Saturday, 30 April 2011

Day 25: Twinings 'The' Earl Grey

One of the teas Twinings was handing out yesterday at the royal wedding (it was a sample pack of two different teas, one being the royal wedding commemorative blend) was a packet of 'The' Earl Grey. 'Tea with the fragrant flavour of bergamot and lemon', the packet says.  'Some relationships are made to come and go, but some are made to last'.  The implication being, of course, that like Prince William and his Kate, this tea will last for hundreds of years.  Or, at least sixty or seventy.  (Incidentally, did you know the Queen has been married for 63 years? Impressive!)

So, I took this one for my tea today. Interestingly enough I did an entire blog post on a decaffeinated version of Earl Grey, waxing eloquent about putting lemon in it, etc.  Only to discover a few days ago that that was actually English Breakfast Tea. What strikes me especially funny is that no one else noticed, either. The photographed box (looking very posh in black and yellow) clearly proclaimed it an English Breakfast tea. I just didn't read it!  I may go back and change the title later, but the point is that I've only had Earl Grey once before, and that was in the loose leaf version.

I will say that nobody makes tea like Twinings.  I love that they make good old fashioned hundred-years-old tea, and yet are constantly coming out with new blends. (That royal wedding tea was something else. I swoon.) Earl Grey is a classic, and I still stand by my statement that it goes very, very well with lemon.  Cuts the bitterness, brings out the flavours, I've said all this before!

I went out for my walk/run this morning (late morning, I had a long lie to recuperate from my 4am start yesterday) and I had a great start - just as I passed the houses round the corner, I heard wild cheering and clapping.  I figured it was for me.  After the enthusiasm I've received on other days, why not imagine that a few people looked out their window and said, 'Ah! There's Karen, out for her daily walk! Well done, Karen! Press on! We are with you!'  On top of that, the weather is absolutely incredible today.  The sun is shining, there was a slight breeze, and best of all the little wind was strong enough to blow through all the pink and white blossomed trees so that everywhere I went, nature's confetti was strewn all over the ground. On the road in front of me, delicate pink leaves danced in circles and then zoomed across to the other side. White blossoms filled the air with their fragrance and joined the pink leaves in celebration.  It was that feeling you get of walking down streets after the party is over, but instead of sad, dirty, forlorn rubbish, it's still-beautiful pink and whiteness, lining the grass and dancing about with unbridled enthusiasm, playing with the wind and carrying on the good times of yesterday.  The royal wedding may be over, but the trees and the blossoms they carry are still in full festive spirit.

I passed a few rejoicers, as well.  One house with Prince William and Kate bunting stretched across the front, and little flags out in the back. Perhaps they had a back-garden tea party.  Another house with a huge flag flying proudly, and another with more bunting on the fence.  It was a happy walk, this morning. One of the things that made me the happiest was that I not only had the energy to walk, but ran further than I had any other time, too.  I thought from such a long day yesterday I might barely want to walk. Another reason for having a blog like this: laziness is not an option.  I think a few years ago I would have really struggled to know whether it is laziness or inability, but I'm learning that even on my worst days I can still walk some. And the only way to find out how much that 'some' is, is to start off.  Sometimes it surprises you.  Today, I surprised myself. 

Walk/run length: 30 minutes

Friday, 29 April 2011

Day 24: Twinings Royal Wedding Commemorative Blend

This morning I got up at 4am to fly down to London for the Royal Wedding.

I wrote a long photography blog post about it, so you can read more there, but one of my favourite parts of the day was when a lovely lady was cheerfully handing out samples of Twinings' Royal Wedding Commemorative Blend tea.

It is absolutely incredible. I might go so far as to say it's one of my favourite teas of all time, and I think I honestly mean that based on the qualities of the tea alone, and not just the general euphoria of being in London for the beautiful event. Before I even looked at the type of tea it was, I described it to someone as 'tasting like a wedding in a cup' - it was light (like white and ivory and cream dresses), with a rose petal flavour (like the flowers that are held and the rose petals that are strewn and the bouquet that is tossed), and you can drink it right down to the bottom of the cup whilst enjoying every sip (like the joy of a wedding day that is beautiful from beginning to end).

At the start it is very  light, and they recommend you don't oversteep it, but I left the teabag in and enjoyed a deeper, richer taste later on. Like the difference between having a wee tear fall during the ceremony, and then a falling-over-yourself-laughing spree with some of the groomsmen later.  (Groomsmen, and best men, are always hilarious. I'm a wedding photographer, and I can tell you, that's their job, and they do it incredibly well.)  Both are such an important part of the day, but one is much different than the other.

I drank my tea in the airport just before I flew home. I had my royal commemorative flag (which got me some fun comments in the airport, even from a grumpy security man!), a newspaper, and my sample tea bags. I was set.  I sat and drank my tea and relived the day in my mind and almost didn't even notice the time going by. It was one of those days where you just go from one thing to the next and everything works out perfectly. There was no traffic, my flights were all on time, I caught the trains within minutes of arriving at the station, everyone was cheerful and friendly, there was joy everywhere - and I had a cup of some of the best tea I've ever tasted in my life.

Highly recommended.

Walk length: 1.5 hours

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Day 23: Cozy Chamomile

I was an inspiration to someone today.

It was amazing. Maybe it's this sunny weather that brings out all the happy people and compliments (I'm sure that's a huge part of it), but I was powering along today and ran past one of the many men-with-dogs (it's always the middle-aged to older guys who are walking their dogs when I'm out for a run), and we gave each other that sideways nod/tilt of head. You know, the one that can mean "Well, we're both here and we're not sure we want to be, but we're in it together" or "This weather is rubbish and I'm not awake yet, but I recognise you" or "I salute you, fellow walker/runner"! Anyway, I got one of those from him and thought that was perhaps all, and just as I was about to pass he said, "Wish I could go like that!" I was momentarily dumbfounded (and not really prepared to have long conversations as I was running and focusing on breathing), but I shouted back as I went past, "One day at a time!"

That's the lesson I've learned so far.  It truly is one little day at a time. It is a montage. It's not just weeks and months but years of day after day.  Of going a little farther or running a little more or trying something a little different.  Like seeing the buds on the trees that soon become full blooms.  In some ways I wanted to stop and say to that man, this is 113 days on. The first day I just went out for a little walk - and some days of the process I only walked 5 or 10 minutes.  Although I've learned to manage it much more, I still have chronic fatigue and have to watch my energy. I'm also extremely competitive and have to balance out against my own self.  And it's only in the last 20 days or so that I've begun to run at all, even in the smallest way.

But he just saw where I was today - pounding down the track, one step after another, apparently making it look so easy and continuous. Well, I sure appreciated his comment. It kept me going a good bit further than I probably normally would go. I'm learning that it really is all in the head. As soon as I think, 'I don't think I can go on anymore', my legs immediately slow down and sometimes stop. It's absolutely fascinating.  I'm not a proponent of 'think it and you can do it' (because no matter how hard I think I can run a marathon this morning, it just wouldn't happen), but it's definitely incredible the power that the mind has over the body.

Tonight I'm having a cup of warm, comfortable, light, ready-for-sleep chamomile tea. The kind of tea that they used to brew pale (it's a pale tea even when steeped long), and serve with milk to children so that they felt like grown ups, drinking 'proper tea' from mugs.  Well, I have no problems drinking this childlike tea, because I am fairly weary and would like to sleep like a child (not the kind that tosses and turns and runs to his parents' bed in the middle of the night, but the kind that falls dead asleep on the couch and never wakes up even when lifted and deposited into their own bed).  Chamomile (also spelled 'camomile') has an almost minty aspect, and yet a lemony, flowery taste as well. It's soothing, like someone speaking softly and quietly just before bed.  It's calming, and I'm glad for it tonight.  I have had a very full week, and am off to my bed soon. Just as soon as I finish this cup of chamomile tea.

Walk/run length: 35 minutes

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Day 22: Tazo Berryblossom White

Today I got a beautiful gift in the post from my dear friend Brenda - an actual card (with very pretty stationery and a matching envelope) and a new kind of tea along with it! Everything was so pretty - the card matched the envelope which matched the tea which matched the pen that was used to write with. This tea blogging is just blessing me all over the place! Getting an actual handwritten card through the post is encouraging in and of itself, in this day of emails and text messages and Facebook, but getting a new kind of tea I've never tried before (and thereby making the day's decision very simple) is the best gift I could ask for.

So, today's tea is Tazo's Berryblossom White. I'm a big fan of white tea - it's so different from every other kind. Green tea has a deepness and a bitterness to it; regular tea is dark and powerful; herbal teas are still fairly heavy in their fruitiness...but white tea is one of the lightest teas there is. "Delicate white tea", the packet says. "Like a flower petal brushed against your cheek". Boy, these guys sure can write. (Guys? As if!!) For someone who after 22 days of writing about tea is beginning to struggle to find new words for the term 'flavour', I appreciate the help these tea-packet-writers have done for me.

White tea is so light that you have to think hard to taste the flavours they insist that they've added. It's as though the blueberry and white cranberry simply gave the idea of their presence - perhaps one blueberry for the whole batch of tea, rather than several cups of berries. In her card to me Brenda said, "I've had this 'Berryblossom White' before, but never took the time to truly taste it. I do so now. I have to cheat to know what the flavours are...but since it says on the packet, I know there's blueberry!" I'm with Brenda.

I'm also thrilled that she has taken the time to really taste the tea - or to make a good effort to do so! White is a challenging one to genuinely taste, and it takes a good amount of steeping, as well. There's a late bitterness that appears several minutes in which is not there early on. When I drink white tea from a teapot, I like to pour myself a cup and drink that as quickly as possible when it is pale and new and at its lightest. The next cup will be darker, and the next darker still...until the last cup tastes like an entirely different kind of tea than the first.

My walk today was fairly run of the mill. Just another scene in my montage. The last few days I haven't really felt like going out, but I love the feeling I get when I'm done. And what kind of a montage is it if I give up a week or two in? The montage may last a minute or two on screen, but it represents months and even years of hard labour. That's where I'm at today.

My favourite statement of the whole card is the ending sentence, "Thank God for tea!" I couldn't agree more.

Walk/run length: 35 minutes

Day 21: Green Tea with Blueberry and Raspberry

Today I got up much earlier than I normally do. Because I work from home, I'm not a slave to the alarm clock as many people are. (Some days I hardly pay attention to it at all, I must admit...although then I get emails from people asking why I'm working at ten o'clock at night!)  But today was a very full day and what encouraged me was that I didn't want to miss out on my morning walk/run.  I'm beginning to see the benefits of going out at around the same time, for the same distance, every day. It helps me wake up, it settles my mind, it gives me time to think, and most importantly it gets me outside. I'm so thankful for every day that I can go out and walk, and sometimes run a little. It truly is a one day at a time thing.

My tea today was Green Tea with Blueberry and Raspberry. A new one for me - Pin was out shopping and noticed it, so she got me a box since my other green teas were nearly gone. (I haven't calculated yet how quickly I go through a box of green tea, but considering I have a cup every morning when I wake up, and sometimes a few decaf ones throughout the day, it's pretty fast!)

This is probably the lightest (flavour wise) of the green teas that I've tried. It almost tasted watery, and I left the teabag in for the same amount of time as I usually do. I struggled to find the blueberry and raspberry taste - but the interesting thing was that after I had finished the cup, and took the teabag out to lay it aside, a very strong blueberry aroma drifted up to me.  Perhaps I should have let it steep a day or two? I'll try it again tomorrow and see if it's any different.

Found a few blueberries in the freezer...didn't try them in the tea this time, but they make such a pretty photograph, I had to include them in my daily photo.  Little ice crystals and all.  I find it fascinating that we paint blueberries as 'blue' when really they're a dusky purple.

Enjoy your tea today!

Walk/run length: 35 minutes

Monday, 25 April 2011

Day 20: Apple & Cinnamon Twist (Heath & Heather)

One of the girls in my church gave me a lovely gift the other day. She had gone through her own tea cupboard and chosen a selection of new teas, together with a little list of what each tea was. I loved it. I'm getting to the depths of my own tea cupboard, and whilst there are still many there to have, I love getting brand-new ones, some of which I don't have and perhaps have never tried.

Today I chose the Apple & Cinnamon Twist. I've turned this blog into a partial photography blog also, since it's such fun to take photos of the different teas. But taking photos of cups and teabags can get a little tired, so I've begun looking for new things that complement the tea title to go along with. Today I scoured my cooking ingredients and discovered a whole stack of cinnamon sticks, and of course I still have the multitude of apples from the random apple-shoot day.  So, I played around with cinnamon sticks and ribbon and the Heath & Heather tea tag, and created something that I thought would make lovely favours for a rustic wedding.  I haven't had one of these yet, but I'm sure I will one day - apples and cinnamon sticks and barns and cowboy boots and iced tea and country ribbons.  For now, I'll create my own apple-cinnamon beauty and try it in a tea.

I added the cinnamon stick and a piece of freshly-cut apple to my tea, and it's incredible. The sweet-bitter-spicy-sour taste of the cinnamon, with the crisp tartness of the fresh apple slice, bring out all those same flavours that are in the tea itself. Well done, Heath & Heather!

My walk today was excellent. I went out, not really feeling up to it (it's Monday, after all, AND a bank holiday), and was striding along purposefully when I walked past the binmen and their weekly, smelly work. One of them saw me walking and said cheerily, whilst wheeling a bin away, "You're doing well today!" and smiled. "We should be going a walk like this lassie," he added to his fellow worker, who grunted and carried on with moving the bins.  I waved cheerfully and carried on. It's amazing how the slightest 'throw-away' comment (from a binman!) can give that slightest bit of encouragement that you need one day.  I've had a lot of comments from people as I walk along every day - some negative, some positive. Most about the weather, many just to say hello or good morning. Sadly, I get used to many people having a negative or grumpy attitude, and do my best to wish people a cheerful good morning in the hopes that it will become one for them, even if it isn't already. But this binman found a way to inspire and encourage and support, with one small and cheerful statement while doing a job that most people would turn their noses up at.  Literally.

So if you see someone out walking, or out running, don't hesitate to cheer them on.  Wish them a good day. Tell them they're doing well today. Encourage your fellow workers or friends to do what they are doing. Encourage yourself to do it. And even if you're surrounded by rubbish of any kind - physical, emotional, spiritual - turn on the light and rejoice.  It can make someone's day, and their walk, and their perspective. 

The sun is coming out now. I'm surprisingly not as tired as I would have thought, considering that I ran for three short portions of my walk instead of just walking. And I'm enjoying my spicy-sweet tea, courtesy of my good friend Caitie. Thanks darlin!
Walk/run length: 35 minutes (faster when I run more!)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Day 19: Decaf English Breakfast (with lemon)

(Note: this blog post was written thinking it was an Earl Grey, when it was English Breakfast!)

I thought for a moment that I had done Earl Grey tea already, and it turns out that I have, but the loose leaf, full strength version.  Today I found a box of Decaffeinated Earl Grey, and got on with boiling the kettle, anticipating my cup of tea-with-milk.  Opened the fridge to find there IS no milk there. Hmmm, what to do, what to do.

Found a little thing of lemon juice and thought I'd heard of having earl grey with lemon, so I squeezed some in.

It is really, really nice. Highly recommended. I'm not sure where the tradition came from to have lemon in earl grey tea (probably in the war when there wasn't enough milk to go around), but it's lovely. As with most fruit and citrus aspects, as you've been no doubt noticing as we go along on this tea journey, it serves as a foil to the natural bitterness of the tea.  In literature, someone who acts as a foil is one who contrasts so much with another character (usually the chief character, or the 'protagonist'), that they bring out some of the key highlights of their personality. Well, I think lemon does that very well in this decaffeinated earl grey tea. It highlights the dark nature of the tea, it brings out even a little sweetness there which you wouldn't notice otherwise. It prevents a nasty aftertaste and lightens the whole sense of the tea, so that instead of drinking maybe half a cup and being done, I drink it right down to the bottom of the cup and possibly even want some more.

In fact that's just what I'll do. My sister is out buying milk so I've asked her to buy a lemon and I'm going to have it with proper lemon slices. As you do.

So now I'm trying it with proper That's some zest. It's got a tang to it that Earl Grey has never had in my memory before!

This morning I went out to distribute leaflets with others from my church. It was wet, cold, and grey. A perfect day to drink Earl Grey....and I drink the lemon in it as a mark of hope that there may yet be a slice of sunshine to go with this dark, damp, wet day.

Walk length: 1 hour

Day 18: Cranberry, Raspberry, & Elderflower

Tonight we all went out to the Big Mouth Coffee Company in Glasgow, which kindly stayed open late for us. I perused the board of drinks, almost deciding on a coffee, when I realised that here was an opportunity for a new kind of tea! I was hoping they had a whole variety of loose leaf teas, but this is a coffee company, so I chose from one of the multitude of boxes of herbal teas, and made the lady spell out all the different flavours so I could make sure that the tea I chose wasn't one that I already had.

My choice was Cranberry, Raspberry, and Elderflower - and I got a slice of Oreo cake to go along with it.  Man, that was good. Before I get on with explaining what the tea was like, let me tell you about this cake. A dark chocolate biscuit-y layer at the bottom; light chocolate mousse; cream; and oreo cookie bits. And probably a few other things I've missed. Wow, that was amazing. I realised only two or three bites short of finishing it that I hadn't shared any with my sister yet so I had to right that quickly before it was all gone!

The tea was a classic over-fruity one. The elderflower is nice, makes for a light flavour to go with the dark cranberry and raspberry fruits. I'm not quite sure what to do with this kind of tea to enjoy the full cup - it seems the first sip or so are really nice, and then it gets too dark. I think it's the kind that you have to carefully calculate the steeping time, and if it goes even 30 seconds beyond that, it's bitter and sharp instead of light and sweet.  But we enjoyed the coffee house, and I even spoke to the owner about taking photos of it for her in the future! It's such a beautiful place - bright red walls and funky different chairs (and very comfortable soft seats in the back)...and good coffee, too. Or wait - I might need to try that next time!

My walk today was the usual, just another step in the montage. I ran a little, but not much, and I press on.

Walk length: 45 minutes

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Day 17: Pomegranate Pizzazz!

Today's tea is a real zinger! Funnily enough, I was scouring my cupboards for a new kind of tea (I'm starting to seriously consider whether I can make it through the entire 90 days with the contents of my existing tea cupboard - it truly is amazing what's in there), and came across this one, labelled excitingly 'Pomegranate Pizzazz'. I looked at it with suspicion, as I vaguely remembered trying it in the past and not being overly impressed. But, that's one of the beauties of this blog, is that it forces me to Try New Things and Break Out Of My Routine, so I leaped in and set the tea to steep.

While it waited, I discovered that the Pink Lady apples my sister had bought today would look much better sitting in a tea cup, so I set them all in it and once they were there (they seemed to balance themselves), I pulled out the camera and had a little apple photo shoot. The apples appreciated it, I think, and they did well. :)

Now on to the tea. I am incredibly impressed with the genuine pizzazz of this tea...the packaging proclaimed that it was flavoured with Real Fruit Juice, and I can definitely taste the difference! Having become used to drinking other teas, many of which are loose leaf, I am becoming adept at savouring the various influences. This tea most definitely has fruit juices in it, because it gives a depth of fruit that would not normally be present in just the tea leaves.  That got me wondering what kind of tea leaves they are, after all, considering I've never heard of pomegranate leaves being used for tea leaves (although I wouldn't put it past anyone to do so - the more tea I drink the more amazed I am at the possibilities!).  I checked the back of the packet to find that this tea uses apple, hibiscus, and blackberry leaves, combined with the flavours of pomegranate, orange peel, licorice root, and pomegranate and apple juices.  It's excellent.  'Full bodied', I think I would say.  I steeped it for almost five minutes, which was a good choice...sometimes steeping tea too long ruins the flavour, but this one is just right.  (I just took another sip to discover that five minutes is the max, and quick took out the tea bag and threw it away.)

I had company for my walk today - a little 'pizzazz' for the walk as well as the tea! My sister came with me and we went a little different route but still about my usual length - I'm finding that a mere 20 minutes is not quite enough.  I ran, a little, today, though not much - and passed an older man with a little brown dog, both of whom I see almost every morning. It's nice, running into the same people (not literally). It gives me a sense of routine, of consistency, of discipline, of continuity.

Walk length: 50 minutes

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day 16: White Cherry Blossom Tea

One of the things I love about walking every day is the fact that I get to enjoy the seasons slowly, with attention and time. Normally I'm inside a lot, or not paying specific attention to the seasons changing, and they surprise me. One day I'm looking out at snow covered streets and the next morning (it feels like) the blossoms are full on the trees and I'm wondering where winter went.

If you feel like that, the best way to enjoy fully the changing of the trees and the weather and the feel of the sky is to actually pay attention on a daily walk. This morning I had a lot of fellow walkers along my (now well-worn) path. A man with some kind of paper in his hand, walking so slowly (and sometimes stopping altogether) so that his little black dog was running circles around him, yapping its head off, and then stopping with its head cocked as if to say, 'Aren't we going to walk today?' Another man, paused at a gate-post, talking on his mobile phone. Two people walking their dogs together. Most of those I passed today didn't seem to be really taking in their surroundings too much. And because this blog is focused on the different teas each day (rather than photos of my world), I've been going out each morning without my mobile phone, or anything to distract. It's just me, my trainers, and my water bottle. And so I find that I'm noticing and enjoying the little changes that I see even more than usual. (It also helps that I'm walking the same path every day, so something that was brown yesterday and green today is also more noticed.)

Today I was noticing the blossoms and leaves on the trees. A few weeks ago, I was seeing that the brown and stark trees were starting to gain softness. Little green buds (and some pink ones) appearing. Small extensions on a branch. Last week it was the blossoms - the trees had white or pink blossoms that were unfolding in beauty. And today I suddenly noticed that alongside the blossoms were the leaves. One of the trees I particularly admire had yesterday a host of white blossoms (hence my tea choice today), and now I suddenly noticed that there are more green leaves on it than ever before. It reminded me of the story of Aaron's rod that budded, in the Bible - if you're not familiar with it, it tells of a man that the whole church was angry at and not sure they wanted leading them, and how God told all those men to lay down their staffs (the shepherd staffs that they carried each day) and see which one was 'chosen'. The next morning when they went in to look, "Behold, the staff of Aaron had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Then Moses [Aaron's brother] brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff." (Numbers 17.8-9) I love that story because, especially now with my walking, I can see that God can speed up or slow down or otherwise deal with the weather, the seasons, the blossoming, the bearing of fruit, in whatever way He chooses. The creation is His, the timing is His...and I simply get to walk along in wonder.

Today's tea is white cherry blossom. How incredibly apt! I am using my loose-leaf-tea-spoon which sits in the cup and lets the flavour out slowly. It's slightly bitter at the start, so I am still letting it steep. There's definitely a sweet, fruity taste after and in combination with the bitterness, and a clarity to this tea that most loose-leaf teas are better at than teabags. It's simple, light, and beautiful: like the blossoms it comes from.

Walk length: 45 minutes

Day 15: Green Tea With Mango

Another of the green tea versions. This one, as you can see from the picture, is a 'seasonal' version of Twinings green tea. I love these, because it expands my tea enjoyment in new and different ways all year!

I think this version is one of my favourites, but I can see why it's seasonal. It conjures up summer afternoons, salads, tropical islands, and even those drinks with little umbrellas in them. The mango cuts the green tea bitterness just perfectly, and I've been known to drink four or five cups of this a day, particularly if it's cold and I'm tired. (I've mentioned previously that green tea, contrary to my initial thoughts, definitely has caffeine in it!)

Today was an interesting opportunity. I found £15 in cash lying on the ground.  The strange thing was, it was close enough to someone's house for me to feel that it probably belonged to someone in that house, and yet just far enough away to be a little unsure. It was right next to the driveway, in the kind of place where if you pulled the car out, then opened the door to do anything (shift the rubbish bin, shut the gate, etc), it would have fallen out. I asked the neighbour lady if she had dropped it, as she was just walking into her house, but she said no. I chapped the house door, but no one answered. I actually went for my whole walk with the money in my hand, but on my way back I decided to just drop it through the letter-box of the house it was closest to.  £15 is enough to miss, but not enough to be broken-hearted over losing (although I suppose it depends how old you are or what your salary or allowance is!).  And while standing there momentarily undecided, a verse from the Bible came to my mind. There's a story about a man called Jacob whose brother wanted to kill him, and Jacob ran away and worked for his uncle. When Jacob returns to his family twenty years later, his brother comes out to meet him, and although Jacob is fearful, his brother meets him with an embrace and kind words.  Jacob offers him a gift, and his brother Esau initially refuses it.  Jacob insists, with these words: "Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have all".  (Genesis 33.11)  I have always loved that verse.  It reminds me of those two beautiful truths, that God deals graciously, and in terms of what I need, 'I have all'.  So, I don't know if that £15 belonged to the nice people in the house I passed, or whether someone dropped it on the path as they walked by, or where it came from.  But God has dealt graciously with me, and I have all, and so I dropped it through the letterbox. Wouldn't it be funny if someone reading this suddenly realised it was them, it was their house that got the mysterious money?

Enjoy your walk, and God's graciousness, and the 'all' that He provides.

Walk length: 45 minutes

Day 14: Chai Tea Latte

Today's tea is Chai Tea Latte. This is a mix that can be combined with water, but I usually use milk for a creamier, smoother taste. It's sweet - very sweet - the cardamom-flavour of chai mixed with milk and sugar and almost a cinnamony flavour. It's probably the closest thing you can have to coffee whilst still having tea...but then chai is a strange and different tea. Literally meaning 'spiced tea' and then used in a variety of formats, I'd highly recommend it!

My walk this morning (blogging late here, this was Monday) reminded me of the pleasure of taking the same walk every day. It means I'm a lot more disciplined - my walks tend to be about the same length every day, about 45 minutes. I've started running just a little bit each day - some days more, some days less - not pressuring myself or being competitive (very difficult for me not to do), but just trying to enjoy the time. I've always liked running, and would love to get back into it if my health will allow. No matter how full my mind is, the second I move from even fast walking to running, it's like the mind gets wiped blank, in a good way. Suddenly all there is to focus on is the next, next, next step...and all the things I need to do and places to go and people to see drifts away.  And I'm actually getting a break.

Enjoy your own tea today!

Walk length: 45 minutes

Monday, 18 April 2011

Day 13: Day of Rest

Today I went to church, heard some amazing sermons on the power of God from the new minister in our denomination, and slept for several hours. Very nice.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Day 12: Whittard's Raspberry & Peach Tea

Finally catching up on my blog. I've been walking every day, but have been having difficulty uploading my photos, so it's catch-up time.  Tonight I'm having a raspberry and peach tea because it feels like that kind of a day.

I went out this morning to meet with a friend about doing a family photo shoot for her father's 70th birthday. This friend is one of 'my brides', someone for whom I did wedding photography several years back, and it's always such fun to visit with a couple I took the wedding photos for, who are still very much in love and still enjoying their beautiful wedding album and photos. That always brings me great joy. She even pulled out the album and showed it to me all over again, and we enjoyed the beauty of the day two years ago.  I walked to their house and walked back home again, noticing all the beauties of spring as I walked. There are trees in blossom everywhere, and it was slightly chilly but not the frozen cold we had during the winter. I was remembering certain places where I had walked, almost knee-deep, in snow only two or three months ago.  Amazing how everything can change so quickly.

A photographer friend of mine put me on to a new iphone app called Hipstamatic. You can use it to take 'old school' type photographs using a variety of 'lenses' and colourings. It's absolutely amazing. I just love it.  My friend is in Bali and other tropical places right now and all his photos just had that extra panache that mine were missing, so I downloaded the app tonight and have been playing about with my new toy all evening.  It's brilliant fun. I'm starting to wish that my heavy-duty camera had something this fun on it...but that's what my Mac and photography software are for!
So I spent most of the rest of the day chilling out, catching up on various photography editing, writing, reading, talking with my sister, watching part of a film, taking a nap, and now blogging and drinking two cups of tea at the same time.  Oh - I almost forgot!  The raspberry and peach tea.  Well, it's not bad. I wouldn't choose to have it too often, but the raspberry flavour comes out nice and strong, and the colour is a deep, almost fuschia - but perhaps a little darker. Surprisingly dark.  I'm struggling to taste the peach as much, but it does temper the raspberry a bit.  Interestingly raspberry is quite a sharp taste in a tea.

Enjoy your evening - tomorrow is a day of rest!

Walk length: 40 minutes

Day 11: Russian Tea (And A Montage)

You know those films, particularly sports ones, where the hero (or heroine) decides to really go at it, whatever 'it' or ice skating or running or bobsledding...and the film shifts into the classic montage scene. You see our hero running round the track, but collapsing partway through. Beating his head against the ground in frustration. Rising in excitement and success, then falling again. Trying over and over and over at something that isn't working. Collapsing in exhaustion and getting up early the next morning. And slowly, slowly beginning to improve until suddenly snap! The overriding music ends and the Hero Is Ready to Take On The World (or the local basketball team, ice skating duo, marathon runner, or bobsled team).

I love those montages because they skip out on all the hard stuff. You can sit comfortably in your bed or in your living room and watch it, and feel a sense of accomplishment with the runner or the ice skater, without having to go through any of the hard stuff. But let me tell you - being in the midst of a montage is a darn hard thing.

Today I walked to the track at the leisure centre and walked around it. And then I ran around half of it, and did that a few times. Then I walked home. I was so exhausted I could hardly achieve anything the rest of the day. I know I have a long way to go, and it seems I've tried this 'montage' many times and eventually just give up, but since I was able to achieve my 90 day challenge, perhaps I can do something amazing with this new one. Because since the focus is tea, I don't have to get real clever with my walk-of-the-day. It can be as boring as walking (or running) around a track.  Because at least I'm trying something new!

So I came home to some good old Russian Tea. I don't know if you've ever tried this before, but it involves 'instant tea' (a strange American phenomenon, similar to instant coffee crystals); something else called 'Tang', which is a citrusy-instant-tea-orange-flavoured-drink; cinnamon; cloves; and sugar.  It's pretty sugary, now that I realise it. I found a recipe online for it, which fascinated me as I didn't even know there WAS an actual recipe. I thought my mum was the only person who truly knows how to make proper Russian Tea (and I still maintain that she is). 

Russian Tea is a family favourite, as my mum always had it on hand especially when we went on holiday or on a trip to our family's cabin. We'd go out for a long tromp in the bitter cold, a walk around the frozen lake, and come back to the cabin rubbing our hands in front of the wood fire, listening to it crackle and snap and spit coals out onto the floor, and Mum would be making a cup of hot Russian Tea.  Then we'd hold it in our chapped, cold hands, feeling them warm up, and take a sip of this tangy hot sweetness.  (That's a cool name, I think I'll use it for a band.)  My mum and my sister often make a small container of Russian Tea for me, and send it over whenever someone from America comes to visit me here in Scotland. It's a little piece of home, and of warmth and happiness and family and joy, and I'm enjoying it tonight.

Walk length: 1.25 hours

Day 10: Green Tea With Cranberry

On Thursday (I'm writing this belatedly) my tea was Twinings Green Tea With Cranberry. Again, one of my favourites: I am becoming pretty passionate about green tea, and yet there's something about the fruit flavour that cuts any bitterness so that I can have several cups of it without the odd, 'coating' type of aftertaste that comes with a standard green tea. (I did have a cup of 'plain' green tea and it was all right, but nothing as nice as the cranberry flavour.) It's interesting, since cranberries themselves have a sharp, almost sour flavour - but when you combine them with green tea, the sweetness that is often lost (in muffins or cakes or other sugary options) comes to the fore. I'm fascinated lately by the different flavours that work, often so well, together.

I went to Bristol for the day. I had a meeting to attend in a hotel not far from the airport, and I must say that my journey was not 'travel', but a 'trip'. There's a big difference. Let me explain.

Travel involves seeing new things, or old things with new eyes. Standing still for a moment. Learning. Laughing. Being open-eyed in wonder. Entering into the spirit, the culture. Being ho

peful and joyful. Thinking. Seeing. Experiencing. Breathing in. Noticing. And even buying, entering into the economy! But a 'trip'...that involves none of this. Simple an airport, a shuttle, a conference room with windows sealed off. Noticing nothing, and nothing to notice. Being in a hurry. Working on the computer. Not trying to see anything new but just doing what you have to. Rushing. Being serious. Staring at the phone. Separated from the culture, not even noticing that there is one. And only buying necessities. Yes, I much prefer traveling.

My walk today consisted of walking through Edinburgh and Bristol airports! Walk length: 20 minutes

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Day 9: Decaf Plain Tea

Tonight was MET in Glasgow at Rosie's, and since I hadn't had my tea for the day I opted for a cup of standard (decaffeinated) tea with milk. It was definitely decaf, since I was pretty weary by the time MET was over and my brain not a hundred percent 'there' either in driving or in conversation. But it was good to meet up with other believers and discuss what the Word teaches - tonight we were talking about the sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on the cross, including such topics as: did He suffer the punishment in hell, or just there on the cross? (the fact that He stated 'It is finished!' before He died seems to indicate the latter). What does the word 'reconciliation' mean and why is it important? (We discussed the fact that it is not a brand-new relationship we get with God, but an ageless one from the beginning of time that was broken at the Fall, and restored by Jesus' sacrifice.) Is it 'too easy' to simply believe that we cannot be right with God on our own, but Jesus has done it for us? (The answer being yes, it is 'too easy': for us. Jesus took all the punishment and had all the depths of hard and difficult and pain that we won't have to have when we leave this world. So the hard part was His.)

I could go on, but again the decaf tea is failing me here, so I will simply say that it was encouraging to be with other believers and pray with them and return home to fall into bed! I have been walking longer each day lately - just taking the normal, standard route - which is nice for a change. When I did my Walk In All Weathers blog, I was constantly looking for a new walk, a new place, a new view.  Now, since my focus is on different kinds of tea, I can simply get up and go the same route and pass the same people and the same views; I'm kind of enjoying it.  I've been walking at least 45 minutes each morning, and whilst I find myself just that little bit more exhausted by the end of the day, there's a lot to be said for routine.  The best exercise comes from regular, consistent, "I don't feel like it today" efforts that in several months pay off.

But tomorrow morning I have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to Bristol, so I shall leave you!

Walk length: 45 minutes

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Day 8: Ginger & Lemon Tea

This morning I again set forth early, before settling down to work. It's nice going out earlier rather than later - the sky is clean and fresh, the paths are empty, I and I alone was out walking. There were a few workers tearing up the ground to my left as I wandered one of my favourite paths...I wondered whether they were clearing ground for more houses. There's an area near me that used to be beautiful empty space, filled with green trees or sparkling snow or fallen leaves, and now is filled with tractors and motors and metal and dirt. It's sad. I am glad, now, that I went out for those walks months ago, long before they began the ripping-up process, because I not only have the memory of those snowscapes but the image of them as well.

I didn't have my iphone with me this morning, so I couldn't capture the green trees, the sun shining on the leaves, the tree that I call a 'caterpillar tree' because its blossoms look like fat green caterpillars, the shadow of the wooden fence falling on the path, and me, walking alone with my thoughts, early in the morning.

Today's tea is ginger with lemon. I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of ginger tea, but because I'm doing this blog I thought I'd go ahead with it. Ginger is such a powerful taste, it seems to overwhelm anything it is in a tea with (or food, or any kind of drink). It is sharp, and tart, and almost spicy. Ginger, I've decided, is an attention-getter: it insists on having the first say when you take a sip. "Here am I, Ginger! I stand alone! I come bearing good tidings of powerful flavours!" And it's only by the time you have had half a cup you realise that lemon has been biding its time, calmly waiting for its opportunity to release a little sweet-and-sourness into the tea. There are ways to help out this kind of tea - honey is a good option, and sugar - but even still, Ginger manages to steal the limelight.

We have some ginger, and lemon juice at home right now. I debated adding some in, fresh, but after the first sip or two have changed my mind. More fresh ginger would simply encourage what's already in there. "Ah, excellent, fresh ginger, come on in here and show them how it's done!" my tea would say - and I would be tasting it all night no matter what else I drink.

I suppose ginger has some good properties - it can be used for essential oils, and to make medicines, apparently even to prevent motion sickness. I think, however, that today will be one of the few days I allow ginger to have its day in the sun. It's just too much for me.

Walk length: 50 minutes

Monday, 11 April 2011

Day 7: Loose Leaf Earl Grey Tea

This morning I got up and went for a walk, even though I didn't really want to.  My mind feels like it doesn't really want to do anything today - it's a bit foggy and unmotivated. Classic Monday-morning feeling, especially as yesterday was a nothing day. But I put on my trainers and sallied forth into the grey weather.  Over the weekend it was pure summer...this morning it was back to chilly winds and grey skies.  I can't really say it was raining this morning - it was more like water drops were being sprinkled randomly, with no real intent or purpose.  I would put on my hood and then realise I didn't need it, and after thirty seconds the raindrops would come again so on went the hood, and then the sky would go blue was very strange.  I enjoyed my walk, although I was tired, and I'm glad I went.

I came back to make a pot of loose leaf earl grey tea. Earl Grey seemed to define the weather this morning, and the loose leaf tea is particularly pungent. Earl Grey seems to me to be the quintessential English tea.  The 'Earl' conjures up images of royalty and nobility, and the 'Grey' represents the continually changing weather, the London fog, the dark winters, the grey skies. All of these factors work together to create a general desire for a 'proper' cup of tea, and here it is.  I like the first cup especially, since it hasn't steeped much and is still light in colour and in flavour - a mere memory of this tea flavour.  Even smelling this tea makes me feel like I'm sitting for a moment in an old stone castle, not a more modern flat.

I'm trying to think of words to describe this tea, but it's difficult. It's just so much a 'classic' tea.  What does classic tea taste like?  How does it manage to be a classic tea and yet give a posh sense to it, a little bit of a snooty nose and straightened shoulders?

I'm starting on my second cup now, and it's definitely darker.  Almost a sense of the 'earth' in it.  Hmm, now I'm beyond sounding like a wine taster and am moving towards sounding like a whisky taster. Now THERE would be a fun blog....

Walk length: 45 minutes