Thursday, December 5, 2013

I'll Be Back!

Friends, I am so sorry to not have written sooner.  I was dealing with a computer issue- still not resolved, then whether or not to continue the blog and then personal and family health issues.  I currently am healing from eye surgery, but I WILL be back the beginning of February.  In the meantime - the very best and blessed of the holidays to you all

Saturday, August 31, 2013


My computer is malfunctioning. When it is fixed, I'll be back

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bedraggled Summer

Have you noticed that summer is beginning to wear out? The trees are no longer bright green, but are coated with the presage of orange and yellow and crimson to come. The first acorn drop has happened, the golden rod and wild purple asters are blooming. It makes me a little sad. And a little mad - I haven't caught up to August yet - I haven't finished Spring planting! I haven't gotten my fall crop of beans in! Sheesh, this is too much, I'm not ready for it. But nature marches on. It's one of those truly lovely days - bright sun, reasonable temperature, even a nice breeze. Perfect Tea-On-The-Porch weather. However, someone is here with a really, really, really noisy machine who is dealing with the stumps left from the trees that fell 2 years ago. I am sure the mowers will appreciate it and maybe I will, when it's quiet. The cats are most annoyed. We've been doing lunches for a local Habitat for Humanity. What wonderful people they are to give hours and hours of work to help someone into a home of their own. The future home owners put in a lot of sweat equity as well. I haven't had opportunity for afternoon tea in a while, so I am so happy to be able to sit down and have it today. It's another balck one from Upton's - Yunnan FOP Select. The leaves are chopped up fairly small, but even so, the suggestion is for 4-5 minutes of brewing. Dry, they have a strong tobacco/wine aroma, very pleasant. The 4.5 minute brewed tea is a lovely, fairly light amber, more yellow than red. There is still a faint tobacco aroma and the taste is a quiet but assertive tobacco/wine, with just a hint of astringency at the end.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Have I Got A Recipe For You!

Let's see, there's chai, chocolate and Snickerdoodle Cookies.  Now, roll that all into 1 cookie and you have yourself a very tasty treat.  I came across the recipe in Taste of Home Magazine and I thought I would try it.  If you like those 3 things, this is for you.  They are sooo good and they would be wonderful for a fall tea.  In fact, since today feels like fall, it's a good time to have them.  Katie Wollgast from Missouri sent the recipe in.

Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles  oven 350

Combine 2 1/2 cups sugar,1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp allspice and 1/4 tsp white pepper.  Mix well.
Set aside 1/2 cup of the mix in  a small bowl.
Add 1 cup of soft butter to the rest and beat until soft and fluffy.  Beat in 2 eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla.
Whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, 2 tsp. Cream of Tartar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.  Slowly beat into the butter/sugar mix.
Make 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in reserved sugar mix, flatten slightly.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until edges are firm.

I remember snickerdoodles from child hood.  I always loved them.

I am having them with a Nilgiri OP tea from the Craigmore Estate in India, via Upton Tea.  The suggestions are 1+ teaspoons per cup for 3 minutes.  This is quite a pleasant tea.  It has that nice fresh scent of good tea.  It is very plain, but sometimes, plain is good, especially with something like those Snickerdoodles.  It does have a tiny bite at the end to keep it interesting.

It's been a very cool August, which I love, but my tomatoes are pouting.  Our first ones were not very good.  They are cherry tomatoes, but they're kind of mealy and flavorless.  They are the stars of "Some Like it Hot"
We went to another Farmers market yesterday and came with such lovely stuff, not the least of which is almost local peaches, local tomatoes, potatoes, and plums.  Oh Happy Day.  On the way we saw some hawks soaring on updrafts and a bald eagle.

The sad thing was the occasion of saying goodbye to dear friends we are unlikely to see again.  I thought my heart would break in two to do it.  Our group gave them a good send off, but I will so miss them.  I am comforted by knowing they will be close to their children who are giving them such wonderful, loving care.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Tea and Goodies

Lemon seltzer and ice tea.  I was a little reluctant to try this - didn't want to waste my tea if it wasn't good.  However, it is really good.  I used about 3/4 tea and 1/4 seltzer.  Just a hint of lemon and just a hint of sparkle.  I'll have to keep it in mind for tea punches.

It's been a happy summer in my family.  On one side, a lovely wedding for Eric and Lindsey and on the other, the birth of twins, Henry and Maggie and two new homes for young couples. How easy it is to forget how very tiny newborns are, especially when they are twins.  Raise a cup of tea with me for these new beginnings, full of joy and hope for the future

I need to make some corrections to my summer pizza - the oven temperature should be 400 and the tomato slices are better thinner than thicker.  I decided I like some cheese sprinkled on top.  Tomatoes and cheese go very well together.

I have been following an Indian recipe blog - - and one of the latest recipes was for Mango Lemon Thyme pops.  I changed the recipe and just made mango, coconut sherbert.  Very easy and soooooooooooo good.  Four pureed ripe mangoes, a pinch of salt. 2 tablespoons lemon juice and a can of coconut cream. Whiz it up in your processor or blender and freeze and there you have it.  No cooking.  I was too lazy to go out and look for the lemon thyme.  I got rave reviews and so will you.

Let's continue along the mango line.  I had two mangoes leftover, so I decided to make mango pops.  This time I pureed the mangoes, added a cup of very strong mango flavored tea, about 1/4 cup of light corn syrup and froze them.  So yummy.  Actually, I have trying to make pops out of the"bottom of the pot" when I make a bit too much tea and so far, I really love Jasmine Tea Pops.  Try this with your teas and see how you like them.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Yes, You Can Have Tea With Pizza

Another Stellar Summer Treat is on the menu for tonight.  It is cool enough to have the oven on and we're having fresh tomato pizza.  It could not be simpler - one pizza crust, either bought or homemade.  Smear it with good extra-vrgin olive oil - I have some very nice California oil, which is a bit fruitier than others.  Slice your summer-fresh tomatoes and crowd them on.  If your tomatoes are super juicy, let them sit on a paper towel for a while.  Add a little mozzarella if you want to, bake in a 475 degree oven until you think it's done and there you have it.  An alternative is to smear the crust with pesto or top the tomatoes with some pesto or put fresh basil leaves under the tomatoes.  If you on put them on top, they burn.  Guess how I know that little piece of info. 

You can also grill the pizza, but I will leave you to go to other sources to find out how.  The fresh tomato pizza is a nice savory for a tea party - just cut it so each small piece has a slice of tomato.  You could also alternate with slices of squash and that would be pretty as well.  If you do either, decorate with some small, fresh basil leaves.  These are good cold as well as hot.  I learned a trick for warming up pizza from a chef friend of mine - do it in a frying pan over low heat.  Cover the pan until the toppings warm and it is practically indistinguishable from fresh, especially the mostly veggie sort.  This way, you could make the pizza the day before, cool it, wrap it well and pop in the fridge.

I have discovered that you can have tea with pizza.  For this, I make a strong dark tea, like an English Breakfast - this is not the place for something delicate.  I use a good bit of lemon in it and it seems to go pretty well.  I tried it with some basil in it to go with the pizza - not a great idea.  It's not as good as beer or root beer, but if you must have tea with everything, this is pretty good.  I am going to try it with some lemon flavored seltzer.  I know, it sounds weird, but you need to experiment, right?

If you like fresh chives in the winter or thyme or most of the perennial herbs, now is the time to pot them up to bring in the house later, provided you have south facing windows.  This, of course, is for those of us in the north.  I have pots of rosemary, chive and a new herb, culantro, all set.  I really miss fresh basil in the winter, but a paste of basil and a little oil, frozen flat in freezer bags, goes a long way towards getting me through.  For us, it is more useful than basil cubes.  If you can't grow chives, I have found that snipping them and rushing them into the freezer in flattened bags and only adding them at the very last second, works quite well.  Then you have chives to decorate your tea sandwiches with or to mix into them.  I especially appreciate garlic chives this way, as grocery store may have the regular ones fresh, but never the garlic.  Dried chives are just so much paper.

The walkway around a monastery high above the German Village of Obernhof.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Corn and Tomatoes

There is nothing like a trip to the farmers' market, even our little tiny one.  The sight and smell of all those lovely veggies and fruit, the satisfying pull on your shoulders as you carry your bounty to the car, can't beat it.  Then, off home, to have the first corn and tomatoes of the season for lunch, ending with a freshly made icebox blueberry pie.  So simple, so good.

I got a book from the library when it was so hot - Icebox  Pies by Lauren Chattman.  It came out in 2002, so it's probably not in bookstores, but Amazon and Kindle have it.  I could have made a crust, but I didn't.  I can't say the store bought ones are super, but at least I don't have to turn on the oven, and it's very nice to be able to quickly make something, stick it in the icebox and then eat it.

It's cool enough for hot tea again today.  Upton's this time, a very simple tea - China Black, Flowery Orange Pekoe.  The dry leaves are a pleasant mix of brown and black, finely cut, and smell like a very nice, almost flowery, good quality pipe tobacco.  I brewed it for 4 minutes.  The brewing aroma was rich and fresh, with a hint of dark cherry, again with some pipe tobacco.  The liqueur is fairly dark.  The flavor is a fairly standard dark tea, but there are hints of sweetness - the cherry?, a little hint of metallic, maybe a bit of toast.  I tried it with some cream as well, which brought out all of that.  In fact, I think it is better with some cream, more interesting..

There is an entire family of blue jays lined up on the feeder pole by my window, giving me the evil eye - no suet.  Ah well, you're very greedy and must wait until tomorrow.  Today, Monday and Wednesday are evil vet days.  Two of the critters accept their fate, two are horrendous. Sarah is because she is afraid and Bertie is because someone is daring to interfere in his life.  They are so embarrassing.  Fortunately, our vet is the nicest man in the world and is very understanding.

There, this is a much simpler, small country church in the village of Oberhof, Germany, where some of my ancestors came from, just as I promised.  I really like both styles of church, for different reasons.  They are both beautiful

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tea, Cookies and Gardens

Last night a group of us Master Gardeners went to visit one of our colleagues gardens.  It was beautiful - and huge!  The man keeping it all is 81.  Far more than I do even now.  One of the very nice treats was a pound cake with pineapple sage.  The sage had been stewed in simple syrup and then the syrup poured over the cake.  Very, very nice.  We decided the heat brought out the flavor.  So, next time, I will try it in my tea again, only I will brew it by the hot water method.  Apparently you need to bruise it and use quite a bit.  The woman who made it says she makes it a lot with lemon verbena, which doesn't take nearly as much.

It is over 90 all last week, so this tea princess was drinking a lot of ice tea and not going out much.  We tried to let out the cats one morning, but they put their noses out and then gave us one of those looks as they scooted back inside.  If it is too hot for them, it is definitely too hot for me.

Today, however, is our reward for survival, it is only 70, there's a breeze and we had rain - can't get much better than that.  I am having hot tea to celebrate.  I know, I know, hot tea is supposedly to make you cooler, but I don't think so.  So my hot tea for today's cool weather is from the tea trekker: 2011 late spring pluck High Himalaya Hand-Rolled Tips from Nepal.  It's a really beautiful mix of black, grey-green and beige for the tips.  It smells like hay, old wood and a touch of dried tobacco with the merest whiff of smoke.

The light amber brew is quite a surprise, taste-wise.  It truly reminds me of lemon sugar cookies.  It has a slight hint of citrus, with a biscuit-ty, cookie taste.  There's also some hazelnut and something like old wood, warmed in the sun in it.  Altogether, it is one of the best teas I've had.

The waysides are so pretty right now, with the gold and brown of brown-eyed susans, the yellow of trefoil, white from Queen Ann's lace and blue from chicory, all backed by dark green bushes with bright red berries.
The water lily pond near us is bursting with their beautiful white flowers.  I am especially thrilled to see them as last year it was so hot and dry they just curled up brown and ugly.  Did you know you can grow Queen Ann's lace from seed in your garden?  Looks a bit like the wild ones on steroids.

In my garden, the day lilies are blooming their hearts out.  I have one that is a mild orange sherbet color that is not just double, it is quadruple, with little dark flecks, like pepper in it.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  It is near a dark red and they really set each other off.  I really love day lilies and just drool over the catalog from Oakes.  Sadly, the deer also like them, so I have to keep spraying around the garden to keep them off.  A friend showed me how to get them to leave - give a loud deep cough and off they go - it sounds like the "Danger!" signal they give each other.

How's this for an altar screen?  I am very taken with it.  But then, I was very taken with the whole church, which is in Germany and dedicated to Mary.  It is a very feminine building, with it's color stone, pink and white ceiling and tall, graceful arches and windows.  Next time I 'll show you some pictures of the very simple country church my ancestors attended.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tea, Tea and Then Tea

Ah, patriotism!  It rings out every fourth of July, as it should.  It often is overly sentimental, and for me, a bit much.  I am patriotic, just quietly.  But I did go to a July 4th concert of choral music in a small town near us.  It was excellent.  Spirited, changeable and just plain fun.  Many fitting reminders of those who have held this land dear for the nearly 300 years the white man has been here. Except for the Civil War, close enough relatives have fought in every one from King Phillip's to Vietnam.  I wish we would get out of the business of war and that our future history would be written about great achievements, not on the bodies and minds of young men and women.

I have been savoring the Twining's Early Grey decaf ice tea I wrote about last time.  It really is lovely.  Everything about it just comes together perfectly.  I like that it is decaf - I can drink more of it and in the summer, one needs to drink a lot.

I had a thought about making a slush or sorbet or granita, whichever you might like.  If you made a strong lemon scented tea or a lemon tisane and combined that with some sugar syrup and watermelon, wouldn't that be good and refreshing?  How about a jasmine tea with some candied ginger?  Rose Congou and rosewater?  You could make them as ice pops, too.  I think the black tea as ice pops would be more appealing.  At least to me.

I made a pound cake and flavored it with some Czar Nikolas Green tea, finely ground.  It is a large recipe, so I used 3 tablespoons and added a very little lemon flavoring.  It is excellent!  It has a somewhat mysterious flavor, with the citruses coming through and just a hint of the green.

I have a lot of old tea that is just too past its prime to use.  I am saving it in a canister and when it is cooler and rainy, I am again going to mix it with clover seed and try again to do something more about my lawn's bare patches.  It really works to help mulch the seed.  My very worst patch, which was all bare scree last year, has almost totally filled in and I am very proud of myself.  A great deal of the lawn is now clover and it smells wonderful for weeks..  I have allysum around the lavender bed and in a window box, plus some scented day lilies, so the front door opens on loveliness.

The pillars of Ischia.  Looks old and historic at first glance, but it is really just concrete supports for a car park..

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dragons and Earls and Peaches, Oh My

I have some Earl Grey Decaf from Twinings brewing for ice tea, as well as some Dragon Well Green from Rishi Tea.  I haven't tried either one hot, so they will both be a new experience for me.  I don't think I've met a Dragon Well I didn't like, although the same cannot be said for the Earl.  Some of them simply have no flavor or they are gunked up with other flavors.  I really do like to keep my tea on the relatively straight and narrow.  I don't usually do decaf either, but we are having company who would prefer it, so I am being kind.  I used 16 teabags for a 3 quart pitcher.  I hope it's not too much, but then, it is teabags.  I don't usually do teabags, either, but it was a gift, so I thought I ought to use it.  I could have emptied the bags, but I am too lazy in this heat.

This morning was pleasant, so the cats and I tidied the flower beds, which have rioted.  I gathered some basil for supper's pesto and lots of lavender got hung to dry for tea and just smelling nice.  Some of my lavender is quite pretty, but doesn't have much scent.  Some has a rather nasty scent and I am going to put it elsewhere.

The Earl Grey is quite nice.  It's a tad heavy, but the bergamot comes out quite nicely and the tea itself is a very pleasant gentle "afternoon" type.  Sadly, the Dragonwell does not shine as ice tea.  It is muddy and sullen, although it is a beautiful straw color.  Something tells me if I want it iced, I should hot brew it first.  I wound up mixing it with lemonade and then it was okay.

My sister-in-law sent me a recipe for a peach cobbler that is so easy and good, it is my new go-to for fruit I need to use up.  I used nectarines which weren't as ripe as I thought, so I put a little orange flower water on them.  I have found that it, of course, perfumes the fruit that isn't quite ripe, but also seems to bring them more fully into their flavors.  If you live in an area with a Middle Eastern population, this should be easy to access.  If not, I know you can get it on the internet.  Just remember a small amount goes a very long way.  I also think another peach wouldn't hurt.  If you try it, the batter will be far more liquid than you expect, but it works just fine, don't worry.

The url for the recipe is

One thing I really like about tea, it is a constant journey of technique and flavor, history and culture.  I like new and different things and with tea, I feel I'll never get to the end of them.  Cooking is like that as well.  Sometimes it is wonderful and sometimes, like twice this week, it goes out to feed the critters.

Look at all those lovely shadows and light, playing over the stone walls.  This picture makes me feel cool, which is most welcome right now.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

See The USA In Your Tea

Happy Birthday America!  As the descendant of both Mohawk Indians and my immigrant Swiss grandparents, I fell I can celebrate from both sides of the coin, although I am not sure that present day Mohawks feel quite so celebrative.  My first ancestor from this land was an Indian princess, Ots-Toch, daughter of the Queen of the Mohawk Turtle Clan. She ruled an Indian castle around what is now Fultonville, NY.  Another ancestress was  Sarah Rapelie, daughter of Catalina Trico and Joris de Rapelie,  the first white child born in the Dutch colonies, which stretched from Manhattan, north to what became Albany, NY. They were French, coming here to escape religious persecution.  My Swiss ancestors came here early in the 1900's.  All Americans, except for Native Americans, are immigrants, unless you go back to the end of the Ice Age.

People came here for many reasons.  Some for religious freedom, some for adventure, some for a chance to own land and be their own person and some, just for a chance at wealth, but some came with no hope, as slaves.  Today's immigrants come for the same reasons, people haven't changed too much in 400 years.  We are a diverse nation and we need to work on celebrating that diversity, even as we celebrate our birthday.

Now, what tea to use to celebrate?  I just happen to have some homegrown Charleston Plantation Tea, which is already iced and ready to go.  It's a fairly plain tea and makes a fine plain ice tea.  There is nothing wrong with plainness.  Sometimes tea people get too caught up in searching for too many adjectives to describe something.

There are several other sources for American grown teas and now there is The United States League of Tea Growers, which had its inception at the World Tea Expo in June.  Tea has grown to such a big market here that we can recognize it in this way.  Charleston, owned by the Bigelow Tea Company is the oldest.  Another Southern one is Fairhope Tea Plantation, in Alabama. Their teas may be purchased through  Hawaii has several plantations, Big Island Tea at is perhaps the best known, but is currently only selling its tea through Harrods of London.  Cloudwater Tea is another, but is having website problems at the moment.  Onomea Tea at where you can buy tea directly from them.  Their tea is all organic, as is Big Island.

Salem, Oregon has the Minto Island Growers, but you need to go to their farm stand.  Washington has the Sakuma Brothers at and they have 3 kinds of tea for sale, with free shipping.  In Mississippi FiLoLi Tea Farm is in the process of growing tea, as is Roy Fong of the Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco.

If any of you know of any other US tea farms, estates, plantations, please let me know.  As for me, I'll be on the back porch, sipping tea, as soon as the mowers are done.

More Ravenna mosaics,this time, a floor view.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sweet Citrus

The scones are all gone and I still would like a sweet for tea.  I have 4 very ripe nectarines, so I decided to make what I think is called a gallette.  It's a kind of rough-hewn tart.  I made some pastry in the Cuisinart, stuck it in the fridge, and then sliced up the nectarines and mixed them with some sugar and cardamom.  That done, I rolled out the pastry, put it in a pan, poured in the fruit and then folded the edges of the pastry up around it and baked it.  It's all very casual and doesn't take long.  It's ideal when you really don't have enough fruit for a real pie or tart. If you want to fancy it up, you could add a layer of pudding under the fruit.

I am enjoying another tea I saved specifically for ice tea.  Rishi Tea's Organic Green Tea - Orange Blossom.  In the summer, as long as it is ice tea, I don't mind flavors as, on the whole, I regard ice tea as just a cold drink.  Sad, but true.  This has osthmanthus flowers, lemongrass, lemon myrtle, rose flavoring,  jasmine flowers and aromatic citrus, i.e. essential oils.  All of these are organic.  It smells mostly lemony, but there is a definite fruity undertone.

Rishi even tells you how to make this the cold brew method - 4 tablespoons tea to a quart of water, 4 hours in the fridge.  It comes out very nicely, a very pleasant straw color.  It is vaguely sweet, with a somehow minty citrus flavor.  It seems to go with most foods and is certainly fine on it's own.  I find it quite refreshing.  I appreciate the fact that it is all organic.

Ravenna, Italy mosiacs.  A mere 1,000 years old and still shining.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Raising Babies and Having Tea

It's a great time of transition in our backyard bird world.  The fledglings are learning to feed themselves.  It did not go too well in the grackle family.  Much screaming and yelling and wide open mouths, but no one seemed to catch on to instructions and Adult Grackle flew off in disgust, babies right behind, crying still.  It all went much better with the hairy woodpeckers and although there was still screaming from the rather frowsty looking baby, he did catch on to poking the suet and then swallowing.  The baby grosbeaks seem to be the best at learning quickly.  None of them are too good at accurate landings quite yet.

The blue jays are just disgusted that so many others are at the feeders and are quite short-tempered about it, especially when the smaller birds stick up for themselves. Too bad, they are great bullies and I don't feel sorry for them.

I am waiting for coconut pineapple scones to come out of the oven.  I used fresh pineapple, so I am eager to see how it works.  I used dried pineapple before and it wasn't even really noticeable.  They smell divine and I am afraid I will drool on the computer keys.

The wait has been worth it.  Really, really tasty.  I made them with coconut milk as well as the two fruits.  They were a bit too crumbly, but I'll work on that.  To add to the tropical theme, I had some of Upton's Mango Flavored Tea.  This actually tastes like both mango and black tea and went very nicely with the scones.  It was iced, as it has continued to be hot.  However, we have finally had some rain.  I may go dance it, I am so glad to see it.

It's so hot today, I thought a "cool" picture would help.  Shade and rocks are cool, right?  This is Ravenna, Italy, home of beautiful,ancient buildings and mosaics.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Myriad of Tastes

What a disappointment!  I added pineapple sage to my ice tea, I even muddled it a bit and poured boiling water on it so it would give flavor to the tea.  I used more than I thought necessary and what did I get?  Zippedy doo dah.  No flavor, no nothing.  Rats.  Guess I'll just use it as decor.

However, on the plus side, I needed  to trim back my scented geraniums and used the rose scented leaves in some other ice tea and YUM! a lovely addition.  I used about 6 big leaves to about a quart of tea, muddling and adding a bit of boiling water.  Worked a treat..  That was with black tea.  With green, I would probably only use 3-4.  Scented geraniums, aka pelargoniums, come in many, many scents and if you really want to branch out in flavoring your tea, this might be a way to go.  On the whole, I have found the lemon. orange and rose the strongest scented of the ones I would add to tea.  The little leafed "Lemon Crispum" has the cutest leaves in the world.  Tiny little bright green crinkles you can add to tea or ice cubes.  They aren't too big on flowers, but they sure smell good.  In the north, they need to come inside for the winter.  (What else is new, sigh?)

By the way, I have been finding that a cup or so of boiling water is a good start to refrigerator ice tea.  For some reason, it seems to work better.

I made a discovery.  My new favorite black tea - S.D.Bell's - calls for a 6 (SIX!!!???) minute steep.  Gulp.  I liked it at my standard 3.5 minutes.  However, in the interest of tea science  I did it, following their recommendations to also stir it at 3 minutes.  Huh, it was actually just fine, with a  greater depth of flavor and surprisingly, no tannin.  Since this is an Irish Breakfast type, crafted to go with milk and sugar, that's really not any great surprise. Himself loved it. Guess I'll keep that up.

I came up with a new Asian style chicken salad dressing.  It came about when I bought a packet of those crisp Chinese noodles that homemade chow mien dishes always used to sport on top.  There was a recipe for Asian chicken salad on the back which looked good, but when I tasted the dressing I thought it was simply awful.  So I made my own.

Enough mayonnaise for the amount of chicken you're using.
about 1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons of toasted, i.e. dark, sesame oil
about 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice
A little sugar or some Mirin 

Mix well and pour over your chicken - I had chopped water chestnuts, green onions and mandarin oranges in mine.  Taste first and make any adjustments according to how you like it.

Just before serving, top with the crunchy Chinese noodles, adding a lot or a little according to taste.  Since this was for a small tea luncheon, I put the salad in lettuce cups and just added a few on top, but I passed a dish of them just in case. Instead of scones, we had pot stickers - there are frozen ones that cook up quickly and are very tasty, served with Goyusa sauce, aka pot sticker sauce.  I served rice crackers on the side and some lovely Long Jing ice tea.  Dessert was mango sorbet.

Amalfi, my husband's ancestral home.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ah, Summer

Hmm, I see it has been quite a while since I wrote.  The last month has been so busy I have barely had time to drink tea, let alone write about it.  Planting, volunteering, having company, recovering from company, baby showers, busy, busy, busy.

However, I continue to make my ice tea in the fridge and I must tell you about one I really like.  It comes from Lupicia Teas.  it is their apricot flavored black tea.  It is just refreshing and the apricot blends very well with the black tea.  The fruitiness somehow says "Summer".  I guess that is because there are so many more fruits available now.  I would recommend this to you if you like flavored tea at all.  It is especially nice that you can let it brew overnight and it is just fine.  I don't make my extra strong, so you may need to take that into account.

Speaking of which, I am growing pineapple sage this summer.  Up here, it is an annual with pretty red flowers.  Supposedly, the leaves smell like pineapple and are often used for tea punches.  Personally, I think they smell like bubblegum.  But I am going to include it in today's ice tea and see how it is.  Hopefully, I will report tomorrow.

Another thing I have been doing with my ice tea is cutting up strawberries, which are local at the moment and muddling them a bit to add to the tea.  Or I just plop a few in the glass.  The latter is prettier.

More of the Amalfi road.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Russians Have Arrived

One of the things I find most annoying about aging is getting tired a whole lot sooner than I want to.  Last week was really busy getting ready for the plant sale and both last week and this week I have been planting, planting, planting, but yesterday, alas, yesterday, I was tired!  Drained!  Pooped!  Not even a large glass of ice tea helped, so you know it was serious.  So I didn't do anything.  I even got an entree out of the freezer (emergency rations) and added some leftover salads and called it supper.  Himself is always glad to eat whatever he gets, he's really easy to live with.

Today, however, I am back to what passes for normal and it's back to planting.  My aim is to have the flower beds so full the weeds won't even think about sprouting.  One of them is there already, so do I stop?  No, I extended the bed.  It's like collecting teapots or finding another new tea to try.  A sad affliction that makes me happy.

Some friends gave me some Czar Nikolas II green tea.   I promptly made some in the fridge.since I really like green ice tea.  I only use a little more than  for hot tea because  I don't like it strong and I don't add ice.  I was surprised that it smelled minty and then maybe like bergamot and aha! there it was on the package - natural and artificial flavors.  It is quite nice, if you like the somewhat heaviness of Russian tea.  The smell and the taste are about the same, but and this is a big but, you can actually taste the green tea as well.  This is a definite keeper.  You can get some from

Nature is providing us with lots to see.  The wild phlox is blooming, as are the white dog roses.  The buttercups are all over the backyard.  We've had 2 fox kits stroll through the back yard.  They have less red than their father.  The orioles are back and one of my day lilies is getting ready to bloom.  It's a new one, so I am excited to see it.  I have the garden all planted, but I still have to put up tomato cages.  On the down side, this has been a terrible season for pollen. 

Wed. I was looking up our communal back yards and thought there was either rain or mist coming this way - nope, pine pollen, spruce pollen, evergreen of some sort pollen.  Our black car is mostly golden.  Thankfully it's been raining yesterday and today and that has washed a lot of it out of the air.

The beautiful Amalfi coast.  I wouldn't mind living in one of these houses.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tea From The Lake

It's lovely cool day today, especially welcome after so much heat - good weather for having a hot cup of tea.  Today's is Sun Moon Lake Black Tea from China via Life in Teacup, one of my favorite companies.  It is Taiwan/Formosa's famous black tea.  The leaves are indeed black, long and twisted.  There is a slight wine barrel aroma in the packet, not a great deal, as this is only a sample.

The brewed tea is much lighter reddish amber than I expected and smells very woodsy, with a definite hint of tobacco.  This does not come through very much in the taste of the brew, which tends slightly towards fruity, with just hints of the wood, wine in it.  It's somewhat hard to pin down, so, for me, it is intriguing.  It has that quality of "more, please"  that some really good teas have.  So that is what I am going to do.

Did  you know there is a Tea Encyclopedia on line?  Yup,  I suspect it is from some non-English speaking country, as the language is not quite our type of English and the "blog roll" is in what I think are Chinese characters..  The list, so far, is not huge, but it's interesting.  Check it out.

The birds are beginning to bring their young to the feeders.  Such a racket!  hey are somewhat endearing, as they struggle to fly and land on a small bit of metal.  They do overwhelm their parents!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bring Back The White Gloves!

Years ago, no lady went to tea without white gloves and a hat.  There were articles written about how to deal with taking tea and wearing gloves.  If you had finger foods, you took at least one off, but it was generally acceptable to leave them on if all you had was tea.  But there were many gradations of glove etiquette.  I' m glad I wasn't around then, I probably would've made many a grievous error and become a social pariah.

I bring this up because I had company for tea today and when I looked at my oh-so-grubby hands and nails, I wished for gloves.  I am a gardener and whenever the weather has cooperated in the last few weeks, I have been grubbing around in the dirt.  This week has been especially dirty, as I was getting ready for the Master Gardener Plant Sale,  and then helping get all the plants tidied and labeled and helping out at the sale.  We made mega bucks this year, which is very nice, as it funds all our programs for kids, new gardeners and poor folk.  But I sure could have used gloves this afternoon.

We had ice tea, as it is quite warm.  I made 2 kinds, One was Williamson's English Breakfast, which was your typical ice tea.  It was brisk, strong and very nice.  Fortunately my guest drank that one.  The other was Red Blossom Tea Company's Jing Xuan, a Formosa Ali Shan Oolong.  Now I love Ali Shan Oolong, but this was not nice.  I must have used too much tea, for one thing and for 2 things, the leaves never did unfurl in the tea sock in the fridge.  The floral component was just about overwhelming, instead of being lovely and delicate.  Next time I think I will do the tea by the hot water method and see how it works.

Yesterday we had a big dog fox strolling through the yard.  He was the size of a gray fox, and was mostly gray, but his head and chest were red.  He and his family live under my neighbor's shed, but this is the first time I had seen him.

The courtyard of the Hapsburg summer palace.  If one were invited here to tea, one would definitely not only wear gloves, but get a manicure, a pedicure, a new hat, new shoes.....You get the idea.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ice Tea Time

Aah, Bliss!  After some truly murderously hot days, the wind came up, the rain came down and it has been raining off and on for 3 days.  We really needed both the cool and the rain.  I don't think our cats would agree with either statement, so they go out and come in soaked, to drag their cold, wet tails across my ankles.

Back when it was hot, I had some of the Kangaita tea left over and so I iced it.  It was a bit strong for me, so I diluted it a little.  I don't think it does very well as ice tea - it loses all it's lovely nuances and becomes just "tea, tea", which is the family designation for ordinary tea. It is much too nice a tea to do that with it.  I actually prefer green ice tea.  It seems to hold on to nuance, delicacy and flavor better than many black teas.

There are at least three ways to make ice tea.  My favorite is to put a somewhat strong amount of tea in a tea sock, in a jug, fill the jug with cold water, cover with plastic wrap and bung it into the fridge.  For green tea, I let it go 5-6 hours, for black tea, it can go overnight. There is the sun tea method, where you put your tea in a glass container and set it in the sun all day.  I have done this many times, with no ill effects, but I know we are warned not to, lest bacteria invade it and make us sick.  I have not personally heard of this happening.  I don't usually do it because my cats would knock it over.

Last, but not least is the old brew a pot of strong tea method.  This is good when you want some ice tea right away.  I just make a regular pot, because I like my ice tea weak.  There are also a multitude of ice tea makers on the market and I confess to being attracted to them.  However, they are relatively expensive and refrigerator space and sunshine are not, so I will content myself with what I have.

I take part in a tea swap and I got the cutest  tea gadget, ideal for gardeners - a potted plant tea infuser.  The plant part comes out of the pot and has an infuser attached.  When you are done brewing your tea, you put it back in the pot.  It is made from food grade silicone rubber.  I am going to try it right now and see how it affects the taste.  I am going to use my SD Bell tea, as I know what that tastes like. 

Well, I think there is a faint, very faint taste of something like rubber and I think the tea is a bit weak.  But I am unused to making tea by the cup and if I do, I usually use a tea sock, so the tea has lots of room to open up.  But it is cute.

Yay, that blasted bully-boy blue jay got his comeuppance this morning!  He was trying his usual land on another bird trick, which he uses to intimidate smaller birds at the feeders, but the hairy woodpecker, though smaller, has a fierce, long, sharp beak,and he just pecked him several times and that ended that.  Ha ha, bully bird!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hoorah For Kenyan Tea

Memorial Day is coming and the ads are full of specials for grilling and picnicking.  But I am more reminded of the deeper meaning of the day.  It was set aside to remember all those soldiers who gave their lives  for our country, in one of our many, many wars.  I am firmly anti-war, but ...  The fact is many men and women have gone to war and paid horrific prices for the rest of us.  So let us remember them and say thank you.

Memorial Day is also a day to remember family and friends who have gone before us.  I remember going with each of my grandmothers to decorate family graves.  I'm not sure I understand the point of it, but I loved the stories that were told about the 2 sisters who married 2 brothers, about the family friend my great grandmother was named for, the baby boy who died at birth and the baby left behind in a New Jersey cemetery.  There were the graves with odd headstones, and the ones where a whole family was wiped out in a diphtheria epidemic, and that of the many greats-grandfather who lived to be 91 and had 127 grandchildren when he died!  There were sad tales and funny tales, but they wove my family into my heart and made them real.

I hope your families are very real and precious and that you have someone to tell you their stories and that you, in turn, tell the next generation those same stories.  Plant some rosemary for remembrance.  I have some thyme from the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried - the whole place is covered with it and it smells wonderful when one walks on it.

I lift my cup today to soldiers and families and friends - may we all grow in love.  I am having some Kenyan tea from Camellia Sinensis Maison de The in Quebec, Canada, .  It is part of a tea swap.  It is called Kangaita and is both organic and fair trade.  In the packet it smells wonderful, with a deep winey aroma.  The medium sized leaves are very dark, but there is a lot of gold dust on the inner surfaces of the packet.  I am brewing it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water.  As it is brewing it has that deep wonderful fresh wash smell, coupled with old wine barrels and dark tree bark.  The liqueur is a very pretty rosy amber.

This smells so good, I can barely wait for it to cool enough to sip.  Oh, my this is wonderful tea.  It is very rich tasting, but has a light body.  There is that woodsy, earthy quality, but it is combined with something very close to caramel.  There is a pleasant, spicy note to the aftertaste.  This really is one of the best teas I have had in a while.  I am especially  pleased because  about 10 years ago, there was some wonderful Kenya tea and then there was a terrible slump and it was just awful, but this is one more proof  that Kenya's orthodox tea can stand with the best.

Wallflowers in Switzerland.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If You Go Out In The Yard Today...

I think our resident "teddy" bears need to have their picnics somewhere other than my backyard.  I get tired of having to repair bird feeders, throwing out suet holders and jumping up and down on the feeder poles to straighten them out.  Besides, they stink and the cats won't even go in the yard for days.  A pox on them!

We've had summer weather for a good bit of April and May, but last night old man winter came back.  The wind died down and the thermometer plummeted to about 25.  I had all my unplanted things inside. I think everything survived.  Someday I am going to learn that May can turn on us gardeners and not be a bit pretty.

I am having another Williamson Tea to comfort myself in the cold.  This one is a High Grown Kenya and 1 pound of the purchase price of the tin goes to relief work in Africa.  I like seeing my money do that kind of work.  Again, these are tea bags.

This is not the best Kenya tea I have had, that honor goes to Royal Tea of Kenya, but it is far from the worst.  There isn't a whole lot to say about it.  It's dark and strong, with woodsy overtone, maybe a touch of cured tobacco.  It plays nicely with milk and on the whole, I like it.  Himself did, as well.

Yet another fancy schmancy altar.  What can I say, I like churches.  The somewhat darker structure on the left wall, would have been the royal box, so they could be separated from the common folk.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Games and Elephants and Tea

If women want to learn to play hard to get, they should watch the birds.  Mourning doves and downy woodpeckers are real experts at the game.  The doves basically ignore their proposed mates who prance and preen and are too, too persistent,while the woodpeckers lead theirs on an aerial ballet.  They are fascinating to watch.  Speaking of persistence, the squirrels, they are indeed persistent when it comes to a full bird feeder.  However, I have discovered that the presence of our largest cat, Orphan Andy, is quite the deterrent, all 20 pounds of him.  His other name is Fatso Catso, so you can imagine his shape.  He just sits on the steps and dares them to approach.  For all his size, he is very fast and an excellent mouser or squirreler.

Ah me, I have fallen into temptation once again.  This time it is Williamson Tea  Elephant Tea Caddies and the teas within.  They are all tea bags, so my standing as a tea snob is called into question, but sometimes a tea bag is all you're up for and Himself simply can't be bothered with making a pot of loose tea,  I think by now Williamson's has about 8 of these delightful caddies and I have 4.

The one I tried today is Quiet Afternoon and comes in a gold elephant, complete with calf and adorned with Christmas hangings, presents and mistletoe, decked out like Indian elephants for a special festival.  I have to say I like the tea.  It is like a mild Breakfast tea.  Has a hint of sweetness, though and perhaps a hint of fruit.  It can stand a drop of cream and doesn't get harsh if you overbrew it.  Altogether a very pleasant experience.

Another Hapsburg Palace in Vienna.  They just loved to build themselves mansions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tea and Roses

You may remember that when I came home from World Tea East last fall, I was raving about some tea ice cream I had, made by Tea-rrific Ice Cream.  They were just awarded all three top awards for ice cream at the Specialty Foods 2013 conference in Connecticut.  They were awarded best New Product at WTE.  Currently they are only available in the NYC metro area and Connecticut (too sad).  We should bug Whole Foods to add them to their repertoire.  Their website is .

Himself took me out for Mother's Day today.  I hate to go on the day, everywhere is so crowded.  So we went to a tea shop I've had my eye on to try - The Rose Garden Tea Room in Endicott, NY.  It was very rosey and decorated with many old advertising prints from women's magazines and the various tea wares they had for sale.  The tea was all Harney's, so of course, it was good.  my husband had Paris, which he loved - anything with vanilla wins for him.  I had something called 1896, which was peachy, with a hint of raspberry and citrus.  The scones were apples walnut and came with jam, raspberries and cream.  I had chicken and biscuits, as I was quite hungry, and it was delicious.  Dessert was a very yummy coconut cake.  Next time, I am going to go for tea.

Spring green has finally climbed all the way to the top of the hills and the flowering trees and lilacs are just bursting with color.  Yesterday I noticed the dogwood is blooming in the woods across the road.  It is so lovely to see it here and there, shining through the trees.  The dawn chorus of the birds is just so loud, but so welcome to hear, after the silence of the winter.

May all you mothers have a lovely day and much super tea.

Another Karl's Kirche shot.  I just love this church.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Violets And Herbs

The violets are blooming.  They are nestled in what passes for our backyard and in some places, there are great drifts of them  Welcome, welcome!  I floated a few in my tea, which I had in my violet patterned teacups.  Now, if  I could only find a violet patterned teapot I really liked!

My tummy troubles have persisted, but I think they may finally be drawing to an end.  I gave up trying to have real tea - it just didn't smell or taste good or be kind to my tum.  What to do instead?

For probably centuries, One of the mainstays of folk medicine for ailing stomachs was peppermint .  It still is today.  It both soothes your innards while the lovely smell tends to pep you up a bit.  Another old stand-by is chamomile.  It is both soothing and calming, very good for relaxing one just before bed time.  The third, which was certainly a stand-by in tropical climes, is ginger.  By the time of the spice trades began coming to the west, I'm sure it caught on quickly.  My chiropractor recommends it for anyone whose stomach is ailing.  I have been giving it to my husband and it has helped him enormously.  I've been drinking it when the thought of food makes me feel nauseated.  It is good for nausea and also good for motion sickness.

I am not much for herbal teas in general, but I do find these to be very useful and they are always in my cupboard.

A massive hinge for a huge gate into a palace in Vienna.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Very First Tea of The Season

Have you ever thought about what a mass of contradictions we humans are?  We must strive to better ourselves, but accept ourselves for who we are.  Take pride in our accomplishments, but be humble.  Work hard, but avoid stress.  Eat food good for us, but it must be good tasting.  Everything comes with a but.  Everything in moderation, but be extravagant sometimes.  Protect your children, but let them go.  It's no wonder we sometimes fall off this tightrope we call life. When that happens, let's just sit down and have a cup of tea. 

And I am having one of this year's specials, which finally arrived through customs - a Pre-QingMing Da Fo (Great Buddha) Long Jing, harvested and hand-pressed on March 10, 2103.  It comes to me via Life In Teacup, which always has wonderful green and Oolong teas  Gingko has some blacks and pu-erhs as well.  I love Long Jing tea, it feels like silk running through your fingers, each leaf or two carefully pressed absolutely flat as tho' you had been ironing and starching them.

They smell like the great green outdoors, with just a hint of toastiness.  I am brewing them in a little glass pot, so I can watch them dance about.  This is called by some "the agony of the leaves", but I prefer to think of it as a creative dance that yields a lovely drink.   It is the soft green of new leaves and smells a bit like fresh asparagus, a common green tea aroma.    That indeed is the predominant taste, but quite refined.  By the time it gets to the back of my mouth, there are lovely floral tastes, which linger on the palate.  This is another of those teas which compels you to keep drinking it because it is so good and you want to see what the next unfolding of flavor is.  A lovely experience.

There's a magnolia down by the river that is just about to burst into bloom.  They are gorgeous and this year, the weather won't freeze them out before we can enjoy them.  I saw some ducks with ducklings yesterday.  The little ones were swimming with one parent while the other kept watch.  The great blue herons have returned to their rookery and are starting to nest.  Soon we'll get to watch them feeding and rearing the young.  By the river, the understory of the woods is getting green and the pink haze of the tree buds is moving right into red.  Up here, we still are in the early bud stage.

While I was in the garden, I noticed the dandelions are budding.  About another week and we'll have yellow flowers scattered across our lawns.  I like them, although I know many prefer perfect green lawns.  I am with the person who said "If it looks good from 50 feet away, it's good enough".  We did have neighbors once who actually vacuumed their lawn.  I surely was a sore trial to them.

An every day emperor's robe.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tarting Up Tea

Today was my first day setting the garden to rights.  I was very pleased to find that almost all of the lavender survived and will be lovely in another month or so.  I also found that as much as I tried, there is still some orange mint in the front bed.  I am going to move it as it simply isn't polite, but likes to take over.  Which leads me to tarting up tea.  I'm not a great fan of flavored teas, but I love to experiment.

If you like lavender you can make some simple syrup flavored with it for your summer iced teas.  Just heat up 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 4 Tablespoons fresh or 2 Tablespoons dried lavender buds, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Cool and strain, keep in the fridge for 2+ weeks.  You can do that with other herbs as well, such as the mints or lemon thyme.  If you don't like sweeteners, just stick a sprig or two in the pot as it brews.  I am very partial to orange mint but this year I am going to try some of the milder ones, like spearmint and apple mint.  I have tried rosemary, but it is much too strong.  Organic dried rosebuds would be lovely as well.

Something else you can do either for a tea punch or ice cubes for ice tea is to freeze edible flowers, either in a ring or the cubes.  Make sure they are edible and unsprayed.  I am thinking of Johnny jump-ups, pansies, violets, rose buds, calendula flowers.  Nasturiums are edible as well, although they can be peppery.  They do come in lovely colors, however.  You could also dry these flowers and add them to your dry tea leaves.

I tried using old tea to cover seeds started in the house - it did not work, they just matted together and grew fuzz.  However, they do well mixed with grass and clover seed to overseed your lawn.  I am determined to have more clover in my lawn.  It smells divine.

I did not try a new tea today.  I was tired and just had my wonderful S. D. Bell's and was so happy to be able to taste it with no other icky tastes!

A longer and somewhat cock-eyed view of Karl's Kirche in Vienna.  It's just such a cool building.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Uh-Oh, I Heard The Siren Song Of The Teapot.

Oh dear, I bought 2 new teapots and 4 cups advertising Lipton Tea, complete with a picture of Sir Thomas looking lordly and a Folger's coffee tin with a Folger's puzzle inside.  The cups and the Folger's go in the advertising collection and the teapots, well, you know where teapots go.  The best one is quite large, with a faux-crackle glaze and pictures of camels and palm trees all around it.  The handle is molded as part of it.  This is a pot to be noticed!  My friends are beginning to wonder if I have become a dormouse and plan to live in one, I have so many.  I comfort myself by knowing some of you have far more than I do.

The lambs are born!  Their busy little tails just flip and flitter as they run and jump and nuzzle their mamas.  The neighbor's cows are out and most of their winter grunge has worn off.  I used to love when our cows were let out for the spring, they would hop and buck and run and just act crazy, so glad they were to be able to smell fresh air and green grass.  Of course, the milk would taste a bit grassy in the spring as well, but the cows were happy.

Today is the 113th annual Convocation of Crows of the Southern Tier.  They have arranged themselves in tiers in our back woods.  I guess this is just the meet and mingle part of the festivities as they are all talking at the top of their lungs.  On the schedule is "Toolmaking to fool humans",  "Stupid things people do"  "Sources for nest making" and that all-important "Best spots for carrion"  I shall be glad when it is over, they are quite noisy.

I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow when I can get back to tea tasting.  I am well and I thank you all for your kind words. Coffee manages to overcome the medicine taste, but it came through in the tea and made a lovely drink unpleasant.

Oh dear, I am as bad about plants as I am about tea pots.  Our first seasonal garden center opened today and there I was, wallowing in all the smells and the glory of flowers.  Teapot designers have gotten stuck on some flowers, I wish they would go to a nursery and expand their repertoire.  I would love one with marigolds or edelweiss or some of the very delicate blooms I saw today.  I did buy an edelweiss again and maybe this time I can grow one.  I never have any good luck, but they call to my Swiss heritage.

Yet another Viennese doorway, this one to Karl's Kirche.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

I'm sorry, tea friends, to not be posting, but I have to take a nasty medicine for my infection and it makes my mouth and everything I eat taste disgusting.  And it also upsets my stomach - which is worse,  the disease or the cure?  However, tomorrow is the last day,  Hooray!

Okay!  I will now say Spring has officially reached the Owego Alps.  The bears are out of hibernation, proved by their night-time raid of the neighborhood suet feeders and I have flowers blooming - the tiny blue chiondoxa and one lone, bright daffodil.  Down by the river, forsythia are blooming and they have a host of daffodils, tulips and crocus.  The willows are definitely yellow and the maples are bursting their buds.  So now we can relax and sit back and enjoy! enjoy!  enjoy!  Then we can work, work, work to clean up and plant and do all those things gardeners are just raring to do.

But wait!  We had SNOW last night.  Really, enough is enough.

I was very taken with European doorways.  This one is the rear door to the guest quarters of the Belvedere Place in Vienna, Austria.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tea, Tomatoes and Critters

I am having one of Siam Tee's Oolongs today. It is Chaa Nang Ngam - DMS Beauty Oolong.  The leaves are tightly wrapped in little balls.  The packet has a dusty floral smell, with a hint of sharp library paste.  I love the packets these come in - vacuum shrunk metallic, with a lovely picture on the front.  This one is basically pink with a pretty woman on the front.

First, I rinsed it for a few seconds and then brewed it about a minute - not too impressive, yet.  A nice floral aroma, and a somewhat slight floral taste.  The leaves are barley unfurled.

Second wash, the aroma has shifted to a tart, almost unpleasant one, reminiscent of black currants.  About 3/4ths of the leaves are unfurled.  There is a somewhat sharp flavor as well. I let this second infusion go too long.  I'll try again tomorrow when I will have more time.  I am sorry I tried this today, as I am not patient.  I really didn't give it a good test.

There are more signs of Spring - my heart rejoices with each and every one.  The tiny white flowers of rock cress are blooming and in the woods, the small oven bird is calling in a very loud voice, "teacher, teacher, teacher".  The woods below us are really flaunting the red of new buds and hooray, a lot of bulbs are poking up their heads, especially the little scilla, which are real favorites of mine.  Sadly, the less attractive features are here as well, including a front yard barely above the water line and those pesky deer, who are getting redder by the day,  eating my day lily leaves.  I put this really noxious spray on them and perhaps it will help.

The birds are multiplying like crazy, today there were all our woodpeckers, the goldfinches, a cardinal, the grackles, blue birds, a white breasted nuthatch, a tufted titmouse and a huge! crow.The squirrels are out running around.  I feed them peanuts, but there is one golden eared one who absolutely has to raid the bird feeder.  He is not high on my popularity list.

Last night I went to a really interesting demo on grafting tomatoes.  It's really quite easy and the success rate is high.  The grafted ones are more disease resistant, produce more fruit over a longer period of time.  I have two itty bitty ones and we'll see how they do.  I was surprised to be told that any day it is over 50 I should put them out.  We'll see about that as well.  Oh, I am just so HAPPY that spring is coming on.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Let's Lift A Cup To The Spring Peepers!

Today is a lovely spring day, sun shining, birds singing and Ta Da! the peepers are peeping.  They started very faintly last Thursday and they are not yet at full crescendo, but they are getting there.  They are a full month later than last year.  Do you know what peepers are?  They are a very small male frog that makes a lot of noise trying to attract a mate.  They are rated on their "singing" ability.  I wish them luck.  This will last about 2 weeks.  It is a definitive sign of spring and an indication that we have healthy wetlands here.

Noise wise, this is supposed to be the year for the 17 year cicadas to emerge, find a mate and then go underground again.  I know they are well thought of in Chinese culture, but I hate them.  They are totally ugly and make a terrible noise, far louder and harsher than the peepers.  Fortunately, they will not last long, either, but while they are here, being outside will be a trial.

Guess what?  Since I was in the hospital for 2.5 days I did some research on the availability and quality of tea.  Don't, unless your taste buds have died, bother drinking it.  It is for sure, tea bags, and I think they are saved from WWII.  The water is luke warm and if you are really lucky, it will be served in a cup that still tastes like coffee.  The coffee, while marginal, is a much better bet.  The best, of course, should you be so stuck, is to have a visitor bring you in the good stuff,  made with loose leaves and the right temperature of water.  If not, don't say I didn't warn you should you decide to opt for tea.

Speaking of loose leaves, I know some people think that insisting on them is snobbish.   My  feeling is why waste your money on something that's not good when for less money, you can have the best?  I have drunk a lot of tea, and I have time and again found that loose leaf is better and cheaper  (next time you buy tea bags, pay attention to how many ounces you have and then compare that to $10 for 4 ounces of good tea).  I do admit to using tea bags when lazy, but they are PG Tips which I think are quite decent for tea bags.  Typhoo are another that are decent, as well.  The only kind of tea bag tea that I really think is okay is herbal and I confess to a love of lemon herbals.  So I guess I am a tea snob.  And proud of it.  I have no shame in this regard.

I have a gut infection, so I will not be drinking much tea - only herbals and nothing I have not reviewed before.  I may yak about other stuff, however.  You can't really silence someone as opinionated as me.  I am also plowing my way through a book about tea and I may comment on that.

This is the very lovely ceiling of a church near the Rhine, in Germany, between Koln and Frankfurt.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Sip on the Wild Side

Korean tea is very slowly making its way into the American market.  For one thing, there isn't a great deal of it and it tends to be expensive.  Koreans don't drink a lot of tea.  They generally drink coffee or "teas" made from barley, corn, fruit and various other herbs and trees.  I got my Wild Pear Tea from a booth at World Tea East.  The booth had been hurriedly put together and was manned by folks whose command of English was minimal.  I don't know the name of the company but here is the website.  It is in Korean with a few English words here and there.

The dry tisane smelled of dried pears and appeared to just be small pellets of pear, very dry and very hard.  I brewed it for about 10 minutes with boiling water.  There wasn't much aroma.  I chewed some of the  by now soft pellets and they tasted like pear and were very grainy, as pears are.  I have to say the resulting brew didn't taste like much except slightly sweet hot water.  Perhaps I didn't use enough.  When my Korean friend, Mae, returns from Washington, I'll ask her how to make it and get back to you.

Hooray, today is sunny, only coolish, and the wind has stopped blowing.  It's been a gale around here for about 5 days and quite often you'd hear a crash as an old tree or limb bit the dust.  Speaking of trees. did you ever wonder why their branches grow the way they do?  In the winter, I am often looking at them and wondering why they twist and turn so much, especially trees that are older and have clearly been by themselves, without interference from others.

Some of the bulbs I planted last fall are finally poking up their noses.  I was wondering if they all died.  They aren't far enough in the ground, but we only have 3 inches - really, I am not exaggerating- of so-called topsoil over gravel and there's a severe upper limit to how much digging out of gravel we'll do.

A simple gold candle holder, about 5 feet tall.  Where else, Vienna.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

At Tea With Vietnam

I put an order in to Upton's Teas because they had so many new ones to try.  This particular one is from Vietnam, a black tea, Shan Tuyet,  which means Mountain Tea, and comes from ancient trees in the Northern Highlands, rather than in the Mekong Delta region.  Most Vietnamese tea is grown and processed by small farmers, who often use old laundry driers to cure their tea.

The dry tea has an odd aroma that I can't put my finger on.  It is smokey, woodsy, earthy, mushroomy, but it isn't, if you can understand that.  It is black with some golden tan tips included. The suggested brewing is 5 minutes with boiling water, so I do.  The brewed tea throws in maybe roasted or grilled green beans or grilled summer squash.  See why I can't put my finger on it?

The brewed tea is a yellowed amber and tastes a bit like a Lapsang Souchong.  But it also tastes of tree bark and the vegetables, with a hint of chocolate in the back.  It has a good clean feel, with a short lingering time, which is where the chocolate hint comes in. However, this is not a tea for sweets.  This is a hearty breakfast or roast beef accompaniment.  I, who always put milk in my black tea, didn't.  I don't think it would go.  I will probably try some when my cup is almost gone.  At first I didn't like the tea, but by the bottom of the cup, I was a convert.  This quite good and intriguing.

The entance to the Hapsburg Place in the middle of Vienna

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Bit of Gothic

The woods are dark and mysterious this morning, calling to mind gothic novels with their forbidding air of mystery, the mist moving as if it were the tatters of ghostly apparel. The trees bend in the wind, the birds are still, hunched in the rain that drops and slides over  every tree and plant.

Perhaps this is a good day for a somewhat romantic tea, as most gothic novels I read in my misspent youth were romances with a big helping of mystery.  They were so predictable.  As soon as the handsome laird showed up and treated the heroine miserably you knew he was "The One" she would spend the next 150 pages trying to engage.  Meanwhile, there was a gloomy manor, a scary cellar and surely, something she would need to be rescued from.

So, my tea today is SD Bell's China Raspberry from Best International Tea.  When I opened the packet, it smelled just like a box of raspberry creme chocolates, rich, creamy, oozy.  The dry leaves are pretty standard, quite black with some small white bits that may be flowers.  There is nothing on the label to indicate anything about it.  As I brewed it (3.5 minutes, 212 degree water)  it began to remind me of church basements when the women of the church were preparing a big dinner - warm and comforting, filled with memories of good people and good food.  There wasn't much raspberry scent at first, but as it cooled enough for me to sip it, more came out.

This is more a raspberry cream tea than a straight raspberry.  It's good, but it isn't to my taste.  Milk doesn't seem to do anything for it, in fact, it seems to overwhelm it.  If you like raspberry cream, by all means try it.  I would advice a heaping spoon and a 3 minute brew.

The nice folk at Best sent me some candy bars to try.  So far, I have only had the milk chocolate with almonds.  It's wonderful.  Seems to have just a tad of sea salt in it as well, which I really like.  It is very creamy, with slivers of almond running through.

There are the horses in action on the Vienna streets.  Much of Vienna is quite charming and very elegant, with wonderful food.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Signs of Spring

Those who know more than I about weather and plants and such things, say this long slow start to Spring is good for all the growers and I will take their word for it.  I am just impatient and I do know they're right.

On my travels, I see that the willows and alders are yellowing, a sure sign of our best season.  Everyday, there are more and more little bits of green sticking up out of the cold, cold earth and I must fight with myself not to go out and scrape away the detritus that is protecting them.  The ducks are returning to our ponds, the turtle doves are mating and the geese are flying overhead in great numbers.  The grass is even just barely green and it must be good - every morning and evening our little herd of 9 deer grazes eastward and then westward on it.  If only they could be trained to eat weeds!  Up here in the Owego Alps, we have no buds on the trees, but down in the valley, by the river, they are suddenly discernible.

Oh drat, another tea I am not impressed by.  Another sample from World Tea East, which will be in Atlanta this year.  This is a Jasmine Green sample from the Lotus Leaf Artisan Tea Collection,   It is a teabag, of the pyramid nylon type.  I brewed it with water about 170 degrees for about 2 minutes.  At first it had a rather peculiar aroma, reminiscent of seaweed, but with no hint of jasmine.  I am sorry to say it did not taste very good.  I don't think the tea type and the jasmine went well together.  It could also be my fault, for waiting so long to try it, even though I did have it sealed up, even beyond their individual wrapper.  I have some other samples I got from them, so I'll try some others.

All decked out for a Sunday Stroll in Vienna!  Actually, I think these toppers are to keep flies away from eyes and ears.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Snails For Tea

Today's tea is Upton's "Season's Pick" Yunnan ZY07  Black Snail.  When I opened the packet, I was greeted with a winey, moist earth aroma, with an understory of tangy floral.  Already I am intrigued.  The little tightly rolled almost balls of greenish black tea resemble the "snail" Oolongs, but are not as carefully and tightly rolled.  They seem a good transition into Spring teas, and the smell is intriguing.

I brewed the tea for 4 1/2 minutes, with boiling water.  The result is a very dark liqueur and even with the extended time, many of the fairly large leaves have not unfurled, so I brewed them again, this time for 51/2 minutes.  We'll see how it is.  As it brewed, the first lot smelled wonderfully fresh, still with that sweet undertone.  The tea is a tad sweet, tasting somewhat spicey and nutty and of wet bark in the spring.  It takes milk really well, which rounded off some of the tannic edges.  Four minutes and a little less tea would have made this ideal.  The second wash is nowhere near as good as the first, but it will water plants just fine.

The Season's Pick teas are ones that Upton's packages for retail.  Bigger packages mean a somewhat lower price.  This one for which I would gladly pay full price.

Today is Maundy Thursday in the Western Christian world.  It is part of Holy Week, the time from Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem through his "trial", crucifixtion and resurrection, celebrated on Easter day.  This will be my last post until Monday, as I spend much of this time in prayer, meditation and worship.  I hope that all of you will have a blessed and meaningful Easter and that you will also experience your own resurrection and re-birth.

This is the main altar in the Hapsburg Chapel in Vienna, Austria

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh, I'm Hap-Hap-Happy

Today is a happy tea day - I got my order of S.D. Bell's Breakfast Tea from Best International Tea, along with some samples and a big box of samples from Life in Teacup.  Oh happy da-ay.  Lots of exciting things to try.

I had a small treat today I've not had before.  I am a big fan of baklava.  Today I had some made with chocolate.  The phyllo sheets were quite dark with cocoa and I think there was some cinnamon in it as well.  It was Dee-lish!  What's not to like - honey, butter, nuts, chocolate, all in one bite.  Another of my favorite Middle Eastern pastries is borecki, which I probably didn't spell right.  Think of a big shredded wheat bisquit taken apart and "glorified" with some pastry cream, some nuts, some honey syrup.  Yum.  All would go very well with some good solid Breakfast Tea, to off set the sweetness.

Yellow tea is a fairly new offering on the American market.  As far as I know, it is only made in China, not much is made and very little gets exported.  I have some Ancient Yellow Buds from Rishi Tea and I must say, I like this lovely delicate tea.  The ancient refers to the trees it comes from.  The dry tea is not really yellow, just faintly so over a gray to beige coloring of the buds, which are long and slender.  It is processed somewhat simlarly to green tea, but it is piled up for a day or two, so the buds dry a little and yellow from lack of sun, much as that pile of weeds does if you don't pitch them right away.   

I brewed it for 2 minutes with 180 degree water.  The aroma is a quiet mix of lemon and flowers.  The flavor has a bit of tang, but nowhere near anything called citrus.  There is a hint of flowers, a hint of bright clean straw and something that speaks of spring.  It's not quite warm, but carries a bit of cold lingering in the shadows.  Because these are buds, do not expect unfurling - it won't happen.  It is well worth at least trying, even if you don't want to run the expense of a big order.

A gold Bible cover.  Those Hapsburgs lived very well.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons...Make Tea

Oh dear.  Our church has been trying pretty successfully to become more contemporary in it's worship.  This means an increasing use of electronics.  Wouldn't you know, today when much was planned, much went wrong, from the internet refusing to function, to sick performers to.... you name it, it went wrong.  But folks trooped on and we all could see the lesson about who's really in charge.  Sometimes you just need to grin and bear it and tell the troopers thanks for being so willing to step up and carry on.

Today's tea has little to do with that, but it is a nod towards spring.  The weatherman says it will be warmer this week, so I am drinking some green tea today in the hopes of encouraging it.  It is Lemon Myrtle Green Tea from Foxfire Teas.  It contains organic lemon grass, lemon myrtle, natural rose oil and green tea.  The packet smells heavenly, of roses and lemons.  I brewed it for 4 minutes with 180 degree water.  The aroma was almost identical to the packet, rosey lemons.  It brews up a bright, soft orange, and tastes wonderful, of a soft, soft, gentle lemon with just the right touch of rose to round it off.  Very well done.

Lest you think I have lost my curmudgeonly streak - although this has a lovely taste and I really like it - where's the tea?  No taste of tea.  Ah well, picky, picky.

If you wanted to make this yourself,  lemon myrtle can be purchased from herb sellers and rose essential oils can be as well.  You can easily grow lemon grass in your home (if your cat doesn't eat it all).  Being lazy, I'll just buy the tea.  Lemon grass can also be used in cooking, especially Asian dishes.  If you can find some with roots still attached in an Asian store, grab them and plant them in a biggish pot, keeping it well-watered and sunned.

This is a canyon in the middle of Sorrento, Italy.  Under all that greenery are ancient, abandoned houses. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Best Tea

Perhaps you have seen an ad for S.D. Bell's Tea in one of the tea magazines.  Robert Milo had been a tea drinker for over 40 years, but when a friend gifted him with some of Bell's tea, he liked it so much he became their exclusive US importer.  The website is and obviously, he thinks that's just what this is, the best tea.  The web site opens with a plain black tea, but there are many others to choose from, in both leaf and bag.

My sample is just a tea bag, one of those round ones, the plain black tea, which really is Breakfast Tea.  I brewed it with boiling water for about 2 minutes and my, how dark it is!  It is very hearty, very much in the British style, ready to accept and thrive on milk and sugar.  It quite takes me right back to the summer I worked in England and would run to the break room so I could get a "cuppa" without sugar.  It really is very, very good.  It's the tea that saw countless English, Scots, Irish and Welsh folks through the wars and sustained them every day.  It is full-bodied, flavorful and doesn't fall over into being more tannic than wanted.   I think I just found my new breakfast tea.  Best of all, it's on sale at the moment  and they also have chocolates!  Two favorite foods, you can't go wrong.  Indeed, I have to agree with Rob Milo, it's the BEST.

We are ever so cautiously approaching Spring.  The sune shines, a minute amount of snow falls, the wind comes up, the sun shines, it's warm, it's cold.  March came in somewhat lamb-like, but it is roaring out.  Even so, when I see those little green leaves, my heart leaps in joy!

Italian fishmongers on one of the market streets.  As one who absolutely detests fish, not a job for me.  I like the aprons, however.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Doesn't Always Mean Good

A small square in Sorrento, Italy.  Looks nicely exotic, doesn't it?

The tea industry is forever trying to capture new customers.  Of course they need to, just as any business must.  I am trying one of their new ideas that I picked up at World Tea East last fall.  It is a packet of  liquid tea concentrate from The Asian Sun Tea Company .  This particular one is decaf green with raspberry flavoring and sweetener added.  There's about a teaspoon of concentrate in the packet and comes out a deep red-amber.  it doesn't smell like raspberries, or tea.  I pour on hot water and now have kind of a pinky orange brew that smells vaguely fruity.

Oh my, this is very sweet.  Especially for one who doesn't use any sweetener in her tea.  The concentrate is also  for iced tea, so maybe it is more sweet for that reason.  However, it doesn't taste like anything, neither raspberry, nor tea and only very mildly of perhaps fruity.  I have to say, why would you bother to drink it?

I noticed yesterday that the hollyhocks by the front porch are putting out very tiny leaves.  They had a lot of seedlings last fall, but it was so crazy, weather-wise, that I am not sure if any survived.  They are the black hollyhocks and a nice foil for the pink and yellow day lilies in front of them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

As Captain Jean-Luc Pickard Would Say

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.  Since I am living in the 21st century instead of his, I have had to use a tea pot, water and tea leaves, instead of a replicator, although the tea was sent by Think Geek.  The dry tea has a heavy bergamot aroma, that I tend to associate with Russian blends.  There are some blue flower petals and what appears to be orange peel.  Bergamot is an oil made from the rind of  bergamot oranges, once grown in Asia, now, for the tea market, pretty much grown in Southern Italy.  I brewed the tea for 3.33 minutes with boiling water.

As it brewed the aroma was much, much lighter than I expected, almost lemony.  The liqueur was a fairly light amber.  I'm not sure about the taste.  There is definitely something more than the usual bergamot to it.  It remind's me of St. Isaac's Blend, which has orange, lemon and grapefruit in it.  There is a small hint of flowers.  I don't really think this is what I would call Earl Grey, but I like it and find it quite refreshing.  I think it would make an excellent ice tea.

 Lest I get too excited about the snow being gone, Ma Nature gave us 8  inches last night.  Today we had something like freezing rain after almost a full day of sun, glorious sun.  However, on the green side, there are a few leaves of a day lily poking up.

This is a narrow side street in Sorrento, Italy.  The little tree in a pot in the center is a lemon tree.  they are all over the streets, even growing up through restaurants.