Tea Time

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Tea Time

Tea time with Peter Rabbit. Mama is Inspired.
Tea Time with Peter Rabbit

 

My little boy loves to make coffee and tea in his own little kitchen. Any guest to our home can be sure that at some point my son will come around offering a round of coffee or tea. Before he became involved in serving hot drinks, he would use his empty peanut butter jar to grind coffee beans several times each day.  He mimics every step perfectly. When Christmas was approaching my sister and brother asked what their nephew would like. It was easy to quickly come up with a list of ideas that I thought my son would enjoy playing with and that I felt philosophically close to. This list included a wooden broom, a children’s tool set, Melissa and Doug water and sand toys, and a wooden cutting board and food set. I decided I should also give some thought to what my son would like but that I would never consider buying him. Again it took only a brief moment to realize that my son’s dream gift would be his very own coffee maker. I would never purchase this. I find it a bit disturbing that my son watches his father and I drink so much coffee and that I have become so dependent since my son’s first birthday. In fact, I am so dismayed that I make a point of beginning each day with a tall glass of water and lemon juice right in front of my son. Another objection I have to a mini-me coffee maker is that I would like my son’s imagination to be strong enough that he does not require such a commercially perfected toy. The coffee maker I picked out for my son is not one of the sweet wooden toys reminiscent of a coffee maker and it is not made from post-consumer-recycled, BPA-free plastic. It is not made by a conscientious toy maker. It is manufactured by a leader in the coffee maker industry and is designed as a starter coffee maker in order to get children hooked before they are actually old enough to be hooked. However, I decided to pick out what my son wanted and I knew in my heart that he wanted the one that was as close to an exact replica of his parents’ as possible. My husband was a tad shocked when I shared the last item I’d included on the wish list. In return I was a bit defensive-but only because I was embarrassed. The present turned out to be perfect. On Christmas morning my son shook from genuine excitement when he un-wrapped this particular gift. He was thrilled and ecstatic.

 

My son loves his children's coffee maker. He has become quite the coffee maker!
Morning Coffee Maker

 

Ever since, he has been making coffee. Then when he added tea to his repertoire I was both relieved and delighted. I have never discouraged my son from using his coffee maker, but herbal tea seems both more innocent and aligned with what I wish I was drinking all day every day.

Then we began to drink real tea together.  Several nights a week I make us a pot of herbal tea and together we partake in this sweetest of moments. I really should not complain about how my son eats. He eats everything my husband and I do and we don’t experience the daily anxiety of ‘what will we give him tonight?!’  My little boy is, however, an extremely slow eater, laboriously chewing every bite thoroughly. He gets this from me. His dinner time usually lasts two hours and we have to prod him along the whole time. Therefore, as is the case in almost every family with small children, meal time is stressful. It is stressful every night. Tea time is different. Tea time frequently follows right on the heels of dinner and smooths over all the wrinkles that dinner time produced. I love tea time.

 

Tea time after dinner shared by mama is inspired and her young son.
Sharing Tea Time after Dinner

 

My son does not drink anything but water. As well, he had never been permitted to drink from a real cup all on his own before we started sharing tea time because I was not ready for the mess and multiple changes of soaked clothes. At tea time he receives his hot and darkened beverage out of an adult pot and he drinks this out of a real ceramic mug. We began with an espresso cup that was just the perfect size for his little hands and mouth and have since worked up to the ceramic Peter Rabbit mug he received as a gift. To a small child this is miraculous. He frequently lets out a high pitch squeal of delight while alternately flapping and shaking his arms in a fervor. After a particularly successful drink, where he imagines that he has not spilled tea down his front, he declares “Sip! Sip!” and smiles the largest grin he is capable of. Tea time also contains many calm moments and I ask him about his day and then continue to feed him answers to which he can respond yes or no. He adds in the odd word or phrase now and again when he wants to begin a new ‘conversation’ or point of interest to ‘discuss’. Occasionally, his father joins us and sometimes I learn particulars of the day they shared together which I otherwise would never have heard about. Shared tea gets people talking. I love tea time.

 

I love tea time with my son.
We love Tea Time

 

I hope that tea time will continue to play a role in our home as my son grows up. Currently he wants to live every moment glued to at least one parent’s side. One of us is with him every moment, every day. We know all that is happening in his life. We see his ups and downs. We know when he has had a great time at the playground and we see when his feelings are hurt or he is frightened. We know his favorite activities. We know all about his quirky habits such as the way pulls off his socks to search for toe lint. This will change. We will not always be this close. Gradually he will need us less and will grow more independent. He will have experiences of and on his own. He will probably attend school and spend the length of each day without us where he will engage in valuable interactions and friendships with people we do not really know.

My dream is that tea time will not be a passing phase that my son outgrows the way he has outgrown picking up his toys on his own and wanting to help fold the laundry.  I would love to think that for many years to come there will be a time of day when we meet as almost-friends, we share a cup of tea, and he can pour out news he wants to share and I can actively listen. We can discuss his arising passions and interests. He can share the lessons he is learning in school and together we can explore these in more depth. As he grows up and becomes a man I imagine that tea time can once again draw us together, opening up a space for shared conversation. We can meet as equals over a cup of tea and I can hear again from him about the life he is leading-a life in which I am no longer a major player. Perhaps he will feel comfortable enough to share intimate details about his aspirations, successes, and heartaches. Maybe we will discuss current events as adults do and I can learn as much from him in that future as he is currently learning from me in this present. Or he might bring home close friends or his partner and our calming, relaxed environment of tea time may work its magic yet again. As sharing across a table often does,  our visitors will be put at ease and they will invite me into their conversation and their world for at least the duration of tea time. I know it must seem that I am getting ahead of myself. After all, my son is still small. It is true that I am advancing much too far into the future and with far too much clarity. What is certain, though, is that with the best of fortune my young boy will grow into a man. Everything I do for him now is meant to lead up to that point where he is on his own. I dream that today’s tea time will help him to have a more beautiful life and that some day, when the power is all his, that he will remember me, the meaningful moments we have shared, and that he, too, will want a few more. Tea time, perhaps, will be the most ideal way. We love tea time.

 

Tea time with cookies. Recipe for Mama is Inspired vegan hermit cookies
Tea Time sometimes includes a Treat of Cookies

 

Tea time sometimes includes a homemade treat. Here is the recipe for my son’s (and husband’s!) favorite cookies.

Recipe for Vegan Hermit Cookies by Mama is Inspired

Dry Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (if you don’t have pastry flour, regular whole wheat flour will work fine. The cookies will not rise as much, however)
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 ¼ tsp cinnamon

 

Wet Ingredients:

  • ½ cup evaporated cane sugar
  • ½ cup warm coconut oil (soft or liquid. If this is difficult, you can cut the sugar into the hard coconut oil with a knife. Or use 1/4 coconut oil plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil))
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup depending on how sweet you like your cookies
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ½-1 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Optional: chocolate chips
  • Vegan milk curdling mix: 2 Tbsp in ¼ almond milk. Let sit for at least 5 minutes
  • 4-6 Tbsp of water (Begin with 4 tbsp and add more once wet and dry are mixed together if needed)

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare vegan milk curdling mix (egg substitute) and put aside until ready for use. Mix dry ingredients together. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients together in the same order as ingredients list.  Add dry ingredients to wet and stir together. Drop onto either oiled cookie sheet or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (not wax paper) in heaping teaspoons. Use fork to push down as when making peanut butter cookies. If the fork begins to stick in the dough, rinse fork with cold water (you do not need to actually rinse any stuck dough off the fork). I place chocolate chips, about 3 or 4, face down in most of the cookies. My son doesn’t eat chocolate yet so I reserve a few cookies for him that do not have chips.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Promptly remove from cookie sheets and place on cooling racks.

You can store unused dough in a container in the freezer.

 

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Lemons!

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Lemons!

 

Lemon 1

Caring for our Lemon Tree

In September my family moved back to Southern California from Vancouver, Canada. We moved into a coastal community and into a bright little house with a patch of earth that was small but still large enough to put in a vegetable garden that feeds us pretty well. When we moved in, this ground was barren, except for a chile tree and a couple of straggly snapdragon plants. When I first turned the soil, there was not a single insect to be seen, neither friendly nor unfriendly. There was also a lemon tree here, loaded with ripening lemons. Initially, this was very exciting. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, the lemon tree turned out to be heavily infested with both citrus mealybug and scale. For a long time I thought that these two pests were just different life stages of the same insect. The tree was also covered in ants attracted to the sweet, sticky stuff the scale exposed. Sadly, our Meyer lemon tree was on the fast track to death.

I’ve given this tree tons of attention, all organic, of course, and I think we’ve now turned the tide, meaning that the next harvest of lemons will be healthy and unblemished. To rid the tree of bugs we have done successive prunings, starting out timidly and eventually becoming less fearful of harming the tree and losing the harvest. I pruned for the last time in February and the tree is now a shadow of what it once was. This feels fine, though, as it is still covered in blossoms and tiny maturing fruit and I had already noticed how quickly new branches and leaves sprout. I’m not at all worried that my aggressive pruning has been too much.

Every ten days for approximately two months I sprayed, or rather drenched, the entire tree with a contact insecticide that I made up and applied with a cheap spray bottle that I bought at the 99 Cents store. This spray bottle works great because it includes a ratio guide on the outside.

Homemade Contact Insecticide Mix:

  • Ratio of 1 part rubbing alcohol to 8 part water
  • splash of vegetable oil
  • large squirt of Dawn dish detergent
  • water

This concoction both suffocates and dries out the pests. The respiratory system of the pest is especially targeted. It is essential not to spray the tree while it receives full sunlight because this can be damaging. Therefore, I always applied my homemade insecticide just before dusk. We also worked hard to rid the tree and the surrounding area of ants. We used a variety of techniques that included pouring both boiling water on ant infested areas far from the tree and its roots, and also a solution of white vinegar and water. More effectively we placed piles made up of half white sugar and half borax in areas of heavy ant traffic. We have made a considerable dent in our local ant population and currently there are no ants on the tree.

As well, I mulched the tree line (avoiding applying the mulch right up to the trunk) with fresh seaweed that my husband, son and I harvested at a local beach. If seaweed isn’t available, a mulch of well-rotted compost also works well or you can check out a garden centre for an organic fertilizer that is good for citrus trees.

 Extra Lemons

Now that things are looking up, we are again excited to have inherited a Meyer Lemon. Most of the lemons have fallen from the tree before they’ve reached their mandarin-crossed orangey color. Still, unripe, they have been delicious and I have a freezer full of lemon juice. I also managed to grate enough cosmetically unaffected lemons to fill an 8 oz jar full of zest which is in the freezer, as well. Although frozen, it’s easy to remove what I need with a spoon. I’m sure that the lemon juice would probably be better stored in ice cube trays, but I’m frugal and I also try to keep my consumption down.  Since I don’t have extra ice cube trays, but I do have a lot of empty jars, I freeze my juice this way and transfer a jar to the fridge when I need it. It is unbelievable how much lemon juice my family is consuming-I worry that I am no longer able to drink water straight!

Lemon Cookies

 Lemon Cookies 6

Lemon Cookies 4

Lemon Cookies 3

 

Our abundance of lemons has inspired me to experiment creating new recipes for lemons. I love the challenge of inventing a new cookie or cake. I have been met with success but also some failures. The following is my favorite recipe that I have thus far created for my lemons. I like to bake vegan and I like to keep my treats as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, I also have a sweet tooth. Here are the cookies I baked one recent afternoon:

 Mama Is Inspired Lemon Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil cookie sheet.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 3.5 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (regular whole wheat flour also works well)
  • .5 cups White Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Almond Meal (could use flax meal instead)
  • .5 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1.25 tsp Baking Powder

Wet Ingredients:

  • .25 Cup Coconut Oil
  • Milk Curdling Mix: Add 2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice to.5 Cup Almond Milk and let sit for 5 minutes or more
  • .25 Cup Almond Milk (in addition to milk in curdling mix)
  • 1 Cup Evaporated Sugar Cane
  • .5 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice (in addition to lemon juice in curdling mix)
  • .25 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Lemon Zest of at least 1 small lemon
  • Chocolate Chips to place tip downward in the surface of formed cookies (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet and stir together with a large spoon. Using a teaspoon, spoon onto cookie sheets and use a fork to indent cookie as is done with peanut butter cookies (if the fork sticks in cookies, just rinse the fork in cold water).

Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on racks.

Lemon Cookies 2

Bon appétit!

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