Friday, April 12, 2019

Women's History Month | Blooming Hill Lavender Farm & Gift Shop

Many thanks to Visit Loudoun for featuring Blooming Hill Lavender Farm and Gift Shop during Women's History Month (March).  Women Farmers aren't just considered "Farmer's Wives" anymore, although that is a very honorable person to be as Farmer's Wives are among the most capable, multi-tasking individuals on the planet.  And, women farmers come in all shapes sizes, geographical locations and have a talent to grow just about anything from lavender to flowers to pumpkins to animals to bees.  the sky is the limit!  Go Women Farmers!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Men in Trees!

That's not a cardinal but a very brave and capable tree man!
The weather, this past week, finally lent itself to yard clean up from this long and nasty winter that still seems to keep at least it's one last desperate grip on Northern Virginia, not to mention everywhere else in the country.  So with a brief respite from snow and ice and rain this week, I forewent the opportunity to play a little golf and concentrated on the arduous task of raking out, weeding and edging the garden beds.  No trimming yet as I have a feeling crafty Mother Nature and wily old North Wind still have plans for March.  I know this because my creaky knees keep reminding me about the ever changing weather patterns.

Still, a few days of 70+ degree weather also prompted me to find someone to come and cut down a bunch of trees--six to be exact.  Six ominously old and scarily leaning trees with brittle branches that were hatching a plan ( I could feel that in my bones, too:) that involves falling branches, big time, on the new glass orangerie Peter is installing down at the shop.  Time to take action.

In came the tree crew, chainsaws, ropes, trailer and all, bright and early on a breezy Tuesday morning along with the fastest and most fearless tree climber I have ever seen.  As he climbed higher, more and more branches were being cut and coming down easily, while the rest of the crew gathered and cleaned up the fallen branches.

Tree trimming is definitely not for the faint of heart!
While the whole process went smoothly and quickly, just watching the acrobat in the tree was quite stressful to see, speaking as someone who does not like extreme heights or, for that matter, climbing ladders. This guy shimmied up each tree with speed, finesse and grace, equipped only with a chainsaw tied to his belt and a safety rope attached to his waist--no ladders or cleats.  It was truly amazing to watch!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

January is National Hot Tea Month

January is National Hot Tea Month and in honor of this momentous occasion that lasts thirty one gloriously delicious days, lets celebrate by brewing up a pot of tea and savoring the aromatic flavors that swirl together and reveal themselves inside a favorite teacup.  Then, drink it up or sip it slowly--anyway you like as, " a cup a day" is a good New Year's resolution to "help keep the doctor away."  Better still, sharing your pot of tea will make "teatime" that much more special to relish, especially on a brisk January Sunday afternoon that is flaunting grey skies and boasting billowy snow drifts.  So put the kettle on, pull out your teapot, find the perfect cup, small or large, and follow these tips to brew a perfectly tasty, all natural and healthy blend that hails from ancient times and features modern twists.

Tea Crafting:  How to Make the Perfect Cuppa:

1. Use freshly drawn cold water. For full tea flavor, let the tap run for a minute so that the water will be filled with oxygen. Water that has already been boiled and has been sitting in your kettle is no longer oxygen rich.  Reboiling water only robs it of more oxygen which takes away from the full-bodied flavor tea, of any kind, should have.

2. Heat the Pot. To preheat the tea pot, rinse with nearly boiling water, swirl the water about, and discard through the spout.  If you skip this step, the water temperature will drop on contact with the cold pot and your cup of tea's flavor will suffer.

3. Measure one teaspoon loose tea per cup into your teapot.  You can add the age-old suggested of add one more teaspoon for the pot, if you like stronger tea but it's really not necessary.  Put the loose tea in the tea pot directly (not the kettle that sits on the stove--silly you), or in a fabric bag, paper filter or infusing basket.  If you use a tea ball, only fill the ball half way as the tea leaves expand and one-half tea ball measures one teaspoon.  Allow the water to circulate around the tea.  Note: A pre-measured, pre-sealed tea bag is always good for two cups of tea, if desired.

4. Bring the Water to a Full Rolling Boil Before You Pour It into Your Teapot or Cup.   Pour the hot water over the tea leaves.  Water that is not hot enough or over boiled can result in flat-tasting tea.  Immediately cover the teapot and let the flavors infuse together.  Note: Dunking a tea bag in water only results in mediocre tea.  Leave it to rest in the water for the specifies steeping time.  You can also use a teapot cozy or potholder to hold the heat longer in the teapot.

5. Brew By the Clock. Never attempt to judge tea strength by color.  The larger the leaf, the longer the brewing time.  Steep most teas 3-5 minutes, any longer and the tea may taste bitter.  Herbal teas, known as tisanes or infusions, may take longer, especially if the herbs are fresh.  Green, white and oolong teas are more delicate than black teas so follow the instructions on your tea blend package as they may not take as long or need true boiling water to brew correctly.

6. Strain.  Remove the the leaves/bags to prevent further steeping.  Stir the tea and serve immediately or make sure you keep your teapot hot and your second and third cup will taste as good as your first cup.

Image result for images of tea cups and tea potsDo you take your tea strong or weak?  If you answer weak, then fill the cup only three quarters full and then dilute it with more hot water.  Do you take your tea plain or with milk, sugar or lemon?  Never combine milk with lemon because acid curdles milk.  If you like lemon in your tea, place the slice in the bottom of the cup first, then top with tea.  Milk in herbal teas (tisanes) will also curdle and ruin the flavor so that's a "no-no," too.  Honey is always a good choice in place of sugar as an all natural sweetener in any tea or tisane.

Image result for images of Alice in wonderland tea party  So, there you have it.  Simple right?  Easy-peezy, lemon-squeezy.  Enjoy your hot cup of tea and enjoy the month of January, while they both last. And, although some may think it correct, pinkies are never, ever up (rather tacky looking, actually) as one should hold the cup firmly and curl the pinky finger inward toward the fist.  Now you've got it. Perfect!