Tea Time Thought (TTT): Pearls

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The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths, it has its pearls too.

Vincent Van Gogh

A great life is nothing more than a series of days well lived, strung together like a string of pearls.

Robin S. Sharma

Keep living well. Start by putting the kettle on! 😉

Blessings, friends.

Dear Quarantine Diary – Week #8

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Dear Diary -I stood on the bathroom scales this week and it says I”ve gained weight. There goes my theory that my clothes were shrinking in the closet and dresser drawers. Afterall, I haven’t worn most of them for a year. I don’t think the scale is broken, but if it isn’t kinder next time, it will be!

Dear Diary – On Saturday, Hubby and I watched an episode of Home Town, which I PVR when there’s a free preview. I love this young, sweet couple and their devotion to restore a house and build a home. They also salvage, re-purpose and work within a budget! All good stuff!

Hubby started looking at real estate and found the PERFECT place for us, only 10 minutes from my folks. I have always dreamed of living in one of the many limestone or red brick farm houses in and around my small town. So it’s not wonder we fell deeply in love with a gorgeous restored old limestone church. This beautiful home was obviously a labour of love. They retained the beautiful woodwork, the tower, the arches, the stained glass windows. Every detail enhances its natural beauty. I love the soaker tub next to an arched window, and the French door leading from the main floor master bedroom to a 3 season room. I love the fire pit. I love the custom wrought iron gate. I love the country landscape and I could learn to live with the pool. And if we sold our house at the top end in the current market, we could probably afford it, mortgage-free. We’d have a house but no income, and we’d lose it all.

Instead, we’ll just let our hovel house here, be our home.

Home is a comfort and home is a light, a place to leave the darkness outside
Home is a peaceful and ever full feeling, a place where the soul safely hides

Michael Card, Home

Dear Diary – I excused myself to use the “ladies’ room”, then muttered mockingly under my breath, “why are you using it? You’re no lady”. Little Guy burst out laughing. “Good one,” he said, “I was just thinking, we all use it so does that mean you think we’re all ladies?”.

Dear Diary – It’s always wonderful to find out you are memorable! I don’t think that’s happened to me before. I went to my 12 year old eye doctor this week, and he remembered that I play Overwatch. He remembered the D’Va text notication on my cell phone. He also remembered a 30 second conversation we had last year when I accosted him in the parking lot to ask what characters he played. I guess it’s true of gamers –

The bond we have is much deeper than the game we play.

Patrick Willis

Dear Diary – My parents read about the perfect cat for me. I would love, love, love to get a cat who is past the crazy kitten stage and loves to cuddle. But Hubby hates cats. Just to see their reaction, I told the boys about Moustache anyway. I mentioned that he needed a home with no other pets and no small children. Little Guy piped up, “then what are we going to do about you…small child?”

I get it! I’m short!

Dear Diary – Once in awhile I have to waste energy doing housework. I started cleaning out under the bathroom sink and found 5 bottles of men’s body wash. So, for the foreseeable future, I’m going to smell like a man. One day I’ll smell like a forest, the next an Irish spring. And how, exactly, does an icy mist smell? I just hope those Axe commercials aren’t accurate and I get swarmed with hot women every time I leave the house.

It all balances out too. Hubby is starting to smell like a woman. He’s been using my hand lotion, and a cloud of shea butter follows him everywhere!

Dear Diary – My dear friend of almost 30 years died this week. She was diagnosed with cancer barely 3 months ago.

I met Suzanne in college & careers and we instantly bonded. When she moved away 2 years later, we kept in touch, writing looong letters. Those letters allowed us to prayerfully carry each other through some very dark times in our lives.We lost touch a couple of years ago, then out of the blue, she sent me a message asking me to pray. That message was followed by a handwritten letter, scanned and emailed to me. The best way to connect the new and the old! She had drifted from the Lord and He had woken her up. We picked up right where we had left off.

She was the special kind of friend that I could share anything with, without fear or shame. She loved me when I was most vulnerable and I always knew my heart was safe with her. I am so thankful for the assurance that she is safely in the Father’s arms now, and our friendship will never be over. I loved her so much and miss her terribly already.

June 29, 1996

And friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never ’cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go in the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends

Michael W. Smith, Friends

Now for Something Sweet…

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I love sweets and I cannot lie.

But when it comes to tea, I’m more of a purist. Some people can’t live without sugar or some form of sweetener in their tea or coffee. I would be tempted to call them freaks, but that would just be me in my glass house throwing stones. To each their own!

Life is like a cup of tea. The sugar is all at the bottom

Julia Ward Howe

There are a number of options on the market, both natural and artificial. Some natural sweeteners, of course, would be stevia, honey, or maple syrup. More commonly, refined white sugar, brown sugar (with or without molasses) or cane sugar/syrup are used. But have you heard of German Rock Sugar?

German Rock Sugar is anatural sugar substitute. It is unrefined, unprocessed, and crystallized sugar made from beets, not sugar cane. These amber-coloured sugar pebbles contain slightly fewer calories than white refined sugar. It’s also devoid of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Some say they are the best way to enhance sweetness in your loose leaf tea without actually modifying the flavour of the tea.

Approximately 1 tsp rock sugar = 25 calories. When using it in your tea, they recommend dissolving 1 rock per cup. For extra sweetness or to use in an iced tea, dissolve a rock in a bit of hot water, before adding the tea. In baking, substitue 1 rock per 1 tbsp. of sugar (again dissolve it in a tiny amount of water).

It’s purported to have a number of health benefits, including a less intense effect on blood sugar levels. Some of the websites I reviewed tried to convince me that German Rock sugar could be used as a form of therapy for depression, as a stimulant for fatigue, and as a booster for cognitive function and concentration. While I agree that a small, sugary treat can do all of those things in the short term, I’m not sure this candy-like pebble has such great “magical” healing powers. Also, sugar is still sugar, so if sugar in your diet is a major health concern, talk to a doctor. Just because someone said so on the internet, does not make it so!

Friends are the sugar in my tea!

I hope your Monday is sweeter than your tea!

Dear Quarantine Diary – Week #7

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Dear Diary – I declared last Friday a pajama day! (but just so I wasn’t completely disgusting, I did shower and put on clean pajamas). I was so excited to have family and friends join in or comment on our “Adult Spirit Day”! I think we should plan something for next month. Anyone?

Cheers!

Dear Diary – I am a Valentine’s Day survivor. It’s that one holiday between Christmas chocolate and Easter chocolate, that I tend to despise. Too many bad experiences that make me want to cry out “Bah…humbug!” As always, I wore my traditional black to honour my friend (my little black dress stayed in the closet where it continues to shrink), and we ordered in pizza.

On Sunday morning, I received a cryptic text from Big Guy. I had my suspicions but I played dumb (which I’m really good at doing). Sure enough, within 10 minutes I heard snow crunching outside the front door. I opened to a stranger hightailing it away from my house and a large brown paper bag on my doorstep. Even though it was obviously too small for Big Guy to hide in, I brought it inside gingerly. It contained Tim Horton’s: 1 large coffee, 1 large steeped tea (Mine!), 1 large chocolate milk, and 3 chocolate chip cookies. It was the best breakfast from the sweetest kid!

I miss him.

Hubby also cooked us eggs and hash browns (yum!) and helped with dishes. Little Guy played Halo with me in the evening. 🙂

So it was my turn to treat. I spent the afternoon making pastitio, a layered Greek pasta dish similar to lasagna, with a thick bechamel sauce on top, and loads of gooey cheese. Very low cal. For dessert, homemade shortbread cookies. I experimented with flavouring the icing with tea: purple was earl grey, pink was cherry lucuma, and brown was s’mores chai. If you knew to look for the flavours, I mean really concentate, you could taste them.

I also made a cardboard template and cut out what were supposed to be tea bag shaped cookies. It took forever. Little Guy thought they were price tags. Obviously the baker on The British Baking Show did a much better job!

Sadly, my kid didn’t get to spend Valentine’s Day with his new sweetheart, who I have yet to meet. Of course, with Covid, they rarely get to meet!! Long distance relationships can be hard at the beginning, however, it also means you have time to get to know each other. That’s how Hubby and I started. Instead of texting, we wrote long letters, and occasionally talked on the phone after 11 p.m. when the long distance rates were lower. There were no phone plans back in the dark ages. Hubby and I also spent our first Valentine’s Day apart and it sucked for other reasons, but we’re still an item, celebrating 25 years in June. Maybe this couple will have quite a story to tell one day: “Love in the Time of Covid”.

Dear Diary – I ordered and picked up groceries on the only day this week that it snowed. Murphy’s law! With the windchill, it was dipping close to -20C, which made for a long, cold wait. I was the only one cued for a pick up and it took forever for them to come. I know why now: I’m feeding an army!

Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairytale.

Wale Ayeni

Dear Diary – Yesterday I supervised Little Guy’s 3 hour Computer Coding Competition. Even though he notified his teachers for the 2 periods he would miss, I still had to notify the school. But where to begin?

I began with the online attendance system used by the school board. It took me 20 minutes of searching and a 5 minute “video for dummy parents” only to discover that the Report Absence Button no longer exists.

So I called local school. She gave me 2 phone numbers for Virtual School. The first number was the correct number to report absences for Virtual School, but the voice mailbox was full, and then it started screaming “error, error” in my ear. So I called the other number and left a detailed voice message. I received a call back almost imediately from a very polite young man, chuckling from his toes. He was a Rogers Communications employee and this was his personal cell phone. Freaking awesome!

Next I sent both schools an email, explaining why I was writing and what number I called to get the “full” mailbox. At least they couldn’t say I didn’t try! There went the first half of my morning.

About 4 p.m., an hour after Little Guy had completed the competition, I received a rather snotty and abrupt email from the local school, giving me the phone number for reporting absences to the Virtual School. Obviously she read my email very carefully. Sigh…

Sheldon: Why are you crying?

Penny: Because I’m stupid!

Sheldon: Well that’s no reason to cry; one cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid and it makes me sad.

– Big Bang Theory, Season 3, Episode 10

Writing Letters

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It’s true – the art of writing letters is slowly becoming a lost art. Who has the time to put thought on paper (once you find some paper)? Then you have to find an address, a stamp and even a mailbox! Sometimes it is just easier to send a quick text or post a quick message on Facebook. I get that! I’m guilty of doing it too.

But once upon a time, I used to write a lot of letters. Hubby and I started our relationship on paper. He was a poor student in another city and phone calls cost money! I wrote crazy stories with small-town caracatures to a homesick friend studying in the city. When our worlds seemed to be crashing down around us, another friend and I encouraged each other by sharing prayers and scripture. Baring our broken hearts to each other, we helped each other breathe in the darkness, until the sun started shining again.

Though housebound during covid, I once again have time to write and have re-discovered the pleasure in putting pen to paper. And for good reason:

Letters are more personal because they contain my effort, my time, and my handwriting. Those notes are often in or tucked into one of my handmade cards, made or chosen with that person in mind. My hope is that I will lift their spirits, and as I work, mine is lifted as well.

They take more time, which means I am more careful as I consider each word and phrase. I can extinguish inflammatory words before I create firenados. With my emotions in check, I am less likely to discourage, hurt, or offend the reader. And when I share my emotions or concerns, I can be concise, sharing the whole story without interruptions and distractions, and leaving other “cans of worms” unopened.

Letters can be read and re-read by the recipient. It gives them time to consider their response, if one is needed. It limits the number of folks who may feel they have a right to weigh in with their opinion or share their story. But most importantly, it may be something that the reader needs to read again and again, a reminder that they are special and they are loved.

Let us all then leave behind letter of love and friendship, family and devotion, hope and consolation, so that the future generations will know what we valued and believed and achieved.

Marian Wright Edelman

CFFC: Reed, Read or Red

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I know it’s Monday – tea day!! So what am I doing posting a Photo Challenge? I think if you take a gander, you’ll see there is a common theme with 2 great loves…So pour yourself a cup of tea and soak in some summer.

There is temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading should belong.

Henry Ward Beecher

This is my post for Cee Neuner’s Fun Foto Challenge: Reed, Read or Red!

Dear Quarantine Diary – Week #6

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Dear Diary – Last Friday was “Go to work naked day”!

You didn’t honestly think I was going to share THOSE photos, did you? This Friday, a girl friend and I are planning a pj day and we’re posting those pics! Care to join us?

Dear Diary – I’ve been tied up in knots these days, and since I’m tied up anyway, I decided to do some tying of my own…and make pretzels.

I really like The Great British Baking Show, except it makes me want to bake fancy things far beyond my ability or patience. The middle challenge for these bakers is technical, and usually some important information is missing from the recipe, requiring them to use their knowledge and intuition. I lack both. (If I’d had intuition, I would have known that attempting pretzels wasn’t the best thing to tackle in my current emotional state). My recipe also lacked important details like…what the dough should look like when it’s properly kneaded, how to twist the pretzels, and most imporantly, how many pretzels I’m making!

It wasn’t as tricky as I expected, but it was quite the workout. I think my dough was a bit too dry which didn’t help. I had to knead it for 10 minutes.

This is where being short is a disadvantage. Anyone who has baked bread knows that it’s easier to knead when you are standing or leaning over your dough. But in order to do that, I have to stand on a footstool and take care not to push the dough too hard, lest the footstool slide and I take a tumble.

By the end of the first 5 minutes, I had worked up quite a sweat and my eagle eye was glaring at the clock, willing it to jump ahead. After 10 minutes, from my judgment (or lack thereof), the dough was almost there. Ugh!

Once it proved in the warmth of the oven’s light, the next challenge was figuring out how many lumps to cut and how to form it into pretzels. The twisting was easy if you stand on your head just the right way – but moulding a long, serpentine tube was ridiculous! Instead of rolling, the dough slid on the counter. If I stretched it, it started to flake. One end looked like a pencil, the other a sausage. I rolled and rolled it between my hands like I was starting a fire with sticks. My hands tired, the skin stung and reddened like a tomato. All the while, Little Guy was standing in abject fascination at my ministrations. And that was just for the first 2! I don’t how many I made. The first to be formed, started rising into grotesque gnarls so I re-rolled them and divided them into 2. I glazed the finished products with egg and sea salt and baked until brown.

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Dear Diary – I’m ashamed to admit my emotions got the better of me last weekend. I was emotional. I felt sorry for myself. But mostly I was angry. Very angry. I try to avoid them, other people’s posts of life “as normal” – skiing in cottage country, coffee at Starbucks, visits with extended family. It’s not fair. It’s not right. If we all did our part, might this all be over by now?

I’ve been “doing my part” by staying home; we suck up the cost of ordering in groceries. I wear a mask if I go for a walk, but it’s been too chilly to go far. Brr….. I miss my folks and my kid. I miss fast food and shopping malls. I really miss Tim Horton’s. I feel trapped at home with 2 men who eat and fart, and tease me for being short.

God reminded me to look at David. A humble guy in a field, placed in a position of honour with a king, a musician, a warrior, who ends up running for his life through no fault of his own. Surely he wondered how God could have let this happen. David was God’s chosen and anointed. He’d been promised a kingdom and he was living in a cave, “on the lam”. Talk about unfair!

David chose to respond by pouring out his fears and compaints, baring His soul with tears before the Lord. Then he would rehearse his trust in God by pouring out his praise and worship. A man after God’s heart. God didn’t make David’s path easier, but He did make David stronger so that at the right time he could become a great leader of a nation, foreshadowing the coming of the King of kings.

Lord, give me a heart that recognizes that you are all that I need.

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong…be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him….Refrain from anger and turn from wrath…it only leads to evil….The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him.

From Psalm 37 (NIV)

Dear Diary – My supplies were gathered, and my fabric washed, ironed and ready to go!

Step 2: Trial and error. Two weeks ago, a pillow slip threatened to push me over the edge, but I refused to be bested by a pillow! I perfected my ripping out skills, dried my tears and humbled myself long enough to watch instructional Youtube videos. I discovered the first problem was the fabric I used was too short, just like me. So I wouldn’t ruin another swatch of fabric, I practiced making 2 types of covers with an old baby sheet covered in blue and yellow paint.

Step 3: I held my breath, crossed every appendage and forged ahead!

Step 4: Do a happy dance! (Bonus: dancing warms me up – it’s freezing up here)

I’m walking on sunshine, woah!
And don’t it feel good!
Hey, alright now, don’t it feel good…

Katrina and the Waves, Walking on Sunshine

Keep it Fresh

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How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Were they “getting organized” or “downsizing”? When it comes to tea, I am probably not the person to ask for advice.

I confess, not only do I have an entire drawer filled with tea, I also have a tea box in the basement, an assortment of odd tins in the cupboard, 9 tins on a special rack, and 2 tins on the counter. Even though I tend to drink at least 1-2 large cups of specialty tea a day, it would take me over a year to finish all this. And with the cost of my most decadent delights (albeit still not the most expensive options out there), I tend to hoard for special occasions or very sad days.

But I’m actually doing myself a disservice. Tea is meant to be savoured at its best, and like our female figures, it doesn’t stay the same forever!

Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician.

Doronty Parker

Black tea is meant to last a reasonably long time, generally up to 2 years from when it is opened. Sure, it will lose some flavour over that time, but significantly less so if it’s stored properly. There are three exceptions: pu’erh tea, oolong tea, and green tea. Green tea is fired for less time, and therefore should be used in less than 1 year. Pu’erh and oolnog are best enjoyed fresh!

Tins, boxes, foil bags, paper or plastic sachets. Tea comes in all sorts of containers, but not all containers are equal.

First, tea should be stored in a dark area. My kitchen counter may not be the best option! Sunlight and the warmth it brings can damage tea leaves, altering both its taste, colour and texture. Clear glass jars in particular are the worst choice because even inside a cupboard, tea leaves can be exposed to light.

Second, tea should be stored where it’scool and dry. Humidity and moisture can encourage the growth of bacteria, so storing tea near your cooking element isn’t the best option. Don’t forget heat rises and can be trapped along the ceiling, so an upper shelf is at higher risk of warmer temperatures. And if you’re someone who cooks or bakes a lot, you may want to consider storing completely out of your kitchen. If you suspect your tea has been compromised (and usually you can smell mold), it’s better to toss it than risk tossing your digestion.

Third, and probably most importantly, is an airtight container. This elimates both issues of humidity and loss of flavour. Airflow, over time, literally steals flavour from tea, coffee and those spices in your cupboard. Always squeeze out as much air as possible when you are resealing your container. A double layer provides more protection. For example, if your sachets are individually sealed, store them in the cardboard box or carton they came in. Metal tins often have 2 layers on the lid or a rubber seal around the edges. And those cartons with a foil seal – don’t toss the seal. Instead, press it down on top of the tea bags for extra protection. Metal tins are your best bet!

It’s a given, but don’t store different flavours in the same container. I know it saves space, but do you really want to risk compromising the flavours. Some spices, like cinnamon and clove, are especially overpowering. I wouldn’t want a delicate floral tea to be overpowered by cinnamon! Tea leaves are meant to absorb the perfumes with which they are combined, like jasmine pearls, or cinnamon bark. Keep in mind, therefore, that they can absorb other flavours too – like cedar from the wooden box you are storing them in, or the deep fryer you keep next to the box. Strong flavours can also imprint the container they are stored in, even tin ones, so it’s important to use the same container always, or wash and allow plenty of time to air out before adding something else.

Here’s another pickle. Buying large amounts means tea may sit around longer and start to lose flavour. Buying in small amounts means it’s in small company, so it may start to lose flavour. Use your discretion when purchasing. I tend to purchase small amounts of a new flavour so that I’m not wasting any if it’s not to my satisfaction, while I keep a larger stash of my favourites because I know I will use them.

Consider sharing! Two years ago, Big Guy’s friend and I exchanged a few teas. Not only did we each get to try something new, but it was a good opportunity to organize our stash and toss out a few teas that were way past their prime!

You never know what you have….until you clean your room!