My Favourite Festive Teas

It's holiday tea season! While coffee lovers are instagramming their pumpkin lattes all Autumn long, tea drinkers patiently wait, knowing our time will come... the time when our tea cups will be blessed with heavenly dashes of cinnamon and peppermint. I got a little carried away this year and somehow ended up buying seven different holiday looseleaf blends, so I thought it would be fun to share my favourites from the group. So put the kettle on, grab a cookie, and join me for Edna's Great Holiday Tea Review of 2014! Ha!

Obviously taste is completely subjective. Just because I like or dislike a tea doesn't mean that you will too. So, as you read my reviews, keep in mind that I prefer relatively strong, black teas with earthy and floral notes and not too much flavouring: think Darjeeling or Nepali. I rarely like fruity, herbal teas, but they do suprise me from time to time, as you'll see below.

In order to best compare them all, I tasted all seven teas in one caffeine-crazy session. I kept brewing consistent by using 1-1/2 teaspoons of tea per 8 ounces of water and steeping for 5 minutes each. I did notice that some teas, particularly the Tealish teas, were too strong and retested those again afterwards with only 1 teaspoon of tea.

Ok. Tea time.

I'm pretty pleased that my favourite of them all was the Christmas Candle Tea by Parkermann's Fine Tea Co., a Hamiltonian company! Cafe Oranje was kind enough to package up a bag for me, as you can see. The black tea (quite lovely on its own) is the focus in this blend, with cinnamon spice and floral notes on the subtler side. A well-balanced tea — the best of both worlds.

My next favourite was Oh Christmas Tea by Tealish. This is another black tea but with stronger holiday spices, like cinnamon, coriander and cardamom. It also has apple pieces in there which give it a cider-like nose and flavour. Funny story: this is one of the first looseleaf teas that I ever tried. Mike bought it for me about 5 years ago. I loved it at the time and was curious to see if I still would, now that I'm a regular looseleaf-tea drinker, and I'm happy to report that I do! 

Now this one surprised me. My third choice was a fruity herbal tea from David's Tea called Sleigh Ride. Like I said earlier, I normally don't go for teas without a black tea base, but I really liked this one. There is a lot going on and you can truly taste it all. Apple and cinnamon are the main flavours, but there are also notes of roasted almond, hibiscus, and tropical fruit. I'm not sure what makes it's "Christmasy", but it's still nice.

Initially, I only wanted to list my top three teas, but I couldn't not include Santa's Secret because of the adorable little candy canes! Just look at them! You can't help but smile when you see those little guys twirling around in your cup. However, cuteness aside, I thought it tasted like artificial chocolate mint flavouring, the black tea didn't stand out as anything particularly nice and there were numerous stems in the mix. Those candy canes, though!

The other two teas that I tried were the Winter Blend by Tealish and Eggnog by David's Tea. The Winter Blend was strikingly similar to Sleigh Ride, but with less complexity. I found the hibiscus and blackberry were a little overpowering and tart, and the citrus notes made it taste kind of like cold medecine. The Eggnog was completely undrinkable for me. It tasted more like hay and tabacco than anything. I immediately threw it in the trash and made a real eggnog!

So there you have it — the contents of my Christmas tea cupboard! Honestly, I would've loved to try more brands, especially local companies like Steeped Tea or Terra's Tea. But I didn't have the time, cash, or storage space. Maybe next year I'll try seven more! What are your favourites? Are there any festive teas that you love (or love to hate)? Please share in the comment below!

9 Things on My Wishlist

I'll admit, with only a week until Christmas, it's probably pretty late for wish lists and gift guides. But, at the same time, I'm super sad that I haven't posted a single Christmas-themed post this year!

I begrudgingly gave up on my beloved 12 Days of Christmas series this year because, well... it was certifiably insane. I love everything about Christmas, so I loved doing it, but it was a lot of extra work at my busiest time. With my calm "word of the year" in mind, it just made sense to ditch the self-pressure. But then I went in the complete opposite direction and wrote absolutely nothing. Oops.

I couldn't possibly leave it at that. So, now that the craft fairs are done and the online orders have slowed to a trickle, why not just cram a bunch of festive posts into the next 7 days? Haha! Are you with me? Let's start with my wish list, because I've had it half-written for weeks and because it may help give you some ideas for any hard-to-buy-for ladies still left on your list!

1. The yoga mat I've been using for over 10 years still gets the job done, but it's on its last legs. Shocker. I'm not picky about brands, although I've read good reviews about this eco Jade Harmony one — as long as my feet don't slip, I'll be happy.

2. I love my Tamar Shalem boots so much, I've been dying to get another pair. These leopard print ballet flats are super cute (and on sale). I'm also pretty smitten with the black oxfords (also on sale).

3. I've always just used a rolled up towel to press darts when sewing, but I used a proper tailor's ham at Needlework last night and I swear my darts have never looked so good. (Needlework sells them, of course.)

4. I'm been struggling with a growing obsession for washi tape lately. I've justified purchasing a few rolls for business packaging purposes, but it took some serious self-control to not buy every colour of the rainbow. Naturally, a washi tape dispenser is the next step in my addiction. This wooden one is lovely, but I'm also kind of in love with this bear-shaped one that will hold up to 8 rolls! Care to enable me?

5. Another obsession of mine is calendars. Most of the time I'm trying (and failing) to simultaneously use three at once: my google calendar, a monthly desk planner, and a pretty wall calendar. Overkill? Maybe. This large wall calendar by Rifle Paper and Co. could be an all-in-one solution to that problem — pretty and practical. But I also love this floral one and this monthly planner by She Plans. You decide for me, because I can't. (You can find the Rifle Paper and Co. calendars at Mixed Media).

6. I'm going to attempt crocheting myself mittens and a scarf in the new year, but a toque might be too advanced for me. Plus, there are so many amazing ones you can buy, like this handmade beauty by White Lodge Knitwear. I also love the new merino styles by Icebreaker, like this cute pom pom guy and this neat reversible one.

7. Johanna Masko opened my eyes to the wonderful world of starch when sewing patchwork and I've been using it faithfully ever since. I could do without the chemical stench and fussy aerosol can, though. Flatter by Soak is a starch-free smoothing spray that solves all of those issues and is kind on the environment. With about 90 farmer's wife blocks still to go, this product would make the process much more enjoyable. (Available at Needlework.)

8. I'm still trying to sew as many new garments as I can in my free time, so patterns are always a good bet as a gift for me. Last year I asked for the Grainline Archer shirt pattern. This year, I want their Alder dress. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any Grainline pattern. I love them all!

9. No Christmas list of mine would be complete without books! I've read Diana Gabaldon's entire Outlander series and I'm ravenous for the newest edition!

Show Time: Makers' Market

My final craft show of the season is this Saturday! It's the Makers' Market at Christ's Church Cathedral in Hamilton. This will be the third year I've done this show -- it's one of my favourites as both a shopper and a maker. There's always a great selection of talented artists, it's a beautiful, cosy space and when you're done at the show, you can browse the lovely shops along James Street North with a Relay coffee in hand. Now doesn't that sound like a great Saturday? Seriously, you should come!

Don't live in the area? Don't worry, you can still shop online for one more week. Yay!

Show Time: Handmade Hamilton

Hey guys! I'll be at the Handmade Hamilton craft show and sale at the beautiful Staircase Theatre in Hamilton tomorrow. A great chance to make a dent in your Christmas list and support local artists at the same time. I hope to see you there! xo

Super Special Orders

After furiously preparing for the HandMade Market (which was a fantastic show, by the way), I spent last week defrosting my toes and catching up on some fun custom requests, or, as I like to call them, super special orders. Although custom often means quite a bit more work for me, I really love doing it. I love the break from routine. I love the slow relaxation of hand embroidery (and being able to watch TV while I do it). But most of all, I love the warm and fuzzy feelings that come from knowing I am creating such unique, personal gifts from the heart. This week, I inscribed secret love notes, played with monsters driving monster trucks, and scored big time with a hockey lover. It was great.

Inspired to create a personalized gift for someone on your Christmas list? Please remember that the ordering deadlines for custom items are getting real tight! Today is the last day for international customers. Americans and Canadians have until the end of next week. So please contact me sooner rather than later!

Show Time: Handmade Market

Between road trips, home improvements, quilt class and sewing for the holiday season, I sure haven't had time to blog lately, but I wanted to pop in quickly to share the news that I'll be at the Handmade Market this weekend! I've been wanting to do this one for awhile now and I'm super excited about it! It's held at the beautiful Honsberger Estate in Jordan, Ontario and there will be over 75 artists, plus wine and beer to sip while you shop, food trucks and an entire "culinary barn"! Oooh it's gonna be good! Hope to see you there!

Shop Update: New Work Aprons

Tomorrow I'm heading out on a week-long road trip through Essex County, Detroit and Ann Arbour for my husband's birthday. But before I left, I wanted to make sure that you were all up to date on Dear Edna happenings, specifically that there are four new work aprons for sale in the shop! Woo!

For the fellas, there's a spiffy dark indigo denim with contrast stitching, a nautical navy striped denim and a classy maroon plaid. I know that men aren't the only ones that appreciate a good, sturdy apron, so I've also made a limited edition women's apron in a classic red, blue, green and yellow plaid.

More details and pictures are all in my Etsy shop. Please take a moment to check them out here

All orders placed while I'm away will ship October 20th.

Our Wedding: Part 5 - The Honeymoon

Ahh the honeymoon. Of course we would've loved to go to Europe, but twice in a year is a little excessive, especially on top of a wedding. So we went with the next best thing within Canada... Québec! Québec City for nine days and Montreal for four. We've been to Montreal many times, but I had been to Québec City only once, on a school trip in grade 8, and Mike had never been, which just seemed silly. It's a one-hour flight!

Most people want to know what the heck we found to do in Québec City for nine days. It's more of a long weekend destination for most, I guess. We've certainly never spent that much time in one city, either. But you have to remember that we left two days after our wedding. All we wanted to do was unplug and take it easy: sleep in, stroll, patio people-watch, eat some good food, drink some French wine. When you have nine days somewhere, you can do all that and not worry that your picnic got rained out or the museum is closing... because you can go tomorrow! It was great! Maybe our days of go-go-go backpacking are behind us?

The very first night we arrived was La Fête nationale du Québec, also known as Saint-John-Baptiste Day. Actually, I believe the holiday was the next day, but the party was the night before. And what a party it was! Stages were spread out across the entire Plains of Abraham — every musical genre was represented — and you could peruse it all with a beer in hand. (Why can't Ontario get behind this concept?) We walked around the whole thing and then settled in at the hip hop stage with Loud Lary Ajust and their hilariously "bilingual" rhymes: "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, oh my God, I mean oh my Dieu!" Haha! It was so fun!

We stayed in this beautiful airbnb apartment. The location was great: on a relatively quiet street, outside of the touristy area, but close enough to walk to all the sites, and in between trendy Rue Saint-Jean and Avenue Cartier. That amazing kitchen didn't get much use, but the balcony sure did. It was a great place to come back to at the end of a long day... or to not leave at all on a rainy one.

The Chateau Frontenac sadly doesn't offer tours anymore, but that didn't stop us from poking around. After a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter at the newly renovated bar, 1608, we ended up in the basement where we found this photo. Ladies who lunch? How about ladies who skate... and are served martinis on the frozen lake? I have a new goal to aspire to.

Another hidden gem we stumbled upon by accident was this church turned used book/record/furniture store. I took about a zillion photos, completely mesmerized by it, while Mike picked out some overpriced Quebecois albums and tried to haggle in broken French.

Down down down into the Old Port. We weren't crazy for the scene down there at first. The shops, galleries, and restaurants all seemed aimed at an older, wealthier demographic. Think Niagara on the Lake. But then we turned a corner and discovered Quartier Petit Champlain, which was quaint and lovely. We settled in at Bistrot le Pape Georges for lunch and, thanks to the very friendly waitress, a few too many glasses of rosé. We were quite content on the patio, but the atmosphere inside was awesome too. It was built in an old house from 1668 — need I say more? The Petit Champlain shopping wasn't half bad either. Mike bought me a beautiful leather clutch from M0851 as a wedding gift. Can't complain about that! 

We chose to visit two museums that were a little off the beaten path.

The Musée des Ursulines de Québec preserves the art and history of the Ursuline Convent of Québec City, the oldest institution of learning for women in North America. The range of subjects these women learned was pretty astounding - it almost made me wish I could be a student there now. They also had an embroidery exhibit on that was quite beautiful. We weren't allowed to take photos, unfortunately.

The clear favourite for us, however, was the Morrin Centre. Before it became the first English-language college in Québec City, it was the city's first public prison. This unique mix of history made for a very interesting tour, from dank basement cells to science laboratories and an absolutely spectacular library.

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec was a treat both inside and out. It emphasizes art by Québécois artists, which is really what you want as a tourist, and the tower wing, which used to be a jail, is an interesting piece of preserved history. If you need a break, the café patio has a great view overlooking the park. Just don't order the beef tartare, or tell the waitress that you disliked it, for that matter. You've been warned.

I'm not usually big on modern art, but the Les matins infidèles: L’art du protocole (Unfaithful Mornings: The Art of Protocol) exhibition was brilliant. Inspired by the film of the same name, in which a photographer takes a picture at the same time on the same street corner for a year, this exhibition brings together fifteen artists whose work was executed in a similar manner, with strict methodical rules. 40 meters of paper, 400 pounds of wool, 7905 Spirograph drawings, thousands of pinholes. It was all beautifully mesmerizing.

We also rented a car one day and made a trip out to see Montmorency Falls and Île d'Orléans. Maybe we've been spoiled, living so close to Niagara Falls, but we found the falls a little ho hum. The island, on the other hand, was fantastic! We sampled wine, cider, cassis and ice cream while overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. We were able to drive around the entire island in an afternoon (it's only 34k long and 8k wide), but I would've liked to have had more time to stop and explore. In hindsight, I wish we stayed a night here. You live and you learn.

Another advantage of having a lot of time in one city, we feel like we got to explore neighbourhoods that likely get overlooked by tourists on a tight schedule, like Quartier Saint-Roch, where we shopped, sampled some micro brews, and dined at L'affaire Est Ketchup, which was one of the best meals the entire trip.

Even the train station in Québec was beautifully historic. And from here we were off to the land of acrobatics and jazz, also known as Montreal.

This crazy show was set up outside of a subway station. Only in Montreal.

It was fun to catch some of the jazz fest this time, as I'd never been. We did some research ahead of time and set out specifically to see these guys, The Fat Tuesday Brass Band, a 7-piece band with a New Orleans funk sound. As expected, they killed it!

The duo we liked to call Money Pants and Slash hit the stage afterwards and there was no way I was walking away before hearing a few songs. Their real band name was Les Deuxluxes and they were every bit as fun and rock and roll as they looked.  

I'm so happy we were able to catch the end of the Orkestra Severni and Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra set that was making it's way across the square. What a performance! I felt like I was at a Beirut Takeaway Show. Luckily Mike had the forethought to shoot a quick video, complete with weird dancing man. Enjoy.

I've saved the best for last. The food. Oh my God, the food.

Adopting the "it's our honeymoon, let's splurge" philosophy, we ate at some truly amazing restaurants on this trip. L'affaire Est Ketchup, Le Moine Echanson, and Hobbit Bistro were all highlights in Québec City. In Montreal, Au Pied du Cochon left us so drunk on foie gras that we had to hold each other up on the walk home. And then there was Joe Beef, where I believe I declared myself "the happiest girl in Montreal." Haha!

All in all, we spent our two weeks well. It was exactly what we needed to both keep that newlywed high going strong and ease the shock of it all being over. We don't grant ourselves (or others) that favour very often, do we? But it's so important. What if we took a trip after every big life event? Let's make that a thing.

By the way, if you missed the other four parts of my wedding recap, you can find them here.