Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: "Jan Phillips" Series, Books 1 & 2, by Michael Halfhill

Jan Phillips series by Michael Halfhill – Book 1: Whatever Happened to Jan Phillips?; Book 2: Sons

I read the first of the “Jan Phillips” books a couple years ago.  Just finished the second one, and there’s a third, “Sparkles” just out a month ago on my TBR list. The first two books are rather different stories, and I’m going to break this review into two sections (in case anyone doesn’t want spoilers for Book 2). 

Whatever Happened to Jan Phillips?

That’s a good question!  From Jan’s beyond-humble beginnings - a desperate young man, turning to hustling on the corners of Philadelphia because his mother cannot afford to feed and house him along with his siblings – to a world of wealth, power, and literally global responsibility far from anything Jan could have ever imagined, rather a lot happened to Jan Phillips, actually.

From the windows of his redoubtable flat, Tim Morris spots painfully vulnerable Jan down on the street and finds he fancies a bit of rough.  Tim is able to help Jan out of his dire straits, and gets a live-in lover to boot.  It’s all very convenient for both of them, but Jan has has the cagey streak of a vulnerable street kid who’s never really had the luxury of being able to figure out who he is without considering someone else’s needs and wants.  There’s a lot of tension between Tim and Jan because of that, but also because Tim is not exactly able to be 100% above-board with Jan.

Tim, you see, is the North American head of a worldwide secret society known as Mundus.  Think of something like the Knights Templar.  Behind-the-scenes international intrigue.  They get done by sub rosa guile what more conventional diplomacy and muscle cannot.  There’s no small amount of danger in a line like that, as Jan quickly finds out.

Ultimately, though, Tim comes to see the value in taking Jan into his confidence.  It helps that Jan is also being groomed to follow in Tim’s footsteps as the head of the massively powerful law firm, Templars of Law.  Meanwhile, Jan is starting to feel like his life is being decided for him, yet again, and begins to buck.  Jan’s idea of bucking breaks Tim’s heart, a fact Jan will have to live with for the rest of his days. 

After losing Tim, Jan comes to grow into his mantle as North American head of Mundus and top man at the law firm.  He finds love again with Michael, the proprietor of an Asian imports shop.  All seems to be going Jan’s way at last….  Which is always when you’ve got to worry!  No spoilers here, though.

Whatever Happened to Jan Phillips? is a very well-crafted blend of high-intrigue and deep character study.  A fantastic, highly satisfying read that I wholly recommend.  Jan Phillips has something to offer just about every literary taste, the only thing it being light on is fluff. 


The second Jan Phillips installment is quite a different offering.  Whereas with Whatever Happened… I was left with much more the impression of international intrigue, Sons was much more character-driven.  Jan and his role in Mundus is still very much in evidence, but the focus this time around is the re-emergence of Jan’s past – in the form of Colin, the son Jan did not know he had until his ex-sister-in-law abandons Colin with Jan on New Year’s Eve. 

The apple doesn’t fall far from the apple and Colin isn’t at all unlike Jan as a teenager – cagey, desperate for independence, driven, not always very sensitive to the feelings of others.  Colin’s drive has a way of making him oblivious to the pitfalls of a plan.  Being the son of an extremely powerful man, but also being a not-so-street-smart kid makes for a very dangerous combination. 

It’s a good thing for Colin and his girlfriend that Jan has the resources that he does at his command!  But again… no spoilers. 

This is another beautifully written selection from the Phillips series, quite different to the first story, but also very much true to the original spirit and feel of Book 1.  I was quite glad to find there is a third installment, because Sons definitely left me wanting more - again.  Mr. Halfhill has a subtle hand with the connecting details, not rehashing everything but giving the reader enough reminders to make the connections – and to make you want to go back and re-read Whatever Happened to Jan Phillips?  Which might just be what I do before picking up Sparkles

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Biennial Blog Relaunch!

Welcome to the biennial relaunch of blog "Warm Hearts, Lasting Love".

This year's relaunch coincides with Calan Mai/Beltane, May Day, so there's something.  I mean, who doesn't like a May Pole (winkwink, nudgenudge)?

If you can believe it, this relaunch also comes with an announcement (well, sort of).  Something is coming....  And I know when.  But I'm not telling... yet!  (Gotta build the suspense, you see?)

Stay tuned for more, coming soon.  Until then, bottoms up, dears!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Guest Spot: Brynn Stein

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome back for a visit, frequent guest and friend of "The Blog," Brynn Stein!  Brynn is here today with her (quickly!) upcoming release, Ray of Sunlight, and discussing those times when our characters give us the silent treatment.  We can only hope they're too busy working on becoming fantastic and figuring out their plot-lines.  Yeah... that's what they're doing.  (And don't forget to check out the giveaway!)

(Click here to read more!)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On Tea: Tazo Passion

It does have good coloring.
So far in this series I’ve reviewed teas I enjoy – from solid staples to sublime sips - all rate fairly well with me.  Of course, I don’t like every cup of tea I’ve ever had and, frankly, some tea brands really aren’t for me.  One such tea-maker being Tazo. 

Most people probably first saw Tazo teas at Starbucks (before they changed over to Teavana – more about that later).  Now, it is well known that I am a Starbucks lover (though not as much as some people I know!) – I like my coffee with so much milk and sweet-stuff it’s barely coffee anymore.  But their tea selections are just… no.  Worst cup of tea I’ve ever had, bar none, was the Tazo version of a tea treat recommended to me by another, local coffee chain (Crazy Mocha) - Earl Grey with a shot of vanilla syrup.  The one time I tried that combo at Starbucks it was incredibly bitter and I decided then and there – Starbucks for coffee, Crazy Mocha for tea.  Rarely have I broken this hard-and-fast rule.

I have to say that there was one Tazo tea drink at Starbucks that I did quite like – the vanilla rooibos latte.  Of course, now they’ve switched over to Teavana… no more rooibos lattes.  The iced green tea with a bit of sweetener was a good light summer option, too, but again… no more.  Their Teavana green tea option, Cloud Emperor something, when I tried it, was something like drinking Skittles green tea, strangely fruity-candy like.  

Anyway, regarding Tazo Passion.  Passion is a tisane, described on their site as “An exuberant herbal infusion of hibiscus, orange peel, rose hips and passion fruit flavors.”  There are also “tart” rose hips and lemongrass here.  Honestly, I think where Tazo goes wrong, for me, is in packing in so many “exuberant” flavors, all cranked up to 11, in one little tea bag.  I’ve mentioned that I very rarely take anything in my tea, sometimes a dash of milk, but almost never anything else.  For me, this cup of Tazo Passion was like drinking syrup – way too sweet, and it’s a sweetness that stays at the back of my throat. 

Now, you might contrast all this with my review of Republic of Tea’s Downton tie-in English Rose Tea (found here:  English Rose is a tisane blend similar to what Passion contains: hibiscus and rose, primarily.  But English Rose’s hibiscus is mellowed with raspberry, apple, and vanilla.  In that review I mentioned that I’ve had some hibiscus teas that totally overwhelmed my palate.  Passion is one of them.  It’s also quite a lot like Celestial Seasonings’ classic Red Zinger, also a hibiscus tisane, but that one has the hibiscus tones made rich by peppermint and wild cherry. 

I’m only going to say this once – if you’re blending with hibiscus, don’t use something citric!  I feel like I dumped a load of Lemsip into this thing.

Tazo is known for their tres-New Age approach and once billed themselves as the “Reincarnation of Tea.”  Well, to paraphrase my grandma: “They better keep getting reincarnated again and again until they get it right.”

4/10 – mostly for its nice color.  

Note: This review concludes any mention of Tazo or Teavana from here in!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On Tea: Longview Estate Darjeeling

After “The Disaster,” it was time for a special brew to inaugurate the new pot.  Shortly before The Disaster I’d picked up a couple small samples (1/4 pound) of some loose leafs.  Including a 1st flush Darjeeling from Longview Estate (you might want to review the first tea post regarding flushes and such). 

I was going to do Darjeelings in general later on in the series, but since I’ve had this around, I thought I’d just jump back into it on an up-note.  As I mentioned in the review of afternoon teas, Darjeelings (and Assams) are generally considered the pinnacle of teas.  They’re most likely to receive tea gradings such as TGFOP (if you check the packaging or ask your loose leaf supplier, they may know) or be noted as 1st or 2nd flushes from specific estates. 

This tea is no exception.  I brew it fairly light as delicate Darjeeling needs a soft touch.  Get a good boil on the water, yes, but don’t overbrew it.  No more than 2 or 3 minutes in the strainer or it will get a bit bitter.  The 1st flush Longview is a smooth and flavorful tea that practically sings on the palate.  And it lingers very politely, there’s no “back of the throat” aftertaste here.

Recommendations for accompaniments?  Anything you like.  Bit of milk or cream if you usually do.  I don’t feel it needs sugar, but if that’s your thing, it will do alright here (though I’d say go easy with it, you don’t want to kill the ‘bouquet’ of this one).  Nibbles?  Again, anything goes here, but probably lightish things – probably not going to have this with a big meal that dominates your palate like Italian or something.  I generally prefer Darjeeling as an afternoon tea.  It’s a little too delicate for breakfast, for me.  I need something a bit more bracing in the morning. 

Definitely a 10/10 for this tea.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Tea: Dejoo Estate Assam

You may remember Assam from the Ty-phoo review (that rhymes…) so I won’t rehash that too much.  Assam is generally the second most esteemed tea after Darjeeling, and is also named for the region it’s grown in.  Assam has its own distinctive taste and quality, a somewhat more “malty” aspect. 

I picked up a bit of loose Assam from the Dejoo Estate (note that the tea schedule didn’t list it as a 1st or 2nd flush or give a grading, but did note the growing estate – if you Google up “Dejoo estate” you will see some STGFOP1 grade available). 

As I mentioned with Ty-phoo, I particularly like Assam for breakfast, but it’s a good anytime tea.  I brewed up a pot of this Assam for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning to have with a bit of bacon and cinnamon toast.  I only brewed it for several minutes to be on the safe side, but halfway through the first cup I decided to pop the leaves back in for a bit.  Assam generally stands up to a much longer brew (or maybe it’s just me who likes it like that) and I usually brew my Ty-phoo for as much as 10 minutes. 

Loose-leaf Assam in cloth bag at Cafe Moulin.
Some weeks ago I was out and about, and after a good, long wander on a chilly, damp day, I decided to pop into a little creperie in my favorite neighborhood.  I went for a smoked salmon crepe an
d noticed that their menu had an Assam on offer.  You very rarely see specific teas like Assam listed in restaurants around here (even the British pub and chippy just does a basic bagged selection of Lipton, Twinings, and such).  So I took them up on it and it was awesome!  They brew loose leaf in muslin bags (which you can get from tea suppliers if you’re so inclined). 

Because you can brew it longer for a bolder (yet still smooth and not bitter) taste, Assam is a good high quality tea to start out with (you can’t botch it).  It also goes fine with pretty much everything, from toast and bacon to smoked salmon crepes and your afternoon tea sandwiches and sweeties as well. 

Very nice versatile tea.  10/10 here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Tea: Celestial Seasonings' Candy Cane Lane

Those merry, industrious polar bears aren't even remotely
considering eating you....  Honest!
Just so you all know, this is probably the only time you’re going to see Celestial Seasonings in this tea series.  Outside of Sleepy Time tea and Throat Tamer tea, their flavors are generally overwhelming to my palate and don’t usually count as tea in my book.  Just sayin’.

But there are exceptions to everything.  This is also an exception on the side of “color” of tea.  Most of the teas I’ve talked about so far have been black teas with a few of the more outstanding flavored/herbals mentioned.  Candy Cane Lane is a decaffeinated green tea, so there’s a switch.

This is my “Christmassy” tea, hands down.  And it shouldn’t be confused with any other “peppermint” tea.  Candy Cane Lane is particular in that it balances the peppermint with a touch of vanilla for a smoothly-sweet treat.  In order to keep that balance, remember that with a green tea you’ll want to take the water off the heat just before it gets to a boil.  You want to be mindful of the brew-time here, too.  About 3 minutes, tops, I’d say.

Because it’s decaf, you can enjoy this anytime of day, but I find especially nice on those cold, grey, late afternoons we get this time of year, curled up by the fire (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those!) or a Christmas tree, maybe even with some mellow seasonal music, or just a good read. 

Candy Cane Lane is a good tea to pair with whatever little holiday nibbles you’ve got around – cookies, sweets, perhaps dried fruits/nuts.  Light little things here, probably not your leftover turkey or ham on a sandwich.  Of course, standards like digestives or rich tea (or Jaffa Cakes!) are always applicable, as well.  I had mine with half a Tiffin bar the other night for dessert.  It would take the tiniest bit of milk nicely, but only the tiniest – less than a teaspoon!

For a nice, cosy, quiet moment in the middle of all the December “holiday” madness, this earns itself a 9/10.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

On Tea: Russian Caravan

 So, you say “tea is tea” and it’s all “a bit weak” for your tastes, huh?  Well, this one is guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Celebrating a friend’s birthday/early Christmas with afternoon tea recently, another friend ordered the “Russian Country” tea (a Harney and Sons blend) after hearing its description as a rich, profoundly smoky tea - I opted for the house blend, myself, and the guest of honour took English Breakfast.  When our teas were brought out and poured, the smokiness was exceptional!  It was like sitting in front of a toasty fireplace on a winter afternoon… with a few drops of 18-year Laphroaig in your tea!  I was most definitely intrigued, to say the least.

After tea, I had a look at a few tea lists I keep handy at home and noticed a Russian Caravan loose-leaf listed at both local shops I’m most likely to pick up tea from.  I made a stop at one of the shops and picked up a couple ounces for myself.  Because I’ve been feeling pretty worn out all week (it’s that time of year – cold, dark, busy, and germy!) I decided that just having an afternoon to sit still and drink tons of tea would be the best thing for it.  I went right for this smoky Russian that is the single heartiest tea I’ve ever had. 

Russian Caravan (or Country, from Harney) is a Chinese origin tea, blended from keemun, oolong, and lapsang souchong (which I somehow always manage to call Lhasa Apso), whereas most of the ones I’ve talked about here so far are Indian, like Assam, Darjeeling, etc.  It’s the lapsang that gives Russian Caravan its smoky flavour as that is how that particular tea is dried.  There are stories about how long it took to transport this blend from China into (populated) Russia by caravan and how that influenced the taste, etc.  But really, that’s all rather apocryphal and doesn’t matter anyway. 
If the interwebs could transmit smells, this is what the leaves
would call to mind.  

This is the tea which favors the bold.  Perfectly good by itself, you might wish to tone it down with a splash of milk.  Or send it over the top with a splash of Scotch.  Have it with something flavourful or whatever you have may be overpowered.  Personally, I think this is best suited to afternoon and evenings.  It would be way too much for me in the morning. 

This rates an easy 9/10 with me, with a bonus point for sheer assertiveness.  Full marks!

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Tea: Paned Cymreig

Lovely color.  Bonus nail art and background cat.
Beth am gael paned o de, cariadon?
(Roughly pronounced, depending on region: Bith am guy-l pan-ed o day, carry-at-on).

Oh, sorry.  Shall we have a cup of tea, dears?

The other day when I stopped in my local tea shop to pick up some holiday pressies (and a few ounces of Russian Caravan – review coming soon!) I decided to pick up something a bit different in the basic/bagged/black tea area as well, since my usual morning Ty-phoo reserve is getting a little low.  They had on offer a few boxes of Paned Cymreig (pronounced Pan-ed Coom-rig - literally Welsh Cup but translated as Welsh Brew). 

Paned is a good, basic black tea blend (of African and Indian teas it says on the box).  It’s stouter than a typical English Breakfast (Ha!  No surprise there!) but is still a nice, mild blend.  As with most black blends, this will give you a nice start to the morning and can go for afternoon or dinner just as well.  Not at all a fussy tea, Paned Cymreig is essentially Welsh – robust, cheering, and welcoming. 

I had mine with a bit of Walker’s shortbread and later with a cup of thick beef-vegetable stew for lunch.  Anything with cheese and/or leeks would do, too.  Maybe even a taffy or two?

I’n graddio ei 8.95/10.

Oh, and Nadolig Llawen :)

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Disaster!

It started out like any other morning.  I got up, bleary, wandered down the stairs in need of tea.  I boiled the water.  I pulled down the box of Typhoo and plucked out a bag, deposited it in the pot, with the string and tag depending out.  Then… I went to pour the water in.  And, for some reason, I did so over the sink.  I suppose I was trying to avoid drippage of water onto the counter (I usually put a towel under my tea pot to catch drips). 

Well, it was a bad idea.  Holding the tea pot in one hand and pouring with the other.  Don’t do it.  A bit of boiling water splashed on my hand.  Not enough to do any damage.  Well… not to my hand.  Unfortunately, it was enough to shock me and make me drop the teapot. 

It didn’t survive.

I was reduced to “by the cup” for several days.

Several dark days.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

PSA: The Truth About Turkeys

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but this information should be made more permanently available, so I'm adding it here as well.  Knowledge is the key to winning the fight against turkeys!

Some of you know i've been going on about how vicious and evil turkeys are ever since i was carjacked by a gang of them a couple years ago. And now something else has come to my attention that further supports my claim about these marauders.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sex is Not a Four-Letter Word

And... we're back!  Now that mid-terms are done and finals are underway, that means resuming transmissions.  We'll be back to tea notes and guests and all sorts of lovelies soon, but today we're getting personal.  Up close and personal.  And we're talking about... SEX.

So much thanks to Grace Duncan for coming up with and organizing this blog-hop that is explicitly (hehe) sex-positive.  Please have a look at some of the other "hop" contributors as well (the list is at the end)  It's cold out there and this will warm you up :)

So then, without further ado....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Guest Spot: Brynn Stein on Tour with "Through the Years"

I have Brynn Stein stopping today to talk about her latest, Through the Years.  As a fellow "Bittersweet Dreams" writer, I can say these are often the most rewarding writes and reads out there.  Don't forget to check out the raffle she has going on through the tour as well!  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On tea: A Tale of Two Teas

Having reached the general mid-point of this series, if you’ve followed along, you’ll have some idea about some fairly decent, mainly work-a-day teas.  It’s now time to step it up and have a look at the other side of tea (not the breakfast necessity/non-alcoholic nightcap side). 

This week I had the pleasure of going to tea with two of my besties, on separate occasions.  Hey, this is livin’!  For those who have never been to afternoon tea, the first thing you need to know is this is not a little nibble.  Afternoon tea (the whole do with tea sandwiches, scones, fruit, and chocolates) is a meal.  A big meal.  I skipped breakfast before both and was still stuffed for most of the day after tea.  You can easily spend two hours drinking and noshing so be prepared to make a day of it (I haven’t the foggiest how the vaunted Victorians ate half as much as they did in a day, the upper class ones who didn’t work at any rate). 

For definitions of “afternoon tea,” “high tea,” and “low tea,” consult the first piece of this series here

So, then, let’s get on with it. 

Click here to read more:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

On Tea: Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice

Now we’re starting to talk about a “higher class” of bagged teas.  My first experience of Harney & Sons was when they sold them in Barnes and Noble cafes (though I don’t recall if those were still Starbucks at the time).  They had an excellent lavender and chamomile herbal that I really enjoyed (especially when I needed to chill out!) 

Harney is known for their tins as much as for what’s in them.  They look very pretty on a store shelf in those bright tins.  Like Republic of Tea, they have a very wide variety and are also now available in many grocery chains.  Harney do loose as well as bagged teas, but you’re more likely to have to go looking for loose.  Their bagged teas usually come in silk “pyramid” bags.  Now that’s very nice! 

Click here to read more:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 8 - Anne Barwell

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Relaunch installment, we've got Anne Barwell here today.  She's talking history and what it's like writing within worlds and contexts that are, basically, predetermined.  Anne's got a couple releases forthcoming (two in the next four months!), a series continuation and a sequel, so be sure to look for those!  Anne, you've got the floor: 

Click here to read more:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 7 - Kat Mancos

Today we've got Kat Mancos talking about relaunching - or, perhaps more accurately, evolving - in terms of one's own writing.  We'll also get a teaser from Kat's recent release, Taste of Air.  Where else can you find a line like, "That man has always had his cock in one alchemist or another."

It's all yours, Kat!

An Unexpected Direction

Saturday, August 30, 2014

On Tea: Republic of Tea's Downton Abbey English Rose Tea

Republic of Tea is a very recognizable brand of “better” teas that are still widely available, even in a lot of grocery chains.  They do both “bag” and “leaf,” traditional teas, green, white, uniquely flavored, herbals, “health” teas… in short, the lot.  Variety, generally, is the spice of life, but I’m always a little wary of a brand with too much variety.  That can lead to spreading too thin, in my opinion. 

Republic of Tea, however, manages it fairly well.  They have such a lot of different teas, it would be almost impossible for me to give a broad overview of their entire line, but the teas I’ve had from them so far have always been excellent.  Enough so that when I see something I’d normally roll my eyes and pass on from other brands, I’m willing to give Republic a go. 

Click here to read more:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 6 - Louise Lyons

Today I'm welcoming Louise Lyons who's here with an excerpt from her recent release, Conflicted.  Warning for mental images of well-built guys in tight denim! (And at the end, be sure to find the link where you can enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card from Louise!)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On Tea: Ty-phoo

Ty-phoo is another solid, everyday tea, something you can have every morning without feeling too much like you’re putting on airs and graces. 

Most of the teas I’ve talked about so far have been black tea blends like PG Tips and Yorkshire.  Ty-phoo is an Assam tea – also a black tea, but Assam indicates the tea-growing region and characteristics of the tea.  Assam is a more malty tea with a lot of body.  It’s a smooth, mild tea with distinctive flavor.  Ty-phoo is a good, brisk blend, on par with Yorkshire.

The name, apparently (according to Wikipedia), comes from the Chinese for "Doctor" and has nothing to do with a rainy season.  

While I don’t generally have a splash of milk in my tea, I definitely find Ty-phoo to be a tea that can stand up to a drop of milk.  Ty-phoo is an all-purpose tea, good for your breakfast, with lunch, or just an afternoon boost.  Works as well with toast and beans as it does a Digestive.

I give it a solid 9/10.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 5 - Sarah Madison

Sarah is with us today to talk about her forthcoming release Walk a Mile, sequel to Unspeakable Words, and what it's like writing a sequel.  And, yes, writers love their characters as much as readers!

“What took you so long?”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 4 - Lee Rowan

Look who's here!  It's Lee Rowan to talk about relaunching domestically (and the associated hair-pulling to which anyone who's remodeled can attest!)  Lee, you have the floor... what's left of it! ;-) 

Where is Mike Holmes When You Really Need Him?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Tea: Stash Licorice Spice

And now for something completely different.  And I do mean completely.

Now, I hear you over there:  “Ew, licorice, in tea?!”  You’re thinking, “I don’t like black jelly beans or allsorts or Sambuca.  Why would I want to go near licorice tea?”

Well, this isn’t just licorice tea.  It’s licorice spice.  Licorice, believe it or not, is an excellent sweetener.  Now, just personally, I do enjoy absinthe/Pernod, which has a very strong licorice-ish taste.  And I like allsorts.  I don’t like Good n Plenty, though.  Those are just yucky.  Mainly because they don’t know what they are doing with the licorice.  Stash, however, does (and they do some pretty good “flavored” teas, too).

A graphic representation for those who do and those who do not like licorice.

But anyway, this is licorice spice tea.  In addition to the licorice, it’s also got lots of other lovely things that I’m betting you do know you like, such as: cinnamon, clove, orange, cardamom.  This is a lot more like those anise pizzelles everybody’s grandma used to make (the ones that don’t numb your mouth from the anise, I promise!)  What’s a pizzelle?  Oh, come on!  Those crisp little fancy “waffle” cookies?  Yeah. 

Those go great with tea, by the way.  And since it’s an herbal tea, it’s perfect to have with dessert – or for dessert, for that matter (it’s as sweet as that slice of cheesecake, but NO CALORIES!)  If you do want some little nibble with your licorice spice tea, I recommend keeping it in the sweets category.  Cookies, cakes, chocolate digestives, brownies, the aforementioned pizzelles, or their hard-to-come-by Dutch cousin, the stroopwafle. 

I hear you, again, over there.  “First licorice tea, and now stroopwafle?  What the hell is that?!”  Ok, usually called “Dutch cookies” when marketed in English-speaking places, these are two pizzelle like “waffles” with caramelly syrup between them.  The right way to savor a stroopwafle is to set it on top of your cup of hot tea (or coffee or chocolate) and let the steam soften the waffle and syrup so that it gets gooey in the middle.  If you find yourself with the mini, silver-dollar sized ones, put them on a plate and pop ‘em in the microwave for a few seconds, enough for them to get nice a “stroopey.”  Milk in this?  No idea why you would feel the need, but if you’re a consistent milk user, I don’t think it would put this off.  Might be really nice, actually.

Nice light color (not under-brewed!) and a half a really delicious chocolate chunk brownie - and I still lost 5 pounds last month!

One seriously itty-bitty caveat with this tea (really, this is miniscule)… I find, for some reason, it cools down fast in the cup.  Because it’s an herbal, I do brew it at just barely a boil (not quite as fast as a boil as for a black tea), so that may be a part of it, but I still think it gets lukewarm much quicker than anything else.  Barely even worth knocking off a fraction of a point, because otherwise this is a really stellar tea for an herbal, mass-market, bagged tea. 

I give it a 9.5 of 10 as herbals go.

As you can see here, I like it well enough to keep a couple boxes in.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 3 - Jana Denardo

Now here's an extra treat - today we've got Jana Denardo, author of recently-released Kept Tears.  I happened to pick this up while gearing up for the relaunch (there's a special place in my heart for 'Burgh stories!), and I really enjoyed it.  I don't often go for urban fantasy (or much fantasy other than the original classics of the genre) but this one was so relatable I never really felt like an "outsider" to the story.  It was really very sensible, real fantasy - which makes sense for a Pittsburgh setting, we do sensible pretty well... with a nice undercurrent of mystery - and left me wanting more, in quite a good way.

Ok, enough of my gushing.  Let's hear from Jana.

When I started Kept Tears I knew from the earliest moments where it would be set, even before I knew Rhys would be fae (I always knew Aaron would be a disabled veteran). For me, setting is pretty important. I travel a lot and I’ve lived all over. I like to put my travels into my stories. My short story Haunted in the Two Tickets to Paradise anthology was based on my travels in Victoria on Vancouver Island and Crisis in Faith, my Vampires in Vegas story is set in a city I find fascinating and over the top. For Kept Tears, I decided on Pittsburgh, PA, and it’s a natural for me. Not only is it an iconic city in its own right, but, like Aaron, I grew up within twenty-five miles from down town.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On Tea - Yorkshire Tea (by Taylor's of Harrogate)

Here's another everyday "proper brew" to get us off to a solid start.

Taylor’s of Harrogate are a very good tea purveyor.  They ought to be, they’ve got a royal warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales as a supplier of beverages.  Among their teas are quite a number of traditional teas such as Darjeeling, Assam, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Ceylon, and a number of other less common black tea blends.  And then there’s their Yorkshire Tea brand.

Yorkshire is a very nice blend with very smooth taste.  While a good, solid, standard tea, suitable for all occasions, much like PG Tips, it’s quite a lot less… forthright, shall we say.  Yorkshire is a sort of tea that I find more relaxing than exactly “perky.” 

The smooth taste of Yorkshire goes especially well with a basic “rich tea biscuit,” but, like Tips, there’s not much that wouldn’t do well with this tea.  To my taste, Yorkshire would take milk a bit better than the Tips, but again, it doesn’t necessarily need it either.

Basic enough for an everyday tea but nice enough to feel like a “treat” – I give it a 9 of 10.