Sunday, November 30, 2014

Earl Grey With Local Honey and Cream: DiviniTea

Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.  –Maele Moore

I like this quote. It exemplifies an attitude of resourcefulness and optimism. The phrase "bread and water" brings up images of drab sadness in a labor camp. "Toast and tea" is a bright room with a cozy book. The difference being a few plant leaves and a toaster (butter can't hurt.)

Some days, the gap between harshness and contentment can seem too wide. Often it takes another person to point out the sturdy bridge located a heartbeat to the left of me. I try to be open to these nudges, but I can get lost in my head, narrow and never-ending.

(I have yet to meet an Earl Grey I didn't like. I use essential oils for medicinal purposes: chest rubs for cough and cold, hair tonics, face mists, a drop of lavender on clean sheets- ahhh. Bergamot oil is that lovely flavor in Earl Grey. It comes from a citrus fruit in southern Italy. Perhaps my 1/4 cup of Italian heritage makes me love it so...)

Where in my life can I turn 'bread and water' into 'toast and tea'? I often feel trapped by the neediness of my body: consistent bedtime, good eating habits, daily exercise. These things are 'bread and water', therefore the quest is to look around for some sparkly leaves and a mystical heat source to make a transformation into 'toast and tea'. Only a small miracle...

I've succeed with the consistent bedtime. Once I realized how strictly I needed it to prevent headaches and help with sleep issues, it wasn't as challenging as I feared. I had to start saying "no" to late evening people and activities. As a result, I have quiet evenings at home, which I am enjoying. No screen-time past a certain hour has led me to reading books or playing games with the fam. 'Toast and tea' success!

And the other two parts? Tea (is that irony?) is a delightful part of my diet. And I like having home-cooking time for healthy meals. But exercise is still 'bread and water'. Workin' on that.

Where have you transformed something into 'toast and tea'?

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Steaming Genmaicha

In each breath exists a space
For You to fill with grace.

Grace. "I do not think it means what you think it means." At least, I don't. The words "space", "breath" and "grace" stretched around my brain until they stilled into the rhyming couplet. 

The word has its linguistic origins in 'gratus' meaning: pleasing, thankful. But I feel it goes deeper than this. We use it in so many ways; it's as if the word is a prism that we can only understand by turning to see each face. 

From the dictionary:
  • she moved through the water with effortless grace.
  • at least he has the grace to admit his debt to her.
  • she has all the social graces.
  • the graces of the Holy Spirit.
  • he fell from grace because of drug use at the Olympics.
  • another three days' grace period.
  • before dinner the Reverend Newman said grace.
  • His Grace, the Duke of Atholl.
  • she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades.
  • Ms. Pasco has graced the front pages of magazines like Elle and Vogue .

be in someone's good (or bad ) graces 
there but for the grace of God ( go I )
the ( Three ) Graces Greek Mythology three beautiful goddesses (Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne), daughters of Zeus. They were believed to personify and bestow charm, grace, and beauty.
with good (or bad ) grace 

(I sit here writing this in quiet. It won't last long. Soon enough my son will turn on the Christmas music to inspired himself to move on this cold morning. Decorations are forbidden until after Thanksgiving, but I don't mind the music a little early. Except I hate repeats. I ordered a dozen holiday cds from the library to add to our playlist. Plus, we purchased the latest albums from Pentatonix and HomeFree- love 'em! What's your favorite holiday music?)

Back to grace, my conundrum. Why did I capitalize the "You"? It seemed correct, but to whom is the rhyme addressing? God? The human collective? Or is it a strongly emphasized personal invitation? No idea. It doesn't matter. It does matter. I may never understand what I'm searching for in the word. But I can do grace. I can breath it in, move my body, or hold the hands of those I love around the table.

Yet being me, I will continue to ponder the word over my tea and- is that "Sleigh Ride" I hear? Time to pick up the new music so my son stays in my good graces.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bergamot Respiratory Blend: Underground Alchemy

As a cup of tea is perfectly enjoyed after a good meal, I finished the foodie novel Delicious! and followed it up with The Daily Tea, a magazine for tea enthusiasts. It is a hefty 144 pages of mostly content, akin to a short book rather than your average fashion mag. I read most of it while sipping a tea I received in my Herbal CSA this month. I can feel a cold lumbering its way into my head, and I am determined to halt its prospects. Not only is this blend effective, but the bergamot makes it tasty.

I first perused the contributor bios of The Daily Tea: a mix of established tea business people and those who have recently become passionate about sharing their love of the leaf. Reading the bios also brought forth a small sigh. I had contacted the magazine awhile ago inquiring about a writer's position for their online content, but never received a reply. Eventually, I decided to start this blog instead. Hopefully my frequent writing here will improve my craft. Besides, I'm having fun with this :)

Back to the magazine! The cover is great: a woman in a gorgeous navy blue dress sitting barefoot in a light-filled stately wooden room, balancing a tea cup and saucer on her finger. Rodney Smith is the photographer, and he is featured in a photo essay and interview. He uses real film and little to no editing, so that lady really is balancing the cup. I love her look of concentration: one side of her mouth is slightly upturned, eyes firmly on the cup, and her other hand has fingers splayed on her lap, keeping her body still. The rest of his photographs within the pages had me gazing awhile. Not quite steampunk, but old-century with a touch of whimsy. Nice hats.

(Oh! Typing of hats, I was invited to a tea party hosted by the youngest participants of our homeschooling group. I wore a very fancy hat and was given tea, cucumber sandwiches, and a gluten-free cupcake. The wee hosts were dignified and delightful. The organizer of the party read everyone tea party books without a single princess mentioned!)

If you're wondering if you should check out The Daily Tea, I'd say yes. The magazine has short articles about new teas on the market, product reviews, growing your own herbal garden, grinding your own herbs, tea with health, tea for beauty, and tea in food. There was an interesting look at tea sommeliers, yoga with tea, Japanese tea ceremonies in America, and a wedding featuring tea cocktails and gifts. The article "The Teas That Bind" was about introducing tea to kids- very sweet photos.

But the bulk of the pages are dedicated to places.  Specifically, traveling to where tea is grown and processed: machu picchu, India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka...on and on. Some authors traveled all over the world on tea tours sampling tons of varieties, some just focused on one spot or one kind of tea. There are tea plantations starting in America's east and Hawaii. (My bet is Hawaii will be the most successful.) My husband thought the idea of a Tea Adventure vacation was silly, but who says he has to go with me!?

Japan sounded nice. Yeah, those places were described so well, especially the spa in Ureshino. Not that I'll be traveling soon. But if I do, Singapore is my destination (there's a history, story, and promise to that.) 

I'm not even traveling out of the house this weekend, figuring no one wants my cold for Thanksgiving. Good excuse to read. But I will be well soon with the power of tea!

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Regular Chai Latte at Starbucks: The One On Wolf Road. No, The Other One. Nope, The Other Other One.

I always feel I have to have a good reason being at Starbucks. Indie-Locavore guilt. This time it was because I was buying a gift card for my nephew who lives far away. I get him a Starbucks gift card so he can have a treat on me, and there's always a Starbucks somewhere. Since I was was there anyway, I ordered a chai latte.

(I sat for a little while reading the book Delicious! I read the bulk of it while in the waiting room of my car dealership earlier this week. Freakin' three hours for some basic service! I don't have a smart phone or laptop, so no interwebs or writing work. Not that I'm really complaining. Spending hours reading a good book is a luxury. They had a coffee machine but no tea, luckily it did dispense hot water. As I always carry tea with me, I was all set! And then I read a bit at Starbucks today.)

I was waited on by a pleasant, but nervous looking woman of middle age. She was being trained by another staffer. Within a few minutes of me sitting down with my book and chai, the woman who served me sat at a table nearby with a little sandwich and coffee, on break. She looked so sad and overwhelmed, continually putting her head into her hands for a few moments in between bites and sips. I wanted to give her a hug, but society says "no!"

I got up to use the restroom and on the way back tried to catch her eye and smile, but she was rubbing her forehead, and that's a pretty big signal not to disturb so I just took my seat and felt bad. I've had these situations before where I want to say something comforting, but I'm not sure how to broach the person in a casual way. But afterwards, I always feel regret that I didn't try harder to reach out to someone obviously in distress. What to do? 

(Delicious! is a fine read, but really bad when you don't have good food on hand. It's a book with sumptuous descriptions of decadent meals. At the car dealership, I only had an apple and granola bar. Adequate for a snack, but pathetic while reading about the BEST EVER gingerbread, or the FRESHEST mozzarella, or meat so tender it falls off the bone with a GORGEOUS sauce that makes your mouth...yeah, yeah, yeah. At least the tea I brought was tasty. And at Starbucks, my chai latte was frothy and sweet.)

I noticed the Starbucks lady crumbling up her sandwich wrapper, so I looked up hoping to catch her eye. She actually looked my way!  I smiled and said quickly, "First day?" She nodded, and plopped herself down next to me with a weary sigh. For the next ten minutes she told me about being a single mom with six kids working out of her home for years, doing her best, but now that her youngest was in high school she was ready for something different, and why not a cafe? I commiserated about figuring out what to do when full-time mom was no longer needed, reinventing yourself as an working older woman, etc. She got up, and we wished each other a nice day. She turned back once with a smile, "If you're not sure what to do, you could work here too." 

I picked up my son from his class, we went home, and I made us some comforting tea with a delicious lunch.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Pot of Chai at Short and Stout


My adult piano student noticed an injury on my finger due to being distracted while cooking, and told me her new mantra is "focus and finish." I have decided to try it.

The key word is "finish" because I have no problem jumping into a task with full enthusiasm, but I am often distracted and leave it undone: phone call, ask for help from children in the house, remembered item to write on the to-do list before I forget again, an immediate need for tea, anything and everything.

I was washing dishes and my son asked for help on the computer. I called, "sure!", turned off the water, but then said out loud to myself, "focus and finish." I called back, "I'll be there in a few minutes," turned on the water and finished my task. I hate doing the dishes, and love to have a reason to leave. But then they were done. It felt good.

(The pot of chai in the title is from earlier. I was meeting a friend at a local tea shop. She is having a hard time and a chat over tea was suggested. 90% of the time I walk in here I order the chai because their blend is the superbestest. My friend ordered a pot of sencha, and we spent a quiet hour or so sipping and talking. I had no words of wisdom, but I listened, and supported her best efforts to deal with a sad situation. What else is there but tea and time?)

It's easier to focus and finish outside the house and away from the many things that visually call out to be done. But I haven't hurt myself cooking this week; so far my new mantra is helping. At first I thought making myself finish a task would encourage me to speed it up- something that is NOT helpful for preventing injuries with sharp and heated objects. Yet the opposite has happened. I wonder why?

For a meta angle, I have sat here and typed this entire post without getting up to refill my tea, or take a break to have a conversation, or switch the laundry. It may not last, but my 'focus and finish' experiment this week has been peaceful. Say it with me, "Focus and Finish."


Rise unfettered.
Move with intention
Be grand.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Honeybush Chai: DiviniTea

Asking the right question. Gosh darn, that's difficult! The start of all problem solving is figuring out what the real problem is. I know this. You know this. We all scream for good tea! Um...

Let's just say, for strictly arguments sake, that I would like to make this blog successful. This would be a problem to be solved. But what is the real question I'm asking? To find out, I'm going to write ten questions quickly in a row so my subconscious can jump into this "hypothetical" problem:

1. How can I make Steepings successful?
2. How can any blog be successful?
3. What do I mean by success?
4. Do I really want success?
5. Why wouldn't I want success?
6. Is something holding me back from attempting success?
7. Am I afraid of committing to one idea?
8. Am I afraid of failing?
9. Can I be afraid of failing and succeeding at the same time?
10. Can't I just enjoy writing about tea without all these freakin' psychological annoyances?

Heh. Heh. Good thing that was just a test or I'd need to ponder deep-seated life career issues!

(My husband baked a cake for my son's birthday. Since I am gluten-free, all the baked goods in the house are too. This cake came out delicious, but dense. My mother-in-law was over and declared it a "tea cake" because it didn't have frosting and was best eaten (or dunked) with a cup of tea. Sure! So today I am eating a piece of this tea cake, washing it down with chai, and it is indeed a sumptuous combination. I would give you the recipe, but my husband made it up. However, you can get the chai here.)

Let's try a different question seeking game. The other one wasn't my cup of tea. In this one, you ask a "why" question, answer it, and follow up with a new "why" based on that answer until something true comes up.

Why didn't I like the first question exercise?
Because I don't want to answer the right question.
Why don't I want to answer the right question? 
Maybe because I don't really want to know. 
Why don't I want to know? 
Maybe it takes too much effort.
Am I a lazy bum that wants to sit around, drink tea, read books, and write whatever comes to mind?

Great. I have one affirmative answer. Problem solving at its best. Pass the tea cake.

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Coconut Hi-Caf: Republic of Tea

(Using up another sample from their catalog, the more-than-coffee-caffeine tea was tasty and effective. I had a migraine coming on, and caffeine can sometimes squeeze it shut before it gets a hold of my entire being. I had been saving the sample for just this occasion. It helped quite a bit, and the pain never went beyond tolerable. It also had a pleasant coconut flavor, not too sweet. I shall buy a canister... for strictly medicinal purposes, of course.)

The squirrels are certainly busy in my yard today. I see them digging and burying, and how they won't remember half of where they put their food. I read once that most of the  NorthEastern forests were from forgotten nuts of squirrels. Absent-mindedness was a part of the greater ecosystem design. The squirrels can't see the positives in their inability to remember all their food caches when they are hungry in the winter- regardless if they are living in a tree from a previous generation of forgetful squirrel. If only my shortcomings and stress were so beneficial. 

This somehow links in my mind to a weekend museum visit. The family went to New Paltz to visit our eldest in college, and we explored the Dorsky Museum. An exhibit about Dick Polich, metallurgist and art foundry operator, was on display. There was a film playing about him, and one of the interviewees said, "he loved a challenge. In fact, I think if there weren't problems to solve- that would be the end. What would be the point of his work?" 

And now my mind has taken another side-step to a Star Trek Voyager episode I watched last night where Captain Janeway is faced with her own death aboard her ship as a spirit. Her "guide" continually encourages her to follow him into a sphere of light that will take her to a resting existence of eternal bliss. She is suspicious and unwilling to let go of the real world. Ultimately she was right because it was really aliens trying to capture her essence as she lay dying (evil aliens!) But the lure of the ultimate resting place did not appeal to her.

The squirrels need to be flawed, and suffer, for a healthy ecosystem. If all the problems of metallurgy were solved, there would be no point to coming to work at the foundry. Eternal rest is not appealing.

"I'm blessed with work." That was a sincere line from a sweet movie. My mind is jumping all over the place today. Perhaps it is the migraine, with it opening too much to sensory input. Or being over-caffeinated. Or both. Regardless, in looking at the connections, I can only hope there is a purpose to my work, my pain, that future generations can enjoy, sleeping soundly in its branches. 

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut: Yogi Tea

Tea on sale. Does it influence you? I appreciate sales because they help with the decision making process. There are just too many teas to choose from. Yogi brand is on sale at my co-op this month so I bought plenty of immune booster blends, and tried some random ones too. Chicory root and carob are the main ingredients in this blend- quite bold flavor for tea. Do you remember when carob was introduced as a healthy alternative to chocolate? Ha. Ha. Ha.

(Although I started writing this at home with the above-mentioned tea, I am now meeting a friend at a cafe. I decided to try their Pumpkin Chai Latte ["pumpkin! in all the things!] Waaaaay too sweet. Glad I passed on the cookie as a side treat.)

There are so many decisions to make: life goals, yearly achievements, daily priorities, sudden-crazy-in-the-moment choices. I find it overwhelming most days. And end up doing things arbitrarily because often my best laid plans...well, yeah. 

I went to a bookclub over the weekend and we always have a potluck and chat before discussing the book. I found myself in a conversation with a frustrated mom whose daughter is freaking out about the college application process. The girl is overwhelmed with the gravity of her decisions, and simply not getting anything done. Not deciding is a decision too. 

I remember listening to an interview with a woman who had been kidnapped as a child. Her daily decision making process came down to: will this keep me alive? Thankfully, I have less basic survival decisions. Instead, mine are less important, but more complex. And often I don't know if the decision made was correct, or worse, mattered at all.

(My friend chose a tea from the cafe's selection of Harney and Sons. That's a nice brand and a healthier choice than my Sugar Pumpkin Sugar Chai Sugar Latte. But I have a hard time paying for something I can make at home. I don't have a milk steamer thingy in my kitchen.)

One of the toughest life-altering choices in recent years was about moving to a new city. Various details, but my husband and I had the opposite opinion about it. We finally sat down one evening for a BIG TALK. We quickly realized the question came down to this: who will resent the other more? It was not a black and white decision, but shades of  dark bruising purple. The goal being to stay together. We were blunt with each other, and chose matter-of-factly about it. We're still married several years later, so that worked out. But we couldn't have known at the time, and still had to decide.

Choosing a tea from the shelves and shelves should be fun. A bad choice will not get me killed, change my future career options, or affect my marriage. And yet I stare at the plethora of options, chewing my lip, comparing fonts or color schemes on boxes, and spending too much of my time on one of the most arbitrary decision of my day. Narrow it down for me please! Quick, what's on sale?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pumpkin Spice (Republic of Tea) With Honey and Coconut Creamer

Reviews are fun because I get free stuff, but not so fun because then I have to actually review it- get all judgemental on people. I try to focus on positives and what my audience needs to know, not my whimsical personal opinion.

I review books and games for GeekMom, and our general policy is not to give a bad review unless it's a dangerous toy. This doesn't mean we lie, it means the review won't go up if the product isn't up to par. The editors suggest we privately inform the seller why we didn't like it. 

(Pumpkin Spice came in the mail with a Republic of Tea catalog. I didn't make it right away because I wasn't too excited about it. My local tea shop makes such a nice fall blend, how could it compare? Well it did. I'm not going to get into the specific "notes" and "overtones", though it you want to get all musical ternimology on the beverage, it was less a classical symphony of Autumnal spices, and more an divertamento string quartet from the Romantic Era with a lighter yet intricate blending of flavor, aka: it was yummy in my tummy...err, taste buds. If you're looking for a good seasonal blend, try it!)

I just became part of the Tea Bloggers director (yes there are enough of us out there...weird). Most of the questions dealt with reviews: what kind of tea products you review, how long it might take to post, etc. I checked off the boxes for:
 "tea cups/servingware" because maybe I can try some cool sciencey weird tea invention that saves the world! Or a set of pretty tea cups I can give away as a present.

"tea-inspired books" because I like reading, and I like tea, and maybe they can co-exist in the same time-space continuum? Or not. I've never been drawn to those cozy mystery novels set in a cute town in a little shop, which might be what tea-inspired books are. Or maybe someone will write a steampunk novel where everyone is drinking tea and saves the world!

"other" because I'm curious what might come in the mail...doubtless something that will utilize tea to SAVE THE WORLD!

If putting "Steepings" out there comes to anything actually being shipped to my house, I guess I'll have to do a fair review. Who am i kidding? Anything I write is my whimsical personal opinion. But here's to hoping I get free stuff!

Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.