Monday, 5 June 2017

Ginger Beer Tea Punch

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with cold brew tea; something I've never tried before.  The concept is simple: instead of brewing your tealeaves in hot water for a few minutes, you brew them in cold water in the fridge for a few hours.  When Bluebird Tea Co sent me their cold brew bottle to try, along with their new range of summer teas, I was definitely keen to give it a go.
 
 
I love the flavour of ginger and so the Ginger Beer tea was definitely the one I was most keen to try (you can find it here). While teas can be cold brewed for up to 24 hours, I've found I like them best after around 4 hours.  At that point, plenty of flavour has infused its way into the water, but the flavour isn't bitter at all. The Ginger Beer Tea is lovely both hot and cold and I'm definitely impressed by the balance of the heat of the ginger with the smoother sweetness that makes it taste like ginger beer.
 
 
With summer well on its way to making an appearance, it’s incredibly refreshing to make up some cold brew tea from a beautiful summer blend and lace it with fruit and ice for a wonderfully indulgent treat. The Ginger Beer Rooibos is perfect for this with a strong tang of ginger to give it a bit of fizz and the sweeter flavour of lemon and lime which round it out. So here's my recipe for Ginger Beer Tea Punch.
 
 
Ingredients:
 
4tsp Ginger Beer Tea
500 ml Cold Water
500 ml Cloudy Lemonade
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Lemon
1 Lime
Handful of Strawberries
Bunch of Mint
Optional: Rum
 
 
Add 4tsp of Ginger Beer tea to 500ml of cold water in a cold brew bottle. Leave this in the fridge for four hours for the flavour to develop and the tea to chill.
Strain the tealeaves out of the cold brew and pour the ginger beer tea into a jug along with 500ml of lemonade.
 
Add 3 tbsp lemon juice for a bit of extra zing.
Slice a lemon and a lime and add to the jug. Garnish with strawberries and mint leaves for a refreshing summer punch.
 
To serve, pour into a glass over ice, and top with a slice of lemon or lime, a couple of mint leaves and a strawberry.
 
As the sunny afternoons turn into evening, Ginger Beer Tea Punch also works brilliantly with a 25ml shot of rum added to each glass for a summer evening cocktail. If you're feeling that way inclined!
Kisses xxx
P.S. As a tea rep for Bluebird Tea Company, I can offer you a one-use-only 20% off discount code: just enter CURIOUSTEABIRD07 when you check out. You can hop on over now to catch the Ginger Beer Tea, or try other summer blends perfect for cold brewing.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Pocket Page Full of Cake

 
A little while ago, I made a scrapbook page about cake.  Because cake is great, and this was a particularly good cake story.  You can find the layout I made here, along with the story. However, I also wanted to include a bit more journaling and a lot more photographs it as I had more story to tell and pictures that are undeniably Instagram-worthy (if I say so myself.  And I do). So I knew I was going to make a pocket page to go with the original layout, and today I have the results of that process to share.
 
 
Making a divided page to go with a 12x12 layout is something I've been doing quite a bit lately. It gives me the perfect opportunity to include everything I want in terms of photography and story without having to compromise on or sacrifice design space.
 
When I came to make the pocket page, I went back to my original layout for inspiration. I had a few of the clouds left, which I had cut from patterned paper but then not used, and I had some offcuts from the patterned papers I have used.  That was really all I needed to put everything together and ensure that they would tone in.
 
 
 
I arranged my photos first, choosing the six pockets to place them in. Then I put squares of patterned paper or cardstock in the remaining spaces. This was the basic design complete: I allocated one of three to be journaling, one to be a subtitle linking to the 12x12, and one to be embellishment.
 


When I make a pocket page, I layout it out altogether and work on it like I would as 12x12 layout.  This might be because 12x12 is my favourite format and I'm most comfortable with it this way. But I also like that doing this allows me to see how all the pieces will work together.
 
For instance, I wanted to bring in the tiny pink camera icon from the main page, but I also wanted them to be distributed evenly around the pocket page.  Considering the divided layout as a whole helped me to ensure that the tiny cameras didn't all end up next to one another.


To finish off the embellishment, pretty much every square got a little something added to it: a tab or strip of paper or a camera. I like the look of little touches as they bring the whole design together without overwhelming the pictures.  And for me, the pocket page is all about showcasing the photography.

 
I'm pleased with how this came out - I think it's my favourite pocket page yet - and I like the way the two pages sit together in my album. So I'm definitely going to keep going with this idea, as I love how it's working so far.
 
Kisses xxx
 
P.S. I hope you enjoyed International Scrapbooking day. I think it ought to be week though.  I hope to find a little bit of quiet time this week to get stuck into the layout I started.  A day just isn't enough!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Travel Journal Pocket Page

 
Happy International Scrapbooking Day everyone! I hope you've managed to find a bit of time to cut out some pretty things and stick them to other pretty things (assuming you're into that sort of thing).
 
Recently I shared a scrapbook page I made about trip to Indonesia a couple of years ago (you can find it here). I usually like to make layouts with a single photo and this was no exception, but over the last few months, I have really been enjoying making accompanying pocket pages to include extra photos and journaling. For me it's the best of both worlds: I can make the design I want and still include excessively long journaling and a whole collection of my favourite pictures.
 
 
So today, I bring you the matching pocket page.  It came together pretty quickly as I left much of it without embellishment.  I simply wanted to have the opportunity to include all the photos I wanted to, instead of restricting myself to the one or two which might fit on a 12x12 layout.
 
 
It was reasonably straightforward to put together the other pockets.  I had used a trail of little butterfly embellishments on the 12x12 layout, and still had abandoned scraps and butterflies strewn over my coffee table.  So I gathered them up, match them up, punched a couple of extra butterflies where needed, and quickly layered up a few butterfly embellishments.
 
 
I used little foam squares to add dimension to the wings and tiny pearl stickers to accent them. I filled two of the pockets with the butterflies, adhering them to patterned paper to tie in with the main page, and then framing each one with white cardstock so that they had a white border like the photos. 
 
 
Finally, the pocket page meant that I could add the rest of my journalling.  There is some hidden in the original layout, but I invariably find that I have more that I want to say.  I used a square of white cardstock as a very simple journaling card, adding another little butterfly and a layering up a few leftover scraps that were floating around the table.


I also got to use a special embellishment: my Mum gave me this lovely lacy butterfly and it tied in beautifully with this page.  I'd been saving it for a while as it's so pretty, but it's lovely to have it in my album at last.
 

And there we have it!  Pocket page complete, and a very satisfying feeling of an adventure fully documented without having to compromise on pictures, design or journaling.
 
Kisses xxx
 
P.S. Actually, today I am working with a bunch of Guides up at a campsite and then attending a Sound of Music party, but hopefully I will find a little slice of time somewhere to play with my patterned paper.  The photos from the Alice in Wonderland Afternoon tea are calling me!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Afternoon Tea Down the Rabbit Hole


Some Tuesdays are the sort of Tuesdays where you decide with a colleague that by the weekend you will definitely been in need of afternoon tea. With school being busy and turned up to eleven, my lovely Maths Department buddy Wendy and I booked the last available slot to have Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson hotel at 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon. And then I spent the rest of the week looking forward to it and reminding myself that if I could defeat the pile of marking then my reward would be in piles of fancy cakes and endless pots of tea.
 
 
Additionally, Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea has been on my wish list for ever such a long time, so it was lovely to be so spontaneous!
 
5 days’ notice is incredibly spontaneous for me as I'm a planner and I can't help myself.
 
Saturday did as Saturdays do and it rolled around right after Friday (which had itself followed Thursday, and so on, but I'm sure you can see where this is going) and we met in the lobby of the hotel. It's unassuming from the outside but design-tastic on the inside with furniture that invites the adjective arty, rather than cosy.
 
 
We were offered a table inside or out and opted for outside: the garden area looked far prettier with lovely natural light, and a water feature. The area was covered and outdoor heaters and blankets were plentiful so that the chilly November weather had no bite and we were nice and warm.
 
 
 
Wendy and I are perfect afternoon tea partners in that we both have an avid need to photograph everything: the decor, each course, each other and any tiny detail that amuses us, taking the time to rearrange anything where necessary to get a nice background. And we both got a huge amount of enjoyment from the enormous attention to detail that the Sanderson had put into their signature tea.
 



We had a lovely table and it was set beautifully. The crockery is apparently specially designed, the menu is encased in a novel and even the sugar is presented in a music box which you can open and play, giggling while the little ballerina inside twirls to her song.
 


 
The waitress brought us a selection of teas to choose from, each sample presented in a little drink-me bottle with a description on a playing card. I opted for a pot of Cheshire Cat, an orange and chocolate oolong blend, and Wendy went for Mad Hatter, a green tea with more fruity and floral notes. As part of the afternoon tea, you can choose from unlimited tea, or if you really haven't got the hang of the whole tea thing (how strange of you) you can opt for coffee or hot chocolate. Upon hearing this, we both ordered a hot chocolate as well. Because why not?
 
The hot chocolate was nice and disappeared rapidly, but the tea was something special: leaf tea presented in a pot featuring the Queen and King of Hearts and wearing a little crown. Naturally.
 
 
 
The savouries duly arrived and we both demolished our plates. There was a savoury eclair filled with crab, a ham and cheese toasted croque monsieur, cream cheese and cucumber on startlingly green lime bread, and a miniature take on a Scotch egg with an outside of smoked salmon surrounding a quails egg cooked to perfection so that the yolk was still molten. We both claimed this as a favourite, and actually for me, my other preferred option was the cream cheese and cucumber: a nice twist on a classic.
 
We decided to split another round of savouries, and I particularly enjoy afternoon tea when guests are permitted to have refills. It's part of the experience and often I like to go for additional sandwiches to balance the inevitable sweets.
 
 
 
The desserts are really where this afternoon tea wins, and the presentation is nothing short of marvellous. The tall stand was topped with a black and white teacup out of which grew tall grass, and there were delectable treats on each layer. I also ordered a cocktail called Down the Rabbit hole to accompany the treats, my pot of tea having long since been vanished. We indulged ourselves in the taking of numerous photos, enjoying each little detail that has gone into the creation of a storybook confection. There were a huge range of shapes and colours and each was a delight!
 
 
 
 


 
Starting at the top, we had carrot meringue hearts nestling in the tea cup grass, marshmallow mushrooms and blue chocolate caterpillars. On the middle tier was a little quartet of petit fours: coffee pocket-watch macarons, Queen of Hearts Oreo cookies, red velvet ladybird cakes and banana bread-and-butterfly cupcakes. Finally on the lowest tier were the scones with pots of cream and jam, and a little drink-me pot each with creamy layers of mango and citrus and every good thing.
 
 
 
My favourites?  The meringue was a winner for me as it had a lovely melt-in-your-mouth centre.  The banana cupcake was a delight and a nice touch, and the scones were pleasingly warm, although I personally prefer a lurking raisin or two.  There were no failures in my opinion, but I was disappointed that the macaron was coffee flavoured as I love macarons but really don’t like coffee.  A shame as it was one of the prettiest treats on the stand, and matched the theme beautifully. 
 
 
Obviously I ate it anyway.
 


 
However, my favourite of all was a little surprise that didn’t even make it onto the menu.  We were each presented with a little flower pot which turned out to be full of cold, tangy, citrus ice cream and raspberries, covered over with a delicate smattering of golden honeycomb and chocolate soil and crowned with little flowers.  It was such a delicious concoction, and perhaps made more so by the element of surprise.
 
 
Overall, falling down the rabbit hole was a marvellous experience and exceeded even my admittedly high expectations.  At £48 it didn’t come cheap, especially when you add on the cost of a cocktail and a service charge, but I can’t help feeling that the effort made in producing such a delicate, colourful and imaginative afternoon tea, and my excitement and anticipation made each delectable bite, and each beautifully arranged morsel absolutely worth it.
 
 
It was virtually impossible to resist the drink-me allure of the experience, and we gleefully followed Alice every step of the way into Wonderland.  And the staff let us sit for almost three and a half hours, long after our two hour slot had run out.  But time passes differently down the rabbit hole.
 
Kisses xxx
 
P.S. There are several other afternoon teas in London that I’d love to sample.  Or indeed scoff with gusto.  So afternoon-tea-inclined types make yourselves known as I’m always happy to indulge.
 
P.P.S Also if you have any recommendations, my list is nothing if not encouraged to grow.