The Fireside Is…

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I’ve been away for a little while.   This season has been a little harder to embrace than most.   Eventually sadness was going to take over and just manifest itself throughout the holidays.  And I love the holidays so much.

I love Thanksgiving.  I love Christmas.  I love all the celebrations of peace, life, love, family, and of course all the celebrations in general.

Holiday parties make me so happy.  But this year I haven’t been feeling it.  I’ve chosen to stay away from a few this time, or make other plans.  The comforts of sitting at home with my cat, or the various pets I look after are what’s getting me through the holidays thus far.

I never wanted to be someone that just got through the holidays, but this is currently where I stand.  And it hurts.  It hurts in ways that I can’t even describe.

Plain and simple, this is the first holidays without my dad.  And with that brings upon feeling of grief, not just about him, but about so much else going on in my life, or lack thereof.    Yet with all the hurt and tragedy, there’s still so much to be grateful for, and there’s those constants that just keep me going and still bring a smile to my face.  There’s much to be thankful and grateful for.  There always will be… Just like…

The Spice & Tea Exchange has always been there, and I hope it continues to be there (my love for them can be found here) for me, not just to review their limited time teas, but all their magical teas, that are for sure magical, and all those other good things.

For now, I like to go when it’s quiet.  This is a far cry from when I would want to be around big groups, busy shoppers, and all the noise and commotion that makes this season so exciting.  Maybe later.  Right now, that’s not for me.

The Annapolis location (all locations can be found here) was the ideal setting for browsing and purchase.

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What is for me is peace, calm, and a lot of solitude.  I find comfort in the unknown and in quiet.  The unknown is the three latest teas for holidays.  I’m so grateful to share with you my thoughts on the Holiday Cheer, the returning Chocolate Candy Cane Tea, and the Fireside Spice.

For more on the returning Chocolate Candy Cane go here.

With help from the trusty Cozy Cup Mitten Infuser (charming I know right), I had a ball preparing these for enjoying and sipping.  Yes!

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Not going in any particular order we start with the Holiday Cheer.

The trios of cinnamon, hibiscus, and fig is breathtaking.  I probably didn’t do the best job of brewing this cup, hence the color that you see.  But the flavors still shined through in spectacular fashion.   With a name like Holiday Cheer, how can you not be enchanted?

The Chocolate Candy Cane is just as great as I remember it a year ago.  Maybe even better. Black tea, chocolate, and peppermint will make anyone happy.  This also tells me I must try some of their more traditional teas, such as black and other flavors that I’ve grown up with.  Yes, ones I’ve shared with my dad.  I felt this one a little more this time.

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If I had to pick a favorite it would be the Fireside Spice, and it might just be the cinnamon and chicory combination that made feel a little more sentimental for the time I’m in, for the the time we’re in, and where time tends to stop, and I felt like a kid for a moment.

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But I know I’m not.  These teas take on a whole new meaning to me then if this were a year ago, or many years ago.  This is life though and we’re all going to experience a lot of things, some that will hurt, but hopefully many that bring us joy and raise our spirits.

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I love these teas and I love The Spice & Tea Exchange.  Thank you for making my holiday feel a little more manageable.

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

 

 

And All In Good Time…

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I wanted to wait just a little while before getting into my quarterly tradition of raving about the seasonal teas from The Spice & Tea Exchange.  We are barely into autumn, and two of the three teas were out of the stock as of this post yesterday.  As of today, two of three are now available.  This is too funny, but it’s also the times we’re in.

I would say this is a faux pas of mine, and to some extent it is.  It also speaks volumes of how good these teas are, how much so many of us embrace the change of the season and the impending well, you know…, and the power of tea (here is their complete list of teas, available at their stores and to purchase online) and how so many of us love it for the art of drinking, as a hobby, a passion, and the way it makes us feel.   I think the place and the energy of many of their stores has a lot do with that.

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This time it brings me to where I was born, Alexandria, VA, and their charming shoppe in the heart of Old Town. That was not meant to be as dramatic it sounded.  Ah maybe it was…

A huge thank you to Jessica the manager for being so kind.

As I wrote about several months back, I was in a similar position spiritually, (and in many ways still am, and might be for a while) and a visit to a tea shoppe, especially their’s is always cleaning for the soul and the spirit.

I’ve been writing for long enough that the changing of the seasons is now synonymous with a visit to their stores, and knowing that three amazing teas will be presented to all of us.

And that’s exactly what happened once again.  These guys are incredible.  My past stories will confirm all of this.  

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It was still Summer when these teas were introduced and still Summertime when I bought these.  I along with some of my close friends know that we shouldn’t rush these things.  I had a sense that these flavors would be out of stock soon if not already.  The packs were on the low side, and I didn’t think to ask if more were coming.  You just know sometimes.

The three for us this time are the Tipsy Toffee, the Spiced Ruby Cider Herbal Tea (out of stock for now?), and the Pumpkin Chai Latte.

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The ingredients are all on the back of the packs.  I want to review this like I always do, with as light hearted and approachable as it can be.   If things overlap then that’ll happen naturally.  I have so much to say but sometimes the tea says all that need to be said, and we should embrace.

Here goes…

One thing that always stands out is while the aromas of their teas give the impression that they may be too sweet for many, but it’s so brilliantly deceptive.  It almost tastes exactly the opposite of what you would expect.  In many cases this is a good thing and I believe this is the intent.

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The Tipsy Toffee has the strongest scent of all in my opinion.  And while I love toffee, I was weary of how it would taste.  Nah I’m kidding.  It’s not that serious.  There’s nothing to be weary of haha.

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This is tremendous.  While you might think the butterscotch and caramel flavorings may be overpowering, they were anything but.  Everything has its place and complemented the other so well.   I’ve said this before but so much about tea is what you don’t taste immediately until seconds later, or even longer.  Understated yet endearing is what their teas are all about.  Beautiful.

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The color on the toffee among with the others was a little more special this time.  All credit goes to the dragonfly infuser, which is also available through them.  For significant, personal, and sentimental reasons I’m grateful to use this trusty friend for the first time, for this round of teas.

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The Spiced Ruby Cider had this color of red that is perfect for this season and matches the color of things to come.  Yes I’m thinking a little bit ahead too.  In order to brew this, I had to break the pieces up a little.

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Again, with cinnamon apple pieces, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, orange peels (I feel like a pendulum), cloves, and more cinnamon stuff, you would think this would be too sweet.  Even if was, I think it would be awesome.  The smell is great and once again this is a universally wonderful tea that everyone will love.  However, that’s for you to judge and judge alone.

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You can’t forget the Pumpkin Chai Latte.  This is why we celebrate autumn right?  We got more pumpkin then we know what to do with.   You wouldn’t know it here though.  And I’m not a fan of most chai, but once again this is nowhere near as rich and that full feeling chai you might expect.

I never tasted any whipped cream or caramel.  But it’s there and so is that pumpkin!

I thought this would be the most potent of the three and I felt it was actually the most tame.  This was my least favorite of the trios, and not in a bad way.   You can’t go wrong, and you can only go right with all of them.

This sounds like a heavy bias, but with few exceptions The Spice & Tea Exchange clearly knows how to make superb tea with a lot of soul and a lot of feeling behind it.

Yes you see sweet treats with each cup, and while they were merely for display, it’s to prepare us for indulgence, because indulgence is coming.  I’m so happy to begin the fall season with their teas and I’m so grateful for the opportunity once again.

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One last thing, when you buy 3 packs, you get a free packet of sugar.  What do with this Apple Cinnamon Crisp Sugar?  I answered my own question by maybe wanting to add to these teas, but maybe it’s meant for something else.

Peace Be With You, and there will be another story much sooner than later.  I’m purposely being vague because I honestly don’t know what’s next.

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All in good time…

Love,

Ideen

I Felt Transformed, Transported…

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Some time ago, I had stumbled upon SPORTea at one of my favorite places, Baltimore Cofee and Tea Company, and it was on a display table along with many other teas to select for your brewing and steeping enjoyment.

It just didn’t feel right at the time.  Sometimes it just doesn’t.  It didn’t stand out to me.  I drank it hot.  It literally felt like a tea that was just there to me.  I ordered it, I drank it, and then I left.  Maybe it felt forced.  If it sounds like I’m talking badly about it, I don’t mean to.  There’s a reason I never felt compelled to write about it.  I have so many teas like this on backlog, and these stories will sadly (or not) never see the light of day.

But then something magical happened…

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A couple of weeks back I stopped in at Baltimore Coffee and Tea’s newest location, at the Annapolis Towne Centre, I already knew I was going to walk into something special.

I could tell from the outside looking in that this has that place to be kind of vibe.  And I don’t mean in a pretentious sense.  I mean in a place to feel like you’re in your world world, or your own universe, but still feel same to be near your home or loved ones.

In typical fashion, I stopped in alone and already felt at peace about things.  It’s all your perception, and I could have felt like I was just there or in a funk, like I was in a previous visit I alluded to, but I felt good.  The gentleman at the counter literally read my mind.  I asked for an iced tea recommendation and without any hesitation, he said SPORTea.

There was a blast from the past and a flashback but right away.  I had heard that name from somewhere, but it didn’t register right away.

All you need to know about SPORTea can be found here & here.  I’ve done my job and now I’ll just tell you how great this tea is.  The dichotomy is like night and day.  This is meant to drank iced.

 

I don’t think words can describe how healing and uplifting this drink is.  It hit the spot on so many levels, and I don’t have the words for that either.   Being in a good mood and in a good place helps.

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I started off admiring the inside, but a drink like this and a place like this screams sitting in the courtyard that faces the Towne Centre and the rest of the world.  But inside I felt safe, I felt protected, and I felt like I was the only person on Earth.  I’ve often said this in previous stories, but it’s true.

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The skies and the sun were looking picturesque, and it was a perfect day for doing nothing or anything you want.  That can apply to just about any day if you think about it, or better of not.  This felt like a go with your own flow kind of day, and I’m grateful I ended up here.

Baltimore Coffee & Tea has always displayed the best, brightest, and most inspiring stories to me, for not just tea, but life life in general (previous visits from all around the area can be found here) and for this to be in Annapolis (My past Annapolis memories for your viewing pleasure are right here) makes it that much sweeter.

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Speaking of sweet, I can’t help myself but include a sweet treat with my teas, but SPORTea can be enjoyed alone or with anything you want.

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I’ve yet to see SPORTea outside of Baltimore Coffee & Tea but this link to shop online seems like a good start.

I hope you have a great one and as always, peace be with you…

Love,

Ideen

 

From The Heart to the Soul

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Literally next door, and I mean literally next door, from where I spoke on last week, is another charming and I’ll say it, adorable spot in West Annapolis, Rutabaga Craft Juicery.

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I had no intentions of writing about this wonderful place, (here is their menu, some eco information, more about them, and their contact info) and that’s not meant in a disparaging way.  I just came for some cold-pressed juice, a smoothie, and some peace.

There’s plenty of places I walk into that I’ll never write about because either it doesn’t fit the context of what I’m saying, I like the break, or I just don’t think about.  I’ve been doing this for a while now, that I don’t always think about what to discuss or not discuss, without a little research, preparation, but my favorite is always the spontaneous.

As would be with Rutabaga…

West Annapolis is its own entity, its own island, and own universe within such a tiny and beautiful universe of Annapolis (my past posts on this wonderful place are here), that the joy just continues to compound.

With such a cozy space, it’s a blessing I had an outside table to myself.  I came around lunch hour, and while people were in and out, it once again felt like I was the only person on Earth.  That’s a good feeling, and while it may feel egocentric or narcissistic, it feels like peace to me.  And there’s more of where that I came from, and more at our disposal then we know.

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I went with the Berried (a blend of apple ,strawberry, blueberry raspberry, and banana maple chia) and it went down smooth, went down easy, and went down a little too fast.  The weather warranted it.  Which also means I could’ve used a glass of water or two.  I did get around to that eventually.

But as I was leaving, I noticed they had kombucha on tap and available for sampling.  Since I already bought a drink, I feel like I had some immunity and didn’t feel as greedy or as cheap by trying all three samples.

One stood out above the rest.

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The Green Garden from Federal Brewing Company based out of Federalsburg, MD, was one of the more refreshing kombucha’s I’ve had.  It was the perfect contrast to my fruit drink, that I loved trading a sip of each back and forth, while cleansing my palate of course.   Even without a sip of water in between, I got all the beautiful tastes and flavors from each.

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I honestly forgot what was in the Green Garden, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to know or remember.  I just knew it was great, and I would love to have some more.

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For the warmer climates, you can’t go wrong with either of these.  You can’t go wrong with supporting local business, and any chance to sit outside, be with nature, enjoy my surroundings, and enjoy not one, but two amazing beverages is something to be truly grateful for.

If you’re local to the area, and have not visited Rutabaga’s, I highly recommend it.  The staff is so friendly and accommodating. Many tourists will visit this summer, and because of its location it may be overlooked, but I wouldn’t.  It’s a gem among gems, among more gems.  While open for less than three years, it looks like it’s going to be a mainstay for years to come.  It’s another great reason to visit and love our state capital.

Have a good one, enjoy your day, and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

The Heart of Annapolis

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There’s this calming feeling when you go back to a place for a second time, especially since it’s been nearly two years since the prior visit.  Bean Rush Cafe has the coziness of Annapolis tucked away in an even more quaint and peaceful part of town, if that’ even possible.

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My continuously growing history of a place I love so much can be found here.

Yes, there’s always happiness layered upon happiness if you know where to look, or maybe not look so hard.  It’ll just come to you.  I think I wrote about a similar experience here back in August of 2016. It sounds dream like when I say it like that.  It does feel like two years ago, but then again where did two years go?

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Two years and many visits to one of my favorite towns in between compelled me to come back to one of the more charming and welcoming coffee shops (here is more about them and their contact information) I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming to.

It’s July, it’s summer, and it’s one of those be careful what you wish for deals.  While it’s gotten uncomfortably hot for many, in many ways we’ll miss this when it gets colder.  I’ve never been one to complain about the heat.  I love this weather, and I stay hydrated, stay safe, and stay spiritually whole.   It’s easy to do.

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Iced tea is the only thing on my agenda at this and will be for a while.   Per recommendations from one of the friendliest faces and voices behind the counter, I went with the Berry Berry Iced Tea and a Raspberry pastry.   Why pastry?  Why not?

They complemented each other well, and I’m all for a lovely display.  The colors and tones fit the summer.  So do so many, and many other themes will be coming in the next few weeks, if not sooner.

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This tea is fun.  Where have I heard that before?  I found a spot on the porch, which felt familiar and divine, well yeah, I sat here two years ago.  It’s not that mysterious and surrealisitic, but it’s still fun to me over-the-top dramatic.

I love this place so much.  I felt like I was at a friend or family’s house, and even felt more comfortable than that.

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People were saying hello to one another, holding doors, and there was lots of smiling.  This made me so happy.  Where am I?  I’m in the most peaceful and serene place I’ve been in some time.

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The flowers in the vicinity, the refreshing tea, and harmonious surroundings makes me feel nostalgic, relieved, and wanting more of this.  I love more of this and I love Annapolis so much.

I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to move, so I didn’t.  I sat there for a while and just breathed some fresh air, soaked up the most beautiful and brightest rays of sunshine, and just appreciated being.  This is where the phone and camera was turned off.

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For a few moments I was the only person on Earth, and that’s a feeling I sense will be coming back in symbolic and necessary doses, when the timing is right.  Certain spirits will throw in reminders when they feel it’s right.

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A place that has been so good to me for such a long time, is going to get a lot of love and support from me over the next few weeks, if not more.   There’s so much to celebrate, and while the wording and themes may be similar, the stories will all have a touch something new.   It’s all relative, it’s all constant, but it’s all love.

My heart will always be with Annapolis.

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

The Fells Point

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This whole living in the moment and being here now way of thinking, is a great way to live.  It’s a great way to be.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but a lot of my stories tend to be about that, but at the same token, they become a part of the past.  They become nostalgic, and then there’s the question, am I holding onto the past?   Lots of questions and thinking that can drive one crazy and cause anxiety.

It can also be a source of rebirth, rejuvenation, and a restart…

It’s summertime, which means being outside as much as possible, enjoying company, enjoying food and drink, and enjoying everything under the sun.  And then enjoying everything else under the sun…

Fells Point has been good to me for so many years.  In a little while I can say a couple of decades.  Oh my goodness, feels funny when you say it like that.

My life (and I’m sure many can say the same) has been transformed in the last year.  The amount of life changes in succession might be too much for one person to handle.  But there’s that silly line about how life only gives you so much.  It’s true, or many of us would’ve gone off the deep end.   And that’s still an arguable point.

Lately I’ve been finding more and more peace in the places that have brought happiness to me over the course of my life.   Sometimes unplanned, sometimes with a mission to be there, yet the stops in and along the way still being spontaneous.  Life an be good.  It can be great actually.

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Many year later, many things change, but there’s the constants.  I feel like I’ve said this before, and then said this before, and then…

Pitango Gelato (locations can be found here) has been one of those more recent staples of Fells Point that has the sense of local, sense of community, and a sense of pride.

They’ve expanded and evolved with the times, like many places have.

With their new cafe in an ideal spot by the water, it’s in tune with everything right about the neighborhood.

I’ll get back to the iced teas soon, but this is about peace no matter what you’re doing, and what you’re sipping on.   I had a friend join me, and I had a cup of their White Monkey, which was in their selection of loose teas.   Perfect for now, perfect for whenever is how I look at it.

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I love white tea.  I don’t delve into it enough.  That’s going to change.

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Finding a place outside is ideal.  Having a view of the water and the downtown shoppes, restaurants, and local flavor warms my heart from end to end.  I love it so much.

I don’t have much else to say.   This is one of those posts where I feel like I’ve said so much of this before, and I don’t know where we go from here.  I tend to say that a lot as well.

What I do know this I’m fully on board with summer, and there’s so much left to celebrate and embrace.  With that I don’t bid adieu or anything like that.  I will say that I have some exciting things in mind in the coming weeks, without really having any idea what they are.  I shouldn’t live too far in the future.  It’s about this current moment in life, and all the other way too profound stuff, that I would like to cut out, but that’s not me.

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If you’re in the neighborhood, I would highly recommend a visit.  I have friends that often come back to the Fells Point, specifically for their gelato, and now the cafe.

It’a journey worth taking..

Peace be with you…

Ideen

 

These Are The Words…

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Summer means a lot to me.  I know it means so many things to many different people, from all different walks of life.

For me it takes me back to when there were no worries.  As a kid my biggest dilemma in the summer was whether I go to summer camp, or stay at home and do nothing, and daydream.   As time has gone by, I find myself in a similar situation.  I’m not sure how many of you may be going through your own trials and tribulations.

Not all of this is bad.  It’s a time of rebirth, reawakening, and rejuvenation.   Perhaps it’s a time to reflect.  Where do we go from here?   As much time has passed there’s still so much left to look explore, look forward to, and to accomplish.

When preparing (or not) or contemplating what tea stories to elaborate on (and some to leave unsaid), I tend to make it more dramatic and complicated than it has any right to be.  For me, or for any of us who enjoy writing, it’s a personal thing.

Memories are so beautiful, and so many are meant to be kept to ourselves, and those close friends and family that we shared them with.  To that I say, some are so amazing, that it’s best to write them or say that out loud, so for where we can capture or recreate details and memories that otherwise we’d forget.

This takes us back to before the long holiday weekend, yet a weekend of companionship, conversation, and doing as much relaxing and being in nothingness as possible.  Nothingness is a good thing in this instance.

I love going to friends’ house and enjoying a day and night in (often more times than a night out now) and knowing that the night has already been made, and there’s no worries or cares of the outside world.

We had plenty of snacks, treats, vino (more on that here), and some of my favorite animal friends and the freshest are there is.  Just what everyone can use, in times of joy or otherwise.

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I couldn’t think of a better place to continue the story of one of favorite entities in general, The Spice & Tea Exchange.

Here’s the link to shop online, their store locations, contact information, and my past stories on their incredible teas.

I want to thank Denise from the Annapolis, MD location for all of her assistance and support.

For the Summer, for National Iced Tea Month (even though this was in May, but I don’t think anyone is going to write me a demerit), and most of all for you and me, I’m honored to discuss their most recent releases and limited time teas, the Blue Raspberry Crush, and the Get Up & Goji.

Both have endearing names, and have endearing qualities that have stuck with me as I write this.  That can only mean I will keep loving these teas more and more over time.

 

Just the colors on the Blue Raspberry are going to win you over.   When it looks this good, I can only hope that the scents and tastes will mirror what you see at first sight.

That’s exactly right.

 

I only wish I added lemon to see the changing of colors.  I’ll have to revisit this again later in the Summer.  Thankfully there’s so much left…

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I think it’s only fitting that my friend prepared this tea hot, but we made it iced and served in the most perfect of glasses.

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This tea was shared among so many other food and drink, but it never got lost in the shuffle.  It was a day and night of indulgence, celebration, peace, and all the emotions in between and book ending.

 

The Get Up & Goji was for the next day.  And after everything has settled, this was the perfect sip for a rebirth, and to get the day going.   Once again, iced or hot, you can’t go right or wrong.  There’s no right or wrong.  It’s all just so magnificent.

 

I’m constantly exhausted lately, so this tea,with the sun shining the way it did, felt like someone or something was watching me, looking out for me, and telling me everything was going to be ok.   You can substitute ‘me’ for ‘us’ or with ‘you’, and it all applies.

 

I don’t recall the sun ever looking so beautiful in my entire life.   I don’t think that was an accident.

 

The company of my friends, and these amazing dogs I’ve had such a history with, made these two days so perfect.

This is why you share these stories, or at least write them out to yourself in diary or however form you like.  You realize the little things or those big things.  And those big things are whatever you want them to be.

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It’s all important.  And with that said, I still left details out (some on purpose), because while stories are meant to be shared, parts of it are not easy to share, just yet, if at all.

And some are just meant for you, for me, and for anyone you want it to be.

I’m so grateful the teas of one of my favorite shoppes, Spice & Tea Exchange, were featured at this vulnerable and emotional moment in time.

It’s good to be back…

Love,

Ideen