Christmas with Tea & Crumples

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A couple of weeks ago, I led a dozen or so kids in making homemade hot cocoa packets {recipe here} for their families. One of the joys of a good tea kettle is that the water makes instant cocoa as easily as tea. I took advantage of some of the leftover mix and sat down with a steaming mug of chocolate to give thanks.

I am grateful for the cooler weather that draws us closer around the tea table. I’m grateful for beeswax candles. I’m grateful that a book from my heart was published and has been well received by readers and reviewers alike. (See Texas TEA & TRAVEL’s Praise Here!) I’m thankful for stories that come and set a spell when I’m quiet.

I’m grateful for family and friends to sing and laugh with. I’m grateful to have a Christmas card list that outstrips my Christmas card budget this year. For the quiet communion of ink on paper. For the ability to write a smile into a note and stamp it.

I’m thankful for you, too. Thank you for sharing this journey of laughter, simplicity, love, and tea at the heart of it.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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Tea & Crumples* is available through your favorite local bookstore or online retailers. The Orthodox Mama calls it a “perfect book club book.”

*amazon affiliate link

Mild Masala Chai

The weather is turning cool here. Then it turns warm. Then it turns cool. Autumn in the South means fluctuating weather. This weekend, we’re due for a cold spell. The leaves are almost done showing off, and I was craving spices. After reading several chai recipes online, I decided to make my own.

My goal was three-fold: 1.) Make a spiced chai that’s not bitter, and 2.) Make a spiced chai that works in my teapot rather than needing time on the stove, and 3.) Make a spiced chai that I can serve to friends who can’t have dairy.

I had run out of several spices, so I went to the store this morning. This afternoon, I got everything together: our favorite Indian tea in tea bags, ground ginger, black peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom pods. We have a wonderful tea kettle that keeps the water at the perfect temperature all day, so I dove right in.

First, I added the spices to a loose tea filter bag. Then I placed the black tea bags and filter bag into the pot and filled it with boiling water. After three minutes, I removed the black tea bags. This kept them from oversteeping and turning the mixture bitter. I kept the spice bag in the pot for another 7 minutes (10 minutes total). After removing the spice bag, I poured the tea out into mugs that had 1 teaspoon demerara sugar and a splash of half & half each. It made 4 big mugs of spiced tea. If friends who are fasting from dairy or have dairy allergies come over, I can pour the tea over coconut milk instead.

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The ingredients: black peppercorns, ground ginger, Assam tea bags, whole cloves, cardamom pods.

This tea was mild enough to drink without food. If I were serving it with spicy foods, I might steep the spices a bit longer or add more of them. But for a rainy afternoon, it was just right.

Mild Masala Chai

Tea & Crumples is available now wherever books are sold! Find it at Amazon HERE (affiliate link).

Making the Most of Bagged Black Teas

My godmother at a recent gathering where we served tea from bags.

We tea lovers like to indulge in leaf teas. The fragrance, body, taste, ritual and beauty of tea shine through in leaf teas. But let’s face it: we can’t always afford our favorite teas.

Thankfully, the perfect need not be the enemy of the good when it comes to tea. Teabags can make for a rich tea experience, too. You’ll have to avoid a few common pitfalls, though.

  • Don’t oversteep! Black tea in bags really only needs about two (2) minutes to brew properly. All the caffiene will brew out by about two minutes, and leaving the bag any longer will make the tea bitter.
  • If you oversteep, try adding the teensiest pinch of baking soda to the pot. This will take off the overly bitter edge. 
  • Ask friends for recommendations before buying if you’re new to tea. The grocery store brands that I’ve found most consistently good are Twinings English Breakfast, TAZO Awake, and PG Tips. If you’re lucky enough to have access to Taylor’s of Harrogate or Harney and Sons, the breakfast blends (or Assam or Keemun) are very nice in leaf or bag form. Sometimes a store brand (like the Whole Foods generic black tea) is good, too. Try to catch it on sale.
  • Teabags that come in bulk (not individually wrapped) work great in hotel coffee makers. They are also usually geared to frequent tea drinkers. I’m thinking of PG Tips, Lighthouse, Rose’s, the Whole Foods brand, and Taylor’s of Harrogate bags. They make good tea on a budget, and they travel well. 

Later this week, I’ll share some bag blends that work well for different health needs. 

What’s your favorite black teabag?

Take it on the Tea

I love watching period dramas. I’m partial to a good mystery series. There’s one trope in period dramas that makes me “awwwww” in disappointment like a soccer fan when a goal is missed. Can you guess?  

If you’re going to hunt for clues, carry a tea service or at least a cup!
 

When the terrible evidence is discovered, someone drops a tea tray. Sometimes it’s only a cup and saucer. The key is, disasters provoke the immediate disintegration of china. 

It’s been almost three years since my dad died, and I’ve been conscious of how swiftly time passes. Many of my friends have lost a parent now. When we’re gathered around our children, watching them blow out candles and widen their eyes over ice cream, I can’t help but feel the fragility in the moments. Our littles will hopefully outlive us all. They’ll be the ones remembering the strength in the arms that held them, the warmth that fades out of old photographs, the love that lit their birthday candles.   

Teacups are the closest thing to holding memories in my hands. They are strong and fragile, warm and rich, or cold and empty. I set them out for friends and fill them to the brim with the best I have. 

I hope to continue doing so for many years. I hope I get to watch my grandchildren break my china with the careful distraction of childhood. Perhaps I’ll even rejoice to see them off to their homes with my old cups in hand. 

When I’m silvered over and it’s my turn to be the body in the library, I hope that whoever finds me is holding a teacup. I hope they drop it with a satisfying clatter. Then someone will come running. They’ll shake their heads at the poor old dear who left the world in quiet, and they’ll smile at the broken cup on the floor. “Gran always liked a bit of drama,” they’ll smile. Tears will disappear into sleeves. “Come on. Let’s get some tea.”

Dollhouse tea service 

We threw a big tea party for some special events in our children’s lives this weekend. Since space was at a premium, I set out the sweeteners and spoons in one of our toy houses.  

vintage silver teaspoons,honey,and stevia packets are displayed in favorite family cups

Do you have a creative tea serving idea?

Tea for Purple Days

Tea & Crumples releases this November with Light Messages Publishers.
Tea & Crumples releases this November with Light Messages Publishers.

I love purple. It’s a color I associate with the richness of wine, velvet nights, the coziest blanket tucked around a small child. But it’s also the color of old grief.

My great-grandmother Luella Mae, known to us as “Granny,” was a Junebug. She was born in June and died in early summer some 18 years ago. Memories of Granny are scattered like grapes through my childhood and teen years.

Granny had the best songs and quips. “My nose itches. I smell peaches. Yonder come a man with a hole in his breeches.” She loved red like the sun loves heat.

My novel Tea & Crumples wades right into the depths of grief and floats back out on hope. I thought about Granny when I was writing it, along with all the other loves I cannot touch. What makes grief tolerable are the daily rituals that let us stir faith into our homes. That’s why, when I think about the message of my book, these words come to mind. Tea helps us touch grief in the dark.

If you are going through a purple valley, I hope you know I’m here, thinking of you, too, when I stir my tea.

Faith, Tea, and Love,

Summer

Tea Cabinet refresh 

I’ve been swamped lately with the birth of my 3 month old daughter (our fifth child), edits to the novel Tea and Crumples (Light Messages Publishers, November 2015), and preparing for this past weekend’s Read Local Book Festival. The house –how can I say this kindly? — suffered. Today I listened to an organizing podcast that reminded me to start de-cluttering with a small project that is my space. It also advised using one’s favorite things. So I did.  I purged teas I don’t like. I set aside the empty tea tins and packets of tea I’ll never drink. I’ll donate them to my church’s giant garage sale at the end of the summer. The new space allowed me to display necessary tea things in beautiful heirlooms.

  The Vaseline Glass bowl from my Grandmother-in-law holds tea sachets for travel. The silver plate basket and child cup are from my husband’s parents. One of his baby cups holds stevia packets.

  The pewter cup holds honey sleeves.

  I was able to fit the children’s tea set into the new arrangement, as well as the cup of silver teaspoons.

 My favorite “top shelf” teas hold a spot on the top shelf. Years ago, my tea cabinet was so tall that I kept them on the middle one, much to friends’ amusement. My favorite bit of whimsy is the squirrel card holder. He’s proclaiming the heart of my writing life: faith, tea, and love in journeys of healing. Now that the tea cabinet is organized, I can share more of all three with friends!

How about you? Do you have a tea cabinet? Link to your blog post or describe it in the comments below!

[For a recap of the Read Local festival, visit my main website: WritingLikeAMother.com|

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Just heard the exciting news that my novel, Tea and Crumples, launches at the Main Branch of the Durham Library in downtown, Saturday, November 7! A tea party, a book party, in a library!