Teatime Tuesday

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A Nice Cup of Tea [George Orwell, 1946]

I discovered this gem through The Telegraph’s 2016 piece on Orwell and the perfect cup of tea. After re-reading 1984 and having Orwellian references since the 2016 election, this was something of a breath of fresh air to see Orwell’s name attached to. It’s kind of amazing what you find with a simple Google search.

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National Tea Month

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Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.

 – Chinese Proverb

I don’t know who decides these things, but rules are rules. January is National Tea Month, not to be confused with National Hot Tea Day (this coming Saturday, January 12) or National Iced Tea Month (June) or the United Kingdom’s National Tea Day (April 21). I’m certain there are more if you choose to look for them. (I don’t.)
Tea has been around forever, longer in fact than Christianity, by about sixty years. Officially discovered in 59 B.C., but more than likely around prior to that, tea has developed into a cross-cultural, multi-faceted sensation, sometimes a curiosity that has its own rituals, not only ethnically but also individually.

It’s been used for medicinal purposes. Still is.

It is offered monthly by my therapist, something to do with my hands, I suppose, although I usually settle on cold water.

It is the morning beverage of choice by a plethora of people, writers at keyboards, spiritual directors at retreats, teachers awaiting their classroom full of eager faces, business people scarfing down toast or filling travel mugs to take with. Many cups of tea grow cold during the daily work of their drinkers. I have the dregs of tea leaves and sugar granules at the bottom of my morning cup right now.

There are formal tea ceremonies, welcoming honored guests or memorializing those who have gone.

There is High Tea and Cream Tea, hot and cold bubble tea, and tea as an afternoon meal.

There are teas that aren’t teas – herbals and infusions, also called tisane that are easier to offer as tea than explain the difference between tea plants and other plants. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch recently went on a rant about chamomile not being tea at all (see my reference to tisane above; chamomile is a flower). On a related note, my friend Tom never removes his tea bag letting it continue to steep as well as teaching me long ago not to squeeze my tea bag (it makes the tea acidic), a practice that I now cringe at when I see others do it.

Tea has been used as protest, albeit a waste of perfectly good tea from Boston to Washington DC to Manchester, England (April, 2018), although in Manchester, he didn’t get rid of it, but serve it in protest to war (make tea, not war).

From its initial popularity in the Chinese Tang Dynasty to the drinking of tea that spread across Asia through Portuguese priests into Europe during the 16th century and soon after becoming part of UK culture beginning in the 17th century continuing through the present day.

It is India’s most popular hot beverage, and Ireland drinks by far the most tea in Britain at four cups per person per day, some as much as six cups a day.

Many people have their own recipe for the perfect cup of tea. I prefer to follow Douglas Adams’ specifications. I did this for a few years and it really was better; perfect, in fact.

Since getting our electric kettle, I drink tea nearly on a daily, sometimes multi-daily basis, and like to try new teas depending on my mood, although overall I prefer black tea as the base. When we went to Ireland and Wales for a family function, my kids brought back bags and bags of British candy; I brought back tea and Welsh cakes, and it still wasn’t enough.

For Christmas gifts this year, I blended my own Masala chai, which was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it, deciding how much of what to put in. I did have a base recipe (that I will share in a future week).

For the next three Wednesdays, I will share a different type of tea that I’ll have drunk during the week past. I’ll share something of a review, a photo perhaps, and links to find those teas plus at then end, possibly the first Wednesday in February, all the tea links I have. Even the grocery shelves have plenty to select from.

In addition to those four Wednesdays (including today), I will also share a few of my other tea posts from years past. If you can’t wait, just check the search box on the left and find some on your own schedule.

Onward to today’s tea: 

Twinings Prince of Wales tea. Twinings has been manufacturing tea for over three hundred years, so I’m going to guess that they’ve gotten the hang of it.
The Prince of Wales tea is a bit less strong than the English breakfast tea from the same company that I often drink. It is also less strong (by a mile) than the Welsh tea I brought home from Wales. Part of the strength of the tea I brought home, which I should have read on the box is that it’s made specifically for the Welsh water. When I was there I didn’t notice a strength difference, but when I got home it was more than I’d expected. I’ve adjusted to it, but it took a few tries.

The Prince of Wales tea is a lovely black tea that is mild and a bit woody. It is blended from several provinces in China and was originally created in 1921 for THE Prince of Wales at the time who went on to be crowned King Edward VIII. I like it both with and without milk and always with a bit of sugar. It’s my primary choice for the mornings to go along with eggs and toast, a bagel, or the ever more common for me, healthier oatmeal with craisins and granola. I can drink several cups of this a day and it’s also my go-to for a late afternoon cup. It’s good during the autumn and winter, but I have no prejudice – I’m a hot tea drinker year round.

Mental Health Monday is Coming

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Tomorrow begins a new, not so new series on mental health. It will include links, resources, my own reflections, and other relevant items. It won’t necessarily be every week, but I do have four in a row planned out for January. 

I personally find January and February to be difficult for many people, what with the come down from the busyness of the holidays, the winter months that keep us more isolated, and the lack of holiday time or days off from work and school. Sometimes, it’s good just to sit back, take a look at what we did for those busy days, look at the photos, re-read the Christmas cards, and enjoy our new found time. That doesn’t work for everyone, but hopefully, everyone will find something for them on these Mondays.

December – Holiday Season – Reflection

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​December always comes raring in. Thanksgiving is over, our families have left, we’re still feeling a little full. The air is crisp, and snow can be smelled on the horizon. December first comes on suddenly amidst end of year projects and parties, holiday shopping and decorating, lists and more lists, oh, and Christmas cards. In that first week is my birthday, Chanukah (this year), the letter with the schedules from church, some sort of special day at school that I’ve already forgotten about, but need to buy something for, and in this year, two birthday parties for my daughter to attend and seeing Aquaman a week earlier (tonight, in fact.)

It’s not my least favorite month, but it’s probably one of the busiest, and I think I may have finally learned not to overschedule myself, although I do have many extra medical appointments before 2019 comes and resets my deductible. But the good news is I get one more hour of therapy (at no cost) and my mammogram and colonoscopy both came back all good, which I’m thankful for.

My birthday adventure began with mass and breakfast and then I took myself to the movies: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, and then dinner and cake with my family. They don’t like when I say this, but I like when my birthday falls on a weekday when they’re all at school or work. It gives me some private celebratory time that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Some years I’ve gone to a upscale shopping plaza, twice I’ve gone to the movies, although usually I go to Starbucks to relax and write and then go ornament shopping for myself at Target. I think this was the first birthday in recent memory that I didn’t find myself at Target. I also get to do all of this while not rushing around like a chicken without a head, and I’m still home by the time the kids get home from school.

I also had two retreats, one letting go of clutter workshop, and one Cursillo group meeting. All of these set me back on a calming, spiritual path. Sometimes we all need that reminder, and the Advent reflections are perfect for that reset. Unlike Lent, the focus is on waiting and anticipating as opposed to the penitential aspect of Lent. Advent feels refreshing and uplifting; a new start, like the beginning of the new year, only weeks away on the calendar, but already having begun for the Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic liturgical calendars. The Cursillo group is new to me. After having been introduced to the idea and the local people (called cursillistas), I am very much looking forward to next fall when I will undertake my own weekend and join with the group. It had been mentioned to me last year, and when I looked into it a bit more I realized that it is exactly what my inner being is looking for. The local group is lovely and they’ve welcomed me to their monthly get-together, so I can start some of the prayerful parts.

Our tree is up, although no lights and no ornaments. I don’t mind the half finished way our decorating looks this weekend. Our house is always cluttered, and it’s gotten a little worse this month, but when the tree is half done and the ornaments are still in the box, and the lights are strewn around the tree, but not on, it makes the normal clutter look like decorating clutter, and it gives us a pass. At least in my head it does.

This year is also a little confusing. It’s the first year that my son will be living on his own, and will need to come visit for the holidays, so I’m not sure how decorating and celebrating will go. I’m trying to be open about schedules, but it’sw hard with the other family members who have been doing things the same way for the last twelve years (for my husband since his childhood since we’ve adapted most of his family traditions into our family). Last year, my son was working three jobs, and since he’s in public service (first responder) and is required to work the holidays with extended shifts, we moved everything up one day. We celebrated Christmas Eve the day before and on Christmas Eve we had our traditional Christmas dinner and opened our presents. By Christmas Day, we were not sure what we were supposed to do. We still had a wonderful holiday, and I have no doubts we will again this year because we’re working around the most important factors – our family time together.

I had a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share, but I think I’ll save them for next week’s post, and simply leave this one of the Blessed Mother. She has become one of my go-go patrons. She comforts and uplifts me.

Gold colored Christmas ornament of Mary the Blessed Mother. (c)2018


Have a blessed holiday, whichever ones you celebrate, and remember to take a few moments each day to reflect on where you are and where you are looking forward to going.

December – Holiday Season – Recipe

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Cranberry Cheese Spread

I experiemented with this earlier in the year, and decided to have it for breakfast, spread on a croissant last week, and it was delicious. I think it works well as a breakfast spread or as an appetizer/snack on crackers or as a dip for breadsticks, pretzels or vegetables.

Ingredients:

1 cup softened or whipped cream cheese

1/4 cup craisins

Directions:

Mix until incorporated.

Options: To make a dip or larger amount, use the entire container of 16oz. whipped cream cheese (or softened 8oz. block) and add in 1 cup (or your preference) of craisins. Incorporate thoroughly. Chives can also be added for a different, delicious flavor.

Cranberry Cheese Spread. Recipe above. (c)2018