Friday, April 27, 2018

Simplicity Teas

Simplicity Teas sent me a one time subscription box in exchange for an honest review.  When I opened the box, which was definitely packaged with care, the picture to the left is what I saw.  On the back of the card was written a bit about the company and some tips on steeping.  The mission of Simplicity Teas is "to educate and get others excited about the wonderful healing properties of tea".

Simplicity Teas has two options for their  monthly health and wellness tea subscription boxes.  The mini version contains three or four .5 oz vials of tea, which will make 15-20 cups of tea and is $9.99 per month.  The deluxe version (which is what I received) contains larger vials and bags of tea, which will make 30-40 cups of tea, and comes with a "new surprise each month".  It is $14.99 per month.  Both mini and deluxe versions contain a reusable tea infuser in the first box.

When I picked up the card, I saw a bag of "Casablanca" tea and a super cute infuser that looked like a strawberry.  Under that there were three additional vials of tea- "Tuck Me In", "Irish Breakfast", and "Sweet Nothings", and a "Lemon Black Tea" dark chocolate bar from Trader Joes (the surprise of the month).  The ingredients were listed on the chocolate bar and on each of the teas.  It was printed right on the vials if the tea was caffeine free or contained caffeine.  The brewing instructions were there, but I would have liked them to be a little clearer.  For example, the instructions for the "Casablanca" tea were "1 tsp. 2 min @180".  My question was- how much water do I use?  Some people think of a cup of tea as 6 ounces of water and some as 8 ounces.  I went with the 8 ounces since I am quite literal.

The first thing I tried was brewing the "Casablanca" tea using the Strawberry Silicone Infuser.  The infuser opened easily and I added 1 teaspoon of "Casablanca" tea leaves to it.  I closed it up and put it in my cup.  The infuser had a long "stem" that hung easily over the cup.  The holes in the infuser did let some of the tea leaves through, but not too many.  When I was done with the infuser, I just rinsed it out, but the company's website does say it is dishwasher safe and also microwave safe.  It is BPA free and it did not affect my tea in any way- no strange taste at all.  I would have liked the information about the infuser to be included in the package itself, but at least it is on their website.

Now back to the tea!  The "Casablanca" tea was in a resealable bag.  The ingredients were darjeeling sungma summer tea and peppermint leaves.  There was a brief description of the tea and there was a clear panel in the back of the bag so that the leaves could be seen.  The leaves had the scent of mint and were browns and greens of all shapes and sizes.  I followed the brewing instructions pouring 8 ounces of water that had been boiled and cooled a bit over 1 teaspoon of leaves.  I let this brew for 2 minutes. The yellow liquid had a minty scent.  The taste was cool, smooth, and refreshing.  This was one of the best peppermint tea blends I've ever had!

The Trader Joe's Lemon Black Chocolate Tea bar,  contained dark chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla extract), black tea, and lemon oil.  It was delicious!  I love almost any chocolate, especially dark chocolate.  It was only slightly sweet and was basically a dark chocolate bar with a lemon tea background taste.  A wonderful treat!

I spent the next couple of days sampling the vials of tea.  The Tuck Me In tea stated it was intended to help get quality sleep.  The ingredients were valerian root, honeybush tea, chamomile, spearmint, passion flowers, lemon balm, lavender, dried cherries, and cornflower.  It was a potpourri of flower parts of all different colors, shapes, and sizes and had the scent of mint and chamomile.  It was caffeine free.  After brewing, the yellowish liquid had the scent of mint, lemon, and something peppery.   It was a tasty, smooth, herbal blend.  I could taste chamomile, lemon, and mint if I really tried, but it was just blended so well that nothing really stood out.  It was a relaxing and calming tea, and I did get a good night's sleep.

The Irish Breakfast tea contained ceylon sonata tea and assam melody tea.  The long, thin, dark black leaves had a sweet, earthy scent.  The result from steeping was an orange brown liquid with a sweet, earthy scent.  The taste was not as bold as some English Breakfast teas, but I could definitely feel the caffeine pick me up.  This was a fantastic wake up tea and what I liked most about it was that sometimes when I want a pick me up I am not looking for extremely bold and robust.  I did not feel like I needed to add milk to tame this one down.  It was delicious with nothing added.

Finally, the Sweet Nothings tea contained white tea, marigold flowers, lavender flowers, peach flavor, and apricots.  It was caffeine free and high in antioxidants.  It was a very pretty tea consisting of green and brown leaves with yellow flower petals mixed in.  The leaves had a peach scent.  The liquid was a light yellow with a peach scent.  The taste was of sweet peaches, but not overpowering.  It was a light, refreshing tea that I though of as an enjoyable treat.

I loved this subscription box!  Everything in it was good quality, and I thought, a great value .  The teas were all organic.  Everything was packaged well.  I really liked the variety of tea and that the teas were geared toward different things- sleeping, a pick-me up, a treat high in anti-oxidants, and a refreshing, relaxing brew.  The only thing that surprised me was that there wasn't more detailed information about the health benefits of each tea since the company's mission statement is to educate people about this.  The brief mentions did make me happy I was drinking something good for me, though, and I guess if you got information over and over each month it would get monotonous.  I will be letting my husband know what a wonderful gift these subscription boxes would make for my next birthday.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella

Title: Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella (book 1 in the Harper series)

Author: Cerrie Burnell

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2017

Pages: 122

Genre: children's fantasy (ages 7-9)

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: All of the cats in Cloud City are missing, including Harper's beloved pet, Midnight.  Can Harper and her friends find the missing cats?

Thoughts:  This series is one that really needs to be read in order.  My son and I read the third book first, and we kept looking back to see if we missed something.  Well, we did- in the first two books!  The first book flowed much better and we didn't have to look back once.

The author has created a magical, musical world with whimsical characters, and the illustrator has added to it with her black and white artwork.  Pets are an important part of this world, along with friendship and family. 

The print in this story is large and most chapters are 6 to 8 pages long with pictures mixed in.  The recommended age group for this book is 7 to 9, but I think children 5 to 10 years old would enjoy it.  It is probably a second to third grade reading level if a child is reading it themselves.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Gratitude Blend

Obtained: from company in exchange for an honest review

Today I tried the Gratitude Blend from Plum Deluxe.  The tea came in a see through, resealable plastic bag that can be seen in the picture above.  The tea ingredients and steeping instructions were right on the bag, which just seems to make life easier.  This tea contains black tea, orange peels, blue cornflowers, strawberries, raspberry leaves, bergamot oil, and strawberry essence.  All ingredients are organic.

The tea leaves were thin and black and had purple and yellow flower petals mixed in.  The leaves had a strong strawberry scent.  I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves in my tea maker and poured sixteen ounces of boiling water over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a dark reddish brown with a scent of strawberries.  The taste was a blend of black tea, bergamot, and strawberries with an aftertaste of vanilla combined with a slight bitterness.  The vanilla taste does the perfect job of balancing out the bitterness.  Even though I am not a big vanilla fan, this really works here.  This tasted like an earl grey made for springtime.  It is a wonderful variation to the classic earl grey.  I found it uplifting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Woman in the Window

Title: The Woman in the Window

Author: A. J. Finn

Narrator: Ann Marie Lee

Publisher: Harper Audio, 2018

Format: 12 compact discs, 13.75 hours

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Anna Fox has agoraphobia and has been in her house for over a year.  To amuse herself, she watches her neighbors out her windows.  One day she hears a scream and sees one of her neighbors get stabbed, or does she?

Thoughts: I love books with atmosphere and this one has it.  I could feel fear, panic, a claustrophobic sensation, the safety of home, sadness, relief- all sorts of feelings throughout the novel.  This is what made the book.  The story was a good one.  It was complex with lots going on.  It was easy to follow and I would say slow moving for a thriller, yet engaging.  It was suspenseful, but not in an intense way.  I felt like I knew the main character, Anna Fox.  The other characters were developed as much as they could be to keep the mystery aspect to the book.  All the characters had layers and were complicated.  The only thing I didn't like about it was that the parts that were supposed to be surprises were predictable to me.  Clues could have been hidden better.

The narrator was wonderful.  She read at the perfect pace and really brought the characters to life- all of them.  She read with emotion and had a distinct voice for each character.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it was predictable at times.  The writing style, story itself, and characters were all fantastic.  This was a debut novel by the author and there is supposed to be a movie in the works, which I would really like to see.  I can't wait for this author's next book!


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Self Care Blend

Obtained: from the company in exchange for an honest review

Plum Deluxe is a tea company located in Portland, Oregon.  They use organic ingredients and believe in fair trade.  Thery sell all types of teas and have a wide variety of blends.  The company is all about self-care, being in the moment, and enjoying each day.  These are the reasons I started my blog, to slow down and enjoy.  So, I was very happy to discover this website.  They even have a fantastic blog with lots of recipes, and tea and book articles!

I asked the company if they would provide me with some tea leaves in exchange for an honest review, and they agreed.  Today I tried their Self Care Blend.  The ingredients are honey bush tea, elderberries, apricots, apple pieces, marigold, and apricot essence.  Since this is an herbal tea, it is caffeine free.

The leaves came in a resealable see-through plastic bag.  The ingredients and brewing instructions were listed on the bag.  The leaves were small and were medium and dark shades of brown.  They almost looked like squares or rectangles.  Mixed in were yellowish flower petals and chunks of fruit.  The leaves had a fruity scent. I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves into my tea maker and poured sixteen ounces of boiling water over the leaves.  I let this sit for three minutes.  The liquid was a dark orange brown and had a peppery scent with fruit in the background.  The fruity taste was slightly sweet and slightly tart, which blended marvelously. This was a soothing tea, the perfect accompaniment to a good book.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Gods of Guilt

Title: The Gods of Guilt (Mickey Haller, Book 5)

Author: Michael Connelly

Narrator: Peter Giles

Publisher: Hachette Audio, 2013

Format: 10 compact discs, 11 hours and 49 minutes

Genre: crime, mystery

Obtained: gift

Summary: Andre LaCosse is accused of the murder of Gloria Dayton.  He hires Mickey Haller to defend him in court.  Can Mickey find out who really killed Gloria and set his client free?

Thoughts: The best part about this book was that it had an elaborate, in-depth plot.  I have been reading many books lately where the plot is just too simple.  The main character was complex, flawed, and somewhat sleazy, yet I enjoyed reading this story from his point of view.  The other characters were interesting, but the reader did not get to know them as much as Mickey Haller.  The book not only involved the investigation of the crime and the courtroom trial, but had personal problems and relationships mixed in, making for a multifarious read.

I believe this is the first book I've read that was written by Michael Connelly.  This was actually the 5th book in one of his series, but was fine as a stand-alone.  I liked his writing style- intricate, yet clear.  The story was fast- paced for the most part, but did get a little bogged down in the courtroom scenes.  Also, at times it was a bit repetitive.  The story was movie-like, believable for a story, but definitely not realistic.     

The narrator was clear and precise.  He read at a good pace.  He had a different voice for each character, which assisted in making the story easy to follow.

If you like books about courtroom trials with even more to the story, you might like this one.  If you like it more simple, this is not for you.


Company: The Whistling Kettle

Tea: Irish Breakfast

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the Breakfast Tea Sampler from the Whistling Kettle.  Each tea in the sampler was an excellent quality, bold, full-bodied tea, but with different flavor notes.  The six samples came in eye-pleasing, resealable bags.  Directions for brewing were on the back of each bag.  The samples came in a nice gift box and had a card describing each tea in the box.  According to the website, the sample brews 18- 36 cups of tea.  I found that it was closer to the 36 cups.  At $16.99 + shipping, this would make a wonderful gift!

I have done reviews on the English Breakfast, East Frisian Blend, Scottish Breakfast, Ancient Forest, and Molkarbari East Assam.  Today I tried the Irish Breakfast, which is a blend of Kenyan and Assam teas.  The leaves were curled up so that they looked like tiny black balls.  They had the scent of fresh hay.  I put two teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured twelve ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this brew for four minutes.  The liquid was a dark, reddish-brown and had a nutty scent.  The taste was strong, bold, full-bodied and nutty.  It was malty and had an astringency to it.  On the website it states this tea has a medium caffeine content, but I felt the caffeine right away, maybe because I drank it on an empty stomach, but I would have guessed it to have a high caffeine content.  This was a delicious wake-me-up tea!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Title: POTUS: Transformed (Volume 3)

Authors: Suzanne Falter & Jack Harvey

Publisher: New Heights Publishing, 2017

Pages: 280

Genre: fiction, humor

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: The President of the United States loses the "biscuit" of nuclear codes. Charley, a spy from the CIA, who was supposed to be making sure this did not happen, needs to find out who has the codes.

Thoughts:  This was a silly quirky novel.  There were many unconventional characters that made the book.  The writer wrote from different perspectives, which can sometimes be confusing, but it was not at all confusing here.  The writing was organized, clear, and easy to follow.  The pace was good.

This was the third book in this series and could definitely be read as a stand alone book, but I kept wondering if the plot was better in the first two books.  I just felt like the plot was weak in this one.  I am not a romance fan and before reading this book, thought the romance would turn me off, but it did not at all.  It is there, but it does not weigh the story nor the characters down.  There is a balance.

All in all, if you like quirky, funny characters, this is an entertaining book.  If you are all about the plot, skip it.


Company: Adagio Teas   

Tea: Green Rooibos Bonita

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the Green Rooibos Tea Sampler from Adagio Teas.   Green rooibos tea comes from the same plant as the better known red rooibos or African bush tea, but the leaves are treated to prevent the oxidation process from happening so that the leaves are more in their natural state.  I find it extremely different from red rooibos.  Today I tried the Green Rooibos Bonita tea.  The tea sample came in a resealable bag which kept the tea fresh.  When I opened the bag there was a very strong peach scent.  The long, thin tea leaves were brown and there were off-white flower petals and orange peel mixed in with the leaves.  I put two teaspoons of leaves into my tea maker and poured sixteen ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this brew for five minutes.  The yellowish liquid had a faint fruity scent.  The taste was a blend of fruit and floral with peach flavor standing out.  It was a light-bodied, refreshing tea with no bitterness at all.  It was sweet and reminded me of summer.  It is caffeine free.  If you like fruit tea, especially peach, try this one.