Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lipton Pyramid Teas

You know, Lipton has a bad reputation in the US among the "tea snobs." It's a reputation that is just on one hand, and not-so on the other. On the just side, the quality of tea in a Lipton tea bag is pretty crummy. However, folks in the US have been drinking Lipton tea (mostly iced) for a long time, and are used to that flavor. So, if it works for you, keep it up!

Lipton started as a purveyor of fine teas over 100 years ago, and slowly degraded its product (in the US) to be cost-competitive. In other markets, Lipton has retained higher-quality teas. In fact, a friend who recently visited Asia reported that Lipton sold loose teas there. Another friend sent me a recent newspaper clipping from the NY Times that spoke of Liptons re-entry into the high-quality tea market in the US with its "Pyramid Teas."

Pyramid teas aren't unique to Lipton. Other companies, such as Revolution, Harney & Sons, etc., have already been releasing high-quality teas in pyramid-shaped mesh bags. The idea is to combine the portability of the tea bag with the desire for high-quality, long-leaf tea. The pyramid shape also gives room for the "agony of the leaf" - the unfurling and expansion of the leaf that is necessary for a good cup. I think the pyramid tea bag does a pretty good job, and is especially convenient for traveling.

I haven't had the chance to try a Lipton Pyramid teabag yet. The one thing I wonder about is their flavoring...will it be natural or synthetic? Time will tell. There are 6 varieties being offered, all flavored except for one.

The big kickoff events for the US are underway. In NY, next Wednesday, Oct 4, Lipton is hosting a "Gen Art" party to showcase the pyramids. Never heard of a "Gen Art" party, but then I live outside of most media streams.

I'm not sure when the Lipton Pyramid Teas will hit stores. When you see one in your area, let me know. I'd enjoy your review.

To read more, check out Lipton's Pyramid Tea website. It's a snazzy little site.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

I don't cook much, but I do love to make bread. It's a very therapeutic process for me. When I was on vacation last week, I made a batch of Honey Wheat Bread (whole wheat) that was very yummy!

Here's the recipe:

3 cups warm water
2 cakes yeast (or 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup honey
6-7 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt (I didn't use this)

Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Allow 5 minutes for the yeast to start to bubble. Stir in the honey, 3 cups of the flour, the oil and salt (optional). Stir this mixture by hand until smooth.

Slowly add the remaining flour (3 cups), cup by cup, until the dough becomes easy to handle. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and satiny. Use more flour if the dough is sticky (that extra cup of flour).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour). When doubled, remove the dough and "punch" it down. Divide into 2 parts and shape into loaves. Place into 2 greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again until doubles in volume.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until the top is well browned. Remove from pans to cool.

* Bread made with honey stays fresh longer than bread baked with sugar.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hot Stone Massage

My sister runs Practical Magic Day Spa in Salem, IL. It's a marvelous place and I think everyone deserves a trip there!

I visited recently, and she gave me a hot stone massage and facial. It was really cool! This photo is from the facial part. The different colored stones correspond with the colors of the chakras and are used to align the chakras. During the facial, she alternates rubbing the face with hot (warm) and then cold stones. It's quite refreshing! I would recommend this!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Flower Survey

Yesterday was the DH's birthday. To celebrate, I will share some photos of the flowers in our garden right now. Enjoy!

Mexican sunflower with monarch butterfly. The butterflies love this flower!

Fall-blooming hostas (they like shade).

Fancy Coxcomb. These dry very well; I'm about ready to harvest this one.

Brown-eyed Susans

Cleome - these things are so cool! They look like aliens to me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Matcha and Japanese Tea Ceremony

I'm playing around with matcha tea these days. Matcha is powdered green tea, traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. The color is incredible - very vibrant green. Here's how to make a cup of matcha.
(If you dont' have a bamboo whisk, you can use a wire one.)

Here's a great summary of the Japanese Tea Ceremony:
I particularly like the gesture of humility - stooping to enter the tea room.

I had the great fortune to observe a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Albuquerque a few years ago. The instructor had studied under a tea master in Japan for a long time. She taught a class via SEED. If it's still being offered, it's worth attending!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Swing Dance Video

Check out this really cool swing dance video! It's from the swing dance club that the DH (dear hubbie) and I are members of. We are not in this video. We might have been able to hang in there, but only b/c it's a choreographed routine. This is pretty advanced dancing! These folks are great!

In this video, you'll see a variety of dancing, including: East-Cost Swing (6-count), Lindy Hop (8-count), Charleston, and individual jazz dancing.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

If you like dark comedy, this is one movie to add to your list. Thanks to my friend KV for the recommendation! I laughed, I cried, I laughed more until I cried. It's funny, irreverant and poignant.

Here's Roger Ebert's review.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Travel Tea Kettle

I recently had a chance to use the Bodum Ibis mini kettle (electric hot water boiler) I purchased several months ago in CA. I'd been looking for a travel kettle that would pack nicely, and this one does it! It's pretty flat, so it fits well in a suit case. It boils enough water for about 3 cups at a time. (The reason I needed this kettle is that I cannot stand the taste of hot water out of a coffee pot...even when no coffee is involved. The coffee flavor penetrates the water and hotel pots are the worst!)

By the way, I purchased this at an incredible tea store in Folsom, CA. Hina's Tea & Sympathy. 1004 E. Bidwell (in the parking lot area, near Trader Joe's). If you're ever in Folsom, check it out. I think Hina is also starting a tea bar in Old Town Sacramento.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Big Fish Stories...

I recently spent a weekend at Rend Lake with my family. We did some walking on trails, fishing, lounging, more fishing and boat rides, and lots of relaxation! Here's my mom, catching the big one!

All that work and this was what she caught! :-)

I, however, didn't catch anything!

Goofing around. The DH, my sis and my mom.