Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Solitary Tea Party . . .

I went out to meet a very good friend of mine the other day whom I hadn't seen in quite some time.  I had been told that I would be receiving a surprise gift and I was in anxious curiosity.  Now, with this friend anything is possible... I had no clue what to expect.  When we encountered one another, my friend had a large lump sticking out of their sweater. I tried to guess as to it's secretive nature but failed.  When we finally sat down, tea in hand, my friend pulled out a medium sized red paper bag. It had a strange little insignia on it.. like someone sitting cross legged on the floor holding a bowl in their lap.  I hadn't the faintest idea as to the surprise that awaited me. So flush cheeked and excited, I peeked into the bag and found two paper sacks and a tall cylinder which all bore this same queer bowl-laden person shape.  Whatever could it be? I asked myself, looking questioningly at the friend opposite me. They smiled and beckoned me to investigate. I pulled out the following: 

small paper bags of??

What could be in the cylinder container?
 I spread the items out in front of me and upon closer inspection, discovered the marvelous nature of the gift I had been presented with. The two small paper sacks were diverse aromatically and when I looked inside, I beheld two very different things.  The first packet, labelled Jade Dragon Mao Feng contained a very large portion of loose leaf green tea.  The second sack was labelled "Pineapple Kiwaii" and contained over a dozen little balls which meant only one thing... blooming tea!!!  I was completely thrown... Never before had I been given such a wonderful gift. But wait.. there was more!

My friend persuaded me to open the cylindrical canister and my eyes beheld a most interesting sight. I turned the canister over and out came the most deliciously red travel mug (of sorts) that I had ever seen.  It too bore the intriguing insignia that the packages and cylinder had. My friend informed me that these items were products from a store called Teavana and had been purchased for me by one of their employees- in fact, my dear friend. I stared, mouth agape at my comrade, not yet fully able to grasp the situation. This friend knows me quite well, and in understanding how much an avid tea drinker I am, came up with the most perfect of gifts for this fine tea-swigging-blogger! Check out my Teavana swag below!!

It is called... the Contour Tumbler

The visual description of the  product inside the cylinder :D

Isn't it just beautiful??!!

The drinking top is a circle with a push button in the middle..
when you push the button, the bottom of the lid opens and lets the tea through.
It's really a neat design! 

A million thank you's were given that day, and a million more to follow throughout the week and even now I have to say.. THANK YOU!! 

I'm currently drinking a "tumbler" full of the tea brewed from the loose leaf green Jade Dragon etc and I have to say, it's very tasty.  I'm not a huge lover of green tea but this one has a very nice subtle flavour to it that is unlike any green tea I've tried. It's like if you took green tea and sweetened milk and blended them together... it isn't very dark but it is rather flavourful. It sits nicely on the tongue and leaves the pallet sort of silkily coated... does that even make sense for a clear liquid?  Anyway, I strongly suggest any tea drinker try this.. even if you don't like green tea- it doesn't taste grass-like or vegetal like some generic ones do... 

I'm also very happy to say that I made the tea about an hour and 20 minutes ago, and the tumbler has kept it very hot - though I burnt my tongue in anticipation-  while the outside of the container is almost cold to the touch.  All in all, I am quite pleased with this gift and I hope to get into drinking more loose leaf along with my bagged teas.  

Something else worth mentioning... when you take out the tea basket post steeping you have to find a place for it and now it's wet and will be dripping tea from the steeped leaves until it is emptied.. but never fear!  The makers of this innovative travel companion intelligently created the basket bottom and the stainless cap to be complimentary. Which means that when you pull out the dripping be-leafed basket, it can rest inside the upturned cap (if desired). I thought it was a pretty neat invention... I'm the type to pull out the tea bag and leave it sitting atop of a napkin for hours. Now, no mess and no fuss.. just pull out the basket and sit it into the upside down cap in wait for re-infusion or cleaning. Check it out.. soo cute n'est pas?

The stainless cap.. and the tea basket

The tea basket sitting in the stainless cap :)

So now I sit completely contented... laptop in front of me, Anne of the Island to my right and my new Teavana Contour Tea Tumbler in my hand as the perfect tool for my Tea Party of One :D 

I'm going to review the tea i'm drinking on and see what the folks are saying tea-wise on the world wide web.  If you want more info on this tea drinking experience feel free to comment or e-mail.. 


Less than 24 hours until...

It's Finally Upon Us Literary Friends :) Let's hold our heads high and keep our pens strong, for in less than 24 hours We Write!!!

Can't wait to officially start writing my NANOWRIMO 2012 Novel.. WOOOOOOOO!!!!

                                                 !!WRIMO'S OF THE WORLD UNITE!! 


P.S still not sure which of my two novel ideas i'll be choosing for the 50K.. wish me luck!!

This is Hallowe'en.. 2012..

My family and I traditionally gather on every holiday of the year, so naturally Hallowe'en would be no different... family filled fun as usual.  We decided it would be best to move our gruesome feast to the Sunday prior though as everyone has to work or attend classes tomorrow.. My sisters and I got together on Saturday evening and baked up some goodies at our newly married sisters beautiful new house where the family fright-festa would be held. Everything went wonderfully well... we made cookies that kinda turned into caramelized hunks of goodness, brownies with and without nuts, peanut butter cookies and a cake- almost all of it from scratch cuz we cool like that- and astounded ourselves with our baking prowesses :D

On Sunday we went to do our usual church thing and then off to grandma's for normal communal family pasta lunch.. we planned to meet at my T&P's house for around 5 and my aunt would be bringing the fixings for homemade pizza- our All Hallows Eve traditional food of course! Everyone arrived in an untimely fashion as per usual and you can bet your bottom dollar that we "Colombian shuffled"** our way out at the end of the night!  Allow me to share some pictures of Sunday evenings festive frivolity with you:

A deliciously frightening feast indeed!

Pumpkins pumpkins everywhere!!

Don't you just love Hallowe'en themed candy? We Do!!

Creepy Cake Anyone?

A motley crew if I ever saw one ;)

Traditional Hallowe'en 'za.. yum!

C&E... best of all our prior  Hallows Eve mugshots !! <3
See the person on my sisters right?  That's what happens when you show up t
o our family's Hallowe'en shin-dig without a costume...
It's the sparkly spider witches boa trimmed hat for you sir!
Mr & Mrs T & P.. I now pronounce you cowboy and devil?? hmmmm
E and her Mama.. my cousins average height, her Ma is just slightly below it ;)
My cousin D and one of his many crazy masks
Superman's actually Moses?? Love it!!

What do you think?? We had a pretty successful evening i'd say! I hope you enjoyed the pictures of my crazy family as per usual :) 

So Happy Hallowe'en to one and all.. I hope its warm and not stormy where you are and that you don't forget your deceased loved ones on this All Hallows Eve..

RIP all the deceased of our Sorgente, Angelini, Mleczko, Bilich, & Smith Families <3
God Bless You on This Years Eve of Hallows... I light a candle for all our gone loved ones

 Riposano In Pace;  Nonno Gianni... Grandma Mleczko.. Mauro Piccari - Gone but not forgotten!


**NB** no offence intended to Colombians... our grandparents, mothers, aunts etc lived in Colombia and were born there, immersed in the culture and language.. The Colombian Shuffle is our family's term for the prolonged good-bye and exiting of any and all gatherings...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Whats better than Apple Pie???

Mini apple pies!!!! That's right, you heard me right.. While I am the first one to line up for a big slice of pie, there is nothing better than a cute little individual mini apple pie to sink your fork into :)

Yesterday my sister and I were sitting around talking and eating and she was complaining that she was tired of her monotonous diet (no offence Tom hehe) and going through her monthly "I want something different" craving.  So I promised her that when she returned from her 2 hour gym workout                 there would be "one surprise" waiting.  So after she set out for her run to the gym, I got to work finding a recipe.  I decided to do some kind of tart which I had seen Chef Michael Smith doing the other day on his cooking show, but I wanted to do something with apples because we had 6 small gala's that were going wrinkly.

 So I went to Chef Michael's food blog and checked if he had a recipe for tarts or at least the dough, but no dice. So then I Google'd "muffin tin pies" and found Tracey's Culinary Adventures on blogspot and to my delight, she had posted about mini caramel apple pies! I read through her post and found a link to another blog where she got the recipe from: Baking with Susan... who is also on blogspot. I decided to follow both of these lovely ladies and I am very glad to have stumbled upon them both.  Susan had the entire recipe step by step and even with some tips which was really great! I kept looking back and forth between Susan and Tracey because Tracey had scaled down the recipe so that it would work for the muffin tin. I adapted the recipe a tiny bit as i went along to make it a little more "diet friendly" for my sister but basically I left out the caramel sauce (which I WILL make next time!) and I made the crust with 2/3ds whole wheat flour.  It actually worked out very well! Here are some before and after pictures:

Traceys blog post

the end of the dough roll during lattice work

The muffin tray filled and the beginnings of the lattice crust

My first time doing a little crust ever.. not bad!

The strips I cut for weaving.. 

Doesn't it just make you feel all "bakey"? :)

I put a generous amount of apples and it still reduced to half..
more apples next time?

The baked product...
From left to right can you tell my lattice work got better??

The 12th muffin hole was originally empty but then I had dough left over..
I'd finished the apples, but improv'd with frozen fruit.
I was shocked that it worked out very well!

The Final Product... cooling down.. yum!

Don't They Look Simply Adorable???!!!

All in a row... sooo cute!

Et Voix-La!! The final plated version :)

*sigh* It doesn't get any better than this!

I was shocked at how easy this was to make and I think I want to try making an entire pie next.  I was surprised at how little liquid goes into the crust but then again i'm used to making pasta and pizza dough by hand not pie crust.  Is there anything better than butter? I don't think so! You would think that there is a lot of sugar needed for this recipe, but in fact I only used 4 table spoons total (plus one more in the whipping cream) so not all bad.  I wonder if you could substitute sugar for honey in the crust... hmmm... The apples were just cut up small and tossed in some flour, sugar, cinnamon and I added vanilla extract. Once they'd baked, the aroma and the flavour were just heavenly! I added slightly sugared whipping cream and it was just perfect.

My entire family loved it, and my sister was very surprised with this "one surprise".  She had 3.  It was great!  I really enjoyed making this recipe and it only took 2 hours from start to finish... did you know that you have to chill buttery crust dough before you can roll it? It makes sense though since you have to use cold butter and ice water to bind it together.. I also learned that patience is a virtue that I do possess, although my cooking time went from Tracey's 25-27minutes To 40 minutes on account of the whole wheat flour.. next time I'll probably use more white.. It's all about trial and error. Never the less, I am proud to say I succeeded in making a delicious dessert that everyone could enjoy.

You can find both recipe's and posts on the blogs linked below:

Thanks again to Baking With Susan and Traceys Culinary Adventures for sharing this wonderful recipe and adaptation!!!


P.s 6 days til NANOWRIMO!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The middle of October

The month is flying by and I've been measuring the time by the changing of leaves and the chill in the air, but this past weekend we had a freak heat wave come through. It was so warm that people were out and about in short sleeves and shorts.. such a strange sight to behold. Stranger still though were the bloomed flowers in my backyard... we were so certain that the cold and below zero temperatures had just about extinguished the plants and yet one of my mothers plants bloomed. Now I'm no expert on plants and their blooming seasons, but I'm pretty sure that they need the sun... and we hadn't had much of that lately either. But much to my surprise, I found these lovely red flowers yesterday. Check out the picture below.

So even when the winter chill stirs the air early, there is still hope for a bloom or two.

I can't believe that we're in the middle of October already... I love the changing leaves, but the faster they change, the faster the snow comes. Though I love the snow, I don't like the 30 below :) but I guess that's what's to be expected from winters in Canada. Check out the pictures i took around my house..

Never the less, I'm loving the fall atmosphere and I hope you're October is transitioning nicely- wherever you may be.

15 days til NANOWRIMO!!!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What were you thankful for??

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day here in Canada... I haven't been able to blog much these days because the entire weekend was busy with family and church. . Let's recap shall we?

On Friday I went to see a close friend so I got to relax all evening. I spent the entire next day in church from 9am til 3pm singing a memorial mass, a funeral and two weddings. Sunday involved one more hour of mass and then 10 hours of thanksgiving extended family fun from which recovery would be slow. Monday (yesterday) my siblings and parents and myself gathered together to be thankful for one another and for the second feast we would consume in the name of this auspicious holiday.

Between the turkeys and hams cooked, the potatoes and sweet potatoes, turnip and squash mashed and the pumpkin pies, there was a lot of tasty starch consumed this weekend.

I woke up this morning early so as to keep my orthodontist appointment and found that the cold-sore i'd acquired yesterday had swollen my lip to about 3 times its normal size. Suffice to say, I spent an hour rotating ice cubes on my mouth and calling my ortho to check if I should still go in. They O.K'd me and at 9:35 I was sitting in the office waiting to have my brakets tightened. Then at 11 I had to sing another funeral, which was fun.. try talking normally with a gumball glued to the left of your lower lip... now try singing like that. In spanish.

Now I'm going to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.. its 14 degrees celcius here. . . But the golden leaves and blue skies beakon me to sit and read under them.. I'm thankful for sweaters.

How was your Thanksgiving weekend Canada??


P.s 22 days til NANOWRIMO begins!!!