Tea Time

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photograph via pinterest

March came in like a lion with rain, wind, and in some locations… SNOW. It makes me want to cuddle under a cozy blanket, catch up on some reading, and drink a cup of tea.

My all time favorite tea is Bengal Spice which tastes like Christmas in a cup!  However, I enjoy it year round.  Bengal Spice is naturally sweet and richly warm with my favorite spices.

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Celestial Seasonings

I also enjoy Mandarin Orange Spice tea.  This textured tea is a delicious combination of citrus and spice.  This tea is delicious both cold or warm.

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Celestial Seasonings

When I long for spring, I turn to Country Peach Passion. Although this is delicious warm, I enjoy Country Peach Passion as an iced tea too.  However, to build the flavor when serving cold, I add a few slices of frozen sliced peaches to a pitcher of tea.  That simple fusion of fresh fruit makes this a heavenly, light tea with all the brightness of sunny days… much needed in our current blustery March weather.

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Celestial Seasonings

I hope you give these flavors a try… Enjoy!

Snowflakes

It snowed today. Not a dusting, but actual snowfall. It made me think of a remarkable man known as “Snowflake Bentley.”

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amazon

Snowflake Bentley tells the true story of Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) who grew up in Vermont. He loved snowflakes and was determined to capture them on film.

Imagephotograph by Wilson Bentley via snowflakeblentley

A self educated farmer, Bentley’s vision and determination led to being the first person to ever capture a snow crystal (snowflake) on film in 1885. During his lifetime, he captured 500 photomicrograph snowflakes.

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photograph by Wilson Bentley via snowflakebentley

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” — Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

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photograph by Wilson Bentley via snowflakebentley

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photograph by Wilson Bentley via snowflakebentley

To learn more about this scientist/artist, visit the Jericho Historical Society in Vermont or view the Snowflake Bentley Online Exhibit.

In honor of this remarkable artist, I have added a snowflake pattern from usefuldiy.

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photograph via usefuldiy

Keep in mind, this is just to get you started. Remember, no two snowflakes are alike. Try making your own design.

Dystopian Mini-Vacation

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booksdirect.tumblr

This time of year, many travel toward those they love in order to celebrate Thanksgiving together. For others staying at home, the long weekend following Thanksgiving becomes a mini-vacation before the holiday season begins. Either way, this is the perfect time to enjoy a vacation even if it is just into your imagination.

This weekend, I hope to find a little quiet time to read a good book.

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amazon

I am about halfway through Veronica Roth’s final installment of the Divergent series. I have enjoyed taking a journey into this dystopian society where people are placed into factions which reinforce noble character traits. However, the truth that our strengths are also our weaknesses is carried throughout this thought-provoking tale as narrow-minded ideologies create conflict which test individuals and their society as a whole. Although the third book has received mixed reviews, I love these characters enough to want to see it through to the end. What is the price for knowledge… love… personal choice?

One choice can transform you.

One choice can destroy you.

One choice can define you.

 The Alliance

barnesandnoble

Alliance is another tale that takes you on a  journey through a dystopian society which asks the question, “Would you give up individual choice for a perfect society?” “What would you be willing to sacrifice for the freedom of choice?”

Author, Gerald N. Lund, created a world where survivors, 18 years after a nuclear holocaust, are relocated into what appears to be a perfect society.  In the Alliance, there is no crime, hatred, or prejudice.  The cost? The new government’s implantation program designed to control the general population.  Except for a select few, a microchip is inserted into citizens to control potentially negative emotions and curtail any possible anti-social behavior.  This microchip inflicts physical pain in order to recondition and modify specific emotions or thoughts. The protagonist Eric Lloyd, quickly discovers the corrupt power structure of this new government upon his arrival to the Alliance and sets out to rescue those he loves from implantation.

hunger games

barnesandnoble

The worldwide best-selling trilogy, The Hunger Games, most likely does not need a book review at this point in time due to it’s popularity.  However, with another blockbuster movie from this franchise just released, it may be worth reading again.  Cinematic and literary works are unique to their genre and I find it pointless to judge one against another.  However, with that being said, the book provides insight into the struggle within the protagonist’s mind and additional details which richly add to the story. Reading the book prior to attending the movie offers added insight and will surely enhance the experience.

Dystopian literature often challenges the reader to think about their values, politics, and human nature.  The depth of mental conversation adds pure enjoyment when taking such a journey.

As Charlaine Harris said, “Here’s to books, the cheapest vacation you can buy!”

Blustery Hat Day

The wind is howling and the temperatures have dropped.  Winter is on it’s way!ImageTime to bundle up to to keep the chill at bay.

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Nordstroms, Brocade Intarsia Knit Beret, $34

I’m mad about hats!  There are so many great choices available in a wide range of prices.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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Etsy, Greek Fisherman’s Hat Wool, $25

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Target, Merona Knit Brim Hat, $13

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Kohls, Croft and Barrow Tweed Cloche, $16

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Hats in the Belfry, Giovannio Monique Velvet Beret, $49

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Hats in the Belfry, Grace Regan Textured Cadet, $49

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Free People, Thick Chunky Beanie via R29, $36

 Stay warm this holiday season and go mad for hats!

Giving Back

With so much to be grateful for this year, I love the idea of giving gifts that also help others in need.

I am grateful for healthy children.

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These sweet hand-blown glass birds support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. This gift retails at West Elm for $19 with $5 of the purchase price donated back to support the organization.

I am grateful for clean water.

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These Hers and His 18/8 stainless steel, non-toxic, non-leaching and BPA free Swell Bottles retail for $35. If you are unfamiliar with this product, these bottles were designed to keep drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. Not only do they come in a range of colors and sizes, the stainless steel does not leave an metal after taste.

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Best of all, this great product also offers a charitable opportunity. Swell partners with WaterAid to bring clean drinking water to those in need around the world. Currently, there are three limited edition bottles available that benefit the efforts of American Forests to plant trees in nationally devastated forests.

I am grateful for my family.

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kohls

My Mother is a breast cancer survivor.  What better way to honor her and help others battling this disease than giving this beautiful Simply Vera scarf. It’s a steal at $5 with 100% of the net profit from the sale of this item donated to support the fight against breast cancer.

I am grateful for employment.

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This charming crocheted beanie was created by women artisans in Uganda and retails for $26. Stewart Ramsey, one founder of the brand Krocket Kids International explained the inspiration for their company.

In 2006 I took a trip to Uganda to do some volunteer work at an orphanage, which was in a government camp for displaced persons. The camp was supposed to be temporary but had been around for 20 years because of ongoing conflicts. People there told me that what they really wanted, instead of aid, was a job to provide for their families. We realized that our own side project of crocheting could do just that. A year later we were in Uganda, in a brick hut teaching a group of women to crochet.

Travis Hartanov, another founder, explained the difference purchasing one of their products makes in the lives of families:

A job, coupled with education and mentorship, means our employees can put their own kids in school, feed their families a healthy diet, access clean water, buy medicine, invest in their own businesses and choose to rewrite their own futures. We’re merely a spark for empowerment.

To view their range of products, visit: http://www.toms.com/marketplace/brand/view/name/Krochet-Kids-intl.

I am grateful for my home and comforts.

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Purchasing a Sweet Home Holiday Favorites gift basket (beginning at $34.99) brings joy to more than those tasting these treats. The Sweet Home Project contributes to direct action programs to help homeless families establish stable lives and move into homes of their own. Sweet Home donates 35% of the retail price of Sweet Home goodies & gifts, year-round, directly to scholarships as a pathway out of poverty to economic self sufficiency.

I feel gratitude for so much that blesses my life.  Giving back is just one way to to say “thank you” and to celebrate the reason for the season.

Other worthy considerations…

Oxfam America is a global organization focused on developing long-term solutions to poverty, hunger, and social change.

Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. We save lives, develop long-term solutions to poverty, and campaign for social change. – See more at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whoweare#sthash.xyr6T2pi.dpuf

https://www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com/all-gifts/

Nomi Network is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that aims to create economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. We are dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty that perpetuates human trafficking globally. Currently serving women in South and South East Asia. To buy one of their products, visit:

http://www.buyherbagnotherbody.com/

Same Sky was founded with a vision to provide the dignity of work to all women under the same sky. Not only do we offer employment and fair pay, we also give the training and education necessary for women to live empowered and self-sustaining lives.

http://www.samesky.com/

Welcoming Senses

I was so excited when I heard unexpected guests were arriving this weekend. It’s always a treat to have family or friends drop by for a visit.

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pinterest

I want my home to be inviting and welcoming to all who visit.  There are a few simple items that can appeal to the senses and help guests feel special.

Image photograph by Crystal Ochoa

My first stop today is to drop by my favorite bakery to pick up a selection of pastries. They are delicious to the eye as well as the taste.

Image photograph by Crystal Ochoa

There is also something inviting about opening a door and being greeted by a pleasant fragrance, so my next stop is Bath and Body Works.

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bathandbodyworks

The Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin wallflower quickly adds a warm ambiance. It may be time to restock my cupboard since this fragrance is seasonal and only available for a short while.

Image photograph via bloomiq

Flowers and fresh fruit add color and texture to a space. While fresh flowers may seem like a luxury, they also quickly enliven a room.

Finally, choose something to listen to like English fingerstyle guitar artist, Mikes Dawes.

Enjoy your weekend!

Lavendar Harvest

There is so much in life to be thankful for and the recognition of our blessings should be a daily habit.

Image photograph via Aubergine Photography

Recognizing all that we have and enjoy is one way to add happiness and contentment to our lives. Being grateful takes quiet reflection–something often overlooked in our contemporary world.

Perhaps that is why Thanksgiving is such an important holiday.  Whether or not you live in the United States or not, Thanksgiving reminds us to gather together and formally celebrate the richness of our lives.

Imagephotograph via Momtoob

I love the fall, so it’s natural to find inspiration in harvest and seasonal colors.

Imagephotograph via countrybouquetfloral

This simple bouquet was created using a rich palate of natural hues–orange protea, kale, purple beautyberry, orange twigs, crabapples, artichokes, blackberries, lavender, grass, rosemary and leaves.

Lavender adds a subtle earthy taste to poultry.  Years ago, I discovered William-Sonoma’s Herbs of Provence–a lavender seasonings which combines natural flavors from Southern France.

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Williams-Sonoma

This earthy seasoning contains a blend of thyme, basil, savory, fennel and lavender. It is a must-have for our family’s Thanksgiving feast.

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Williams-Sonoma

This Herbes de Provence Roast Turkey recipe annually graces our Thanksgiving table.

Ingredients:

1 fresh or thawed frozen turkey, about 16 lb.

1 yellow onion, quartered

2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths

3 or 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs

2 to 3 Tbs. herbes de Provence

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 to 6 Tbs. (1/2 to 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Do not leave the turkey at room temperature longer than 1 hour.Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 425°F.
Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey and reserve for making gravy, if desired.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the onion, celery, parsley and 1 Tbs. of the herbes de Provence in the body cavity, and season with salt and pepper. If desired, truss the turkey with kitchen twine. Brush the turkey with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle with the remaining herbes de Provence and season with salt and pepper.
Place the turkey, breast side down, on a buttered roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes, basting with some of the remaining butter after 15 minutes. Using 2 pairs of tongs or heat-resistant kitchen gloves or mitts, turn the turkey breast side up and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Continue roasting, basting with the remaining butter and pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone, registers 165°F, and into the thigh, 175°F.
Total roasting time should be 3 to 3 3/4 hours.Transfer the turkey to a warmed platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for about 20 minutes before carving. Serves 12.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

Image photograph by Marcus Nilsson

This year, I’d like to try Roasted Pears with Blackberries, Ricotta, and Lavender Sugar.

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms

6 unpeeled pears (such as Bosc or Bartlett), quartered, cored

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 12-ounce package frozen blackberries

1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese, crème fraîche, or vanilla ice cream

Preparation

Grind first 2 ingredients in processor until lavender is finely chopped. DO AHEAD: Lavender sugar can be made 1 month ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Generously butter large rimmed baking sheet. Toss pears, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons lavender sugar in large bowl. Transfer pears, 1 cut side down, to baking sheet. Roast 20 minutes. Turn pears, placing other cut side down. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lavender sugar; roast 20 minutes. Turn pears, skin side down. Preheat broiler. Sprinkle pears with 1 tablespoon lavender sugar. Broil until pears begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Arrange berries around pears; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lavender sugar. Broil until berries begin to release juice, about 5 minutes.

Divide pears, berries, and juice among bowls. Top with dollop of ricotta and serve.

Bon Appetit, March 2011