Monthly Archives: July 2012

Happy Birthday, Me

20120725-160951.jpg

As much fun as it is having the surprise of opening a present, admit it: it’s pretty fun to pick your own. This year that’s what I got to do, so I chose T2’s Nine Green Tea pack and this gorgeous little Japanese-inspired tea cup.

I want to learn more about different kinds of tea, having mainly stuck to flavoured teas up to this point. So I figured the best way to start was with a sampler of several teas of the same general type, and decided to “go green”, if you will. This pack has nine tiny tins of tea, all snugly fitting into a larger tin embossed with the T2 logotype and then cleverly wrapped in a folded box. On the inside lid of the big tin are a full description, ingredient list, and steeping instructions for each of the teas. Opening the tin I got a massive attack of floral, mint and fruit scents as each tea did its best to reach me first.

Now let me be honest. I do think the price for this pack is steep, considering there is between 22g to 38g of each tea. (By my calculations, there’s just over $30 worth of tea included.) I accept that the packaging is especially nice for a gift, but if you’re just wanting to try a bunch of teas yourself, you don’t need all the extra cost of packaging. You’d much rather spend that money on more tea! Each little tin is filled to the brim with tea, but since it is only a small amount of tea in the first place, you can’t very well use the tins later for more tea unless you want to store the same tea in multiple tins. Not to mention the fact that it is rather difficult to scoop out tea from the tin without making a mess.20120725-160939.jpg

Also, for unexplainable reasons, the two free single-cup samples (that T2 customarily includes in packages) this time were for two teas that were already part of this sampler! I had planned on asking for a sample of either Buddha’s Tears or Sencha Sensation when I placed my order, but there was no place to leave a comment. So I trusted that I would be given a sample of something else to entice me to make another purchase. Oh well. That’s not so much a complaint, but it doesn’t really do any favours for a customer or the company.

All that being said, I do love T2. Their tea is great. My current tea stash includes eight different teas from T2, including three quite large tins, and that’s of course not including this new sampler! They do a good job of marketing and their newly launched Tea Society features brilliant special events. I just wish they added an option of purchasing samples of about 3-4 steeped cups’ worth and put them in little ziplock bags–like they used to give me when I visited in store. For ordering online, the samples wouldn’t need to be posted in the nice big black boxes; the padded or tough bags are fine. I’d buy a ton more samples then and naturally that would lead me (and many others, I imagine) to more and bigger purchases. Just a thought.

Right now I’ve just finished my first pot of Young Hyson. T2 says that it’s a “medium-bodied all-rounder” and that sounded like a good place to start. We’re both right. All in all, I’m sure going to enjoy this. You’ll know more of how it goes as I do.

BTW: The underside of the cup says it’s by Alison Appleton. A gorgeous design, and lovely to hold and use. I’ll be looking for more from her in the future. No website launched yet, but her Facebook page is here.

Update (Aug. 7, 2012): Alison Appleton got in touch with me via Twitter following this post! She was able to direct me to her so-newly-launched-that-it-wasn’t-there-two-days-earlier website, alisonappleton.com. There’s too much that’s too gorgeous!

Advertisements

Baking With My Baby

20120720-212527.jpgFor a treat on my birthday, I decided that Charlotte and I would make some sugar cookies. We would both appreciate doing something different and it was sure to be an enjoyable mother-daughter activity, right?

First of all, my mom must be a saint. I certainly don’t remember seeing her grit her teeth or hear any anguished pleas for wisdom on how to get her child to understand simple instructions. She was even a professional cake decorating instructor; I must have been so frustrating to her in the kitchen! But perhaps Charlotte just won’t remember my gritting teeth.

We used the sugar cookie recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Let me say, I have never had a dud from this book, and I’ve made at least half the recipes in it. (Their blueberry muffin recipe is the best I’ve ever come across.)

In the end, Charlotte was excited about her creations, I was relieved, and the kitchen not too much worse off. I’m sure to be finding sprinkles and colored sugar under my feet for a while no matter how many times I think I’ve got it with the vacuum, but that little girl’s smile will more than make up for it.

 

It’s a tool, not a toy.

20120717-092239.jpg

A very necessary tool, I’m finding. It’s our new Breville One-Touch Tea Maker. I got it for us (yes, us) for our anniversary a couple of weeks ago. Now that I’ve had some time with it I can tell you, without a doubt, this thing is awesome. It means that Hubby can go to work in the cold, dark mornings with something to keep him both warm and awake. It’s so easy to use that he only needs to press two buttons and can have tea while still in half-asleep. Or to make it even easier for him (as any wife will tell you is important), I can set it to automatically start for him before I go to bed! And because it can keep the steeped tea warm for an hour, I don’t have to reheat my tea during my nonstop mornings while wrangling a baby and toddler. This is practically life-changing!

Those are the everyday helps, but here are more of the details. It has a 500mL (2 cups) minimum, but you get this machine because you’re a big tea drinker, so one little cup won’t do for you anyway. You put the loose tea into the basket and put the basket lid on that, then the basket is placed on the jug post and held there magnetically. Select one of five preset steeping temperatures (for green, black, white, herbal or oolong tea) or set a custom temperature. Then choose your preferred strength or go custom again! It gets the water to the right temperature and then lowers the tea basket into the water, steeps for the set time, and then raises the basket again, giving a good loud beep to let you know your cup of serenity is ready! What’s more important is this makes really good tea. I get more flavors coming out of each sip. Even a couple of teas that I hadn’t been so keen on before are really enjoyable now.

This of course means that I drink even more tea now, but that’s no bad thing. This morning’s treat: Terrific Toffee from T2 with just a spot of milk. But I remind you, it really is for both of us.

Checking In

I know it’s been almost a week since my last post. Had a couple rough days this week and I’m also starting to really feel the lack of sleep from watching the Tour de France. On that note, the Tour’s just come on for tonight. Look, if not Cadel, then please, anybody but Wiggins!

What I Needed (WIN) #2: Fear and Trust

I’m on Day 20 of 35 in the Soul Detox Reading Plan from YouVersion. In fact, this whole week in the plan is about toxic fears. I normally consider myself not terribly fearful. I don’t mind trying new things and normally enjoy a challenge; knowing something will be tough doesn’t put me off it. But on some hard reflection over the past few days, I realized that I do in fact let fears of the “what ifs” determine my mindset and, as a result, my life.

Fear is, like so many things, an act of faith, but it is placing your faith in things or people that can’t make the situation better. So where does our faith belong? Take a look at Psalm 34: 4-10. We’ll find the solution there.

We have to play “hide and seek” in a way: hide ourselves away in God’s Word and seek His face. God promises that if we cry out to Him that He will answer and deliver us from our fears. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have to face them or that the situation will change to remove whatever the thing is that we’re afraid of, but that we won’t be conquered by the fearsome thing. We will be delivered from the fear itself. Then we will “see that the Lord is good!” We will not be without any good thing that He has planned for us. So if I place my trust in God and what His Word says, I not only can be relieved of my fears, but I also will receive all the blessings He’s got in store for me. That’s a pretty good promise!

What’s my other option? I can cling on to my fears, thereby saying God can’t handle it. And since He’s promised that He can and will deliver us if we let Him, my doing anything else but trusting Him is the same as calling Him a liar.

In the end, I need to have a greater fear of sinning against God by not trusting Him than the fear I have of any thing or situation.

Happy Fourth!

Callum says "Happy Fourth of July!"

As American as baseball!

South Carolina-Style Crockpot Pulled Pork (or, How winter in Sydney tastes like summer in Charleston)

South Carolina BBQ

Looks good, huh?

It’s the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and the easiest way to do celebrate it from the other side of the world is through the food. Every year except one since I moved to Australia, I have made a South Carolina-style pulled pork BBQ in my crock pot. Just about every US state that does BBQ has its own take (or more than one) on the meat and/or the sauce, and South Carolina BBQ sauce is based on the condiment of heaven, mustard. I don’t use a recipe to make the sauce, I just know how it’s supposed to taste, but this recipe from Food Republic looks a lot like what I do. I just used sweet paprika instead of the cayenne pepper, and didn’t add any butter. I made 2 cups’ worth of sauce.

 

So to start, I made my sauce in a saucepan turned on low, and then let that sit while I got the pork ready. I used a 2kg/4lb shoulder roast that already had been de-boned. You just need any sort of joint/roast with or without bone. I just got what the first grocery store had since I was in a rush. Cut off as much fat as you can or are willing to put in the effort for. You don’t want a greasy feeling in your mouth, but you don’t want to spend all day trimming the thing either. Then put the meat into the crockpot, pour over about a cup of the sauce, put on the lid and let cook on low about 7-8 hours. I normally turn it over a couple of times during the course of the day, to make sure all the meat gets to spend some time cooking directly in the sauce. When it’s done take the meat out and put on a plate. Any bones will just pull away from the meat, and you’ll also want to check for any chunks of fat that are remaining together and get rid of that. Then just pull the meat apart with a couple of forks. Dump the shredded pork back into the crockpot to mix it in with the cooking sauce and juices, and you can add another 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the remaining BBQ sauce. The rest of the sauce you can pour over the pork on your plate, or on a bun if you’re making a sandwich with it.

Then just sit back and taste the sunshine!

A Couple of Gifts to Myself

Look what I just got for myself! I saw this range in Myer called “Vivacious” by Maxwell & Williams. I decided I really wanted a new teacup, a normal-sized one this time (my regular cup has been a “breakfast cup”–about twice the size). And since the range had such nice colors, it seemed only fitting to get a couple different sized plates as well. So now I can have tea with a snack (the pink plate) or tea with lunch (the blue plate) and feel like I’m treating myself a little bit. I love that it’s a fresh, fun take on a more traditional design. I’ll be christening it with a sample of White Rose tea I got from T2.

And the goodies don’t stop there. I received my order for The Tea Drinker’s Handbook from Book Depository. I know others who own it have said that it’s a good-sized book, and I even saw the dimensions listed on its Amazon page. But this really is quite a large book! It’s in a very attractive tall format, and is so chockfull of information and gorgeous glossy pages that it’s really rather heavy. I’m looking forward to diving into it and not only learning more about how to enjoy the teas I currently brew, but also what are some new teas to try!