Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ostfriesen Annual Tea Party, MN-style

Where I went and What I did
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 2 p.m.
O.G.S.A.’S Annual Tea PartyGerman-American Institute
301 Summit Avenue St. Paul, MN

here I am in the Ladies Salon

 A lamp in the Ladies Salon.

Sorry you missed it! Oops, I sent this out after I went. It was a great time, in a unique way. I learned more about my Ostfriesen heritage, a region in Germany, and how to drink tea "their" way. It was held in a beautiful building.

Everyone has their own way, it's like a Reeese's Peanut Butter Cup. As long as you don't have a peanut allergy, you have your own way to eat it. I just eat it without any fancy dissection process, and then reach for the next to do the same..

This is a fancy tea bag remover. 

So Tea, It's a special, authentic, Ostfriesen tea, and it's just right. It looks reddish, perhaps it is a roobios, but I am not sure. It's not spicy, and it's not very bitter, especially when you drink it the right way. 

The Right Way to Drink Ostfriesen Tea

1. Start with a lovely tea cup
2. Have Lubbert, as your tea brewer, seriously, he wouldn't let any of the ladies help he knew just how to do it in a huge pot with countless tea bags for this moderately large event
3. Find enjoyable tea-drinking companions, My Dad invited me, I eagerly obliged to attend
4. Start with kluntje, a mind-blowingly large clump of sugar (this is important, decline this step and you will miss the tea show to follow)
5. Place kluntje in your attractive tea cup with the kluntje server/pretty tongs
6. Pour exceedingly hot tea upon the kluntje and listen carefully for the crackle sound (this is like a cross between cracking the sugar on a creme brulee ala the movie Amelie, or eating Rice Krispies and hearing the snap-crackle-pop! sound
7. Now, gently and delicately trickle a trace of cream (full-fat, please) down the very edge of the inside of your tea cup
8. If done correctly a beautiful "flower" of cream will appear as it softly rises to the surface of your cup
9. Imbibe and Enjoy, listening to the scintillating German traditions of food and drink like,

I sat at the table of Erika, storeowner of a German Store, located in Prior Lake, MN. Head on over to her store to check out the countless German items there, like tea, and a sugar cone flambe style creation you can make in your home for the holidays. How unique for the hostess that has everything!

I couldn't believe this. They take spiced wine, and upon a silver dish akin to a butter plate-base, a cone of sugar sits. A cone of solid sugar, similar to the size of a sno-cone minus the heaped top. This is an actual sugar cone, it sells for $7.55 I think it says. Then, a bottle of 50% alcohol rum is poured onto the sugar and it is lit. I was told it creates a cozy romantic blue flame as the sugar drips into the spiced wine at the bottom. I naively asked, "Do you drink it?" "Of Course we drink it!" she said. Wow, was all I could think. You can buy the cone and the silver dish at her store. It would be fun to try and watch the light show. 

While at the tea event, a silent Power Point of German markets showed. There was a mysterious picture of a plate of food that looked like chocolate pancakes with red kielbasa slices in it. I had to ask a few there until I could get an identity for it. It was called, Specken Dicken. I was told it was a combination of rye flour and other flours, anise, melted candies, dark syrup, and bacon or bologna. Wow! I do have to admit I wanted to try it- as I will try anything once! Here's a recipe.

If you want to visit, come for their German breakfast, from 9-12 on Saturdays, for about $8/person.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

thinking about blogging

What was I thinking?!

It got to be too much, too often. Just thinking about blogging. Just do it, someday again, I thought. So why not today. I had finally reached the point where I had learned of one too many other friends or acquaintances who were blogging. Enough to say, Why not tonight. I have no clear idea of how "focused" it will be, as I am a person of multitudes of rabbit trails.

Perhaps knitting, Square Foot Gardening, Cooking, Parenting, etc. On and on.

 For now, SFG. I must say, to return to blogging after such a hiatus, that it is quite a nice surprise to have so many options. I can't believe that I am talking about how nice it is to have options, as my husband has learned by now that many a time he has flooded me with "options" so personally, I prefer choices. Sounds like the can be more individualized and easier to pick from.

 So, speaking of options, when I am stuck with a decision that is minor in nature, I ask my husband to pick a choice. Then I have him tell it to me, and I can evaluate on my feelings whether his choice was what I wanted, or not. If I am excited- go with that choice I say, if I am disappointed that means I wanted the other thing. It really works, for me at least.

 So, without a segue, I return to the super cool concept of square foot gardening. We'd torn up a big chunk of our front yard to build a garden- a producing garden, a sustainable initiative. My 80 year old neighbor, Ralph has a magnificent garden, and it was time for me to grow my own tomatoes for canning, and herbs, since he doesn't grow those (but he shares loads of his fresh produce with me). Somehow, despite being the neighbor that doesn't have the freshest mown lawn, or the least weedy lawn, all things that he prizes in neighbors, my friendly chatty nature and youthful gardening spirit has succeeded enough with him socially to result in many a bag of his lovingly grown vegetables kindly left on my doorstep or brought to my door with a knock on the door.  

The Inspiration The SFG- I was at a friend's house in May 2012, for her birthday party and I said, "What is that?" Pointing to a gridded, and elevated plot of well organized soil. She said, "It's a square foot garden. My roommates did research to know how to do it, how to grow it, build it, how and what to plant in it, all that." I was a little intimidated at the extent of research it sounded to require, as I have 2 little busy boys, a husband, a dog, and a part time job, and teach a weekly Bible Study. But I couldn't get it out of my head. Those little blocks looked so aesthetically appealing to the artist in me, even devoid of plants. As if Frank Lloyd Wright was doing an installation piece on the use of wood and soil. I told a different friend, and showed her the picture I had taken on my Iphone. She said, "I have that book. You should read it, tell me how to do it, and I will help you build it." Oooh, I thought. Ok. Here it goes...  

The Book , "The All New Square Foot Gardening Book"

I borrowed the book, breezed through it staying up late into the night, yearning to learn all it had to say. The style of the book was effortless, as if gardening could be so easy. I already liked "hard gardening and landscaping" how could I not like this approach?  

The Soil

After gathering all the materials, vermiculite from a hydroponic store, 5 kinds of compost; chicken, mushroom, plant, cow, and buffalo "loam", and sphagnum peat moss (I just love that stuff) to develop the soil from various retailers, and dumping the contents onto an alarmingly large tarp while fighting a rain storm, I began the mixing process. I was so excited to do this that I donned a baseball hat, the only raincoat I had (a black dressy one) and crazy blue rain pants from the outdoor store to wrestle the soil. It was too wet for me, the drips as they fell into my eyes and on my face as my cotton hat absorbed then leaked the water were disconcerting. I waited. Soon the sun came out, the friend who loaned me the book came over with big shovels and rakes, and we got to work lifting and mixing all the soil in a clockwise, then counterclockwise fashion till it was adequately mixed. She was a huge help and really strong. We planned to have enough to fill the 8x4 bed, and a 4x4 bed, but later learned the mound had enough for an additional 8x4 bed.  

The Structures

Were built by my husband. Thanks Honey! He bought cedar so it was last and worked hard.

Why are you Putting It in the FRONT YARD? 

Some people still ask this question. Well, because it gets more sun, there's room for it, and really, why not? So I designed it to be pretty as well, with some flowering plants. It has full sun impatiens closest to the house and front window of our home.

 Putting in the Dirt

Was so exciting. The SFG was coming to life. But soon I would realize something more fun, planting.  

What's in There?

Well,  2 big tomato plants, 2 little cherry tomato plants, cucumber, butternut squash, 2 squares of kohlrabi, a lettuce, countless peppers; jalapeno, yellow sweet and hot banana peppers, red and green bell peppers,  variegated coleus, my favorite annual Lantana in a 2x2 ft square, a full sun impatiens, lots of basil, cilantro, petunias for color. a month ago we started a fall crop of beans, radishes and some morning glories.


Since we started later in the season people wondered if anything would have a chance to grow still. I think it was late June when we planted it all up. The good thing was that plants were cheap then- as we were late to buy. I had drafted a list of "desirables" to grow, and followed it pretty closely. I was excited about being able to grow some flowers in there too. Since that was the kind of garden I wanted with a mix of sustainables and flowers if possible. I looked online for what I wanted and envisioned, and I couldn't find what I wanted until this point.

 Putting it in the Dirt

Was so easy, literally a baby could do it. I "pawed" a small hole in the ground, popped in the plant, and covered it with soil. So easy. I didn't need to dig any hard to dig holes in our clay/sand/rock soil with this light, fluffy soil. What a treat!  

Oh Did It Grow- and Grow!

 So exciting, nearly zero weeds. People asked, "how long do you spend tending your garden?" I respond with, "hardly ever." It is almost no work. Watering is the biggest event it requires, other than the squash intervention.  

The Squash Intervention

All was growing so well, that with a few good rain storms here and there and the super-charged soil I noticed quite suddenly that my butternut squash was creeping over to the neighbors. So my husband built a lattice wall, and I worked for a few hours carefully with special plant velcro "tape" to gently secure the squash vines to the lattice.

What do Others Say?

 Well, being in Minnesota, many people say, "your garden looks real good." My 80-yr old neighbor Ralph said, "your beans are doing better than mine." Which is a high comment from his countless years of gardening, a lifetime of gardening actually. People have said it looks really nice. Nobody has had an ill word to say about my garden, at least out loud to my face. Perhaps there's some Minnesota Nice going around. Either way, I, my husband, and my kids are all quite pleased with how this first year of square foot gardening has gone. I am actually entered in a Square Foot Garden contest, and have to select my photos for the big event. The due date is next week. Cross your fingers!