Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Grenada, Spain; One of the Most Beautiful Cities on Earth

Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.

Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.

What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but .  . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.

 

 

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This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.

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If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.

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This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”

Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???

That is the memory this photo brings back.

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Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.

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And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.

 

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Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂

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The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.

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The view was beautiful.

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After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.

 

I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?

It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.

Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.

We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.

Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Gardens, Health Issues, Hot drinks, Hotels, Morocco, Paris, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

On Our Own in the Souks of Marrakesh and the Jemaa el-Fna

Free at last!

We are as giddy as children let out of school as the groups head left and we head right, going deeper into our favorite territory, the souks (small shops) in the great city of Marrakesh.

Before we ever went to Marrakesh, many years ago, we read a book by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, author of Guests of the Sheikh, called A Street in Marrakesh, talking about how her family lived in the center of Marrakesh, among Moroccans, and the adjustments they made as they grew to learn more about their environment. You know how you can read a book and feel like you had lived it? We felt we had lived in Marrakesh.

When we visited with our son, we had a car and were driving all through Morocco. We had left Ouazazarte and driven over the Atlas Mountains, stopping here and there to buy fossils and “thunderballs” which are also called geodes. It was late, and dark when we got to Marrakesh, and we had to stop and ask directions at a gas station how to find our hotel. We knew we were near, and we didn’t know how to close the distance. This was before smart phones and Google Maps.

Our son and I watched AdventureMan from the car, and as we watched him ask the two men working there, one pointed left and one pointed right. We were dying laughing. And, actually, both were right, there was an obstacle between us and the hotel and you could go right – or you could go left. At that moment, a motorcycle drove up, listened to the question and offered to guide us to our hotel. This is the essence of Morocco to us; the kindness and the hospitality of the Moroccans.

I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but our room was huge, and full of tile work. Our son had his own area, on a separate level in the same room, and his own TV. It was a far cry from a sterile, modern hotel; this was full of color and detail, tile and wood work.

The next day, we hired a private guide for a tour of Marrakesh, and had a wonderful time exploring all kinds of wonderful places.

So now, off we go, and the smells and the feel of the souks almost make us giddy; we are back in our element.

As we wander, we can hear roosters crowing, and, in the middle of the souks, we find a souk devoted to roosters. It is the middle of the afternoon, a quiet time of day, perfect for wandering.

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Me and my attraction to light fixtures 🙂

 

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A mural of the Koutoubia mosque; one of the reasons we felt so secure in this souk is that if you get lost, you just look for the highest tower around, and that is the Koutoubia mosque, which takes you to Jemaa el-Fna.

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We walked to our content, and then settled in at late afternoon to a cafe with a terrace high over the Jemaa el-Fna, where we had our choice of tables and could watch the market come to life. As we sipped our mint tea, the other tables filled; Moroccan families, tourist couples, assorted characters. The day is gorgeous, we have a shaded location, life is sweet. We’ve soaked in the sights and the smells. We’ve done more than our 10,000 steps. We enjoyed this afternoon immensely.

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December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Cultural, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Hot drinks, Morocco, NonFiction, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Dining in the Dar Es Salaam, Marrakech

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We have driven a couple hours to get from Casablanca to Marrakech, and the bus lets us off just a short walk from the restaurant, the Dar Es Salaam. I don’t believe this restaurant is open to the public; I believe this restaurant is a dedicated group-tours service restaurant.

I admire what they do. They have a lovely venue, it looks like it might have been one of the grand old homes in the city, or even an old mosque. It has elaborate decorations, and lovely spaces. Whatever it was at one time, it has been gutted, and turned into a restaurant that can seat and feed many many people in a very short amount of time.

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Those are not leftover bread crumbs on the table, they are rose petals to welcome groups.

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Tables were marked with signs indicating Smithsonian and/or Purple, and as soon as eight people were seated around a table, service began, first hot towels, then water and small appetizers/mezze. They were pretty good. Most were not heavily spiced.

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Appetizers were some kind of lentils, a beet salad, a mashed potato and pea combination, something maybe with a little lamb, and olives. The olives were delicious.

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They served a huge tajine with some kind of beef dish. It was well cooked, like beef and carrots, with little or no spices that I could detect. Nourishing. Filling.

The venue is spectacular. It is truly a fabulous environment in which to take a meal. The catering service has paid attention to detail, with rose petals on the table, good settings, enough water, good sweets at the end of the meal and hot mint tea poured with a flourish. The restrooms were clean and there were several. I admire the way they can serve so many people so quickly, get-them-in, get-them-out and give them a meal in which there is little to object to . . . unless you’ve had Moroccan cooking before, and like a little taste in your food. We like taste in our food.

We’ve been married and traveling together for so long now that we know we aren’t going to be able to stay with the group. We love Marrakech; we’ve been here before. The last time was with our son, about fifteen years ago, but not a lot has changed. Our group leader looks a little worried, until we explain that we know the city, we speak Arabic and French, we know the customs, and we can find our way to the hotel on our own when we are finished. We walk – we almost run – away before anyone else knows we are gone.

 

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, Hot drinks, Morocco, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Aladdin; Back to our Roots in Seville

We have discovered this tour group stuff isn’t so bad as long as we have time and opportunity to go off on our own, stroll the cities, find delicious places to stop and eat  . . .

 

But this evening is the Smithsonian gathering, where we all meet one another, and it is a lot of fun. The group is from all over the US, and is full of people about our own age who love travel and love to learn about the countries they are visiting. They have all lived such interesting and varied lives.  There are little appetizers, mostly the famous Seville ham, sliced into transparently thin slices, and cheeses and olives. The wine if flowing freely. We all introduce ourselves, visit a little, and then it is over.

 

We never thought we would want to eat again, after our lovely lunch at Al Tobaso, but decide we need a little something so we won’t be awake at four in the morning, starving. Just down the street from our hotel, we see just the place. We are hungry for something light, and here is Aladdin, with it’s menu of Arabic “tapas,” so we order grape leaves, hummus, baba ghannoush and felafel. It is fresh, and delicious, and we drink it with mint tea in beautiful Moroccan tea glasses, in preparation for our departure, tomorrow, for Cadiz and the voyage to Casablanca.

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We slept well!

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Still Standing: 9 Year Blog-a-versary Extravaganza

It’s time to celebrate, and, my friends, we have to do it fast because September 11th is nipping at our heels, and September 11th is a day that makes me very sad, very sad, indeed. So for now, forget September 11th! For today, we will celebrate nine years, yes, nine years of blogging.

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So many times I have thought “why bother?”

I do it for me. I do it because writing is what I was born to do. I do it because from the beginning, you have given me such wonderful support and feedback.

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I’m in a Paris frame of mind 🙂 I’ve gathered some wonderful cookies and cakes for you; you can nibble, peruse, re-acquaint yourself with old friends in the comment sections – I know I did, and it re-inspired me.

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Back in the beginning, back in 2006, the blogging scene in Kuwait was such fun, so wide open. Bloggers had really interesting things to say, and said them. I learned so much from the Kuwait bloggers, and made some great friends. 1001 Nights and I became life long friends, even though we are far apart. Other bloggers, one in particular from Saudi Arabia who is now deceased, and another from the Netherlands, Aafke, with whom I have stayed in touch and maintained a friendship were full of ideas, started great conversations, it was like being in a salon in France when ideas were steaming and popping and revolutionizing everything.

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While the newness of blogging has long worn off, the need to write has not. Mostly, I keep blogging because every now and then I have something to say, and this I where I say it. Yes, there are other, newer platforms, but sometimes you need a place where people with a longer attention span can come and work through an issue alongside me.

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Of course, I also continue because we still love to travel, and I love to share my adventures and my resources with you of similar interests 🙂

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Life has greatly changed, once again. This year, our oldest grandchild started kindergarten, real school, and comes to our house where his parents pick him up from work. He is so much fun! We are loving seeing life through his eyes, hearing about his day, learning his new song and his joy in learning. We also get to see either our son or our daughter-in-law every day; it may be just a few minutes, but it keeps us up to date. Life is sweet.

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This coming week we also have Grandparent’s Lunch Day with our granddaughter at her school. She is now fully two, and as my favorite nephew Earthling says about his daughter of about the same age “she is very opinionated.” She is also very sure of her right to be right, and to have her way, and she is full of spirit and energy, so she, too, leads us on a merry race. It is a joy to watch her struggle to express herself – and increasingly, to succeed. She is learning new words every day, and you can see the excitement on her face as we understand what she wants so desperately to tell us.

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We never have plans for just one trip; we always have one coming up and one in the plans 🙂 so here’s a hint:

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Thank you, thank you, all who have remained with me so loyally, those who comment and those who lurk, those who check in now and then and those who write to me in the background to bring me up to date on your lives. You, and your feedback, are what makes this all worthwhile.

Have a cookie, or three or four and some cake and some of this wonderful Moroccan mint tea we’ve brewed, and celebrate nine years and still standing.

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, France, Generational, Hot drinks, Interconnected, Kuwait, Morocco, Relationships, Values | 4 Comments

The Edmonds Bakery

There is more than one Edmonds, in fact there are several layers of Edmonds experience, but the biggest distinction is between the day-trippers and the locals.

There is a great Starbucks, and it is usually packed. There is another cafe, on Walnut, and it has wonderful pastries and a loyal clientele. And then, there is the Edmonds Bakery, where the locals go.

We go the first time because we are killing time before my Mom’s hair appointment is over and we can take her to lunch. We are also two hours past our normal lunch time, so we tell ourselves we can have some tea and a cookie just to tide us over until lunch.

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The Edmonds Bakery has the best pies, wonderful pies with a home-made taste, especially when berry season comes in. They also have maple bars, which we stop and buy for my Mom the next day, as she has always loved maple bars.

The Edmonds bakery also has a notable collection of cookie jars. Everywhere you look, a different cookie jar. I imagine a few of them are probably very valuable on the collectables market, but most of them are just so much fun.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to be the one to dust them all!

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The Edmonds Bakery has a limited number of booths and tables where you can sit and enjoy your pastry 🙂 This is where the locals gather, and find out what’s going on in Edmonds.

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Community, ExPat Life, Food, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Seattle, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A View from the Sunset Inn, Panama City Beach

We love this place, the Sunset Inn, a little Mom and Pop kind of motel, hard to find in over-developed Panama City Beach with its huge soulless condominiums towering over the white sands.

As we walk in the door, the view hits us and we breathe in the sea air and go “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” The minute we walk in the door, we start to feel relaxed.

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We both have cooking to do, so we get busy, but busy with glances at the view, and trips to our balcony to breathe. It is COLD, with a cold wind, but so gorgeous, so breath-takingly gorgeous, and we are happy.

Soon, there are cranberries cooking for Mom’s Cranberry Salad and hot juice brewing for the punch, redolent of cinnamon and cloves and orange peel, wonderful smells filling our room – and that view. Life is sweet.

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And then, just when you think it can’t get any better, the sun starts to set, the light goes all golden and soft and oh, life is sweet.

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December 1, 2013 Posted by | Beauty, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Holiday, Hot drinks, Hotels, Photos, Road Trips, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

“You’re Not Southern – You’re Arab!”

My mind works in quirky ways, and yesterday as I was setting up for the hands-on Heirloom Feathers workshop with Cindy Needham, one of the good local Pensacola quilters was telling her how you can tell a Southerner from a Northerner.

“If you go to a Southerner’s house, they’ll ask you first thing if you’d like a drink of water, or iced tea or something, but if you go into a Northerner’s house, you can sit there for five hours and they won’t offer you ANYTHING!”

I grinned to myself, no, I have learned to censor these thoughts. But I couldn’t help it.

“You’re not a Southerner,” I am thinking, “You’re ARAB!”

I thought about a long ago trip through Morocco, we have a rental car and on our way from Ouazazarte to Marrakesh, on an isolated stretch of the road, we see a car in trouble. We stop and ask if we can help, if the man would like a lift to the next town. He tells us no, he wants to stay with the car, but asks if we would go to such and such service station and tell his uncle he needs help, and where he is.

Of course.

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We drive into town, find the service station, and find the young man’s uncle, who is the owner. He sends help.

Did I mention it was Ramadan? No eating or drinking in public from dawn to dusk?

The owner insisted we come into his house, and seated us in his diwaniyya, and sent in mint tea and luscious almond-filled dates to refresh us. We said “No! No! It’s Ramadan!” but he told us it was his honor. He sat while we drank and ate.

Such enormous hospitality. Such grace. We only stayed a very short time; we still had a long drive, but I’ve never forgotten his hospitality.

Then again, it was Southern Morocco. 🙂 Maybe he was Southern.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Character, Cold Drinks, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Hot drinks, Morocco, Pensacola, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

Green Tea and Coffee Really Do Cut Stroke Risk!

I found the report of this newest survey on National Public Radio’s The Salt:

A Daily Habit Of Green Tea Or Coffee Cuts Stroke Risk
by ALLISON AUBREY
March 15, 2013

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Whether it’s green tea that warms you up, or coffee that gives you that morning lift, a new study finds both can help cut the risk of suffering a stroke.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, included 82,369 men and women in Japan.

Researchers found that the more green tea a person drank, the more it reduced the risk of suffering a stroke.

“It’s almost a 20 percent lower risk of stroke in the green tea drinkers” who drank four cups a day, compared with those who rarely drank green tea, explains Dr. Ralph Sacco of the University of Miami. (He’s the past president of the American Heart Association, and we asked him to review the study for us.)

And with coffee, researchers found just one cup per day was also associated with about a 20 percent decreased risk of stroke during a 13-year follow-up period.

“I was still feeling rather surprised” about the findings, Dr. Yoshihiro Kokubo, the study’s lead author, tells The Salt in an email. Kokubo is a researcher at the Department of Preventive Cardiology, National Cerebra and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan.

Kokubo says that green tea contains compounds known as catechins, which help regulate blood pressure and help improve blood flow. The compounds also seem to promote an anti-inflammatory effect. Kokubo says coffee, which contains caffeine and compounds known as quinides, likely influences our health through different mechanisms.

It’s not just the Japanese who seem to benefit from drinking coffee and green tea. Over the past few years, researchers in the U.S. have documented similar reductions in heart disease risk among Americans.

“The accumulating evidence from a variety of studies is suggesting that green tea and coffee may be protective,” says Sacco.

And, in addition, recent studies have linked a regular coffee habit to a range of benefits — from a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes to a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease.

It’s interesting to note how much the thinking about caffeine and coffee has changed.

In the 1980s, surveys found that many Americans were trying to avoid it; caffeine was thought to be harmful, even at moderate doses.

One reason? Meir Stampfer of the Harvard School of Public Health says back then, coffee drinkers also tended to be heavy smokers. And in early studies, it was very tough to disentangle the two habits.

“So it made coffee look bad in terms of health outcomes,” says Stampfer.

But as newer studies began to separate out the effects of coffee and tea, a new picture emerged suggesting benefits, not risks.

Researchers say there’s still a lot to learn here — they haven’t nailed down all the mechanisms by which coffee and tea influence our health. Nor have they ruled out that it may be other lifestyle habits among coffee and tea drinkers that’s leading to the reduced risk of disease.

And experts say when it comes to preventing strokes and heart attacks, no food or drink is a magic bullet. It’s our overall patterns of eating and exercise that are important.

“It’s a whole lifestyle approach, and we need to remember that,” says Sacco.

So if you are already in the habit of drinking coffee or green tea, this study is one more bit of evidence that you can go ahead and enjoy it.

March 16, 2013 Posted by | Experiment, Health Issues, Hot drinks, Statistics | Leave a comment

Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Tea

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We were all working hard, in our little areas, each with our job to do. The youngest broke the silence:

“You guys want to try some tea? I just got it. It’s pretty good.”

We really needed the break more than we needed the tea, but we made ourselves cups of this new tea – and then, WOW.

“What is this?” I demanded in delight.

“It’s called Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride!” the young one called back.

“It tastes like the frosting on Sugar Cookies!” the third one of us called out. This tea is seriously good, it tasted like cookies, but it is tea, and NO CALORIES!

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Community, Cultural, Hot drinks, Living Conditions | 2 Comments