Day Ten – Aloe Glow

Okay, so we’ve stopped pretending I meant the 31 days of December right? RIGHT? Because holy crap, December started to run away with itself. So much overtime, so many different projects to tackle around the house, so much angst related to “the holidays.” And I just found out that people I don’t even know have read my blog. I’m not kidding, my eyebrows have not yet receded from above my hairline at that little tidbit (I was posting on a mutual friend’s page when someone I have never even heard of referenced something I wrote here. MY FLABBER, IT IS GHASTED.)

I made myself a cup of tea TWO MORNINGS AGO. I drank it two evenings ago, long after it had gotten cold. I had one or two sips while it was hot, then promptly forgot about it and went about my day. So I can attest to the fact that Aloe Glow is, in fact, better iced than hot (it was pretty good hot too, though). At the time, though, I had put the package away, so all I could tell you was that it had hibiscus and aloe, and that it was fruity and delicious. (it also has apple, pineapple, dragonfruit, horsetail?!?, rose petals, marigold blossoms, and a few other bits and bobs in a rooibos blend). I didn’t savor it. There was no mindfulness. I was stressed out from work and downed it for hydration when I finally remembered it was there. It really was delicious though, and I kept trying to remind myself that I had to write about it. And I kept getting distracted by other things.

So here you go, two days late (technically five days late, it being the 15th and all). That was day 10’s tea. I’ve located a few for the next few days, so hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up for a little while. This is my Saturday at the side-gig, and it was a much-needed day off (I did hop on at lunchtime to help with an unruly call queue, but only for an hour and a bit). Started cleaning my room. Made a couple of pots of soup. Indulged in a bit of self-care (about to put my hair up and have a nice hot shower before bed).

About those pots of soup… I had an odd craving and a pound of shrimp in the freezer, so I decided to make a bastardized sort of Manhattan shrimp chowder (didn’t have any clams). I had bought a bottle of extra-spicy Clamato last week with the intention of making some kind of fish- or seafood-based soup. But I couldn’t find fish that looked good enough to pick up. Since jumbo shrimp were on sale, I bought some of those and decided to have at it.

To one bottle of extra-spicy Clamato, I added one onion, 2 carrots, 2 white potatoes, 1 cup of frozen corn, half a pound of mushrooms, two handfuls of wild rice, some red chili flakes, thyme, basil, and turmeric. And my pound of peeled, deveined, chopped up shrimp. Set it to boil, then reduced it to a simmer for about an hour (that wild rice takes a while). I had to make a second pot because my youngest doesn’t react well to seafood. So for hers, I did all the same veg, used tomato juice instead of Clamato, and chopped up a chicken breast to add to it (hers also replaced the mushrooms with frozen peas because each kid has their preference). Her batch is completely gone (I can hear her grabbing the last bowl right now). Ours still has a bit left (it was a bigger batch), so a jar has been put aside for my mom, and I’m sure my oldest will keep noshing on it all night. Hopefully, there will be a bit left for breakfast. I can always tell when something I’ve cooked has been a success because leftovers are a pipe dream.

Soup is such a forgiving medium. I don’t think I’ve ever made a BAD batch of soup. They haven’t all been gourmet delights, but they’re usually pretty good, always comforting, and everybody tends to like them. I get a much better rate of success with soup than I do with baking, certainly. Some folks have a gift for that. I’m not one of them. If I can’t mix it in a bowl and dump it in a baking dish, it’s too complicated for me. Not really, but I’m lazy. I prefer stews and curries, chowders and soups. My artistry lies not in how something looks, but in how it tastes, how it evokes memories and feelings, how it warms you from the inside out. It’s in the spices I never measure, in how I chop the vegetables small enough to not overcrowd the spoon, in how I combine flavors and textures. I’ve tried to approximate recipes on this blog before, and you get a pretty good idea of what I create. But it’s never exact because I don’t use recipes. I just kind of feel my way around what I’m doing. Kind of like the rest of my life.

For now, I’ll feel my way through a shower and bed. Talk to you all tomorrow (probably…)

Day Nine – Country Lemonade

I chose Country Lemonade today because it was a tea I haven’t tried yet. It’s another Black tea with some surprising citrusy ingredients (2nd one on the list is Pomelo peel – I don’t know if you’ve ever had pomelo, but it’s DELICIOUS). This tea is fragrant and pretty damn tasty for a black tea. The citrus flavor is strong, but not overwhelming. I enjoyed it better cold than I did while it was still hot. Because like all good tea drinkers, I have a tendency to put my cup down and forget about it – or as in today’s case, work got busy and I didn’t have time to finish it right away.

It kind of tastes like the best lemon iced tea, with minimal sweetness, but still present. There is some sugar in it (candied pineapple, and the citrus peels are candied as well). Just enough to make it taste fabulous. I tend to find commercial lemon iced teas way too sweet. This one is just right. I want to try doing a pitcher of it next, and refrigerating it. I bought quite a bit of it on sale, so it should last.

Weather-wise, things got weird today. The temperature went up to 12C, and everything started melting. Now that it’s nighttime, the wind is going crazy. It’s supposed to go up to 15 later in the week! This is ridiculously warm for mid-December. I’m just hoping the entire world isn’t a skating rink tomorrow, as it’s the first time I’ll have left the house since Thursday. I hope everybody’s having a great weekend 🙂

Day Eight – Snow Day

So apparently I can’t even do ten consecutive days, but this is a blog and not life-or-death, so it’s not that big a deal. It’s been a mess of overtime and not feeling well and not being able to sleep and sleeping too much, so I’m doing what I can when I can.

Snow Day is an awesome white chocolate mint herbal tea. It’s just the right amount of sweet, and the mint and chocolate are subtle and delicious. It’s my favorite of the holiday teas from David’s, and I always keep it in stock. We’ve had a lot of snowy days in Ottawa recently (where I am, near Gatineau Park, we’ve been having a dusting almost every night). Last week, around this time, there was nothing on the ground. Now, winter is well and truly established. So Snow Day seemed appropriate. That, and it’s just REALLY stinking good.

It’s also another tea that’s just as good cold as it is hot, and I love doing pitchers of this one as iced tea in the summer. What’s better than chocolate-mint flavored iced tea??? Not a lot. I was pretty sad when David’s stopped sending out samples with every order, because Snow Day was always one of my go-tos in winter. I highly recommend it 🙂 Give it a try now, because it’s only available during the holidays!

Day Seven – Organic Super Ginger

By the type of tea I chose, you may possibly have guessed I wasn’t feeling great yesterday. You’d be right. Some lingering after-effects from an antibiotic have left me without much appetite, so I chose Organic Super Ginger as my tea of the day. Unfortunately, I also ended up working a few extra hours yesterday, and writing a post wasn’t possible. Today was also pretty busy and I had a forced nap after work.

So Super Ginger is a nice, simple, spicy tea (it gets spicier the longer you let it steep). It has ginger, peppercorns, and just the right amount of subtle sweetness. I’m actually just finishing up the last of it now, and it’s SUPER spicy at this point 🙂 It’s as good cold as it is hot, and would likely make a fabulous kombucha.

(ended up being called in to work mid-post, and never finished it or hit publish, so there we are. Unfinished post being posted a day late from being a day late ftw!)

Day Six – Quince Charming

No pictures tonight, because I didn’t actually get around to making a cup of tea. So instead, I’ll tell you about my absolute favorite David’s Tea. It’s discontinued, and I really wish they would bring it back. Hear that guys? Bring my tea back! I only have a few cups’ worth left, and I am hoarding it like a dragon hoards gold.

Quince Charming was a black tea that contained quince, which is one of my favorite flavors. It’s a flowery cross between apple and pear, with a lot of body and richness. I’m generally not all that fond of black teas, but this one just hits the exact right notes. It’s smooth and sweet and delicious. No bitterness at all, and the smell is just…. mmmm ❤

Since we’re on the subject of discontinued teas I can’t live without, I think I have one cup left of Fabulous Fennel (obviously also David’s). This sweet fennel tea is AMAZING. The closest replacement I’ve been able to find is Stash Tea’s Licorice Spice, but it’s just not the same. I miss my Fabulous Fennel. Why do they keep getting rid of my favorites? NOT FAIR.

Hope you all had a great day (all three of you), and see you tomorrow when I actually will make a cup of tea again 🙂

Day Five – Me to We

Battered tin of David's Tea Me to We tea.

Apologies for the state of this tin. It met with an unfortunate schmelting accident (cookie for the reference). This is probably my favorite tea ever. Hibiscus, pink peppercorns, seven or eight different fruits… it’s sweet and full-bodied and amazing. This was the first of the fundraising teas David’s created to raise money for clean drinking water initiatives worldwide. There are several different ones now, but this is the original, and it’s still the best. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to try the Indian one, since it contains mango. I’ll have to use my imagination.

I let it get cold, because work was extremely busy when I made it, and because this one is DELICIOUS cold. I wish it was possible to make a soda from it, it’s that good. Notes of apple, pineapple, fig, cranberry, blueberry, raspberry and cherry all combine with the hibiscus to make a sinfully delicious tea. I’m just finishing it up now at dinner time, and I made it at 9am.

I don’t have any deep insights or anything to share tonight. It’s been a very long day after a sleepless night, and this girl needs a nap. See you tomorrow!

Sheep sticking his tongue out.

Day Four: Candy Apple

Black tin of David's Tea Candy Apple tea and bamboo spoon in front of laptop.

Today marks the first PROPER snowfall (i.e. one with big, fat, clumpy flakes that I got to witness). And as such, today’s tea had to be a bit special. It’s cold – although the sun has finally appeared – it’s windy, it’s a perfect day to shelter in place until you’ve warmed up and woken up. And then, a walk in the fresh-fallen snow! But for some of us, it’s not quite that simple… it’s a workday! But I work from home, so I still get to watch the snow out my window and enjoy the day vicariously.

I chose Candy Apple for two reasons. One, the tin was sitting on my desk staring me in the face, and two, I’ve only had it once before, but the spicy apple scent is to die for. Three. There are three reasons. The third is that it’s a long day for me today (3 hours managing the chat room for a B’nei mitzvah service this morning, and then 8 hours at work) and this is one of my rare black teas – needed the extra boost of caffeine!

The scent permeating my office/bedroom right now is of tart apples and sweet toffee. There are a few unusual ingredients in it (blue mallow flowers, pomegranate petals, sweet blackberry leaf) as well as some expected ones (apples, cinnamon). It’s a mellow black tea that doesn’t seem to have the bitterness some flavored black teas get (you sometimes have to oversteep to get the “other” flavors to shine through, which makes the tea bitter). The flavors come through nice and clear without having to overdo it. Oddly though, the apple shines through and the cinnamon is almost unnoticeable. It’s hard to describe the flavor, never having eaten a candy apple. (Granted, I think I tried one once as a child, took two bites, and decided it was not a combination of textures I was going to accept). I honestly can’t tell you if it tastes like a candy apple or not, my only taste of one having been roughly four decades ago. But I can tell you it’s delicious! This is one that would make an excellent iced tea.

I’m trying to incorporate some mindfulness and self-care into this tea ritual for the month of December. Even though I’m usually working while enjoying my tea, it’s more about using that time to think and feel and be. I like to use a grounding technique meant for relieving acute anxiety when I’m doing this. What are five things I can see? Four things I can physically feel? Three things I can hear? Two things I can smell? One thing I can taste? It’s a very calming process whether you’re experiencing anxiety or not. And it never fails to bring a bit of peace to my day. Try it, and hopefully, it will bring a bit of peace to yours as well.

Day Three: Vanilla Swirl

Tin of David's Tea Vanilla Swirl Herbal Tea with bamboo spoon in front of laptop.

I let my son choose the tea this evening – it was a very busy day at work, and my office/bedroom got quite warm, so I had to wait until it was cool enough to drink tea. He chose one of my absolute favorites. Vanilla Swirl is a sinfully sweet and comforting blend of lemongrass, pineapple chunks (surprise?), white chocolate, amaranth, cornflower, stevia, and a few different flavorings. It’s a bizarre combination that leaves you with a creamy, lemony flavor that is actually quite a good dessert substitute.

It’s a delicious tea to enjoy with a nice sharp cheese, some dark chocolate, and a handful of nuts. Or with a mildly flavored dessert such as plain cheesecake or flan. The subtle vanilla lemon flavor lends itself well to a bedtime tea as well. One of the reasons I drink mostly herbal teas is because I find it a relaxing practice. I find it relaxing to drink regular teas as well, but I do so love having a nice hot cup of tea to warm me before bed.

Tonight was the sixth night of Hanukkah. A few people asked me if I still celebrate. To me, since I didn’t grow up with any of the traditions, it’s always been about saying the blessing and lighting the candles. There are no gifts, no games, no gelt involved. It’s just about bringing light to the darkest time of the year. And yes, even though I no longer have a Jewish partner, my conversion has always been for my own benefit, not his. I will continue to celebrate with my community (Or Haneshamah Reconstructionist Temple, Ottawa). I will continue to study and follow Jewish teachings. I’m not an overly religious person, but I find the quiet desire and effort to improve the lives of others around us to be a very strong draw to this particular shul and its members. I have found family here. And I am so, so grateful to have them in my life.

I have a lot of chosen family, and I’m thankful for all of them. My podcast and knitting friends, some of the very best pocket friends a girl could have, my work families, my outlaws (my ex-husband and his family)… I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by some of the very best people. And my own family – sometimes a bit broken, sometimes a bit dysfunctional, but they’re mine. And my partner. I’m glad I don’t have to get through this bizarre life alone. And if we’re ever face-to-face, I would be honored we could share a pot of tea together.

Six blue and white swirled candles and a shamash almost completely burned down in a small gold foil menorah

Day Two: Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai

Sachet of David's Tea Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai leaning up against an orange Bijou Basin mug on a cluttered desktop.

I had a rather eventful day, so you’re getting evening tea today. I’ll admit, I didn’t put any thought into which teas I would choose each day, so because of that, and because of the eventful day, I chose one of my favorite comfort teas: Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai. This tea isn’t very aptly named. There are only three ingredients. Rooibos, apple, and cinnamon. It doesn’t have the aromatic spice blend of a traditional chai. There’s no actual tea in it (making it not-at-all chai). Also, it tastes kind of awful if brewed in or with milk. But I’m not here to beat a dead horse with the semantics stick. Who cares what it’s called?

The first thing you notice is the smell. A rich, earthy cinnamon smell that overpowers the senses. It brings to mind a book series I read years ago by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts – The Empire Trilogy (a follow-up to the Riftwar series Feist wrote on his own). In these books, there’s a race of beings called the Choja. They are insectile creatures that live in underground hives, and the descriptions of these hives always include a rich, spicy, earthy scent. And that’s kind of what this tea evokes. Comforting, dark warmth. The kind you seek out on cold, rainy fall, or winter days like today. The kind you want most when you’re under the weather. That smell lingers and is one of the best things about this tea. It’s what you want to smell when you pull a hot apple pie out of the oven. It feels like a warm, soft blanket being pulled around you as you curl up on the couch.

Unlike many cinnamon-based teas, this one doesn’t disappoint on flavor. Rooibos is a base that lends itself particularly well to spices – even more so, I find, than black tea. It rounds out their flavor with a sharp, almost umami-like richness. The cinnamon flavor permeates your senses in a way I haven’t experienced with other simple cinnamon teas. I’ve tried Stash Tea’s cinnamon chai and was sorely disappointed after having gotten used to this one. Suffice to say, I highly recommend you try it! I bought a bag of 100 sachets a while back, and I wish I could buy another one.

Today started out dark and ugly – the kind of morning you just want to lie in bed and never move. And then it became progressively more and more unpleasant until I did just that for a few hours. And now it is dark, my brain has come to life finally, and I’m being productive for what remains of the day. I look out at some of my neighbors’ holiday lights (I’m not going to assume they’re celebrating anything specific other than darkness), and I remind myself that in three short weeks, the days will begin to lighten again. It’s such a short time away, I think I can just burrow into the darkness until it passes. As long as I have my warm cinnamon chai to comfort me. Winter may be coming, but it never stays.

blurred holiday lights - NOT MY IMAGE

31 Days of Tea

Close-up photo of an orange Bijou Basin Ranch mug, with a bag of David's Tea Forever Frosty tea leaning up against it on a cluttered desk.

I’ve noticed several of the blogs and podcasts I follow starting their Vlogmas posts, and although I didn’t much feel like sharing my pathetic little Hanukkah celebrations (I light candles just before I start my shift each evening), I did kind of want to get back out into the world a little bit. I’ve been a hardcore hermit since just before the panini started (first because the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining steam, and I felt other voices should be heard than mine, and then later because my mental health took a nosedive). But I’ve been ruminating and thinking and having urges because I miss my podcast family, and I miss everyone I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in the process.

I wasn’t comfortable recording today (we’ll see, it may happen before this month is over). So much has happened since I last podcasted. I haven’t knit in nearly a year. I did not get married in September of 2020. I no longer live in the same place. I don’t work at the grocery store anymore (new side gig, actually quite exciting!) I’m no longer with the same person. My life has changed in a lot of really significant ways. And I’m still struggling to put some of it back together.

So I figured why not start small? I was making myself a cup of tea this morning, and I remember back in March 2020, that was my intention. To start a tea diary. I’m not going to go with anything quite that elaborate, but I did want to see if I could stick to coming by and chatting with you all a bit over a cup of tea for one month. I have FAR more than 31 kinds of tea in my stash (it’s actually a bit embarrassing). And I wanted to challenge myself to have a different kind each day, but all from David’s Tea. No, they’re not sponsoring me – and I didn’t buy the advent calendar. This is all from stash.

At the same time, I’ll try unpacking a few boxes, reading a few books, watching a movie or two, and talking about whatever catches my fancy.

So today’s tea is Forever Frosty. The description says it’s “a jolly, happy blend with orange slices, spices, and sugar-dusted almonds.” The ingredients list is considerably longer than that (there’s MARSHMALLOWS in it! – so obviously not sugar-free, but only 1g of sugar per tea bag). It has all those sweet & spicy notes that make you think of Christmas, smells like an old-fashioned spice cake, and is warming and welcoming and lovely. It’s not cloying like some of those spicy, sweet teas can be, it’s a very light flavor, like walking through the kitchen after the holiday baking has been cleaned up. and I’ve been drinking it as I write this, and I’ll be sad when it’s gone – sort of. I do have a few more tea bags from the Christmas Classics sampler I bought at the beginning of the year. It was just the pick-me-up I needed this morning, as I see the fine, sunlit dusting of snow in the yard.

So welcome to December, and happy fourth night of Hanukkah! I hope you all have the best day possible.

Photo of a snow-covered back yard, grass poking through. There's a small, bare maple tree, a small spruce in the sunshine, and a much larger spruce closer to the window. The base of another house can be seen in the background.