I am really excited today to share a link to a recent tea post from writer, Marian Beaman.
I adore Marian.
Marian and I met through our blogs and she has been a huge encourager (and a kindred spirit). You can find her over at Plain and Fancy Girl, where she shares inciteful posts about life, literature and legacies. Marian recently published her book, Mennonite Daughter, which chronicles her early “plain” years growing up in the Mennonite community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Her book is filled with stories of farm life, as well as the tension of honouring her family and heritage, while desiring a little something more. Her gentle storytelling keeps you glued to the pages! I highly recommend it!
Marian is poised to release her second book, My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir, stitching together memories and wisdom from her early years with her “fancy” man.
Last week, she posted about MennoTea, a Christmas special gift from her sister, in her post entitled Brewing Tea, Recycling Specs, and Feeling Happy! So I invite you to fix your cup of tea and pop over and visit Marian, and if you’ve got time, hang out with her for awhile. (Or sign up to receive her weekly posts!) 😉
Did I mention I adore Marian?
Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.
Well, here we are! The first Monday after the holiday break. That “new year” smell still in our nostrils, our toes itching to jump into new opportunities. It smells like “hope” and burns like toe fungus.
Who am I trying to kid?
The few pounds I lost before Christmas came back, with friends. If I’m lucky, I will be wearing jeans by Spring. Hello stretchy-pants! That will be about the time I finally eradicate the glitter and sequins from the dollar store sparkle tissue paper, in my house. I like sparkles, just not in my underwear. Of course there’s a story, but one of my resolutions is to be more lady-like. 😉
I’m also eating the last stale doughnut and chugging black tea by the potful. Caffeine kicks in within an hour of consumption, creating an energetic and alert sensation. It also helps to hydrate…which leads to the need to tinkle. The only exercise I get can’t come from long walks to the fridge! Too much caffeine can have side effects too! Black teas have less caffeine than coffee but still pack a greater punch than green or white tea.
This girl needed a punch this morning. Getting out of bed for school and food shopping was really painful. I’d much rather roll out closer to noon and slowly melt into the day. A girl can dream.
I don’t like making plans because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around the courtroom.
The year was certainly a doozy. For a lot of people. Thank goodness there’s tea!
I’m not sure I would have survived without it.
First making an appearance on September 4, 2017, my regular Monday morning “What’s In My Cup” feature has been going for over 5 years. It’s hard to believe there could be so much to talk about, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface.
Let’s review last year.
In 2022, I sampled and reviewed 22 different flavours of tea from David’s Tea, Tetley, T’Kettle, Puck, Stash, Yorkshire Tea and President’s Choice. They included black, green, and white tea, rooibos, and herbal infusions. Of those, I’m most smitten with T’Kettle’s Citrus Burst, a refreshing grapefruit based fruit infusion. Youngest Son shared his London Fog Bubble Tea with me. I’m still not a fan of bubble teas, but teas with an alcoholic Twist weren’t too shabby. In May I tried 7 brands of chai in The Great Chai Challenge. Of those, my favourite belonged to Tetley, both for flavour and cost.
Tea is best shared with friends, so in 2022, I called upon my friends to participate by share their favourite tea and/or drinking vessel in a monthly Monday feature. Unfortunately, I don’t have any friends.
That’s not true.
But getting friends, family members, and acquaintances to agree to write was challenging. I’d like to extend my thanks to 5 fabulous folks who did:
It might have been time, laziness, business, laziness, lack of motivation, or laziness, but I featured more Tea photographs and quotes this year. “Setting the scene” for these photos may seem like a pretext to avoiding work, but each one required forethought and fussing so they don’t look as amateurish as I think they do.
I have no idea what 2023 will hold. Honestly, I haven’t thought that far ahead. As always, I’m open to suggestions and I’m willing to share my space. So put the kettle on and pull up a chair. Let’s sip away our sorrows, share our secrets, and swap some stories. All with a good cup of tea!
Dear Diary – We made the mistake of going to the Mall Saturday afternoon. The word “zoo” was fitting in some ways. The parking lot was quite full; cars circled like vultures hoping for a spot. Heaven help anyone who even considered swooping in to steal it. Cars crowded the entrances/exits to the lot from the main road and car horns punctuated like angry geese.
The tension in the air was palpable.
Inside, teenage girls in crop tops meandered in small herds like sheep, each one grasping bubble tea. They blocked entrances and aisles as they huddled around displays discussing the latest gossip. Shopping was a social event. A few shoppers reminded me of bison, as they bullied their way through the crowds, bumping and banging anyone in their path. While still others vacant-eyed with red, rosy cheeks and stooped shoulders from heavy winter clothing, and hands laden with coloured bags. They scanned shelves in desperation for one. more. gift before loping down the hallway, like injured rhinos.
We headed to the shoe department, where a weary grandfather nodded and grimaced like a hyena at his granddaughter as she fawned over little pink sequined shoes. Obviously the hordes were getting to him. Or he was tired of entertaining his granddaughter while Mom or Grandma shopped somewhere else.
Youngest Son needed winter boots. He’d outgrown his during Covid shutdowns, and since he had no need to go out (or even get dressed every day), we didn’t notice.
Youngest Son does not enjoy shopping, or crowds, or trying on boots. His feet are also a common size, so his options were limited. We found a pair. Then he tailed me like a baby duckling to the check out line at the back of the store, while Hubby went to look at winter jackets.
I should have known better.
It was the last Saturday before Christmas Eve day. The line was at least 30 people deep, some with carts piled high. Most only had a couple of items clutched to their chests. The only thing they all had in common were glazed eyes, like koala bears that have sampled too many eucalyptus leaves. We slowly shuffled forward like penguins in a line as the minutes ticked by. Slowly. Though dressed in a Fall jacket I soon too started to overheat.
Eventually Hubby came looking for us. He had been waiting “awhile” and thought maybe we miscommunicated where to meet. He texted me…but I forgot my cell phone at home.
After we purchased the boots, Youngest Son and I went to Indigo while Hubby ventured to the far end of the Mall to look at coats. Brave soul!
I purchased one of Hubby’s gifts when I purchased Youngest Son’s birthday present online. But I couldn’t find the gift. In the house. Anywhere. Online it said it was delivered with Youngest Son’s gift, but I had no recollection whether it had or not. The packaging box was still in the office but it was empty. I checked the bin where I hide gifts…for this very reason! I lose them. I didn’t really want to purchase another one because a) it’s not something you need two of, and b) I knew as soon as I did, I would find it.
I left the store empty-handed. It might have been in there, but my claustrophobia kicked in. Instead, Youngest Son tailed me as I slowly walked up and down the hallway waiting for Hubby. I desperately wanted to look at women’s clothing, but I couldn’t shake my duckling.
Once Hubby returned, after what seemed an eternity, I begged for one minute to pop into a store. My duckling followed me…closely followed by Hubby. I don’t know if you’ve ever shopped with 2 men who would rather be anywhere else, but it is not relaxing. I can flit through a store like a hummingbird when I’m short on time or I’m looking for something specific. Either they do or don’t have something that catches my eye. But with these two in tow, I was in and out of there like a hummingbird high on sugar syrup!
We made it to the car, although the guys had to wait for me. The number of predators circling the lot had doubled. So had the level of impatience. I was amazed we escaped in one piece. I was also thankful we had gone when we did, as hundreds of cars with Iranian flags and effigies, filled the main street in a peaceful protest. It was a good reminder that I live in a city of many cultures, and that we are blessed here in Canada in so many ways. We have much for which to be thankful as we gather with family and friends this season.
Dear Diary – I baked a beautiful pumpkin swiss roll for a Christmas party, which I did not attend.
My guys used the joke, “what’s brown and sticky?” Normally the answer would be: “A stick”. Their answer was “Mom’s log”. To which Hubby added, “and it has a nice swirl”.
After much discussion, I decided last minute that I didn’t want to risk getting Covid. I let the organizers know that I wasn’t coming BUT I would still deliver my dessert (and gift for the game) when I delivered Youngest Son at his party at the church. We were taking a chance there too, but after years of isolation, he needed to be there.
The plate (and my gift from the game) was returned on Sunday and it was empty. I guess it was good! 🙂
Now I have to make a chocolate one for Hubby’s birthday. He was born on Christmas Eve…so double the shopping. Just not this close to Christmas!
Dear Diary – Since Hubby is home all week on vacation, he’s been picking up Youngest Son after class. Yesterday I didn’t go with him because I was making our cranberry sauce (and measuring out the ingredients for the spicy cranberry sauce). I went ahead and made Kraft Dinner for lunch. Hubby surprised me by bringing home Wendy’s fries. Youngest Son piled both in a bowl. His reasoning? They both get topped with ketchup!
Dear Diary – I gave Hubby a deadline: clear the dining room table by 9 a.m. Friday morning. It’s covered in boxes and piles of paper and binders left from the months he worked at home. Post-Covid, his office also moved locations so he has less space for his stuff, which is why it’s still living here. But I need my dining table for Christmas dinner.
So far, he has emptied many binders but most of the paper has to be shredded. We have a shredder, also in the dining room, but it can only handle 1 sheet of paper at a time…and it overheats after about 20. Then it won’t work for an hour. We have enough paper to last all next year. Our home is small, our possessions meager, and at this point, I’m not sure the deadline will be met, but on the plus side, our kids will inherit a lifetime supply of paper clips.
Dear Diary – Hubby took his car to the dealership to get some work done this morning. He texted that the mechanics saw the mouse in his air filter. The mouse moved in during the months and months that Hubby was working from home during Covid. It left evidence of his presence last Spring in shredded napkins on the floor, a gnawed granola bar in the glove box, and poop in the coffee holder. With no new evidence we had assumed he moved out when summer temperatures soared.
I asked him if it was alive. He replied that “apparently there was some yelling in the shop”. Did that mean they got it? He didn’t know. I told him to find out. I might recoil if I encountered a snake, but with a mouse, I scream and flail like an inflatable windsock guy before I run away. I’m so thankful it never ran under my feet when I was driving. I have driven with spiders in the car, even stopping at a stop sign once and evacuating the car, much to the surprise of the driver behind me. I shudder to think what would happen with a mouse.
Apparently the mouse is now living in the car bay at the dealership. It ran away. The mechanics found a huge nest, as well as a dead mouse in the air filter. Perhaps there’d been a game of thrones scenario under the hood and dead mouse was a trophy? We’ll never know. The car’s been sprayed with mouse repellent, but I plan to continue avoiding Hubby’s car as much as possible. One can never be too careful!
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Dear Diary – This week has been all about food! With Christmas counting down and an edited baking wish list, I baked sour dough muffins with craisins soaked in rum. My father birthed the sour dough starter during the pandemic and he continues to supply bread, muffins and pancakes from it. He shared some with me a few months ago and I have kept it alive despite not using it as regularly as I should or feeding it properly. Between my last bake and this week, it has doubled in size inside the fridge. I’ve nicknamed it Frankenstein.
I baked more shortbread cookies…because we are all the others. Low on time, I opted not to decorate them. I used sprinkles instead. As they cooled, I remembered…I still have earl grey glaze in the fridge.
I made Salvation doughnuts yesterday, something I remember making with my Mom and grandparents, and something I have done with my kids. This recipe was used by Salvation Army volunteers in abandoned buildings near the front lines during World War I. They hoped to improve the morale of the soldiers far from home. In less than ideal conditions, helmets were sometimes used to hold the oil for frying. I used my Mom’s deep fryer instead.
I had to wait until Hubby got home. I couldn’t get the bottle of oil open. The lid just spun and spun. He tried that too…until he noticed…it just popped off.
Some would say love is the key. I say…it’s this:
Dear Diary – Christmas is only 3 sleeps away, and I hear Santa has the Blues.
I often hear devoted bakers say cheesy things like “the secret ingredient is love”.
“With enough butter, anything is good,” said Julia Child, and I agree.
Especially when I’m the baker.
Certainly there is joy in making something for someone special, and a real sense of accomplishment when they enjoy it (and it turns out right – that’s when I really experience joy). Baking can also have a real zen effect on some individuals and help them cope with stress or mental illness. The rest of us end up breaking down and sobbing on the floor like a toddler, with brown paste on our faces and flour on our clothes. So why do I do it? I have yet to answer that question.
With Christmas morning alarmingly close, and the foreknowledge that there will be more bodies in my house than my house can comfortably accommodate (but we’re family right?), I’m editing my baking “wish list” and focusing on the items that I most want to provide (and a few that Eldest Son requested…most of his favs are non-bake so much, much easier). That included chocolate babka.
I first attempted this sweet, braided bread or cake last year. It originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine. It literally translates as “grandmother” in Polish. Made with yeast and enriched with loads of butter, it is truly a labour of love. Or at least serious “like” because making it is a commitment! It takes 2 days.
Is it worth it? Yes. Yes it is!
Step one was making the actual dough and I used my mixer and dough hook. Normally, I opt for kneading by hand, but this time a dough hook is my best friend. Why? Because the dough is super sticky. Once it’s on your hands, it will require intense scrubbing, the kind your grandma invoked when she washed your face after dinner, leaving your skin burning and red.
Judging how long to mix the dough required some intuition, something that long been established is not my strong suit. The recipe simply said “until the comes away from the bowl” about 10 minutes. Having made bread in the past, I know what that looks like, but Hubby challenged my abilities, creating doubt. He’s not the bad guy, however, There is such much butter that the dough never really “comes away”. In fact, when you scrape the sides of your mixer bowl, the dough just kind of smears like…well butter. Eventually I made the call. I oiled it, wrapped it in plastic wrap and tucked it in the fridge for the night.
Sunday afternoon, I hesitatingly pulled it out. As it started to warm up, I set about making the filling.
The first task was chopping my bittersweet chocolate…8 ounces of it! Again, this recipe said to chop it medium fine, which led to a family discussion about what constituted medium. I knew it was going inside the dough, so I wanted it to be at least as small as my fingernail. But I wasn’t the one chopping, so we compromised and I moved on the second task: The Chocolate Mixture.
The filling is a mixture of sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and more butter. I decided to use my hand mixer because my stand mixer bowl was in a pile by the sink waiting to be washed, the edge cemented in in yellow dough. Within seconds, I was enveloped in a brown cocoa cloud. On the plus side, my hair now smelled like cinnamon, but my lungs were complaining. Even though the butter had been sitting on the counter for more than 24 hours, it was still firm. Using my creativity, I carefully draped a hand towel around 3/4 of the bowl and prayed that the towel wouldn’t mix with the beaters, and that the butter would mix with everything else.
Rolling out the dough went smoothly and I started to feel optimistic once again. It’s also a great upper body workout.
Sure my rectangle wasn’t quite a perfect rectangle, but it was close. This wasn’t baseball. It was more like horseshoes or handgrenades.
Now for the fun part – spreading my chocolate mixture on my dough. It proved to be both a difficult and messy task because the dough was super soft. It was kind of like trying to spreading diaper cream on a squirming toddler. Funny I should mention toddler, as the chocolate mixture was firm yet sticky, and brown like poo. I started having flashbacks, and not good ones.
I sprinkled my questionable medium blocks of chocolate, rolled that dough and stuck it in the freezer. Unlike last year, they looked like squat and rotund, but it was too late.
I preheated my oven. I lined with loaf pans with silicone mats…because I was too lazy to carefully cut parchment paper to fit.
And after 15 minutes, I sliced my beautiful babies in two and twisted them together. Hubby helped me shovemanhandle slide the maimed loaves in the pans and I tucked them into the oven to become soft, flaky deliciousness.
I should have read the instructions more carefully. Something that should be posted in large red letters in my kitchen. Once the loaves were baked (Yes Hubby, I was sure), I pulled them out to cool on the rack. Mistake! They started to fall apart. They’re supposed to cool in the pan for awhile before poking them and pouring over a sugar syrup. Instead I poked and syruped on the rack, with a cookie sheet underneath for drips. I can learn from my mistakes!
As soon as they were cool and before the wolves descended, I wrapped my babkas and they are now sleeping with the fish sticks. The kitchen is a disaster. There’s flour, chocolate, cocoa and cinnamon on every surface, and I may never remove the cement from my mixing bowls. My cookie sheet is covered in a pool of sugar and I have to bake more shortbread cookies because they’re all gone.
But I can proudly display my striped babka turds on the dining table, assuming all of Hubby’s boxes are removed, at Boxing Day brunch. I’m sure it tastes better than it looks!
I’m a day late! That’s because life happened and plans changed, but it was all good.
Eldest Son texted in the early hours of my morning to see if it was OK for him to bring his girlfriend and crash for the night. They have a funeral today. I’ll take any chance to see my kid even if it means panic-cleaning my bedroom, bathroom and living room. I packed my bag and moved into the office before I dashed out the door for a highly anticipated meeting at a nearby Tim Hortons with a special person.
During Covid, we have both been extra careful. And as a caregiver she’s chosen to like a hermit. I was so excited to throw caution to the wind to meet in a less busy place. We sat by the fire in the corner, in comfy chairs, and chatted away a good portion of the afternoon.
By the time I got home, I didn’t feel like doing much. Including cooking dinner. I stretched leftovers and cooked sweet potatoes, and just so I couldn’t feel guilty, I made butterscotch peanut butter marshmallow squares. I have a baking wish list that would require me to bake something everyday between now and Christmas, and with a sewing order still to complete, my list may have to be edited. Hubby will also be off as of Friday, for the remainder of the month, and as much as I love him, I really like the peace and tranquility of being home alone when there’s lots to do.
So I decided to take some time to enjoy just that – peace and tranquility, with a hot cup of David’s Tea Buddha’s Blend…and some candles.
Buddha’s blend is a mixture of white tea, green tea, jasmine pearls, white hibiscus blossoms and artificial peach flavouring. This tea supports the Ethical Tea Partnership, which promotes safe and fair working conditions and sustainable resources.
White and green tea leaves share the same plant, but white tea is harvested before the buds are opened. They are usually plucked by hand because they require delicate handling. Both green and white tea leaves undergo little processing, but white leaves are not fermented, therefore retaining three times more beneficial antioxidant properties than green tea. Antioxidants help strengthen the immune system and with seasonal sniffles around the corner, we could all use a boost. One cup of white tea contains approximately 12 times as many antioxidants as fresh orange juice, and contains less caffeine than green tea.
I had this particular tea in a pre-fabricated tea bag made of a fine, silky mesh, rather than loose leaf. However, the bag is large enough to allow the water to permeate and move the tea leaves for better steeping. It was also fun to watch the leaves uncurl and expland.
The dry tea smelled deliciously fruity. It had both delicate floral and peach notes. I had trouble identifying the fruit until I read the ingredients on the website. The sachet just said artificial flavour. It also had that distinctive grassy note from the green tea, but when it was hot, it wasn’t overpowering.
As it cooled, however, the green tea became more pungent and bitter. Here’s why: I didn’t follow my own advice when it comes to steeping green or white tea. I heated the water to a whopping 212F and both green and white prefer less heat. The website recommended 175F. I also steeped for more than the recommended 1-2 minutes. Neither of these instructions were on the sachet.
Several reviewers commented on the timing. One commentator even posted: “…when brewed incorrectly, even by just a few degrees or extra seconds, the tea quickly becomes a bitter mess. The bitterness is so bad that I’ve had to dump out several cups”.
I may have done it wrong but it wasn’t that bad! On the plus side, both white and green tea can be steeped 2-3 more times, so I can try it again. With each steeping, the flavour decreases, but I don’t mind. I’ll just sit quietly for a minute or two, sipping slowly and watching the snow fall.
Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
December has arrived and with it, a whirlwind of activity. This morning I headed out the door for a power-packed couple of days of shopping, baking, gabbing and tea drinking with my Mom (& Dad, but he’s a coca-cola fan)! What’s in my cup? Pumpkin Chai – because I need both caffeine and spice! Whatever your plans this week, I hope you’ll make some space to spend some time with your favourite people! Cheers!
Fall has finally caught up with us. The landscape is a palette of browns and the sky a plethera of greys. Even the birds aren’t visiting the feeder. They’re probably still hunkered down under a blanket of down in their nests. It’s kind of a blue day, and a Monday too!
Blueberries to rescue!
Packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium, and plenty of healing properties, blueberries are the most nutrient-rich berry. That’s why they call them “Super fruit”!
Blueberry Superfruit by Stash is an herbal blend of hibiscus, lemongrass, orange peel, rose hips, chircory root, licorice root, natural blueberry flavour, blueberry powder, and acai berry. But while it is caffeine free, the blueberry powder does contain cane sugar. Both the aroma and flavour were inviting and it has a lovely rosy hue. It’s definitely blueberry with a sweet and spirted flavour. There is a bit of an aftertaste though and I suspect it comes from the artificial flavouring. I still like it, but if I had to choose a favourite blueberry tea, I would still choose David’s Blueberry Jam.
These sweet sachets were shared by Eldest Son’s girlfriend, who is sweet and spirited too.
When your day seems topsy-turvy and as stormy as can be There’s nothings quite as tranquil as a nice hot cup of tea.
It would seem I’m not the only one enjoying apples these days.
Yeah, I see you. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t leave your half-eaten apples in a row on the fence!
My little friend has been enjoying apples for breakfast nearly every morning this week, and today I thought I’d follow his example.
I reviewed David’s Tea Baked Apple Chai (formerly Spiced Apple) back in the Fall of 2019, and since then it has become a staple in my stash. Apple and cinnamon is a common pairing because, quite frankly, they’re made for each other. They work well in sweets, in savouries, and in tea! And they definitely work in this tea. The flavour is piquant – intense, sweet, tangy and spicy. I called it a “potpourri for all the senses” and I still stand by that statement. From the intense aroma of cinnamon, chicory, cardamom and star anise to the warm and spicy notes that dance and play on the tongue, it’s probably the best apple cinnamon tea I’ve tasted.
It’s a caffeine-free fruit infusion with at least a 5 minute steeping time and requires a generous amount. Since it’s comprised of chunky pieces, it will swell and fill the infuser quickly. A word of advice, use an infuser that will allow the fruit to expand as it steeps in order to extract the most flavour!
Or you can follow the example of my little friend here and squat in the snow and eat it raw. I just hope he cleans up after himself!
Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Creativity is making marvelous out of the discarded.
I’ve spent the last 2 weeks working on some projects, always with tea close at hand. I turned Youngest Son’s “hole-y” jeans into a purse.
And like any good crafter, I see potential in everything. Especially if it’s free because, let’s face it, “retiring” so early means I don’t have an extensive budget. There’s also something magical about repurposing an item to create something new. I have a pair of perfectly good cable knit slipper socks (minus the heels) that are about to reborn as a pair of gnomes! I hope.
There are a lot cool ideas for teaware as well, and I thought I’d share 3 garden ideas today. It’s never too early to start planning for Spring!
My creative |Auntie M used an old, unremarkable tea cup to create birdfeeder for my garden.
With a little heavy-duty glue, old mugs and spoons can also be repurposed to feed our feathered friends.
And finally, old teapots and metal kettles can become vessels for herbs or flowers. These succulents will share my office desk until Spring, when they can once again grace my front porch!
I love older things that people have used and charished. They have personality, character, and soul.