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#WeekendCoffeeShare, Yuletide Edition

December 24, 2016 8 Comments

 Inn of Gingerbread

Inn of Gingerbread

Arizona Inn Dining Room

Arizona Inn Dining Room

If we were having coffee today I would invite you to quench your thirst with  some fresh grapefruit juice. Our ruby-red grapefruit tree is yielding fruit that we will harvest from now until March. It is bright red in the spirit of Christmas, and delightfully tart.  Citrus season is generous, bright and cheerful.  We have a calamondin tree which bears heavily all winter too.  It is a very tart lime flavored small fruit.  I am going to town by scenting the air with mandarin and lime oils in the gingerbread house diffuser.  I am serving a selection hot teas and coffee for your drinking pleasure.  I am even on a citrus jag with tea, loving the roiboos lemon cloud flavor.  It does make me feel like I am on a cloud for a few minutes when I drink it. Help yourself to your favorite beverage, and you can feel free to add a splash of alcohol if you are arriving at happy hour in your time zone.

Here in Tucson it is 7:45 am and 46 degrees F. It will be warm and sunny all day, so soak up some rays and the beauty of the desert before you leave.  We are going to the Arizona Inn, very close to home, for our Christmas Eve lunch.  Our 1:30 reservation for the main dining room is the perfect plan for this couple.  I am vegetarian and Bob is not. At home he has to keep kosher, which means no meat in the house.  When he dines out he likes to have super excellent carnivore cuts.  The Arizona Inn has fabulous selections for me, and outstanding dishes for him.  He might eat a duck today, and that is fine with me.  We are going there for the elegance, the service, and the superb cuisine.  They will prepare and serve our dinner in a highly sophisticated style we just can’t replicate at home in our condo.  We have no chef at home, and more importantly, no dishwashers.  They never disappoint.  They go over the top so we don’t have to make such an effort. I look forward to this traditional lazy holiday.

They will have a glorious flower arrangement in the center of the room, and a fire in the adobe fireplace.  The Inn has all the trimmings for a fancy over the top holiday experience. All we have to do is Uber on over and enjoy the day.  We take Uber when we want to cocktail, and we do plan to cocktail this afternoon. The car service adds an element of luxury our daily lives do not normally include, and that is fun too.  Our driver will deliver us to the front door of the Inn, where the doormen (plural) will welcome us. We will take our traditional photos next to the decorated  tree in the library before taking our table in the dining room. For me it is the best no fuss no muss way to celebrate this holiday weekend.

I have plenty of time this morning to hear about your holiday (or not) plans.  What kind of celebration will happen where you live?  Drop in on Diana to  share your comments or a post of your own.  Diana keeps the party going from New Orleans, but this is a world wide event.  Share coffee with some very cool writers from all over the world. Cheers, all!

 Inn of Gingerbread

Inn of Gingerbread

 

#WeekendCoffeeShare Set For The Season

December 4, 2016 10 Comments

If we were having coffee this morning I would serve you any hot or iced tea you might like or a cup of medium roast coffee. For those of you arriving at cocktail hour from other continents I have some cranberry vodka for cocktails. It is pretty and tasty at the same time. Have a seat, put up your feet on the fireside ottoman and tell me what is happening with you. I have the room seriously scented with lavender and citrus essential oils. The wood stove is a perfect diffuser. I need to replenish the moisture it sucks out of the air, so I position two containers of water on top to continually evaporate. It is a little bit shocking to see how much goes into the air. I dump substantial amounts of essential oils in those vessels, which become my giant air fresheners all winter.

Citrus is the scent of the season for me.  I have purchased a full set of citrus essential oils for December which are going quickly because I love using them liberally. Now I am rocking sweet orange and mandarin, mixed with a lot of lavender. These are all high notes in aromatherapy, or uppers if you will. The idea is to extend comfort and joy in the atmosphere.  I have my ceramic gingerbread diffuser rocking the scent with a scented candle as the heat.  This is the only time of year when I burn wax candles in my house because it does pollute the air inside that we breathe.  I am not worried about the amount of pollution a few tiny tea lights will emit.  I also have my digital candles with remote control LED lights that change color. They make me very happy.  My decorating theme is not exactly geared to a modern religious holiday but to the winter solstice, and a celebration of light that seemed to happen universally in ancient times around the darkest night of the year.  I am fully ready of Old Man Winter. We are stocked with wood for the fire and I have mounted all manner of solar twinkle lights in the front and back yard.  We are warm and, if I do say so myself, lit.

If we were having coffee and American politics came up I would tell you that yesterday I attended a meeting to organize a satellite protest march to show support for the Million Women March on Washington, 21 Jan.  Many American women are traveling to DC to march on the mall to protest the inauguration of the Donald.  I have much sympathy for this movement, but not enough to travel to DC.  I decided to find out what the Tucson group looked like, and what they planned to do.  I live streamed the event to my FaceBook page. The meeting was at once very uplifting and disconcerting.  The median age of the women in attendance was around 55 or 60, with very few under 40, and I saw nobody under 30.  They debated the language of protest and how to best express the outrage they felt.  They talked about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, which was predictable.  There were 3 men over 60 in the crowd.  One with his wife, one with Occupy Tucson, to convince the group to join their march, and one who had very good sense who came out of nowhere.  He suggested the group use positive rather than negative language.  A lot of women wanted to show off and talk about their previous political involvement and how they knew Trump supporters who were poor and underserved who needed to be converted.  When I asked them if they knew how hashtags work I was told they planned to find high school girls who would instagram and hashtag the whole thing for them.  These old ladies have missed the point.  They can march until the world looks level and will have little sway on national politics.  They need to learn how to lobby, how to hashtag, how to trend, and how to relate to the youth.  The times they have been are a changin’ and they need to acknowledge that the problem here is not HOW Americans voted, but that half of Americans did not vote at all. I am in favor of their march and movement, but the medium is the message.  The most efficient and effective mediums must be exploited along with the labor intensive.

If you were relaxing by the fire today I would now end my observations of politics and society in general and find out what you have been doing.  I have a killer nutloaf of spinach and almond with a nice parsley sauce.  Let me heat up a slice and serve it to you while you enjoy the fire.  I have almost used up all the nuts from last year, but am still pitching the nuts to guests because they are so healthy and tasty.  Thanks for stopping in today.  You are welcome to take a nap by the stove after your snack, especially if you have a long trip home. Alexa is loaded with Amazon unlimited music, so please ask her to play your favorite music.  Just say her name and tell her what you want.

Ending the year with this sophisticated group of digital coffee drinkers is a pleasure.  I appreciate knowing you, sharing with you, and learning about your writing journeys.  Thanks to Diana for keeping the party going from New Orleans even week.  Drop in and comment, post, or just enjoy the coffee.  Cheers!

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Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus

Season's decorations

Season’s decorations

scent diffuser

scent diffuser

 

Citrus Peel Crafts, Who Knew?

February 5, 2015 5 Comments

These Italians have perfected the art of making containers from citrus peels.  They use bergamot, but I have seen this kind of box made out of an orange peel. The scent remains for a few years after the box is created, making it perfect for tea, or other aromatic products.  The specialty here is a tobacco pouch, which is light and fragrant.  I am crazy about this idea, and am the producer of hundreds of grapefruit peels each year.  I have so many that my compost gets full of citrus and hard to digest.  I hate to waste them, but really do not eat candy.  The candied peels are a treat to some, but require as much work as these containers.  I have looked for a way to use these byproducts of my juicy winter crop, and I think I have found one to try.  Martha Stewart does hers in the oven and keeps them right side out.  I like the whole process the Italians use, but do not want a tobacco pouch as a result.  I tried Martha’s oven method with some lemon peels, but they warped after I thought they were done.  Her method is tedious and it requires the use of the oven.  I live in Arizona where ample sunshine should be able to do this job. I will try a simple shape with a lid, and skip the sand step and building of presses.  If they go free form, like my first attempt, I will need to deal with the fit of top to bottom.  My lemon bowls are all wonky because I took them from the oven after 40 minutes.  If I were in survival mode and had to use them, they might hold something, but they are a failure at a design level.  I plan to try some grapefruit peels this week inside out to see if I can be a peel artist.  These Italian ladies are obvious professionals, shaping it around the form like a pice of clay.  I admire their skill, and aspire someday to make a swanky shape.  Like clay, I need to start with a good cylinder and move on from that.  I have at least 100 grapefruit still on the tree, so there will be plenty with which to experiment. Have you ever seen this done, Gentle Reader?

failed lemon box

failed lemon box

as tiny bowls

as tiny bowls

Calamondin

July 14, 2014 6 Comments

calamondin

calamondin

calamondin

calamondin

calamondin

calamondin

calamondin

calamondin

One of the generous citrus trees in my garden is the calamondin. It bears fruit for many months which are useful and tasty.   It is odd to have such a large crop in the middle of summer, but we had a very unusual winter in Arizona.  The tree is loaded with ripe and green fruit in the middle of July, so we can expect to have fresh fruit until September.  The tree comes from Asia where it is popular in Indonesian and other cuisines.  It has medicinal as well as culinary applications.  My next door neighbor is from Viet Nam.  She told me they dry the peels in salt, which is later used as a remedy for sore throat.  Other known medicinal uses include as a cure for constipation.  Be advised about this one.  We prepared a drink with water, honey and calamondin juice for my mom to drink on a car trip.  She enjoyed it so much that she polished off a quart, which gave her a bad case of the runs.  Moderation is important when you try the juice.  I have made infused vodka just by soaking the fruits in it, which turns out very well also.

I have started making bitters.  I have mad a batch of peach and one of apricot, both made from our own trees.  The taste is interesting, whether you cook with it, drink it as a flavoring in fizzy water, or use it in cocktails.  I am experimenting with new combinations, using a book to guide me about the proportions.  Next I will whip up a batch of calamondin bitters, for which I am slightly altering the recipe the book gives for lime bitters.  I think this will be a delicious way to make use of calamondin’s tart and unique taste.  A little bit of bitters imparts big flavor to food and drinks.  I adore the taste of limes, but the crop failed in Mexico this year and prices are sky high.  Calamondin makes a pretty substitute.  They can often be found in Asian markets if they don’t grow near your home.  You can make simple syrups, bitters, or just juice the fruit fresh in cocktails. Here are some cocktail ideas to get your creativity started:

Grapefruit Magic

July 3, 2014 3 Comments

Citrus pardisii

Citrus pardisii

My grapefruit tree is healthy and bears very well for months each winter. We enjoy fresh juice daily from January until about the end of March.  The intoxicating aroma of the blossoms fills the air for about a month in March.  The plant is ruled by the sun, like all citrus fruits. It has zingy, cooling and cleansing properties that are prized by health lovers.  The fruit and the juice are delightful, but the essential oil of grapefruit has very useful qualities.  Buy pure unadulterated oil and store it in the dark because it oxidizes quickly, therefore has  short shelf life.  Using it with a carrier oil, like jojoba, it can be very helpful to warm up and boost circulation.  The benefits of using grapefruit in a massage oil include:

  • ease join pain by stimulating muscles and joints
  • treat congested skin disorders like clogged pores and oily skin
  • diminish water retention and cellulite in specific areas

To use the oil for aromatherapy delivered by inhalation you can use a diffuser or use a few drops straight up on a handkerchief.  The subtle and immediate effects of the inhalation include:

  • headache relief
  • calm nervous tension and stress
  • uplifts the mood in depressing situations

I never get tired of the smell and the flavor of grapefruit.  It makes me happy and nourishes me.  Cocktails made with grapefruit juice are very high on my favorites list as well.  What is your favorite way to experience grapefruit?

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