Monday, August 31, 2009

Garlic galore!

In mid August, I planted my spring garlic. I kid you not - sometimes, it takes me a while to get around to things. At first, it looked like something was digging up the bulbs so I daresay there's a few squirrels or crows in my neighborhood with really bad breath. This was followed by a mini drought and then came Hurricane Bill, followed by tropical storm Danny - about 200 ml of rain in two days. Well, I checked the garlic patch today and everything looks peachy - the garlic is shooting up plenty of scapes so there is hope of garlic in either the late fall or next spring. Someday soon I am going to harvest one of the spring garlics that I did plant back in May. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I know there's room for a vampire pun in here but I'll hold back since I am starting to nod off and not as erudite as I could be.

High cost of postage

I love getting stuff in the mail - who doesn't? Today, I received my Bento box from Bento Crazy - it's the cutest little thing - three layers even - but I am, ahem, how do I say this delicately, a big eater, especially around lunch time. I love to eat and I love to eat lots. I may have to use another box besides this box although a diet may not necessarily be a bad idea. Apparently grown men use these boxes for their meals - surely a medium-sized woman could do the same. And just think of the money I could save if I cut back on my eating ....
Nyahhh. Like that's going to happen.
Anyway, I also dropped by the Post Office to mail two parcels. One to another part of Nova Scotia (a medium sized box that weighed less than a pound) and one to the southern US (a small envelop that was stuffed with notecards). It came to just over $21. It's enough to discourage you from mailing yet - I love getting mail. I assume everyone else loves getting it too.
Anyway, yesterday I made iced tea with Shoppers Drug Mart English Breakfast tea bags. This morning I tried it. To say it was a bad idea would be an understatement. It's not often I spit out tea but when it comes to truly bad tea, I'll make an exception.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm a newbie

You can tell I'm a newbie to blogging - it never even crossed my mind to see if anyone was commenting on my blog until this evening! Thank you Canadian Saver - now I know someone is reading! Anyway, I apologize for not publishing the comments until now - this whole month has been a bit d'oh for me! In reply to your comments, yes, you should give hot tea a try - you might be pleasantly surprised; yes, I find it hard to leave Shoppers without a cartful too and I got the address for from your blog - a very dangerous place for those of us who like cheap books!
We escaped another tropical storm relatively unscathed this weekend and last night I saw the Oak Ridge Boys, thanks to complimentary tickets. They were great! Lots of energy, good singing and great songs. I'm not normally a fan of this sort of music but I'll make an exception here - if you get a chance, go see them.
I wish I could say I got lots done this weekend but I didn't - however I did try some nice Rose Congou tea yesterday at a friend's. Very pleasant, although I think I would prefer it for the spring or early summer. I'm craving heavier teas now and may even make a spicy iced tea for the morning.
I've made three bentos since my last post - I think this could become very addictive. If nothing else, it will force me to use up more of my food and allow me to have healthier lunches, and that can't be bad. I hate wasting food, especially hate to see fruit and vegetables go bad so maybe the bento lunches will help use up the small bits and bites.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Storms and bento

Here I sit with a cup of plum tea and pondering the following: yet another hurricane/tropical storm is headed this way this weekend. The problem is, no one will pay much attention to it and that could be bad - mainly since this one has a far better chance of hitting us dead on. I guess I'll worry about that through the day as I do my newscasts. People blame the media if we give them the forecasts and tell them to prepare and then nothing happens. These same people scream if we don't tell them and something does strike. It's tough to find an accurate balance, especially when you're dealing with something as fickle as the weather. You don't want to frighten people unnecessarily but you still want them to be ready. This will be my challenge today.
I tried decaf orange tea last night from Upton. Not bad but I think I'll use more leave when I try it again - it didn't have quite enough flavor for me and it could be my fault.
I've been surfing a little too much lately, looking at bento box sites. It's inspired me to try one today for my lunch - blueberries, nuts, crackers and cheese and a granola bar. Hopefully I can use the smaller bento serving sizes to get me to eat less - been enjoying my meals a little too much lately!

Monday, August 24, 2009

There's nothing like a mild-mannered hurricane ...

especially when you're expecting much worse! Hurricane Bill came and left in a matter of a few hours, with wind gusts of 63 kilometres per hour and 54 mm of rain - heck, that's just a small rain shower in the Maritimes! Bill was nice enough to stay far enough off the coast so he didn't really affect us too much and for that, we're grateful. The hours leading up to Bill's arrival were much worse. When I awoke at 7 in the morning, it was the calm before the storm - literally. Apparently, that's the actual time when the barometric pressure drops and the impending storm sucks it all in before unleashing its fury. Physically, it was super quiet, calm and quite creepy. Then, two hours later, flocks of hungry birds arrived in the backyard, which broke the awful silence. The storm arrived another hour later and lasted about six hours. Today, the air is cool and fresh, which is great after all the heat and humidity of the past two weeks.
As promised, I did break out the Baker's Street Blend yesterday. It's quite nice and just perfect for rainy days. It has a mildly smoky flavor, thanks to the Lapsang Souchong. For those who are normally overwhelmed by full-strength Lapsang, this may be the tea for you. It's definitely a fall/winter tea though - meant to be sipped before a roaring fireplace.
I did drop by Valu Village on the way home, where I found an unused Tupperware container that has six sections and would be used to display a variety of foods or condiments for only $2.99 (these things are usually at least $30 and a Royal Albert china mug and two Royal Doulton china cups, all for 99 cents each. I have to stay out of that place!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Preparations continue

I think we're pretty much ready for Hurricane Bill. I just put in my last load of laundry - I figure if we lose the power, at least I'll have lots of clean clothes. I may even cook some chicken for tomorrow - the only problem is that I would have to turn on the oven and it's still 31 C here or 88 F - so who knows how hot it is in the house.
I tried the Upton's Sacher Blend a while ago. It's suppose to be a scented Darjeeling, with oil of bergamot and vanilla but I just got the flavor of Darjeeling. It's quite nice.
Let's hope we don't all blow away ...

Hurricane coming!

Hurricane Bill is poised to hit us tomorrow, bringing winds of 120 to 140 km per hour and between 100 and 150 mm of rain. Went out today to do some last minute shopping - extra water, fresh fruit, bread, peanut butter and it seems everyone else had the same idea. Some stores were already out of water and flashlights by 2 this afternoon. Really, I have enough food stored to last about six months but there's always something to get at the last minute. It's pretty hard to store fresh fruit when the temperatures have been averaging 90 C - today, with the humidex, it's the equivalent of 106 F here - that's not typical Nova Scotia weather! Unfortunately, it's also feeding the hurricane - the waters around the province are actually at tropical temperatures, which means the hurricane can keep moving at category 2 strength - not good for us. Later, I'm going to put my vegetable pots into the shed, along with the garbage cans and the lawn funiture - don't want any of that blowing around the neighborhood. Even though the storm is still hundreds of miles away, the trees are already blowing - I expect some will come down. Hopefully there won't be much damage when they do.
I've been drinking the Robert Fortune Blend 41 from Upton - it's a lovely blend of Darjeeling and Yunnan. I have my Baker Street blend ready for tomorrow. Before I go to bed tonight, I'll boil up some water for the thermos - just in case the power goes out during the night, I'll still have tea for the morning.
Surprisingly enough, I've had two days this week where I haven't spent any money and I fully expect tomorrow to be another no spend day - that will be the first time I've had three in one week since early July. I hope to get my spending under control in time for September - August has been a spendy month!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tea funk over!

There's nothing like rolling out of bed, going to the mailbox and finding a box of teas from Uptons! That was my happy experience this morning. I had put in an order for my old favorite, a half-pound of New England Harvest blend but Upton's also offers samples - most for a dollar. They're quite ample - you get enough for a few pots. So, who can resist trying new teas for less than buying one at Tim's? Certainly not me!
So even though the weather is still hot here, I had lots of hot tea today. I tried Summer Blend right off. When I opened the package, I got a wonderful whiff of oranges and grapefruit. Unfortunately, the scent didn't translate into flavor - but I did only try one cup. I'll try again tomorrow and see if I get a better return in a pot. At work, I took a thermos of boiling water and some T-sacs and tried Richmond Park Blend. It was nice - nothing spectacular but a good everyday blend.
This evening, I'm drinking Season's Pick Earl Grey Crème Vanilla - oh. My.
This is so good! I may have to put in another order - this is the best loose Earl Grey I've had in a long time. Not too strong but present and flavorful - it doesn't taste like cheap perfume. This is wonderful stuff. Apparently it's only $5.80 for a 250 g bag or $21.00 for 1000 g - that's incredibly cheap. I guess Upton's gets these teas in for wholesale purchases but they offer them to the public as well. I may have to try the other flavors as well.
I have several other kinds to try as well, including an interesting one called the Baker Street Afternoon blend which features keemun, Darjeeling and a bit of Lapsang Souchong. I may wait until Hurricane Bill arrives on Sunday to try that one - it just sounds perfect for a dark and stormy day. I may as well take an optimistic view of the upcoming storm - it's looking like it could be quite bad for us here in Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Iced tea, please!

I haven't had hot tea in several days - which is very unusual for me! I've been drinking mainly the pineapple flavored green iced tea and my homemade iced caps, which are surprisingly easy to make. If you make coffee in a coffeemaking machine and you have a cup or two left over, don't throw it out. Let it cool down, pour into a bottle or drink container and add an equal amount of flavored coffee creamer. If you prefer, add an equal amount of milk plus some chocolate syrup. Put in the fridge for a few hours, give it a good shake and you may just find it tastier (and a lot cheaper) than the iced cappacinos you get at the coffee shops. It may take a few tries to get the right amounts for you but you can have fun adjusting it to your taste. For example, making this with hazelnut or vanilla coffee is quite nice and I've tried it with chocolate milk, soy milk and skim milk - all are good. My preference is leftover, decaf Starbucks, one per cent milk and a bit of chocolate syrup. Great on a hot day!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another hot day!

I could get used to this - we've had hot weather for more than a month now but lately has been extra steamy. I'm glad I made the pineapple green iced tea yesterday - I drank the whole lot today and just made another batch for tomorrow. It's pretty refreshing and tastes really good with a little apple juice mixed in it. Tomorrow I head back to work - sigh. I feel as if I'm finally starting to wind down - and now I have to wind myself back up again!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's hot!

All in all, it's a pretty good summer, at least compared to last year when it seemed more like a mild winter. Today it's in the 90s and it's prompted me to make some pineapple iced green tea - even the thought seems cooling. It's one of Zhena's Gypsy Blends and all I do is simply put the bag (this kind is meant to make a quart) into a quart pitcher of cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight. That's all you need to do to get delicious iced tea with no bitterness or harsh overtones. It's also the easiest way to make iced tea. Try it with some bags of your favorite blends or with tea bags that you're not crazy about - oddly enough, the tea you may hate hot may be great iced and vice versa.
So the house is hot and I'm thinking natchos in the microwave may be the way to go this evening - although what I really want is ice cream!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

At the market

We went to the farm market and bakeries today - my favorite kind of shopping! Bought bread, rolls, tea biscuits, cucumbers for pickles, lettuce, tomato, green beans, peppers, a pretty purple onion and another cucumber for sandwiches. There wasn't as much produce as I had hoped for but there was certainly enough for this week's needs. I am disappointed we didn't get any raspberries - they probably sell out as soon as they are picked.
I'm drinking Golden oolong now and I considering the need for a nap. Considering I got up at 11, it seems a little ridiculous but I am tired and hey, it's vacation. Maybe I just need a good strong Keemun to keep going.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A little bit of this and that

Did some more shopping today - got four tops at the used clothes shop for $7.50 (it was 2 for 1 day) and then got an Izod t-shirt for $6 downtown and a Point Zero sweater and a Columbia Fleece for $30 at the Mall - now I have lots of nice, practical stuff for the fall and not at a huge outlay. That should finish the clothes shopping for quite a while - maybe even until the spring.
Tonight I scoured the fridge and found a box of organic strawberries which I turned into freezer jam and some blueberries and a nectarine, which met the same fate. I also found two lemons and made a pitcher of lemonade. Earlier, we used loads of vegetables on a homemade pizza. Now I feel ready to head to the farm market and get some stuff there.
Tea-wise, it was Upton's New England Harvest Blend - probably my favorite and it's getting down to the end. There may be an order to Upton's in my future.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shopping tires you out!

I've been shopping like a mad woman these past two days but I do feel pretty good about it - everything I got is something I wanted or needed and everything was bought at a good price. I got four pairs of Wranglers pants (jeans and black, brown and green denim) for $60 at Wal-Mart - hard to beat that and I can wear them (execpt the blue jeans) to work. Did I need four new pairs of pants - uh, well, yeah. Trying all these new teas, coffees and chocolates (not to mention all the tasty accompaniments) means I needed some er, slightly bigger clothes. Oh, if truth be told, I'm getting chubby and I can't stand my clothes too tight. So there you have it. I also got three pairs of shoes for less than $25 - one pair, bought at the Bay, cost the princely sum of $1.36, after taxes. The other pairs were $14 and $6, and both were classic-style shoes that normally would cost more than $60. I got a really nice brand new winter jacket for $6.99 and a dress for a wedding for $5.99 at the resale shop - a lot of good clothes for under a hundred bucks. A sporting goods shop has their athletic footwear 40 per cent off and then, if you buy a pair, you get the second pair free so I may check that out as well since I really need some good walking sneakers. After that and a trip to a local farmer's market, the shopping is going to stop - gotta start watching the budget again.
Teawise, I tried a vanilla black tea from a sample called Barry's, a US tea company, that tasted more like coffee than tea. Right now, I'm drinking decaf English Breakfast and looking at a beautiful set of pewter candleholder that I also got at the resale shop for $2.99 - can't wear 'em or eat 'em but they'll look nice somewhere in the house.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Potato Salad

I guess I'm just making up for those days when I didn't post. It's my first day of vacation and I celebrated by sleeping in and then boiling eggs and potatoes and making a big potato salad. I make it pretty traditionally - cold potatoes and boiled eggs chopped up and mixed with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. I might throw a few of my garden-grown chives into it as well. I'll probably make a few deviled eggs to go with it, a salad from the garden, some cold ham slices and homemade pickles. For some reason, this meal screams summer to me and I usually have it at least twice during the hot days every year. Tonight will be the first time this summer so that's OK - that means there's stll lots of summer left, right?

Cheap Tea - review 2

I tried the Shoppers Orange Spice Rooibos last night - again, not bad at all. It has one of of the nicest orange spice flavors I've ever tasted but you can still taste the rooibos, which isn't so good. I'm not a rooibos fan although I do like an occasional cup of chocolate or chocolate mint rooibos. It would be perfect if they had used that orange spice flavoring over a tea. However, if you like orange spice and/rooibos, this is definitely worth 99 cents - or indeed, the $2.99 regular price.
Today, I started with a pot of Prince of Wales loose tea - delish! It's a black tea with a blackcurrent flavor, which I love. Blackcurrent isn't a commonly found flavor in this part of Canada and that's a shame - it's really good stuff.
I'm now drinking my old standby, orange spice black tea - I was craving it. Even though it's a beautiful summer's day here, it's still heading into mid-August, which means harvest time isn't all that far off. I associate the spicy teas with the fall.
Of course, my harvest time won't be until late fall; I just finished planting lettuce, swiss chard, basil and a huge amount of garlic this week. I think most of that garlic will be harvested either in late fall or in the spring. My first planting of garlic looks nearly ready to be harvested. The lettuce and chard, which I planted from seed in May, has been growing beautifully in containers and we've already had a few salads. The lettuce was incredibly good - and I don't even like lettuce that much!
I planted tomatoes, leeks, onions, pumpkins and broccoli in mid July and the tomatoes and broccoli have taken off. But - there's lots of leaves and so far, only one flower on one of the tomato plants - so who knows if I'll actually get any. The leeks and onions look so-so and the pumpkins have simply disappeared. But the peppers, which I planted from seed, are still growing although I imagine they're not too impressed with all this wet weather
With the exception of the last planting of garlic which was planted into the ground, everything else has been planted in containers and they're great! No weeds and I know where everything is and if it's actually growing. Plus, with my super-sensitive knees and shins, it means I don't have to kneel or stoop to get at my plants.
So, if I can get actual plants and vegetables to grow, instead of just the usual weeds, anyone can do it! Don't think I'll leave my day job just yet though ....

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cheap Tea - review 1

Well, I tried the Shoppers Earl Grey that I bought the other night for 99 cents a box - not bad. Not the best Earl Grey I've ever had but certainly not the worst. I'll probably keep it for office tea. I think I'll try the orange spice rooibos after I finish this post.
As of three hours ago, I started my second week of vacation. No exciting concerts or plans have been made - just puttering, reading and maybe some cleaning. Of course, there may be a day trip or two - but somehow, I don't think I will get bored.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cheap Tea!

I can't resist trying new teas- especially when they're 99 cents a box! A Shoppers Drug Mart near by is selling their house brand of individually packaged teas and I bought five boxes - two Earl Grey, one English Breakfast, one decaf green tea and one Orange Spice Rooibos. I'll report on whether they're worth it - but you can't really go wrong at 99 cents a box.