Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Revolution Tea. I love all of their three variety boxes, about $12.75 each. The assortments are wonderful (caffeine and caffeine free) and contain 30 (5 flavors, 6 servings of each) of the most adorable individually wrapped boxes. They claim the individual wrapping bit is for freshness, but I like the thrill it gives my guest when they see the tiny boxes, ponder which flavor, and open the gift-like package. Oh yes, and the great experience continues. The teabag is silk-like to the touch and transparent, revealing the beautiful whole-leaf tea inside. People are starting to catch on as I have recently spotted this tasty tea in new places. Otherwise you can buy direct or from B&G Gourmet, where I buy mine. Holiday hint: the individual boxes make excellent stocking stuffers!
Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Man could live happily on bread alone as long as it was served with Spanish extra virgin olive oil. Its intense fruity aroma and flavor set it apart from its olive oil cousins. My favorite brand available in the USA is Columela, partially because their EVOOs are unfiltered. Even my favorite Italian gourmet shop in Boston's famed North End carries this Spanish olive oil.
If you are not already, ride the Malbec wine wave. Malbec (or Malbeck) is one of the traditional Bordeaux varietals and said to have characteristics that fall between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. My favorites are from Mendoza, a wine region in northwest Argentina close to the Chilean border. These yummy fruit-forward bold red wines are typically also smooth to the palate so you can drink them young. And, priced at $12 - $15 they are too good to pass up. I am normally vintage year sensitive but since I have yet to experience a bad one here, I will not bore you with the numbers. These wines are now everywhere for the asking. Two of my consistent favs are Altos Las Hormigas and Norton Reserve. I am partial to B&GWines extensive selection and recommendations because they have already tasted them all.
Christmas always makes me think of cookies. If you can not bake your own cookies, then let Dancing Deer help. Not only do they make delicious baked goods, but they are also a company with a big heart. I am partial to their home-style cookies, and this year they offer a nice chewy assortment (2.6 pounds of goodness for $29.95) so you can avoid the dilemma of choosing between flavors. Holiday Warning: you may not be able to resist eating these yourself.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I want to thank my kind friends who encouraged me to start this blog. To their credit, it is a fun and convenient way to keep people appraised of my world. Thanks for caring. Many of you are convinced that I can provide a healthy distraction during the long cold months of a New England winter by way of writing about my sunshine warmth filled days, swaying palm trees, pink sand beaches, the art of applying sunscreen and the hazards associated with Bermudas tasty rum drinks. If I am going to do this, I will need to practice writing fiction. But for today, I will speak the truth. Island life (at least for me so far as I live afloat, alone) is not what I expected or wished for. Yes, more often than not the sun does shine, daytime temperatures are in the very comfortable 70s, the water will remain around its current 71 degrees and the blue water makes me smile. So things are far from bad and I've no wish to pack it in, but I am beginning to understand why the locals thought us crazy for not sailing further south. (They have never spent a winter in New England we thought.) Instead of island living, my experience thus far is as though I am exiled off an island. Most days it has been so windy here that it has made living afloat very uncomfortable, even for me. I do not mind the motion, which I think helps me work muscles that normally do not get exercise. It is the howling wind and the inconsistent sloshing and banging of the water against the hull, which is amplified down below. I keep thinking I will get used to it, but my sleep deprivation seems to have put the kibosh on this theory. Today is day 4 of my boat confinement due to high winds 20-40 knots with frequent gusts. (My favorite website is now Weather Bermuda which allows me to easily monitor the marine forecast. I have been impressed with their preciseness.) The winds create choppy waters in the bay that make a wet half-mile dinghy ride into town seem like a pilgrimage. And I lack the faith. On the bright side, I have already read numerous books (none yet worth recommending) and started a blog. So despite my lack of sleep, confinement can be very productive. So when are you coming to visit???
Time for me to go look at the reassuring pretty blue water, again.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Throughout the past 2 years I have conducted a thorough search for and test of assorted reusable kitchen and galley storage containers in preparation for my life afloat. I was determined to put an end to the surprises commonly found upon opening one of these self-declared best storage containers. I will not bore you with the long list of product brands I purchased (and then donated) but know that some were counter worthy while others were ugly but best sellers. All claimed to be air tight. But what I do want to share with you is how the products were tested (many did not make it past the second test) and that there was only one winner. Yes, only one winner. Back to the testing process.
- Container is filled with a measured amount of water. Securely closed and shaken. If it did not leak, it advanced to the next test. To be fair, I tested at least 2 containers of each brand throughout the testing process.
- Container is stored in a warm environment for one week, and then its contents measured for evaporation.
- Container is filled with spaghetti sauce and then frozen for one week. Afterwards the container is washed for stain resistance with the goal of being free from any stains.
- Container is filled with chopped onions for one week. Afterwards the container is washed and then smelled with the goal of being free from any odor.
- Container is again filled with water and placed inside a storage area along our boat hull on its side (which typically works wonders at opening anything). The container must endure at least one day of hard sailing without seepage.
- Container is filled with flour (without bay leaves) and stored in the trunk of my 15 year-old very leaky car for one year.
- Lastly, after one year the flour is tested for creatures (dead or alive) and then the flour is used for multiple favorite recipe baking projects to ensure its preserved quality.
And the winner is (drum roll please) Lock & Lock
Plus these durable containers are stackable and available in all sorts of shapes and sizes sure to maximize any galley space. And while I do not recommend microwaving anything plastic, last month I finally got past my fear of using our inverter (or should I say fear of doing something wrong) and put a container through a microwave test and all went well. I purchased most of my containers direct or at Target but I have also seen Lock & Lock at other mass merchants, which will remain nameless on my blog.
So, start storing.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
My best-of picks for this holly jolly holiday season
One-Stop Shop: Red Envelope
These people do a superb job of selecting fine gifts! More often then not, I can even find something special for those hard-to-buy-for types. Anything you select will be well appreciated by the lucky recipient.
Fashion Find: Speck Handbags
This girl is going places. I love the fun yet classic style of her fall/winter collection. My favorites are the practical totes with feminine ribbon closures. Plus each style is customizable with exterior pockets or vinyl liner. Unfortunately the photos do not due justice to the quality craftsmanship.
Inside: Tabula Tua
Chicago based tabletop store offers special things for our surroundings, including furniture and home accessories. I especially like the whimsical geography tumblers and can never get enough of Simon Pearce glass. Bonus - free gift wrapping!
Outside: The Waterproof Store
Mostly cases and bags, they have a convenient waterproof rating system to help you avoid disappointment. Site still appears underdevelopment but it looks promising. Now, if they would just add waterproof clothing to their mix!
Tried and True: LL Bean
Whether you are a country or city dweller, LL Bean offers a quality product at a fair price for everyone. Select from a collection of fresh Maine balsam decorations to bring the favorite smell of the season to any home. (Or boat!) I am partial to the assorted tote bags which can be monogrammed, and you also have the option of filling it with goodies, making it a great gift for an entire family. Pick a theme - picnic, beach, skiing, road trip - and fill it accordingly. Kids love the personalized backpacks, plus this way they will have something to carry their new loot in from grandmothers house.
Have-a-Heart: Heifer Project International
They help hungry people feed themselves and they can help you make a big difference.
Tasty Treats: Sorry, but you must wait for this one. My food picks - all under $20 - will appear in a future blog soon.
The splash & giggle watch is just too much fun. Plus it keeps on going and going and going. After 1+ yrs of saltwater abuse and continuous use, mine still looks new. They have added new colors - and I have added them to my holiday wish list.