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.