Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - Pig Out

I had seen Teapigs when traveling at coffeeshops near the register (The Broadmore in Colorado Springs and Hudson's Coffee in Sydney), but never tried them.  The name/brand popped up recently on Facebook and Instagram feeds and I decided to check it out.   They have a cute website and a fast response when I asked where in Houston I could find them - Central Market!
And Central Market carries the tea "temples" in about six different flavors - I controlled myself and only bought two.  And they were on sale $6.79 (regular price $7.99).  I got the Mao Feng Green Tea (North American Tea Champion - First Place 2013 and Great Taste 2015 -- awards for green tea?  So buying!) and how could I resist Chocolate Flake Tea?!

You get 15 tea temples per resealable (so keeping!) box inside a plastic wrap.

The Mao Feng (click on the link for a cute story) tasted good plain and hot -- sweet grassy...but even better when I added just a little bit of creamer, which really brought out the fruity peach/apricot flavor.

Chocolate Flake has to be hands down the best chocolate tea I've tried.  No cloying, artificial flavor or a "let's mix tea and hot cocoa together!" (busted) -- just a hint of real chocolate.  And it was successfully able to kill the afternoon carb crazy hour - whomp.  And look, over 110 reviews on their site with 5 stars.  I also saw they have a Chocolate Mint - may have to order that one online.  (Seriously, who ever writes their advertising copy should also win an award.)  This also tasted better to me with a little bit of half and half to let the chocolate out.

I will give both of these 5 stars and am running back to Central Market to get/try more.  You should, too!  Maybe then they will carry more flavors.  That's how I think and drink.

Photo Gallery:

Looks nice!
Mao Feng after brewing!  Poof!

Mao Feng - pretty color!
 Chocolate Flake - oh yes, you can tell that's chocolate!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Color me Magnolia

Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines has her own line of paint colors -- aren't these gorgeous?  Hopefully you can zoom in and see the names and descriptions!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Go West

West, Texas
Highway art
Exit 353 - I-35
Before you get to Waco from Dallas, you pass through West, Texas - which should be named Kolache, Texas.  We stopped at the Czech Stop and of course, had to get some kolaches.  Pumpkin, pineapple and coconut cream.  

Pineapple and Coconut Cream!
And a loaf of jalapeƱo cheese bread.  And a maple walnut twist.   

Zoom in to the above right sign handing from the ceiling and see
all what they go through each week!
And a cookbook, as I am an avid collector of these self-published community cookbooks.  It was filled with recipes and artwork.  A wonderful and potentially tasty addition to my collection!

Texas Sesquicentennial Edition

And there are sketches throughout

Plus there are five recipes for Apple Strudel!  Hubby loves apple strudel and I'm always looking for new recipes.

It seems there's hope for them reconciling when Peggy looks at Charlie with new eyes and (citing a reference from her grandfather who claimed that her grandmother's strudel kept the family together)...

[present-day Charlie has just begged for another chance with Peggy]
Peggy Sue: Charlie, I'd like to invite you over to your house this Sunday for dinner... with your kids.
[Charlie hesitates, unbelieving]
Peggy Sue: I'll make a strudel.

One of my all-time favorite movies!  Who doesn't like time travel?

And visiting small Texas towns, driving and eating your way across Texas!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Free

I thought the Naples and the Charcoal made an interesting combination.

The other day I received in the mail three (free) tubes of Grumbacher watercolors - Charcoal Gray A042, Naples Yellow Hue A146 and Vermilion Hue A224 in the 7.5 ml size.  They retail for $4.95 each.

Charcoal Grey - Charcoal Grey is a dark neutral gray made, from carbon. This color has excellent tinting strength and is perfect for the grisaille technique.
Pigment Info   PBk6
Lightfastness Excellent
Temperature Cool

Naples Yellow Hue - Naples Yellow Hue is a lightfast Light Yellow with a Red undertone. It is similar to a Cadmium Yellow Light, but with a muted chroma. Originally made with a toxic lead pigment that is no longer available, Grumbacher's safe version duplicates the masstone, undertones and mixing qualities of the original in every way. Traditionally used in landscape where a receding yellow is required. Also incorporated in flesh tones.
Segment Info  PY3/PBr7/PR178/PW6
Lightfastness Very Good
Temperature Warm

Vermillion Hue - Vermillion Hue is a bright mid-range red that has a masstone and undertones identical to the obsolete and toxic mercury based Vermillion of the past. This red has infinite uses in painting.
Pigment Info   PY65/PR188
Lightfastness Very Good
Temperature Warm

While technically these are student artist grade watercolors, Grumbacher has a reputation for excellent quality and I had fun playing with them.  It's an affordable way to try and add different hues. They will make a great addition to my multi-media and journaling/sketchbook palette.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Meet me for coffee - HEB Cafe Ole' Houston Blend

This is one of HEB's Cafe Ole' Taste of Texas series of K-Cups - How could I resist trying the Houston Blend?!

Love the logo design for the flavor, which is described as "This rich coffee is marvelously blended with a combination of praline, pecan and coconut flavors for a finish that is smooth and delightfully sweet"  Medium roast, 100% Arabica coffee.  I have no idea what that means, as you all know I am first and foremost a tea drinker.  But I'm trying to hang with the cool kids and they all drink coffee, too.

For $6.99 you get a box of 12, which are now Keurig 2.0 compatible.    Good news if you don't live near an HEB, you can order online, unless oddly you live in California.
Cute stereotyping
This flavor is also available in whole beans, which you can grind in the store.  Which I tried to do in order to try a little bit in the my K-cup at home first before buying the box.  At least I could smell the beans first before I tried to ground them with whatever the heck was left over in the grinder...and it did not smell the same at all.  Some stores have dedicated grinders for flavored coffees, perhaps HEB should consider that, just saying.  I dumped that bag in the trash and took a chance going back for the K-cups instead.  If you have a grinder at home, you can also buy the bags with whole beans or already grounded.  Don't mess with the grinder at the store, seriously.  Drop a few beans in your hands and see if you like the fragrance and take alternative routes.

The flavor and scent - definitely coconut, but not overbearing.  The praline and pecans add a nutty sweetness.  You may want to rethink your creamer if you use it.  The Italian cream made it really sweet.  I think I would cut it with some fat free half & half.  You definitely don't need sweetener.

I also thought it tasted similar to Starbucks new Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato, so if you are looking to save calories and carbs, give it a try.  And also the Starbucks drink if you get that in a Tall size.  Seriously, that is a yummy drink and a smaller size will still keep you within and under range of your added sugar gram limit and you behave yourself for the rest of the day.

But I digress...this Houston girl would give and show hometown loyalty to the Houston Blend with five stars.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Meet me for coffee - Houndstooth

While traveling through Dallas, we found this neat coffeeshop, Houndstooth (1900 N. Henderson Avenue)

and tried Japanese Iced Coffee.  It was really good, very light.  It was a pour-over coffee and gave a nice little energy buzz.
While I was there, I spied their unique coffee cups and saucers.  My daughter saw me looking at them and when I turned around, she had bought a set of two for me.

My other cups and mugs fit on this, too!
Aren't they neat?  I also think the saucers are a unique shape.  The cup holds 6 ounces, perfect for tea.

We had no idea they were founded in Austin, never seen nor heard of until we found them on Yelp while we were in Dallas.

It's a nice atmosphere inside and out.  Low key, chill-able music playing in the background, fast wifi.  A very pleasant experience for road-weary travelers.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - There's so much of the world to see...

My Huckleberry friend. . .

In Seattle last year we found Huckleberry Tea at Pike Place Market, along with the original Starbucks.  
Starbucks - Pike Place Market
A bit cheaper and more fun to buy in person at the MarketSpice Store (In the Pike Place Market next to Pike Place Fish - 85 A Pike Place) at $6.99 a box for 24 teabags.

Interesting-looking tea bags - they were slightly moist from the berries.
No string and sealed in a foil bag.

Berry good!
This fruity black tea blend smells and tastes delicious!  And brews so prettily. You need to definitely put this on your souvenir list when in Seattle.   I almost feel this is more of a dessert tea, rather than a morning tea.  Especially if you add a little bit of creamer - it reminded me of the huckleberry ice cream I had at Wapiti Woolies after our Mt. Rainier climb.

Where, yes, they do play "Moon River". . .

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Take it with a grain of salt

or a handful. . .

In Open Studios, we were watching Judy Morris' DVD, "Tuscan Textures," and playing with her techniques using salt in our watercolors.   She had some good tips -- hold the salt 10" above the painting and only work with an area of wet watercolor the size of your palm.  Timing is also important, and paper for a variety of effects.  Once it is completely dry, use a credit card or palette knife to scrape off the salt.  I had always used my will get more texture and better results scraping rather than brushing/rubbing.

You definitely need to play around with your paints beforehand - the pigments will interact differently depending upon transparency.  I will post a picture of my India Ink stripe to demonstrate opaqueness later.  Even if it is the same color, some brands will have varying results.

The types of salt will give different results.  Table salt (she prefers non-iodized), Kosher salt, pretzel salt...I was playing with Pink Himalayan salt from the 99 Cent Store

and I really liked what it did here --

Before I removed the Himalayan pink salt - it has to be completely dry
I carried it home on a rimmed aluminum cookie sheet - Also found at the 99 cent store!

Is that not cool or what?!

This was French Ultramarine dropped into Winsor Green and Winsor Red
Look how the salt pulled and mixed the colors
It was almost black before adding the French Ultramarine and salt

"After" photo of Cerulean and Indian Red dropped into each other
Interesting color combination and reaction!
Table salt - I thought this was trickier to use
You have to time it just right with the dampness or else you will
get "stars"
And granted this was also watercolor sketchbook paper -
not the highest quality

The next time I was at the grocery store, I picked up Margarita salt.  I even saw Bacon Salt.

Isn't everything better with bacon, including watercoloring?  I bet those effects would be really cool on lighter colored washes!

This is definitely an exercise and reminder to experiment and have fun.  Different colors/pigments will react differently to different salts and at different times and different amounts of water on the paper.  The fun and unexpectedness of watercolor!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - Go Green--Dilmah Moroccan Mint Green Tea

This had all the makings of a winner - Dilmah, check.  Green tea, check.  Moroccan Mint, check.  So much so I bought two boxes.  I loved the Numi Moroccan Mint Tea and thought this would be a nice Aussie substitute.

The box had 20 tea bags, nicely lined up in foil.  It smelled minty good.  I was even hepped up about the addition of green tea.

Alas, it didn't get out of the starting blocks.  I even used two tea bags as I was going to put some in my Hydroflask for class.  It was pretty wussy.

At first I thought it was because I followed the recommended brewing time of 2 minutes.  So I threw the tea bags back in for another minute and half.  No difference.  I set some aside to add a little creamer to see if it would help, it made it worse.  The taste plain was OK, but not exciting.  It had a mint finish, but nothing that compelled you to keep drinking it.  Even in class, I was like, "I probably still have some tea left to drink" and didn't finish it.  In fact, when I got home I poured it on an outside plant.

I'd have to give this a 2...for a second attempt if you pile on more teabags, and try it iced it may be better that way instead of hot...And giving away the second box.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Sepia! Just say the word

Whenever I see or type the word Sepia, I think of Phil Collins' "Sussudio"  (Sep, Sep, Sepia)

Anyways, during the reorg of the studio I found four different brands and tubes of Sepia.   I am in the process of creating a painting project with old photographs and I must have been grabbing Sepias whenever I would see them.

Which was a good thing, as compared side by side, you can really see the difference.

I remember buying the Cotman when I first started watercolor.  Not knowing anything about brands and pigments.  It's a pretty shade, but pretty wimpy.  And the cap broke into pieces when I tried to open it for the paint off.  No harm, no foul.  I tossed it into the trash.

I was surprised to see how "cool" the Winsor & Newton was compared to the others.  It was definitely an ashy-gray.   For some effects, this would be good.

I learned from Hilary Page that names don't always mean the same color across the brands, and to go by the pigment numbers.

The label on Winsor & Newton - "synthetic iron oxide, carbon black, PBK 6, PR 101

Daniel Smith, second from the left - "burnt umber PBR 7, ivory black PBK9

Holbein - "PBR 7, PBK 6"

So you can see some of the numbers are shared, but not in the same combination.

Holbein is nice, I had splashed water accidentally - it is/was a stronger shade than photographed.  Warmer than WN.  However, not a good lifter once it dried.

But it was the Daniel Smith which appealed to me.  The granulation and the warmth and intensity. I will be using that.

I think it depends upon what YOU like, what your eye sees, which resonates with your creativity.   As they say, your mileage may vary.  And it is fun to experiment and play in the studio...and blog!

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Download

I love to see other people's phones and apps.  The Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition has a regular feature of celebrities' phones, I can discover and learn new tricks and apps.  So here is mine as of last night. 
Number of contacts in phone:  201

Number of unread emails: 55, 186 (!) -- and 46 voice mail messages, more like missed calls as I'm trying to find my phone

First app checked in the morning:  Instagram and Facebook

Last app checked before bedtime:  Pinterest

Site that sucks me in:  YouTube and Pinterest 

Most-used app:  My Fitness Pal and Facebook

Favorite Instagram feed:  My daughter's and gerald_bulldog and yogainspiration

Most listened-to music:  My iTunes playlists

Favorite podcast/s:  Happier with Gretchen Rubin, The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe,  Smithsonian Channel Pick of the Week, The New York Public Library

Cities listed in weather app:  Houston, Austin, Rochester, Sydney

App most likely to be viewed while in a checkout line:  Facebook

Game you really wish you could delete (or the people next to me):  Boggle (it's noisy)

Funniest text message of the week:   GIFs my daughter and I exchange

Most surprising app I depend on:  Waze (I just earned my crown!)

Favorite fitness/workout app:  Map My Walk and YogaGlo

Favorite shopping app:  Amazon

Most-watched entertainment app:  Hulu and Netflix

Most-liked photo in my Instagram feed:  A video of my front garden sprinkler spinning

Favorite Instagram photo filter/s:  Clarendon I'm using more, Juno has always been my go-to from the get-go

Favorite food related app:  Yelp

Favorite ringtone:  Between the raindrops

Craziest place I've lost my phone:  On top of the refrigerator, That's why I still keep my landline phone.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - Grocery shopping fun!

We all know by now I love to visit grocery stores when visiting other cities (and countries!  Hello Coles and Woolworths in Australia!) - particularly the baking and tea aisles.  That's where I found this tea for review at Kaune's Neighborhood Market, an upscale grocery store in Santa Fe, New Mexico

I had never seen this brand - Silk Road Teas - and thought it would make a nice souvenir!  I chose
Yunnan Black, organic Black Tea - 15 tea bags for $7.99.
Its description reads, "leaf and bud, spicy aroma, malty taste...the "mocha of tea" with a slightly peppery taste and mouth-filling sweet finish.  Good for breakfast tea and excellent with desserts..."

The silky triangular tea sachets have long leaves, which almost triple in size after brewing and still retaining their shape.  No "dust" or broken bits here.

I brewed for three minutes, the mug turning a beautiful golden color.  Unusual that it tasted lovely plain but the flavor jumped up even more after adding creamer.  It does have the robustness of a breakfast tea, but also suited for any time of the day you need a tea hit.

Additionally, I was in Santa Fe over three years ago. . .The Enjoy By date stamp on the box was November 2014.  However, it was sealed in a foil wrapper and I gave it chance.  I'm glad I did, imagine if you order/find a more recent box?  I did have difficulties with their website earlier, I could not click through.  But I was able to sign up for an email discount on a future order.

I would definitely look for this locally - at Whole Foods or Central Market first, since it is organic or coffee/tea shops in the California, San Rafael area.

Rating:  4

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Impressed by Wal-Mart?!

Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you were reading that title.

Remember when I was in Miami and found the Puroast coffee shop and brought back a box of their Vanilla Nut K-Cups?  After carefully rationing, I finally ran out last week.  I looked all around here locally and on their website since I returned without any luck.  Until I Googled last week and saw that Wal-Mart had!  And for a few dollars less.  I could select free pick up in the store (hell no) or for a few dollars extra ($4.97 but when I got the receipt, I was only charged $2.48)  have it delivered.  The only drawback was the estimated delivery date of August 9.  August 9th?!   Okay.  Just as with Dutch Bros., I could order two boxes for the same postage cost as one box.  So I put in my order with Dutch Bros. and Wal-Mart the evening of July 28.  Dutch Bros arrived August 1, and Wal-Mart today, August 2, by Fed Ex yet!

...Along with shampoo/conditioner samples and coupons.

Not to be outdone, Dutch Bros. did send me a new sticker, which I promptly put on my sketchbooks.


In class yesterday we made a soft cover long stitch bound book.  Mine had two "signatures" - sections of dyed and folded pages.  I liked how it turned out!  The pink-purple cover is cochineal, the blue is indigo.  We remarked in class how nice it felt to hold them, the weight and the softness/organic feel.

Side view with the Japanese Stab Binding

Here's the inside --

Today I dyed extra fabric with Madder root and hibiscus.  Not as vibrant but still a subtle visual effect.  The paper pages were also more diffused and more suitable for showcasing writing or ink sketching.   (I will post those photos later)
Madder gave it the reddish brown color -
and grabbed on to the raw edges
This hibiscus dye bath stayed more purple-blue-pink