Tag: Tea Party

26
May

Birthday Season & Brewing Kombucha

And, yes, I am wearing a crown

With the dawning of the first day of May heralds the most wonderful time of the year: my birthday season. You may remember my not one, but TWO birthday celebrations we threw last year (the wonderful Jane Austen Tea Party and Bemidji Birthday Bash). That’s right, folks, I get more excited about my birthday each year than most six-year-olds. I blame my parents.

Since I was a child, birthdays meant getting to plan your whole day exactly how you wanted. This included your own special menu of your favorite foods. One day a year, I got to tell my parents what to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This usually included chocolate milk, blueberry muffins, and watermelon for breakfast followed by a Lunchable (a highly coveted processed “food” my parents usually refused to buy which therefore made it incredibly desirable). Since my birthday was always near Memorial Day, I’d usually opt for a backyard barbeque for dinner. And then there was the cake. Oh, the cake.

It’s not surprising that my favorite part of my birthday was planning the menu–and still is. I can’t help it–I love an excuse to have treats and fun with family and friends. Who doesn’t? And this year is off to a spectacular start!

My parents came to visit Mankato this past weekend to kick the birthday week off right. As usual, they spoiled me rotten, bringing caramel apple cheesecake from the Pine Cone (the BEST restaurant in Wisconsin) and lamb. Yes, you read that right: lamb (I know, I know they are adorable baby animals. I’m sorry. In my defense, they are also REALLY delicious). I don’t eat meat very often, but when I do, I eat venison, bison, and lamb from local farms. My dad and I had black-face lamb burgers during our trip to Scotland in 2008, and he we made our own this time as a special birthday dinner.

Elegant and mature, as always

Also, we went to my favorite tea shop and had afternoon tea! With birthday cake tea (vanilla-caramel black tea WITH SPRINKLES)! And hats! Yup, I had a perfect weekend.

Yup, elegant and mature...

Yup, elegant and mature…

But the birthday celebrations don’t end there! This coming weekend, Shane and I are doing something really out of the ordinary and I am SUPER excited!!! Usually, we are pretty low key hobbits, enjoying board games with friends, bonfires, and a home-cooked meal to celebrate most occasions. And I love it. This year, we are traveling to the Twin Cities, spending a few nights in a hotel, going out for a fancy birthday dinner at a fancy city restaurant, and seeing Book of Mormon: The Musical!!! All with some of my very favorite people. Since it’s a long weekend, we’re also planning on going to the Minnesota Zoo for the first time. I CAN’T WAIT!!!! Seriously, this is going to be epic.

During this birthday season, I’ve been working hard on the sequel to Seven Stones, spending as much time outside with Shane biking and hiking as possible, and getting ready for my first Summer Reading Program as a Children’s Librarian. With all this awesome going on, I need to keep my energy levels high and my immune system healthy. To do so, I’ve been brewing and sipping my own kombucha!

If you are unfamiliar with kombucha, it is some level 7 hippie juice. But it is also a cool, refreshing, and delicious iced tea beverage that has more probiotics than yogurt. kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea that has been brewed and enjoyed for hundreds of years. It has tons of health benefits, and sells for $3-4 dollars a bottle at the store. Ouch. However, with a bit of courage and trust, you can make your own for super cheap!

Still with me? Good. This is where it gets weird. kombucha is made by basically creating your own petri dish. You start with a thing called a scoby (which looks like an alien, not going to lie) which is essentially a bacteria culture of good probiotic stuff.

It’s aliiiiiiiiiiive!

You add tea, water, and sugar to a large container (like a gallon glass jar), cover it, and leave it alone for a week or two. In that time, the bacteria eat the sugar and a new scoby grows on the top of your jar. When the scoby gets to be about 1/4 inch thick, pour your kombucha out, add whatever sweeteners or fruit you want, and drink it!

Looking good! No, trust me, that is how it looks when it looks good.

I know. It sounds (and looks bizarre), but kombucha is one of my absolute favorite drinks! Until recently, I was paying good money for small store-bought bottles. Then my friend showed me how easy it was and gave me a scoby. I’ve been happily brewing hippie juice ever since. 🙂

 

The hardest part is probably just finding a scoby. If you don’t have friends who brew kombucha or don’t have a Co-Op in your area, you CAN make kombucha from a store-bought bottle (instructions here). Long story short, it’s easy and cheap to make, tasty, bubbly, and really good for you. I used to think brewing Kombucha would be too tricky or scary. But it is not intimidating at all. Try something new! You might just love it.

Basic Kombucha Instructions

1 Scoby

4 cups water

6-8 teaspoons of tea (black or green work best)

1 cup sugar

Gallon Jar

Boil 4 cups of water. Choose what kind of tea you’d like to have as your base. Steep 6-8 teaspoons (or 6-8 tea bags) in your large jar. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

Alright, strain those leaves or discard those tea bags. Stir in 1 cup of sugar (I used Sucanat) and stir until dissolved. Add about a gallon of cool water.

Nice. Now you have to touch the scoby. It’s kind of fun. Pop that bad boy in the tea and cover your jar so air can get in, but dust and other bacteria can’t. I use paper towel secured by a rubber band.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for your ‘booch to brew!

You’re done! Leave your kombucha to brew in a warm spot away from direct sunlight. You should see a film forming on the top of your jar in a few days. Depending on the temperature, the scoby will be ready in anywhere from a week to two weeks.

When it’s about a 1/4 inch thick, it should be good to go. Pour the liquid out into a serving container or individual mason jars. Now you add whatever flavor you want: pina colada, lavender-honey, honey-ginger, watermelon, strawberry-lemonade, the possibilities are endless! If you want your Kombucha bubbly, put it into sealed, individual mason jars and let them sit out for another day or two.

Boom. You’ve now got two scobies. You can use these bad boys to make more batches of Kombucha. Just keep about half of the liquid from your original batch and repeat the instructions, but this time you can double the recipe and have two jars going at once! Add a little of the original batch to each new jar, and you are good to go. Keep reusing those scabies–they’ll keep multiplying, and soon you can share with a friend!

27 was my golden birthday. That year saw my first book tour, a move to Mankato, new friends, and me getting my first real library job. I am more grateful to all my family, friends, and all those who love, encourage and support me than I could ever express. I am one lucky girl. I can’t wait to see what 28 brings!

Happy Birthday Week! You deserve some cake. 🙂

29
May

Friday Favorites: Wrapping Up the Birthday Week

I love being 27 already! My birthday was absolutely wonderful. I love any excuse to eat good food and hang out with amazing people, and birthdays give me the perfect excuse! Thank you to EVERYONE who sent me messages, called, stopped by, and made me feel so incredibly loved. Here are some of my favorite things from this past week:

Jane Austen Tea Party

My first ever tea party was even better than I imagined! My birthday dawned sunny and bright, and I spent the afternoon prepping tiny sandwiches and eating ALL the crusts (what else are you going to do with them?). The spread was absolutely gorgeous, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get pictures–we just started eating right away! I made 12 tomato-fresh basil-balsamic cream cheese sandwiches, 12 avocado egg salad sandwiches, and 12 cucumber-cream cheese sandwiches. All were marvelous, but my favorites were the tomato basil. I adore fresh basil leaves. To me, they taste like summer, cool and refreshing.

We also had pineapple, watermelon, fresh organic veggies, homemade cranberry-orange biscotti, and four types of delicious tea. The favorite of the night was the mocha hazelnut yerba matte–it was like drinking dessert! For actual dessert, I made green tea honey ice cream. So. Freaking. Good. And SO easy! Here’s my super simple recipe for a sublime summer treat:

Julia’s Green Tea Ice Cream

image from choosingraw.com

1 can coconut milk (full fat will be creamier, but lite works as well)

2 tsp. Matcha

1/3 cup honey

Mix everything together and pour into your ice cream maker. Voilà! You are an ice cream genius and everyone will be impressed. You’ll be the talk of the town.

Marrying Mr. Darcy

As we ate our ice cream and nibbled biscotti, we played Marrying Mr. Darcy. This game has it all for Jane Austen fans. You get to become a female character from an Austen novel (I got to be Elizabeth Bennet!), the goal of the game being to get your suitor to propose. The suitors, however, each require different things from their would-be loves (Darcy required his future bride to have a wit of 5 or higher).

Throughout the game, you try to acquire beauty, wit, friendliness, and reputation points by interacting with the cards. However, getting a scandal card makes you lose attributes and make sure you watch out for Mr. Wickham or you’ll be eloped and ruined in before you’re first ball!

The cards are very tongue-and-cheek, and the best part was reading them in our best (or worst?) aristocratic English accents. This game is definitely going on my need to own list! 🙂

 

Second Printing!

Website Cover Art

As an added birthday bonus, the final proof for the second edition of Seven Stones was officially approved and sent off to the printers!!!! HUZZAH!!! I can’t believe we’re actually running a second printing! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has supported me and spread the word about Seven Stones! Keep telling friends, liking my Facebook page, reading this blog, and just being your amazing selves!

 

Word Count

Here’s to another year of adventures–literary and otherwise. My word count for this week? Unfortunately, I’m giving myself a NEGATIVE word count. I actually finished writing an entire chapter…and it just didn’t fit. I tried reworking it several times, but in the end decided to scrap it. This kind of process is necessary for a good end result; sometimes working through all the “bad” words leads you to the good ones. Let’s hope so, anyway!

 

Happy, happy Friday!

I’m lucky enough to celebrate with another birthday bash on Saturday. We’ll be enjoying the beautiful weather with a bonfire, roasting sausages over the flames, and playing lots of games!

 

25
May

Jane Austen Tea Party

I like big cups and I cannot lie…

My shoulder is feeling a little better. I’ve been icing it every day, resting, and so far it seems to be paying off. I can type without it hurting now, and am even able to cook and bake if I’m really careful. Which is good, because this Wednesday is my GOLDEN BIRTHDAY!!!!

You may have noticed by now that I love my birthday the way most five-year-olds do. I can’t help it. Every year on May 1st, my official birthday season begins. Then, the whole week leading up to the actual day is my birthday week. I wear fancy dresses and my wedding crown. I told you I was five.

I’ve dreamed of having a birthday tea party for years. I love drinking tea, eating tea, and all the foods that go along with the traditional tea ceremony. Since my golden birthday falls in the middle of the week, Shane and I are going to be celebrating it together this coming Saturday. But since he’ll be busy working Wednesday, I decided to throw myself the girliest birthday party EVER: a Jane Austen tea party!

Ain’t no party like a birthday tea party!

A few friends and I are going to meet, drink tea, eat food, and watch a Jane Austen movie. In addition, I’ve told everyone to bring a copy of their favorite book to share book club-style. Hermione would be so proud.

I’ve been planning the menu for a few days, and here’s what I think I’ll be serving:

Jane Austen Tea Menu

I have a feeling she’d be a big fan of my book

Tea:

Organic Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla (black tea)

Organic Mango Green (decaf)

Organic Earl Grey

Mocha Hazelnut Yerba Mate

Sandwiches:

Avocado egg salad

Tomato-basil

Cucumber (of course!)

Snacks:

Cranberry-Orange Biscotti

Fresh fruits & veggies

Dessert:

Green tea ice cream

I’m off to bake and cut crusts off of tiny sandwiches (and then eat all the crusts while no one is looking). In case you missed it, here’s the story Lakeland News did on my first book signing on May 16th!!! What a great early birthday present. 🙂

Happy Monday!