how to make your own tea

| DIY projects

hello, friends! today i have a very special guest post for you from my dear friend christy from nordgrains! as our husbands work together, it wasn't long before we found each other and became quick friends. she writes a fabulous blog on healthy living, yoga and nutrition (a must read!) and today is sharing with us how to make our very own tea. i've had several cups and it's just about the yummiest tea i've ever had!

how to make your own tea
Tea is funny. It is both companion and social prop. “Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things,” Chaim Potok writes in his novel, The Chosen. But C. S. Lewis said, “Tea should be taken in solitude.” In wintertime I cannot help but wish for tea nearly every day. I am not picky: it tastes good in the presence of company or in the company of silence. There is indeed something magical about good tea, but there is even more magic in great tea, and even better—in pretty tea. A couple weeks ago I accepted an invitation to explore the verb “create.” It is a tricky verb--that business of creating--especially if one’s greatest temptation is comparison. Comparison and competition stripped away, I am creative. One of my most delightful qualities is my uncanny ability to explore and marry flavors. So I set out to make my own tea. I was so inspired by the abundance of options before me that I soon penciled in a new goal: one day cultivate my own tea garden from which I can harvest rich, home-grown flavors.

Tea bags are surprisingly easy to come by. I ordered mine online but also found a small variety at local health markets. Some resources suggested making tea bags out of cheesecloth. One problem: I am a sans sewing machine, completely novice DIY-er.

how to make your own tea

My first purchase was a big handful of organic Colorado mountain mint. I rinsed the leaves and made small bouquets to hang in a dark, dry space. I also cleaned and chopped organic tangerine rind. My flavor collection was completed in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods where I gathered cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise stars, cardamom pods, a few other spices, and some jasmine green tea leaves.

how to make your own tea

Always somewhere between hateful and grateful of our semi-arid climate here on Colorado’s Front Range, I did not wait long for my mint to dry. Now here’s the deal. When you buy regular old tea bags, the ingredients are so minced and chopped that you eventually stare at a mass resembling a soggy cud, having no visual connection to any real plant-based ingredient in the cotton satchel. Tea should be pretty. I did not chop and crush my mint leaves. I broke them only small enough to fit inside the tea bags. This way the leaves expand, grow, and turn a brilliant green in the tea cup!

how to make your own tea

Tea tags? Organic cotton string, card stock, and a stamp pad.

how to make your own tea

As I was reaching for my stamp pad, my hand brushed my button bucket. I know, it is probably strange to have a button bucket when I do not know how to sew, but I recently learned that I have a strong attraction to button buckets: they are a rite of passage for women. Does not every woman have a button bucket? I should be horrified to learn the negative. My own mother had a small, rarely used sewing space in our house. As a little girl, I found the specific sewing implements frightening and bizarre, but I loved to steal away and run my fingers through the button bucket. Back to the business of tea, I decided that tea tags should be lovely, and what better opportunity than to decorate with beads and buttons? This way, I can give tea to others and contribute to other women’s button buckets. My tea will be the gift that keeps on giving.

how to make your own tea

The final order of business was to examine the individual tea leaves, spices, and “things” I had collected and start crafting real brews. Here is what I landed on. None have disappointed.

nordgrainsNordgrains is about health and wholeness. Like seeds, we already have the substance to grow and live big, vibrant lives. Sometimes we forget what we already have. I hope to help you find nourishment for your continued growth.

book page bunting by oh, buckets

| DIY projects | handmade

hello, lovelies! today's guest post comes to you from one of the sweetest gals, jes from oh, buckets! she found ghtr in it's early (early) days, and we've been friends ever since. whether it's a diy project or a new item for her shop, she's always up to something new and whimsically beautiful. i hope you enjoy getting to know her and learning about this great project! xo, bonnie

book page bunting
My little Sofia turned 5 this past weekend and we celebrated with her requested butterfly and heart party – what a sweet combination!  I was able to use a table cloth that once belonged to my great, great grandma.  It was made from an old flour sack and beautifully embellished with none other than butterflies and blue embroidery!  I also made an adorable cake topper for Sofia’s little flourless chocolate heart cake, and a party pom out of cupcake liners!  But, the stars of the show were the book page buntings proudly announcing Sofia and her brand new age!  Read on for a super simple how-to:

What you’ll need:

An old book – I found mine at a thrift store for $0.50!

A hole puncher

Reinforcement circles

Ribbon – I used 3 yards

A sharp blade and scissors

Glue or decoupage – I used the latter

Paper to make your letters/numbers/shapes or pre-cut options

Your browser may not support display of this image.

book page bunting

Begin by cutting out the number of book pages you will need.  I used a sharp blade, but scissors would work just fine.  Since my little lady was turning five I chose to (mostly) use pages containing the number 5.  You can cut out whatever pages you like!  Then, punch two holes in the top of each page (this is where the ribbon will run thru).  Because old book pages are fragile, you will want to line the back of each punched hole with reinforcement circles.

Next, cut out your letters and/or pictures.  I used a Slice machine, but any similar tool would work!  You could also print the letters on the computer and cut them out or purchase pre-cut letters and/or pictures from a craft store.  I chose to adhere my letters with decoupage, but you could use glue.  Allow the letters to dry before adding the ribbon – about 20 minutes should do.

book page bunting

Finally, lay your pages out in the order you want them to hang.  Begin running your ribbon thru the holes - starting from the underside of each page, coming out the top, and then back down thru.  Make sure to leave enough ribbon at each end for hanging.  And, wa-la you’re done!

vanilla bean latte with ashley pahl

| handmade

While mocha is a popular latte flavor, to me, nothing can beat fresh vanilla beans with coffee and milk. When I started making my own lattes from scratch, vanilla was the first flavor I tried, and it has continued to be my favorite. The recipe is quick, and only requires five simple ingredients!


- ground espresso beans

- water

- milk

for the syrup

- 1 cup of water

- 2 cups of sugar

- 1 vanilla bean, moist

- small sauce pan

- air-tight container for storage

Making the vanilla syrup takes longer, so I like to start this recipe with that.

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrap out the seeds with a sharp knife. If you need to see a demonstration, view this vanilla bean splitting tutorial on YouTube.

Alternatively, you can cut the whole bean into segments, split the segments, and leave the seeds in the pod. Both methods will provide a great vanilla flavor.

Combine the sugar, water, and vanilla beans (or pod segments) in the small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and watch how the sugar melts into the water.

Let it boil for a couple of minutes to really let the vanilla flavor out of the beans. You will be left with a clear mixture with seeds and/or pods floating in it.

This makes two cups of syrup; the extra syrup that you don't use today can be kept in an air-tight container such as a jar, bottle, or even a clean soap pump if you want to store it like Starbucks does!

Making the Espresso

For one latte, make 2 ounces of espresso with an espresso machine, or use 2 ounces of very bold blend coffee if you don't have an espresso machine. Steam 2 cups of milk on the stove or with a milk steamer nozzle on the espresso machine.

Coffee Geek has a great tutorial on steaming milk both on a stove top and with a steaming wand.

Blend espresso, milk, and vanilla syrup together, using an ounce or two of syrup to your own liking. If there is any foam from the steamed milk, hold it back with a spoon while pouring the milk into the coffee, and then spoon it on top as a finishing touch!

cofee with indie pretty projects

ashley paul indie pretty projectAshley has been coffee-crazy since college when her husband bought her an espresso machine for Christmas. Armed with a pot of dark roast, she spends her days writing Indie Pretty Projects and creating for her self-titled Etsy shop.


| handmade


{untitled by une**}

hello lovelies! i just wanted to share some personal news with you, as we're all dear friends here, right? this weekend, i'll be flying home to spend some time with my family for the next week. we found out over thanksgiving last year that my dad has prostate cancer, and tuesday morning he's having surgery to remove it. it was a miracle that we found out as early as we did and the doctors have a great feeling about the surgery and the outcome. they expect to fully remove it and therefore leave my dad completely cancer free. for that i am so thankful! however, the c-word is never something you want to hear. my grandpa (his dad) died from prostate cancer about ten years ago, and to hear the news again has been really hard. however, we are all in high spirits and have great faith that everything will be alright and that he'll be back to his old self in no time. in the meantime, your prayers would mean so much.

my family

{this is my family! sister, hub, me, mom & dad; photo by altmix photography}

want to know a little about my dad? he's pretty much the best man/husband/dad i could ever imagine. he's the most thoughtful, selfless and generous man i know. he has always put his family first and nothing has ever been more important to him than 'his girls'. we were raised with daily hugs and were always told how proud we made him. on early winter mornings, we would always find our cars cranked (as he wanted us to be warm), and to this day he still hides a little money for me when he knows i'm going shopping. he always makes sure that i have mace with me anywhere i go (ha!) and he never let's us forget how much he loves us. if we need him, he is always there for us. he now needs me, so i'm going home.

what does this mean for ghtr? well things might be a little light for a while, but i've got some really great guest posts lined up for you next week. i should be back by thursday (1/27) and return full swing by monday the 31st. i'll try to send out updates on how everything is going via twitter, so feel free to follow along there.

until then! here are a few things to catch up on:

this week's sweet talk: 10 reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners

do you remember this article on the femivore's dilemma? it's still one of my favorites!

love this post on 4 easy ways to eat more vegetables by jenny hoople

this week's recipes: butternut squash & red onion pasta & baked bartlett pears with cinnamon

see you soon! love, bonnie

baked pears with cinnamon

| seasonal recipes

i made these baked pears for dessert last night and they turned out to be scrum-dilly-icious! quick, seasonal and super healthy- i think you'll love this recipe.

baked cinnamon pears


- bartlett pears (i used 6 for this recipe)

- 1 cup of apple cider (or apple juice)

- 1 cup of orange juice

- 1 tsp cinnamon

- 1/2 tsp cloves

- dash of nutmeg

- 1/4 cup cranberries

- 1/4 cup raisins

baked cinnamon pears


1. preheat oven to 400°F. wash the pears thoroughly and slice each of them in half, removing the seedy core from the middle. place cut side up in a large baking dish.

2. in a bowl, whisk together the juices and spices and pour over the pears.

3. sprinkle the raisins and cranberries over the top of the pears and cover with tinfoil.

4. bake until tender with a fork, about 45 minutes. serve with ice cream and enjoy!

a heartfelt diy

| DIY projects

a heartfelt diy
valentine's day is just around the corner. can you believe it? before we know it love birds all around will be booking reservations, planning special dates and buying chocolate hearts. whether you plan on going out or staying in, a little love and celebration is always good for the soul. to spruce up the holiday decor, i love this diy valentine's garland from how about orange.

a heartfelt diy
i think these would be so pretty strung in a window or over a dinner table set for two. jump over to how about orange for the full how-to!

over the rainbow

| handmade inspiration

over the rainbow

{over the rainbow}

{to properly set the mood for this post, make sure to play this!}

just so happens, this is one of my favorite songs! isn't it beautiful? i would love to have this at my work station, to be reminded that dreams really do come true. so far, i can't find it for sale anywhere but you can contact the artist through her flickr page. i hope you have an over-the-rainbow kind of day!

sweet talk: 10 reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners

| simple living

i think we probably all have fallen victim to artificial sweeteners, or at least to some sort of false marketing. years ago, i used to be the queen of splenda as i thought it would be a great way to reduce my calorie intake. welp, i was wrong. it took a little research to find the truth behind artificial sweeteners, but i hope the tid-bit that i share with you today well help answer a few of the questions most people have about using them.

artificial sweeteners

{sweet talk}

10 reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners

1. laboratory made. sucralose (splenda) was actually discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. splenda is made when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide. whew!

2. stevia's effects. though still being researched, stevia has at least one compound which has been converted in the laboratory into a known carcinogen (cancer causing). in the laboratory, it has been shown to cause testicular abnormalities and reduced testosterone levels in males and causes females to give birth to both fewer and smaller offspring.

3. headaches. some people experience increased headaches while using artificial sweeteners. cut out the diet coke and see if your headaches disappear.

4. increased appetite. artificial sweeteners lead to an increased appetite and food intake in some people. since artificial sweeteners are often substantially sweeter than sugar, risk for increased appetite and food consumption runs even higher when vast amounts of the sweeteners are consumed.

5. artificial sweeteners confuse your brain. the enzymes in your mouth begin a cascade that primes your cell receptors for an insulin surge, and when it doesn’t arrive your brain feels cheated.

6. your health. people who use artificial sweeteners are heavier, more likely to have diabetes, and more likely to be insulin-resistant compared with nonusers.

7. aspartame. over the years of its use, aspartame has been blamed for cancer, lupus and multiple sclerosis and some studies indicate cancer in rodents from lifelong use of low doses of aspartame.

8. weight gain. artificial sweeteners have not been shown to promote weight loss, and some studies show that the sweet taste may actually cause more craving of sweets. if you are trying to loose weight, you should avoid artificial sweeteners.

9. decreased serotonin. several studies show that consumption of aspartame can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine (an amino acid that is safe in small doses). that means decreased levels of serotonin in the brain which can lead to depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

10. increased insulin. acesulfame potassium, aka ACK, sweet one, and sunett stimulates insulin secretion, which could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). it has created lung, breast, thymus gland, and other tumors in rats, as well as leukemia and respiratory disease even in small doses. it is found in baked goods, frozen desserts, candy, drinks, cough drops, and breath mints.

now i know, much of this was awfully scientific. and to further the confusion, most research ends with a disclaimer about how inconclusive it is. my point is, if there is this much debate, uncertainty and probable concern about something- why should i risk it? i would rather err on the side of caution and stick to natural sweeteners.

what is a natural sweetener? things like honey, juice concentrates, dates & raisins, molasses & of course real sugar are delicious and wholesome.

research and recommended reading: artificial sweeteners, artificial sweeteners by the nat'l cancer institute, artificial sweeteners by livestrong, sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners and diabetes