A Day of Toil and Sunshine

Yesterday, we got all the gardening we wanted to do done in the front of the house. I’m actually a little surprised, as I thought it would either rain or we would tire out. We started a little after 10 in the morning after Boyfriend had a chance to cut the grass. We started by digging out all the existing plants in the garden, pulling weeds, and clearing any dry debris. Boyfriend manned the shovel, while I went along behind him with my trowel to get smaller plants and knock dirts off the larger plants’ roots to keep it in the bed instead of in the refuse. After about an hour and a half of work, we had the bed mostly cleared out. Remember, this is what we started with:

From there, we cleaned up a bit and went for a lovely early lunch at a local farmers market. Duly fortified, we went to the garden store for more tools (a cultivator), along with mulch and the plants, of course! I spent probably an hour walking through the plants trying to decide what I could reasonably put in the space without obscuring the windows in the front of the house, or breaking the bank, as some of the plants were quite expensive. I was very tempted by hydrangeas, but for some reason couldn’t quite find the right one for our space. I thought perhaps we got too much shade in the front for roses, as there are several large trees in our neighborhood and the front is entirely shaded by the house for most of the morning. I may put in roses in the back later. In the end, I settled on three little azalea bushes, which will hopefully expand to fill most of the space.
DSCN0305After returning home, we used the cultivator to break up the soil and work in some peat moss and high-quality organic soil mix. Then, I gave everything a bit of water from the hose, and we started planting the shrubs. Once the shrubs were in, all that was left to do was to cover over everything with a nice layer of mulch to try to discourage those weeds from growing back and give the new plants some more water. As you can see, it looks much nicer than the overgrown tangle that was there before!

Perhaps eventually I’ll get my roses…


Stirrings and Happenings

I’ve decided to register TeaLeavesandTweed.com as the domain for this blog. The WordPress address still gets you there, but it will now redirect to my new domain. So update your bookmarks! It’s very exciting and fancy! It’s like moving without actually having to move.

Speaking of moving without actually having to move, I don’t know if I’ve officially mentioned this, but Boyfriend and I have found out that we will not need to move and we can stay in our little house, even after our housemate moves out this summer. This is even more exciting because it will be the first house of my own that I’ve had (well, of our own, but still). Even when I was married before, we always lived in an apartment. We’re already starting to make plans for the house, both inside and out. This weekend, we’re working on beautifying the front of the house a little. It’s a quick job because we have a lot of busy weekends between now and the first day of summer, but we’re going to try to add a little something to the garden in the front.DSCN0304EdI’ll leave with this “before” picture, to show you what we’re up against. There’s some neglected ornamental grass that Boyfriend has to take care of. Our landlady did some weeding a few weeks ago, and I did a little more last weekend, but we’re going to have our work cut out for us if we’re going to get something in this weekend!3030

Quiet Moments with Sirs Elgar and Davis

Something that surprises some people is that I most frequently listen to classical music. I don’t avoid other kinds of music, but my radio stays tuned to a classical station unless one is not available, and when I relax with music, I generally choose classical. Part of this came from starting ballet again a few years ago as an adult, as I often listen to the music to which I dance, but I haven’t stuck to swing or Argentine tango music as much as I’ve been drawn to classical.

There is something evocative for me in classical music. I’ve started to recognize composers’ stylistic idiosyncracies, and the styles of specific time periods and countries. Russian music very dark and deep at times, while French Baroque music is full of the lavish pomp that I associate with Versailles. English music reminds me of Thomas Hardy, evoking scenes of the country and sunshine.

Last night, I was reading about a tour of a British country estate and decided to seed a Pandora station with Sir Edward Elgar for a playlist of music that is bright and uncomplicated but still emotional and passionate in its way. It was lovely. I could sit for hours listening to such beautiful music, perhaps on a sun-drenched patio watching the birds cavort and the trees blow softly in the wind while sipping a cup of tea.

But for now, I take my time curled up at night, listening to lovely music while I read about lovely places and dream about trips I may take some day.

The Power of a Cup of Tea

Boyfriend is my rock, my support, the one who can calm me down no matter what. But even he needs his helpers. He’s the one who reminds me that I haven’t eaten for a while and seem like maybe I need a snack, or that I need some more sleep, or maybe I should get up and go outside for a while to recharge. And his number one go-to remedy?

“Sweetie, do you want me to make you a cup of tea?”

If it’s first thing in the morning and there’s no food in the house for breakfast because it’s shopping day, he offers me a cup of tea first. If it’s a work morning and I’m lounging in bed rather than face another day at the office, he makes me a cup of tea. He always makes sure to put enough water in the kettle when he boils it to make coffee, so I don’t have to wait as long for my tea. And if I’m having trouble falling asleep or sad or cranky or just generally stressed, he always first offers to make me a cup of herbal tea.

And that tea has so much more power than the leaves and water in it. Sure, some teas have medicinal properties. The caffeine can be a pick-me-up. The herbs can be soothing or calming or sedating. The water is hydrating, which can perk me up sometimes. But there is so much more to that offer of a cup of tea, and the tea itself.

The warmth of tea is part of the experience. I almost never drink tea iced unless it’s very very hot and I’m in the mood for a cold beverage. Hot tea is not the same. Hot tea is comforting from the moment you wrap your hands around the warm mug and inhale the scent of the tea. It sounds cliched, but it is a bit like a hug.

And tea takes time to make. You have to fill the kettle, and wait for it to boil. If I’m having a cup of proper tea, you need to measure the tea leaves into the strainer, time the steep, and remove the leaves. Tea isn’t something that Boyfriend drinks himself unless he’s sick, so it means something that he’s willing to drop what he’s doing and take the time out to make me a cup of tea. And it almost always makes me feel better.

The other week, I had gotten in touch with my inner flapper and overindulged in cocktails and champagne at a party the night before. I woke up after staying with a friend, unable to even look at food (my own lovely homemade scones, with just a touch of lemon), but I knew I could handle a cup of tea. Moroccan mint with a dab of honey soothed my stomach and perked me up enough to nibble on half a scone and make the drive home. Once there, I curled up on the couch with more tea (ginger), and some heartier food (curry, oddly enough). Thus fortified, I catnapped through the day to recover. Something about the warm tea made it easier to sip than a glass of cold water.

So I suppose the point is, consider tea. And if you have a day when you feel down or sick or sad, make yourself a cup of tea. Or if you have a loved one who is down or sick or sad, make them a cup of tea. It will help.

Red Lipstick Challenge: Week 3

This week, I focused on wearing just one lipstick every day to see how I liked it. I dropped off taking selfies every day because it was the same color, and I didn’t have many new notes. I decided I liked the balanced red color of Lipstick Queen’s Red Sinner, so I stuck with that one to see if the scent really bothered me that much.

Now, I’ve also been plagued with some seasonal allergies the past week, so maybe I was just congested, but I didn’t notice the scent bothering me as much. That said, I did find myself feeling a bit icky every time I ate and knew I was eating some of the lipstick. It was just kind of a weird feeling knowing I was eating pigments and ingredients that are not meant to be eaten, no matter how small the quantities. That said, Red Sinner is a lovely color. It fades a little pink, but it’s warm enough that it never looks magenta on.

But then this weekend, while heading out on a short trip to the shore, Boyfriend stopped off at a mall with a 100% Pure store. I’d read about them and even ordered one of their sheer lip glazes online before, but I’d never tried their lipsticks. I figured lipstick is a bit like foundation: I really need to see the shade on my skin before I buy. The deal with 100% Pure is that in addition to using all-natural ingredients in their products, they also use only fruit-derived pigments. In fact, the sheer lip glaze I have just has a light fruity smell from the pigments! I knew they had a red lipstick that gets some good reviews online, so I talked Boyfriend into stopping on our way out.

Oh my gosh, it’s a small store, but so full of lovely beauty products. I tried the lipstick, which the sales girl (an adorable 20-something with purple hair) sanitized in front of me so I could actually try on instead of just swatching, but I also tried some face makeup. I wanted to try their foundation because it’s supposed to be a matte, full-coverage finish, but they didn’t have my shade in stock. I did try their tinted moisturizer, which was interesting. I might look into getting some after I run out of my Bare Minerals, as it seems like a slightly less dewy finish.

But, the lipstick. The shade Poppy is their red, and it is a very true, bright red. I goes on opaque with one coat, and when I blot, most of the pigment stays behind. It wears well because it stains a little. I did see that it feathers a bit, but that’s probably because of how creamy the actual lipstick formula is. It’s based on shea butter, pomegranate oil, and vegan waxes, so it feels more like a balm than a lipstick. And it’s absolutely weightless on. The most I feel is a little moisturized slip when I press my lips together. It’s really lovely. I actually find that if I add a light second coat after blotting, it keeps the color truer, and the lipstick base kind of melts into my lips so I don’t feel it sitting on top.

The color is maybe just a hair cooler than Red Sinner, but it’s really, really similar. So I’ve cheated just a bit and been wearing Poppy for the long weekend, but only because I really love it! And I can feel confident eating while wearing it because the pigments are just fruits. It also comes in an adorable red/pink metal vintage-inspired tube. It looks like it’s much smaller than a normal lipstick, but the weight is the same as most lipsticks, and when you swivel the bullet all the way up, you can see it’s just as much lipstick as normal, just in a more compact container. It makes it great in a purse because it’s no bigger than a lip balm.

So this week, to round out the challenge, I’ll probably continue wearing Poppy. I still like Red Sinner for occasions where I’m not necessarily eating messy food, but I’m seeing Poppy as my go-to every day red. That said, I’m kind of looking forward to rocking a nice soft rose pink lip come June.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine: The Quick Morning

This morning, I woke up and did not feel like getting out of bed. As the minutes ticked by and I still lounged in my nightgown, I realized I was going to have to get ready for work very, very quickly. Luckily, I have the precedent of the past to offer a quick bed-to-car routine (plus the modern advantage of fast food for breakfast!). So here is my morning routine for those days when you absolutely have to be ready in 15 minutes.

First, I did not shower. I gave myself a little scrub with a dry wash cloth, and then washed my armpits with soap and water. At the same time, I washed my face with cold water and brushed my teeth. From there, I put on deodorant and clothing. My dresses from Ellaina Boutique are perfect for days like today because I can throw one on and look instantly put-together. I didn’t even grab a necklace, just a couple earrings. Then, I brushed out my hair with a boar-bristled brush and put it into a ponytail with a little Pompadour in the front (so it doesn’t look greasy and slicked-back). I applied my tinted moisturizer and didn’t bother with a powder because I can blot shine later in the day. A swipe of red lipstick, shoes, and glasses complete the look. And I’m out the door, through the drive-through, and at work at my normal time, even though I got up over an hour later.

I hope this serves as inspiration for those of you who sometimes feel you don’t have time to indulge your vintage style. I hit the high points (a vintage-appropriate style of dress, red lipstick, vintage-inspired hair) without having time for too many details (jewelry, scent, eye makeup, powder).

A Quiet Moment and a Nice Cup of Tea

I’ve started meditating again. It’s part of a larger project I’ve taken on to improve my acting, but the most important part it seems is that I’ve started meditating again. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy looking at the world from my cushion. After my first session, just propped up on a pillow on the bed, I opened my eyes and the whole world seemed luminous with possibility. That’s how quieting my mind makes me feel.

I’ve gone through so much of recent months in a bit of a haze, a fog of never really paying attention except at some specific moments. But meditation is bringing me back my awareness. So I made myself a cup of tea when I got to work, as I usually do. I finished off a packet of Four Seasons oolong from Simple Loose Leaf. A lovely little tea, blending floral and milky flavors in the oolong.

I busied myself while the kettle boiled and the leaves steeped. I read the news and checked email. And then I brought the cup to my mouth and was hit with a waft of fragrance from the tea. I had forgotten just how lovely and complex it smelled. And my new mindfulness had me sit for a moment and marvel in the loveliness of the tea. I savored my first sip and just slowed down in a way I haven’t slowed down for a while. Here’s hoping I bring that slowness to the rest of my day and week.

Simple Loose Leaf: An Update

So last month, I discussed my first couple months, and a subsequent shop order from Simple Loose Leaf. I’ve continued to receive boxes and thought I’d share further thoughts. This month’s box showed me the value not only of their teas, but also their customer service. You see, May 11th rolled around and I still hadn’t seen a box. Concerned that I might have missed it, I contacted the company to see if there was some delay.

It turns out there was a glitch in their system and my box hadn’t shipped with the rest. The guy I talked to (one of the co-founders of the company) apologized profusely, promised to put my box in the mail immediately, and offered me a discount on my next month to make up for the delay. It was quite possibly one of the most sincere customer service exchanges I’d ever encountered. And just a few days later, I had my tea!

And let me tell you, it was worth the wait. This month’s box was four samples of pure, unflavored, unadulturated tea (well, three teas and a yerba mate). I’ve tried two of them already, an oolong and an Irish breakfast black tea, and both are fantastic. The oolong is a more oxidized oolong with strong honey and floral flavors, while the Irish breakfast has that characteristic Assam raisin note. I’m definitely going to buy more of the oolong. There’s also a Chinese green tea that I haven’t tried yet, but I’m thinking of tasting in the guywan set I got for Christmas.

All in all, I’m so glad I started this subscription and I highly recommend it to any tea lover!

[Disclaimer: I purchased my subscription to Simple Loose Leaf myself and have not been given any incentive in exchange for any review.]

Red Lipstick Challenge: Week Two

Well, I’m halfway through my red lipstick challenge and I’m starting to eye new lipsticks. But I’m holding fast and wearing my existing collection. This week, I stuck mostly to my favorites from Bite Beauty, but I also revisited some old favorites.

I’ve determined that warm reds clash too much with my new purple glasses, so I’ve been trying to find a nice, bright, true neutral red. I quickly decided that my Bite Matte Crayon in Fraise was too pink, so I spent most of the week wearing the High-Pigment Pencil in Pomegranate. Of course, I love the experience of applying lipstick from a bullet, so it bummed me out that my contenders were pencils. Pomegranate is a nice red, but it leans ever so slightly cool, and because of that will pull pink in natural lighting on me.

Frustrated, I turned to my old collection of Revlon lipsticks. I found that my standard “dark” red was actually significantly brighter than the reds I’d been wearing. I tried wearing it for a day, but for some reason it now makes my lips itch, which was disconcerting. So over the weekend, I spent most of my off-stage time wearing my Lipstick Queen Red Sinner. It’s a lovely neutral red that only pulls pink in very cool lighting, which is probably why I thought it was too cool for me when I was wearing it to work (fluorescent lighting, you know?).

So I’m sticking to my Red Sinner for right now, with maybe a bit of Pomegranate thrown in for variety. I did some more research about lead in lipstick and actually managed to quell those fears a bit. So for now, I’m trying to get over the smell of the Lipstick Queen bullet and eyeing other formulas of theirs with non-vanilla scents.

Vintage Food: Homebrewing Mead

Last fall, Boyfriend and I experimented with brewing. We made several gallons of hard cider and a couple smaller batches of mead. While we’d finished off the cider over the winter, mead is supposed to age a bit longer before consuming, so we just this week opened up our first bottle of homebrewed mead.


Well, apparently we bottled it before it had totally depleted its sugar because there was a little pop when we pushed off the stopper and tiny bubbles when we poured it. It was just a basic recipe of honey, water, white wine yeast, and a few raisins for extra nutrients. We used a yeast that a friend of ours recommended that yields a sweeter wine, so the finished mead is quite sweet and retains a lot of the honey character. We had used pasteurized local wildflower honey, so there’s a bit of floral character under all the sweetness. It has a strong yeasty smell, but not as much of that translates into the taste. And the bubbles are adorable.

I really enjoyed it with the two somewhat greasy meals we had Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The first was leftover fried chicken, and the second were local lamb sausages. The sweetness of the mead went rather nicely with the greasy saltiness of the meats. I know it doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it was.

And I could definitely see this as a “sitting and sipping” drink on the porch if it were properly chilled. We also have a batch of cherry melomel (mead with fruit) aging in the cellar, so I’ll have to try that soon. I’m thinking in June when the cherries come out. That one is a bit more special because the pulp from the cherries meant we got less beverage from that batch. I think next time I’ll use cherry juice, or else strain the cherry puree before adding it to the honey mixture. And I’m considering experimenting with some drier yeasts to see if we can keep the honey flavor without quite so much sugar.

But all in all, mead-making was a success!