Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tea and Bikes and Life Choices

Tea and bicycling, two of my favorite things. The cover of this month's Adventure Cycling magazine features a woman riding her bike through the rolling hills of a tea plantation. It's gorgeous and very green! It makes me long for a tea tour to Asia. This has been my plan for my next sabbatical, in two years. My company is generous in that, every 7 years, employees get 2 months off (in addition to vacation). No strings attached. Just go and refresh and come back and be productive.

This dream of an Asian tea tour during sabbatical has been shaken. The work mothership calls me home, so to speak; it wants me to move. The song refrain, "Should I stay or should I go?" plays daily through my head. Weighing pros/cons, balancing heart/logic, squelching fears/negativity, cultivating gratitude/trust...these are where I'm spending much of my free time in thought. Even progress on my tea book has come to a halt as I figure out next steps for my future.

Fortunately, the DH and I are working through this together, much like two cyclists on a tandem, pedaling in rhythm, standing and sitting together, working our way through the hilly tea plantation. It's not easy, but if I take a deep breath and look around to where I am right now, this very moment, all that I have, it is beautiful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheater Pizza

The DH and I got home on Sunday evening about 7 pm. We went for a walk, as we often do, to restore ourselves after 3 hours in the car. At the end, we were hungry, so we picked up a frozen pizza. We came home and made a decent pizza into a great one. We added chard, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and Parmesan. It was really, really good and pretty darn fast. And even better, we upped the nutritional value. What cheater recipes do you have that are fast AND nutritious?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cowgirl Jumper

I made this little jumper for my favorite 2-year-old cowgirl! It was fun to make, and I had to learn how to do pleats and button holes, so it was a good project for me. I'm just so happy I got it done in time for the birthday party!

The pattern is a vintage one I picked up at a thrift store for 50 cents. What a bargain! Here she is, in the jumper. It was a hard thing to find her still for half a second, to click the shutter!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sparkly Tea

We celebrated the DH's birthday recently, and we popped open a can of bubbly....tea! I'd been waiting a long time to try sparkling tea. I'm not sure why I waited so long.

The tea, by Steaz, was sweet and lemony. If I closed my eyes and concentrated, I noticed a light green tea taste. That's not to say it wasn't pleasant, just not heavy on the tea flavor. Still, a nice beverage. I like that it's organic, sweetened with cane sugar (instead of corn syrup), and is fair-trade certified.

I wonder if I could make my own sparkling tea with the soda siphon and plain tea, sans sugar. What do you think? That might be another post! And speaking of celebrations - I'm off to party down with a 2-year-old.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tea by the Seasons

I'm being drawn to oolong teas this fall season. In the spring and summer, I opt for lighter white and greens (not every day, but often). As the weather mellows in the fall and we start to get more rainy days, I enjoy oolong tea, that master of night and day. Oolongs are among my favorites. I love how they combine the properties of green and black.

Do you change your tea with the seasons? Take the poll on the right, and happy autumn!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beware the Biscuit!

"More than half of all Britons have been injured by *biscuits ranging from scalding from hot tea or coffee while dunking or breaking a tooth eating during a morning tea break, a survey has revealed."

Read the full article. And as a friend of mine says "Hey, isn't it a good thing they have universal health care?!" ;-)

*Biscuit = Cookie

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another Blog...

I'm contributing monthly to another blog, called the Poplar Grove Muse.
Check it out! I have a posting up today.

The Poplar Grove Muse is a group blog for a community of women writers. I've been taking classes through this community. "Class" isn't the correct word, as it doesn't nearly describe what happens. First, we don't critique the writing. We are free to write about whatever we want, and the range is very diverse - from journal entries to poetry to memoir to fiction. It's a writing circle, where we lift up and encourage the words of the other writers. For more info, see Women Writing for a Change.

Mighty Leaf Mug Winner

Congratulations to Beth, from the Tea and Chocolate blog! She is the lucky winner of the Mighty Leaf mug. I took my mug last week to CA. It worked like a charm! Even non-Mighty Leaf bags stayed in the dome. The technique I used was to give a gentle tug to pull the tip of the bag through the slit. The bag then sit up there perfectly, allowing you to drink tea that is steeped "just right" - neither weak nor bitter. The tea stayed hot for a long time, too. Enjoy, Beth!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hyacinth Beans

I've become enamored with this lovely fall plant. It's called hyacinth bean. We don't grow it as an edible, tho it could be. Just check carefully because it's one of those "careful how you eat this" foods. (See the link above.) The foliage is very prolific and grows quickly to fill a trellis. The purple flowers give way to the bright purple bean pod with very leathery and shiny skin. The pods make great "flower" arrangements, either as a supplement to a larger arrangement or on their own. The bean pods last a long time, too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I've got a secret source of chestnuts! Oh, they delight me. I gather the shiny, brown treats as I compete with the squirrels, busy with their fall foraging.

To prepare, I use a sharp knife to cut a slit into the leathery shell, then roast in my toaster oven for about 15 minutes. Peel and enjoy. It's almost like eating a cookie, they are so sweet. They also freeze well for later roasting. They're the only nut that contains vitamin C.

Do you have a secret stash of wild nuts or fruit? Please tell us about it (but not where, of course!).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Give Me Holes in My Apples...

Riddle me this: What song am I referring to in the title of this post? (Answer at bottom.)

Where I live, in the Midwest, it's definitely starting to feel like fall. The temps are cooling, the sun comes from a different angle and changes color, the college football games have begun, and the apple tree in our backyard is dropping its fruit.

I love holey apples! The DH has this big bowl to himself, as I'm out of town. The cider (which he let me have the last of) is from our CSA. It was pressed last week. Wow, yummm!.

Answer to the riddle: Big Yellow Taxi, originally by Joni Mitchell. I love the song!

Are you seeing signs of autumn?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Might You Want One of These? (Mighty Leaf Thermos Giveaway)

Mighty Leaf teas has been mighty kind to me by sending me occasional tea samples. This week, I got a box in the mail (prompting a little happy dance from me). Inside was this double-ply stainless steel thermos. Mighty Leaf asked me to review the thermos, and they're offering another one as a blog giveaway! Yippee! These sell for $12.95, so it's a nice giveaway.

The thermos has a clever design. A tea bag string fits through the hole in the top, allowing the drinker to pull up the bag and snug it in this little recessed area in the top. No longer do you have to deal with over-steeped tea in your thermos because your commute is a few minutes too long. It works well; I like it.

The only thing I could find to pick on about this thermos is that it doesn't close. The sip hole is always open, so be careful as you carry it into work. But even that has an advantage...sometimes the tea in a thermos is too hot for me to sip immediately, and this hole will help it cool just a wee bit faster.

I'll be on a work trip next week, and you can bet a pound of tea this thermos will be with me.
More info about the thermos is here.
To qualify for the giveaway, leave a comment telling me where you'd take this thermos. I'll use a random-number generator to pick a winner. And send your thanks to Mighty Leaf!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Harney & Sons Tea Tasting: Silver Tips and Bai Mu Dan

This is the second pairing of white teas in the Harney & Sons Guide to tea. This pairing concludes the four teas of the white tea chapter. (See the other two here.)

I tasted Ceylon Silver Tips (from H&S) and Bai Mu Dan (Pai Mu Tan, from Upton). Silver Tips are on the left and Bai Mu Dan on the right in both photos. As you can see, these teas look very different. That carries through to the taste.

For the tasting, I brewed both at 175 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 minutes.

The Silver Tips aren't actually leaves, but rather the tender buds. These are a little less fuzy than other "silver" teas. The flavor is fresh, light and lightly sweet. I got a bit of spicyness in the finish. The tea left my mouth feeling clean. An interesting tidbit about this tea is that it comes from Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Most white teas of any quality come from China, so this is a lovely exception.

The Bai Mu Dan (called Pai Mu Tan from Upton) is a mixed bag, literally. Some tips and some green leaves. The brew is darker and the flavor very different than the Silver Tips. The DH described the flavor, "like chewing foxtail grass stems." The aroma, for me, had a definite roasted smell. This is likely due to being dried in an oven or over charcoal. This is a nice hybrid tea; it holds the white sweetness but leans into the essence of a green grassy flavor. According to Harney, the Bai Mu Dan is a much more common tea than the other three.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

End of Summer Pleasures

I hope you had a restful weekend. Mine was just what I needed. I spent some time celebrating, some restorative time at home puttering, and some heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul time with the DH (dear hubby).

We have lots of tomatoes (thanks to our neighbor)! I've made two batches of fresh tomato sauce. (My recipe is here.) This year I added fresh basil, too.
It's been a divine summer in terms of weather. I took advantage of the pleasant weather this weekend and spent time sitting on the front porch, writing letters. I enjoyed blackberry cobbler with ice cream and a cup of strong black tea.

Yesterday, the DH and I went on a bike ride through the country and saw lots of fall wildflowers. I'll try to get some pictures soon. They're so lovely!

I hope your transition into fall is going smoothly. How do you make time for yourself in this hustle-bustle season of beginnings and endings?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Beehive Cake

Yesterday was Sweetcakes' birthday, and I enjoy making a cake for the woman who makes cakes for everyone else. I got the inspiration for this beehive cake recently when I was sorting through some older magazines. I saw the cover a of a Martha Stewart Living that featured this cake. I recalled how much Sweetcakes loved the idea of this cake. I knew I had my cake (and my gift, too - the mold!)

The cake mold came from Amazon. Here is Martha's recipe. It's a spice cake that you drizzle in a butter-honey glaze and then finish with a powdered sugar glaze. It's very tasty and lovely. We enjoyed it last night on the outdoor patio of a restaurant, looking over a lake and watching a fat, orange moon rise. Mother Nature always outdoes our feeble human efforts. :-)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Public Art

A giant table and chairs near the Farmer's Market. Made of local limestone. I love this one! When you look closely at the scrolling in the chair legs, you'll find all kinds of critters.

I've had cause to assess my hometown in a new context lately. What this has done is made me appreciate the place even more than before, if that were possible. One of the things I've noticed is the prevalence of public art. We have a lot of it here! I love public art because it's accessible to everyone, regardless of socio-economic standing. It amazes us, provokes us, challenges us, soothes us, enlightens us. It reflects us.

Metal artwork with a background of sheet music

Colorful, whimsical animals

What is your favorite public art?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tea Scholarship Video

A friend of a friend's son entered this video in the Calm-a-Sutra tea video scholarship contest. It's very fun!

More details on the scholarship contest. The deadline for submission is past, but I looking forward to seeing the winner!