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)

Iced Jasmine Pearl, Marbled Tea Eggs, & Instructions for a Heatwave…

Yesterday was book group discussion day at my house…and, sorry to you guys who live in cold country, but it was 80 degrees here in sunny, drought-ridden, So. California….which called for a summery menu of tidbits to snack on while discussing the seriously good writing of Maggie O’Farrell in her recent novel, Instructions for a Heatwave.

We highly recommend this book…family dynamics are expertly portrayed

We highly recommend this book…family dynamics are expertly portrayed

My original thought for small bites to serve when hosting this month’s discussion included scones and hot tea (as the book is set in England and Ireland), but, alas, the weather forced me to rethink what to serve.  Ironically, the unusually hot weather we are experiencing in California paralleled the strangely hot weather setting O’Farrell had London experiencing in her novel.  Still, in the story, there was A LOT of preparing of hot tea going on.  Actually, the Irish are known to drink more tea per capita than any other nation.  Well, I decided on iced tea and prepared one of my favorites,  Jasmine Pearl Green tea…it is light, refreshing, and fragrant.  I also had been desiring my fragrant marbled tea egg (hard-boiled eggs, steeped in tea, cinnamon stick, star anise, and a bit of soy).  They are unique and tasty served sliced onto a little biscuit, of which I had a few put away in the freezer just for this occasion.  These, along with a raw coconut tea cookie (much like a shortbread, with coconut) would be the primary fare.  Some fresh organic California grown juicy raspberries made it to the discussion too.

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

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I’m not sure why my mind went this Asian route with the menu for our English/Irish story, but we had fun, ate it all up, and continue to be moved by how our small group discussions seem to soothe our souls in a special way.  I will post the recipe for the marbled tea eggs in a few days.  They are easy to prepare, yet just gorgeous and unusual.  It’s as easy as boiling water, but looks like you painted them. Same for the coconut cookie, easy as pie (but it’s a tea cookie 🙂 )

Coconut Tea Biscuits…I make them with raw, unsweetened coconut…even cut some into teapot shapes…not too sweet, perfect paired with green tea

Coconut Tea Biscuits…I make them with Bob’s Red Mill raw, unsweetened coconut…even cut some into teapot shapes…not too sweet, perfect paired with green tea

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Our discussion brought us closer together as we shared our own history as related to the book…and all over a cup of tea…amazing the revelations tea brings about.

A Year In Review…Part Deux

I am guessing that “A Year In Review…Part one”  was so exciting that you are anxiously awaiting to see the back half 2013 recap of what moved me.  Here we go…I had to restrain myself and trim (or more like, hack away) at what to include…figuring that “less is more.”

June – December 2013 was filled with interesting gatherings for us…Napa with our daughter and son-in-law was special.  Anytime we get away with these two is cherished time for us (even though we missed the noise-making rug rats 🙂  Reuniting with old friends was a big part of the summer, as my husband reconnected with many high school friends which led to new-found, old and delightful relationships.  Reconnecting with his Southern family resulted in an incredible couple weeks in the American South, then, capping year end with one of the top two tea menus  ever…seriously….ever…at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis”  for a second year with my dear sister and our dear friend Dawn was just the perfect way to finish off twenty-thirteen.  Included are photos of my touching new artistic, lidded tea cup…named “Betty” which my twin brother and sister-in-law got me in Carmel (a favorite vacation spot for Betty and us)…ahhhh

I don’t know why…but I have always thrilled over small food bites… in particular, those presented in clever utensils, packed with flavor, touching a variety of  taste senses.  As I’ve mentioned before, that’s what first drew me to seek out afternoon tea menus – the variety of tiny bites.  However, mastering the delivery of a melange of gorgeous, flavorful bites proves to be a daunting task for many and often has been disappointing to me (and my Mom (Betty).  Thus we created our own recipes and menus.  Today, I like to go OUT and find these scrumptious morsels while sipping teas or wines.  These tasting adventures, which so suit wine tasting, as well as, tea time, are just so civilized and conducive for eliciting deep thought, or divining small chatter, or examining life in all its manifestations, or doing nothing at all…your choice.  These photos made the cut of favorite “bites” or tastings this year…

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, inventive foods, along with a few scones, cooking class, and teas, of course…and why not finish with a tea martini

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, starting with a most flavorful shrimp bite at Jordan winery, then a stunning cheese pairing from Arrowood Winery, then the  French Laundry garden tomatoes, my own petite bites in Great Aunt Helen’s egg plate, polenta topped with sausage, whimsically inventive foods from Ink Restaurant, Corn chowder w/ popped corn from our Ramos House Cafe in SJC, lovely hearts of palm wrapped in smoked salmon from our dear Chef friend, Julius, along with several petite sweets, tea affogato (as featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine’s September, 2013 issue, and a few scones, quiche made at my first cooking class at Eat Street Culinary, and teas, of course, lots of tea…and why not finish with a tea martini

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Ending with my first tea martini was a good thing.  I had them “hold the sugar” and it was still soooooo good, refreshing and certainly drinkable…I could have had two but prudently moved onto a nice Mighty Leaf darjeeling instead.  Will write more about this Tea and Tini experience at the St. Regis in another post.  (The best finger sandwiches ever!)

Happy New Year…Drink Tea…organic, whole leaf…it’s good for you!  Even with a little Ketel One vodka in it 🙂

A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!

 

 

Back From Our Family Vacation…

A Southern Welcome with Charleston fountain and architecturally welcoming "open arm" stairway...epitomized our feelings of warmth experienced on this vacation to the American South

A Southern Welcome with Charleston fountain and architecturally welcoming “open arm” stairway…epitomized our feelings of warmth experienced on this vacation to the American South

IMG_8587Often my husband and I are asked, “how de we keep our family together?”  “Simple.” is my response.  “When invited to a family function…You’ve just got to show up.  Don’t come up with an excuse…SHOW UP!”

We are blessed with lots of family.  And recently, we found out just how much we have on my husband’s paternal side of the equation – all residing in the American South.  Many times, it just takes one person to step up to keep family together.  That’s what happened here.

A few years ago, my husband’s cousin, A., sent us a note in her Christmas Card that she was coming out for a short visit from her home in Columbia, South Carolina (tagging onto her son’s business trip).  Now, this was quite a pleasant surprise.  The last time our California family had seen anyone from the South was 27 years ago.  I missed that reunion in Georgia, however, for those 27 years had dutifully scribed a cheerful card to cousin A..  I sent photos and news about our happenings,  only knowing her through this annual penning of notes.

We had a fabulous visit with A.  Upon her leaving, she urged us with grace and southern charm to visit…she followed up and sent me information about America’s only working tea garden near her ( in Charleston S.C.), she sent my husband a subscription to Charleston magazine and friended him on Facebook…once our sweet little dachshund passed away…I knew it was time for an extended vacation.  So, we finally planned our trip to the south —

We showed up.  And boy, so did they!  With the “California cousins” coming for a visit, Cousin A. instigated a full-on family reunion which resulted in 120 members showing up to a beautiful gathering at Misty Lakes, No.Augusta, South Carolina.  It was awesome.

Some of you know that I am not a fan of flying…so, with the reunion as the primary reason for our trip, I then targeted where we would eat and drink tea on the rest of our journey.  Some of the best chefs in America do their cooking in Charleston. Exploring Low Country cooking was our focus and, of course, drinking tea.

Our Southern vacation…full of Family, History, Spanish Moss, Mansions, Mosquitos, Alligators, Low Country foods & Sweet Tea.  The route:  Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Atlanta … fun times with new found relatives all along the way.  All because of one cousin who showed up and encouraged us to do so too.

My next few posts will be about my “finds” on this excursion.  Here are a few photos of our trip in a nutshell…gorgeous Savannah, including Tybee Island, foliage, buggy rides, teas, barbecue, and truly fabulous Southern foods amidst the mansions.

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Southern life...moss, marsh, mansions, biscuits, BBQ, and tea

Southern life…Spanish moss, marsh, mansions, Low Country cuisine, Charleston teas

 

Why Tea Is So Magical …

When prepping notes for a tea tasting class, I jotted what I thought was kind of a witty laundry list about why everyone should consider making their “go to” beverage tea; (after pure, fresh water, of course).  This is what I came up with:

TEA IS:  calorie free, gluten free, vegetarian – even vegan, no carb.,  full of healthy things like anti-oxidants, good for your teeth, available in enormous varieties of flavors thus never boring, refreshing, increases metabolism, calming, like a hug – warm and comforting, interesting in a nerdy sort of way.

Taking tea can be social or not depending on your mood, steeping time is excellent thinking/musing time, even the rare ones are “cheap” compared to other beverages; and, as I experienced this past week….a damp tea bag can be used to reduce the swelling from a bee sting 🙂   (ouch!)

Recently, when flipping through Pinterest tea photos, I came across these two charts…I just loved them and thought I’d share them with you today.    Can you think of any other reasons to drink tea?

Tea Chart from Twinings

Tea Chart from Twinings

This one I think came from endorphins.tumbir.com  (hope I credited it correctly)

This one I think came from e-ndorphins.tumbir.com (hope I credited it correctly)

Love the line…”Tea is like a liquid hug.” It also reminds me of my mom…and of wonderful times with my sister, daughter, family and friends…