Take A Moment…

Over the past few years, the first couple weeks of April have become the busiest time of year in our household.  Aside from the regular stuff of life; albeit enjoyable and ultimately rewarding activities, time-consuming and physically demanding things; such as, spring garden planting, readying for garden tours, family Easter at our house,  our grandson’s birthdays, and working on tea events conducive to this season seem to bunch up into a two-week period, creating a time crunch in my usually languid schedule.  So…before I share details and photos journals of all this exciting stuff (including the best looking giant birthday cake we’ve made yet :-)), take a moment...as I just did before starting to edit photos.  I looked up and saw this beautiful artwork which my sister-in-law generously and thoughtfully created and gave to me as a gift at Easter.

Stylized photo ...a gift from my sister-in-law...beautiful, a beautiful thought, and one of my favorite books too (note the book spine).

Take A Moment Photo …a gift from my sister-in-law…beautiful, a beautiful thought, and the cup is sitting on one of my favorite books too (note the book spine Jane Austen fans).  The photo depicts tea pot and cups which are family heirlooms…

 

One of the primary facets I just love about tea, and the concept of tea time, and the art and practice of preparing tea are the moments of reflection inspired by the actual time it takes to steep it. It forces you to take a breath while watching the leaves exude their liquor.  Glancing at this photo stopped me for a moment… forced me to take a breath and relax before charging on…for, as most of us know, that is what life is all about, breathing in and breathing out. Sometimes I need a reminder about that  🙂

So, take a moment…and drink tea…it’s good for you!  Enjoy

 

Crazy For Coconut…Comforted By Rituals…Change Is Good

The contentment of rituals; such as, methodically preparing my beloved cup of tea each morning, or routinely getting to my exercise sessions, or scheduling our recurring journeys to Carmel and Napa Valleys bring me joy, relaxation, and serenity; however, challenging that routine is something I force myself to do now and then…comfort is good, ruts are not.

At a recent book group discussion, one member’s comment smacked me across the side of my head like being hit by a 2 x 4.  We were having an insightful discussion about the short novel, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes…a tale of memory and missed opportunities.  My friend said that she thought “her life was settled, that nothing new was really going to happen anymore, she was content, she had traveled the world, and that was fine.”  I ruminated over her comment for a few days, the Peggy Lee song, Is That All There Is?  kept running through my head.  For some reason her comment unleashed a determination in me to NOT stagnate or be so predictable, (I am just a little bit predictable 🙂 ).  While thrilled with my daily life, I lay awake thinking about what I wanted to do to shake things up.

An evening later, my first opportunity arrived –  my brother texted me after 8 p.m. to ask if we wanted to meet him for drinks and oysters – right then – I texted back… “yes” … scurried to change clothes as I was in casual attire and sped down to the harbor to meet him…he was gone – when I called to ask where he was, he was home and said “I never thought you would actually say yes” … (I shocked him 🙂 ) — Next… the feeling of empowerment from that little experience motivated me to give the thumbs up to my husband to book our flights to see my beloved nephew in Portland…( I rather detest flying and had been stalling about going – now that the trip is booked I am so excited and can’t wait to have N. show me his town…there are some great tea shops in Portland too!);  and lastly, while online checking out my favorite tea sites, I saw Tea Forte’s Coconut teas…well, I LOVE coconut but normally do not love flavored teas.  In the spirit of “going for it” and changing things up a bit,  I went for the coconut.   The teas arrived … the fragrance is “really” powerful…after steeping a few cups, I will give you my verdict…it may not seem like much, but a small change can go a long way to opening doors…or even just opening one’s own mind a bit more.

Tea Forte's Chai Latte...organic zesty with organic black tea, organic ginger root, organic cinnamon, organic coconut pieces, organic licorice root,  organic cardamom, organic black pepper and organic clove buds...really fragrant and flavorful and wonderful with some milk

Lychee Coconut White Tea..says it’s for radiant skin…I did make this into an iced tea the moment I got it for my sister and me and it was quite refreshing and uplifting…haven’t seen a change in my skin yet but have only had one cup 🙂  – the large pieces of unsweetened organic coconut stand out…

Coconut Chai Latte from Tea Forte ... all organic...

Coconut Chai Latte from Tea Forte … all organic…organic black tea, organic unsweetened coconut, organic ginger root, organic cardamom, organic black pepper, organic licorice root and more…

 

Normally I am a pure tea fanatic…meaning that I primarily consume “unflavored, unadulterated, unmanipulated”  loose leaf teas which are most often organically grown and hail from respected and renowned tea farms purchased from purveyors I’ve come to trust ( Harney & Sons and Mighty Leaf Teas are two of my favorites).

On this occasion I also ordered my own Kati cup from Tea Forte …I had ordered many but kept giving them away…now I have my own…and even went for their new pan roasted black tea flavored selection.

Tea Forte Kati Cup...Pan Roasted Black Tea Noir Collection of flavored teas to include chocolate rose, peach brûlée, blood orange,caramel nougat, black cherry...they sound like desserts (but no carbs ...yay)

Tea Forte Kati Cup…Pan Roasted Black Tea Noir Collection of flavored teas to include chocolate rose, peach brûlée, blood orange,caramel nougat, black cherry…they sound like desserts (but no carbs …yay)

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While I highly doubt that any of these will take over my morning pure black tea steeping ritual…they are fun for the afternoon and can’t wait to try them with my favorite little macaroon recipe using Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened coconut.

Enjoy…and drink tea…even a new variety now and then can be a good thing.

Spring Gardening Leads To DIY Gifts

Betty's Garden Statue graciously and steadfastly adorns our herb & vegetable garden…this time with "volunteer" flowers popping up

Betty’s Garden Statue graciously and steadfastly adorns our herb & vegetable garden…”volunteer” flowers are popping up – newly planted heirloom tomatoes are in the back bed…red onions, blueberries, Italian parsley and a new petite Myer Lemon Tree are planted in the bed behind our lady with vessel statue.

The whole family comes to our yard for Easter…it’s been happening here for over 25 years.  Usually there is an egg hunt, then our traditional Easter dinner, starting and ending with family favorite Italian dishes.  Two to four weeks out, I begin getting the yard in shape for the onslaught of guests and egg hunters.  I lucked out with the weather last week and not only got my heirloom tomatoes (seven varieties) and herbs in, but also trimmed back several small trees, bushes, and generally spruced up the lily garden etc etc etc…I just love this time of year.  Below is a photo journal of my two days working in the backyard.

This weekend's herb planting...

This weekend’s herb planting…three French lavenders and a little Italian oregano and parsley to fill in as the lavender grows in pots on our courtyard patio…the fragrance is light and lovely  – Below are the beds with tomatoes and three basil plants…sweet basil, Italian basil, and a new one called blue basil (looks a lot like a small Thai basil leaf )…these various tomatoes and basils are staged for some incredible summer caprese salads…along w/ my gorgeous chives and thyme.

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As I was whacking away at my bay laurel tree (inherited from my Mom’s backyard over 13 years ago), I felt badly about throwing the cut branches into the refuse bin…there were a lot of wonderful bay leaves going to waste…so I decided to dry some and bottle them as gifts for family and friends…the kids may get candy; however, the adults will go home with dried laurel bay leaves 🙂    Excellent in flavoring your sauces, soups, and many braised dishes.

Pruned Bay Laurel Tree…hmmm, what to do with all the leaves and cut branches…clean them, dry them, and bottle them… (disclosure:  the correct wording should be "Bay Laurel (not Laurel Bay as I have on this one label)…My sister caught the error on the first one but I am a bit lazy today and didn't reshoot the photo… :-(  ) These will be gifts for our Easter guests as I had lots of leaves…I even got to use this raffia that my good friend Panini Girl gave me…thank you Panini Girl :-)

Pruned Bay Laurel Tree…hmmm, “what to do with all the leaves and cut branches”… I decided to clean them, dry them, and bottle them… (disclosure: the correct wording should be “Bay Laurel (not Laurel Bay as I have on this one label)…My sister caught the error on the first one but I am a bit lazy today and didn’t reshoot the photo… 🙁 )
These will be gifts for our Easter guests as I had lots of leaves…I used raffia that my good friend Panini Girl gave me…thank you Panini Girl 🙂

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This morning, I enjoyed my cup of tea while perusing the overnight plant growth.  I was dismayed to see a bit of chewed up leaves on my basil, the good news is that I planted plenty of basil…oh well, I don’t mind sharing a little bit.

 

Callas, Clivias, Cabbage Roses… and Oops, Renegade Mint Too

Spring has certainly made its presence known in our backyard.  I love this time of year.  Our yard has literally sprung to life.  We wake each morning to a cacophony of singing birds, scurrying lizards, and buds breaking out onto still bare branches.

When I walk down our slope, below our deck, I am delighted to see the stunning orange trumpet flowers on the clivia plants that were a long ago gift (and transplant) from my mom (Betty’s) yard.  These, along with the giant white cala lilies she sent home with me some 20 years ago as dirty bulbs loosely wrapped in newspaper, bring a smile to me each year they spring back to life.  Mom loved her garden and shared her plants with whoever asked.  There are many clivia and cala lily plants around our area that came from her yard.

Clivias in bloom…from the lily family…these beauties are transplants from Mom's (Betty's) garden about 20 years ago.  They love it under our deck…lots of shade with a bit of sunlight

Clivias in bloom…from the lily family…these beauties are transplants from Mom’s (Betty’s) garden about 20 years ago. They love it under our deck…lots of shade with a bit of sunlight

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cli·vi·a
ˈklīvēə,ˈklivēə
  1. a southern African plant of the lily family, with dark green, straplike leaves and trumpet-shaped orange, red, or yellow flowers.
    The calla lilies are so gracious.
    Cala Lily…such grace

 

 

Pictured below, this stunning cabbage rose plant…a centerpiece in the English garden part of my yard was a lovely gift from my sister – when her husband was redoing their yard, this rose didn’t fit into his scheme…lucky me 🙂

Lots of buds ready to burst on this huge cabbage rose plant

Lots of buds ready to burst on this huge cabbage rose plant

Cabbage rose…a gift from my sister's yard…it loves its new home.

Cabbage rose…a gift from my sister’s yard…it loves its new home.

Then there is my renegade mint…you may know that it is a weed…and that you should plant it in a pot (keep it contained).  Well, I did all that; however, my pot sits on the ground (on soil) in my herb garden, and eventually, it escaped via watering through the drain hole and voila…mint everywhere in our yard below our herb garden…oh well, guess I will be “weeding” mint for awhile…at least it is pretty and smells good 🙂

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Renegade mint gone wild into the yard (downslope)…I really did start it out in a pot…but it escaped through the pot's drain hole and is inserting itself EVERYWHERE in the garden below - it's weeding time I guess

Renegade mint gone wild into the yard (downslope)…I really did start it out in a pot…but it escaped through the pot’s drain hole and is inserting itself EVERYWHERE in the garden below – it’s weeding time I guess

Soon, it will be warm enough for me to enjoy a book and cup of tea while sitting on this small swing, under our wisteria plant,  listening to the birds and watching our mission fig tree pop out hundreds of jewels. A great spot for tea.

Time to get the cushion on my swing, under our climbing wisteria (also a bit "gone wild"…but gorgeous)

Time to get the cushion on my swing which sits under our climbing wisteria (also a bit “gone wild”…but gorgeous)