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I heard that baking soda could be used to clean silver, but wasn’t sure exactly how to use it. I found this article at e-how, and it’s really simple and it works — it left my sterling silver beads bright and shiny.

Simply line a glass pan with aluminum foil, and place your jewelry or objects on the foil. Sprinkle with baking soda. Pour boiling water over it, and make sure everything is covered. Somehow, the aluminum captures the tarnish, and leaves your silver clean.

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My friend Verna is 96, and we get together for tea at my house at least once a season. Today seemed the perfect time to celebrate spring as the Verna equinox, even if the actual equinox occurs tomorrow.

Also joining us was Sarah, companion of my youth. She came to me as a Christmas present when I was three, and a couple of years ago I overhauled her wardrobe with a new dress, panties, socks and shoes. The dress and panties were made by a doll clothier I connected with on eBay.

An almost unbelievably delightful time was had by all.

Short notice, Ruby, but providentially, I rambled over to your blog just in time to find out I missed your birthday by only one day! So I hope you don’t mind a rather impromptu tea presentation. We’re having Supreme green tea from Vital T-Leaf in our whimsical cat mug, and a mandarin orange and a bit of Swiss cheese. Do enjoy, and may God keep you with strength and laughter and give you a blessed new year.

My packet of chrysanthemum tea arrived Tuesday, just 10 days after I placed my order with teacuppa.com. It came all the way from Malaysia, replete with customs ticket and pretty bird stamps. The tiny pearl buds brew a fragrant, pleasant-tasting infusion, pale golden yellow in color, and very warming to drink.

Chrysanthemum tea, according to some tea websites, is indicated for arthritis, heartburn, and “internal heat.” Since drinking this tea in the evenings when I am most chilled, I haven’t noticed any let up in my arthritic symptoms, but I do experience a sense of heat, almost like a hot flash. When the flash subsides, I remain warm and the chill does not return.

This tea is not really tea,  but pure chrysanthemum buds, so it contains no caffeine. I find it a  pleasant change from chamomile; I  prefer its taste to the trusty ragweed, and it seems to be equally relaxing.

I prefer to brew my chrysanthemum tea for at least 3 to 5 minutes. Teacuppa.com recommends 2 to 4 minutes, but to my taste, this does not produce as nice a fragrance and flavor. You can rebrew the buds 4 to 6 times for good teaconomy, too. Just store them covered in the refrigerator if you won’t brew again within the day.

Merry Christmas, colleagues in homekeeping! May God bless and keep you with warm hearts and warm hearths.

Heidi, Denise, my trusted herbaphiles… do you know what the healing properties of chrysanthemum tea are purported to be? I’ve read that it is a stimulant and a relaxant and good for “rheumatism.” I’ve ordered some because I’m tired of chamomile and wanted something I could drink in the evenings after my day of oolong rebrewings. I ordered it from an outfit called cuppa tea.com, but I have to reserve bestowing accolades on this site until my order arrives.

It was kind of a quaint experience, in a jet-setty way. I placed my order and received a confirmation saying that my chrysanthemum buds would arrive in 7-25 days. I wrote back, casually asking where they were located, or at least where my order was actually shipping from, as I wasn’t sure from what point of the planet I am 25 days away. Nice Lisa wrote back saying my order was coming directly from Asia, by normal air parcel. I wrote back saying that was amazing, because when I was in China in 1987, there was no such thing as normal air anything. Air travel was paranormal at best. Of course, my tea could be coming from Singapore or Hong Kong or really anywhere, or even from modern-day China.

I have been able to get chrysanthemum-black tea bags locally, but not pure chrysanthemum buds. It will be fun to brew them. The chrysanthemum-black tea I have is wonderfully sweet, and the sweetness is entirely from the chrysanthemums. I just wanted to know as much as possible from anyone’s personal experience about chrysanthemum tea.

Anyway, cheers.

’tis Heidi’s birthday week, and I have prepared a birthday tea in her honor. Since she is in the Midwest and I am in the Pacific Northwest, it is the concept, not the reality, that matters.

What we are having is an avocado topped with Gorgonzola cheese and nuts, and dates stuffed with Gorgonzola. I can eat Gorgonzola cheese with the help of a couple of Lactaid; I am not sure whether Heidi could or not, but in any case, reality prevails this time, and I am the one who will partake of her lovely birthday tea.

I chose mango-passionfruit tea for the occasion because I like the color, and because its flavors evoke warmth of place and warmth of heart.

Happy birthday, dearest Heidi!

It’s a Veterans Day not like past Veterans Days that I remember. This is a Veterans Day of very present death: death by war and death by hatred. But all death is because of sin. Eight Stryker soldiers from my hometown Army base, and the Fort Hood massacre by the lunatic Army psychiatrist made death very present. Air Force Two boomed over my house early Tuesday afternoon; at least I’m pretty sure that was what it was. We don’t get a lot of 757s landing here, and this one was certainly flying low enough for landing. I’ve been reading accounts of Kimberly Munley with admiration. I admire her not just because she’s a hero and she took down Dr. Death, not just because she hit her target while under fire, but because she avers that she was just doing her job; it was confusing out there, she said, but her training kicked in. Nothing special, it’s not about her. She’s clear about that, clear as the shots that rang out on a decently pleasant Texas day no one had any reason to think would be eventful, much less historical.

I’m hanging out at home, a not infrequent occurrence, reading a book on biblical ethics, reading up on news events, drinking tea, and watching the Cat sleep, get up and eat, yank a couple of toys out of his box, and bat them around for a minute before walking off to stretch and lie down. A couple of flickers are aerating my lawn with their long beaks, for what reward I’m not sure, but I wish they liked toadstools. Ours are beginning to provide shade for a microcosmic backyard planet. I’m wearing my red tabard sweater, a gift from my friend Jane that she knit for me a couple of years ago. She inspired me to get back to knitting. Right now knitting is on hold, but I hope that my repetitive strain injury will eventually resolve to the point that I can knit again, even if I can’t type. I can use voice-recognition software to write, but there isn’t any voice-actuated sock knitting software, at least not yet.

Our bamboo, green and tall and lithe, waves languidly against the blue sky and some power lines. We have so much, in those things alone.


Many, O Lord My God,
are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered. — Psalm 40:5

Picture 924

We canned the first phase of our grape harvest, because the green variety can well, but for our sweet Canadice, we prefer to freeze what we cannot manage to eat fresh. Freezing is much easier than canning. We simply rinse the grapes in hot water — use hot to kill spiders and earwigs — then stem them and put them into sandwich size Ziploc bags and freeze. They are very good this way, retaining their sweetness and juiciness.

 

We also have more green beans then we can use fresh, and freeze those as well. Immediately after picking, I trim the ends, cut the beans, blanch them in boiling water for three minutes, drain, and freeze in Ziploc bags. It’s all a very pleasant evening project, and probably looks much more industrious than it really is. The picking is the most fun, except for the spiders.

Picture 923

 

 

My husband has the gift of canning. His gift flows from physical strength and family tradition. My gifts tend more toward looking out the window and sitting, occasionally, at poolsides with a book. The latter gift goes largely unutilized.

 

Our extravagantly beautiful summer bowed and bolted; fall arrived, and the first phase of our grapes, more than 20 pounds, ripened overnight. Rain split our thin-skinned varieties; especially hard-hit was the Sweet seduction, and mold set in quickly throughout much of the vine. The Interlaken held up well, and my husband picked 23 pounds from our vines. The Canadice, the sweetest and best of all, also held up well, and remains firm enough to go another week before picking. The Campbell’s Early, a Concord type, has never been true to its name, and probably has another week or two before it ripens. With plums and apples also in sight of ripening, canning will likely continue for the next three weekends. It makes for a homey time.

 

My husband canned about 17 pounds of Interlakens, juiced another couple of pounds, and refrigerated enough for us to enjoy fresh for the week. He does the canning outdoors on the deck on a propane stove. He has the method simplified to stemming the grapes, placing them in jars, adding water but no sugar, and placing them in the pressure canner for about ten minutes. The green grapes lose their vibrant color, and look rather like large canned peas, but they are very good, and we enjoy them through the winter.

 

I know that some women appreciate the sight of a linen closet stocked with neatly folded towels and sheets. I appreciate a well-stocked pantry with rows of mason jars containing the fruits of our own backyard. There is something inherently wonderful about growing and canning things, not from necessity, but from a love for the ability of the land to yield and the ability of the hand to work. Of course we can buy grapes the year round, but we would rather do it ourselves. Or at least, I would rather watch my husband do it.

 

I was diagnosed last year with reactive hypoglycemia, and I have to be attentive to the glycemic index of everything I eat. Unchecked, reactive hypoglycemia can lead to diabetes.

 

 For a while, I thought the problem had resolved when my endocrinologist lowered my dose of hydrocortisone, and I was seeing consistently normal glucose values for the first time in a Siberian winter. But as time passes, even on the reduced dose of hydrocortisone, bread is once again causing my blood sugar to spike. I saw 197 on the glucometer after eating two slices of toast with two eggs and a slice of cheese, and freaked out.

 

It’s all fairly complicated, but it’s carbs that cause my blood sugar to spike. Grains of any type — and the wholeness of the grains makes no difference, nor does brown rice, or any other color or texture — have more carbohydrates and a higher glycemic index per serving than, for instance, dark chocolate or carefully selected ice cream without corn syrup. In other words, what it seems I cannot eat if I wish to maintain safely sub-diabetic glucose levels, are grains: bread, rice, pasta, or any other type of grain; whether wheat or quinoa, it makes no difference. It’s the number of grams of carbohydrate per serving that counts.

 

I’ll mention here that this is about a quest for bread available in a store. I no longer make my own bread because my hands hurt all the time.

 

My husband and I have done a lot of research on carbohydrates and hypoglycemia, and did more again after the recent scary spike incident. The fact remains that I must eat like a diabetic or become one. Most competent diabetics count carbohydrates, and they don’t worry as much about the sugar they put in their coffee as they would about a serving of corn. My husband found a reference to low-carbohydrate bread that helped other people with reactive hypoglycemia to stay level without giving up bread entirely. One brand, proprietary to Trader Joe’s, was made without flour, and used pecan meal instead. Unfortunately, this variety is not available at my particular local Trader Joe’s. There was another reference to a bread at Whole Foods Market. There is no Whole Foods Market where we live, but my husband works a few blocks away from one. I called our local health food store, Marlene’s, and they were very interested in such a thing but did not presently have any sort of low-carbohydrate bread.

 

After finding no low-carbohydrate bread on the shelves of Whole Foods Market, my husband asked the bakery manager about it. She found a bread that has no sugar or gluten or any fillers or starches of any kind except pure grains and seeds. She sliced it thinner than most bread comes sliced. I found a thin slice to be more filling than thicker slices of less substantial bread. We weighed a slice of this new bread and divided by the carbohydrates per ounce on the label, and came up with 6 g of carbohydrate per slice, compared to 18 g per slice of the 12-grain Orowheat bread that caused my spike.

 

 People who have to manage carbohydrates and glucose get used to doing the math for everything they eat. It’s worth it: I had a slice of the new bread from Whole Foods Market with my normal low-carb chicken and vegetable stirfry dinner. My postprandial blood glucose was 106. The specters of insulin, blindness, amputations, dialysis, and life being a hassle melted away. I retested in the morning after a slice of toast and was 107, still perfect. I’ll keep testing, but if I can continue to eat a slice of this particular bread safely, my husband is to return to Whole Foods Market with the empty bread wrapper, find that bakery manager, thank her, and elicit a promise that she will never, ever run out of this worldly bread of life.

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