Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lemon Ginger: Yogi Tea

Sugar, man, what the hell? You are the bane of my existence. The temptations, bad enough most of the year, will only increase with the holidays of Autumn until you bombard me with promises of bliss, then leave me with poor health. Will power goes down during the day, but naps can reboot. Maybe I can sleep through the season.

I make meals from scratch and don't eat out much, so there isn't a lot of hidden sugar in my diet. However, a handful of candy corn is terrible! And exactly what I had last night. I was innocently walking to the bathroom at a friend's house when BAM! a shiny bowl of candy corn appears on a side table, complete with angelic chorus. And yes, it tasted good. Dammit!

(Lemon Ginger tea to support my digestive system today, maybe a little cleansing action. There are quite a few specific detox teas on the market, though I don't have any on hand at the moment. My daughter is an herbalist, I should ask her what are effective for detox in my current tea arsenal. Writing of herbs...I just signed up for an herbal CSA with a local and wonderful lady of plants who grows and prepares all her wares. I had an hour and a half consultation with her [when was the last time my doctor paid that much attention? um, never] and can't wait for my personal blends!)

But I love candy. My mom was the only one on the block that was aware of health apparently, since every other house I visited had Fruit Loops and Oreos in the cabinet, and watermelon hard candies on their coffee table. My sister and I would walk several blocks away to wait for the ice-cream truck and sneak Gobstoppers into our diet.

This doesn't mean I binge now. Our bodies learn what is "normal" in childhood, so I never feel good eating too much sugar, no matter how pretty the candy corn looks. In fact, once I got into high school, my mom really didn't monitor food anymore. I remember eating Fruit Loops for breakfast every day for a few months just because I could. Of course, I felt like crap mid-morning in school, and soon stopped that experiment, going back to my favorite: Grape-Nuts with sliced bananas and skim milk. Lest you get the wrong impression, my favorite lunch at school was deep-fried pizza rolls.

Back to candy! Chocolate, of course. But the full-on sugary, sugared-up refined sugar stuff is a dream. Sweet-tarts are a favorite- the texture. I've never been into lollipops, though Blow-pops were fun as a kid when you got right to the crunchy candy over the gum part. And yes, I like Wurther's Originals- the grandpa treat.

At this time in my life, eating more than a handful of that pure sugar is painful- rips up the roof of my mouth, and makes my tongue swell. Obvious poison. But I adore cookies too, and I can eat MANY without immediate harm. The key is to not have them around in the first place. That takes planning.

Lately I've been pretty good at having a "trick" snack handy: they taste just like treats, but hardly have any sugar. I'll share one with you. With just a drizzle of dark chocolate on top, I'm completely fooled. Plus, no bake!

Lois' Coconut Almond Bars
2 cp almonds- processed
1 cp shred unsweetened coconut 
1/2 cp nut or seed butter
2/3 cup coconut oil melted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 oz dark chocolate

Put everything mixed into a 9x9 pan except chocolate. Refrig for 1 hour. Melt chocolate and drizzle on top. Chill 10 min. Cut into bars and enjoy.

Thanks, Lois, whoever your are!

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Can’t Go Wrong With Earl Gray?

It is very hard to uncensor myself. I don’t mean publicly; if the digital age has taught us anything, it’s that the “small town” is now global: everyone knows everyone’s business. But privately, in my own little journal I keep by my bedside, it is still difficult to express deep negative feelings.

I should practice more. My cup of Earl Gray tea, for example! I’ve been told how to make it correctly and it tastes good that way. Nothing is wrong. Oh, sure. I could choose from an assortment of sweeteners, or use a dairy alternative, or drink it straight. But it’s still the same basic black tea with some citrus flavoring. 

Ok, that wasn't very negative at all. See?! I need to reach deep into my soul and let out some angst about Earl

(Of course I am writing this while sipping the lovely tea itself. I’m using my TeaPunk mug, which is quite large. I have to put in two times the amount of tea to have the flavor I like. I really enjoy a big mug of tea instead of a teapot and small cup. It doesn’t sit around to cool; I’m no dainty tea drinker.)

Aha! I’ve got it! Earl Gray has caffeine, which often I have to avoid. There is decaf, but it’s more expensive and doesn’t have exactly the same flavor. Also, I feel lame while drinking decaf tea. Why? Ooh, maybe that’s something I should explore in my tea-psyche.

I will now use open-ended phrases to encourage my subconscious to speak up (I read this in a magazine.) 

Drinking decaf Earl Gray makes me feel lame because...I don’t know.

Maybe a different phrase?

If I could drink as much caffeine as I wanted, whenever I wanted, I would...try more kinds of tea? Become a tea aficionado? Attend those cool tea conferences, and sip alongside fanatical tea people?

Maybe. Actually, that does touch on a sore spot- literally. If I drink caffeine on a regular basis my migraines are more frequent. So I have the “real-stuff” only a few times a week. I wrote about this on GeekMom. In that post, I was defending my new definition of tea to be anything I wanted. But perhaps, I do have some resentment to my state of health that I can’t enjoy Camilla Senesis like most people around the world. 

Aw, now I feel left out and sad. And my tea is all gone. And it’s a cloudy day. I shall write a limerick:

There once was a tea named Gray.
I sipped on a cloudy day.
Contemplative and deep,
My thoughts did steep,
Till my happiness drained away.

That didn’t help. But I just read it out loud to my kids who burst out laughing, which then made me laugh. 

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hot Chamomile

Many thoughts tumble, spin, and act out in the theater of my mind this morning. I brewed a simple chamomile to calm and soothe these acrobats into a slower pace so I could see their tricks more clearly, and discover the truth in their movements.

Forgive the prose, I’m in the midst of reading Till We Have Faces by C.S.Lewis, and the style has infected my own pen. Every author’s voice tends to take over the pattering in my head while reading. Is that strange? As long as the writer knows their proper use of grammar, I suppose it’s an immersive learning experience in style.

(Although the plain chamomile is soothing, what I want is a Java Full Moon: chamomile tea steeped in steamed milk with vanilla, honey and cinnamon. It’s a specialty tea drink from Professor Java’s Sanctuary. Currently off the menu, they will still make it if you ask. Specialty tea drinks have been on their menu for years- long before Starbucks started offering chai lattes. Go Java’s!)

Books and tea and trying to put thoughts in order so I can move along in my day. It’s healthy to stare into space with a warm cup of tea in your hand, but the “to-do” list needs to be shortened, and ain’t no one else to-doing it but me. I will write a poem and then be off (hopefully to swing by Prof Java’s at some point.)

The list steams on my desk
Like the kettle 
reminding me to pour.
But each item takes such different times
to brew,
And unlike water, they will not boil themselves away.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Echinacea Plain Boring- I Don't Want That Cold!

I've always been fascinated by the Hades/Persephone tale. Eating a pomegranate right now reminds me of it. Maybe I like it because the story shows the power of a female god: all the other gods have to plead with Hades to let Persephone go because Demeter won't let Spring come until she gets her daughter back.

(Ack! I just sneezed. Maybe just dust. Yeah, yeah, that's it. I'm strong. Fight!)

Or maybe I think about the tale because it irks me how Persephone has no voice: Hades decides to make her his wife by kidnapping, her mother is the power, the other gods strike a bargain, and Persephone is told where and when she will live her life.

I had a short comic called "Endless Winter" published by Gray Haven that delves into the tale, though not a retelling. Instead, it's set in our modern world that has had winter for months- the Fourth of July and there's still snow in upstate NY. A woman is walking in a snow storm, slips, falls, and finds herself in Hades' study, where they have a chat.

Hades was always a vague figure to me until reading Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson Series. In that, he's a pretty decent guy just doing his job. That got my brain on a path that eventually led to my own version of the death god. Tall, dark and handsome(of course),lounging with one leg over the arm of a big overstuffed chair, a bottle of port in hand, in front of a large fireplace in an old-fashioned dark-paneled room with lots of books. He is contemplating divorce papers from Persephone. In my version, they had fallen in love all those years ago, but Demeter was against it, so he "kidnapped" her. But for a god of death, he's really bad at accepting when love dies- at least on her end it has.

He hasn't signed the papers yet when my main character walks in. She is also stuck: her husband is dead, children grown, and she hasn't moved on in life at all. They chat, calling each other out, and he kisses her. She is suddenly awake in the real world, the snow melting.

 (Who drank all my tea? Right. Hey, if you've never had a pomegranate, try one! You can eat the seeds whole. Very yummy!)

 My image of Hades matches almost exactly with Jim Butcher's in the latest Harry Dresden novel, Cold Days - down to the British-style study. I was both delighted and jealous that I had a similar view with one of my favorite authors, but no one knows except me! And my husband because I couldn't stop exclaiming about it...

 Ah, romancing the god of the underworld- that's a common fantasy, right? I need more tea, and a hankie, dammit.

(Image By Kell Smith)

 Rise unfettered. 
Move with intention. 
Be grand.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Earl Gray...Um, With Vinegar?

Transitions are hard. I have a new piano student this year who is an adult and complete beginner. She mentioned her life is in transition, and learning something she had always wanted to do was a way of coping. 

Personally, I picture myself at the edge of a chasm with no where to go but across. There's a rope dangling from the sky, and it will take a leap of faith to trust this rope. So I do, and it does, but I forgot my tea, and it's a high-quality green that really can't steep very long. So I go back, get the tea, take the rope again to the new side. But I have to go to the bathroom and I have no idea where the bathroom is on this new side, so I put my tea down, go back, etc. etc. etc. 

Trusting the rope seems to be the least of my issues.

(I made myself an herbal tonic of apple cider vinegar steeped for a couple weeks with herbs from my garden. I take a spoonful in water every morning. Quite a strong flavor, but very healthy. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to get a new cup, and didn't rinse it out very well, because I made my tea in it and...odd flavor. It's not awful, just not the Earl Gray I was going for.)

My life is stable-ish. I have one kid in college, and one still in high school. But in two years- empty nest! And I will be forty. That's a whole lotta years stretching out (God-willing) before me looking unfocused like a movie shot in the desert where the main character has a white shirt wrapped around their head, staring across the wavy, indistinguishable landscape.

I should probably stick with the chasm and rope metaphor. 

(And get a new cup for tea.)

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Echinacea Immune Support Yogi Tea

 A quarter of my homeschooling group was out due to illness, so my teas today were all about boosting my immune system. Although the first activity for my son begins at ten, we arrive at nine to help set up for the day. And then he and I retreat upstairs to read together.

Regardless of how old my children are, we enjoy a read-aloud book. I find the older classics are better received that way, and besides, I like doing voices. This semester’s selection is Pride and Prejudice, absolutely perfect with a cup of tea since I know the characters must be sipping along with me.

What’s that I hear? A low murmur, “...wait, did she say ‘son’?” Why yes, I did. I am reading Pride and Prejudice out loud to my fifteen year old son. Half-way through, he finds it really amusing. And the vocabulary he is being exposed to puts modern day YA to shame. I personally only read the book a couple of years ago. I like it, but can’t call myself a Fan because I know too many. 

(I’m writing this at the end of the day, sipping my immune tea, but brewing a Rooibis Chai from DiviniTea; it’s too late for caffeine. I’m making a whole pot for the family; the spices should boost our health. About a hour brew, sweeten with honey, add milk, and we’ll pour it over ice for a treat!)

My son watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which is a modern-day online adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. He thought it was funny, and asked about the long movie his aunt likes to watch (the BBC version of P+P). I told him if he really wants to know the story, he should read the book, and offered it as our read aloud. I promised a ridiculous Mr. Collins, and he accepted. After we finish, the plan is to watch the movie with his aunt who CANNOT WAIT. 

So far it has been an enjoyable read. Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet are my favorite voices, although Darcy is interesting. He came out in this low, halting voice, reminiscent of so many awkward geeky guys I know. Lizzie is happy and confidant, while Lydia is almost valley-girl. 

If you are a fan, or a Fan, I recommend reading the book out loud to your kids, pets, or fellow enthusiast!

(Ok, chai is brewed. Time to go.)

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two Cups Of Mystery Black Tea With My Son

Eudaimonia: the sense of harmony with self and with others that arises naturally out of virtuous activity in the soul. A Beginner’s Guide to Philosophy By Dominique Janicaud.

In prepping for my philosophy class, while sipping the last bit of whatever black tea was in a random bag on my shelf, I came upon “eudaimonia”. What a nice thought; that if we’re virtuous, we will achieve happiness in the world as a side effect. But how to be virtuous? Let’s pick any religion, philosopher, or self-help book and find out, eh?

(My son, sitting next to me, agrees that the tea is good. Too bad we don’t know what it is. It has jasmine flowers in it? He is reading a magazine and just told me that Apple’s iphone profits alone total more than all of Microsoft and Google’s for everything they offer. My son has decided that Apple should pay off our country’s debt.)

I know what the feeling of harmony is like; there have been a few times in my life where I have made the absolute correct decision, and the sense of “rightness” is so tangible, it’s akin to singing my part in a complex chord with a choir when we all get it. To be fully yourself, but part of a whole, everything so beautiful it lasts forever and only a moment.

Like when I became a mom. I was completely aimless before that, as most teenagers are (even when they think they know what they’re doing). Then I was pregnant, and suddenly had to make choices that mattered. And in the gravitas, I found I did know what the right choices were, and going on that path was the most difficult lines of music, but produced the most glorious harmony.

If only I could shake off the pressures of other people’s expectations for all the parts of my life, not just huge parenting ones. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how to be a virtuous woman, wife, sister, friend, teacher, writer, etc. The melodies of my heart get tangled in the background noise, until I can’t figure out which is true. 

(My son just sparked a conversation as the mystery tea runs out. We agree that Apple products are really well made. We have had Mac stuff for years, and barely any glitches, bugs, viruses, or crapping out on us. Sadly, the company itself makes their own products obsolete before their hardware ever slacks off. Why can’t the company make good products and be Good?)

Is eudaimonia a final goal with steps along the way? or a series of moments? or an impossible achievement? Maybe I’ll challenge my students to come up with ways to get there. And then we’ll send the list to Apple.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Masala Chai, steamed milk, local honey from The Village Tea Room in New Paltz

Food is love! This is a semi-joke quoted by a friend of mine who is a food nutrition counselor.  Food was my grandmothers’ way of expressing love. And eating it was supposed to show love back. That message is still a battle for me (and for many.) 

Tea is love? 

“Aunt Becca, you make the best tea!”
Quotes from my wee nieces while we snuggle on the couch with rooibis chai while reading Zita the Spacegirl together. I intentionally put love in my tea. I think it makes a difference. 

(I’m currently alone, having tea in an unfamiliar town and cafe. I walked in sweaty and exhausted asking for iced chai. They didn’t have that on the menu, but awkwardly made me one anyway. Then seated me in a little, empty room. I think they realized I needed some tea and quiet. Bless their young, twenty-something hearts.)

Sharing tea can be friendly or simply polite. I don’t think it carries the same baggage as food. Who cares if you finish your cup or pour another? Want sweetener? Milk? Extra hot? Iced? It can all be made to order, and only judgement from snobs. But making tea for others is a simple gift, and if refused, not a big deal either. Want some tea? Yes? Great! No? Don’t mind if I make one myself!

My daughter just started college, taking her electric kettle and a hefty stash of tea. She told me that she recently bonded with some people sharing her matcha. Good. Good. 

(A family with wee ones just bounced into the room, but after a minute left to find a table outside. Was I giving off an unfriendly vibe? I think I need a refill...)

I recently had a fantasy involving a certain movie star wherein I won his heart with my superb tea and fine conversation. He’s British; it’s totally plausible! Of course, I was also a younger, detached self in the fantasy too. In reality, I didn’t get into tea until my late twenties, married with kids.

If I can delude myself into thinking that the only “issue” I’ve given my children is an equation that tea=love, that’s pretty darn good. A cheap, healthy way for them to feel at home, no matter where they are.

(Leaving the tea shop, I ran into my daughter and her friend at a table outside. “Mom! Of course we would both end up here.” They were enjoying iced-rooibis peach. I gave her a hug to go along with her tea, and left her to enjoy her friend’s conversation.)

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grande Oprah Chai Latte at Starbucks

Ok, let’s talk about Starbucks, Oprah, and that young bearded man at the next table in full Catholic monk regalia.

I have exactly forty five minutes between activities; not enough to go home, but I can sit somewhere and write- preferably with tea. Starbucks is close (it always is). There is also an independent cafe nearby, but not as near, like, an extra 7 minutes each way, which cuts my writing time down. Like brewing chai, contemplative thoughts of life should not be rushed or the finished product has no chance of depth. Starbucks was the final choice, and here I sit.

I often text my dad when I patronize Starbucks because he has stock in the company; a quick note that I’m helping my inheritance. 

(I think I’ll do that right now...done.)

In addition to helping me padre’s stock, I got the Oprah tea, which donates to children’s education. But I can’t fool myself. If I put my money into that indie cafe instead, all of the money stays within my community, which creates an positive atmosphere and tax base to keep the education in my city healthy on its own, which helps children on a direct level. And if everyone supported their communities in this way, we wouldn’t need as many charities in the first place. 

See the depth I reached by giving myself more time to write instead of driving farther to the indie cafe? Is this an example of irony?

(So the monk is sitting here with no drink. Is he too poor to buy something but needed a place to sit and read his book? Can’t read the title. I guess he has to be poor with the vows. I’ll go buy him an Oprah chai.)

I like Oprah. I think she achieved her success against incredible odds, and has created an empire based on positive ideas. After reading an issue of her magazine you feel that you are a beautiful person that can accomplish all your goals. The feeling may not last past five minutes, but it’s a powerful drug, which is why she is so popular. Oprah is also into tea, and that’s the biggest point in her favor. 

(Damn. Just as I bought the monk some tea, a non-monk guy sat down with two drinks. Probably the person he was waiting for.  The non-monk was directly in front of me in line. I suppose it was good timing. How embarrassing if I had given the monk a chai just before his friend sat down with their drinks?)

So what did my convenient-but-distantly-corporate decision deliver for my time?

  1. Not sure any depth of flavor in my writing was achieved.
  2. The Oprah chai is just fine, but a touch too much of some spice that’s not my favorite. Also, I asked, and they don’t use honey as the sweetener- come on! That’s the definition of chai: black tea, spices, honey, milk. Bad Starbucks, bad.
  3. Starbucks has a relaxed atmosphere, which I like, but the servers at this particular location were in such a rush, I received no twinkly-eyed smile like from the server I know at the indie cafe.
  4. The thought might count about buying the monk tea, but he didn’t receive the gift. Who knows? he could have been lactose intolerant anyway.

Time to pick up my son. In the end, I think he wins out because he had no angst about social decisions, and gets a surprise chai latte treat.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.