These sweltering, lazy afternoons are just begging for iced tea, time spent outside and a possible dip in a cool stream. Well, that is exactly what happened recently. I don’t have air conditioning in my house, so sometimes, it is necessary to scope out the coolest spot around and take full advantage of its offerings! Looking back, this particular day was especially meaningful to me: one of my dearest friends and I hung out, for what I thought was one of the last days I would see her in a while. While hiking at Lair-o-the-Bear Park near Morrison, Colorado, she let me know that she soon would be moving back to her home state of Michigan to look for a teaching job. The hike was the only activity we had thoughtfully planned, but upon hearing the news, we decided to make the most of that day and soak up the time we had together. We searched out a cool stream, started by simply wading into the water, and, after one crazy suggestion, we decided to fully submerge ourselves, in our hiking clothes, and sit in Bear Creek, passing the time and reminiscing for a good 30 minutes. Cleansing…
In our busy, chaotic, and scheduled lives, we sometimes forget that the small, intimate, seemingly mundane moments are what actually comprise most of our lives. The quiet moments spent perusing the morning paper, over coffee, accompanied by a soft sigh. The seconds, when we gather our belongings, grab our keys, close the door to our car, and take in the golden colors of the late summer afternoon sun. The times where we accidentally meet eyes with our loved ones, while doing the dishes, folding laundry, or piecing together the last perfectly composed bite on our plate. Pauses. Those are the moments that give “life” to our lives. If we fail to appreciate the spontaneity, the accidents, the in-between times, we fail to embrace the richness and uniqueness of our limited days. Those moments are the most important ones…
I took the time to craft some herbal tea recently. With some dried herbs of my own and some that I purchased from Apothecary Tinctura, a local herbal shop in town, I mixed a hodgepodge blend that seemed cheery, calming, and delicious, all at once. I selected a handful of licorice, a small handful of orange peel, a handful of hibiscus, a handful of lemon balm, a few rose hips, and a generous handful of chamomile. I am loosely assembling a recipe, here, as you can see. I combined the ingredients and stored them in a Mason jar for today’s use and for a few other brewing sessions in the near future.
I scooped a cupful of the dried herb blend and placed it into a large jar. I added about two quarts of boiling water and let it sit and steep for about ten minutes in the sunshine. I let the mixture cool and added some honey, as a sweetener, and a little lemon juice to brighten it up.
I save bulk, glass jars that formerly stored green bar olives. These large jars are perfect for batching drinks and soups or simply storing dried herbs. I currently have two of these jars filled with dried peppers, waiting to be integrated into our spicy dried pepper blend.
Another great touch to add to an iced tea of any sort is fruit-composed ice cubes. I chose to make some ice cubes, freezing a piece of fruit within each cube. I will have to try the lovely example I saw at Los Dos Aikos, where the blog’s author, Jaclyn, and her daughter puréed fruit and froze it in heart- and star-shaped molds. It turned out adorably! Read more about their how-to, here.
On a whim, I spied these ice cube trays at Whole Foods. You can also find them at Bed Bath & Beyond.
To make the cubes, simply add your choice of fruit to the trays, fill with water, and freeze. I add them to iced teas, iced water, and even cocktails to brighten up the drink with fruity notes, as the ice melts. The berries make a colorful statement to the beverage; it is such an easy way to take your drinks to another level of style and taste!
While I was waiting for my fruit cubes to freeze, I entertained Stacey’s rag doll kitty, Willow. She is notorious for photo bombs and “taste-testing” recipes!
I added the frozen fruit cubes to my herbal tea, and I was immediately summoned to my favorite chair on my back porch. Summertime sipping simply encourages reflection. I am grateful for my friends, like Stacey, who actively embrace a love of the current moment. And I am happy for learning how to enjoy life in the midst of perceived chaos and uncertainty. On a very happy note, I learned that Stacey received a job here in town, just before she began packing, and will not be moving back to Michigan. Willow will still be able to visit me and the garden, we will purposefully take many more hikes in the future, and I will capitalize on the richness of my friendships and not take them for granted. You never know when things may change.
Herbal tea and raspberry ice cubes, garnished with a sprig of freshly cut thyme.
Our first hike of the day, Deer Creek Canyon. I love this trail that overlooks the “hog back,” or the Front Range of Colorado. You can see downtown Denver off in the distance.
Stacey and her dog, Lucy, at Lair-o-the-Bear Park.
Jayme on the left, Stacey on the right, just after our soaking session in the stream.