Everyone knows what Valentine's Day is really about: chocolate!
I ran a search on my books, and predictably enough, nearly all of them mention chocolate. Some examples:
He set down the glass, thought a moment, and said, “I would like to make chocolate chip cookies.”
Adrian peeled the plastic wrap from the brownie, broke it in half, and handed the larger section to her.
Must be the scents and nourishment of a proper home-cooked meal at last. And the wine. And the chocolate cake—from scratch.
Of Ghosts and Geeks:
When Gwen heard the knock, she imagined it was a local kid selling fundraiser chocolate bars, or Uncle Bert dropping in to beg more details about her “student’s” ghost.
The Ghost Downstairs:
“But he did. He had chocolate with me.” Lina closed her mouth before disclosing what happened after the chocolate.
What Scotland Taught Me: (To my surprise this one has the most references to chocolate of any of my stories. Here are a few.)
“Can we just get some chocolate,” I said, “and go home?”
“Be a dear and serve your boyfriend some chocolate trifle, won’t you?”
Coffee, I needed coffee. No, better yet, chocolate. Chocolate might put my calendar in perspective.
“I was wondering if an old friend could stay at your flat tonight, if that friend brought like a cubic buttload of Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars.”
Valentine’s Day resolved nothing. That afternoon apparently featured Amber wearing lingerie and chocolate body paint in Laurence’s room, and still not getting laid.
While (badly) playing songs on piano tonight from my book of Christmas sheet music, I found myself amused, as I am every year, by the repeated insistence on figgy pudding in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." I mean, it's the subject of three of the four verses. So I tweeted about that, and got an even more amusing response out of the blue within minutes.
Speaking of holiday carols: as someone slightly more inclined toward paganism than Christianity (though I have a Christmas tree in the house and Christmas music and all that--I count as a "cultural Christian" when it comes to some of the holidays), I have to tip the hat every year to "Deck the Halls," which is possibly the only popular carol that doesn't reference Christmas or Jesus anywhere in it. It's all about Yuletide and greenery and harps and gay apparel and fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Also it's ridiculously cheerful.
So, I wish you a merry Christmas, a happy new year, a joyous Yule, a happy Hanukkah, and good times in whatever else you might be up to at the end of this calendar year. And of course I really hope you get figgy pudding. If that's actually any good. I'm not sure I've tried it, to be honest.
There's no way to write a subject line like that and not sound like a spam generator, is there? Nonetheless, here you go; three life-hack-ish tricks I have found useful lately:
1. Borax and sugar to annihilate odorous house ants (a.k.a. sugar ants or soil ants). You can find various methods for this all over the web, but basically you mix equally parts sugar and powdered borax (not Boraxo) with a little water in a small low container (I used bottle lids) and put it where the pesky ants keep getting into the house. They'll zero in on the sugar, take the mix to the nest, and get themselves and their nestmates killed by the borax. These teeny ants have plagued us ever since moving in, and despite regular exterminator visits, have been invading the kitchen this season more than usual. So in desperation I tried the borax trick, and hey! Invasion over! They swarmed the lid for about a day (which in itself was an improvement, since then it meant they weren't roaming the dining room table), then their numbers dropped dramatically. Fully worth the cost of a box of borax.
2. Alternate hot and cold water in the shower for overall well-being. This is an ancient custom, of course; the Romans with their many-temperatured baths knew of it, as do spas all over the world. (Those intrepid Scandinavians sometimes like to hop from their jacuzzis straight into a hole in the river ice. Naked. You're hardcore, people.) I'm more or less switching from 30 seconds of comfortably hot water to 30 seconds of "as cold as I can take it without screaming," back and forth a few times. The cold part is not particularly fun. But the process does seem to leave me feeling rejuvenated, and many people claim it's excellent for your circulation and immune system. So. Try it if you dare.
3. This isn't new, but is worth a repost, and anyway you can't have just two items on a list; you must have three: my cure-all spice drink. Helps with headaches, digestive issues, bloating, colds, PMS/hormonal blahs, and probably more, given all the crazy-high levels of antioxidants in herbs and spices. I'm having a cup right now and my "been a long week" headache is already improving. We all might need it as Election Day draws nearer, eh, America? (Seriously, world, we're so sorry to have subjected you to this.) Be kind to each other out there, everyone.
My list goes to 12:
1. Quitting Facebook, or at least spending waaaaay less time on it
2. Finishing a trilogy!
3. Starting a new novel that is not going to be a trilogy and is way simpler and smaller in scope but still paranormal and romantic and quirky in my usual ways
4. Getting into the habit of daily meditation - I like the app Calm to help guide the practice, but there are lots and lots of others that do similar things and look good too
5. Stepping up my exercising. In addition to making sure I take walks on an almost-daily basis, I've started doing some high-intensity-ish exercises a few times a week. (Try this one if you dare. Calling it "beginner" may be a stretch! But it'll give you a workout for sure, and I'm getting better at it with practice.)
6. Also tai chi. I've been doing various YouTube sessions of that on occasion, and find it really does make my joints all feel happier.
7. Recognizing anxiety for what it is; i.e., my imagination working overtime; and redirecting that imagination into creativity, such as writing stories, or thinking up ways to improve my surroundings
8. Probiotics for all in the household. Or at least, definitely for me, in the form of things like kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and fermented pickles, and for my kids in the form of chewable probiotics when they won't eat those other things, which is usually. It has correlated to a notable decrease in number of viruses and other infections we've caught. I won't claim it has caused the decrease, but it has at least correlated, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a cause and effect here.
9. Earlier bedtimes for kids, better enforced. More sleep for me too. The meditation and similar breathing exercises help relax insomnia's grip on me. And more sleep surely helps our health too.
10. Being a lot gentler in how I think of myself, and getting a lot better at not giving a damn what other people think of me. Self-care feels real good, and ends up making me more patient with everyone else, so hey, win-win.
11. Leasing my soul, for a time anyway, to the Merlin (BBC) fandom, and in particular the Merthur ship. Yay, slash daydreams and fanfics! I've missed your siren song.
(It's pretty much canon, anyway.)
Also, maybe I just haven't dug deep enough yet, but so far the Merlin fandom is one of the sweetest-natured I've ever encountered. Everyone has been wonderfully nice.
12. Trying doing things in new ways, or doing new things. I'm starting small, no bungee jumping yet, but practicing flexibility in daily life is like yoga for the brain.
So my resolutions for 2016 are pretty much to keep all of those up, and do even better at them. Happy New Year, everyone!
I feel like I should post something. Summer kind of melts my brain, though, especially when it's been as hot as Seattle has been this year. We got virtually none of our beautiful "June gloom," the layer of clouds we usually get that keeps it cool and keeps summer officially away until the 5th of July. Instead, this year, not only did it not rain on the 4th of July (sacrilege! It must rain on the 4th of July in Puget Sound!), it was hot all that week, all of June, and all last weekend. We've had almost no rain at all. The grass is already scorched to stiff, dry brown. Leaves are turning yellow and falling off trees. It's like a lovely September afternoon...but it's July.
For the first time ever in all my lifetime in the Pacific Northwest, I caved and bought an air conditioner. Last weekend when it was 98 degrees out (aaaaarrrrrrrggggghhh), we did a lot of standing in front of it. (When you feel like snickering at our idea of "hot" up here, keep in mind very few of us have any A/C, and in fact our houses are more designed to trap heat in than to let it out. So it quickly got to the mid-80s indoors here with no way to cool off--until we got the A/C, that is. But it only really cools off one room at a time.)
BUT now it's cloudy and mid-60s again. Whew. So perhaps I can perhaps think once more.
Tidbits of good news:
The Seattle Public Library finally carries one of my books!
I showed my kids the 2003 Peter Pan movie, and they liked it. In fact, the younger one has been watching it again for a couple days in a row. I, being a girl, still adore the non-canon kiss they added. Peter spiraling up into the sky afterward, literally glowing and with a face-splitting smile, captures youthful post-kiss feelings so beautifully. Even if he's not supposed to want to grow up. ;)
Latest fermentation experiment: I'm trying homemade lacto-fermented juice. The ginger bug is made and bubbling nicely, and I've just added it to orange juice. Wish the good bugs luck.
Not a lot of big trips going on for us this summer, but we do plan at least to get to mountains and coast at various times.
Writing (starting a new novel). Reading (all kinds of stuff). Learning mindfulness (some days go better than others).
So. Happy summer!
I mainly hate soda because there's nothing healthful in it and it leaves you feeling gross (well, it does for me, anyway) and it's a huge waste of money and resources. But THIS ginger beer is probiotic and gets its bubbles from the interaction of yeast and sugar, not from being injected with pressurized sterile carbon dioxide, and you can make it pretty easily in your own kitchen.
I was hippie enough to make some, and after fermenting for 48 hours, it tastes good and, more importantly, makes me feel good rather than gross. Plus, to make it cheaper and easier, I used powdered ginger instead of ginger root, and it still worked fine. So. Try it for a chemistry/cooking experiment if YOU, too, are hippie enough.
Hope you find something you like. And I wish you all a pleasant and relaxing holiday season, regardless of what you eat.
Also this past week on the blog hop, I visited Dean Mayes' blog to talk about settings I've used in writing. Dean's new novel is out now, and you can enter to win a copy of that too! I highly recommend doing so. By the way, if you're an avid reader and haven't created a login at Goodreads.com so that you can browse the book giveaway section of the site, you're missing out on serious kid-in-candy-store action.
Norelle Done at the Seattle Wrote blog also invited me on for a quick Q & A about NaNoWriMo. Norelle is a great writer herself, who generously features all the Seattle-area writers she can get a hold of, and I'm honored to be in the same list alongside so many shining stars.
Finally, in chocolate news, we made these Chewy Chocolate-Cinnamon Cookies last night and they're awesome. Easy recipe, too. It's odd; Hershey's chocolate bars/Kisses don't impress me much (even the Special Dark), but their baking cocoa is excellent, and we've loved the cookie and cake recipes we've tried from their kitchen so far. They must know their stuff, so I wish they'd create some higher-quality eating chocolate for us fans.
Juliet, Anne Fortier. I fell in love with Romeo and Juliet at age 13 in high school (Shakespeare version--which evidently is *not* the original, though that shouldn't have surprised me since I now remember the whole thing was based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe anyway). If I'd discovered R & J at a more mature age, I would have been annoyed at the two star-crossed lovers being OMG SO IN LOVE after, like, ten minutes and then going so far as to die over it. But hey, pretty poetry.
So it was refreshing that Anne Fortier gives her version of the medieval couple--Giuletta and Romeo, in Siena (not Verona)--a longer and more interesting courtship, with even more family complications and ultimate tragedies than Shakespeare gave them. As for her modern-day pair (Julie and Alessandro), I found them too grumpy and snarky with each other for the first three-quarters of the book, and wished they'd have more fun. There *is* a lot of humor in the narrative, even in the retelling of a tragedy, which I appreciated, and I would have liked to see Julie partake of the humor a bit more. I almost liked her bitchy sister better. Almost. Sometimes. Anyway, one thing for which I'll take a star off a book is when I wouldn't really want to hang out with the characters, and that was the case for most of these characters a lot of the time. But luckily not all the time. Eva Maria was fun, and she can invite me to her awesome castello anytime.
Great plotting, though: I thought I had the twists figured out, but I was wrong on most counts, and pleasantly surprised. By the "mortal peril" section toward the end, I was drawn in and turning pages with deep interest, and really did want Julie and Alessandro to break the Giuletta curse and end up together. So, full marks for a very cool story idea and one heck of a gorgeous setting. Someone get me to bella Toscano prontamente!
Sky Between the Branches full-leaf loose green tea, from The Republic of Tea. What it said in the catalog regarding this tea (and on the canister too): "Gu Zhang Mao Jian Tea. This pure and delicate green tea is only harvested ten days each spring on the banks of the Qiushui River in the Wuyi mountains in China. Renowned for its tender, silver tips and unique, chestnut character, this leaf rarely makes its way beyond China's borders."
Okay, with a description and a name like that, I had to order it. My thoughts: the loose leaves are pretty, shriveled up into little green squiggles. I don't know what chestnut tastes like, so I can't comment on that, but the aroma and flavor remind me of summery vegetal things: mowed grass that's been piled up to dry and gotten wet again a few days later in the rain; a persistent hint of dried apricot. These are barely-there flavors, however. It's a gentle and light green tea, easy to like and hard to be offended by, and as such I wouldn't have guessed it was so amazingly exclusive from its flavor alone. This doesn't have the magnificent floral bouquet of jasmine green, or the robust toastiness of matcha green. Those are my two favorite green teas; can you tell? But I certainly like Sky Between the Branches and will finish the canister.
Yerba Maté Latte full-leaf tea, by The Republic of Tea. Ingredients: Roasted yerba maté, cocoa, rooibos, almond pieces, cactus flowers, sunflowers, and blue bottle flowers. I've never tried yerba maté before, and approached it with a little trepidation. Was it going to taste like dead leaves and mud from a forest floor in Argentina? Since I didn't have a gourd handy to drink it from, was my whole experience going to be null and void?
Well, I did drink it from a regular old mug, but no worries on the flavor. In the canister, and brewed too, it smells scrumptious and rich, like chocolate-covered almonds, with darker tones resembling pipe tobacco. And it may be that I still don't know what yerba maté tastes like, because the cocoa, rooibos, and almond could well have accounted for that toasty, rich sweetness. Regardless, this blend is tasty, especially with a dab of honey. As for its "mateine" (caffeine, basically) levels, I didn't notice anything untoward. I felt fine after drinking it--good energy levels, general sense of well-being, as I feel with rooibos or other nice herbals--but not the "eyes propped open with toothpicks" feeling that caffeine can sometimes give me. I see how yerba maté could indeed be a comfortable and healthful thing to drink. Will try it on its own if I can find some at the store.
CHOCOLATE REVIEW: Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in 55% Dark Chocolate: Nom nom nom. Delicious. Not overly sweet (so glad it's not milk chocolate), perfect amount of saltiness, satisfying crunch. Only problem is the fact that I shouldn't eat a whole bar of this with every single meal. Which I would really like to do.
Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree squares: Amazingly, addictively good. Just the right amount of crunch from tiny salt crystals and crushed toasty almonds. Overtones of Heath Bar, only way easier to chew.
Chuao Chocolatier, Coffee & Anise bar: Finely ground espresso and star anise in a 60% cacao bar. Dark and subtle and delicious. The anise is fairly subtle, especially next to a strong flavor like espresso. I am still not deeply keen on black licorice, but I've learned to love fennel and anise. They're gentler. Will try some of Chuao's other nontraditional flavors, but only for a rare treat, given the price.
Bois d'Ombrie (by Eau d'Italie): This was a "love at first sniff" scent for me, and several months later I still swoon over it. I'd call it super-old-fashioned-masculine in a sense, in that I could see Rex Harrison or some other strong-yet-refined English guy from the mid-20th-century wearing it. Leather, tobacco, and cognac are the notes I mostly get (though I might've guessed brandy, being not as familiar with cognac), with a good base of wood--smells like a cabinet in which our gentleman would keep his liquor and pipe tobacco. I hadn't noticed the iris that others mention, but now that it's pointed out, I see how it's under there, softening the whole effect just a tad. And though I'm a slip of a 21st-century American woman, I love wearing it. Mmmm.
Fire From Heaven (by CB I Hate Perfume): Wish I got woods, incense, or even patchouli. Instead what dominates for me is burning paper. A bit TOO fiery. I much prefer Burning Leaves (also by CB I Hate Perfume) for a purely-smoke accord.
A few samples I've found lovely but need to spend more time with in order to write a proper review: L'Artisan Mure et Musc (blackberry and a totally '80s clean musk), Hermes Rocabar (sexy manly orange), and Shiseido Murasaki (fresh, soft, classy green--not unlike Chanel No 19).
Organic Opal apples: They're lemon-yellow on the outside, the usual apple-whitish on the inside. Good crunch. Quite sweet with a hint of melon or pear flavor. Very juicy too, though perhaps not quite as juicy as a Honeycrisp. Recommended!
I'm trying a new tea I ordered from Seattle's Perennial Tea Room, a China black called Keemun Hao Ya A. It's quite good, and has the unique and fascinating feature of smelling (and thus tasting, in a way) like the inside of Westminster Abbey. Or so my scent memory keeps insisting. You might not think a flavor of old, damp, historic stone, with a hint of candle smoke and beeswax sweetness, is something one would enjoy drinking, but then you'd be forgetting what an Anglophile I am. I tell you, I sip it, and I'm standing in a dim, high-arched forest of stone, gazing at the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I.
It's possible it also smells exactly like some ancient buildings in China, but having never been there, I can't answer to that. Or, it could be that all structures in the British Isles have been steeped in the scent of tea by now, given the importance and ubiquity of tea in British history. Still, this one does have a quality I haven't encountered before, wherein the warm, wet leaves enter the scent territory shared by warm, wet stone or even wet hair or fur (someone who didn't like this might find notes of "wet dog" in it)--yet, really, I swear, it's good! It's such an interesting flavor that I've even foregone the splash of milk I usually add to hot black tea, because I didn't want to dilute my Drinkable Westminster Abbey experience.
Salsa. It has to be the kind you buy in the refrigerated section, not a glass jar on the dry-goods shelves with "Pace" or a similar name on it. Seriously, the difference is like that between homemade soup and canned.
Chocolate chips. I've fallen totally in love with the 60% cacao bittersweet Ghirardelli ones. Every other type, even other grades of Ghirardelli chips, now disappoint me.
Honey. Must be raw. Ideally from around here, or at least this continent, but I've made exceptions. Raw is not only far tastier, but healthier. And don't you dare microwave it to warm it up, as this destroys the good enzymes.
In my best ethical moods, I also choose food with labels like "organic" and "no antibiotics," but the items listed above are more about food snobbery--or love of what I eat, if you will.
What are yours?
To one mug of hot water add 1 generous pinch each of:
ground fennel seed or anise seed
dash of ground black pepper or cayenne pepper (if you're feeling brave)
Stir well. Mix in some honey to sweeten if you want, but it isn't necessary. Strain the drink if the little bits of ground spice swirling around are going to bother you. If you hate or can't tolerate (or don't have) any of the above spices, omit them. Or add in your favorites--pretty much all spices are good for you. Freshly ground spices will be strongest and most flavorful, but ordinary pantry spices are fine and certainly quicker.
The ones I use in slightly larger amounts than the others are cloves and ginger. They seem to have the most potent and beneficial health effects for whatever ails you.
Thanks to this mix, I haven't taken antacids for years--this stuff works much better for an upset stomach. As for colds, well, we all know nothing really cures them except time, so this is at least a good way to get those warm fluids that temporarily relieve symptoms, while boosting your immune system a teeny bit with all those natural healthful substances.
Experiment and enjoy!
Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father
by Ian Frazier
Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.
But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.
Laws When at Table
And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke. Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.
When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you. Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is. And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why. Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.
Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.
Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.
Concerning Face and Hands
Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon. And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.
Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances
Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.
Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.
Complaints and Lamentations
O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometimes do you spit, and shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straightaway, "Can I come out?" and I reply, "No, you may not come out." And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time, then you may come out.
Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before. For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know.
For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company.
And today's is one I love, love, love. It's L'Artisan's Tea for Two, and here's its description from the L'Artisan webpage:
The curling steam of smoky Lapsang Souchong hides mouthwatering spices of cinnamon, ginger and anise. Lightly sweetened by honey and vanilla, the fragrance is fiery and warm, provocative and mysterious. Deliciously spicy!
Notes: smoky tea, bergamot, cinnamon, ginger, honey, vanilla
Perfumer: Olivia Giacobetti
Now, having tried Lapsang Souchong, I can rule it out as a regular drink for me. I don't like my tea tasting like smoked gouda, thanks. But this fragrance--yum! Not a single moment of unpleasantness in several hours' wearing so far. I get leather and tobacco on top of a sweet, creamy chai tea, with maybe some spice biscotti on the side. The smokiness never gets sharp, thanks to that honey and vanilla wrapped around it. I keep inhaling deeply through my shirt where I dabbed the sample, seeking any hint of anything wrong, but nope--it keeps telling me, "Yes, I'm dark and smoky and leathery, and you can't help loving me because I'm so darn sweet." I want to curl up with this scent and snog it.
And I have several more to sample in the days to come, which may prove just as awesome in their own ways. Never leave me, Knows Perfume!
Now, there were earlier samples that didn't go so well, but you know I had fun examining them via nostril all the same. Here are my reviews of those:
333 by Tallulah Jane: Okay, I can rule out chamomile as a major note. I liked the grassy lavender in the background, but the chamomile put me in mind of having a stomachache and brewing up a medicinal herbal tea. That won't do...
Route du Vétiver by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier: Reading the list of notes in it, I see why I liked the top notes. I tend to go for blackcurrant, which is apparently in it. But the heart had, for my weird nose, a smell of sparkler or firecracker smoke, of all things. A bit too odd! That leather-ish drydown was nice, though.
Eau pour le Jeune Homme by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier: Pleasant enough, but on me it went straight to orange-flavored candy and stayed there. Presumably on actual males (or other females) it's more masculine.
Mimosa pour Moi by L'Artisan: Quite pretty. It reminded me a lot of Crabtree & Evelyn's Sonoma Valley, so as such it made me think of wisteria more than mimosa. Lovely soft scent, good staying power--but somehow not me. Too purely floral, perhaps.
But I'll let you know how those others go! Having found my potential holy grail on the dark and spicy side of the tea spectrum, maybe I'll find my one true love on the light side too: something in the green/jasmine/lemon category, fit for a summer day...
So, how are you all? What have you loved to sniff lately?
Try to cook something every day that makes the house smell good. This can encompass a lot of things, from chili to bread to cookies to (if you want the simple option) popcorn. Today I chose Lazy Irish Beer Bread.
I used this recipe, which I've shared before as an inclusion in my best recipes of the year. You can use pretty much any type of beer, and any type of flour instead of self-rising, as long as you add 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Bread tip: letting the dough rise for a little while on the counter, though not strictly necessary, makes a tastier finished product.
Lime Cilantro Coleslaw (or, for St. Paddy's: Coleslaw With Extra Green!)
Comes from July 2007 Cooking Light
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12 ounce) package coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
[Molly's addition: 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed, chopped. Because jalapeno + cilantro + lime = superbness.]
In small bowl combine lime juice, olive oil, sugar, and jalapeno.
Combine green onions, cilantro and coleslaw mix in a large bowl.
Drizzle juice mixture over coleslaw mixture; toss well to coat.
Honestly, I could live the rest of my life without mayo. I even know how to make a yummy tuna salad without it. But I concede it's nice to mix into guacamole (on the order of maybe 1 tablespoon mayo per cup of guac) to keep the guac creamy.
And yes...I'm aware I'd be run out of the American South, or Midwest, or apparently a lot of other parts, for my vituperative anti-mayonnaise rhetoric.
This site has a rundown of where to store your fresh produce, and includes a handy chart you can print and stick to the fridge.
I have learned that I've been doing some fruits and veggies wrong. For instance, all fresh herbs except basil go in the fridge--ah ha, no wonder the basil kept turning black in there. Also, I tried her suggested way of keeping herbs fresh: snipping their ends and putting them in a glass of water, like flowers in a vase, then slipping a plastic bag over the top and refrigerating them. The cilantro I bought has stayed fresh for over a week now with this method--much longer than it does when trapped in its original plastic bag in the produce drawer.
Others I've been wrongly refrigerating when they should be on the counter: peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. (Until you slice them up at least, presumably.) Meanwhile, plums and cherries should go in the fridge, when here I'd been storing them in the fruit bowl. They did seem to rot awfully fast that way, come to think of it.
Furthermore, keep those darn apples and pears and bananas away from other produce: they emit ethylene, which ripens other fruits and vegetables at an accelerated rate. However, you can use that to your advantage if you want to, say, ripen an avocado quickly for your guacamole.
Anyway, only a chef or a Food Sciences major could keep all this straight, so print the chart and enjoy your happy produce.
(And happy Memorial Day!)