Adagio Teas: Christmas Collection*

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I love a Christmas tea! They’ve become a huge deal in recent years (I remember when I wrote a blog exclusively about tea a few years ago, they were few and far between- and often samey. Not so now!) and there’s a tea for every taste.

Adagio Teas sent me a selection of their winter teas and gifts (as well as a cute red teapot to brew them all up in!) to try. Of course, ever the professional, I made it a mission to try them all. It’s a hard life.

First up, I tried the simply named Christmas on my commute to work. On the surface, this is a traditional Christmas tea, flavoured with spices and orange- but! There’s a surprise! Underneath the usual festive flavours, there’s a smoky hint. I’m not usually a fan of smoky teas, but here it works to balance out the other flavours. It’s a real winter warmer and perfect for chilly mornings.

I was sent the Stocking Stuffer (cute mini tins of loose tea) and Holiday Cheer (30 teabags) sets, which each include six of Adagio’s holiday teas. There’s also a Christmas tea sample box, which I’ve found handy for work tea breaks.

  • Chestnut tea is my favourite of the holiday teas- it combines the nutty flavour of chestnut with a comforting dose of caramel; it’s definitely a sweet treat!
  • Pumpkin Spice is more subtle and slightly sweeter than other pumpkin teas I’ve tried. It’s my current morning ‘go-to’ first thing.
  • Candy Apple is cute! It’s sweet and I love it for my afternoon treat! The Ceylon base is the perfect base for a show-stopping apple and caramel blend (my house also smells of this after I’ve made a cup. Perfect!)
  • Gingerbread tea is exactly as you expect, although a bit lighter than other gingerbread teas I’ve tried- but that’s not a criticism! It’s a warming blend that is a perfect early evening blend.
  • Candy Cane tea is an interesting blend! Black tea with sweet peppermint is refreshing and great after lunch, but don’t add milk. That’d be a bit weird.
  • Cranberry tea- this is great, although I’ll admit I was a bit wary at first! The cranberry works really well with the black tea (although best without milk) and makes a great change to the usual Christmas flavours.

If you’re a caffeine-free fan, I can recommend Yuletide Toddy, a fruit infusion with cranberry, orange and cinnamon- it works very nicely with a quick splash of brandy or spiced rum! I also really enjoyed Rooibos Nutcracker as a bedtime drink; it’s a blend of fruits, nuts, spices and caramel and I’m thinking about how I can mix it up as a latte…

Want to win some festive goodies from Adagio? Check out my Instagram for a great Christmas giveaway!

 

*sent for review

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Looking forward, looking back

20161230_150620 This year… well. It’s been a tricky one and, I’ll admit, that sometimes it’s been hard to rationalise what’s been happening in the world. It’s been a confusing, sad year and there have been times when it’s seemed scary and unknowable. I’m not sure if 2017 will be any better in that respect, but I have to believe that there will be hope. Otherwise, what’s the point?

From a personal perspective, 2016 was OK; I navigated the world the best I could. One of my highlights was talking to Lauren Laverne on her radio show about my experiences with postnatal depression. After that conversation, one of my friends opened up to me about her experiences. It felt good to help someone and for me to acknowledge what I’d gone through (which I hadn’t done hugely openly before) and to know that I was helping someone else. I want to keep having these conversations, to keep helping others where I can. Mental health issues will continue to be important and as anxiety about the world increases, we need to support each other as best we can. We need to help each other. I want to be kind in 2017; goodness knows, it feels like we’re going to need it. I also need to help D understand about kindness to others. It’s never too early!

2017 will also mean changes: D will start school in September (which I cannot quite believe), but this poses questions for me. I always knew I wasn’t going to have another child, so this period means that I can start to look at my career- I’ve been working three days a week for the last three years. Do I increase my hours? Stay the same, but pick up more freelance work? Study? I don’t know yet. It’s quite thrilling but also terrifying. I’ve never really been good with change; my life has been pretty risk-averse! But I want to start exploring avenues and options that I’ve never been confident enough to try. I want to embody the fearlessness of Carrie Fisher (whose novels I would like to read in 2017- as well as finally getting round to seeing Star Wars!)

stay-afraid-but-do-it-any-way-what-s-important-10041241My new years resolutions are simple: sort out my passport (it’s due to expire this year- and it’s still in my maiden name, despite the fact that I’ve been married for nearly six years!); bake something sweet and vegan so that my boss can eat some of the cake I take into work; write to three people I admire (after Victoria Wood died, I sorely regretted never having written to her. I might start with Alan Bennett. After all, it worked with Angela Lansbury!); and to grow red sweet peas, even though I’ve heard they don’t smell much. But it’d be wrong to not grow my favourite flower in my favourite colour, even if I only do it once.

Other than this, it’ll just be business as usual- trying to keep my anxiety about the world in check, being kind to others where I can and trying to sleep well (insomnia is an unwelcome friend at the moment.) I just want to try my best in 2017.

I wish you and yours a happy, peaceful 2017.

Angela Lansbury, the NHS and looking forward to Christmas

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How’ve you been? I’ve been good, if busy, and life has done that thing it does sometimes where it sort of meanders away from you in a haze of stress and too much junk food because you’re too tired to eat properly. I’ve also been hding from the news and stuff, because I’m not 100% sure how I’m coping with the wider world on a daily basis. It’s a wonder we don’t run around wailing at the state of it all.

So, on a smaller scale, where are we at here? Well, D had an operation on December 2nd- a fairly straightforward one, to remove his adenoids and to put grommets in his ears. We’d first had him tested just before last Christmas and discovered that he did have a degree of hearing loss. As I’d had glue ear as a kid (and I have an on-going processing disorder as a result), I suspected he might have it himself- so I was relieved when we knew what it was and how it would be treated. And, unlike me having the op in 1990, he didn’t have to stay in hospital overnight, which was a HUGE relief. He was diagnosed quickly and within eight weeks of confirmation, he’d been operated on. Thank goodness for the NHS- it really is bonkers that some people want to get rid of it. I can’t praise the staff at the Royal Alex highly enough. Every single person who worked with us and D throughout the whole process was lovely and I’m very grateful that they have given him his hearing back. He’s got a whole new part of the world and it truly is a bit of a marvel to see.

You may also be wondering why I’ve mentioned Dame Angela Lansbury in the title of this post (unless you follow me on social media, in which case you’ll totally know what I’m on about…) D has become slightly obsessed with Murder, She Wrote on ITV3 every evening. We were channel-surfing one night and he asked to watch a bit. I figured there was not really any harm and: BOOM. His new heroine is Jessica Fletcher. It’s now a bit of a shared passion of ours, if I’m honest.

Anyway, I wrote to Dame Angela, asking whether it would be possible to have a signed picture for him. I had read that she usually sends out printed autographs- this was fine- although I explained about the operation and D’s love of Jessica Fletcher. So imagine my surprise when we received this:

15039737_10154002715702267_7634002859009306621_o She even addressed the envelope herself (I double checked the handwriting with examples online.) And so, dear reader, there is proof that there is good in the world in 2016- and that good is Dame Angela Lansbury. I framed it and hid it until the night before the operation; D insisted we take it with us to the hospital, much to the bemusement and amusement of the adults who spotted it. It now lives on our mantelpiece, as if Jessica Fletcher is our long-lost aunt. It makes D happy, confuses the hell out of Benn and makes me feel like I did something cool for my kid- everyone’s a winner.

And now term has ended, I don’t have much in the way of work to do over the holidays and all is well with the world. D is going to be Joseph in the nursery Nativity, I am going to read and knit (I won a £250 Etsy giftcard, which I seem to be intent on spending on new yarn, despite good intentions to use it for gifts throughout the year) and just unwinding. It’s been a whiplash of a year and I just need to recover. Who knows- maybe I’ll get back into the blogging spirit!

Christmas 2016 at Bluebird Tea Co.*

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Ah, I feel like I can actually tell you about the package I received the other week! I’ve had a horrendous cold and no sense of taste to speak of. However, all is right now, chez Pomfrett and I can reveal some of the exciting things Bluebird has to offer this festive season.

Some favourites from previous years are back- Snowball and Christmas Cake (the one with the sparkles!) are joined with two new fruit blends: Mulled Cider and the delightfully named Hey, Sugar Plum.

Snowball is as delightfully sweet and coconutty as I remember it being from last year; the big news is that this year, there’s a vegan option (although most of Bluebird’s teas are vegan, the marshmallows in Snowball prevented it from being so in previous years.) I’ve had to keep this one from D, who caught wind of it and nagged for some. But a 4-year-old and caffeine? You’re having a laugh! (He was placated with some caffeine free Gingerbread Chai.)

My response to fruit teas at this time of year is usually ‘does it go well with whiskey?’ and I can say that both of these do. Hey, Sugar Plum is a delightful blend of fruit and spices- it tastes like some kind of Victorian plum pudding and it is lovely.

My favourite, though, is Mulled Cider. It combines two of my most loved flavours: apple and spices. It’s warming, seasonal and, yes- it goes really, really well with alcohol in a warm drink setting (completely necessary when full of cold or, just…cold.)

And let’s talk about the other bits I received. All the hype this year has been on the Advent calendars- which do look amazing- but I think the crackers deserve some praise too. I really like the design of them and D and I had fun pulling them apart. Inside we found a tea joke, a teabag of one of the regular tea blends and a hat. They’re fun and would be great for a Christmas get together with friends.

Finally, I am LOVING Bluebird’s new candle range. I received the Snowball candle and I’m burning it as I type. The thing I like about the candles is that the scent is noticeable but not overpowering and, as much as I love a Yankee candle, sometimes you don’t want that level of scent.

Overall, it’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas over at Bluebird!

Sunday Tea: Whittards’ Christmas Tea

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‘Tea in the Park’- Edward Cucuel

Right. A couple of things: 1) I know we’ve not had Hallowe’en yet, so some of you will be looking askance at me for even mentioning the ‘C’ word at this point and b) this is going to be, unashamedly, a bit of a love letter to Whittards- which has returned to Brighton after an absence of about five years. (Also, go visit the shop. It’s opposite Lush and is very, very pretty and the staff are very nice.)

Anyway, onto the tea. I used to work a lot with Whittard when I wrote my tea blog a few years ago and I’ve always appreciated their flavoured teas: they have a great variety of flavours which feel very… British. Their rose based teas are some of my favourites.

The Christmas range is extensive this year and I intend to try most of it, but I was given a sample of their Christmas blend when I bought something else (salted caramel hot chocolate. You should really try it, FYI.) It’s got the Christmas tea staples- spices, a hint of vanilla- and is very nice. What did surprise me, though, is that it’s an almost perfect ‘dupe’ for a tea called Thes des Amants from the French tea house Palais des Thes, which in post-Brexit Britain and uncertain economic times may prove to be even more expensive than it currently is. I asked my friend Jan, who stockpiles Amants on our semi-regular orders, whether it’s similar- she agreed.

The tea itself is one of those lovely spicy concoctions that you want to drink straight after a cold winter walk; warming and reassuring, with a slight hint of Christmas cake to it, it’s definitely going on the nice list this year.

 

Knit for Winter campaign

Back before Christmas I was asked to take part in the Knit for Winter campaign, launched by Sunrise Senior Living, a group of care homes for older people (jokes aside that I’m a young-old-lady, it’s a great project to be involved with.)

The project is hoping to get knitters to make either blankets or bonnets for premature babies supported by the charity First Touch, which looks after preemie babies in St George’s Hospital. Babies born prematurely need extra help in the first stage of their lives and First Touch is there to help babies and parents at such a tough time.

I was asked what I’d like to make and I chose to make the bonnets. I was kindly sent some yarn and set to. As you can see, they’re SUPER bright, but I think they’re cheery!

IMG_20160207_201936(They remind me a bit of the hats I used to wear at festivals in my mis-spent youth..)

Anyway, the pattern took a bit of working out at the start, but nothing too strenuous. They were a quick knit and, had life not got in the way, I would have knit more. I knit the smallest three sizes and they took about an hour and a half- and would be good to use up any odds and ends you might have.

You can get the pattern here (scroll to the bottom).

Christmas 2015

Aaaand, breathe.

According to a certain women’s magazine I read recently, they were trying to christen the week between Christmas and New Year ‘Twixmas’. Hmmm.

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Christmas itself has been fun- I kicked off the festivities by spending two hours ENGROSSED in the Sleigh Ride programme on BBC4. Everyone else buggered off home or to bed, but I nobly stuck with it and learnt that there were thousands of Sami words for ‘reindeer’. Twitter was also good fun during the show and I generally felt a warm glow towards all those who were watching it with me.

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Christmas this year was the first one where D was fully aware of what was going on- he’d had two visits to Santa and was well up for the whole ritual of setting stuff up. We also had the emotional wrench of him giving up his dummies, which Father Christmas was taking for ‘the babies’. D didn’t seem to mind once he realised there was a Paxton (an engine from Thomas and Friends) in return. In fact, our house looks like a holding bay at Toys R Us for Thomas and Toy Story merchandise.

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I really loved that D was into Christmas this year- he appreciated his gifts and was eager to choose presents, too (these mainly consisted of chocolate for everybody, although he also chose hand cream for his grandmas without prompting from me. I suspect it’s because he sees me use the same stuff when I’m knitting!) We did reach the ’emotionally over-fraught’ stage  of Christmas at about 7pm on Boxing Day, so I think he did rather well, all being told.

This year's #Christmas #books. The best present is a book, in my opinion. #booksofInstagram #amreading:

I got lots of books (and a few bits of makeup, as well as a figure of the Tenth Doctor, so all good!) Benn was happy with lots and lots of running gear- I still haven’t been out for a run since my ill-fated Park Run a couple of weeks ago. I regret nothing.

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Christmas dinner itself was OK, probably not groundbreaking, but no-one died/vomited, so I decided to declare it a mediocre success… to be honest, I didn’t really feel like I over-indulged at all over Christmas this (I actually haven’t had ANY alcohol this week, although not through choice or conscious design, it’s just happened that way!)

So now I’m just relaxing, debating whether I REALLY want to start marking Year 10 essays or go for a run, when all I really want to do it hibernate with books and a cup of tea. After all, it is apparently twixmas.