Friday, July 31, 2009

Fabulous Friday

Well, maybe not for the local wasp population. The pest control people just came by to spray not one, not two, but three wasp nests on my small property. I've been given warning not to go into the back yard for a day, which is a bit of a shame since it is a lovely day outside. I had thought about ignoring the nests but I may be getting a new roof pretty soon so I couldn't very well have people on my roof with hundred of wasps bugging them (the nests were in the eaves). Oh, the joys of home ownership. Now I have to figure out a way to approach an unknown neighbor about a tree of his that's whacking my roof - I want to cut down just the branches that are hitting it, but I do want to make him aware that I am doing it so I don't get into some neighborhood turf war. If these things are done properly, there should be no harm to the tree - I do plan to hire a professional to do this. And, if you ever saw my property, you could never accuse me of not liking trees! The place looks like a forest with a house dropped in. However, none of my trees whack anyone's roofs either.
Today, I'm drinking more of that Golden Oolong - yum - and I'm pondering a visit to a community that's offering a free fair trade coffee tasting. Might be a nice way to spend a day off in summer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What a hot day!

It's in the 90s today and the energy levels are sagging. Of course, it didn't help that I got called into work early and ended up having to work an extra long shift - not that much longer but on a steamy hot day, everything seems longer.
I did get some interesting mail today. A box full of books from - my newest favorite place on the 'net. Of interest to this blog were three tea books - Eat Tea by John Harney, Liquid Jade and Tea Time at the Inn. Each of these books averaged in price around $5 CDN. I received a book on Ghosts by Hans Holzer that's huge - a thousand pages - and it was only $3.73. Even the shipping wasn't too bad - $11 for six books, which isn't too bad in Canada in this day and age. I daresay, I'll be visiting this site again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oooh lala Oolong!

Well, I did try a new oolong after all - the one I bought in Halifax two weekends ago at the Mulan Chinese Cultural shop - that's not the exact name but close. It's called Golden Oolong - oh my! It's a bright yellow in the cup and very sweet and fragrant - like gardenias. The best tea I've had in a while - and I was a little worried about it since I tend to prefer oolongs closer to the green end of the spectrum rather than the darker one and at first glance, this one did look dark. But today, the light was better and I could see plenty of dark green in the rolled up leaves - which opened up into huge leaves once the 190 F water hit it. Very choice and all in all, not that expensive. $8 for 30 g - 1 teaspoon in my Beehouse gave me three cups and then I filled up the teapot again and got another, albeit weaker, cup. So approximately 45 to 60 cups for 8 bucks - do people really understand just what a good value quality loose tea is? Imagine getting 45 cups of premium coffee for that price.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another week done!

Even though I came back from vacation, this week still whizzed right by. Tea-wise, I didn't try much new - stuck to my old favorites, which is a habit I'll have to get out of. I just may designate this an oolong weekend - I have a bunch of oolongs that I really should try. If anyone asked me what my favorite tea was, I'd probably say pouchong, yet I rarely drink the stuff - I hoard it for special occasions. Well, I have to start thinking of Saturday and every other day as being a special occasion because tea, like anything else, will go stale if you don't use it up. Life is too short to drink bad tea, which may be a quote from someone or some book - I just don't know the source. It's time to follow my own advice though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Remember those fly bites? For some reason, I tend to break out a day or two after the actual bites - and I now have at least 26 bites on my two arms. I say 26, because each time I count, more appear - I started with 12. And they're so itchy!
And the injuries continue. Somehow the sharp bottom edge of the refridgerator caught on the back of my right ankle while I was walking away - it felt like the back of my ankle was being sliced off my leg! The pain was excruciating - I couldn't talk or move for about five minutes. However, no skin was broken but it started to turn purple immediately - which is also odd since I don't normally bruise for at least a day or two after I bump into something. But now it's merely pink although it's still stinging - an odd sort of mishap! I mean, who injures themselve walking away from a fridge? Was it something I said?
It would be a good day for comforting tea and toast but it's too hot to make anything warm. So it's Nestea and wafer cookies for now. I did have some pumpkin spice tea earlier - of course, being in an air-conditioned work environment helps too!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Iced Tea, anyone?

Summer has finally arrived. With temperatures around 88 F, it finally feels like July should - sticky! This weekend, we did a wedding and today, we went for a nature hike and then did the lawn in the evening. While we mowed, the mosquitoes munched on us - lots of bites, I'm afraid.
We did get out to Wal-Mart and they had the 1.89 L cartons of Nestea on for a buck. I also got the prettiest glass pitcher so guess what I'll be drinking from over the next few days. No hot tea today - just an iced coffee and some Nestea and I suspect tomorrow will be much of the same. The whole week is expected to be hot - just as I head back to work.
Grrrr. I need more vacation!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Burnt Almond not quite right

I'm not a huge fan of dark chocolate although I do eat it from time to time. I've tried all types right up to the 99 per cent and I've decided anything over 70 per cent is just too strong for me. I confess, I like sweet and creamy flavors in my chocolate; I consider the 41 per cent found in Sharffenberger's creamy milk chocolate to be just about perfect. But for some bars, darker is better. One of these is Burnt Almond, one of my childhood favorites. A store was featuring Cadbury bars for 50 cents today so I bought some burnt almond with supposedly dark chocolate - it really wasn't and it should have been - this bar screams for dark chocolate. I also bought two hazelnut bars in milk chocolate, which is one of my favorite combinations - I am hoping Cadbury did this pairing justice - I'll find out tomorrow.
Have you ever tried Constant Comment by Bigelow? Trust me on this - Stash's Orange Spice and Metropolitan Tea's loose versions have this beat by a country mile. Otherwise, I'm drinking Harney's Paris and Metropolitan's grapefruit black.

Cooking up a storm

At least once a week, I have to bake. I have no idea why. It's not like I'm a great chef or anything - but I do like to bake stuff. I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing for a birthday cake and a chocolate chip loaf for the freezer. Then I made raspberry cream muffins and blueberry muffins for myself, putting most of them into the freezer so I'll have breakfasts when I head back to work next week. The muffin recipe came from the Tasha Tudor recipe book and it's pretty much my favorite muffin recipe. The sweet cake really works with the tangy fresh berries. The book is great if you enjoy old fashioned cooking - homemade breads, brownies, soups, roast chicken, cream of mushroom soup and the best butterscotch buns imagineable. I've been a big fan of Tudor's for years. I like her art and the lifestyle she led in Vermont where she lived as though she were living in the 1830s - making everything herself and being self-sufficient. You got to love a woman who has her own tea blend! I think it's available from Mark T Wendell but it's also available on the website. It's a plain black tea, a Welsh breakfast, that's quite serviceable. Over the years, I've tried to become more self-sufficient myself and each year I try to learn something new. I can ride a horse, knit, do needlepoint, embroidery and cross-stitch, make preserves, jams and pickles, bake, do hand-sewing, paint, and this year, I'm growing some simple vegetables from seed. So far, I've only had success with swiss chard, baby bibb lettuce, peppers and garlic but hey, ya gotta start somewhere! It's just nice knowing how to do some things that are outside today's norm. I don't think I'll ever move mentally to the 1830s, but it's nice to have some of the skills. If you ever get a chance to read about Tudor, do so - she was an amazing lady.

Writing for Practice

The biggest reason for me to start this blog was to get back into the daily practice of writing. The point is simply to write - it could be anything and I chose food, more specifically, tea. In the past, I wrote several novels and a non-fiction book and two came very close to being published. One didn't because the publishing house fell under at the last minute and the other, the staff at the publisher changed and my computer crashed. By the time I reorganized, the new staff was no longer interested. These things happen all the time. Other interests came my way and I put off writing - now I'd like to get serious again. I would like to write either a mystery or a paranormal book but if a chance came along to do some non-fiction, I would jump at it. I don't know if I would self-publish - my jury is still out on that although the musician in me knows much more is possible when you control the product right to the end. Musicians do the equivalent of self-publishing their products all the time - it's the norm rather than having a recording contract. I've had a contract and I've sold my own product - you make more money selling your stuff but you work a lot harder. Having a contract means your products reach more people and there is something pretty satisfying about that. But all the hard work selling your product doesn't mean a thing if you don't have a good product to begin with. And that's what I have to work at now - getting my writing back into shape with daily exercise and getting some ideas moving again. It also means reading alot so I can learn from other writers and what works for them. Would I write a book on tea? Probably not - I'm no expert although I have sold loose teas and blended them. There is just so much to learn that I think it would take a lifetime to get to the point where you could easily write on the subject. However, I'm not against the idea of using tea in a book as a way of enhancing a character or a scene. The world already has a series of tea mysteries so that is out of the question but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to write a tea-rific book - sorry - couldn't resist that one.
Today, it was Harney's Paris tea for mid-afternoon and peach apricot white tea from Metropolitan tea for the morning. Peach apricot white tea just screams summer, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another beautiful day!

I think I hit the jackpot as far as weather goes, for my holidays. It's another beautiful warm, sunny day. I finally got my pots planted outside - tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, chives, broccoli, onions and leeks. I have two more pots left and I think I'll fill them with lettuce and garlic or herbs - the rest of the garlic and some peas and beans will go into the patch of cleared land in the backyard. Maybe I'll get at that tomorrow.
After doing that, I went to the mall for a haircut and some shopping. Sigh, clothes shopping just isn't as much fun as it used to be - time to lose a few pounds. But I did get a new wallet and a tin of Zhena's Gypsy Tea Iced Pineapple Green Tea. I actually thought it was just regular tea that you can serve hot - and maybe you can - but some pineapple green iced tea does sound rather nice. I confess it was mainly the tin which attracted me - a pretty yellow and silver affair. I do like their rose black tea though.
I am just finishing the last of the Bigelow tea samples - English Breakfast. Nice but nothing special. I would like to order some Bigelow teas that I can't get around here - peach green, eggnogg'n, the regular blend, the orange spice herbal blends and some things from the Charleston tea gardens but Bigelow has a nasty habit of adding another $15 onto their regular shipping charges for Canadian customers. So I could end up paying more for shipping than for the product. There is really no excuse for this - Bigelow is in Connecticut, which isn't that far from Nova Scotia and tea is a light item to ship - Harney's, which is further away, doesn't charge half that price!
Does anyone else have shipping complaints, I wonder?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The vacation has begun!

On Saturday, we went up to see Paul McCartney who was every bit as good as everyone had predicted. It was a perfect day - bright, sunny and warm although it did cool down substantially in the evening - which discouraged the mosquitoes and black flies so it worked out well. McCartney and his band played wonderfully, including a lot of my favorite songs - definitely one of the best concerts I've seen.
While there, we stayed in American-based hotel chain which featured a big basket of Bigelow teas during the continental breakfast, so I've been trying them ever since. There was little time for tea shopping in Halifax although I did get a small container of Golden Oolong from a Chinese tea shop and a package of Citrus green tea bags from Second Cup. Haven't tried the oolong yet but the Second Cup Citrus green tea bags weren't bad - and that's saying a lot since I've been usually disappointed with their teas in the past. This tea tends towards lemon, which I was looking for anyway. At the hotel, I tried the regular Bigelow blend, which I've never seen around here before - what a shame - it's pretty good. I may have to order a box - it's just a good basic black tea blend. I had the Bigelow Lemon Lift earlier today - it was OK but not something I'd go out of my way to get. I'm now drinking the Orange and Spice herbal - it's quite nice. That may be on the order list too. I love orange spice teas and it would be nice to have a no caffeine version for the evening. It smells divine - heavy on the cinnamon.
Today's been just a resting day, just doing a little cleaning around the homestead. The rest of the week, I'll be rehearsing for a wedding with lots of new music and maybe doing some gardening. A good time to try some new teas!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Vacation nears!

One more day of work and I'm a free woman for 10 days! I don't know if I'm truly burnt out or just coming down with something, but a few days off will be welcomed - especially since the nice weather is finally ready to start this weekend!
I'm back to drinking my old favorite, Stash's Orange Spice, but I found some Lemon White by Metropolitan Tea that was quite tasty as well. I've also just opened a bag of their decaf English breakfast and it's great - good for those nights when you just want a plain cup of tea without worrying if it will keep you awake all night. In fact, I think I might just make a pot for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Icky days good for something ...

like cooking. I went to the Farmer's Market this morning and blew a bundle - but I got a whole bunch. I think I bought from everybody I know - and that's saying something. I bought four baskets of freshly picked, sweet strawberries, which will go into jam, a big bunch of rhubarb which will hopefully end up in a pie with a few of those strawberries and maybe freeze some; a huge tomato; romaine lettuce; a bunch of white turnips with greens; three packs of organic free-range chicken; two loaves of multigrain bread, half-dozen white rolls, dozen oatcakes; half-dozen cranberry scones; two chocolate almond croissants and a decaf fair trade coffee with cream (no one's selling tea since I left!). So later today, the cooking will continue with the making of the year's first batch of strawberry jam and hopefully a strawberry rhubarb pie. I've already made a quiche today with tomato, green pepper and mushrooms, sprinkled with mozzarella - yes, it was delish. Followed by big bowls of fresh sliced berries covered in cream.
Doncha love summer?
And yes, there was time for tea - one of my old favorites - Metropolitan Tea's Plum tea (loose). This is a black tea with a tangy plum flavoring. I'm not a fan of plums but I love this stuff. Trust me on this one - if you ever see this one for sale, get it. You will not be disappointed.
The weather is still raining and chilly but I'm hoping to get those darned plants put in this weekend ... but it looks like I'll be cooking instead.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cold weather and lemon tea

It's still cold here but it has finally stopped raining. Oh happy day. Maybe we'll even get some sun tomorrow - I am such an optimist - I know what the forecast is.
I've always loved lemon tea - but I can't seem to find a good one lately. What I really want is a tangy lemon black but I haven't found an ideal brew in years. Oh for the days when lemon inexpensive brand tea pleased me! I do have a lemon white that's not bad but somehow, I just prefer the bright taste of lemon combined with the darker tea flavor. Occasionally I'll have a cup of Harney's lemon verbena herb tea, which is quite nice, but I still want one with black tea. Tea with citrus flavors is pretty hard to beat, whether it's cold or hot.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's Canada Day!

It's Canada Day! Last year, it was hot and sunny and we attended many Canada Day events. I wore light-colored summer clothes. This year, it's cold, rainy and we both worked - which is probably for the best since most things were cancelled anyway. I also wore jeans, a thermal shirt and a fleece jacket - yep, it's cold all right.
I started off the day with a grapefruit black tea from Metropolitan tea. I've had variable luck with grapefuit teas. When they're good, they're incredible. But when they're not good, they're pretty dull stuff. I think freshness has everything to do with this tea. And my sample is one I found the other night when cleaning out the tea cupboard so it could be a year or older. It's OK but nothing special. That's not to say I won't order some - after all, as long as it's fresh, it can be a pretty sensational tea.
Of course, it helps if you like grapefruit in the first place - which I do.
Upton's offers a grapefruit white tea that's pretty tasty as well. Harney's did a grapefruit vanilla which didn't cut it for me. Now I haven't seen a grapefruit green yet which is a little surprising since I think it would actually work really well - maybe I'll keep that in mind for a future blend