Christmas Cheer

Well, we’ve wrapped up a wonderful Christmas weekend.  Money has been tight and we didn’t give gifts like we would have liked to, but it made us get more creative.  We had some old and dear friends from Beckley come down.  Originally they were coming down on Christmas Eve to spend the night and be here for Christmas and then return home Christmas evening.  However, with the weather the way it was, we told them to come prepared to stay into Sunday.  Whatever we get, it is 3X as bad in Beckley.  So, they ended up staying over Saturday night as well, and we had our own Sunday morning service together.  Then, we decided that since they also had Monday off, they would just stay until Monday.  So this afternoon we all finally packed up and parted ways.  They said that this had been a much needed mini-vacation for them.  We played Texas Hold’em on Saturday night.  Sunday we watched movies.  It was a wonderful weekend, but also tiring.  I look forward to relaxing tonight and washing my hair.

One thing I did new this year was make mulled cider.  I looked over many recipes, none of which really struck my fancy, but got ideas from each one and decided to try my own concoction.  So, to share with one and all, here it is:

Maggie’s Festive Cider

1 gallon apple cider

2 whole star anise pods

half tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 cup Cran-Raspberry juice

1 cup orange juice

1 handfull of cinnamon imperials

Combine all ingredients in large crockpot (mine is 7 quarts) put on high until bubbling and turn down to warm and let sit for 12 hours.

This was a BIG hit at the gathering.  Hope you enjoy!

I’m A Winner!

NaNo 2010 Winner - 120x90-3

At NaNoWriMo, that is.  I got my 50,000 words in by November 27.  I was shooting for it early.  I hate cutting things to the last minute.  Besides, November 30 was my birthday and I didn’t want the deadline hanging over my head on THAT day.

However, I am not finished with the story.  I’m probably about half-way through.  I learned that everyone who completes the challenge gets a free proof copy of their story.  I want to edit it and clean it up so I can get that.  I have until June, but I can’t slack about it.  Once Christmas is over I will really start cranking it out.

Oh, and to let you know I’m pyschologically sound, I know I’m a “winner” even without a vicarious achievement like this.  But it feels good to have an achievement like this 🙂

Tea Talk

Not to be out-done by Chris over at Pens ‘n’ Paper, I am posting my own tea entry.  I’ve been drinking tea for a long time.  I started out with good old Lipton Orange Pekoe — that was about all you could get when I was growing up in Charleston, WV.  We are about twenty years behind the rest of the country.  When I was in England I was introduced to Black Currant tea on my first night.  It so happened that I caught a cold in Luxembourg which gave me a severe sore throat, so bad I couldn’t speak.  My host family in Northampton settled me down in front of the telly with a cup of Black Currant tea (it was also medicinal) and that was when I discovered there was a bright, beautiful world of teas I hadn’t experienced yet!  The next tea I got to experience was Earl Grey, and I fell in love with that.  I made sure to bring a box of loose Earl Grey tea home with me.  Since then I have had my eye out to try unique teas.  Also, the art form of brewing tea is very appealing.  It is a relaxing ritual.

I sold enough items at last week’s craft show to go out to Office Max and purchase a tea pot and some tea I had had my eye on for almost a month.

my tea purchase

 

I enjoyed how the box said “as seen on tv” because I had never seen it advertised on tv.  I guess I just don’t watch the right channels….

teapot getting ready

 

It was a nice little pot — 40 oz, which is a decent size, enough to give two people a couple cups each.  The tea pot came with three “blossoming” teas.  These are teas where they take the tea leaves and some pretty flowers and hand sew them together.  When a blossom pod comes out of the vacuum sealed bag, it looks like this….

blossoming tea pod

 

You put the pod in the tea pot and pour over almost-boiling water.  As it steeps in the water, it will open up.

blossoming tea

 

blossomed tea

 

The pictures on the box showed a tea pod opening gradually and completely.  This pod never seemed to open completely.  However, each pod can be brewed up to three times, so I wonder if it doesn’t “blossom” a little more each time you steep it.

The tea pot came with three pods, all three were green tea with jasmine.  Jasmine tea is one of my favorites, and hubby likes it too, so this is a tea we can enjoy together.  One little packet of turbinado sugar was just right for sweetening my tea.  Hubby wasn’t at home at the time, I am sure he will warm up a cup after he gets home from opening a friend’s car doors that froze shut overnight…

A little info about proper tea preparation — water should be boiled in a pot or kettle other than the pot you are going to steep your tea in.  For green tea it is recommended that you heat your water to no more than 150 degrees farenheit otherwise the tea will turn bitter in the higher heat.  The pot you intend to steep your tea in should be set near the kettle you are heating the water in and/or putting a little of the hot water in the pot and swirling it around to gently warm the pot.  Most tea pots are either glass or pottery and should be warmed gently else they might shatter.  Your water choice is also very important.  Spring water is a good choice.  If you must use tap water, first boil it and let it cool in order to get rid of the chlorine.  We have a filtering water cooler, and it also heats water, so that is what I used to get the water for my first pot of tea.

One downside to this first pot of tea — all the pictures show the tea pod resting on the bottom of the pot and gently opening like a flower as it steeps.  My tea pod floated and it was kind of difficult to see it opening.  After it had opened up somewhat I was able to pin it to the bottom with a fork, but it doesn’t make for a very appealing photo….

Hopefully someday I can make a purchase of an all glass tea pot and a warmer so I can keep my tea warm.  This tea pot has plastic around part of it, and the bottom.  While it looks nice, you can’t sit it on a tea warmer.

Overall, though, I was rather pleased with my purchase.  This teapot came from Primula, and they have other tea pots, mugs and flavors of tea available on their website.  I will definitely have to try the Earl Grey 😉  The white tea and peach doesn’t sound too bad either….