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lazy cat and tea

#NaBloPoMo 2014: Day 20: Drinking Tea – part 3, wisdom (Our Daily Tea)

Yesterday I wrote about my rituals around taking tea and today I want to write about the little nuggets of wisdom that tea can bring and how that inspired a new (photography) project for me.

seagull and a rose - they day needs no more complication than that
seagull and a rose – “the day needs no more complication than that” ~ M. J.-P.

I prefer loose tea leaves. To make a proper cup of tea, you need all the room possible for the leaves to unfurl and swirl around. It is an art, like any science. However, the ever present teabag is hard to escape. It is also super convenient and no other gear is required to make a cuppa; just plunk it in a cup and add hot water.

…the day needs no more complication than that.
~ Michele James-Parham

There are times, hell there are entire weeks and months, that are shining examples for why the teabag was invented. There are also pockets, purses, to-go cups, airports, cheap Chinese buffets, and bitchin’ sales on Tazo at WholeFoods. I do not hate the teabag; I have come to love it…

for its tag.

I am not exactly sure whose brainchild it was to add little bits of wisdom in the form of quotes onto teabag tags, but I approve. They are like fortune cookies, except that I do not have to entertain the idea of eating one of those horrid “cookies” to get a little nugget of wisdom, of truth.

Until now, I was secretly obsessed with these things. I take pictures of them, search online for other’s pictures of them, and I have even begun adding original ideas for ones in a notebook, right next to where I keep quotations of things heard out in the wild world.

I have been thinking about doing another photography project for awhile now. I did the daily selfportraits for three years; I will be completing #365gratitude at the end of the year; and now, I think I am wanting to start Our Daily Tea (featuring: Cuppa Conversations). This project would include photographs, facts about tea, recipes, quotations, and thoughts.

grace brings contentment
grace brings contentment

Our Daily Tea
This is the umbrella or title for the whole project. Of course, this would necessitate another website/blog, but I think that is an okay thing. I had contemplated just throwing it into the mix here on this blog, but it just did not feel right. The project needs and deserves its own space to fully develop. Why, Our Daily Tea? To confuse the Tea Party folks (just google it). No, the main two reasons are because 1) it is about tea and 2) the concept is that it will be updated every day with at least a photograph of one of my moments of tea. At some point, I might solicit for photo submissions from other people.

Cuppa Conversations — A Podcast
This is one of the more exciting features of this project, I think. Podcast? Yes! I am hoping to share short, think fifteen minutes and under, snippets of conversations on the blog. I have not completely distilled the concept, but I do expect, and so should you, there to be a fair amount of chaos.

When I say, “snippets”, I mean kind of like an extended Vine of a conversation, but with audio only. These might be about tea, life, love, the Universe, and everything in between. They might be edited down versions of longer conversations with people over tea, in cafes, and sometimes, things might be taken out of context (on purpose). They could also be just short audio posts of me pontificating about whatever is making the light bulb appear over my head at that moment.

I am still playing around with this and the technology. I am not sure how often I will post a podcast to the new site/blog or if it will be a scheduled thing. Bear with me while I gestate this one a little bit longer.

As I mentioned before, I will be updating the site with at least one photo every day from one of my daily tea moments. It might be my cup, the teabag, teabag tag, a step in the brewing process, a ‘mugshot’ of my drinking, or a picture of the tea and so on.

I will be using my second generation iPad, my Nikon DSLR D60, and Flickr.

For those of you living under a rock who do not know what vines are, they are short, six second or less, videos. It is like Twitter and YouTube came together and made a weird, quirky lovechild.  Anyway, I plan to upload vines about tea: shopping for tea, drinking it, brewing it, cafe moments, and all other tea-related chaos that I capture live.

Facts About Tea
Just the occasional posting of an interesting tidbit about tea, the plant, the processing, the brewing, and so on. I am have learned a lot about the history of tea over the years; the politics of tea are astounding and overwhelming!

Product Reviews
I have a catalogue of opinions on different teas from all over the world and from many companies. I also have tried a ridiculous amount of various tea gear for drinking, brewing, and storing over the years. I am happy to share my experiences with folks, try new things, maybe score some free things to report on, and offer some tea give-a-ways! Do NOT worry, there will not be any weird spammy tea ads and I will always, always disclose if I am getting any kickbacks or if items were sent to me for me to publicly review.

This will end up being a little bit of a mixed bag: how to brew various teas; recipes for various tea cakes, biscuits, and sandwiches; as well as how to make your own tea blends at home. A Pinterest board will accompany this feature to make sharing and storing recipes easy for everyone.

Quotations & Thoughts
This is another one of the big features of this project. I have been recording quotations, little bits of conversations, teabag tag wisdom, and things overheard in cafes, diners, and friends’ living rooms for some time now. I plan to highlight these things on the new site, sharing the bits of wisdom and whit that happens in the company of tea. While I have plenty of fodder in this area to start things off, I will be soliciting submissions from others from the very beginning.


As soon as the new site and blog are up and running, I will post here with the unveiling.

The universe is a stage on which you dance, guided by your heart.
The universe is the stage on which you dance, guided by your heart.


Tea and Croissants

#NaBloPoMo 2014: Day 19: Drinking Tea – part 2, a ritual

Yesterday, I wrote about how I love tea and how I was introduced to it. Today is all about rituals. My tea rituals.

Daily “Morning” Ritual:
On most days that I wake up, assuming I am not being woken up early by a labouring client or I am not attending a meeting, it is noon-ish. The first thing I do is check my text messages and see if I have missed some early morning text from a client or one of my ridiculous friends (you know who you are) who leave me texts asking odd questions at unreasonable hours of the morning. Morning is for sleeping, folks and for mourning the fact that the night is gone. I then check and see if there are any private Facebook messages that just can not wait another minute.

Next I grab my clothes, tech, glasses, and head downstairs. Bathroom, clothes, say hello to the Boychild (who by now, is into his second or third YouTube video of the day and looking peckish), and then I make the Boychild food while we chat about whatever it is that is on his mind that day. Then, once his food is handed over, it begins.

I take a cup from the cabinet (or just grab the one from last night and usually rinse; sorry you are dealing with a crusty punk here). I fill the kettle with water (sometimes tap, gasp, and sometimes I bother with filling it up from the Berkey filter) and fire it up. While water molecules are being rearranged, science is happening, and such, I stare at the “Wall of Tea” and make my selection. (Though, sometimes, I really know what I want, especially if I am grumpy — that is when the Lapsang Souchong comes out first thing, guns a blazing.) I then gather up the appropriate accoutrements for said tea selection (proper infuser or bags or whatever). Everything is lined out on the counter, in the proper order, and ready to go. Water boils. If the water needs to sit and cool just a bit for the tea I picked, it does. Tea goes into whatever infuser contraption is called for, is placed in my cup, and then hot water is poured over.

I watch the clock while I breathe. Deep belly-breaths. Sigh. Take tea leaves out of cup. Inhale.

hoska a ?aj: zimní slunovrat rituál
hoska a čaj: zimní slunovrat rituál

Winter Solstice Ritual:
Then there is the special morning ritual that only happens a few days in a row right around the Winter Solstice. My grandmother sends me a homemade loaf of Hoska from Oklahoma. I love her Hoska. I am really the only one in my house that eats it, which as far as I am concerned is a good thing, because I really do not like to share it. If I ever share some with you, consider yourself on a VERY short list of EXTREMELY special people in my life — like, we are definitely more than friends.

For several days (I try to stretch it out for a whole week), in mid-to-late-December, I wake up and the FIRST thing I do is have hoska a čaj (čeština/czech for hoska and tea). The tea gets prepared as described above while the hoska is tended to. I carefully unwrap the loaf and then slice off a very thick, dense pieces. Those slices go into the toaster oven. Once they are nice and golden, I take them out and then proceed to slather them with as much butter as humanly possible. Then I take my time eating the lahodný, dobrá, hoska and sipping on perfektní čaj!

Twig Tea and Cupcakes
Twig Tea and Cupcakes

Dates with Friends Ritual:
Some days, you just need to get out of the house and go visit a friend. Especially if it is a cold day and there is “much catching up to be had”. And especially if there are promises of amazing cupcakes with coconut mana icing. Kukicha (Twig Tea) and cupcakes on a little green chair for a table. #Swoon.

I remember when I was at that age where I was always bored. Of course, my solution was to go to the house of a friend who was also bored. My parents never did quite understand why, if my friend and I were both bored, we would want to hang out being bored together. If there is one thing I have figured out in my life, it is that there is no excuse for boredom when you have another person near you. I spent a fair amount of my time growing up, sitting around “doing nothing” with friends. We did a lot.

Now, instead of smoking and watching t.v. or roaming the neighbourhood, we drink tea together. We laugh, we contemplate, we complain, we love one another just as we are in the present moment. I am never bored.

Tea and Cake, Shared with a Friend
Tea and Cake, Shared with a Friend

At Some Point, There Will be Tea Ritual:
At some point, while we are hanging out, there will be tea. It might be your idea or it might be mine (or maybe a third person’s), but there will be mention of tea. I liken it to Pooh always having a rumbly in his tumbly and checking the time to see that it is indeed “time for something sweet”. It is indeed time for tea. And in the case of a few of my friends’ homes where it always seems to be time for cookies, cakes (especially in February), and scones, it is indeed time for tea!

I am not exactly sure when this phenomenon began, but I feel like it started about two years-ish or so after we moved to Pittsburgh. I’m not mad about it. In fact, I hope that it catches on and becomes some kind of new Pittsburgher tradition. People know that I love tea and so they are usually pretty quick to offer it to me. However, I am hoping that it just becomes the thing to do with anyone, whether or not I am around. May it be!

Pooh always liked a little something at eleven o’clock in the morning, and he was very glad to see Rabbit getting out the plates and mugs; and when Rabbit said, “Honey or condensed milk with your bread?” he was so excited that he said, “Both,” and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, “But don’t bother about the bread, please.” ~ A. A. Milne


Join me tomorrow when I blog about a new photography project and the wisdom of tea.



#NaBloPoMo Day 20: Five Foods

(Prompt) Name five things inside your refrigerator right now and how you feel about them.

  1. Three heads of cabbage. Two green and one purple. They are one, two, and three months old. Do not get me wrong, I like cabbage, but for some reason, this year during our CSA I just could not seem to use up all of the cabbage. I think I need to make some slaw and kraut.
  2. Hemp seed butter. It is old too. I used to add it to homemade salad dressings, but I have not even looked at the tub in probably a year. The Man loves the shit and says he would just eat it like butter on toast. I honestly can not stand the taste of it.
  3. Spicy peanut vinaigrette from Trader Joe’s. That stuff is the best. I love adding it to stir-frys, salads, and steamed veggies. It makes for a great dipping sauce for gyoza when mixed in about a 1/3 ration with tamari.
  4. Chèvre. I am not much of a dairy person. Dairy kind of hates my body or maybe it is that my body hates dairy. For the most part, I just steer clear of dairy. I do like to occasionally eat cheese, but for my body’s sake it needs to be super super aged sharp cheese or super super mouldy blue cheese. Chèvre is the outlier in this equation. It is great on bagels, especially the really herbaceous kind of chèvre we get from a local farm.
  5. Coffee (from almost a week ago). Coffee that I bought The Man; he drank half of it and then asked for the rest to be stuck in the fridge, but he never finished it. Blah. But, I can not be upset for too long about that since there is a fifth of a growler of ice tea and two half finished quarts of tea of mine in the fridge right behind his coffee. Note to self: clean out the fridge and start finishing what you start.

(PromptYou’ve being exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?

  1. Mushrooms. They are indispensable. I can eat them raw, cooked, or turned into a soup/stew. I love just about every kind of mushroom out there.
  2. Navratan korma. Probably the best Northern Indian dish out there. Creamy cashew sauce and vegetables. Yum!
  3. Pho chay. I can not imagine a better thing to constantly have on hand. Hot delicious vegetarian pho soup.
  4. Yasi tempura. That is batter-fried vegetables for the rest of you.
  5. Organic Nectars Cashewtopia Pistachio Gelato. Dairy, soy, and gluten free ice cream. It is the best, incredibly expensive, and a much needed cold treat on my private exile island.

I have to assume that there are fruit trees in abundance on this island and that there is some kind of plant I can make a tisane from.



Asian Food Taste Test

Apparently, food is a focus around here at the moment. A little over a week ago we were inspired to try out Nugget in a Biscuit and recently we were inspired to go on a spur of the moment Asian snack food run. The closest Asian grocery store to us that is open late is Oriental Market. We were inspired by some Smosh videos where Ian (and some times Anthony and Mari) try weird and random foods from all over the world. Each food gets tried and rated — uniquely rated I might add ;-)

We gathered up various snack foods and decided to have a very, um, scientific taste test of our very own. The following is our results from our experiment (lovingly collected and annotated by William).

Hello Kitty Marukawa Marble Gum (japan)
Elijah:  15,000,000/10     [orange flavor]
William: 8.25/10    [lemon flavor]
Mum:     9/10        [green grape]
notes: super delicious fruit smelling. really sweet. doesn’t stick to teeth makes your tongue numb(!?!)

Top Gum (Pokemon Hanging Model) (japan)
Elijah:  pokemon rules/10 [oshawott]
William: it tastes like my childhood/10 [tepig]
Mum:     4.5/10    [snivy]
notes: Topp baseball card gum. but not entirely dried out and stale. oddly enough still brittle as all hell

Pei Tien Energy 99 Sticks (pumpkin flavor) (taiwan)
Elijah:  not sure/???
William: 4/10
Mum:     7/10
notes: tastes a bit like spoiled oil to me

New York 101 Grain Rolls (taiwan)
Elijah:  9/10
William: 7/10
Mum:     6.5/10
notes: saltier than the Pei Tien, tastes less like oil

Ginbis Dream Animals Butter Flavored Biscuits (japan)
Elijah:  -40/10
William: 10.5/10
Mum:     9/10
notes: cutest most educational box ever. E: “they taste how butter smells!” solid fucking butter. Best. Cracker. Ever.

Khong Guan Assorted Biscuits (singapore)
Elijah:  10/10 (K.G.B. creamy chocolate) 9.5/10 (‘jesus oreo’) 10/10(K.G.B. Delicious biscuit)
William: 9/10 (nice) 8.75/10 (vanilla lunch) 10/10 (puff) 5/10 (K)
Mum:     7/10 (puff) meh./10 (K)
notes: Hallal. super chocolate smell from the box. conveniently each cookie is labeled in the cookie mold. Best tea time cookie assortment ever.

Hello Panda Milk Cream Biscuits (singapore)
Elijah:  1,000,000/10
William: meh./10
Mum:     meh./10
notes: I like that they aren’t very sweet. I won’t get a stomach ache from them. but they don’t have much flavor

Kasugai Fruits Mix Gummy Candy Mix (japan)
Elijah:  10/10 (apple) 10/10 (muscat)
William: 8/10 (muscat) 7/10 (grape)
Mum:     4/10 (grape) 9/10 (muscat)
notes: muscat is very delicious.

YamaMotoYama Teriyaki Nori (japan kinda; USA via Japan)
Elijah:  100/10
William: Best Snack Food Ever Made/Ever
Mum:     10/10
notes: who doesn’t like roasted and spicy nori?

Kuang Chuan Frozen Green Tea (taiwan)
Elijah:  abstained
William: 10/10
Mum:     10/10
notes: not actually frozen. its just cold. fun translation issues there. (Note from M: after watching the ad, I believe frozen is the correct word.)

Vitasoy Mango Juice Drink Box (japan)
Elijah: 9/10
William: abstained
Mum: 8/10
notes: it’s alright for a sugary box drink.

We had fun and got to eat lots of stuff! Huzzah! Have you done something similar? Have you been inspired to go raid your local Asian or ethnic grocery store? Leave me a link to your blog post or YouTube video after you have a food tasting party of your own. If you are reading this and you happen to live in or very near to Oklahoma City, OK, I suggest you visit my favourite ethnic grocery store of all time: Super Cao Nguyen (every time you refresh the link you get new pictures!) and read this blog post about them!