Back in 2019 my husband received an indoor, hydroponic, LED AeroGarden planter from his mom, and it has become my favorite addition to the kitchen. We have grown multiple seasons of kitchen spices and lettuces with great success. At the moment we have edible flowers germinating since we have most of our spices in our outdoor summer garden. More on that later.
Below is a picture of the planter as the spices start to grow, followed by the spices in full bloom. In this round we had Basil, Dill, Savory, Thyme and Mint. I chopped some of them up and froze them for future use because the plants were more prolific than what I could use on a daily basis. As you can see, the dill really took off. And that basil was big and fresh and perfect for caprese salads (which we ate a lot of).
The AeroGarden that we have is round and has room for six seed pods at a time. You can order them pre-made on Amazon or directly on the AeroGarden website. We’ve done the heirloom salad, gourmet herbs, and assorted Italian herbs. This round we are using the “grow anything pack” to germinate my edible flowers for baking, salads and teas.
The Heirloom Greens Kit made for some terrific salads. Here is one that I put together with a scoop of Curry Chicken Salad (which I recreated with the recipe from Garnish and Gather) in the middle. It was fantastic. I bet this would just as yummy with a scoop of Julia Child's Tuna Salad as well!
I would also like to give a shout out to my husband, Mike, for the fabulous outdoor garden that he creates for us each year. Here is the “beginning” shot. The front left quadrant is all tomatoes and jalapenos, the back left is comprised of my spices (lavender, basil, dill, thyme, and tarragon) and zucchini, the back quadrant on the right is cucumbers and melons, and the front quadrant is green peppers and cherry tomatoes. The pots in between the quadrants are blueberry bushes, and the two planters by the gate have heatmaster tomatoes (it is hot in the South, after all!). I’ll keep you posted on our progress and harvest as the season goes along.
We have done a number of big DIY projects to our house during Covid, not unlike everyone else. We landscaped a pathway in our side yard, and decorated multiple home offices. But I am most proud of the complete overhaul we did in our basement. We turned it from a movie room/beige and brown man-cave with leather recliners to a stylish space for entertaining. And I added some secret girl power, too. More on that later.
My husband and my older son did the heavy lifting on this one. Literally. Once we pulled up the wall to wall carpet, they got to work on laying ceramic tile with a dark koa wood feel to it. We had been inspired by similar tile in our condo during our vacation in Hawaii, and wanted to replicate it here. It continues the vacation vibe as you transition to the pool area outside, and since it is dark it doesn’t show the Georgia clay as easily. This was the hardest part of the project.
We painted the walls a light grey with blue undertones to help brighten up the space. After many paint chips from every brand you can imagine, we decided on Behr’s Misty Coast from Home Depot. And we replaced the very worn leather recliners with a grey sectional. Now it is much more cozy and comfortable for family movie nights. We decided on one from Ashley furniture due to their great warranty (since this space will have lots of kids and dogs in it), and the dimensions of their sofa fit our space better than any other one we were considering. We needed to add some additional seating as well, so I decided on a fun pop of color and added a groovy teal velvet swivel chair in the corner, with an arc light overhead. One bonus of the arc light are the very cool shadows it casts across the room. To finish off the furniture we added a grey mango wood coffee table and side table. The swivel chair, arc lamp, and tables are all from Overstock.com which helped to keep the project on budget.
I found a rug on ruggable.com called "Watercolor Waves" that had all the right colors to pull the space together while also complementing the contemporary feel of the space. It has the added bonus of being machine washable (as all ruggable rugs are), and the rug pads are made of recycled soda bottles. Since this is where the dogs spend the majority of their time, a machine washable rug was an amazing addition.
The finishing touch to any space is the art. I made a commitment to myself to support female gallerists and artists in this space (my secret girl power vibe in a former man cave). The first piece I purchased is the RGB print, “I Dissent”, which you’ll see over the middle of the sofa. This is from the incredibly talented Atlanta artist Julie Torres, and I purchased it from the awesome Jennifer Balcos at the Jennifer Balcos Gallery.
Once this piece was added, I had my palette for the space thanks to its bright pink print. The next piece I added is from the young and super talented Atlanta artist Lauren Pallotta Stunberg entitled “Good Vibes.” You’ve probably seen a lot of her public art around the city, but I love having some of her little birds to ourselves. The last piece is one that captures the joy of childhood and growing up in the South, and as the artists states, "celebrates Southern black women and girls." It is entitled “Jump” from Alabama based artist Lynthia Edwards. Both of these piece are from DK Contemporary Gallery in Marietta, owned by one of my favorite people – Donna Kruger.
The importance of art in a home cannot be underestimated. I always challenge people to support local artists and galleries whenever possible. I hope you’ll keep that in mind for your own redecorating projects. And please share artists and photos you’d like me to check out. I am always looking to expand my horizons.
I am sure we all recall the controversy from a few years ago where an American woman was demonstrating how to make the perfect cup of tea in a microwave. As far as I am concerned, this method is for emergency purposes only since the water heats unevenly and won’t steep the tea properly. In my mind there are two situations in which to make tea, so there are two different processes:
Version 1 is for company or enjoying the ritual and serving from a teapot. In this scenario you’ll boil the water either in a stovetop kettle or an electric kettle, but you’ll be serving from a ceramic (most likely) teapot.
Version 2 is in the office or in between video calls for WFH, for one person.
Version 1 - With a classic Teapot:
1. Boil the Water:
You can do this with a kettle on the stovetop or with an electric kettle. Some electric kettles will even let you control the temperature of the water so that you can be precise for certain types of teas (e.g. 208°F for black tea). I use a simple electric kettle that was a gift from my mother in law, and I love it.
I also suggest using filtered water whenever possible so that you don’t end up with any odd flavors mixed in with your tea.
2. Warm the Teapot:
Always boil more water than you think you need so that you can use some of it to warm the teapot. You’ll want to fill at least ¼ of the teapot, swirl it around and then pour it out. Why do we do this? The water temperature won’t drop too much when you add the hot water for the tea if the teapot has been warmed.
3. Tea in the Teapot and Steeping:
Next you’ll want to add the tea to the teapot, then add the hot water. Here you have two options – loose tea or tea bags. Loose teas are more flavorful, but it’s your choice.
If you use loose tea, you’ll want to use an infuser that is large enough for the teapot. If you have a tea cozy, you’ll want to use it to cover the teapot to keep it warm while you let it steep. Every type of tea has a different recommendation for how long to steep, but its also your personal preference. But you do not want to steep for more than 5 minutes or it will get bitter.
Pour the tea into the teacups and leave some room for your guests to add lemon, sugar, or milk. The infuser will keep the leavers from getting into the cups.
If you do not use all of the water in the teapot, make sure that the infuser is not sitting in water. Over-steeping will make the tea very bitter.
5. A Second Pot of Tea:
If you want to have another teapot of tea, you can re-use the tea you already have in the infuser. You’ll want to add more hot water and let it sit and steep again. This time you’ll need to add 2 more minutes this time for the second steep.
Version 2 – The Single Cup of Tea at Work or WFH:
When I am working from home, I use tea bags instead of loose tea.
I still use my electric kettle, and a mug. The bigger the better to save trips back to the kitchen.
Sometimes, if I have a few more minutes between calls, I will use loose tea and an infuser for my tea at home. I have quite a collection of them. One of my favorite infusers is my “mana-tea” but the one that works the best is the classic stainless steel one the has a hinge, like this one from Amazon.
So if you are making tea for yourself, here are my suggested instructions:
1. Boil the Water:
Again, you can use a stove top kettle or an electric kettle, and use filtered water if you can.
2. Put the tea in the mug:
Place the tea bag or infuser into the mug before adding the hot water.
Be sure to leave enough room to add milk, honey, lemon juice or whatever you plan to add later on.
3. Add the Hot Water and Steep:
Steep until the tea is a good color for you – usually 4-5 minutes for black teas, 3-4 for green teas.
4. Customize it:
Add your milk, cream. Lemon juice, ginger or however your prefer your tea.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for your own tea ritual!
I am not British nor Irish. I only get to claim that heritage by marriage. However, I feel a great connection when I am there. London feels a bit like New York (home) to me. But that’s not it. It’s my love of tea. My favorite souvenir is a teapot and some new tea to try when I get home.
In order to brew the perfect cup, or “cuppa,” for you or your mom, there are a few things that you need. Here, in Part I of my series, is the focus on the most important ingredient: Great Tea.
Tea can be black, oolong, green, herbal, or any variety in between. I suggest trying a lot of varieties to find your favorites. I have a few favorites that I’ll share here with you. You'll see that I lean more towards the black teas (e.g. Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and Yunnan) than to the Green Teas (e.g. Green, Sencha, Matcha) or the herbals (e.g. Hibiscus, Chamomile).
My favorite British Teas are from Fortnum and Mason. While I enjoy many of their teas, my two go-to blends are their classic Royal Blend, and the Jubilee Tea. Both are smooth, black teas. I leave plenty of space in my suitcase when I go to England so that I can bring back as many boxes as I can.
Another tea I really enjoy is Harrod’s No. 30 Assam Tea from India. This is a bold black tea and I really enjoy the strong flavor, especially on chilly mornings. I tend to drink this one more in the winter than any other time of year.
And if you travel to York (which is one of my favorite destinations with so much history), please do visit one of my favorites: the Hebden Tea Shop on the Shambles. I bought so much tea the last time I was there, and I even let the kids pick out some weaker teas for themselves to try. The shop smells fabulous and was a great little experience. And my favorite was their Assam.
Yes – you read that right – French Tea. Another of my favorite tea shops is Kusmi Tea, of Russian descent and now made in Normandy, France. Originally founded by Pavel Kousmichoff in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1867, the brand moved to Paris at the onset of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and opened an outlet at 75 Avenue Niel, Paris that still exists today. While they do have other locations in Paris, this one is my favorite.
(As an aside, they have two locations in New York - you can find them at the Plaza Food Hall on 59th, or in the Westfield Center at the World Trade Center. And if you are in London, they have a location at 15 Marylebone High St.)
My favorite teas from Kusmi are: Russian Morning No. 24, Jasmine Green Tea and Anastasia (organic Earl Grey), and White Anastasia.
I was on a business trip to Portland, Oregon and the hotel I was staying in was showcasing local brands. The tea that they served was Smith’s Tea. As you might image I travel with my own tea, but I decided to give Smith’s a try and I am SO glad I did. My favorites from them are: Kandy, Big Hibiscus, and Lord Bergamot and Jasmine Silver Tip. It turns out that Steven Smith, who founded the company in 2009, had previously started Tazo Tea which he then later sold to Starbucks. Anyone who knows me knows that I usually have a few of Tazo’s Awake tea bags in my bag at any time so I was not surprised that I liked the Smith tea so much.
Stay Tuned for Part 2: Hot Water and Steeping.