Sunday, December 27, 2015

Friday's Earl Grey Cran-Apple Chutney


Over the course of my 12ish years as a professional chef, I've seriously developed and honed my skills in the arena of bullshitting recipes. Today's fun twist on a super easy favorite is for lazy tea nerds who love to entertain. Here ya go!

Earl Grey Cran-Apple Chutney
12 oz. Cranberries, fresh or frozen
4 Large Fuji apples, diced
3/4 cup Water
3 Star anise pods
1/4 tsp Ground cardamom
2 Cinnamon sticks
2 tsp. Earl Grey tea, tied in a T-Sac or other paper filter

1. Combine everything but the Earl Grey tea in a large saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil.

3. Turn heat down to medium-low, simmer your sauce, covered, for 10 minutes.
4. Add your bag of Earl Grey to the pot, simmer for *exactly* 2.5 minutes.
5. Remove the teabag and continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 10 minutes.

6. Whilst your sauce is simmering, mercilessly tease the small and amiable dog waiting hopefully for a morsel to fall in his eager mouth.

6. Fish out all large spices so you and your loved ones don't choke on anise bits.
7. Ta-da! That's all. That's the whole thing. Perfect for freezing, canning, using as a sauce for pork chops, spreading like jam at teatime...basically whatever!

Much love,

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday's guide to shopping small business (at the last minute)

So it's two weeks until Christmas. Less than two weeks until Solstice. Hannukah...sorry. Too late. You're the slacker who still has barely put any thought into gifts, but you still super want to find something unique and thoughtful for your family and assorted loved ones. Aaaaaat the very last second. Might I throw some recommendations your way?

First of all, always try to support small businesses rather than big-box stores and massive online corporations. By shopping small, you are supporting families and individuals who work their tails off to make a living doing what they love. Not only that, but you can find truly one-of-a-kind items, which frequently can be custom altered to your specific requests. Boom.

Friday's favorites for last-minute holiday shopping slackers? Here ya go.

Fashion and Accessories

Manic Leather
For those who love the look of clean, simple lines combined with the earthy, comforting texture of good leather. Meet Carl Cox, the artist behind Manic Leather. This guy makes truly beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces of excellent quality. Price points range from the low end Mystery Braid bracelet ($15) to his gorgeous hand-bound leather journals ($45-50) to the couture-quality double belted bandolier with deer fur-lined pauldron ($200) and many levels between. You're sure to find something for any literature geek/fashionista/LARP nerd you know and love.
If simple, elegant, dainty geek jewelry is more to your taste, I can think of no one better to guide you than Amy, the artist and owner of LuvCherie. Whether your passion is knitting or cooking, gothic literature or modern TV fandoms, Amy has you covered. My personal favorite? The Harry Potter-inspired lightning bolt earrings ($18). They were a staple in my style (until a certain ten year old minion of mine absconded with and promptly lost them), and I fully intend to order them for myself again. Simply put: Amy's designs are geek chic embodied.
Now if the person for whom you are shopping has style that doesn't even approach subtle, Claire at Geekstar Costuming has got your hookup. From her immensely popular light-up LED cat ears ($45) to her shiny fandom bling (average $12), she seamlessly blends KAPOW superhero sensibilities with rave kid energy. I barely go a day without rocking a pair of her fabulous laser-cut earrings ($12).

Decor and Housewares

Stephen Poon, the artist behind this rad fandom gear, is a master of fun typography. Check out the super cute T-shirts ($12-25) and his posters based on whatever fandom is your cup of tea. You a Browncoat? Whovian? Game of Thrones junkie? Be sure also to check out his sale section, where you can always find a total steal!

Digital Soaps
Do you need to drop a hint to a smelly gamer friend? Maybe your mother is like mine and goes bananas over anything classic SEGA? Digital Soaps is the way to go. Our friend Chrystal creates the most crazypants replicas of classic video game cartridges and controllers...totally out of soap. Whaaaaa?! They smell great, feel amazing, and my kiddo is a HUGE fan of the pokeball soap ($16) (complete with tiny pokemon toy inside!).

Mel Paradise
Ok, let's move on to housewares we can cuddle. It's winter. We all need adorable sushi plushies ($12-22) right about now, amiright? Mel makes the darlingest squishy friends. From small to large nigiri sushi guys, to these silly Metroid buddies ($30), there are cuddly adorbz cushions for all! And not to be relegated purely to pillows, Mel also makes these totally unique beaded hair bows ($8) and art pieces. Basically, if manga-dorable is what you need, she's got you covered.

Edibles and Imbibables
This one is all in the name, friends. Our girl Tara (aka The Geeky Hostess) is the queen of nerd hospitality. Her blog is full of super fun party and decorating ideas, and she now offers sprinkles (yeah I said SPRINKLES) so rad, every baking geek I know immediately flipped when they were released. If you're shopping for the ultimate host or hostess, the ultimate bake sale mom, the nerd who needs to own every damn thing related to Dr. Who, Harry Potter and/or Steampunk in general? Here ya go ($12 per jar, $40 for all four varieties). You're welcome. And bonus? As of this week, Tara now carries the ultimate in adorkable kitchen geekery: she's blended some of our most popular blends with her sprinkles and packaged them in tins so cute I wanna eat them ($8 each tin or $20 for the set of three).
Are you gift shopping for a craft cocktailer? A mixologist? A fan of super old school beverages? Beca is the amazingly talented entrepreneur who introduced me to shrubs. Not the plant; the beverage. These Victorian-era sipping vinegars ($18 per 20 oz. bottle) are the best for mixing up (heh. heh heh.) your cocktail game or creating a much healthier soda. Being a professional chef, myself, I find most use for them in assorted marinades, salad dressings and sauces. Beca has many delightful flavors on a rotating basis, depending on what's in season. Every batch I've tried has been beyond delightful!
It would be irresponsible of me to sign off without reminding you all to check out our own selection of fine teas and ridiculous nerdy teawares. Be sure to peruse our selection of seasonal favorites and never overlook our packages and services section! That's where you find the best deals. We have a limited number of gift baskets ($32) left in stock, and a large handful of geeky infusers ($12). Our sample packs ($15 for eight tea samples) and trio pack ($33) are great ways to try a number of our blends for a very low price. Excellent deals and tasty treats all around!

Remember, if you want to be sure your gifts get where they're going before Christmas: order now. Like right now. You've slacked off long enough! Everyone on this list can still get things to you on time if you order before December 15th. That's the magic day, everyone! After that there are no guarantees. If you're a slacker (like I am), but still wanna get some quality gifts for the wonderful people in your life, it's time to get it together.

On that note, I have some shopping to do. 

Friday, out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

And now, on a more personal note...

 A few weeks ago, my fourth-grader came into the living room and announced,

"Mom. Erik. I'm not a girl. I'm a boy. I'd like everyone to call me Allyn and use male pronouns."

Erik and I paused in our tea work, looked at each other, and just said "Okay, cool."

This is not the first time my son has come out as transgender. In first grade he went by Benjamin for a couple weeks before deciding the bullying and confusion weren't worth asking to have his preferences respected. Since then, he's confided in me that he's always felt like a boy. Benji was not an experiment. Now, three years later, my child has finally built up the confidence to come out. It's been a bit of an adjustment for everyone, as we expected it to be. Many of our extended family members are reeling and having a very difficult time wrapping their brains around it. Frustrating for Allyn, but understandable so shortly after such a big announcement.

We're fortunate enough to have been placed into an excellent school. Small classes, close parent-teacher-child relationships, excellent staff, great kids. Allyn's school counselor called a meeting with the two of us as well as his homeroom teacher and a lady from the district office who specializes in helping children navigate confusing gender identity crises. Allyn was allowed to take charge and decide how he wanted to go about coming out at school. He and his teacher gave a short, simple speech to the class about the new name and pronouns and discussed ways to be a good ally to a transgender classmate and friend. That day, I received the following email from Allyn's teacher:

Obviously I cried. Like, a lot.
When kiddo got home from school, he was carrying the book of letters written by his friends. I read them all aloud and wept like a friggin baby. Like an inconsolable, open-mouth-wailing baby. They're beautiful!

 Some are so sincere and sweet...

Some are aggressively supportive...

And some are just so damn perky and enthusiastic!

We are beyond grateful to have such a supportive community for our little guy. So many places, it wouldn't even be safe for Allyn to talk about who he is, much less be fully out about it. As parents, the reaction Allyn has received is the best any of us can hope for. Kiddo is happy. Kiddo gets to be himself. Kiddo has support and a safe environment to continue just being a kid. And yes, I'm totally crying again. I'm not even embarrassed. Just grateful and proud of my son.

You do you, TeaBoy.