Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cold Infusion: Earl Grey in Almond Milk

Technically the label on the tea said, "Black Tea With Bergamot", but that's what Earl Grey is. Why not just call it by its common name? There's no trademark on it. Whatever you call it, I made a pitcher of cold yumminess for the family to enjoy on this hot day. Cold infusions have the best flavor, they just take planning ahead.

My life is planned in chunks. Right now summer is being coordinated, scheduled, and filled in. So far, it's not filled up. That takes thinking ahead. My hubby always felt our kids needed lazy summer time: time to be bored, explore, and invent. Luckily, we never had the budget for much in the way of camps. They are old enough now to be working, but we still coordinate to make sure we have family lazy hot days.

On the topic of budgeting and scheduling: I'm trying to get things accomplished this week because the following two weeks are spoken for. I cancelled (or didn't schedule) my regular work gigs, and am planning a spa week for myself, and then I'm taking a trip. This is not a family thing, this is a me thing. I linger over the ads in magazines for exotic spas, but they are waaaay out of budget. So, a Home Spa for me, by me, is fun to plan.

For my spa week: starts off with a Sunday BBQ Epic Dungeons and Dragons Game (I'm a happy geek with my family and friends), then fantastic breakfasts each morning (favorite meal of the day), use my massage gift certificate (thanks, Bridgit!), read a Scottish romance novel (thanks, Kathleen!), get nails done with a friend (perty toes), have afternoon tea at various places in the area (hopefully with fam and friends but I'm cool on my own too), yoga almost everyday (I'm getting a good deal from a local place), and at the end of the week is the Albany Tea Festival!

The reality check, of course, is that there are some things I couldn't cancel that have to happen, and dealing with home emergency repair issues that recently came up. Whatever- spa week will still be my main focus!

The week after that I am traveling to Minnesota to visit extended family. It is my Aunt and Uncle's wedding anniversary, and my mom felt it was important enough for me to be there, so she bought me a ticket (thanks, Mom!) I'm a little nervous because I haven't been on an airplane in years and honestly...I don't do much. My adventures are in my books and imagination. I remember hanging clothes on the line, looking up at the plans passing overhead and wondering where the people were off to, but that wondering stopped years ago. Perhaps that's a sign I really do need to get away (thank again, Mom!)

My only consideration for my trip is deciding which teas to bring along. And that takes serious planning ahead.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sweet, Sweet Chai

When life spins 
Like the pinwheels in my garden to frighten the crows, 
And I am unable to focus or fly away,
Transfixed by the blurry metallic glare...
It is time to pour the tea.

When a friend cries and cries 
And I stand on the grass barefoot
Trying to be a grounded listener but feeling as helpless
      as the dandelion seeds I kick into the air...
It is time to pour the tea.

When the water is not pristine,
When my favorite cup is missing,
When my hands are shaking- 
     especially there...
It is time, we must make the time
To pour the tea.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lilac Lime

Tea is really easy to make, but not always easy to make well. I think this is why many Americans don't like tea; they haven't had a good cup. Like everything in life, making tea should not be a half-assed maneuver. This doesn't mean it takes a lot of thought or effort, but it does take some knowledge and experimentation. After all, the point is to make yourself satisfied. Take the time to figure out what that means. Be authentic. (Making someone else a cup of tea requires listening; that's a different virtue.)

First, what do you already have? Clean water? A heating element? A pot to boil water on the element? Huzzah! You're half-way there! Do you have small bits of a non-poisonous plant? Look waaaaay back in your cupboard for a box labeled "tea." Any kind. Doesn't matter. Now put the tea in a mug. Heat up your water. Pour it over the tea. Read the box for how long to steep the tea. If you don't know, just watch the steam for a couple of minutes and contemplate life. Take out the tea. Sip the liquid.


Do you like it? If so, repeat. If not, try again. Experiment: water more or less hot, brewing time longer or shorter, cleaner mug, or your tea could be really old and gnarly and you should probably go out and buy a new box (or two or three.) Be bold! Be creative! The only person you need to satisfy is yourself; how freeing is that? (Very) How many other daily events in life do you have complete control over? (More than you think, but let's start with tea.)

My mother said she wanted to drink more green tea because it's good for her, but she thinks it's bitter. I suggested some possible fixes: don't let the water boil crazy; green tea is delicate and can be ruined easily, then steep it for just one minute. If that's too light, go for a minute and a half. She adjusted and said it tastes better, but still not her favorite drink. And that's ok! Green tea just happens to be in the media a lot for its health benefits, but black tea is good for ya too. And all the herbal (tisanes) have various properties. (I still want to make her a cup of green myself just to see...)

Now that it's warmer out, I am into cold-brewing. This is even easier than making a hot cup of tea because you don't have to worry about the temp of the water or the length of time brewing (as much.) I am currently sipping Lilac Lime tea, a once a year treat. Try it out yourself. If you like it, repeat. If not, experiment!

Lilac Lime Tea
Place a bunch of lilac flowers in a pitcher. Slice a lime and put all the pieces in. Pour cold water in. Let steep for an hour or so (not longer than two or the lilacs won't taste good anymore.) Enjoy outside on a warm day.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Jasmine Green

Although last week I typed about creating space, this week I've done a complete turnaround. Adding more to my mental landscape is usually how I deal with stress. But first, my tea:

I am drinking green tea with jasmine outside as I write this (for anyone wondering, I write by hand first.) A couple of weeks ago I would have brought a blanket with me, and now I'm in short sleeves. I suppose I will be in the mood for iced tea soon, but- oops!

(15 minutes later)

I just made some milky rooibos chai for when my sister and nieces come over. I made a bunch last week (there was a honey accident and I had to use it up right away, so I made an enormous cold brew sharing with all) and they really liked it; I promised another batch. But I forgot to make it last night! So I just ran in to make a quicker version. Hope it comes out well. Now what was I writing? Iced tea. Right. I made my tea hot this morning out of habit, but- "What? Now? Sure."

(10 minutes later)

My son has been asking me to watch a silly video for the past couple of days. I've explained that I won't get most of the jokes because it's based on a video game I don't play, but he explained back all the inside stuff so I could enjoy it. It was amusing. Anyway...

I've heard different schools of tea thought on what's best to drink in warm temperatures: cold, tepid, iced? Here's one take on it. Hard to concentrate on that when my brain is in Scotland, specifically the 18th century. Lemme esplain. Too long. Lemme sum up:

Last week, this week, and next were/are/will be very busy. There are things happening right now, and things that need to be planned for both the summer and fall. I am driving around quite a bit, which isn't great physically, and still having sleep issues, which doesn't help. People close to me are also stressed for various reasons (some minor and some very, very major) which I can't help but respond to because I love them. 

So. Scotland.

I started reading the Outlander series way back when it first started (yeah, I'm proving myself to be a true fan, yo.) My aunt gave the book to my sister and I when she discovered it as a so-happy-you're-adults-now-so-we-can-read-grownups-books-together present.  We really enjoyed them too, and all of us have been fans since (haven't read the latest book yet so no spoilers!) 

A friend of mine lent me the DVD of the TV series that recently aired. How was I going to find the time in this busy stretch to watch it? I stayed up past my bedtime several nights in a row drinking tea, knitting, and forgetting everything in real life. And just like an ear worm, this fantasy world has been in the midst of my thoughts for days now.

As difficult as my daily meditation has been on a regular basis, now it's impossible! Seriously. I can't even count to ten without contemplating such deep thoughts as:
"Do I have any plaid in my wardrobe? I need more plaid in my wardrobe."
"I knit, but I'm not that good. I could sing? Be a bard? But I wouldn't know the Scottish songs. Would I have to work in the kitchen? I can't even start a fire!"
"That body is totally from a 21st century workout routine. 18th century men did not have well-rounded pecs like that! I'll need to look this up on Pinterest to compare..."

I'll cut myself some slack. A mental vacation spot is how I stay sane. I need more tea. And I have some research to do on Pinterest.

Sweet Milky Chai
In a small pot heat up a cup or so of water with 1/3 cup of honey, and 3 Tablespoons of loose chai (or 9 tea bags). Stir. When the honey is all dissolved, shut off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Put it in a container with 4 cups of whole milk and stick it in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Enjoy! Keep the chai in the container until it's all done- gets better and better. Adjust the sweetener to your taste. 

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.