Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus Tea

I fell in love with hibiscus tea on a trip to central Mexico many years ago and again more recently when I traveled to Denton, TX, for their community farmer’s market.  A vendor was selling all kinds of teas and juices and her potion of hibiscus tea was the best I’ve tasted since Mexico.  I kept asking her questions about her recipe so I could try to make my own version at home.

Hibiscus tea over ice is so refreshing to drink after working in the yard on a hot summer day, after a long walk, or to just jazz it up a bit.  I have read that hibiscus has amazing health benefits as well.  Not going to claim these but I sure like the taste.  It reminds me a bit like cranberry juice but better.  Sour and sweet with a clean after taste. It’s also caffeine free so you can drink it later in the day and it won’t disturb your sleep patterns.

I used dried hibiscus flowers which I ordered from Amazon.com but I know the dried flowers are sold locally at Fiesta.

To make a batch, take 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus flowers and add 8 cups of water to a large pot.  Place it in on stove and heat until it boils, then cover the pot with a lid and let it steep for about 20 minutes.  Strain out the flowers. I added 1/4 cup of honey and three tablespoons of squeezed lime to the batch, stir and allow to cool before storing in container in the refrigerator.  Pour yourself a glass, add crushed ice and a pretty paper (no plastic) straw and sip.

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Share the Love

Share the Love

If you live to travel and love to walk the streets of the places you go especially in cities with cobblestone thoroughfares, you need a great shoe.  I recommend Adidas Shadow for comfort, traction and support.  They are lightweight with a hard sole and come in monochromatic colors.  I picked grey for my most recent pair and can’t wait to test them out on the hills of Scotland in September. “Lang may yer lum reek” with these on your feet.

RM stumbled on the best knife sharpener ever and for less than six bucks.  It’s called the Kitchen IQ 50009 Knife Sharpener and it really works. Goofy name but I like the product. So many sharpeners claim they do the job but leave us dissatisfied.   RM is picky about a sharp knife in the kitchen and this little tool keeps all our knives on point for chopping, dicing and mincing and its compact for storage too. Because as the saying goes, ” you gotta stay sharp when you’re cutting through the bullshit.”

Looking for the perfect dipping sauce for just about any morsel especially with snacks likes tempura and spring rolls?  Try the Thai Chili Roasted Garlic Dipping Sauce by Wild Thymes. Just the right balance of heat to sweet.  Everything is better with a tasty little sauce.

We have family members who can’t tolerate dairy in any form including chocolate.  So, so sad but thankfully there are many options now. Some better than others.  We found Enjoy Life chocolate and used it in several baking recipes with success.  It tastes great too.  Chocolate chunks is my favorite for using in brownies.  I used it in my recipe for Best Brownie, hands down

I am an avid gardener but I live in a little, urban cottage in Fort Worth with a small backyard for growing vegetables and herbs.  I use lots of containers to stretch my gardening space and love the Grow Bags for growing peppers, beans, tomatoes and eggplant.  The bags come in a variety of sizes and are designed with handles for moving around the garden if you are looking for that perfect spot.  I’ve used mine for two summer seasons and they are holding up great.  I like the black color best because they don’t show any stains from the dirt.

grow bags

My Walking Challenge

My Walking Challenge

August in Texas is hot and it is hard to get motivated to exercise outside but I decided I would double dare myself to a walking challenge this month to get me out of bed early in morning to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures.  Early morning is about the only time of the day in Texas in the summer months that you can stand to be outside for prolong periods of time.

My challenge is to walk 3 miles a day, about a 5K, for 25 days in a row for a total of 75 miles by the end of August.  I am on day 15 and I have reached 42.5 miles.  I have managed to walk at least 3 miles every day but two days,  when I had a little tummy trouble from switching medications, I only made it a mile.  My sidekick is my granddog, Boo, who loves to walk at a very brisk pace.  We generally get through the first mile in 13-14 minutes which is going 4.5 mph (a fast walk or slow jog) and then we slow down for the remainder of the walk as he gets tired and so do I.

My approach is to walk in my neighborhood, starting my trek away from my house using Map My Walk or Strava walking apps until we get 1.5 or so away from home and then we turnaround and head back.  Boo likes this approach too as he knows when we are close to home and walks faster.  Dogs are so smart except when their not.  This morning, we were surprised by a sprinkler going off under our feet with no warning. Boo jumped straight up in the air, did a corkscrew looking back me with eyes that emoted WTF?  I gave it a 10 for style and a 1 for bravery.

Ten more days to go and we have miles to go….

Radium Girls

Radium Girls

A review of a true crime, period piece set during the industrial age, ironically just when women were first allowed to vote in the USA.

The book, Radium Girls, traces the women at two dial-making factories in the late 1920’s, just about a century ago, in New Jersey and in Illinois. The women were told by their male employers to paint the dials using radium laced paint, so rich in radium, it glowed in the dark and so did the girls.  And to point their paint brushes by licking them between each application with their lips.  These girls innocently ingested radium, daily, and internally and the results are agonizing to read.

Radium Girls spares us nothing of their suffering; intent on making the reader viscerally understand the pain in which these young women were living and dying.  As well as their courage and resiliency in how they had to fight dentists, doctors, attorneys, and their greedy and heartless employers in order to get their health concerns even recognized. The health professionals tried to shame the girls with allegations of syphilis to distract their community from the true causes of their symptoms and ultimately the reason for their early, retched demise.

The history of business is a history of violence but this case study is particularly horrifying as it caught young women in their prime, often impacting multiple family members, and for no reason other than greed. The worst descriptions of the effects of radium on the girls —  I had nightmares about my teeth falling out and my jaw often ached —  can’t match the callousness of the companies that knew the dangers of radium long before they ever admitted them. Radiant Dial tested these female employees and never gave them their results, even as internal correspondence was sorting them by radiation levels to see who’d be first to die.  And so many did.

The British author, Kate Moore, originally directed a play about these true events and became so intrigued with the content that she wanted to learn more about the history of the girls.  She tells the personal journey of many of the young women and you learn to appreciate their courage, strength, faith, love of their families and passion for living.  Below is a picture of six of the women who testified against their employer and ultimately won a very small but significant verdict after years of litigation.  Their boldness to step forward with the truth resulted in new regulations to protect workers and improve future work safety measures.

radium girls

College, First Steps

College, First Steps

Message to my mentee, Silvia, about the first few weeks and months of college at Texas Women’s University:

  • Don’t spend too much time alone, participate in as many of the first week, free activities as possible (you will meet your first new friends)
  • Regulate time on social media, look up and directly into the faces of your friends, teachers and other adults on campus
  • Don’t drink too much unless it is water or coffee and then drink as much as you can
  • Get sleep, at least 8 hours a night
  • Go to class, every class, every day, unless you are sick, then go to the health clinic
  • Exercise, take a long walk around the campus
  • Don’t fuss about deciding on a major right away
  • Learn to tell and share your story and journey with others – we all have a story, it is what makes us human
  • Accept failure, it means you are trying something new, and then you will likely find your passion – what lights your intellectual fire?  Then go for it
  • Nurture pastimes and turn in your assignments on time (this is when you learn time management)
  • Learn to say, “no”, to activities and asks by friends that you don’t want to do.  You are now in charge of your life.
  • Find a place you can call your own to study
  • Attend a free lecture and a concert, at least one each
  • Keep a journal, take photographs and/or blog
  • Laugh, giggle, snort and then sometimes you will cry, it’s o.k.  Call me if you just want to talk. Ask for help, it’s ok. None of us have all of the answers but some of us have a few.

Sylvia

You got this!

T.

Canning Tips

Canning Tips

I recently took a free introductory canning class as part of a food preservation series offered by the Tarrant Area Food Bank.  The two instructors facilitated an interactive three-hour workshop where I learned to can fruits and vegetables using the water bath method.  So all the tips I offer in this blog pertain to the water bath method of preserving food for many months and even years.  The other common method is using a pressure canner which is used for preserving meats or foods that don’t naturally contain sufficient acid for preservation over time.

I am not going to cover basic equipment that you will need for canning but you can go to USDA Home Guide to Canning for lots of detailed information on getting started with canning at home.  This same guide was given to all the participants in the class I took at the food bank.  Below are some of my takeaways that I didn’t know about before taking the class.

  1. Everything needs to be hot to make the seal work so the food content should be hot, the jar should be hot, as well as the seal and the rim.  They recommend running the jars, seals and rims through the dishwasher on quick cycle as you are preparing whatever you are canning.
  2. It is important to use tested recipes from reliable sources like Fresh Preserving
  3. When canning, always splash a little vinegar into the boiling water to keep the jars from building up with any calcium deposits.  Also clean the jar rim with a bit of vinegar soaked in a paper towel.
  4. There is a term called a fill line in the recipe which means how close to the top of the jar do you fill it.  If it says 1/2 inch in the recipe, measure that distance from the top of the rim into the jar and don’t fill passed it.  Never try to can a jar that is half full or not to the recommended fill line.
  5. Don’t bear down on the rim when putting it on the jar, you just want to turn it until it is firmly closed (I always bear down on mine which is a mistake).
  6. Be sure there is an inch to 2 inches of gently boiling water over the top of the jars and always check the recipe for how long to boil.  It does vary considerably and a good rule is a minimum of 10 minutes.
  7. When done boiling, turn of the heat and let the jars sit in the water for about 5 minutes before removing them to a towel on a counter.  Move the jars only once and let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours.  Don’t touch them!  I recently made chipotle peach jam and I heard the seals pop several hours after sitting on the counter.
  8. Don’t leave your jars upside down on the counter.  Not necessary and may prevent a good seal.  Who knew?
  9. After 24 hours, check to see if the seal is tight (the little button of an indentation should be gone on the seal and a dull thud sound is heard when you tap it), remove the rim, label the seal with canning date and contents and store jars in a cool, dark place for up to 18 months (or more if you live on the wild side).
  10. Even though you think you know quite a bit about a topic, there is always opportunities to grow and learn more.  Look for free classes offered through local nonprofits, libraries and public health agencies.
Red Dirt Girl Goes To Sonoma Valley

Red Dirt Girl Goes To Sonoma Valley

We traveled to Sonoma Valley from Texas to celebrate our country’s independence and spent five days exploring the little towns of the wine country in the north Bay area.  We made Santa Rosa our home, staying at the iconic, mid-century modern Flamingo Hotel and Resort and savored the outdoor green space and pool area every afternoon soaking up the California sunshine.

If looking for great places to nosh while exploring the valley towns,  check out Barndiva just 20 minutes north of Santa Rosa, located on the cute community square of Healdsburg.  Great drinks and the outdoor patio is perfect for a romantic dinner.  Another option is in Sonoma itself .  We first checked out the farmer’s market, and then elevenses at The Girl and the Fig.  We sat at the bar since we didn’t make a reservation and shared a crispy chicken liver sandwich in a rich brioche bun with a side of frites.  It paired nicely with the house California Chardonnay. For an off the beaten path for authentic peruvian cuisine check out Sazon.  You go for the food and the late night flamenco dancing. We shared small plates of papas and beef heart skewers grilled to perfection.

For active fun, check out the bocce ball courts in Sonoma County.  You can find courts in almost all the little towns.  It’s that popular.  I think it is so because you can hold a glass of wine in one hand and still play the game.  See Sonoma County Bocce for where to play and when.

We stumbled onto Jack London State Park and learned some fun facts about Jack London, the author of  the Call of the Wild and White Fang (my dad’s favorite author from his youth). Did you know?

  • London’s mother was a spiritualist
  • His mom tried to kill herself while pregnant with Jack (his real name is John).  She was also unmarried.
  • He wrote 1,000 words every day
  • He died at the young age of 40, due to alcoholism and side effects of mercury poisoning and morphine. No wonder!
  • His wife’s name was Charmain.

The park, with over 29 miles of trails across 1400 acres, is where Jack London called his home.  From the ruins of a winery to the cottage where Jack London wrote, you feel a certain energy whispering throughout the space. Jack London called it “Beauty Ranch” for a good reason but look for snakes when exploring the trail to the abandoned pig pens. I am currently reading his novel, the Valley of the Moon, set in Sonoma Valley to get more perspective of the history of the time and place.

We did roam into Napa Valley so that I could get a glimpse of the French Laundry, the fine French cuisine restaurant located in Yountsville. I was inspired walking through the chef’s garden located just across the street from the famous restaurant that was originally a working French steam laundry in the 1920s. The extensive garden is open to the public to explore.  A must see for any foodie fan.  To top it all off, as I was crossing the street, I stumbled into the path of renowned chef, Thomas Keller, in his freshly pressed white chef coat, headed into work with a grocery bag in hand.  I wish I could tell you, dear reader, that I said something pithy but all I could muster was a nod.

In reflection, this part of California feels and looks so much like the hill country of Texas that I now understand why so many Texans visit Sonoma Valley and come back inspired to grow grapes and produce wine.  From its rustic and rugged heritage, independent spirit, and grit to grow grapes, overcoming drought and rocky soil, sprouting large tufts of tawny-dry grass, comes the nectar of the gods.  We certainly enjoyed several varietals along the way.  As we were leaving, the wildfires were becoming more intense. Now, they are out of control with over 100,000 acres currently burning so these resilient Californians must also brace against wildfires, high winds, and the tragic loss of property and precious human life.  Our hearts go out to you.  We pray for rain and for the first responders.  If you can, please consider to Donate to Victims of Wildfires.