Will All The Real Bloggers Please Stand Up

Recently I interviewed for a writing job. What I heard them say during the interview process made me do a double think. Their stance was that bloggers, and blogs in general, were considered worthless poppycock because of the lack of journalist integrity shown by blog writers. Blogs, as far as they were concerned, were badly written, the bloggers did not have credible sources and no blogger did any research on their topic. They wrote just what they thought off the top of their heads. In essence, every blog on the internet was baseless as far as they were concerned.

Since I have three blogs I listened to all this hyperbole with my eyes wide open and my mouth firmly closed shut. If you know me at all this was a momentous occurrence.

Who on earth were they trying to sell this ridiculous notion too I wondered?

According to the latest statistical data, there are 172 million blogs on Tumblr and 75.8 million blogs on WordPress.  That’s a whole lot of nothing going on.

Now, I am aware that not every blog online is active. I have seen many of them in my searches on various topics and sadly I know the blog has been deserted. There are, however, plenty of blogs online to read on a variety of subject matters; travel, food and civil rights are among my top three.

Most people who are blogging that I have read are knowledgeable on their chosen topic, passionate about what they are doing and able and ready to write a blog to help others. I guess I don’t read the blogs they were referring too because none of the blogs I read fit the stereotype of the blogger that they opinioned.

Maybe I am just fussier than most. I don’t read every blog out there of course and over time some blogs are no longer relevant to me and I look for something else to read. I also have to be moved greatly to even post a response on a blog because some blogs are interesting but do not require my feedback. It also depends on the mood I’m in when I read them.

I know this company just wanted to make their job seem more than it was, but to disparage an entire enterprise with nonsense and downright lies made me wonder. If their objective of being a leader in the communication industry was so tenuous that they had to disparage bloggers in general, did I even want to work with them?

So, to all the blog writers and bloggers I read and follow, keep up the good work. Get your references annotated, make your links bold and bright and keep up the good fight. I’ll be reading.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 

 

Nordic Heritage Day

Yesterday Mike and I attended the very first Nordic Heritage Day here in Olympia, WA. Mike and I love attending ethnic fairs and festivals and earlier in the week I had connected with the President of the local Sons of Norway chapter to learn more about this festival.

As is usually the case we met some awfully nice people who are very proud of their heritage and simply wish to share it with others. Mike and I are only too glad to learn more about other cultures and their way of life while we are here in the US and deciding on what countries to explore next.

Going to festivals and fairs is therefore research for when we grab our passports and head off again to live among and with the locals.

I therefore created the video, using original Norwegian music, to highlight some of the sights we saw yesterday at the very first Nordic Heritage Day.

Florence Lince
http://about.me/florencelince

Encore, Encore

Reflections:

Sharing Part Two of my time with the owners of Encore, Chocolates and Teas.

Originally posted on Lean, Mean and Vegan:

*This is part two of my visit with Dean and Carla Jones from Encore, Chocolates and Teas. Part one was posted on my Reflections blog and can be foundhere.

When a visitor enters Encore, Chocolates and Teas the number of tea jars is of course the first thing that strikes you. It is when you begin to tour the store that the chocolate isle beckons.

Everyone loves chocolate. At least everyone I know. Mike likes white chocolate and I love milk chocolate. Because of my new vegan lifestyle however I was wondering what I was going to do about my sweet tooth, which strikes periodically.

Thankfully the shop sells not only boutique chocolates but the incredibly hard to find raw chocolate much sought after by Vegans. To be a real raw chocolate the chocolate is never heated over 108 degrees, it is gluten free and has no refined…

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Eat Your Veggie’s

As many of you know Mike and I visit Farmer’s Markets in every city that we have lived in and traveled too. Because the ‘famous’ farmer’s market here in Olympia has become a tourist trap and the prices are through the roof I have been hunting for an alternative farmers market. We are after all eating vegan which means we eat an awful lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.

My research led me to the Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market which we visited this past Wednesday.  The market was started in 2006 when the City of Tumwater met with a group of local farmers and farmers market advocates.  Their three main goals were to:

  • Create an open-air location for healthful shopping, workplace events and information-sharing for state, city and library employees.
  • Increase consumer access to fresh produce by being able to buy directly from local farmers.

And lastly to

  • Provide a public space for state employees and others to gather.

One of the unique features of this farmers market is the access to a community booth where local groups can display information of importance to the community as a whole, or to promote an event. This past Wednesday, September 3 Dahlia growers and enthusiasts were asked to enter their blooms into a contest to choose the best Dahlia. There was no cost to enter and the grand prize came from Barn Nursery.

Any public group, state or municipal agency or nonprofit organization may sponsor the community booth for a market day. The cost is $15. The booth may be used for outreach on topics of public interest or for public education on topics of concern to the community. The booth is not to be used for soliciting, political, or religious activities.

In addition to being a place where local farmers can sell their produce directly to the public they have hot food vendors, fresh cut flowers, and live entertainment. These are some of the upcoming special events being held at the market;

September 24 – Cider Day

October 8 – Harvest Festival

October 22 – Pumpkin Paloosa

Three of the market regulars also participate in the Community Supported Agriculture program. Often times called the CSA program consumers pay in advance for a variety of in-season produce which they pick up on a weekly or monthly basis. Costs vary according to the farm and what they grow. You can purchase a full or a half share. (To learn more about CSA programs click here. You can also search to see if this program is offered in your community.)

The three vendors whom you can arrange CSA’s with in Tumwater are;

8 Arms Community Bakery (baked goods) This could be dangerous!

Kirsop Farm (produce)

Stoney Plains Organic (produce)

The market has an active Facebook page.  If you live in the area Like it to get updated vendor information on the weeks market activities.

The Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market will conclude its 2014 offerings at the end of October. The market is located at the corner of Capitol Blvd. and Israel Road and is open every Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The market is also served by local transit which runs every 15 minutes during the day. They have a picnic area so that you can enjoy the live music and a hot lunch while shopping for your vegetables. Mike and I tried Lupe’s Tamales and you will learn more about Lupe in an upcoming post.

Because we did not get to this market sooner we missed out on the Kettle Corn vendor and some of the other fruit growers because their seasons are over. Perhaps next year…

 

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

What’s Brewing?

Recently I chatted with Dean and Carla Jones the owner / proprietors of Encore, Chocolates and Teas. This unique shop located in downtown Olympia, WA sells not only loose leaf teas but also artisan chocolates.

Why the name Encore? After being semi-retired for four years Dean and Carla realized that sitting home just wasn’t for them, besides they are very much people persons and Dean loves to chat. Encore is a word best associated with a second act or a new beginning and this shop is just that for Dean and Carla.

Owner / Operators Dean and Carla Jones.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Owner / Operators Dean and Carla Jones. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Currently there are 220 teas available for purchase. They receive teas from 10-15 distributors receiving tea shipments from around the world. The teas are sold by the ounce and weighed while you wait. The teas range in price from $1.40 an ounce for the cheapest blend to $7.25 an ounce for the most expensive blends.

They sell 220 different varieties of teas in this store.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They sell 220 different varieties of teas in this store. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They sell steeping pots and filters and if asked Dean will show you the best way to make an excellent cup of tea.

They sell steeping pots and filters and if asked Dean will show you the best way to make an excellent cup of tea.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They sell steeping pots and filters.  I bought the one on the left that looks like a tea leaf.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Here are some tea facts;

  • If you want a stronger cup of tea you add more tea to the steep process, you do not let tea steep longer to make it stronger that only makes the tea bitter.
  • With the first steep of any tea you get the most antioxidants.
  • Most teas can be steeped multiple times.
  • Any tea can be made an iced tea.
  • Many herbal teas are made with stevia leaves so they do not need sweetener.
  • Put loose leaf teas in an air tight container and keep out of sunlight. Light affects the tea and makes it less flavorful.
  • Tea should never be frozen.

Dean did give me a few pointers in the art of making an excellent cup of tea.   My favorite is white tea.

  • Boil the water and then let it sit for three to four minutes to get to the right temperature (best at 175 degrees for white tea).
  • Take 2 tablespoons (or about 3-4 grams) of white tea leaves for every two cups of water. Place the leaves in a tea maker.
  • Place the 175 degree water over the tea leaves and wait 2 minutes. Remove the water from the tea leaves.
  • Add your sweetener of choice (for a vegan alternative add rice syrup).
Best Steep Times for Tea Varieties Black teas = 4 minutes Green teas = 3 minutes (at 180 degrees or less) Herbal teas = unlimited steeping time Oolong teas = 3 minutes White teas = 2 minutes (at 175 degrees or less) © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Best Steep Times for Tea Varieties
Black teas = 4 minutes
Green teas = 3 minutes (at 180 degrees or less)
Herbal teas = unlimited steeping time
Oolong teas = 3 minutes
White teas = 2 minutes (at 175 degrees or less)
© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

To stop brewing tea you remove the leaves from the water. Each tea variety has a ‘best’ tea steep time. For example black teas should steep for four minutes, green teas for three minutes, and white teas for only two. Because the best cup of tea comes about from the boiling water being able to surround all of the tea leaves the small tea balls so many people use are not recommended. Infuser pots such as these shown here are best and allow the leaves to breath and be surrounded by the water.

Dean and Carla sell everything you need to make a great cup of tea.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Dean and Carla sell everything you need to make a great cup of tea. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some of the tea varieties available in the store include; Black, Herbal, Oolong, Green and White teas. This isn’t all however. Under Green Teas for example they have Jasmine, Mint, Fruit and Spice. Under Herbal they have Chai, Fruit, Mate, Mint, Spice and Wellness. You can spend hours in this store browsing the tea varieties and the combinations available. It is hard to pick just one tea to take home at a time.

Some very interesting combinations of leaves to try.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some very interesting combinations of leaves to try. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There is currently only one tea plantation in the United States which is owned by Bigelow Teas and located in South Carolina, it is called the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Several other states have tried to grow the leaves necessary for tea but their yield is small and sporadic mostly due to soil and weather conditions. This link shows a list of other American growers of Teas.

Teas being imported into the United States are checked for herbicides and pesticides. Drought, pollution and weather conditions all affect the quality of the tea leaves.  Currently the best black teas come from India, the best Oolong from Taiwan and the best Green teas from China and Japan. Dean has personally tasted each of the teas he sells in his store.

They always have one to two teas available to sample.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

They always have one to two teas available to sample. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Prior to opening the store Dean and Carla did a lot of market research and figured that their customer base would be those 45 years old and older. After opening the store on November 29th, 2013 they have found that their largest customer base is actually those in the 20 – 40 age bracket. These younger shoppers like the various tea blends available and they prefer the bulk buying of their teas over traditional teas sold in grocery stores.

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Encore, Chocolates and Teas is filling a niche vacated in Olympia when The Tea Lady closed her shop on June 14th 2014. She had been an Olympia landmark for 20 years.

This is part one of my interview with Dean and Carla Jones from Encore, Chocolates and Teas. Part two, where I write about the Chocolate half of their store, will be posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 on my Lean, Mean and Vegan blog.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

An Expat In My Own Backyard

We have now been back in the US for two months. This is our first full month in the Olympia, WA area and only our second week in our apartment. We have transitioned pretty well to life here in the US and we now have a little bit of furniture to make our lives more comfy.

We have a bed, a dresser, a sofa and two chairs with an end table and a lamp. That’s it, and that’s how it will stay. It cost us a little over $1000 for all these pieces.

Our kitchen did much better because Mike and I both love to cook. Because we have transitioned to a much healthier lifestyle (Mike as a vegetarian and me a vegan) we splurged and bought a refurbished vitamix machine. We also bought a rice cooker / steamer and a coffee pot. Where we really splurged was in getting a large stock pot so that I could make large pots of soups and spaghetti sauce. Our freezer is already bursting with frozen veggie soup and sauce.

Mike and I are however walking around still looking shell shocked over the high cost of food, utilities, and in general just everyday items. We realize more than ever that we had it really good while living in Panama, Mexico, Croatia and even Spain. The cost of food was not nearly as high as it is here and we always had fresh produce. It is hard to reconcile paying the higher costs with being here. Why does it have to cost so much more to live here in the US?

Why is our rent so high ($775 a month) and we are still paying for the utilities?

Why is the cost of food so much higher here? At the local farmers market a pound of apples is $2.79 a pound. I mean these apples are not being imported they are being grown here so why is the cost so high?

What on earth is the reason that taxes on a utility bill such as our internet and phone service are $20 a month? The TAXES are $20 a month. The bill for service is already almost $70. Who else feels like they are being ripped off and why can’t we make it stop? While living outside of the US internet was $20 a month and phone cards were $5 for about 60 minutes of talking time. There is no rational explanation why these costs are so high.

I find it funny that so many people talk about moving to the US because it’s the land of opportunity. What we honestly have that other countries do not have is the luxury of having electricity or gas. We also have a wealth of options when it comes to grocery shopping since all of our stores look like big box stores. What all these people coming into the US do not realize is that they honestly have it really good in their own countries. They have fresh fruit and vegetable markets, they have a fresh bread bakery in every neighborhood, they have smaller options and selections in their much smaller mom and pop grocery stores but they have everything they need. Less is more. Really!

I guess once an expat, always an expat. I’ll think of my time living back here in the US as just another stop on our travel adventure. I’m already looking forward to living someplace where the costs for everything aren’t so high. We are after all paying for all these freedoms we have here.

But $20 in taxes on landlines and internet every month? The old saying is that you can’t go home again. They are right, especially once you learn that living at home is a rip off.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 You might also enjoy Mike’s post – The Fleecing of America.

The City of Murals

Having traveled to four continents and over 28 countries thus far I have to say I don’t think I have ever lived in a city with more murals than can be found here in Olympia, Washington.

A mural is defined as any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. It is most common in a mural for the architectural elements of the given space to be harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Olympia is home to the world’s largest solidarity mural. This 4000 square foot mural begins with a giant olive tree with branches and leaves. These leaves are called talking leaves with each one representing an organization from around the world which represents solidarity, activism or community service. The mural was erected in honor of Rachel Corrie who was born here in Olympia but killed in Gaza. The artists who participated in creating this mural were local, national and international artists and activists.

This mural is 4000 square feet.  It is the largest solidarity mural in the world.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is 4000 square feet. It is the largest solidarity mural in the world. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was created in memory of Rachel Corre who was born in Olympia but died in Gaza.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was created in memory of Rachel Corrie who was born in Olympia but died in Gaza. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This website, for the Olympia Rafah Solidarity Mural Project, has a wonderful interactive aspect which tells you which organization painted and supported the mural ‘leaves’.  It will also allow you to see the leaves close-up.  Rachel Corrie was a young activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while defending the home of a Palestinian family in Gaza. The mural is located on the corner of State Street and Capital Way.

Not all murals are political in nature.  This one is for a local Italian restaurant - called, you guessed it, Trinacria.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Not all murals are political in nature. This one is for a local Italian restaurant – called, you guessed it, Trinacria. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Trinacria is a Sicilian restaurant located on Capital Way.  It is open only for dinner and doors open at 5:00pm. I can personally attest to the fact that the cannoli’s are made fresh when ordered and the owner, who is from Sicily, uses good rigotta cheese.

This mural is located near a local Thai restaurant.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is located near a local Thai restaurant. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In almost every alley in between buildings you can find a mural.  They are literally everywhere in this city.  You just need to keep your eyes peeled.  This one is located near a local Thai restaurant.

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Some murals are two murals in one. This building is so large they put first one mural here and then used the second half of the building for the other. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the other famous murals in Olympia.  This one is found on the side of The Old School Pizzeria.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the other famous murals in Olympia. This one is found on the side of The Old School Pizzeria. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mural depicting all of the Marvel Comic Book Hero’s was copied from a 300 piece puzzle entitled the Marvel Super Heroes Fantasy Jigsaw Puzzle.  Can you name all the super hero’s?

Some art is frustration art.  It can be beautiful however.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some art is frustration art. It can be beautiful however. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is located on the same stone wall as the mural for Trinacria.

Participating in the painting of murals is a big deal here in Olympia.  This past August 24th was the 4th Annual Community Mural Painting Project.  Residents and painting enthusiasts meet and help to paint a new mural every year.  This year the mural was located at the Olympia Little Theater.  I will have to make it over to the site to take photos of the finished project and I’ll share them in an upcoming post.

I could not find a website to tell me how many murals there are in Olympia.  As I see and find more I will record them in snapshots and then share them from time to time.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince