I’m trying to do a thing.
That thing I swear I want to do.
But words are hard.
And will not come.
Until they do…enjoy this:
I’m trying to do a thing.
That thing I swear I want to do.
But words are hard.
And will not come.
Until they do…enjoy this:
“Desire is the root cause of all evil.” Buddha
I try to remind myself of this every time I see something that my avaricious soul desires.*
But it is so very hard to be good.
What I need is a little Christmas Discipline.
I am currently enjoying a period of forced minimalism, otherwise known as being broke.
I have never budgeted. As a result, I have also never saved much money. I just let the paycheck drop into the account and spent said moolah on whatever I wanted and periodically looked to make sure I wasn’t dipping below the fill-line, so to speak, trusting that the bank will never run out of money.
But it did…for about three days.
November had five Thursdays in it.
Did you notice? I certainly didn’t.
Fun fact, our social security payment arrives on the last Thursday of the month. I auto-pay my bills electronically on or around the 25th because, usually, by then the check has hit the bank.
Unless there are five Thursdays.
Five Thursdays spells disaster with my current un-budgeted way of life. If I’m not careful, the money doesn’t quite stretch to cover the month unless I pay attention and not buy every indulgence that catches my eye.
I had no idea what a spend thrift I could be until I realized I couldn’t spend ANY money for three days.
I mean none.
I got through the days of parsimony and rue recognizing that I have some really bad habits.
It was time to enforce some strict discipline…
I looked at my love of fancy compressed curds and altered my favorite Thanksgiving side dish to omit the Grueyer and Emmenthaler cheeses.**
Turns out, I might just need a cheddar-vention.
I have some expensive, thoughtless, habits that I now need to pay attention to.
A sudden need for a french fry fix makes me commit a fast food drive by almost without thinking about it. The doctor, at least, will be happy to hear we are cutting back on our deep-fried addictions.
The road to my personal hell is paved with indulgences that would make angels weep.***
So, I’m submitting myself to some long-needed tightening of the purse-strings.
I am become an acolyte for pleasure through self-deprivation.
All books will come from the library for the foreseeable future.
…Or a regional Little Free Library /black-ops drop site.
No more wine.
We won’t mention over-priced chai lattes that you can get at Biggby’s.
And I’m going to cut back on the diet cherry coke habit, though I worry I might actually kill somebody for a taste of the sparkling poison, so be warned.
I am now faced with the consequences of life-long bad habits. I must buckle down and pay attention to my finances and make fiscally restrictive choices. Or, find another way to make income.
Which brings me to my brilliant sub-theme.
My New Year’s Resolution will be to find out which of the following jobs is the least repellent way to bring in extra cash:
Will Humiliate for Food
I once read a profile on OKCupid for a guy who was willing to pay women to come out to California, dress in appropriate costumes, and humiliate him for hard cash. I’m not entirely sure if this one wasn’t an invitation to join a sex-trade, but maybe he has Skype?
Phoning It In
Sex phone operator. In which we find out whether I can suppress the giggles long enough to achieve a quasi-sultry conclusion. Also, where exactly am I going to do this in a house full of therapy techs and my ever-present child? I’m yawning the minute it hits 8:00 pm…this will take some thought.
Lashing the Page
Or, based on what I’ve seen while Googling images for this topic, there’s an aching void waiting to be filled in the Christmas-based sadomasochism/erotica market. Now how shall I plug that hole?
With such exciting job prospects, I’ll be sure to report back I am once more swimming in something festively green…hopefully it’s money and not jello with marshmallows on a pay-per-view fetish site.
Oh, and could someone remind me in the third week of January that the month has five Thursdays? Thanks.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Which, at Christmas, means everything. My inner child is a window-shopping glutton.
**For those interested, here’s the recipe: Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
***It doesn’t make angles weep–which is what I originally wrote–but then I decided the heartless bastards would just laugh for 90 degrees in their corners until it was no longer funny or acute. How obtuse!
You’ve read this far bonus:
Walking the public pier along the Holland State Beach allows one to appreciate both an exercise in free speech and the quasi-felonious joys of graffiti expressionism.
I have never been so brave or confident in what I had to say that I was willing to risk a $250 fine and possible jail time to tag a public edifice in order to say it.*
Vandalism is, at the very least, a misdemeanor offense, but what I want to know is…is it art?
And if it is art, what is it saying?
Based on my hour spent cataloging this year’s liberal art tributes on the rusting canvas of the masses, the message depends on the viewer:
If you look hard enough, you can find answers.
Although….you may also be left wondering what the question was.
Thoughts from Danny Duncan!
Danny thinks “It’s fine!”
But, he scrawled his sentiments in a tucked away place on an overhead pipe, so I suspect he’s playing it cool.
Some people put themselves out there, courting ridicule…possibly unaware that a Tinder Date may be using a pseudonym.
Everyone has an opinion…whether that opinion is worth scrawling on a pier support is in the eye of the beholder.
Dreams are apparently dictated with impermanent ink scrawled on a blue-green background and will melt with time and the coming rains.
Lacking the words to express their deeper emotions, some fall back on a classic:
Friends slap high fives (or low ones) wherever they can.
Some HIGH FIVES bury the headline:
OTHER HIGH FIVES come with best wishes from ON HIGH!
Emotions run high…leaving some confused…knotting their hair with suspense.
Perhaps the message echoes an earlier time—a plea for Peace, Love and Hope symbolized by a badly divided pie chart?
The VEGANS were a bit demanding and psychedelically so:
Some pier polluters promote poignant pleas:
Perhaps what you take from the message boardwalk is only that which you brought with you?***
One word scrawled among the masses stood out. I was astounded that classics such as Shakespearean language describing a two-week time frame have made it to modern vernacular (even if the spelling hadn’t):
Then, later, during a rare session of live tv watching, I was bombarded by a commercial which dispelled my illusions. (And possibly also my allusions.)
I almost despaired to have lost a belabored delusion of the persistence of language.
But then, after watching King Lear drop bodies at Grand Valley State University, I decided that Fortnite actually is a modern variant of Shakespearean storytelling—if only Shakespeare had lived in the age of the rocket launcher.
It seemed an obvious thing to me that there should be an image of Shakespeare with a rocket launcher…SO I MADE ONE:
If art is a medium of expression, then I believe those who congregate at the water’s edge to exchange selfies and tag nearby crumbling infrastructure are at least trying to get a message out.
Or, maybe they are all just succumbing to…
Maybe this isn’t art.
But I say, “Let he who is without talent, shut the hell up.”
And let it be what it is.
The need to express ourselves, our souls, may be the most human characteristic.
That we do it in a destructive, transitory medium is even more so.
Will words someday become anachronisms?
After digital communication leaps past verbal utterances to an all-emoticon communication system—how will we express nuanced emotions?
The phrase a “picture is worth a thousand words” takes on a scary new meaning when all you have is a demented smiley face to look at.
Until that day, cherish words, however they are conveyed.
Whatever cryptic message they share may be just for you!
Maybe the mystic words will heal what is broken.
Release what is hidden.
Find what is lost!
Maybe a body just needs to scream into the void and hope that someone, somewhere, is listening:
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*I vandalize the internet from the safety of my blog instead.
**The internet laws have not yet caught up with the violations of free speech rampant in the digital stratospheres. When I become dictator of the universe, trolls will be hunted for sport.
***I suspect I’m stealing this line from Yoda. Or Harry Potter. A writer somewhere is feeling a sharp pang of plagiarism.
Do you like a stinking good time?
Do you appreciate the rare? The exotic? The exceedingly slow burn to coition?
Do you savor the anticipation an eighteen-year wait brings?
Then you may be ready for the giant phallus. The amorphophallus titanum to be precise.
If you happened to wander into Meijer Gardens this week, you may have stumbled across the shy and retiring Titan Arum–a bloom colloquially referred to as a Corpse Flower.*
I’ve been a long-time fan of the gardens, but even I was caught by surprise about the arrival of the local beauty–nicknamed Putricia for her odiferous nature. On impulse, I dashed to the gardens on Tuesday to get this shot of her before she made her full-blown debut. The garden staff estimated that she wouldn’t fully bloom until Friday…but they were to be caught off guard.
Wednesday night, the spathe–or giant solitary petal that goes around the spadix (the stabby, sword-like center spike) was still tightly closed.**
For a better description, you can go to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website for a great breakdown of the particulars. The site was extremely helpful in providing the follow image to steal:
Rumors abound around this hard-to-get coquette. According to this chart, it may bloom every four to five years. I’ve read elsewhere, it can take much longer because it relies on perfect conditions being met in order to propagate. The flower is in danger of becoming extinct in nature because of habitat loss and other causes.
At the Meijer Gardens, Putricia took eighteen years before she was ready to blossom. But she is finally strutting her stuff. And perhaps because she was so slow in arriving, she hurried up her appearance in time for me to dash over to meet her on Thursday. And, I have to say, she put on quite a stately show.
I couldn’t say how many people came, but the lines curled throughout the building when I was there. If you are brave, you might get to see her yourself–at least, for the next 24 hours anyway.
If you want to save your feet (and nose) the effort, a link to video of the flower’s expansion, you can find it in this article located in the Detroit News.
Here’s the picture I snapped with my cell phone:
Personally, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the stench by the time I got to her. She’d already lost some of her bloom. (Probably being visited by thousands of people takes a toll on a girl.)
Whether standing in line for over two hours for a minute in the limelight with this sultry Sumatran Stinker is your idea of fun, only you can decide.
As for me, I am happy that I went and hope we can look forward to a bright future ahead.
And now, I have camping to get packed for. My son is totally puzzled as to why I would bother to stop and chat with you for this long anyway. For this reason, I’m attributing any typos to his impatience.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Strangely enough, no one requests a corpse flower for their bridal bouquet. Probably due to having to wait decades to ensure you’ll have one in time for the nuptials.
**Look, I’m not a botanist. There’s plenty of sites you can go to for actual plant terminology and description. But we both know you aren’t going there, are you?!
Sometimes I am caught unawares by the shock of death.
Even thirteen years later, I still grieve.
It catches me in odd moments.
Like today, watching the Monk series finale.
Where, eight years after the show ended, I have my own Monk moment.
Monk was a silly crime dramedy about a detective so torn by the death of his wife, he is unable to function without a massive number of coping skills that seem laughable to the world around him. These mechanisms for survival include: obsessive compulsive neatness, rigid need for control and cleanliness and order.* These tics are detrimental to his mental health and impede his ability to work in a normal job. They make for funny television, but a miserable reality.
I never saw the series when it was running. Back in 2002 I was living in Chicago, alternately trying to be a teacher and trying to get pregnant and failing at both. Then I succeeded in pregnancy, but completely tanked at teaching. But I had a husband and a son, so I kept going.
Until 2005, when my husband died.
And I stopped.
I stopped functioning, except at a nominal level where I met basic needs of my son and I cocooned myself from any changes that meant I had to face life.
I missed the entire span of the eight Monk seasons and only stumbled on it in its rerun afterlife where nothing ever truly dies.
And, today, I got to watch Adrian Monk resolve the death of his wife.
The scene that no one else probably thought two cents about was the fact that Monk couldn’t sleep in the center of his bed. He hugged the side, leaving room for Trudy, the memory of his wife forever impressed on her side of the bed.
When all the secrets are revealed in the last episode, the series is wrapped up in a tidy bow. Monk is sleeping, stretched out, in the center of the mattress and is seemingly unaware of the change in his rituals and patterns of behavior that have subsided with the peace of finally knowing. He is able to go on.
I still sleep on my side of the bed. I have never moved from it, no matter what bed I choose. It is probably just habit. A comfortable placement of nearness to the shelf where I put my glasses. The fact that I can only sleep facing one direction.
But it’s true, I can’t move to the center of the bed. Even if it is a small twin-sized mattress. I cling to the edge as if it were a thread from the past. Where I shared a space with someone else.
And that never goes away.
So, today, I cried. Because I remembered.
And never can forget.**
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*I am not like Monk. If anything, I am the anti-Monk. I do not clean, and obsessively hang on to everything, creating piles of junk that might possibly qualify me for a hoarders episode. I do however have an obsessive compulsive need to watch television that makes me cry, apparently.
**And the next day my period started with a raging bang. I suspect I was also a target of my hormones.
For anyone not neck-deep in the hat-phantasmic hoopla surrounding the royal wedding, allow me to present a less drama-soaked alternative: watching plants grow!
It occurs to me, that I have watched too many episodes of Midsomer Murders–a British television show on air since 1997 that refuses to die no matter how many casting changes occur.*
If you know the genre, there typically is a picturesque village holding a Medieval Faire with costumed residents oozing quaintness and exhibiting occasional homicidal tendencies.
If you are unfamiliar, I recommend a movie by Simon Pegg called “Hot Fuzz” that crystallizes the best and worst bits about the deceptively serene English countryside:
The thing that captures my attention more than the body count, is the number of community fêtes thrown. There’s like, what, one every episode? It makes me wonder if it is a national British pastime to dress in Ye Olde itchy togs and con people into playing cheesy parlor games for the sake of the church roof fund!
This brings me to today’s topic: American Block Parties.
Most block parties are an organized potluck gathering on barricaded side streets with no other function than to bring a community together to eat. Saturday gives me the opportunity to attend one that is equal parts British Fête Fundraiser and old-fashioned American street festival.
Wellhouse is a community program that buys local houses, renovates dilapidated neighborhoods, and provides housing and skills training for formerly homeless residents. They also promote a ‘growing’ community with an emphasis on sustainable practices and energy conservation along with farm gardening.**
Wellhouse hosts a plant sale each year. You go for the plants. You stay for that little something extra you won’t find at your local greenhouse: community!
At first, I beeline to pick up the greenery I want to fill out the barren landscape choked with crabgrass and despair that is my backyard.
Per usual, my teenage son has a trajectory of his own.
I keep dragging the man-child away from one table in particular. (I need to ogle flowers with exotic names like ‘Clemson’ and ‘Hyssop’, don’tcha know.)
I promise my child a specialty cupcake just so I can plant shop. (Twist my arm.)
I don’t know how good the chocolate cupcake with chocolate whipped frosting was, I just know it took my son less time to inhale said cupcake than it took to remove the wrapper.
I pick the one with the raspberry garnish.
I have no regrets.
If you want more rib-sticking eats, you might hit up the royalty-hued catering provided by Purple Blaze, a hybrid of Southern and Ethiopian cooking.
Sadly, I have no time to sample their fare, mostly because the boy-child is pushing me to go, however, even I as a non-meat eater have to say the wafting odor of barbecue is positively mouth watering.
You wouldn’t think there is be more in store at the festivities, but you’d be wrong. The gray, overcast sky can’t put a damper on the upbeat spirits.
There are white-tented tables with various arts for sale. My arms are mostly full of greenery, but I stop to admire the selections.
There were some truly amazing prints to peruse courtesy of Red Hydrant Press.
And fabulous arts of the crafted clay variety provided by WMCAT or the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology.
Here’s CC showing off her colorful floral-designed Pot:
Before long, my son is dragging me toward our Prius in a desperate bid for freedom, but I chat and take pictures as if this isn’t killing him slowly.
Moving between lazy droplets of rain, it is possible to find your smile while listening to The Fabulous Vans.
As I am packing up my car to go, I chat with the guitarist who is setting up for a performance. We exchange brief biographies, the way strangers do.***
I point to my kid who is slumping, hang-dog, in the car since mommy isn’t hopping to like he hopes. Timmy points to his daughter, Sierra, still polishing off some ribs at a nearby picnic table. He brags about her musicality and involvement in local choirs.
“You wouldn’t be biased about her talents at AlL?” I joke.
Her dad laughs and denies partiality, “Of course not.”
We talk about kids and music for a bit.
I bemoan my teenager’s rebellion against piano and ask whether he has to badger her to follow in her father’s footsteps? He assures me that she’s the one who wants sing.
He can’t say enough great things about her. Apparently, she’s even influenced the music they play.
“We usually play classic rock covers–like Led Zepplin’s “A Whole Lot of Love” but Sierra sings from some of her favorites: Twenty-One Pilots or One Republic.”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupt him. “Did you say Twenty-one Republics?”
He corrects me without laughing, much. By now, the rest of the band has loped over, and agrees to stage a picture for me. I hear them play as I drive away. Their enthusiasm isn’t in the least dampened by the drizzly venue.
I spent the rest of the day trying to plant things while simultaneously killing as many weeds as I can.
In the spirit that embodies fine British murder mystery programming, there’s been a summer fête, someone has to die!
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Regarding Midsomer’s Suspicious Death Rate: I do wonder how a fictional hamlet apparently no bigger than Rhode Island can survive quadruple homicides on a weekly basis without running out of people?
**I totally stole the Wellhouse information from a flyer available at the front table.
***Even though we all know about serial killers, no one expects them. They are like the Spanish Inquisition this way.
If mothers were trees…would they be like these?
A speculative look at the similarity between maternal instinct and cultivated bonsai architecture.*
Birch trees, with their snow-white bark always make me think of the Robert Frost poem–Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening–the last lines of which could be an anthem for motherhood:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.”
It is very hard to know your own worth even when people are kind and reassuring.
Mom 1: “Of course jelly beans can fit up the nose–the manufacturers designed them that way. “
Mom 2: “Oh yeah. It’s a nose-picking conspiracy all right. The sugar syndicates are in cahoots with the emergency after-hours clinics, I’m sure of it.
Even with an abundance of fertilizer, it can be hard to feel like a properly formed fir.
It helps to surround yourself with like-minded trees.
Real friends let you know it’s okay to be a small tree in a big garden.
We grow at our own pace and, yeah, some of us have perky petals, but most of us are just clinging to our own mossy kingdom trying not to kick out the dirt holding us together.
It’s hard not to compare yourself to the mom who looks like she’s got it all under control.
But maybe, she only let’s you see her when she is at her best.
I like to think this bonsai goes home to put on a pair of sweat pants and binge watch Dancing with the Stars while eating Chunky Monkey straight from the carton.
Sure, lean into the wind.
Face your battles.
But also, be willing to admit when you are unbalanced.
All work and no play makes mommy a crab apple.
I measure myself against an impossible standard: the mom I want to be versus the mom I am.
Sometimes, it’s okay to just be the cute-little-mom-that-could.
Be at peace with your adorable limitations.
The tiniest seed still blooms if you give it enough attention.
That rule applies to you as much as your children.
You may feel like you are coming apart at the seams.
You need a solid foundation and a rock to lean upon.
That’s okay. Go do something nice for yourself.
Buy a glazed ceramic pot to squat in.
Sometimes, all it takes is a pretty package.
Just when you are suffering root rot…
That’s when it’s your time to find that inner strength to keep blooming.
Even when you feel dead from the crown down.
We all lose our cool.
Try not to burn any bridges while you blaze away.
Whatever your parenting challenges…
If you just can’t pack one more lunch or pick up one more pair of underwear…
Those tangled roots that are tying you in knots and weigh you down?
They are also the ones that lift you up and make you an absolutely beautiful mom.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Bonsai Parenting Archetypes–an excruciatingly root-bound analogy.
My mom agreed to join me at my favorite place on earth for mother’s day.
The bonsai show was such a nice surprise!
Mom admired the petite jardins–even if she was drawn to the biggest brutes on the lot!
Thank you for joining me for a retrospective of the Mother’s Day bonsai bonanza at Meijer Gardens. I highly recommend you attend the special exhibits like these, or, failing that, stopping by to enjoy my obsessive photography habit.
Spring still isn’t here. Do you know how I know this? Two words: Slug Brain.
I have an uninvited guest who invades my corpus callosum during cold weather. Let’s call him Sluggo–assuming the copyright statutes on the Popeye franchise has lapsed. Apparently, Sluggo has decided to turn my brain into a collective.*
He has invited friends and they are slowly taking over the only unused space available–the squishy crevices in my cerebellum. He and his cohort hog the remote–watching the home shopping network at top volume. And for some reasons, their fearless leader keeps insisting that cheese is a fruit. Sluggo is one pushy mollusk.
There’s popcorn everywhere and somebody drank the last of the orange juice, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. I forget to look on the way to the bathroom and, invariably, there is a slippery trail threatening to break my neck. (The less said about this, the better.) Someone is going to get hurt.**
Anyway, if anyone wonders when the blog will finally start generating a buzz with it’s cutting-edge content and thought-provoking insights, ask yourself this: When will the gastropod extravaganza end and things can get back to normal?
Only Sluggo knows and he’s not talking.***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Resistance is futile…and leaves a slimy trail.
**I hurt my brain trying to understand the difference between a gastropod with a shell (snail) and one without (slug). And since that is the major difference between the two, that is saying something. I’m just not sure what…
I celebrated a tipping point in my annual acknowledgement of inevitable mortality this week–for those of you who don’t speak thesaurus, I had a birthday–and, as a result, I have decided to adopt an eccentricity commensurate with my age. I shall forthwith be known as The Tea Lady.*
As a follow-up to my last post, I am happy to report my somewhat victorious hunt for a replacement to my Teavana / Earl Grey addiction. While I cannot claim to find the exact same tea elsewhere, I’ve found a tea I like. And I’m here to bore you to death with the details. You’ve been warned.
I made a point of ordering some teas to try to find the good twin to my long-lost love (formerly produced by the evil bastards at Teavana may they rot in a mildewy, milk-tea hell).
This is what I’ve discovered–not all tea companies approach sales the same way.
I went to three online tea purveyors:
If I graded the companies on their packaging and delivery—the winners would be in this order:
First Place Packaging:
Adagio (HQ – New Jersey, US) – which sent a nicely crammed box filled with the $2.00– 0.8 oz loose-leaf sample of Earl Grey Moonlight which I asked for–along with several unsolicited samples and blandishments to purchase more. The fact that I ordered the week before my birthday might explain the ‘Birthday’ tea which I’ve yet to try and the ‘Pisces-Zodiac’ tea tin included gratis. I tried the latter. It smelled heavenly, but tasted bitter. I went on line to discover this tea has ‘lavender’ in it—which is a flower that makes me sneeze violently—so perhaps it was a subliminal allergic response as much as taste. For many reasons, this is not the tea for me. It will make a lovely sachet for my underwear drawer though.
Warning: print out your receipt–when I looked later in my emails, the details of the purchase were not included in the confirmation.
I was given a choice of one free sample; I picked the Earl Grey Bravo. If they hadn’t sent it, things might have turned out very differently. **
Second Place Packaging
The Art of Tea (HQ – Beverly Hills, CA) took almost a week to arrive. Going back, I re-reading their disclaimer on the invoice: “Art of Tea’s hand-crafted artisan teas take about 3-5 business days to create before they’re ready to ship.”
They sent their sample of loose-leaf Earl Grey Creme in a tin (5-7 servings for $5.00, plus shipping $5.97) along with two individual tea bag samples—one of the exact same tea, except bagged in an ‘eco pyramid’ filter, and one serving called Tali’s Masala Chai. It is hard to compare pricing, but the fact that the tea was boxed due to the metal container meant the shipping price was actually more expensive than the cost of the product itself. Although it is preferred to keep tea in a tin to preserve the contents, I don’t think it would hurt to send samples at a cheaper rate.
Third Place Packing
TeaLyra (HQ in New York and Canada) Was the fastest tea–I ordered from Amazon.com on March 5 and it arrived March 7. Self-described as the ‘Galaxy of Teas,’ the sample came wrapped in bulk packaging with a slapped-on label to identify the contents and a giant 25% off coupon good through July 30, 2018 for use by anyone.
GO AHEAD, here’s the code if you want to try: “Get-25-USA4”.
TeaLyra sent the biggest sample for the price ($14.99 for 3.5 ounces–which doesn’t sound like a lot but, man, the bag was huge next to the other samples.) There was some confusion though.
On the Amazon website the tea is called ‘Cream Earl Grey – Citrusy with Vannilla (sic) flavor’ but, if you go to the actual TeaLyra.com website, the name is Cream Earl Grey Moonlight. I wondered if Amazon was selling a knock-off, so I contacted TeaLyra. They explained that Amazon wouldn’t allow the full title for the tea so they omitted the word ‘Moonlight.’
Scooby Doo mystery solved, it was time for the battle to commence.
I set up my test kitchen.
I didn’t have three identical cups, and I really wanted to show off my teapot/cup combination. (Proving my tea-geek chic.) Otherwise, I tried to be scientific about it.
I did my best to put the same quantities of tea, sugar and cream into each glass. I’m a sweet, hot tea girl, so three level teaspoons of Demerara sugar and ½ a teaspoon of half-and-half went in.
After a three-minute steep, sugar, then cream, it was time to taste-test.
I sipped from left to right and it was a bit like the three bears, except that none of the three was ‘just right’ in terms of matching my memory of the Teavana profile.
How The Competition Measured Up…After a Slight Hiccup
Art of Tea – had strong floral notes wafting from the tin. It was self-described as ‘full body, citrus, silky’ and I would agree with the full and the silky part. I could not taste anything but vanilla in this particular tea.
In fact, the vanilla was so overpowering that I had to stop and look up “How To Cleanse Your Palate” and found this delightful site:
I did not have the recommended plain crackers but I decided white bread is pretty close and I sucked on pinches between sips in order to ‘zero’ my taste buds.
I also learned I had been drinking my tea all wrong.
The key to tea tasting is the etiquette-aghast SLURP method. To quote the Cup of Life doyenne: “While that may seem impolite, slurping is necessary to experience the full flavour of the tea on all parts of your palette.”
I slurped my way through the three choices. I made some observations which I will share with you:
Art of Tea
Earl Grey Crème Ingredients: organic black teas, organic cornflower, natural flavors, bergamot oil.
Even after a palate cleanse and a slurp-tasting, I still couldn’t get past the vanilla in the Art of Tea – Earl Grey Creme. That said, the tea was the smoothest cup I tried. You could barely taste the bergamot and it had none of the bitterness usually associated with strong black teas. Slurping lowered the initial strength of the vanilla flavor but it hit the back of the throat after swallowing and filled the nose with the perfume.***
Conclusion: too sweet and flowery for my tastes but probably a really fine dessert tea for a vanilla lover.
Up next, the musically bold companion tea.
Earl Grey Bravo Ingredients: black tea, orange peels, natural earl grey flavor.
Opening the bag, your nose gets a much more complex series of notes: bergamot, vanilla and what smells like a hot summer in Valencia Spain in the form of dried orange peels. I had my doubts initially; I tend to avoid orange flavoring as it can dominate. I am happy to admit, I was wrong.
This cup had the most pleasing color as a brewed tea, but then, it was in the cup with the widest diameter and that may have affected the light hitting it. It was also the tea that had the sweetest taste. I swear, I put the same amount of sugar in each cup, but, again, the dimensions of this cup may have played havoc with the scientific method.
One odd thing I noticed was the description of the tea’s label. The company did not describe the contents as ‘Bergamot Oil’ as did the competitors. Made me wonder what exactly they considered ‘natural earl grey’ to taste like?
Last, but not least, came the economically priced Amazon brew:
Earl Grey Crème ‘Moonlight’ Ingredients: organic black loose-leaf tea, cornflower, oil of bergamot, natural flavors.
TeaLyra had the lightest scent in dry form. There were hints of vanilla and bergamot. The odor reminded me of pressed flowers—a light, but ghostly, lingering scent.
The tea was also the most neutral flavor of the three. No one scent overpowered the other either in dry or brewed form. Admittedly, I drank this tea third of each round and it is entirely possible the first two samples killed any nuance detection. The flavor was not as ‘bright’ as the other teas. Overall, it was a more down-to-earth cup.
TeaLyra’s sample reminded me of a good English breakfast tea more than an Earl Grey Crème—with or without moonlight. It was a mellow, medium strength cup at 3 minutes. I think a longer steep might bring out the ‘hairy knuckles’ in the flavor. And of the three teas, it came closest in a visual comparison to the admittedly powdery dregs I have left of the original Teavana brand Earl Grey Crème sample. See for yourself:
A BRIEF TEA RE-CAP
ART OF TEA
PROS: Quality and luxury hand-crafted teas. Smooth, round and silky brew.
CONS: Expensive. Excessive Vanilla may be to mask bitterness of higher prices and slower products.
PROS: If you want a quick delivery that will make you feel pampered at a mid-ranged price, I recommend Adagio.
CONS: Demerits for the overly complicated discounts offered. The company promises future discounts after purchase but it requires you share a $5.00 gift certificate on social media.
Adagio also emailed to tell me of their ‘points’ system encouraging you to buy a lot of tea to earn any more freebies:
Your purchase has earned you 4 points in our “frequent cups” program. With 100 points or more, you’ll be saving $10+ on future orders.
Like most drugs, the first sample is free. The rest is going to cost you.
PROS: A likeable, affordable breakfast tea without an overly strong Bergamot or vanilla presence. If you like to be able to taste your tea, this is the companion for you. Plus, you know you aren’t paying higher prices for marketing or for frou-frou bells and whistles.
CONS: Weaker kissing-cousin to Teavana’s Earl Grey Crème. If you want to try a smaller sample, go directly to TeaLyra.com, Amazon only offers the larger 3.5 ounce packaging.
In the end, I am surprised to say I preferred Adagio’s Earl Grey Bravo best. It wasn’t the closest match to my beloved Teavana, I suspect the TeaLyra would make a fair substitute if it had a hint more vanilla in it…
With this in mind, I dump the overpowering vanilla of Art of Tea into the TeaLyra batch and discover I like the resultant concoction very much.
Whether anyone else would agree is for them to decide. Perhaps there is something of the Dr. Frankenstein in all of us—we can only love the monster we’ve created?
Memory is a funny thing. It is a place in which the pleasures of something increase exponentially for each day lost to the sands of time.
I had my heart set on finding my beloved Teavana twin only to end up falling for the fast and bold Adagio Bravo instead.
It has taken me over half-a-century, but I can finally say I’ve found my inner, fickle-hearted, fancy-free, femme fatale. And it didn’t take me fifty shades of Earl Grey to find her.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Note to self: get appropriately massive, flowery hat….or adopt a faux British accent.
**Insert appropriate “duh duh DUH!” sound effect for dramatic emphasis…or just mumble it to yourself.
***There were no instructions on how to clear a nose palate—and no, I did not stick bread up there to see if that would work
You’ve read this fricken far bonus:
There was supposed to be a fourth ‘Cream Earl Grey’ sample from Beantown Tea & Spices. Despite the name, the company must be shipping its product by a slow-boat from China. I ordered it March 5th–the same day as the TeaLyra product.
At last check, delivery is expected March 13th.
Addendum: Beantown sample arrived Sunday, March 12, and was delicious. I would have tested it against the other three for a truly detailed comparison, but I have used up all my tea sachets and have to order more. Sigh.
For some, February 14th might as well be called “Sorry-You-Are-Unlovable Day.”
It is the annual event loners celebrate by default when Valentine’s Day rolls around like the hemorrhoid of holidays it is. Honestly, I’m surprised there isn’t a bleak, dark corner of the Hallmark aisle already dedicated to us.
I could be petty and jealous and secretly hate everyone in a relationship on this one particular day of the year.* But it would take energy I totally lack to lift my middle finger and wave it about.
So, instead of moping about being unlucky in love, I am coming up with my sure-fire Emergency Preparedness List of getting through the Cupid-Vomit-Thong-Up-The-Butt-Overpriced-Hormone-Drenched Extravaganza that is February 14th. Feel free to add suggestions.
THE SINGLE PERSON’S ANTI-VALENTINE’S DAY VACCINATION SCHEDULE:
You know that ideal world where everyone is nice and caring and thinks about what you need? (No? Me neither.) Make sure you take time be that person for yourself for this one day. Be your own valentine.
(And if anyone snickers at you when they catch you hugging yourself–punch them, hard, and tell them it was a love tap from me.)
And if you have your own recommendations for surviving this un-celebration, please leave a note below. It’s a cold, cruel world for single people on February 14th. It’s good to know we’re not alone.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Why limit myself to just one day? I prefer to spread my loathing out in a nice, even layer throughout the year. Like a bitter chocolate frosting that burns upon contact.
**I may have to go shopping…I’m not sure I still own any good underwear.
***Please do not take this as an invitation to insinuate a smutty association between raspberries and men’s genitalia. I’d like to eat them again one day. What? No! Of course I mean the fruit!! What did you think I meant? It’s people like you who are ruining the internet.
————————–You Read This Far Bonus_______________________
Please check out Jezebel.com and all the less safe Anti-Valentine’s cards I didn’t choose from. You’re welcome.
Or, if you want to walk on the wicked side, I found this little number on Disturbed Stranger: I Killed Cupid
Warning, this isn’t the kind of gentle humor you are used to on my playground. This is dark-side-of-the-moon, do you [expletive deleted] your mother with that mouth? kind of dark. In fact, NEVER google Dead Cupid. It was a disturbing journey all around.
I need another bath now.
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