MEAT for Dinner

I’ve heard rumblings about MEAT for Dinner, located in Old Strathcona on the West side of 104th Street, between 82 and 83 Avenues. I also heard it was one of those places that doesn’t take reservations and you sometimes have to share tables with complete strangers. In my head I gave this tom foolery a dismissive wave. When dining, I am not a fan of waiting for a table. I recognize that for some it can be fun social event mixing and mingling with other hungry people. But when I’m hungry and wanting a pre-dinner cocktail, I’m a royal bitch and my face will show it, and will suck the joy for anyone within 2 m of me. As for dining with others, well, I’m sure the majority of people have manners, but some don’t, and it is usually those who don’t have manners who sit next to me – just like I attract  babies who find airplanes have a laxative effect, popcorn bag rustlers in movies, and men in enormous white trucks that spew black exhaust who tailgate me, then roar past in a huff.

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That all said a friend of mine managed to survive a visit to MEAT and gave a glowing review of the garlic fries. Garlic fries? Yes please.

I went the first time last Saturday. If you recall dear Edmontonians, it was a sunny beautiful day, the Crashed Iced finals were going on that evening, and everyone in the neighbourhood seemed to be feeling groovy. We arrived around 5:30 pm, and already all tables were full, but, before RB (Royal Bitch) could make an appearance, we were offered a space at the bar. We accepted and beers were ordered. We were given the spiel about how the place works, and we were off! Food was ordered, devoured. Then a round of bourbon was ordered (isn’t that a great word? I love the sound of it. BOURBON). This finished supper perfectly.

I explained all this to Michael who holds the same trepidation as I do about loud communal dining, but when I explained HOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME the food is, so awesome it would be worth sharing a table sitting in a noisy place shouting at each other to have conversation. So we went.

Yes, twice in three days, I went to MEAT. From a food blog writers perspective it gives me a chance to really truly see what the place is about, and if the service is consistent.

It was.

Michael and I went on St. Patrick’s Day because it is one of Michael’s favourite days of the year. It is also an anniversary for us (we are the sort of couple that have anniversary dates for all sorts of things… first this, first that….). But honestly, you don’t need an excuse to go to MEAT. Just go.

Let me get this part out of the way. They do have a vegetarian sandwich offering on the menu. The rest of it, meat. Glorious meat.

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Meat is ordered by the half pound, pound, quarter, half, whole, or link, all dependent on what sort of meat you are ordering. There is beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, and a smoked special (which happened to be shrimp). There are sides. For those who insist on greens, there is a salad on the menu, but the rest is things like garlic fries (absolutely incredibly amazing), mac ‘n cheese, yams, coleslaw, and for the love of god pickles. Never understood the attraction to pickles, and shake my head at the offering of “pickle brine” added to a drink. To each their own.

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A paragraph is warranted to their offering of bourbon. Michael was having a hey-day trying all the bourbon based cocktails offered on the menu. He was in heaven. From bitter to sweet, he tried the spectrum, and loved them all, declaring at the end of the evening how much he loves bourbon (you can’t slur the word bourbon). I had a beer with supper, and a bourbon to finish things, and although I do love bourbon, I love saying the word more. Say it with me now: BOURBON. As in, “I’ll have a Four Roses Single Batch bourbon neat please”. They added an ice cube. I worked through this, and forgave them.

As my pal observed on my first visit, the food is simple, but simple is sometimes the absolute best.

MEAT’s website is pretty awesome too. It’s easy to navigate, no fiddly things that take time to render, great photos, accurate menu.

What you need to know before you go to MEAT:

  • 8216 – 104 Street, Edmonton
  • No Reservations
  • Street parking (some free, some metered, good luck)
  • Lot parking nearby (fee)
  • Underground parking nearby (fee)
  • Open at 5 pm, 7 days a week
  • Brunch offered at 11 am on Saturday and  Sunday
  • Sturdy metal chairs – at the bar and at the tables
  • Be prepared to share your table. Your space will be cordoned off by a divider of sauces.
  • It can get noisy, in a friendly comforting sort of way
  • Coat hooks available
  • Come hungry, this place isn’t for dainty appetites
  • Try a bourbon
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These bottles divide your space from their space. It is a border of sauce.

 

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Churchill’s British Imports Ltd.

Old Strathcona has a little bit of Britain in its midst. And thank goodness. A person can only go so long without good thick cut bitter marmalade.

Churchill’s British Imports Ltd. has opened in the quaint little indoor mall found at 2-10015 82 Avenue NW Edmonton.

As with most British shops found in Canada, it offers us a free copy of the always interesting The British Canadian newspaper, as well as:

Sweets – here we are talking about the delightful boiled sweet, or a “hard candy” as you probably know it if born in Canada, as well as liquorice, mints, jellies, and chocolate. Boiled sweets are available in little tins that you can keep loose nails and screws in afterwards, or, you can opt to buy a few of each of the multiple flavours kept behind the counter in large jars, which will be scooped out onto a scale, and put in a little paper sack which is convenient to tuck in your pocket.

Crisps – or potato chips. If you watch Coronation Street, you will have seen boxes of crisps be delivered to the Rovers, which are kept behind the bar. Patrons of Coronation Street seem fond of the little package of cheese and onion flavour. You will find these same brand of crisps at Churchill’s, along with other unusual flavours such as Guinness, Marmite, ham and pickle (as in Branston pickle), and beef and onion, to name just a few. I love that the British kept with the smaller bag of chips to keep the portion manageable.

Biscuits – which means cookies, not something you eat with your stew. The British know biscuits best, but that is because they know tea best. And although there is nothing like a good cup of tea on its own, it’s always better with a biscuit. At Churchill’s you will find Mark and Spencer brand biscuits, which tugs on the heart-strings of this Canadian who fondly remembers the days when we had Mark and Spencer department stores here. They always seemed to carry pleasant, practical things, from handsome wool clothing to delicately scented soaps, to delicious frozen dinners to nice functional stationery.

But back to our local Churchill’s – here you will find rows upon rows of chocolate, soup, beans, oatmeal, soft drinks, tea, frozen locally grown pork products (Irvine’s farms), and a few shelves of marmalade! I am a huge fan of marmalade, and the older I am getting, the more bitter marmalade I want. Here at Churchill’s you will find a decent assortment of English and Scottish marmalade, thick or thin cut, bitter or sweet.

If you yourself are a British import craving a bit of home, or anybody who is tired of the same old on our regular grocery shelves and want to try something new, stop in at Churchill’s. You will feel welcome and will be thrilled by the variety of goodies available.

Churchill’s British Imports Ltd.
2-10015 82 Avenue NW Edmonton
780-438-0049

Open Tuesday – Friday 10 – 5, Saturday 9 – 5. Parking available in front of the building on 82 Avenue at meters, and timed free street parking on 100th street and 81 Avenue.IMG_3149_2 IMG_3150_2 IMG_3151_2 IMG_3153_2 IMG_3154_2

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Chai Rice Pudding

Subtitled, “Wait! Don’t eat that Cardamon Pod!”.

Deeply satisfied with my rice cooker, I happily make rice several times a week. Sometimes I get over zealous and make too much rice.

For the last two days I’ve had left over rice in the fridge, staring me in the eye every time I open the door, mind-melding with me and telling me to “Do something useful with me! I was not grown to be thrown out!”.

Tonight I listened to the rice, and made a rice pudding. A regular old rice pudding, but then I thought, “Chai Rice Pudding!”.

This is what I did:

1.5 cups cooked white rice
1.5 cups milk
Slightly less than 1/4 cup sugar (could have gone way-lesser – my teeth sang like a musical saw)zaag_1-MED
Knob of butter
A handful of raisins
Cinnamon (a bit less than a tsp – or to taste)
Cardamon Pods (more than two, less than four – or to taste)
Cloves (more than three, less than five – or to taste)
Vanilla (just a scant amount)

I tossed it all in a pot and simmered on the stove for about 25 – 30 minutes. Stir often.

IMPORTANT: Remove the cloves and cardamon pods. If you used dark raisins, this could be more difficult than it sounds. Someone could lose a tooth on those pods.

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Chai Rice Pudding – with bits of spice things removed.

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Cardamon pods and cloves safely removed from the rice pud. Only a few rice grains were sacrificed.

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Cottage Pie aka Shepard’s Pie aka Apartment Pie aka Busy Cubicle Dweller’s Pie

Walsh Cooks:

This is a re-post, only because a) I made Shepard’s Pie for supper tonight and b) I’m too lazy to write out a new post. This time however, I added extra fortification in the vegetable front – added extra carrots, celery and mushrooms. The potatoes, instead of russets, used Ninja Golds (that is not the name, but I forget … they start with N and do not appear on the Canadian Food Inspection list of Potato Varieties list. Perhaps I have some rare imported potatoes? Whatever they are, they are yellow fleshed and very substantial. I apologise to my potato supplier in case I’m giving up his gig.

Originally posted on Walsh Cooks:

I was thinking about this. Cottage Pie has been around in name since 1791. Shepard’s Pie is the newest kid on the block, arriving on the scene in 1877.

I can imagine the scene it caused at the time. Daily Telegraph paperboys shouting at London street corners, “Shepard’s! Baked in pie! Shepard’s! Baked in pie!”. The terror it must have caused in the UK at the time.

Naturally, it didn’t help when the Daily Mail’s paperboy was shouting from across the street, “National Sheep Association Concerned about Henry Plumb! Henry Plumb not seen for Weeks!”.

My timeline might be a little skewed, but you get the idea.

Here we are in 2014, 137 years after ….  (I did the math. Look….)

IMG_1955… and we are still calling it Cottage Pie. Or Shepard’s Pie. In our fast-paced society, it is time to modernize the name of these simple, yet delicious…

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Duchess Bake Shop – Cookbook Launch

One does not attend the beautiful surroundings of Duchess Bake Shop (especially when a string quartet is playing) when one has a red, raw, drippy nose, wads of damp Kleenex up sleeves, in pockets, in hand) and a cough that sounds like a sea lion arf arf arfing for a fishie at Sea World. No indeed. One stays at home and employs two drinking buddies (albeit social media junkies and food lovers) to go in their stead.

@habanerogal (Laurel) and @super_su (Suzanne) seemed keen, so off they went. Their mission? To be the first to see the Duchess Bake Shop’s new cookbook, sip champagne, and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Duchess kitchen.

While at home in my ugliest pajamas, a corner of tissue rolled to a point and stuffed up one nostril, I kept an eye on the Twitter feed to see what I was missing. I wanted to weep. The pictures, as you can see, are amazing. And I wanted to weep not only because I was missing the event, but because I was so proud that Edmonton has such an elegant, tasteful shop within its heart. And Duchess just isn’t pretty to look at. The products it produces are beautifully created and, the best part, taste absolutely sublime.

I’ve been going to Duchess since it opened and have always been partial to their lemon tart, key lime pie and pretty little macarons. At the last Earl’s menu launch, fellow food appreciator Gail Hall and ladies washroom partner (you know what I mean…. we ladies go in pairs) of Seasoned Solutions was explaining that Duchess has The Best almond croissants. Tell me this…. how can you hear the words, “Best Almond Croissants” and not rise to the challenge? How? I know some (perhaps a lot) of you can, and that’s why you are at a reasonable body weight. But when I hear “best of” I think impossible! How? Let me be the judge!

Early the next morning I was in the car zooming off to Duchess to be there at opening to see/taste for myself. Did I buy one? Heavens no. When judging, you must buy two, just to make sure the quality is consistent! And it was. My toes curl as I type… the kind of curl toes do when the body is in rapture.

Anyone who goes into Duchess will feel special and will reach for their heads to make sure their crowns and tiaras are in place. The service and attention you receive at the counter is consistently polite, efficient and eager to please. You will feel part of the beauty of Duchess.

Lucky for us, Duchess has captured their recipes in their new cookbook. I have not seen it myself, but have seen some of the recipes they are sharing, like one of life’s pretty treasures, Vanilla Madeleines. Other than having a special Madeleine baking tray (you more than likely have a friend with one that has it buried in the back of the cupboard and if you ask nicely would lend it to you), these are super simple to create in your very own kitchen.

So friends….if you are in Edmonton and haven’t been to Duchess yet, please go. It is perfect when you want a place to have coffee with a friend, when you want to gain friends and influence people by sharing a Tarte Montreal at work, or when you want to take home almond croissants to have with coffee in your pajamas in front of the TV.

Here’s some great photos @habanerogal took from the event. Kudo’s to both @super_su and @habanerogal for doing an awesome job of taking in the ambiance, sampling the food and drink, and giving me the swag bag (you two are real pals. If it were me, I would have kept it run off to Mexico) and reporting back! Good work, both of you!

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A Caribbean Thanksgiving

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I’m always game for a free sample, who isn’t? Just look at Costco. The end of each aisle looks like feeding time at the koi pond. However, instead of having to fight off crowds at Costco, in my inbox was a pleasant e-mail from the GraceKennedy food people from Jamaica offering free samples of their Caribbean spices. All I had to do is say “yes please”, and a week or so later, a box brimming with bottles of rubs and sauces arrived.

I have made my own marinades and attempted a few dry rubs, which work just fine. And although my spice cupboard is fully stocked, my spice blends end up tasting mostly the same. I was excited to try the marinade samples.

We have tried both the Pineapple Coconut Sensation (which I mistakenly used as a rub instead of a sauce…. no problem though. The extra sugar gave the meat nice crusty bits), and the Roasted Garlic and Peppers blend. Both are delicious. The sauces taste great. We have tried them with both pork and chicken, and the meat has come out tender and delicious on both counts.

So if you want to shake up your spice flavours, I do encourage you to try a bottle of Grace Caribbean Tradition spice blends.

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Crabapple Jelly

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This autumn, Michael noticing crabapple trees heavy with fruit along his bike commute, was inspired to make his World Famous Crabapple jelly. It’s quite the lengthy operation.

He started by asking the business owners if it would be okay to pick the crabs. The response was “yes please do because they are falling on the cars”. The following week, on a pleasant Saturday he headed down to pick the fruit. I stopped in to say hello wondering how he planned on carrying two full shopping bags back home on his bike (I took them back in the car). It’s beautiful to be out on a warm fall day, the sun shining in your face, sniffing the smell of fallen leaves, rotting apples, swatting wasps, staring at people staring at you picking apples from a private business’s property.

The bags of apples sat in our storage room for another week, giving Michael time to round up canning jars, and scent our little apartment in a beautiful way that reminds me of my grandparents home when I was a tiny tot.

After another week, Michael cut each of the little apples in half, tossed them in a soup cauldron stems and all, and boiled them. After the boil and cool-down, he strains the juice through cheese cloth overnight:

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Because this is a Process, he bottles the juice up in clean 4 litre milk jugs and takes up every available space in the fridge for ANOTHER WEEK.

On a sunny Saturday morning, Michael carefully measures and calculates the amount of sugar required, and boils the juice and sugar mixture. Whilst this takes place the jars are sterilized, and carefully filled. Then the morning is filled with the sound of the lids popping, followed by Michael giving out a hearty cheer after each pop.

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At long, long last, we have a table full of jewel toned jelly, perfect for topping fresh bread and butter.

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Popcorn, Indiana

Popcorn, Indiana found a fan of their product. Back in late September, they sent me the sample of Chocolate Peanut Butter Kettlecorn.  More recently, they sent me two new samples to try out – Movie Theatre Popcorn that you warm up in the bag in the microwave, and Fit Popcorn, to have when you’ve eaten too much Movie Theatre and Chocolate Peanut Butter Kettlecorn and want to be healthy.

Let us review.

Movie Theatre Popcorn

bag_MT_wpopcornThe heat-in-the-bag idea is pretty neat, because the best few bites of any popcorn is when it is hot and fresh, crispy and salty. The Popcorn, Indiana people are clever to create this magical bag to do the job – instant fresh hot popcorn, without the lasting reek that microwave popcorn tends to leave behind.  This would be perfect for those stuck in hotel rooms or dormitories with only a microwave available. Although it was good enough, if I was going for the movie theatre popcorn experience, I would either a) go to a movie theatre and buy a bag and watch a movie, or b) pop it myself on the stove top, add butter, don jammies and switch on Netflix.

Fit Popcorn

FIT_Bag_wPopcorn_seasaltThis I liked. Although it does not warm up in the microwave, it is light, crisp, with enough salt to feel slightly naughty, and not so dry that you could use it for packing material. I was sent the sea salt variety to try, which was a great, instant snack. But… again, if I have the extra 5 minutes in my life, my preference is to pop the corn myself, stove top.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Drizzlecorn

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Let me tell you about it. Ready?

It’s crunchy, salty popcorn with a velvety smooth peanut butter chocolate drizzle. The perfect snack when you want something salty, crunchy, sweet, rich and quite frankly, something that tastes absolutely sinful. Sinful, but not obscene like double deep fried Mars bars. Oh no, this treat is, without a doubt, my new Go To snack food when I need to console myself with food. Yes, yes, yes, I should put on my sneakers and go for a long walk in the fresh air to console my aching psyche.  But sometimes (although with me it happens more often than not), nothing says, “there there” like a delicious snack.

P1020950My sample arrived in a 156 g bag, and is available in major grocery stores. It advertises on its front, ZERO trans fat, Gluten Free, and 100% natural. It did not taste fake. It tasted delicious. On the back of the bag their story starts with “We Get It” and tell us they know “we crave a snack that’s completely decadent, completely over-the-top, completely life-altering.

It definitely achieves over-the-top, but life-altering? Perhaps, but only because it was so rich and sinful I am sitting here pledging to the diet gods that, “I will never eat like this again”.

It’s 140 calories per 1.5 cup (cups of popcorn are dismally small). It has 7 g of fat, 90 mg of sodium, 19 g of carbs, and 2 g of protein. It does contain peanuts, milk and soy.

If you are looking for something new, different and decadent, this is the stuff to try. Just don’t forget to get outdoors and have a walk afterwards.

 

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Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

This afternoon Michael took command of kitchen and gave me strict instructions to STAY OUT. Shortly after I hear rummaging in the fridge. Rummaging in the storage room. Chopping. The sound of our tiny food processor whirring. Several audible questioning humphs, followed by increasingly more positive sounding mmm… mmmm…. MMMMMMMs!

After a few minutes, I hear, “You have GOT to try this!”. Out of the kitchen comes my hubby, beaming face, and arm outstretched holding a piece of Italian bread with a generous spoonful of his inaugural batch of homemade sun-dried tomato pesto (without pine nuts he adds quickly). I hush him when he wonders if it is a true pesto if it doesn’t have pine nuts. “Who cares?” I ask. As long it tastes good, that’s all that matters. And it was good. Delicious in fact.

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P1020948Michael Walsh’s Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto (without Pine Nuts)

3/4 cup (ish) sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, drained)

Garlic (4 big cloves)

4 tbsp (ish) Olive Oil

Salt (to taste)

1 tsp (ish) Basil (dried leaves, because that’s what we had on hand)

Whir in a food processor until very well blended.

When I quizzed Michael about amounts, he stressed the importance of adding “ish’s” after every measure. He provided his best guess for you to use as a guideline.

 

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David’s Tea

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What? It’s wrong to have a beer accompany my weekend afternoon mug of tea?

In 2012 I did a post on tea, in particular my long standing favourite, Earl Grey. To do research for the post, I had written to a number of tea companies and got generous samples of their teas to try. One of these, David’s Tea, I remember well because their samples were generous and introduced me to varieties of Earl Grey I had never heard of before.

At the time however, I was quite overwhelmed with all the tea that was given to me, and didn’t want to play favourites with one company over another, because all the tea was good.

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Michael’s tea-tin, full of Tetley. Beside that is my Tetley green, some tea from the Empress in Victoria. On the shelf is the coffee grinder and bag of Transcend beans that smell so awesome words can’t describe it.

I’ve always been a lover of tea, and just the other day after a particularly warming cup, declared to Michael that “Tea makes me feel good – it’s sort of like a nice warming of the tummy, followed by the all-over warm-fuzzies you feel after watching pandas go down a slide, followed by the feeling you have been hugged nicely by someone you love”. I further declared that “Coffee does not make me feel this way. Coffee makes me feel obligated to run through the apartment, and start projects like dusting, vacuuming, organizing cupboards, making a macrame plant hangar, and bake a cake designed to look like a princess from the Disney film, Frozen…..all at the same time”.

Michael blinked at me with the patience that he has, so I continued with my observation.

“Then I will realize after emptying our storage cupboard to look for vacuum bags, a fresh Swiffer duster, macrame boards, flour, and Frost princess cake molds that we don’t have these items! I will try to calm my nerves by sucking back another mug of coffee, but of course it doesn’t work! The anxiety and despair I feel for being so behind in my projects has risen to a level that any rational thought has no room to be considered and my mind is already jumping in the car and racing through rush hour traffic to get cleaning supplies from Wal-Mart on one end of the city, macrame boards from Michael’s Craft Store on the other, and then try desperately not to terrify a child in Safeway as I shout at them to quickly describe what a Frost princess looks like while I pick up flour that I forgot to get at Wal-Mart, along with the Frost princess mold at Michael’s Craft Store. At this point, I would be prepared to bake a sponge cake and whittle a Frost princess from it.”

While telling this story to Michael, he gently yawns and stretches like a cat that just woke from nap, and strokes my back in a soothing way while my pupils dilate, un-dilate, dilate, and my chest heaves from the heart palpitations.

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More tea. Tea in tins. Tea in small round containers. Tea in bags. The bagged tea is from David’s Tea and covers oolong to green to black to herbal varieties.

I drink two, maybe threeorfourorfive, cups of coffee a day, but thought I should try to drink nothing but tea.

Day 1 of my new exclusive tea drinking went well. No headaches. A peaceful calm came over me. I didn’t feel I had to rush to do anything. I felt peace. Glorious peaceful peace. But peace doesn’t mean content with one’s tea supply. Suddenly my world of Earl Grey seemed awfully small, so with my new relaxed state of mind, took a relaxed lunch break at work and wandered over to Edmonton City Centre to check out the teas at David’s Tea.

I came home with assortments of oolong, blacks, greens and herbal. I attempted to discuss pu-erh tea with the person behind the counter, but when I said, “Oh, you have a lot of poo-air” the person looked just a little horrified.  I abandoned further discussion on that type of tea.

I will not bore you with describing all the teas I got because tea is such an individual thing. Michael drinks regular Tetley, day in and day out. This has been going on for decades. I need to change things up every now and then, and David’s Tea allows that to happen. What I particularly like about them is the ability to buy very small amounts just to try. I have always turned my nose up at fruit infused tea, but came home with a few samples that have change my mind.

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Michael’s tea pot because he likes his tea out of a pot. I’m content with a mug, but just recently bought a pineapple pot from David’s Tea because it was on sale 40% off.

After two full days of tea only, I did feel far more relaxed, and had no headaches. On Day 3, I made the mistake of picking up a bag of Transcend Coffee beans I had purchased last week, and squished the bag. The scent of fresh, delicious coffee wafted out, and realized right then, that I could never give up coffee entirely. I am trying now to have just one maybetwo coffees a day, and fill in the rest with tea. Everything in moderation as they say.

 

 

 

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