Tuesday, January 31, 2006

End of Hot Tea Month

I hope you all had a nice Hot Tea month! I enjoyed knowing that the special-month-assigners placed such an important emphasis on tea. >-)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Living Below My Means

This post brings me back to an update on my efforts at living simply....
As I was having my morning cup of tea today, I was perusing a magazine called Debt-Proof Living*. http://www.cheapskatemonthly.com/. This is a great monthly source of ideas for living life without financial hassles.

The way that the DH and I came to discover this magazine is an interesting story of living below our means. We recently canceled most of our magazine and catalogue subscriptions. We had too many! While enjoyable, they are extremely wasteful, from an environmental perspective. Plus, we didn't need to fork out the $$. It's not as if we're strapped for cash. We're actually ahead of the curve in terms of savings. Nonetheless, we constantly strive to reduce our consumerism. It's an ethical matter. This magazine reduction was one way to continue bringing our lives into alignment with our values.

Now, we both really enjoy reading magazines. So, how to continue this interest w/o spending the cash or amassing mountains of glossy paper? We head to the library! Our library contains an incredible diversity of magazines, and we can check them out. The selection is much greater than if I were to buy them myself. I've been reading everything from Utne Reader to Debt-Proof Living.

We're quirky people - I know that and I don't mind. We pay off our credit card every month. We own our car, and we're considering life without one. When we purchase a house within the next year or so, we plan to get one smaller and priced below what we can afford. We want to pay it off ASAP. We just don't spend like the average family. Thank goodness!

I've still got my challenges! I'm a fan of clothes and tea stuff. Those are my weak points! But I continue to cull my closet and resist temptation...with occasional indulgences.

If you've got tips for living below your means, please share them!

* Formerly called Cheapskate Monthly. Debt-Proof Living is a monthly publication of DPL Press, Inc. PO Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723-8135.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tea Review - Snow Mountain Jian

The DH (dear hubbie) wanted his own pound of green tea. I guess he got tired of my rations and wanted one he could control all by himself! >-) So, out comes the wholesale books for him to peruse. He chose Snowy Mountain Jian, and he has been kind enough to share.

My first tasting experience with this tea wasn't that great, but it's my own fault. I was exhibiting bad tea tasting behavior. It was early and I was multitasking (making pancakes - not a normal morning event for me). I didn't pay attention to my tea leaf-to-water ratio. I over-steeped. Not in the sense of time, but I had too many leaves for the amount of water I was using. My first experience of the tea was that it had a smoky aroma and was rather bitter. The bitterness was my fault.

When you taste a tea for the first time, it really is important to give the tea 3-4 different steeps. Use different water temps and steeping durations to see what you prefer. (When I'm tasting a tea for the first time, I only reuse the leaves twice. I might keep them for a third steeping later, but not for the purposes of really "getting" that particular tea.) I keep a notebook with my tasting preferences and observations.

Round 2 worked much better for me with this tea. The tea had my full attention. That's always a plus (and a moment to be centered). I steeped the same leaves for 2.5 minutes and used more water. I am enjoying this cup. The smoky aroma is still there. However, the bitterness is gone. The tea does have a pungency to it. It's manufacturer's description indicates that, while this is a green tea, it is allowed to ferment very briefly to give the leaves a dark hue. They indicate the taste is "much smoother than traditional green teas." I'm not sure I would define this as a smooth tea, but I do like it. The aftertaste leaves a sweetness on my tongue. Quite the combo - a mildly pungent flavor, but a sweet aftertaste.

I am also considering whether I should carry this tea in my Serendipity Teas line. The jury is still out. I will compare tasting notes with the DH. I find that many of my customers prefer really soft greens (like my Darjeeling Green), and this one definitely doesn't fit that profile.

On a slightly related topic, I am really pleased with the tray and fish bowl shown above. I picked up the very light celadon green tray at Cost Plus World Market in Albuquerque. I found the matching fish dipping bowls here in Bloomington! I needed something to showcase teas, and I needed a very light background. This one seems to work and the fish bowl is just adorable!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Yin and Yang of Tea

For those of you who have had trouble with green tea, read on! Here's another blog post that explains a potential reason. Thanks a bunch to Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea for sharing this!

I tend to be of a fiery personality (Aries and tending toward Yang). I also am choosing green teas more and more frequently. On any given day, there's a 70% chance I'll be drinking a green (or a "soft" oolong). So, this is good news for me - my body has wisely chosen a tea for me. I do tend to drink black tea more in the winter, which would be appropriate to add more "fire."

Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Afternoon Tea Serendade

I've been enjoying the book and accompanying CD, Afternoon Tea Serenade, by Sharon O'Connor. This is an interesting book. The author has picked classical music (mostly chamber music) that goes well with tea. She's also researched famous tea spots and has included recipes from them. It's fun for me to peruse through and say, "Oh, I've been there!" or to make my wishlist for future trips.

This book was a gift from a friend - thanks a bunch!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Big Post: Dove Promises, Shortbread Cookies, and Wild Weather

I got a bag of Dove Promises for Christmas (two kinds! milk chocolate and caramel). I enjoy eating one a day, and the messages inside the foil are fun, and sometimes right on the money. For example, yesterday's message said, "Don't think about it so much." Wow - that's the truth for me. I tend to over-think things, and I often lie in bed thinking and not sleeping. Today's message was, "Send a love letter this week." Good advice.

I had my first experience this week of using a shortbread cookie mold. I love and have made shortbread, but never in a mold. This lovely mold came from a friend in NM.

There are some definite best practices when it comes to shortbread molds. First, my shortbread coach explained I needed to both oil and flour the mold before using. The flour is important! It keeps the oil from acting like glue. Second, you have to "bop" out the shortbread once it's pressed into the mold. To do this, whack it on a cutting board that has been padded with a doubled-over dish towel. I found that 2-3 perpendicular bops did the trick. However, I had to re-build the handle each time. I think I need to keep practicing! >-)

This mold is large, so one batch of shortbread (recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook) made 4 cookies with a little extra for a free-form shape. Mmm, the cookies tasted good with a cup of tea!

The weather has been a little wild here this week. We has snow on Tuesday/Wednesday. Yesterday, the snow melted and the temps reached 59 degrees! I took this photo on Wednesday. I think this tree with the red berries looks so pretty dressed up in fresh snow!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Delsey Luggage

A few of you were interested in my Delsey Helium luggage. I have the 21" suiter and the personal bag. There seems to be a line of Delsy Helium a step above what I got, as well. Go here for details - I'm pointing you to what I got, but you can do a search and see the other Delsey items.

I am quite pleased with the luggage, for these reasons:

1 - It's light-weight.
2 - It has a lot of pockets.

3 - It holds its shape.
4 - The roll-on expands and you can smoosh a whole lot of stuff into it! (As witnessed by the amout of stuff I brought from NM!)
5 - It rolls nicely and the personal bag stacks on top well.
6 - I got the red, and I like the color.

The only thing that I haven't liked so far is that it does show travel wear. For example, I now have a small black smudge on the front, probably from the conveyer belts.

I do recommend it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

An Open Letter to My NM Friends

To me, this is tea: beauty, centering, and celebration.

The beauty of your friendship, of the time you made for me and shared with me, of your kindness and generosity. The beauty of lives I admire.

The centering of a place I have called home, the place that is home to many of my fondest moments. A place of sunlight and air and majesty.

The celebration of life in its full package - of accomplishments and losses. Of transitions, growth. Of letting go. I celebrate my relationship with you and I want you to know that.

To me, this is tea: beauty, centering, and celebration. Thank you for helping me to see this.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Green Tea Gum

Hello from sunny and warm New Mexico! A little warmer than normal for January, but I'll take it! I am here to visit with friends and for a professional meeting. I popped into a drug store yesterday, and noticed something in the toothpaste aisle...green tea gum. It comes in two varieties: one for weight-loss and one for antioxidants. Amazingly, the green tea flavor has been changed to peppermint. I didn't take home a pack. :-)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! This lovely amaryllis is brightening my desk. A much-appreciated companion!

I was off last week visiting with family and friends. I hope you had a nice break. I'll get back into the swing of blogging soon. :-)