Life of a Tea Drinker, Chapter VIX

Chapter, the Ninth

In which the author relishes the change in season and body, the moisture in the air and her constant need for hydration…

It’s the first day of Autumn. What a wonderful season. Jackets, socks, cardigans, tummy panels. OK, that last one is not an annual addition to my Fall fashion. I have to say, the extra layer of support that sweated me over the summer is now a welcome shield between my stretched belly skin and the chill of the morning air.

I walked out the door and down the front steps into a cloud this morning. A soft fog had settled on the city. The early chill was a soothing contrast to my personal space heater strapped to my front. No, I can’t bend in the middle. Yes, my toes are no longer visible from a standing position. (I’m a little bigger than the last photo shared here.) But I know I won’t freeze in the coming months. Thanks, Oliver.

The extra moisture today is only helping my skin. I’ve been trying to moisturize myself into the prevention of stretch marks. So far, so good. I think the power of positive thinking is also on my side. (Hydration applies inside and out. Even though I’m looking forward to a hot cuppa, I can’t get enough water today!)

Autumn is a great time for tea drinkers. We’ve been guzzling iced tea all summer (sorry to offend, Republic of Tea, but sometimes “sip by sip” just doesn’t compare to thirst-quenching “gulp by gulp”). Now we’re ready for our spiced hot tea, our smoky toasted tea, our classic hot black varieties. We dig in the back of the pantry shelf for those beloved flavors that tingled our senses last year. It is the season of tea!

Although I’m at work today, I look forward to a steaming cup of English Breakfast to kick off the new season. Maybe tonight will reveal the first cinnamon-inspired cup of Autumn. So many endless possiblities, so much to celebrate.

Is there any better way to welcome autumn while at work?

Have a favorite Fall tea? Share in the comments!

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Tea Tips

St. Louis’ local food magazine, Sauce, has an interesting article about brewing and enjoying iced tea (http://www.saucemagazine.com/section/1). The London Tea Room (http://thelondontearoom.com/) is featured in the article, and I must say, it’s a fun place. If you live in St. Louis, or you’re ever passing through, it’s a must-visit shop for any tea drinker.

Browse through their second list of tips and products (http://www.saucemagazine.com/slide/iced-tea#slide=1). Personally, the William-Sonoma 2-inch ice cube trays are going on my Christmas list.

 
Have any iced tea tips of your own? Or any hot tea brewing tips? We’re coming up on fall. Feel free to share.
 
(I apologize that my link function isn’t working right now, hence the long URLs.)

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Life of a Tea Drinker, Chapter VIII

Chapter the Eighth

In which the author takes time to reflect on the busyness of life, the blessings of life, and the preoccupations of life…

If you follow this blog, you may have noticed the lack of tea reviews lately. The truth is I haven’t been drinking a lot of tea. (Gasp!)

Honestly, most of my days are spent at work, driving to and from work, going to the grocery store (300 extra calories/day translates to extra grocery runs), carrying grocery bags up our unfortunate flight of concrete steps out front, plopping myself down in front of the tube, spending time with my husband, researching baby registry lists, practicing my mothering instincts on the cat (giving him milk from my hand at breakfast–so spoiled), etc., etc.

6 months!

I have been drinking a LOT of water and lemonade. Water is being guzzled per my doctor’s instructions. My thirst has increased, so that helps me maintain my fluid intake. I’ve also noticed that certain things I’ve never cared for before have become completely delicious to me during pregnancy. Lemonade is one of these things.

If we’re eating out, I’ll order lemonade. If we’re staying in, I’ll buy lemonade at the store. When we were in Portland this Spring, we went to an outdoor market and tried the best orange lemonade I’ve ever had. Ever since then, Mike and I have been trying to recreate this delicacy with various mixtures of orange juice and lemonade. It never tasted like our rare find from the Portland market. Oh well. (If you have a nice orange lemonade recipe, please share it in the comments.)

Even though I’ve been telling myself not to indulge in expensive brands that ultimately increase the expectations of my standard of living, I am in love with Oberweis’ lemonade. At first, I thought this was an expensive, on-a-whim purchase that required a $1.50 deposit for the glass bottle. Now, on my second bottle, the extra charge has zeroed out and the price for good lemonade is more reasonable. Will I have the inclination (or the funds) to keep up this habit after Oliver is born? Maybe not. But right now, it’s deliciously fun.

There’s also the added environmental advantage of a glass, reusable bottle. It feels good to return the bottle and take home a “new” one that’s a little worn from use.

I’ve been tempted to sign up for their dairy delivery service (how amazing would that be!), but at $3 extra charge for delivery, I might as well drive to our very conveniently located grocery store for my milk and future (cheap) lemonade purchases with baby in tow.

Speaking of which, Mike and I recently tried on different types of baby carriers at a local store. And by “tried on” I mean fashion show. It was hilarious. I was surprised by how not silly Mike looked in these baby carriers. “Baby wearing” agrees with him.

Back to more focused ramblings…

When I’m not worrying about stuff that needs to get done, I’m too busy worrying about myself to write a tea review. Back pain has been creeping into this whole wonderful pregnancy experience. It hasn’t been too bad yet. Usually I just get a little pain in the evenings, so I take Tylenol and turn on the heating pad. This seems to help. However, some days (dark days), the pain starts early. Sunday, I started feeling back pain as soon as we got to church. This throws off the mood of the entire day. (Feel free to leave any back pain remedies in the comments as well.)

When days like this hit, it’s definitely important to remember that I have an excellent husband who is trying very hard to take care of his pregnant, sometimes irrational, wife. We had a lazy Saturday (by lazy I mean he slept in, I lounged around, and he ended up doing yard work outside–my increasing lack of bending ability and the uncomfortable heat kept me inside). It was the follow-up to a date night Friday, in which we looked around for a restaurant we hadn’t been to since we were dating, but couldn’t remember the name. When we found it, we realized the food wasn’t that great and the bill was expensive, but it was fun to get out, regardless. Spending time with my husband makes me appreciate the struggles of our ever-changing life for what they are: opportunities to grow our marriage, and preparation for this bundle of joy I can’t wait to meet.

A fun tidbit I’ve noticed in Mike through the pregnancy so far: My extra calories is throwing him off. He recently informed me that he usually eats about 20% more than I do, but now that I’m eating for two, an extra 20% on top of that is overeating for him. It could be the calorie confusion, or it could be seeing his wife blow up like a balloon, but he’s decided he needs to cut back and exercise more. I’m right there with him on that one! I even ordered a pregnancy workout video with my Amazon points. Maybe I’ll blog about this later…

I planned to post an iced tea blind taste test with several volunteers, perfect for summer. I also have some nice herbal tea on the shelf that I haven’t had a chance to blog about. With September upon us, hopefully you’ll see one or both of those in the coming weeks, but don’t hold your breath. As my circumference expands, I find myself more inclined to dream up blog posts than actually write them.

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Orphan Elephants

I had to share this National Geographic photo essay about orphan elephants in a nursery in Kenya. The captions describe the good and the ugly that comes with the business of rescuing baby elephants from poachers. Most of the photos are fun. I especially like the first one of the baby elephant wearing a custom-made raincoat.

I’d love to be able to work with animals someday. When I was in college, my first major was photojournalism. My dream was to join National Geographic, travel the world, and document everything in photos. The preliminary journalism classes scared me off, but English literature was really a better fit for me. I can’t imagine being anywhere else but home right now, waiting for little Oliver to arrive.

An interesting fact from the photo essay: orphan elephants who grow up in the nursery and are later released into the wild will come back to the nursery if they are injured and need help. They form this unique bond with the caregivers there and know that they can trust them in the future. What an amazing job!

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Hibiscus Sangria Recipe

Recently, I posted a review of Hibiscus Sangria by The Republic of Tea. It was a little difficult to get all the flavors just right in this iced tea, but I found that marinating the strawberries in the tea for a while in the fridge gave it that extra fruity sweetness.

I received an e-mail today from the Republic with a recipe for making Hibiscus Sangria with additional fruit flavors. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would be really good. I figured I’d post the recipe now, so you have a chance to try it yourself.

Ingredients

• 3 ¼ cups ( 26 fl. oz) The Republic of Tea Sangria Hibiscus Tea
• 4 tablespoon The Republic of Tea Simple Syrup.
• Juice of 1 large orange
• Juice of 1 large orange
• Juice of 1 large lemon
• 1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
• 1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
• 2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
• 1 cup (8 fl. oz) club soda

Preparation

• Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda in a large heat resistant punch bowl or serving pitcher
• Mix well and refrigerate overnight.
• Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda.
• Ladle into cups with ice cubes.
(Recipe taken from their Web site here. It also has a link to buy the iced tea bags, if you haven’t tried them yet.)

They used their own brand of simple syrup, but I think you can make your own or use any kind of sweetner you want.

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think. I’ll update when I’ve had a chance to try it.

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Simple Things

Decaffeinated Ceylon
by Harney & Sons
(Available by order from their Web site. Unless you happen to be lucky enough to live near one of their East Coast tea rooms. In that case, step 1 is to fly to St. Louis and pick up your favorite tea blogger on your way.)

Simple things. Isn’t that a Christmas song? Maybe it’s Favorite Things. And that’s not a Christmas song. (Although, I was forced to sing it in my high school Spanish class at a nursing home at Christmastime…in Spanish. An example of the kind of humiliation we’re subjected to as minors, because they know they can’t subject adults to that level of mortification. We wouldn’t stand for it. Probably because we’re still haunted by memories.)

I’ve been experiencing “pregnancy brain” this morning (hence, the Simple Things/Favorite Things intro). It’s one of those slow Saturday mornings, just me and the cat while Mike sleeps. We don’t have anything going on until this evening. A gathering for which I will make either apricot oat bars or chocolate chip cookies (with vanilla pudding mix). I think I know which treat would be more nutritious, and I think I know which treat Mike would prefer.

It’s one of those mornings in which I wander from room to room deciding what I’m going to do with my morning hours. Find something to read for my devotional, write a tea blog post, feed the cat, look for the camera–Oh right! That’s why I came in this room! It happens to senile people and pregnant women. At least it’s not as bad as taking Mike’s keys (and my keys) to work with me. I got a call from my poor, confused husband wondering how he was supposed to drive to work. I knew then, this gestational period was going to be an adventure.

Like just now, when I put my hand out to grab the mouse, but my laptop has a finger pad. Sigh.

Enough about my brain. On to better and tastier things. Simple, but good things.

A giant mug of hot, black tea is probably one of the most comforting things on this earth. The rich aroma of the leaves as they steep, the full-bodied sweet-bitter delight that hugs your tongue. It’s better than comfort food. It is comfort food.

This morning, I chose Harney & Sons Decaffeinated Ceylon. I have a big box of pyramid bags that are perfect for grabbing a morning cup, without any fuss or prep.

This box is actually on sale as of today at harney.com. While you’re there, you can pick up some of their featured iced tea…and let me know how you liked it. I’m anxious to try it. If you like fast, one-cup iced tea on the run, Twinings has a nice line of cold-brew iced tea bags. You just put a tea bag in your glass, fill it with room temperature water, let it steep a few minutes, and add ice. No boiling necessary. Very clever.

Over at Harney & Sons, you can also get decaf Assam. Both Ceylon and Assam are excellent black teas.

The first thing I do before I steep is bring the tea bag or spoonful of leaves to my nose and breath deeply. It’s the proper way to enjoy a hot cuppa, akin to sniffing the cork from a bottle of wine. Or like Steve Martin asking Kermit the Frog if he’d like to “smell the bottle cap” in the Muppet Movie. (This is where the post goes downhill. Feel free to take the above information and run.) My brother, Jason (lovingly called Goober–he lovingly calls me Aypooh), should be quoting this line aloud as he reads this.

Also on this Saturday morning–it’s getting darker…I sense some much-needed rain!–I chose an informal cup for my delicious black tea: my disappearing T.A.R.D.I.S. mug. Any Doctor Who fans? No? Good. Then you won’t judge me too harshly. Just skip past this series of photos and be confused. It’s a silly sci-fi fan thing. I’ve been hopelessly sucked into the world of British film and television.

T.A.R.D.I.S. mug. Giant enough for big gulps of black tea. Here, we see an empty hole in space. What might appear here, I wonder?

Oh, look. There's the T.A.R.D.I.S. sitting in the middle of a London street.

I pour my hot water over the tea bag and...wait! Where did it go?

Is this killing you yet?

Look up there! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a satellite. (We can't even see up there, but just pretend.) No! It's the T.A.R.D.I.S. back in space!

If you’d like to know more about Doctor Who and his traveling spaceship/time machine that resembles an old British police call box, you can Google it. But I realize you’re frightened beyond words by the geekiness that is free-flowing from this post today.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, full of simple things, or favorite things…or Christmas songs. And lots of black tea. Even though it’s decaf, Oliver can’t help dancing a little in my belly.

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Life of a Tea Drinker, Chapter VII

Chapter the Seventh
*Special Edition*

Image from babytidings.com

We had an ultrasound on Friday. (When I say we, I mean Mike and I. I’m not referring to me and the baby in the plural yet.) After they asked us 3 different times if we really wanted to know the sex, and after waiting two-thirds of the way through the ultrasound (measurements, etc.), they finally told us “It’s definitely a baby boy!”

We are both thrilled at the news. Mike is especially thrilled because he’s the one who was hoping for a boy. I would have been fine with either, though I had an inkling it was a boy.

My morning started off with all kinds of silly superstition. The underwear on top was blue, the next one was pink. What did that mean? Should I have shared my suspicions that it was a boy with Mike? Would it have made a difference? Seriously spinning myself in circles until my 1:30 appointment.

What now? A name. I had been making lists (and weeding out the ones that would really be better as future pet names–is this weird??). We had narrowed down the list further to indicate our favorites. There was really one girl name and one boy name that we had settled on. The night before, I asked Mike if we were ready to unveil the name after we found out. It was strange because the boy name was all ready, first and middle chosen and confirmed. The girl name had yet to receive a middle name we both agreed on. Another sign? (Seriously, I was taking the vibes too far.)

We chose the name Oliver Michael. His middle name is for his dad, and we both just really like the first name, and we figured it’s not as common as Michael. (We moved past Mike’s first choice a few months ago, which was Michael Ray Walker III. Sorry honey. I just don’t like duplicate names.)

I would have scanned and posted a new ultrasound picture, but they were so much better last time. Of course, they’re hanging on the fridge, but Oliver kept moving his arm in front of his face in the cool 3D shots. And I realize the “boy shot” would have been a little inappropriate for the World Wide Web.

That’s our news. Stay tuned as we decide on nursery decorations, registry options, and more!

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