2017 Tea Advent Calendar

I enjoyed my tea advent calendar from David’s Teas last year, so I decided to get one again this year. I cheated this year and looked up the flavors that came in it to make sure there weren’t a lot of pu’reh teas, which I discovered I did not like last year. There weren’t, so I decided game on. People seemed to enjoy my thoughts on my tea advent calendar from last year, so I thought I would keep track again this year.

Day 1 – Let It Snow

This was a green tea with lots of fruit and spices. It was good, but sweeter than I prefer my tea to be. The candied pineapple, stevia, and white chocolate made it very sweet and overpowered the green tea itself. I was happy to realize that what I thought were raisins when I opened the tea turned out to be black currants instead. I looked at the ingredient list because I didn’t taste an garbage raisin flavor in the tea. Down with raisins.

Day 2 – Chocolate Macaroon

This was a black tea with chocolate and coconut flavors. I made this running on the door to catch a train, and I’m not sure I steeped it long enough as it tasted kind of weak. I’ll have to see what I think of it when I finish it off at a later date.

Day 3 – Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

This was a fruit infusion with a bunch of fruits and nuts. It was pretty tasty. Though in general I prefer my tea to have actual tea leaves in it.

Day 4 – Organic Silk Dragon Jasmine

This was a jasmine flavored green tea. It was a pretty standard tasting green tea. I enjoyed it.

Day 5 – Glitter and Gold

This was a black tea with lemon peel and cloves and cute little gold sugar gold stars. It was very tasty. I’m a fan of spiced black teas and this one fit the bill nicely.

Day 6 – Organic North African Mint

This was a green tea flavored with mint, but ginger, cardamom, licorice root, fennel, cloves, and black pepper. I am not usually a big fan of mint, but I think all these other flavors helped round it out nicely because I liked this way more than I thought I would. I don’t much care for the licorice or fennel flavors either so apparently putting multiple flavors I don’t like very much all together creates a flavor I do like?

Day 7 – Organic Saigon Chai

I’ve already said black spiced teas are my favorite. That stands for this tea too.

Day 8 – Buddha Blend

This is a mix of green and white teas flavored with hibiscus. It was a really lovely fruity tea. I think it would also make an excellent iced tea.

Day 9 – Forever Nuts

This is the first tea that I recall being a repeat from last year’s calendar. It’s a fruit and nut infusion with apples and almonds flavored with cinnamon. It sort of tastes like drinking a red hot. I do not mind.

Day 10 – Walnut Orange Scone

This was a white tea with walnuts and orange. It mostly tasted liked oranges. I liked it because orange flavored teas are my second favorite after spiced black teas.

Day 11 – Alpine Punch

This is a rooibos tea with coconut, almonds, and a bunch of spices. It didn’t really taste much like coconut to me, but I found it to be a very tasty tea.

Day 12 – Coffee Pu’reh

I skipped drinking day 12’s tea. I do not like coffee, and in doing this advent calendar last year I also discovered that I am not much of a fan of pu’reh teas either. I don’t think putting them together was going to create any kind of winning combination for me, so I decided to give it a pass and not torture myself.

Day 13 – Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai

I thought I would really like this tea. I like chais and I like rooibos, but there something I did not like about it. There was some kind of aftertaste that I did not care for.

Day 14 – Lemon Pound Cake

This tea actually really tasted like drinking a piece of lemon pound cake. It was really tasty, but it’s not something I would make an every day tea. More of a special once in a while tea.

Day 15 – Raspberry Cream Pie

This tea tasted like drinking a piece of raspberry cream pie. Just kidding. I have no idea what a piece of raspberry cream pie tastes like. It did taste like raspberries though. Fruity teas are not my favorite. I didn’t hate it, but it’s definitely not something I would buy for myself.

Day 16 – Sleigh Ride

This was a repeat tea from last year. My review last year was “Another fruit infusion. This one had lots of fruit in it, but one of those fruits was raisins and that’s all I could taste. Why would you put raisins in tea? Why would you put raisins in anything?” I stand by that statement.

Day 17 – Caramel Shortbread

This tasted nothing like caramel shortbread. It didn’t really have much flavor at all. It was mostly like drinking sweet hot water. Thumbs down.

Day 18 – Organic Cream of Earl Grey

Earl Grey is one of my favorite tea flavors, so I was looking forward to this tea. I don’t know what the cream part is based on since the ingredient list was only black tea, marigolds, and cornflowers. I just looked at the David’s Tea description and it claims that vanilla gives it a creamy taste. I thought it gave it an off taste. I’m not sure if it tasted gross to me because it didn’t taste like Earl Grey to me at all or if there was something not right about this tea. At any rate I took 2 sips and then dumped it. 0 stars would not drink again.

Day 19 – Organic the Spice is Right

A green tea flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. I’m not sure I could distinguish it from any other spiced tea, but it was tasty.

Day 20 – Carrot Cupcake

Did this taste like a carrot cupcake? It did not. Did I like it? Yes, I did.

Day 21 – Candy Cane Crush

A black tea with white chocolate and peppermint candy in it. This was okay. I don’t love mint, so this was never going to be my favorite, but I will drink the rest of it.

Day 22 – Hot Chocolate

Actually it turns out hot chocolate was really day 21 and candy cane crush was day 22, but I don’t know how calendars work and drank the candy cane crush a day early so I switched them around. Hot chocolate was a repeat from last year. It’s a black tea with chocolate in it. I’d rather drink plain black tea or actual hot chocolate. The watered down chocolate flavor of this isn’t great.

Day 23 – White Cranberry Bark

This was a tasty tea, though the cranberry did leave a tart flavor in my mouth

Day 24 – Santa’s Secret

Turns out Santa’s secret is that I didn’t drink this tea until December 30. We were out of town on the 24th and I thought it would be a little ridiculous to fly with this tea across the country. It’s another black tea with peppermint in it. It’s a nice tea to end the year with.

 

Perfect Fall Weekends

Given the terrible hurricane that is destroying so many places right now I almost feel a little guilty about how perfect our weather was this past weekend. It was great to take nice long walks outside every day in it. In addition to all the fun activities I had it made for a wonderful weekend indeed.

Friday night we walked over to a little Italian restaurant in our neighborhood that has a nice patio. The weather was great for dining al fresco, so when my husband asked where I wanted to go to dinner that’s where I chose.

Saturday was Hampdenfest, one of the two street festivals that happens in my neighborhood every year. It’s smaller and much more neighborhood based than Honfest. I much prefer it that way. We went out to get something to eat for lunch and ran into a good friend who we hadn’t seen in awhile so we wound up wandering around with her and her friend from out of town, getting drinks, and then heading over to everyone’s favorite activity, the toilet bowl races. I ran into some other friends there. So it was a nice day to spend outside with good friends. Rat Czar was my favorite entry in this year’s toilet bowl races, although I needed to get a closer look inside because I don’t see where the toilet bowl comes into play in this vehicle.

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Sunday continued the theme of good times with good friends. My first stop on Sunday afternoon was at a 1st birthday party where I got to celebrate a little cutie, hang out with friends, and enjoy some of this delicious carrot cake. I even have some leftover cake to enjoy tomorrow. Carrot cake is my favorite, so I’m very excited about that.

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After that I headed out to the county for dinner with friends who recently left Hampden and bought a house out there. While I’m sad that they are no longer my neighbors, their new house is perfect for their family of 5 and I’m happy they have a great new home to create beautiful memories in. It was wonderful to sit outside in their little yard listening to bluegrass music and catching up with a group of friends who is very dear to my heart. I used to see most of them every week, but now that life has scattered us all to the winds it’s been far too long since I’ve seen most of them. It was great to all get back together for a few hours and enjoy a gorgeous fall evening together.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect fall weekend. It was a nice reminder that the world isn’t all terrible and that I have a pretty great life with a lot of wonderful people in it.

Tea Advent Calendar

At some point in December someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to a tea advent calendar from David’s Teas saying she wished she had enough money to justify buying it. At $40 it was a little pricey, but I decided that 2016 has been garbage, I could afford it, and this was a little something to help the year go out on a positive note for me.

Each day has a little jar of a different flavor of loose leaf tea. The little box around the jar tells you what flavor the tea is and the best way to prepare it. Getting this is making me super happy that my husband bought a fancy electric kettle that you can set the temperature on since the appropriate temperature for steeping the tea varies. Based on how much tea there is in each jar and how much I need for my morning tea mug I’ll probably get 3-4 servings out of each jar. That means this advent calendar will probably carry me through the winter, which is the only time I really drink hot tea in the morning making the $40 a worthwhile investment.

My friend Paul asked for a review of each of the teas, so the remainder of this post is for him. Here are all the teas I enjoyed during this advent season.

Day 1: Snow Day

I could tell by the smell of this tea and the little chocolate pieces in it when I scooped the loose tea into my infuser that this was going to be a chocolate mint tea. I am not usually a big mint person, so I was a little disappointed this was the flavor on my first day. However, it turns out that I actually really enjoyed this tea. So kudos to David’s Teas for making a chocolate mint tea that I not only tolerated but enjoying drinking.

Day 2: Jumpy Monkey

David’s Teas may have made me a mint chocolate tea that I managed to like, but they could not pull off making me like coffee. There’s a reason I drink tea not coffee. Today’s tea had coffee beans in it, which I could tell as soon as I opened it. Based on that I was pretty sure today’s tea was going to be a big fail for me and it was. If I wanted to drink something that tasted like coffee I would drink coffee.

Day 3: Genmaicha

Today’s tea is a Japanese green tea that also contains puffed and toasted rice. It’s like drinking a rice cake. I’m not a fan.

Day 4: Organic Serenity Now

This is an herbal tea with lots of berry and flower flavors mixed together. I thought it was tasty.

Day 5: Coffee Cake

I was a little worried when I opened this one up that it was going to be another coffee flavored tea, but it wasn’t. It was a black tea with some sweet flavors to it. Pineapple was listed as one of the ingredients and I could see some chunks of dried pineapple in it, though there wasn’t an overwhelming flavor of pineapple. Another winner.

Day 6: Apple Cider

Based on the name you may have already surmised this tea had an apple cider flavor. I’m here for it.

Day 7: Nutty and Spice

Today’s tea had lots of big chunks of fruit and other things, I’m guessing some nuts? It was delicious. Probably my favorite so far. Sadly the big chunks mean there are fewer servings leftover in the jar than the others I’ve had so far.

Day 8: Organic Ginger Pear

A white tea flavored with ginger and pear. It’s decent, but not my favorite. I probably would never buy it on its own.

Day 9: Forever Nuts

A cinnamony, nutty tea. I like.

Day 10: Green Passion Fruit

I liked the way this tea tasted. I just wasn’t in the mood for drinking something fruity on a cold December morning. It didn’t seem like a good tea to drink cozy under a blanket on my couch staring at a Christmas tree. It’s not the tea’s fault though.

Day 11: Hot Chocolate

The base tea in this was pu’erh, which is a fermented tea. I think this is the first time I’ve ever had it. I had never even heard of it before I read a book centered around it a few weeks ago. This was sweetened with some chocolate, but you could definitely taste the fermentation beneath it. I don’t know that it’s my thing.

Day 12: Bear Trap

Today’s tea is a whole mess of berry flavors. It’s a straight fruit infusion. I think it might have worked better combined with some sort of tea leaves. It’s a bit much.

Day 13: Creme Caramel Roobios

A sweetj Roobios tea. I enjoyed it.

Day 14: Irish Breakfast Tea

Your standard black tea. I’m a fan of breakfast teas, so I liked this. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I added a little bit of milk and sugar as the Irish would have wanted, but that’s my fault not the tea’s.

Day 15: Coconut Cream Pie

Cocoutty. Not my favorite flavor in a tea.

Day 16: Strawberry Rhubarb

Another strictly fruit infusion. It tasted good, but I stand by my point that I like some actual tea in my tea.

Day 17: Chocolate Covered Almond

A black tea with almond and chocolate pieces in it. It was ok. I’ve determined that I don’t care that much for the teas with chocolate pieces in them. They taste too much like watered down hot chocolate.

Day 18: Sleigh Ride

Another fruit infusion. This one had lots of fruit in it, but one of those fruits was raisins and that’s all I could taste. Why would you put raisins in tea? Why would you put raisins in anything?

Day 19: Organic Toasted Almond Green

Green tea with toasted almond pieces in it. It had the almond type flavor that comes with almond extract or in marzipan. My husband and I have a fight every year over spritz cookies at Christmas because I don’t care for the version with almond extract and insist on making them with vanilla instead. So I surprised myself by actually enjoying this tea.

Day 20: Cardamom French Toast

I already knew I liked this tea because I bought a whole bag of it. I needed to spend $10 when I bought the advent calendar to get free shipping, so I bought a couple of bags of loose tea. This was one of the flavors. Even if I hadn’t had it before I would have been pretty confident based on the name that it would be right up my alley. I love me some cardamom.

Day 21: Spiced Apple

Pretty much just what it sounds like. A nice little cozy tasting treat coming up on the holidays.

Day 22: English Toffee

This is another pur’eh based tea. I wasn’t a super fan of the fermented flavor of the last one of these I drank, but this one isn’t as bad. I wouldn’t say it actually tastes like toffee in any way, but it is sweet.

Day 23: Organic Kashmiri Chai

A green tea version of chai. I’ve never had chai with a green tea base before. It pretty much tasted like chai, but was kind of mind-bendy since I’m used to my chai tea looking black.

Day 24: Santa’s Sleigh

A black tea with a peppermint flavor. We kind of come full circle ending on another tea with a mint (though peppermint this time) flavor in it. Again David’s managed to make me enjoy this tea even though I’m not a big fan of mint/peppermint.

This has been fun. I’ll probably do it again next year.

eShakti Dresses

It’s summer dress season, which means I’ve been wearing all the cute dresses I’ve bought from eShakti. As such I’ve thought about writing a post on them multiple times this summer, but because of the state of the world every time I thought about it something would happen that would make writing about dresses seem too trivial. Earlier this week I was having a Twitter conversation with some friends about eShakti dresses which revived my thought about writing this post.

First of all eShakti has some awesomely cute dress designs. I always get compliments on the dresses I own from there whenever I wear them. That’s not really what makes them so great through. I get plenty of compliments on other dresses I have that I’ve bought elsewhere, but despite their cuteness none of those dresses are as great as my eShakti dresses.

There are several things that set eShakti dresses apart. First they are all custom made so you can order the dresses with alterations than just the normal style displayed on the page. Some alterations are free and others cost a little bit extra money. Granted I’ve never actually opted for any of these alterations, but I appreciate the fact that they exist and are something I could choose if I wanted.

What’s really great though are the things that just come standard in most of the dresses. Aside from a few styles where they just really wouldn’t work it is standard for eShakti dresses to come with pockets in them. Pockets in dresses are, to go back to the early 00s for a second, the bomb. I love dresses with pockets in them and curse all the dresses, skirts, and pants for that matter that come pocketless. Second all their sleeveless dresses come with snap hooks for putting your bra strap in to keep them from slipping out from under the dress strap. It’s so nice not to have to worry about having to constantly be shoving your bra strap back up. It’s such a nice little touch and just seems so thoughtful about how woman actually wear clothes.

I’m not going to lie and say that eShakti dresses are cheap because they surely are not. You do have to shell out some money for them, although you can get some sales that will make it less painful. However I think they are totally worth it. Plus the price keeps me in check. If they were cheaper I’d probably own way more of them.

Summer, Summer, Summertime

Last night I played kickball and then went and got ice cream with some friends. We were talking about what a perfect summer night it was. However, I also seem to know a lot of people who prefer winter to summer because they are insane. I hate winter and cannot wait for it to be over every year. I do admit I would like it if Baltimore could ever commit to having an actual spring, but we seem to like jumping straight from winter into hot, humid summers. As much as I would like some non-humid weather in the high 60s and 70s, I’ll take hot and humid over cold any day. This year was no exception to that as we spent most of May being cold and rainy before immediately jumping into the high 80s. Now that we’ve finally moved into warmer temperatures I can tell you how much happier I am. There are so many things to love about summer and I shall now list them for you in no particular order.

  1. More daylight.
  2. Not having to drag around coats, hats, scarves, and gloves.
  3. Sandals.
  4. Beaches and pools.
  5. Barbecues.
  6. Outdoor concerts.
  7. Ice cream cones.
  8. Ice cream sandwiches.
  9. Crabs.
  10. Al fresco dining.
  11. Gardens.
  12. Stone fruit.
  13. Berries.
  14. Street festivals.
  15. Just seeing people out and about.
  16. Picnics.
  17. Outdoor movies.
  18. Boat rides.
  19. Open windows.
  20. Sundresses.
  21. Fire pits.
  22. To quote a country song: Barefoot blue jean nights.
  23. Baseball games.
  24. Watermelon.
  25. Tomatoes.
  26. My birthday.
  27. Vacations.
  28. Sweet tea.
  29. Grilling.
  30. Fireflies.
  31. Flowers.
  32. Leafy trees.
  33. Blueberry pie.
  34. Walks in the park.
  35. Thunderstorms

2015 Ornament

When I was a kid my parents always added an ornament to our Christmas tree for each year. Sometimes it was a home made ornament, sometimes it was from a trip, or sometimes it was for an event like the Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in forever. I assume they still do it, but I’m not there to put up the tree anymore so I don’t know.

I liked that idea, so I started doing it myself when I got married. For the most part aside from the very first one which is a first Christmas together ornament, all the rest are ornaments from trips. I find that ornaments are great souvenirs as well since I’ll actually get use out of them again and every year when I put the tree up I get to remember all the fun places I’ve been.

This past year it seems like we didn’t travel as much at least not to places outside of our normal goings like to Arizona, New York, and Rhode Island to visit family. We did go to California together, but because that was a trip to visit my husband’s parents and me going to a conference in San Francisco where we also stayed with friends it really didn’t cross my mind to pick up an ornament while we were there.

The one trip we did go on was to South Carolina. We took a beach trip to Isle of Palms, which is outside of Charleston. I did pick up an ornament at a Christmas shop in Charleston. If possible I try to get something hand made locally and not just something made in China. I found this little grass ornament made there, but it’s obviously not something that either had the year already on it or something I could add the year too. Good luck in ten years remembering that was my 2015 ornament without the year written on it.

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While we were in Isle of Palms I managed to collect a ton of sand dollars. I found more sand dollars on that trip than I have in the rest of 37 years on this planet. I decided in order to have an ornament with the year on it I could make one of them into a Christmas ornament. Our trip was in May, but I finally just finished making it last night.

Most if it was procrastination. Obviously I had many months to work on this before December hit, but I didn’t and then there were a lot of steps that involved doing a little bit of something and then not being able to proceed until the next day so it took about a week.

First I had to bleach it. I never did get it as white as I wanted, but I also didn’t want it to disintegrate into dust, which I heard can happen if it is bleached too long. Then I had to wait for it to dry. Then I used a glue water mixture to harden it. That took two days because I had to do one side each day and let it dry in between. Ditto for the glitter glue I painted it with. Then finally I was able to put the writing on it. Then I waited a day and glued a hook on the back. Then finally this morning I tied the ribbon on it and hung it on the tree. None of the steps took that long themselves, there was just a lot of waiting involved. Now it can hang on my tree for the three days before I take it down.

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This is My Jam

No literally this is my jam. My local Giant briefly carried it, and I fell in love with it. I’ve tried many other brands of cherry jam and none of them compare. Of course like everything that is my favorite the Giant stopped carrying it years ago to never have it return. I’ve determined that people in my neighborhood and I must not share the same taste in food because this happens all the time.

At least in this case unlike with some other products this jam still exists in the world. I just have to work a little harder to get it. There’s a Harris Teeter not too far away from where I go to church in Federal Hill that carries it so when I’m running low I’ll swing over there and buy up whatever they have in stock.

This worked well until a couple of weeks ago when I went over there to stock up on jam and they didn’t have it anymore either. Sigh. They must have just recently stopped carrying it because the Smucker’s website still lists it as a location where you can purchase the jam.

The two other closest places to buy the jam are the Harris Teeter or Target (of course the Mondawmin Target which is the closest to my house doesn’t carry it either)  in Canton Crossing. I had to go to Target and Michaels today and since both of those reside in Canton Crossing I decided to make the trek through the city over there so I could hit them both in one location. As a bonus I realized I would also be able to stock up on jam while I was there.

I bought the 4 jars that Target had in stock. If I had been smarter I probably should have hopped into the Harris Teeter and bought up their stock too, but I didn’t. This will have to do me for awhile.

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