Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Spending from the Big Spender!

The past two days I haven't opened my wallet - am cutting back after the spending frenzy in the Big City! But I have been enjoying and using my purchases - which is the whole point of shopping anyway. I tried the Twinnings Green Tea with grapefruit and pineapple - very nice! It tends to have more pineapple than grapefruit flavor but pineapple in green tea is quite tasty anyway. Harney's makes a really nice one called Tropical Green and that one along with the Twinnings would be great for those who aren't fond of green tea but who want to start drinking it for health reasons. I drink it without sugar but for those who do, it would probably work well with a teaspoon or two. I would recommend it. It's a nice morning tea and would probably work really well as an iced tea.
When I visit the big city, I love to visit the large bookstores because of the variety of books offered and the accompanying coffee and tea shops, usually Starbucks. The past few times, I have noticed that when I've gone into these mega-bookstores, I usually check out the sale books, magazines and then head to the coffee shop. For some reason, the sheer variety has been overwhelming me and I tend to leave with nothing. I don't know if it's a sign of old age or that I really prefer smaller shops. Anyway, even with the large shops available, most of my book shopping is done these days online, where I can sit, sip tea and browse for hours - or even weeks. I tend to fill a shopping cart over a matter of weeks and then, on the day I finally order, weed out the unnecessary books, cds and dvds, until I meet an arbitrary budget number, usually between $50 and $100. This can take a while, since I sometimes have $500 or more in my cart! In fact, if I ever win a lottery, my first indulgence is going to be a shopping spree at one of these online bookstores with no cart editing! Otherwise, I buying from smaller local retailers and use the library a lot. You may have guessed by now that books are pretty essential to me - I read at least one a week and sometimes as many as four.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm back!

And you probably didn't even miss me! I went to the big city for a few days on what was basically a free trip - hotel and transportation were paid for so all I had to pay for were a few cheap meals and my shopping - and I shopped plenty!
I went on my first trip to Pete's Fruitique - I want to live there. Imagine the best produce market surrounded by shelves of gourmet and international foods - heaven to a person who lives in an area populated with basic no-frills grocery stores. Of course, I spent a bundle. Tins of British McVities biscuits and Cadbury Roses for Christmas, along with a Neideregger marzipan pig and a bar of Fry's Orange Cream chocolate. I also bought lemon puff cookies, orange Scottish shortbreads, a loaf of the tastiest Hungarian bread (almost a sourdough type of bread), triple chocolate cookies, a wedge of some Nova Scotia gouda cheese, which is incredible and hasn't a hope of making it to Christmas, let alone Friday of this week. I also bought pounds of fresh pistachios and Chinese pears. And yes, I also bought some tea.
It's not often I'm impressed with a grocery store's tea lineup but a whole aisle devoted to teas that I have only read about is a good starting point. I could have spent hundreds here but I stopped myself at two.
I bought a green tea from Twinnings that's flavored with grapefruit and pineapple - I'm really looking forward to trying that! I also bought an organic Earl Grey from a British company called Clipper Teas, which looks intriguing. I should have bought a pile more but I had only so much money with me although I'm really regretting not getting the Twinnings Winter Spice tea, which is a spicey herbal tea.
Once I got out of Pete's, I hit Starbucks several times. I had planned to buy a box of their Tazo Joy tea but decided at the last moment to try a cup first. Good plan! It's suppose to be a blend of black and oolong teas and for some reason, I assumed it would have some spice in it since it's a holiday tea but it was actually quite bland. OK for an everyday tea but nothing special.
Another day, I tried their eggnog lattes - again, it was OK but nothing special. More bland than creamy. Tonight I made one that was even better. Just pour about half a cup of storebought eggnog in your cup and top off with strong coffee - yum! And much cheaper. However, I also tried one of Starbuck's Peppermint Mochas - now that was heavenly! Just the right amount of everything. I'd definitely buy that again. I did pick up a half pound of their decaf Christmas blend and a bottle of vanilla syrups so I can make my Earl Grey lattes.
I also went to a wonderful new teahouse, opened by a lady from Thailand. I hope she does well - service was impeccable and there's a lot of effort being put forth here. I had a pot of milk oolong, which was interesting. It tasted almost like buttered popcorn - which I like but I'm not sure if it works in a tea. I bought a tin of Russian Earl Grey and when I get to the big city again, I'll visit this place for sure.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday teas in November

If there ever was a day to signify November, this is it. Cold, damp and windy and dark enough that electric lights need to be on for the entire day. Actually, candlelight would be nicer, but I don't like fire, even if it does look pretty.
I opened my box of Harney's Christmas blend today. With the exception of their Paris blend, it's always taken me a while to warm up to Harney teas, and the Christmas blend is no exception. For the first two years, I didn't really care for it but last year, I ordered some for gifts and ended up with an extra box and guess what - this year, I like it. I also had a cup of Bigelow's Eggnoggin' I only have four bags left! I do wish the'd start selling it in Canada.
The Walmart flyer for this week is featuring Tassimo coffee makers for $98 - I am so tempted. Don't need it but I have wanted one for some time. It's the idea of being able to make cappuccinos so easily that appeals to me. I have a coffee/cappuccino maker and it's a nightmare to use so I don't. I use my Kitchen Aid coffee maker for my decaf and it works great but still, the Tassimo beckons. If anyone reading this has one, I'd appreciate it if you let me know how you like it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

... and a not so productive one

Yep, yesterday was a washout - I got to work and didn't do much else and today is even worse, mainly because I had to pull an early morning shift - up at 3 am and finished at noon. It's not even 9 pm and I'll head to bed after writing this. I am just not an early bird.
But I did reawaken my taste buds for spicey chai tea again. Had a cup at Tim's while waiting for a ride on a cool, sunny November day and so enjoyed it. It's definitely chai time again. My favorites are Stash and Tazo but Tim's wasn't bad - their teas are pretty good and I should know - like most Canadians, I spend too much money there! Chai is the only tea that I add milk to (unless I'm having really bad stuff in restaurant) but never sugar. And I much prefer bags to loose since I make it by the cup and each bag is premeasured with spices, wheras loose, spices will sometimes settle and you end up with weak cups at first and then way too strong at the end. Yeah, you're suppose to shake it up before you use it but honestly, who does?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A very productive day!

Why is it that some days, I can barely open my eyes and get my bed made but on other days, I can do so much? Saturday and Sunday, I did nothing. Period. Today, I had a busy work day and then came home and made seven quarts of salsa, three half pints of orange cranberry sauce for the upcoming holiday season and a batch of strawberry freezer jam, using my stash of frozen berries. I also did a load of laundry. Normally, each of the cooking projects is an all-night event. Doing everything on a single night is unheard of - at least for me. And it all seems to have turned out well so that's good too.
A few minutes ago, while surfing the net, I found a recipe on how to make your own butter from pure cream. I am tempted to try it - all you need is a food processor - which I have - cream and patience. I'm not sure about using pure cream though - is such a product even available in Canada? What I would get would be the heaviest cream available at the grocery store but the recipe specifically says no additives can be in the cream - it has to be pure. I do know our Canadian milk products are safe but when you compare them flavorwise to that of Britain, it's like comparing apples and oranges. Our cream is pretty much comparable to their skim milk. And the flavor - oh my. I remember the first time I had cream in Britain many years ago - don't ever tell me the British don't produce incredible food! And the same can be said for their cheese and ice cream - I would weigh one tonne if I lived there! Interestingly enough, I don't remember having any decent coffee when I was there - I was a coffee drinker then. Of course, the tea was good - everywhere.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spending, blending and The Prisoner

I've been spending alot the past few days but I really don't feel guilty about it. There have been Christmas presents, food and things I needed, like a new pair of winter boots, a pair of slippers and some makeup items. Well, maybe the makeup items weren't essential but they helped me earn a whole pile of points at Shoppers which will get me $25 in free stuff later and a $10 Tim Horton card. I plan to get Christmas goodies with the points money and the Tim's card will get me two free lunches when I'm in the big city next week so all is good.
I haven't been talking much about tea lately, mainly because I'm drinking my own blends, which you, dear reader, can't get since I no longer have my tea business. I have been mulling the possibility of doing an online version of it but that's next year, at the earliest. I'd probably emphasize my own blends, as opposed to having a big selection of teas that you can get pretty much anywheres so there may be limited appeal although some of my blends are pretty good! At this time of year, the holiday blend comes out. That's a black tea blend of apple, orange and mulled spices and it's a nice, warming drink on these cold days. It was one of my best sellers, along with another, which was a much stronger, breakfast-style tea. Another good seller for me was a spring blend, which included green tea with strawberry and blueberry flavors. I'm thinking I should do a November blend, something smoky but optimistic at the same time, if that makes any sense.
I've been watching The Prisoner the past few days - the episodes are available online. I loved it as a child and I'm a little shocked, seeing it all these years later, just how oddly current it is. Apparently a remake has been made and it's being shown on TV but it's not on a channel we get in this part of the world. Doesn't matter - the original is always the best anyway. Interestingly, most scenes have tea in them, always served from a teapot and poured into a dainty flowered china tea cup and saucer - almost looks Royal Albert to me. And people are always asked China or India, for their preference in tea - I wish they'd do that now! Although, sometimes reataurants will ask if you want green, black or herbal but it usually means they just have a larger selection of bags in the back. Wouldn't it be great if restaurants worked as much at their tea service as they do with their coffee service?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I worked today...

and I wasn't overly happy about it but, I will get the day off at another time. It was a bit frustrating really to be working because no one else is and that means you can't really do your job properly so you end up not able to do much of anything - not really the way I want to spend a day. But tomorrow, everyone is back so things should return to normal.
I tried the Starbucks VIA instant coffee. It tasted like .... instant coffee. Nice instant coffee but still, instant coffee. I won't be getting any more. I completed the drink with coffee whitener - uh huh. May as well go for gusto, eh? Some people drink this stuff every day. I did taste one coffee whitener once that tasted of chocolate and mint and it was pretty nice until I realized it was making me sick to my stomach. Sigh, even my individual body parts are snobs. I guess it's only real cream for my real coffee. And I'll have my preferably loose tea without any milk or sugar, thank you very much.
And now that it's mid-November, that can only mean one thing.
It's Lapsang Souchong time! Every year at this time, I have a few cups and try and convince myself that I like it. Will this be the year?
I'll let you know ...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back to Big City Again ...

...but this time for free! I'm going with someone attending a conference so my transportation up there and my hotel are pretty much paid for - all I have to do is feed and amuse myself and that won't be a problem! I'll be going in two weeks time and yesterday I bought myself a Starbucks gift card - I foresee tea lattes and other treats in my future. It will also be a good chance to try a Chinese teahouse for lunch - with real Chinese food, as opposed to the usual stuff in my town that comes equipped with neon sauces and deep fried yummies - should be interesting!
And since I'll be up there in the final few weeks before Christmas, it should be a nice chance to try some holiday treats - I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tried the chocolate ....

and it's OK - nothing great. It would qualify as "emergency chocolate," you know, the kind you eat when you really need some chocolate and there's nothing open and there's no gas in the car to get you there even if the stores were open. I might have known $2.99 for 300 grams of chocolate was a little too good to be true.
But my efforts from today's baking are truly good - banana chocolate chip muffins, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and an apple crisp - everything turned out great! It's always good when your home cooking turns out well - now I can fully avoid the pastry stops on my way to work this week. Besides, I really do make good muffins, which is good since it seems most restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries don't. I always find they're too sweet or artificial tasting. Or even worse, have no flavor at all. Now cookies are a different story - everywhere makes better cookies than me, although today's turned out fine. Do you have any foods that you make really well or not?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And now for the chocolate!

Blame it on Halloween but I've been eating a lot more chocolate lately and some of it has been pretty good. Of course, there's the inevitable little bars that I always pick up the day after Halloween (this year Crispy Crunch and Coffee Crisps have been the snacks of choice) but recently I did order from Purdy's in British Columbia. The candy arrived within a week to the other coast and was in perfect condition. I immediately wrapped up most of it since most of it was intended for gifts (Chocolate gingers and Turkish Delights for Mum, Chocolate covered English Toffee for brother, chocolate covered almonds for other relatives) but I did leave a bag of those almonds out for me.
They didn't last long.
They were huge, fresh almonds covered with a rich milk chocolate - just about perfect. The chocolate had a bit of a sour taste that's reminiscent of Hershey's (as far as cheap chocolate goes, I think Hershey's is alright) but much better - just really good milk chocolate.
Today, I bought a block of the nut and milk chocolate English toffee at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Darn, I wish that stuff wasn't so good! I could sit down and eat a whole box of it but I was smart and bought myself only one block - I know myself too well.
Then I was in Bulk Barn and they had 300 g bars of fresh Belgian milk chocolate with hazelnuts for $2.99 - into the cart it went. I haven't tried it yet but there are few things more divine than chocolate and hazelnuts so how bad can it be?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On your mark...

November is racing right along, isn't it? It's the 5th already and tonight, we're suppose to have our first winter storm. Let's hope the forecasters are wrong! It's just too early for snow. I haven't even got the heart to look for my boots yet.
However, I did get my first bag of eggnog blend coffee a few weeks ago - in fact, I'm already on my second bag. I've been allowing myself a little coffee caffeine lately since the tea doesn't seem to be working at all. I'm all for relaxed alertness but sometimes, ya just need a little extra. But don't fear - I have the eggnog tea out too. It's creamy, cinnamonny black tea from Bigelows's. If it weren't for their expensive shipping policies (they automatically add $15 to Canada (even though they're not that far from where I live on the east coast) on top of their already high rates, compared to Stash, which is far, far away on the opposite coast, which has low rates and only adds $7 extra to Canada), I'd order another case in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, it's not available in stores up here so I'll savor the few bags I have left and hope for an eventual decline in postal rates.
Yeah, right.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I've always liked November - why, I have no earthly idea. It's damp, gloomy, cold and unpredictable - much like me! But seriously, there is something about this month I really like and a lot has to do with the weather. It's just before the truly cold weather sets in and you start getting your warm clothes out of storage so it's back to cozy sweaters and jackets. We might get one bit of snow here but for the most part, it's just rain, which I don't mind. The leaves are everywhere and there's just so much atmosphere - I can see and feel why this month is so associated with ghosts and the spirit world.
Today was so Novemberish, it made me smile. I awoke to a light rain, warm temperatures and leaves swirling everywhere. Later, the sun broke out and it was fine for a walk - or, in my case - the annual pilgrimage for half-price Halloween candy.
Alas, there were no bags of mini-Toblerones. But there were bags of Coffee Crisps, Crispy Crunches and Caramilks for around a dollar so everyone got a bag of their favorites. Desert tonight was Coffee crisps, with the most divine pizza - a spinach and tomato florentine sauce, old cheddar cheese, green peppers, fresh mushrooms and fresh garlic - yeah, I'm stuffed. Somehow, in November, a meal like this seems downright cozy.
The tea today was New England Harvest Blend - it's back to old favorites today after all my tasting yesterday. And soon, a pot of decaf Earl Grey to wind away the weekend.