Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tea: Toasted Rice

Hello again, friends! Sadly, I have not been reading as much as I should. For some reason I can only get through a few pages a day. I am making a summer reading goal of at least 10 books though, So I do hope to at least be able to do that, that way I can get much more book reviews posted! I'd eventually like to start up reviewing books for NetGalley again. We'll see how it goes. I just don't like getting inundated with books to review that I don't feel like reading at the time. Sooooo, I'll probably only request to review like 5 books at a time (knowing I likely won't be approved for all those) and only ones I really really want to read. That way I don't get overwhelmed.

So, in another news... tea!!! Who doesn't love tea, right? This tea that I'm reviewing today is one sent to me from my penpal in California, Amanda (yes, we share a name and will be the same age until her birthday on June 2nd). I don't play favorites, but... lol. So this tea is by the brand Numi, which I know I've seen before, but can't quite place where. I know some local grocery stores sell it, since I wouldn't have shopped anywhere else.

So, this flavor is Toasted Rice... and let me tell you, it's toasty alright! This is a green tea and it's flavor is definitely unique, I've never had green tea that tasted burnt before. I don't mean that in a bad way, it just tastes like it was cooked over a campfire. Very, very toasty... which is a flavor I happen to actually like. I really don't have a lot to say about the flavor because all I tasted was toastiness. I think this would be good especially when it's cold outside. I will look for this brand and flavor when I do my grocery shopping next week.

Thanks to my dear penpal, Amanda, for sending this one to me!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tea: Australian Afternoon

I've been a big tea lover for as long as I can remember. My mom used to make amazing Southern Sweet Tea and I'd always ask for her hot tea which she made always with the perfect amount of milk and sugar just using simple and plain Lipton's Tea Bags. As an adult, I've carried the love for tea with me, especially black teas. I'm not much one for herbal teas, but I have been dabbling lately. I'm still not a super big fan, but I do find that I enjoy herbal tea more so in the morning as my stomach can't yet handle the heaviness and richness black tea brings. Black tea is always my afternoon and evening drink. I especially love a nice cup while I'm writing my penpal letters. 

In the penpal community, it's common to send small gifts with your letters. Teas are one of the most common treats you'll receive inside a letter. Tea is popular in snailmail for many reasons. One, most everyone likes it. It's cozy! Two, it's flat and lightweight, super easy to ship and doesn't add much extra weight to your letter. Three, it's fun to try new things from other countries and there's so many teas from all over the world! I always like to share with my penpals a tea bag from the tea that I'm drinking while writing their letter.

Above is a letter and small gifts recently received in a letter from my penpal, Rita, in Glebe, Australia. Postcards and tea are always a lovely surprise to find inside a letter. I was so happy to receive these two Twinings teas from Australia. Twinings is my absolute favorite brand of tea and I haven't seen these flavors in America (but if anyone knows where I can find them, do enlighten me!). I especially love that the tea is themed to herself, she's Russian, but lives in Australia and the two teas she sent have flavors based on those two cultures: Australian Afternoon and Russian Caravan. 

Today, I thought I'd share my thoughts on Australian Afternoon. This is something I plan on doing more as I receive more unique teas from around the world from my dear penpals. 

Australian Afternoon is black tea made by Twinings and is described on the packaging as being "Brisk & Full-Bodied" at "Full Strength" (this measures how strong the tea will be). As I sipped on this wonderful tea, I made some notes. My first impressions were that the tea actually had a similar flavor to Lipton tea bags. I noticed the tea became very dark, very fast. After adding my cream and sugar, the tea then took on a rich golden brown color. Almost a dark amber which the packaging suits perfectly. 

Australian Afternoon had an interesting aroma, one that I cannot describe. I must preface this by saying that today in particular, I am having some sinus-related stuffiness, so my sense of smell is slightly skewed, however I absolutely cannot pinpoint this aroma. As I drew the mug closer to my face to take a sip, there was a peculiar scent that was almost a bit sweet and syrupy... almost a tad medicinal. I really don't know how else to describe it. 

This is quite a robust tea, which is perfect if you like your tea with a strong flavor. The tea remained flavorful even after adding cream and sugar. The undertones of this tea are unique and interesting. Thank you, Rita!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Note on my Spiritual Status

I don't really know how to say this, but I don't know how much I feel like being Mormon (LDS) anymore. There's no event or interaction that causes me to not feel such a spiritual pull towards LDS. There's nothing I don't like about the church. I don't necessarily want to leave and not be a member, but for whatever reason the teachings just aren't taking me to the higher vibration that I like to function on spiritually. When I was at my spiritual peak, I was New Age. I read a lot of books by people like Sylvia Browne and Brian Weiss, I was really into The Law of Attraction. My life was so good and even when it wasn't good I could see how everything was connected and everything has a reason.

I began going back to a traditional church for my children and because I wanted to be involved in a spiritual community. I'm the kind of person who believes all Gods are one. I believe whether I went to a Christian church or converted to Islam I'd be worshiping the same God, just taking a different path to find Him. At first, I went to a Baptist church and then I tried Mormon. Mormon is my absolute favorite Christian church that I've been too and I've attended many different churches. That definitely hasn't changed. If I want to go to traditional church no matter what I will always choose Mormon as I do love the very beautiful concepts they have. Church history is also incredibly interesting to me and you can't beat the people. At Baptist church (the other denomination I've attended most) everyone was very clique-y. I attended the same congregation for a year and only came out knowing a few people by the time I left and the congregation wasn't even large. Just no one talked to anyone else. Many families had been attended that church for years and I suppose they just weren't looking to meet new people, which I don't mind, because I'm antisocial myself and hate talking to people. However, walking into a LDS church is the absolute opposite, I've never walked into a ward without practically leaving with 5 new friends, a playdate arranged, and a dinner invitation on my first day.

I really don't want to list things that I dislike about church as I don't want to hinder someone from possibly joining  such an amazing church. So, what I'm saying is don't let my preferences stop you from becoming Mormon. Like I said, I'm at my highest spiritual point being more New Age, but LDS may (and I'm positive does) do that for other people.

I just really feel like people need explanations, because I know Mormons are very passionate about their religion.

Let's see.

-Sex. I like that. See, I'm almost 30 and I've been married, divorced, and have two children. I'm not a teenager, I was good when I was a teenager, but I'm a grown up now and I treat my pussy right, she don't go without m'kay? I don't like marriage and Mormons are very heavy on marriage. I'm not saying I wouldn't consider being married one day, but that's not an aspiration I've ever had. I feel like the church is still at a very archaic point with sex. I think maybe I'm not prude enough. Maybe I caught on to late to Christianity and my mind is already tainted beyond repair. I hate to say this and maybe my God Gene (there is such a thing, I read the book) is malfunctioning, but even Jesus doesn't make me not want to not do things I like to. That's why, like, when alcoholics go to church and give up alcohol because I guess Jesus gives them the strength or whatever, I'm just like speechless. I can't get to that point, like there's no number of Mormon Channel videos that I can watch that can make me care enough. I don't mean that in a mean way. I actually love the Mormon Channel because it is uplifting, it's just I've never heard, seen, read a spiritual message from any church where I'm like, "damn, that moved me. I gotta change." I thought I could when I first joined the church, like I really intended to not have sex, but then again I was single and I didn't see that changing. However, then I met my boyfriend at church... we started dating like a month after we both joined and what a blessing he was mmm mmm.

-Tea. I love it. I don't care about the herbal vs. black tea Mormon debate. I drink it all. If it's wrong I don't want to be right. I just don't see God being that petty to really care.

-Jesus. I know this sounds bad (also), but I've never felt a connection with Jesus. The church is very heavy on Jesus nowadays, I think I'd been better off Mormon when they were bigger on Joseph Smith back in the day. Joseph Smith is a bigger drawl for me to the church because he's such an interesting character and I just love hearing about him. Praise To The Man is my favorite hymn, I have several versions of it and listen to it all the time. Anyways, I certainly believe in Jesus. I believe he existed, yeah. I just don't know how I feel he fits into the big spiritual scheme of things. I know, no one cares how I feel about his place in religion because people are really gung-ho for Jesus, but I feel like he really overshadows actual God. I never believed they were one in the same, Mormons don't either so that's a big plus for Mormons. Ever since I was a little girl, going to Baptist school, I'd bypass worrying about Jesus and go straight for God. God is everything. He's the main man, the creator of everything. Jesus was here like 30-something years doing miracles and Gods been around for all time doing them. I just don't see the big deal, I understand the "died for our sins" thing, but I'm more of the Templar persuasion and when I was going to Baptist church I was big on trying to become more knowledgeable about the Bible and maybe something got lost in translation, but Jesus was pretty rude. Some of the stuff he says to people, and I wish I would have like highlighted the verses or something, was just a big turn off to me. I feel like Jesus is really more of a pop culture phenomenon rather than a religious figure. Like I said, God, I love God. If Jesus does for you, what God does for me, that's cool too, I'm not trying to pursued you differently, this is just my spiritual preference.

To sum it up, this is just three things that just don't make me connect as much I'd like with the church, however, there's so many more really good things! I just don't like going to church and pretending that I'm on the same page as everyone else. I feel like an imposter in a lot of ways. I also sometimes don't like people knowing I'm Mormon since I don't want them to get a bad impression since I'm not the best ambassador for the religion to non-members. I'm not terribly good person, I do all the things LDS says I shouldn't, I'm pretty much everything most Mormon women aren't. And that's saying a bad thing about me, not about them. I don't like feeling like a hypocrite and LDS has really helped my family and lifted me up emotionally when I was down. The church is very generous and loving and I've not met someone at church whom I didn't like. It's taken me a long time to really know how to share exactly why I'm a bit disconnected from the church because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or offend people. These are just my little feelings and opinions on religions and they shouldn't really matter to anyone else or change anyone else's mind. I just have a more fluid approach to spirituality. I like to flow wherever my spirit is calling me to go. When I was no religion and thought God hated me my spirit led me into the New Age movement which made me believe in God, then I was led to the Baptist church, then my spirit was drawn to LDS. Maybe, it will go back again to being more drawn to it, but for right now, I feel like to be closer to God I need to go somewhere else for awhile. I don't know where yet, but I definitely feeling more New Age. I want to find God more through nature, rather than in a cold building. I would also like something not so political. Christianity has too many opinions for me. I think everyone should mind their own business, as long as no one is hurting anyone it shouldn't matter what people do.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile

I've been reading this book for a REALLY long time. I do love travel memoirs, however I haven't read many and if I recall correctly I've only read ones by Bill Bryson, who is quite hilarious and entertaining. It took me a while to get acquainted with Sara Wheeler's writing style. I really don't know if I ever got used to it. 

I think what took me so long to get through is that I found the first quarter of this book where she is traveling through the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile painfully boring. I love deserts, so I suppose it wasn't the desert itself, but not much actually happened. I mean, yeah, she did travel through it, but all she wrote about was in this style, "I saw this, I talked to this person, we got back on the road." 

I left this book alone for months, I put it down somewhere in the desert. I decided to give it a go again and as Sara moved further South the book became considerably more interesting. I loved the parts where she traveled to remote islands off the coast and down through Patagonia and into the Archipelagic Chile. Those areas just seemed absolutely breathtaking and interesting. 

One thing that got me though, was that every time something interesting was about to happen to the author, she would immediately change the subject. She would state that this interesting thing was about to happen, and then... on to the next thing. It never made any sense. Maybe she didn't quite know how to record those memories or maybe she was simply saving them for herself. 

Anyhow, my interest in Chile has certainly increased. Right before I picked this up again, I actually acquired a pen pal from Chile and I'm looking forward to both practicing my Spanish and learning more about modern Chilean culture through her. This book was published in the very early 90s after the country had gone much political and economic upheaval. I'm interested to see how things are nowadays. I admit that Chile is a country I know very little about. The country does seem incredibly dynamic. 

I do think that I might one day read other books by this author, as she has another in which she travels through The Arctic in some countries of particular interest to me such as Canada, Greenland, and Norway. She has another written about Antarctica. She did travel to Chilean Antarctica in this book and it was quite interesting so I think I'd like to read one where she has a more long-term stay there.

All in all, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Hello friends,

Well, I know it's been quiet a while since I've made a blog post. Lately, my creative juices have been flowing though and I look forward to picking blogging back up again. I come to you with this blog post to share another hobby that I love, snailmailing. I love writing letters to pen pals and Postcrossing. Postcrossing is a website where you send and receive postcards all over the world from random people. I started Postcrossing about 5 years ago, but dropped off from it. I started it up again about 3 months ago and the addiction is back!

Some of my favorite stamps
I'm a person who loves to learn about different cultures, religions, and languages. Postcrossing and meeting pen pals all over the globe definitely feeds into that. As an introvert, I also enjoy quiet, reflective activities. Sending postcards and letters really allows one to be creative as you can get quite fancy with how you decorate your snailmail. I love to add some flair to mine such as stickers, colored envelopes, washi tape, and fun colors to write in. Some people who are more artistic even add doodles and intricate paper folds. Other ways to express yourself are through stamps and stationary.

Recent incoming mail from Texas, Canada, and China
Penpalling is an especially therapeutic activity, similar to journaling. It's great to have quiet time to reflect on your life or day and share that with someone else. Writing a letter allows one to turn inward for some self-reflection. With Postcrossing the whole family can get involved. This is a great way to teach children about geography and other cultures. We look forward to checking the mail and see if we have any surprises from another state or country. When we receive a postcard we mark it on a large atlas in our living room and my son has fun trying to locate the country. We hang our postcards around our map. We are quickly running out of space though so I've bought some twine to hang postcards from on another way. You can get really creative with how you store or display your postcards! They're also a great conversational piece.

My son helping to hang up a postcard from France.
For my letters from my pen pals. I've bought a binder, sheet protectors, and dividers. I divide the sections by continent. Then I store my letters inside the sheet protectors- including the often elaborately decorated envelopes which are too pretty to throw away! A lot of heart often goes in to writing a letter, even if it's just on a basic college-ruled sheet of paper and in a plain envelope. Your letters will quickly become very valuable and sentimental to you. 

Do you wonder how you and/or your family can get involved in snailmailing?

A great place to start is Postcrossing. You have to send 5 postcards first and as those are received your name will go back into the system and someone else (not the person you mailed your postcard to) will then send you a postcard. It's always a surprise because you never know where your next postcard will come from.

For pen pals, you can use the Postcrossing forum or, I prefer, Instagram. Just search a hashtag like #penpalswanted or #penpals. There's also several accounts that will allow you to post your own ad for a pen pal!

There's really a great snailmailing community out there! Facebook also has groups dedicated to postcard swaps and pen pals.

You may wonder where you may find time for penpalling especially if you're a parent like me. Doing my snailmail is my "me time". I like to do it after the kids go to sleep and the house is quiet so I can focus, relax, enjoy, and reflect. I love to put on my headphones and listen to my music and really get into "flow". Flow is what psychologists call those times when you're so involved in an activity that time passes quickly and you have something like tunnel vision on that activity and all your focus is there. During "flow" your at your most focused. I read about this in a book about how having children changes people. 

The table while I'm working on letters.
Other places and times you can work on your snailmail:

-Eating out at a fast food restaurant where your children are playing on a playground such as Chick-Fil-A or McDonald's. The former is my preferred fast food destination as it's cleaner and a more positive environment. There's something sad about McDonald's.

-The park, again while children are playing. I'm obviously not the interactive type on playgrounds. You're not going to see me helping my child down the slide. I'm the mom on the bench reading a book.

-At a coffee shop or small cafe. This is my favorite while my children are away during summer. I love small hole-in-the-wall places. Coffee and reading or writing letters just seem to go hand-in-hand. Plus, I feel like these places have the right ambiance to for those activities.

-While tanning at the beach or pool.

A postcard I received from Ukraine

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: Bird Sense

I'm not entirely sure why I decided to read this book, or more accurately listen to the audiobook. I've never been terribly fond of birds, but I think it was on sale on Audible so I thought, "what the heck, sure". I really have no idea, though. I think I may have enjoyed this book more if I read it instead of listened to it. It was hard to really grasp all the facts in passing, by just hearing them. 

The narrator was horribly bland. He was very monotone and I felt like I was listening to a lecture at a British university rather than reading a book. I wish he would have taken on a more conversational tone. I also expected the book to be a bit funner than what it was and have a more conversational tone. It just came off as a bit dry and stuffy to me. 

I'm giving Bird Sense 2 out of 4 stars.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky

Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky is one of the many books (50+) in the Love Finds You series. Love Finds You is a Christian Romance series where each book features a different character, in a different time, and place. Mostly they are women moving to a small town with a quirky name, the women are almost always starting over in a small town where they know nobody and then they end up falling in love. That was the case with LFY in Miracle, Kentucky. Actually, that's the case with most Christian Romances...

In this book, the main character is Meg Jorgensson. Meg just broke up with her poet boyfriend who she was living in Chicago with, where she was a teacher at an inner-city school. She decides to move in with her grandma (who she doesn't know very well) to start a new life away from her toxic boyfriend. She gets a position teaching at a small charter school in Miracle where she meets Vance and Cammy Bayer. Vance is a single dad and Cammy is his disabled, wheelchair-bound daughter. 

Cammy really wants Meg and her dad to date and she would love to have her favorite teacher as as a new mom (hers died in the car accident that paralyzed her). Cammy is really pushy and sneaky when it comes to setting up her dad and teacher, which most people might find cute. It was a bit to Hallmark Channel for me. Way too sappy. Disabled child plays matchmaker for her dad and teacher? Blah

I don't really know the though process behind me choosing this LFY book to read. I mean, I know what it was, I thought, "I own a lot of these that I still haven't read, I know! I'll read them in chronological order from the time they were published!". I probably should have just read whichever I really felt like reading, probably one of the historical ones which are usually my favorite (I'm not a big contemporary romance person). This one was just too cheesy with the whole disabled daughter, it was too Southern too. Kentucky is just not really a state that I have ever had interest in reading about. I'm have pretty much no interest in the life of a person who listens to country music, that whole "redneck" lifestyle. Even though, the main character wasn't a country girl and country life sounds a bit pleasant, they're just not really at the top of the list for subcultures I'm intrigued by (typically I find the whole "redneck" attitude obnoxious).

But, once I really started reading the book it went by pretty fast. It was a cute story and I actually liked the main character, Meg, a lot. She was smart and had a good moral compass (despite the fact she actually didn't start going to church until after she moved to Kentucky- gasp! Scandalous!). She also was realistic enough for a woman her age. I'm going to give Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky 3 out of 5 stars.

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