Monday, September 12, 2016

Tea Review: Harriet's Tea Room, Bury St. Edmunds

My friend, a fellow military spouse, was leaving England and moving to a new duty station. Thinking of something to do for her going-away party, I asked her if she liked an afternoon tea thrown in her honor. Turns out, she has never been to a proper English afternoon tea even though she lived here for three years. Well, that settled the matter and I made plans for a group of us to go to the local Harriet's Tea Room, which for us was in Bury St. Edmunds (there are two other locations, Norwich and Cambridge).

First, the building itself is from the 1900s, so the fa├žade is gorgeous. Inside, high vaulted ceilings and marble tables and floors give the tea room such an upscale and elegant feeling. The wait staff were warm and professional. Taking a look at the menu, you can see a variety of price points to fit individual budgets - this is a plus for any group getting together. The afternoon tea menu is no exception - they take their tea serious at Harriet's! I choose the Special Tea, priced at 19.95 GBP, which include tea of choice, tea sandwiches, scones, and sweet treats. I picked the house blend called Harriet's Special Blend. My friend chose the same tea, but asked for the decaffeinated version.

A lot of food - all delicious.
The food was delicious, but a special mentioned should be made about the macaroons. I ended up taking a box of them with me to bring home as treats for my family and so did a few of my friends. I was very happy with my choice of tea; it was rich and full-bodied, especially as I like to add milk and sugar to my black teas. I only ate one scone, as I was saving some more for dessert.

It was a successful going away and I do want to go to Harriet's more often so I can sample the other teas they offer. If you find yourself in Bury St Edmunds, give Harriet's a try - a beautiful tea room with good food and service.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tea Review: Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland by Celestial Seasonings

This was another new holiday tea I bought from the commissary on base. Once again, Celestial Seasonings re-designed the box covers, so the cover on the website is different than the holiday one shown on my box. I have to admit, this is one beautiful tea box cover - it definitely gives off the winter wonderland vibe and I love the woodland scene. Maybe in the future, CS can sell prints of their holiday covers to the public.

This is a herbal tea and caffeine free, so it is suitable for everyone; as always, it is a good idea to check the ingredient list just to ensure you are not consuming anything that could be harmful to you.

First Impressions: The color of the tea is a nice red, although I had hopes it would go darker (this picture was taken about 10 minutes into steeping). The scent is barely noticeable when using a cup with a lid, but noticeable and pleasant coming from a mug.

First Sip Reaction: This is a good tasting cup of tea. A little bland, but a nice vanilla finish.
Bottom of the Cup Reaction: Reminds me a great deal of cinnamon-apple tea, which I do enjoy, but where was the cranberry? I wanted some tartness or kick to complement the vanilla. The vanilla was in perfect portion and didn't make the tea overly sweet despite the absence of the cranberry. It still was a bit bland tasting.
Final Verdict: I continued to drink the tea until the box was empty because it was a nice, comforting tea but it is not something I would purposely pick up again. This tea is designed for those drinkers looking for something close to the cinnamon-apple teas without the heavy cinnamon taste or smell. I would recommend drinking this tea warm; it didn't hold up to drinking it cold taste-wise or color-wise.
If you want to try Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland for yourself, you don't have to wait until December! You can order online at Celestial Seasonings; however, please note that the US site does not recognize APO zip codes, so if you are military living overseas, try using Amazon.
Until next time, happy sipping!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Autumn Reading Preview

I'm so ready for autumn - cozy blankets, crisp apples, and spooky reads. Two online friends put together a Halloween Bingo that started September 1st and ends October 31st. I have already planned out my reading for the two months based on what books I have or can borrow from the library that would fill in the squares for a black out card once again.


 I have two classic books on my reading list: Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. This will also help me complete my reading goal of 4-6 classic books read in a year.
I am not much for horror or gore, so most of my picks for bingo are from paranormal romance (PNR)genre and cozy mysteries. Some PNR choices include books #2-4 of Tiffany Allee's Files from the Otheworlder Enforcement Agency series (I read book #1 back in January and loved it enough to pick up the entire series)

and  the ...In Death novellas from J.D. Robb (these novellas can also be found in anthologies with various other authors, but I am not interested in those other stories - just want my Eve and Roarke) - so far I have read these two, with another four to go.
Vampire vs. Lt Eve Dallas

A Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story done with NYC 2060 spin

I also have some YA in the mix:
And there are a couple of comics/graphic novels:

Overall, I'm enjoying a break from historical romance and non-fiction books. In addition to the bingo, the autumn edition of Dewey's 24 Read-a-thon is scheduled for Saturday, October 22nd.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Summer Reading Wrap Up

Happy Labor Day to all my US readers.

It was a pretty busy summer due to my participation in a number of challenges. I do credit those challenges for helping me power through my TBR pile and keep me on track for completing some personal reading goals I made back in January.

First challenge - the DoD/MWR Summer Reading Program. The kids and I did really well. I ended up winning the adult division in two categories: most minutes read and most reviews written. I won a Kindle Fire (5th generation) for the first category and a block of post-it notes for the second. So far I have been using the Kindle to read books I borrowed from OverDrive. I'm pretty happy with my success and hope to beat my record next year. The kids had fun participating in weekly activities, all centered around the theme of "Read For the Win!" - a nod to the Summer Olympics.

Second challenge - COYER (Clean Out Your E-Reader) Summer Vacation. I was a social media participant of the week during the second week. I was picked to win a prize during the last Twitter chat party. I had a lot of fun talking about books with other readers/bloggers and I got a lot of books read and off my NOOK. I am looking forward to the winter edition (starts sometime in December, with sign ups starting in November).

Third challenge - Read-a-thons. I participated in two read-a-thons (one I already covered in my mid-summer reading update called 24in48). Bout of Books happened August 22nd - 28th. I didn't really participate in the social aspects of this read-a-thon as much as I did in the spring edition. I basically focused on reading; in particular, reading the last three novels in a Regency box set (9 novels) I have been working on since January and wanted done by Labor Day weekend. I also finished a book that has been sitting on my TBR pile since what feels like forever. Four books in a week is pretty good reading; the quality of the books wasn't as pretty or good. But the box set is done and off my NOOK, so I now have more room in my NOOK's memory. Upcoming read-a-thons include the fall edition of Dewey and the winter edition of 24in48.

Fourth challenge - Summer Bingo. An online friend created a summer reading bingo and a bunch of us on BookLikes played along. It took forever for me to get that first bingo, but I ended up blacking out the entire card by September 1st. I read more YA and MG books this summer than I have since my middle school days to help fill in some squares.

Stats (June 1st to August 31st):
Non-Fiction: 20 - some major topics include: extreme weather, modern food industry, finance, celebrity memoirs, and current societal issues.

Fiction: 31 (broken down by genre classification)
     MG/YA - 6
     Romance - 15 (to be honest, I thought this number was a little low)
     Mystery - 8
    Comics/Graphic Novels - 1
    Classic literature - 1

DNF - 6

Best Books
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
Missoula by Jon Krakaur
Troublemaker by Leah Remini
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Mercy of the Sky by Holly Bailey
Sugar, Salt, Fat by Michael Moss
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister #2) and The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister #4) by Courtney Milan
Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss
Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole
Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple by Tony Daniel and Charles Soule
The Tourist Trap Mystery series by Lynn Cahoon

And that is a wrap on my summer reading experience.