Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrate Iced Tea Month with some twists on the traditional

Memorial Day cook-outs are nothing new and traditions are great to hold on to, but there's something to be said for a changing of the guards to literally mix things up and that includes some new ideas for iced tea. A change-up to the familiar drink of summer is even more relevant now that it's officially Iced Tea Month according to every tea blogger's calendar and the Food Network's website.

In January of this year, we noted it was "Hot Tea Month", and a real comfort since it was very "iced" outside in Michigan. Now, however, with temperatures over 90 degrees this holiday weekend in metro Detroit, I can tell you, iced tea was a welcome relief. Even better, we didn't have to depend on the old school black tea and white sugar - not with "Summer Cook-out: the Next Generation". This year, we got a twist on the old with the twenty-somethings taking charge.

Awhile back, when my oldest son was still in college and living in an old, but somewhat charming, house near campus, he and his girlfriend (now wife), hosted their first Memorial Day get-together for family and friends. Drawing on the staples of summer holiday parties, they grilled burgers, supplied drinks and brought out the games, but with their fresh new spin, everything seemed a little extraordinary. That little something special continues every summer, right down to this year's refreshing new iced-tea dressed in party red.

Right on the cusp of Iced Tea Month, my daughter-in-law served an unconventional iced tea mix of white and herbal teas from Teavana. Their Youthberry White and Wild Orange Blossom Herbal combine citrus, berry and rose petals to make a deliciously tart and sweet drink on the rocks. We found it didn't need any additional sugar, but for those who like a sweeter drink, Teavana suggests trying rock sugar which, according to the national tea retailer, will "enhance the natural sweetness of the drink. . . and easily dissolve in the hot water".

So, we recommend shaking things up a bit in the iced tea jug and experimenting with different teas and flavors. This year, think outside the black tea box and make some new traditions this summer. Just don't mess with the plentiful table of delicious snacks or bocce ball rules - some things need never change.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Royal Wedding doesn't have to be over: keep the memories with a close-knit family

Three weeks ago today, my daughter and I donned silk dresses, sparkling jewelry and fancy high heels to attend a public viewing of the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton at the Wanderer’s Tea House – the only challenge was getting there at 5:00 am. But, get there we did, along with a full-house of other royalphiles and tea enthusiasts, many wearing hats worthy of a Westminster Abbey invitee.

We watched on the big screen as the crowd shouted out when William and Harry’s car pulled out in full view, soon to be followed by the collective gasps at the first glimpse of Kate and her gown as they exited the coach.

Treating ourselves to the Wanderer’s English-inspired brunch, we watched the long walk down the church aisle while sampling Welsh rarebit and strawberry tarts accompanied by lots and lots of pots of English Breakfast tea.

From the red carpet guest spotting to the two kisses on the balcony, the two hours went by quickly. With a weekend filled with recaps, wedding fashion commentaries (who doesn't want a fascinator now?) and British monarchy specials on every cable station, Monday felt like the day after Christmas. After weeks of anticipation and excitement for the Royal Wedding, it was over too fast.

We found, however, it doesn’t have to be completely over thanks to the book, “Knit the Royal Wedding” by Fiona Goble. It gives step-by-step instructions on how to knit the royal family in their wedding attire so that one can commemorate the joyous occasion throughout the year.

My knitting skills are basic, at best, so I gave this book to my master- knitter sister-in-law for her birthday. Last Christmas I gifted her with a knitting project book with the tea cozy page discreetly earmarked. Shortly after, she gave me a beautiful, rose-colored knit tea cozy for my birthday. Self-serving? – perhaps, but I’m hoping to find a little Prince Harry in my stocking next Christmas!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tea cups and cupcakes: Delightful Easter treats thanks to daughter and Tea Time Magazine

The recent March/April issue of Tea Time Magazine, had an entire section devoted to hosting "An Elegant Easter". This magazine is always inspirational for tablescape ideas and menu planning, but perhaps even more importantly, Tea Time's recipes are amazing. Even holiday-themed meals are continually fresh and delicious. The fact that they are visually appealing is, literally - in some cases- the icing on the cake.

My daughter, Rachel, a senior at MSU, loves to catch-up on Tea Time Magazine recipes whenever she is home on breaks and she usually treats us to some wonderful creation she's uncovered during her stays. This Easter, she volunteered to make dessert after seeing the strawberry cupcakes on page 36 of our favorite tea and foodie periodical. After a quick trip to the grocery store for a few ingredients we didn't have on hand, Rachel was back at home and unleashing the Kitchen Aide from storage.

The only challenge she faced was a pastry bag with a missing tip, so the fancy swirls were at a minimum. But, the overall look was still lovely and they tasted fantastic.

These will be an encore production for sure and they did, indeed, add to a most elegant Easter with family and friends. I just can't wait for the semester to end and the new Tea Time Magazine to arrive!