won’t say it doesn’t either.

I would recommend this tea. Being able to get multiple steepings which are enjoyable is a plus. This is something I could drink throughout the day.

David’s Pheonix Oolong Tea

I’m a sucker for an Oolong Tea. If you can’t tell, I ordered a bunch from David’s Tea.

The Maple Syrup Oolong is one of the cheaper Oolongs from David’s Tea, and the Pheonix Oolong is their most expensive, which is why I made Boba Tea and Iced Tea from it.

Homemade Boba is a pain. I think it would be fun as a group event, like a dumpling party. Alone, by myself, it was fun until I made 8 pearls, then it was monotonous. Dry store bought pearls had nothing on the flavor of my homemade pearls, but my homemade pearls took over an hour to make, and by the time I was done I resented them.

But the tea was still good. The Pheonix Oolong was iced with a bit of sugar, unlike the other two teas I drank this week. I also only had a single steeping.

If you told me these leaves had added flavor, I’d believe you. This Oolong is fruity, and the Lychee notes stand up against and accentuate with milk and Boba.

If this Boba Milk Tea was sold in stores, I’d be a repeat customer, and this would be my regular. I’m not trying to say I make a great Boba Milk Tea, but I’m not saying house guests shouldn’t ask me to prepare a glass. The quality and flavors of the tea probably had more to do with it than my barista skills.

As a plain iced tea, David’s Phoenix Oolong Tea is crisp and refreshing. I want to say it has nice toasty caramel notes, but that could also be the added sugar.

Most Oolong Teas I’ve drank are toasty or milky. This Pheonix Oolong is a new experience I’m enjoying. It kind of reminds me of Damn Fine Tea’s The Mermaid’s Kiss, except with Lychee flavor instead of Jasmin.

This tea tastes special. David’s Phoenix Chai Tea has a high price point, but it’s justified in the flavor and versatility of the tea. The Phoenix Chai Tea is just tea with no additives, and 2 oz fills up a single David’s Tea tin.

Seepologie’s Majesty’s Chai Oolong

This tea was the highlight of my week. I love a good Oolong, and I love a good Chai Tea. This tea was the bee’s knees of both worlds.

When Teavana closed it’s physical locations, I bought as much Maharaja Chai Oolong Tea as I could. Before running out, I tried to find a replacement. Steepologie had a Ginger Chai Tea that I enjoyed and ran out of. When I checked online, they no longer had the Ginger Chai, but they did have this Majesty’s Chai, and I had to try it.

Majesty’s Chai Tea hits all the spots for me. It has the spice notes, it’s re-steepable, and I can enjoy it throughout the day.

The first steep has discernible spice notes. Cinnamon and Cardamom stick out, but I can also taste the ginger and black pepper. The tea makes me long for more, and I can’t drink it fast enough.

The second steep looses the impact of the first. The spices blend together in harmony. It tastes like a classic warm chai.

The third steep is more Oolong that Chai. The spice is still present and warm. The Oolong is sweet.

Majesty’s Chai Tea is great with milk and sugar. This is the type of tea I was raised to love, and it’s a tea I already want to buy more of for fear it will be taken off the menu.

I hope this tea becomes one of Steepologie’s staple menu items. If so, it’ll keep me coming back for more.

Steepologie is currently running a GoFundMe, so I hope you all will go and support a great Seattle local business.

If you’re drinking anything interesting, feel free to leave a recommendation in the comments and I’d love to try it.


Getting all Martha Stewart Up in Here

Life isn’t all doom and gloom. One of the fun things about being trapped at home and the grocery stores being sold out of items is doing your best to make do with what you’ve got.

The first time I made an Onion Jam was after I stumbled upon a Martha Stewart recipe. Later on, I found out it could be made better with bacon. Whilst binge watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I noticed many burger episodes had a common trend: Peanut Butter and Jelly Burgers. I had to try it.

Today, however, I was lacking buns, patties, and jelly. Luckily, I had some Spicy Thai Peanut Butter in stock.

For the buns, I tried to follow King Arthur Flour’s Bun Recipe. I had to rock with what I got, and used bread flour instead. My buns looked non-photogenic, but they tasted great. I wouldn’t say they were better than store bought, but in the midst of a pandemic, they were a relief from the insanity around me.

Two Homemade Hamburger Buns fresh out of the oven

Here’s a tip or a lie. You can split the dough into portions and freeze some for later. Do this before the initial rest. After defrosting in the fridge, if you let it rest at room temperature, it should hopefully still rise.

Sweated Onions and Bacon in a pot

The Onion Jam is time consuming but worth it. I cut the recipe down to a single onion since I’m cooking just for myself. The onions become really sweet after the browning and caramelization. Bacon adds a saltiness and fattiness that makes the jam an all around mouth pleaser.

Caramelized Onions and Bacon in a pot

For the burger patty, I used 1 lb Ground Beef, 2 tablespoons of Barrio Fiesta Bagoong, 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard, and some black pepper. I’ve always been told to keep the patties simple, but I always want to mess around with them. Fried it in some duck fat and called it good. Duck fat isn’t needed, but when I can’t go out to treat myself, I have to treat myself in some other way.

Open-Faced Thai Peanut Butter and Bacon Onion Jam Burger

For assembly, I put the peanut butter on the bottom bun, and put a loving spoonful of onion jam on top of the patty. The lemon grass inside of the peanut butter was a surprise, but overall, this is something I’d make even if it wasn’t the apocalypse.

Fully assembled Thai Peanut Butter and Bacon Onion Jam Burger

My neighbors have power washed their driveway every weekend since this has started. I’ve gained 5 pounds so far.


Day 29 of Quarantine

29 days of quarantine seems hard to believe. Some of my friends decided to quarantine before even I did. Obviously, no one knew it would get this bad, and no one knows how bad it will get.

For me, it all started with rumors and co-workers trying to fly back home before it was too late. I was confused because there had been only 1 documented case in the states so far, and barely anyone showed up to a work party. I later found out people didn’t go because someone had flown back from Wuhan and was not quarantining themselves for the recommended 14 days. In typical Seattle Freeze fashion, people avoided the problem instead of addressing it. I guess management can’t force someone to go home, and the best we can do at work is ask someone, “Are you feeling alright?” and hope they get the hint.

Still, the Coronavirus seemed like the Boogeyman. “If you stand to close to a stranger or if you don’t wash your hands properly, you’ll get the virus” was basically the message everyone was getting. The moment it seemed to turn real for most people was when it started showing up in our schools. Parents I worked with knew something was up even if tests were coming back negative. They already pulled their kids out of school.

The number of people in the office was quickly decreasing even before management started recommending people to work from home. Before any official declarations, our director told us to start working from home. There were rumors of a lock down, so I increased the frequency of my grocery subscriptions. While still thinking I was overreacting, Microsoft had its first confirmed case and even more unofficial cases were popping up.

Companies in the area were encouraging people to work from home. Some of my friends went on ski trips instead, and Facebook friends were making fun Seattleites for overreacting.

Shortly, it became real for me and for some of my Facebook friends. People who went on the ski trip became sick. We did not and still don’t know what it was because my friends couldn’t get tested. They did not travel out of country, and they didn’t interact with anyone who had tested positive. Luckily, their symptoms were mild and went away after a few days. We haven’t interacted in person since their trip though.

The virus has been spreading quick since then. My Facebook friends who were mocking me for overreacting are now under stay at home orders as well.

The toughest part for me has been trying to stay motivated while keeping up with all the news. The best advice given to me was to establish a routine. Even if I’m stuck at home, having a goal of things to do throughout the day help keep me motivated and make things feel normal.

Adapting to the New World

One of the toughest things for me is living with my parents. They’re in the high risk category, but they don’t like staying cooped up at home. In their mind, if this is the end, they want to go out living and not waiting it out confined indoors.

My parents want fresh produce and groceries. Instacart, Amazon Fresh, and other delivery options are delayed anywhere from 3 days to a week. Even if we place the order and get a delivery time, we’re not guaranteed to get what we ordered. It’s awkward asking my parents to stay home. They just want to be able to eat and drink what they want instead of pretending to be in the Chopped Kitchen.

I also feel lazy because I’ve been reading or playing video games all day. We can’t run out to do errands, and we can’t have company to pass the time. There’s not a lot to do other than try killing time. I’ve taken up braising meats and baking bread from scratch in order to pass more time while cooking. The food has been good, and the time well spent. However, I’ve gained several pounds since the start of self-isolation.

We’re almost a month into this, and the stay home order has been extended to May 4th. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take, but I’ll try to keep you all updated.


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