Tea and Honey Crisps

What a decadent morning Memorial Day morning was! I got to leaf through a cookbook… uninterrupted… in complete quiet… for thirty minutes! That is one of my favorite things to do and my perusal turned out to be full of treasure. Here’s a recipe I’d love to share with you for a delightful little cookie you can make with ingredients you most likely have in your cupboards… including some Compassion Tea!

Tea and Honey Crisps
From: Gourmet Today
Makes about 6 dozen cookies

1 stick (8 tbls) unsalted, softened butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup mild honey
2 ¼ teaspoons Earl Grey tea leaves (make sure to finely crush your loose tea leaves before measuring!)
2 large egg whites
1 cup all-purpose flour

(To make a homemade stencil, draw desired shape of cookie in center of a Styrofoam plate. Cut out shape, discard, and trim away enough of plate so you have a 1-inch border around the stencil. Make more stencils if you desire.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick liner, like Silpat or parchment paper.

Try to use local honey to help with those allergy issues!

Be sure to crush your loose tea leaves before measuring!

Tea and Honey Crisps go great with the first cup of morning goodness!

Tea and Honey Crisps compliment iced Earl Grey tea… a delicious way to perk up the afternoon.

Beat together butter, confectioners’ sugar, honey, and tea leaves in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour until just combined.

Place stencil on liner and spread batter evenly in stencil with spatula. You want the cookies to be crisp so keep the batter thinly spread. Lift stencil carefully and make more cookies in the same way, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies in batches until edges are deep golden brown, about 6 to 9 minutes. Cool for 1 minute before transferring with spatula to a rack to cool completely. (To curl cookies, drape over rolling pins or thick wooden dowels as soon as you remove them from oven and let cool.)

• The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for one week.

Enjoy with a steaming cup of tea in the morning or as a light afternoon snack to accompany your iced tea!

Winston wants one, too!

The kids think the crisps are delicious!

May we have another?


A couple of weeks ago, Clara came to me, friend in tow, all in a dither. “Mom!” she insisted, “Tell Kendelle that we don’t live in a mansion.” Kendelle saw my shocked face and elaborated. “Mrs. Taggart, I was telling Clara that my old house was a mansion and that her house is one, too.”

“But Mom!” Clara pleaded again, “We don’t live in a mansion.” Deep breath, Mama.

“Well, Clara, it is true that we don’t live in the largest of houses in this area. Compared to some of the houses in this area, ours doesn’t ‘feel’ like a mansion. However, compared to the rest of the world, where people live in small apartments, huts, shacks, bungalows… if they even have a house, we live in a mansion.” That seemed to tame the beast, and I hope it raised her awareness, if only for a moment, of the privilege in which her world orbits.

Talk about privilege. A friend of mine just posted a “notable and quotable” on her Facebook page. It reads:
“If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.” I have seen statistics like this before. It always shocks me. Understatement.

Our good friend Dawn Faith Leppan at 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa recently posted on Facebook the following:
“If you think you are feeling the cold dear friends, snuggled in your warm home, think of those who have a stone floor to sleep on with a thread bare blanket. Lousy, I would say. What do you say?”

This week, our church held their annual missions conference. Missionary, after speaker, after business leader brought to our attention the plight of people in far away places, places where women are sold into heinous slavery and prostitution, where people are desperate for dignified employment, clean water, medicines, where a home is a mud covered hut on stilts or a mat on the street, where children play in sewage, where the same water hole serves as laundromat, bathtub, and drinking fountain. I was particularly moved by this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX-hw_l1FwA Sany makes a comment in the middle of the video, “but the important thing is when I was young, I was sold.” Can you see the pain in her face? Can you hear the pain in her voice? Another video shown over the weekend showed another woman in Cambodia. Her comment was that she lives her life feeling like someone is constantly watching her. Paranoia like that isn’t without warrant; it is a form of survival. And it has haunted me all day today.

Yes, we are privileged here in the US. I’m watching my kids swimming in the pool as I write this. 50,000 gallons of clean water, just for the kids to splash around in. They are cannon-balling into the water, their cries of joy echoing. The dog is barking on the edge, weighing his desire to get his floating chew toys versus having to swim to get them. Privilege.

One of the weekend’s speakers, Nathan George, founder of a company called Trade As One, talked about this privilege. He suggested that God doesn’t just care about the tithes we give in the church offering plate once a week or once a month. God cares about the other 90 or so % of our wealth. What do we do with that privilege? How do we spend our wealth? George suggested that if we use our purchasing power with taking care of others in mind, we can do amazing things. His company sells fair trade products… high quality products produced in places where a dignified job can mean the difference between poverty, slavery, and disease and a life of hope. Similarly, we at Compassion Tea believe that by selling high quality tea we can provide amazing hope and health to people in parts of Africa where hope and health are rarely felt. We believe our purchasing practices can provide compassion NOW. And quite frankly, I think it a privilege to do so.

Playing Santa

I’m not sure why it is that my daughter and I have some of our strongest, if not bizarrest, conversations in the car. There was the time, driving home from Easter Sunday service, for example, when Clara asked me to explain “the birds and the bees.” Or the countless times she has relayed events at school… school bullies, blunders, and odd behaviors… long after the fact, as though she had been mulling things over and couldn’t quite figure them out. But the other day, she nearly caused me to drive off the road… in excitement. She began by saying, “Mom, I really wanna go to Africa.”
“Oh? For a specific reason?”
“Yes!” she replied. “I wanna take a whole bunch of toys with me and hand them out to the boys and girls who don’t have many toys.”
She went on to elaborate on her desire to see their faces light up when receiving these gifts. Then, she began to tackle the not-so-insignificant issue of where these toys would come from.
“Mom,” she thought out loud, “you know how I’ve saved up $100 of my own money? I would even use some of that to buy toys. We could go to Target! But the $25 gift card to Target I got for my birthday I would definitely keep to use for myself.” Ah well. She’s off to a great start, anyway.

The conversation veered off a bit with Joseph joining in and offering his input, but Clara revisited the idea a few days later. “Mom?” she started. “Maybe I could get a Santa suit and dress up like Santa when I deliver the toys to the kids in Africa. How come Santa doesn’t deliver toys to them?” As the mother of “Santa believers,” this was clearly a binding question and I handled it with as much grace as I could; “I’m not sure I can answer that one, honey.”

The importance of this conversation struck me further the other day when my morning devotional focused on some passages from 2 Timothy. Here, Paul encourages his friend with these words: “14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Timothy 3: 14 -17)

The following devotional talked about the importance of what we teach our children. First and foremost, we should seek God’s story through Scripture, not bend the story to reflect our own. Winn Collier, who wrote the devotional for the day, commented: “Our problem is that we’ve learned to read the Bible
as a story where we’re the central characters, and so
we teach our kids to read the Bible as though they’re the
central characters. But this is all wrong: God is in the
spotlight.” Collier explains that we tend to diminish Bible stories to Aesop-like fables and lose sight of the awesome power of God displayed in the stories. Is the telling of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 about a little boy who shares his fish and bread or about God’s power and Jesus’ example of relying on God?

Obviously, Clara has heard talk about Africa around the house. Obviously, like most people, she has a compassionate side and the stories I’ve told or that she has heard from Uncle Lee, Aunt Anne, Aunt Donna, and the rest of the Compassion Tea team have piqued that compassionate tendency. These are important stories to pass on. But the trick will be to take the reality of them beyond the mythical, to translate the tendency toward compassion into real action.

Perhaps a trip to Africa is in our near future? I don’t know. But I pray that my teaching is more than just “shoulds” and empty platitudes, that my kids see real action, real living out faith and belief from me.

Girl Scout Review

I really didn’t know what to expect. The emails coming from the northern California Girl Scout office were saying that 20,000 tickets had been sold. Officially, the event was sold out. I wasn’t sure what 20,000 Girl Scouts would look like and I really wasn’t sure how we were going to serve tea to that many girls. I shouldn’t have been worried at all.

Loaded with 3 chests filled with ice, two large (think 64 cups) coffee pots, 30 gallons of spring water, and 15 of our 64 oz. iced tea tumblers full of brewed tea (and yes, you really can lay them flat and they won’t leak. All 15 were in my refrigerator overnight on their sides and there was nary a leak!) not to mention 1000s of brochures, business cards, and email list sign-ups, we entered the fairgrounds around 7:30 AM on what was shaping up to be a glorious morning. Some persistence got us parking spots closer to our building. At this point, we were up to blessing number 3 (1 was the non-leaking tea and 2 was that the car started) and we realized this was going to be a very special day.

We busied ourselves with setting up our booth so that we would be ready to greet the first Girl Scouts to pass our table. And thus began our day at the Girl Scouts One Hundred Fun Hundred, an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts. As you may know, the Girl Scouts have a promise in which each member promises to “serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” While much of today’s organization is focused on “girl power” and the advancement of living an environmentally conscientious lifestyle, the event did highlight opportunities for girls to serve people. We were thrilled to be a part of this element of the event.

For a steady 7 1/2 hours, we served tea to thirsty girls and their leaders. Often the queue for our tea was several people deep and many people tried more than one kind of tea. We offered Peach Apricot (black), Cinnamon Chacha (rooibos), and Berry Berry (flavored herbal) as iced teas. Anne, Donna, and I poured the tea and talked mission with people. Lee stayed primarily in the background, brewing the tea in the tight, less-than-ideal “kitchen” we had set up on a card table. Around 1:30, Lee announced that supplies were running low and after seeing the craziness in the parking lots we determined that leaving the event to fetch more supplies was out of the question. We poured smaller samples and began silently praying for the miracle of the widow who came to Elisha with her debts and nothing with which to pay them. Like the widow who was told to keep pouring her oil, we kept pouring our tea. Miraculously, we poured our last sample within minutes of the coordinator telling us it was okay to begin closing our booth. By this point, we had lost count of our blessings, there had been so many.

What a joy it was to see the faces of the tasters (“Wow, that’s really good!”) and to share our mission of sharing tea to save lives with as many people as possible. At times, my tongue got so tied up with the repetition of my schpeel that I am sure I was incoherent. But people were amazed at the idea of selling tea in order to send medical supplies to Africa and there were several who were completely energized by the idea of a product being used to raise funds for a charitable organization. One lady had just returned from a trip to Botswana, while another is preparing for a photography trip she is taking to Kenya. Others have worked with organizations like Doctors Without Borders and knew exactly what we were talking about when we mentioned that there are parts of the world where people may go their whole lives without ever seeing a doctor, without physical healing, not to mention spiritual healing. One gentleman (because there were a lot of dads along, too!) was excited to see us in action; his wife is passionately working to set up a mental health oriented not-for-profit but the funding part is the most daunting. Our model he found interesting and potentially something for his wife to follow.

Then there were the tea drinkers! If seeing is believing in most things, so is tasting when it comes to tea! The ardent tea drinkers were excited to find a quality tea with so many flavor options. Add to that the notion of helping people, our neighbors in Africa, through the consumption of tea and… oh the excitement! We are thrilled to welcome our new Compassion Tea members!

The great take-away from serving something like 3000 servings of tea is that most people are truly compassionate. People do want to help others. Actually going on mission to Africa or other under-served parts of the world is not possible for a great many of us. But that doesn’t mean that our hearts don’t bleed for the injustice, the poverty, the pain of our fellow mankind. It just means we find other ways to help. And hey, if drinking tea can do it, brew up a pot or two! Why not!

Gratitude… It’s the Proper Attitude

“Gratitude… gratitude… it’s the proper attitude. Show some gratitude.” These are the lyrics of one of the songs currently playing in my car. Clara is preparing for another class musical, a play about how character matters. A tour through a series of fairytales, the show highlights in a humorous way the quality characteristics fairytale heroes and villains may or may not exhibit. Apparently, in this song, the 7 dwarfs are chappy because Snow White never thanked them for saving her from the evil stepmother, for performing the Heimlich to bring up the poison apple. I guess they have a point. She merely hops on the prince’s horse, throws a mild kiss and waves gracefully as she rides off into the sunset. So much for gratitude.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran an article about Dr. Frank Artress and his wife Susan Gustafson. (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/04/BA8MUSL28.DTL&ao=all) A cardiac anesthesiologist from Modesto, California, Artress was quite successful and enjoying the fruits of his labor. But a brush with death while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro changed Artress. “I thought how stupid it would be to die without ever giving anything back to society,” Artress told Meredith May, staff writer at the Chronicle. Saved by the courage and perseverance of his mountain guide, Kapanya Kitaba, and the porters who sang Swahili prayer songs as they raced across Mount Kilimanjaro, Artress determined that there was no “better way to thank the people who had saved his life than by returning to their medically deprived village so he could save theirs.” Artress and Gustafson returned to Modesto, sold their “matching silver sports cars, the signed Miros and Picassos, the full-throttle espresso machine,… the Montana ranch, the condos in Colorado and Palm Springs, the $40,000 garden sculptures” – everything. Today, Artress and Gustafson are overseeing FAME, the Foundation for African Medicine and Education, which is building a hospital in Karatu, Tanzania, the first hospital for this city of roughly 180,000. And Artress makes regular rounds to the villages where his saviors live. Gratitude.
Tanzania, according to the article, has an 80 percent unemployment rate. The other 20 percent earns “the equivalent of $1 a day” leaving them without the money for bus fare, “let alone a doctor bill.” Writes May in her article, “… the patient-to-doctor ratio is as high as 60,000 to 1 in some of the more remote areas. Poverty, isolation and lack of dependable medical care mean most adults have never seen a doctor. Most don’t live past 40, succumbing most often to malaria, tuberculosis and routine infections from drinking dirty water. A quarter of Tanzanian adults are HIV-positive, and the majority has no access to antiretroviral medicines that keep the virus from escalating to AIDS. Half of all Tanzanian children are malnourished.” As Artress explained to May, “You can save someone here with $1.50 worth of antibiotics – but the heartbreak of Africa is that people don’t have access to that most basic care, so they are dying of completely preventable diseases.”
Sound familiar? It should! This is the very purpose behind CareNow Foundation and its Compassion Tea Company. The CareNow Foundation supports the Tanzania Christian Clinic in the rural village of Ngaresh Juu in northern Tanzania. About 6 km away from Monduli and about 50 km from Arusha, this part of Tanzania falls under the designation of a “medically underserved area.” The clinic’s February 2012 newsletter describes some of the typical complaints coming to the clinic: “Continuing to travel a long way to be seen, patients with malnutrition, rheumatoid arthritis, typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, inability to urinate due to schistosomes (parasites) in the bladder, acute alcohol toxicity, fungal and bacterial skin infections, sexually transmitted diseases, scabies, TB, brucellosis, and HIV frequent the clinic.”
In their March 2012 newsletter, Danny and Nancy Smelser, who serve as MD and RN at the clinic, retold the story of a 32 year old man who had been hit by a motorcycle last December. Because he was unable to pay for the leg surgery he badly needed, he had been discharged from the government hospital. Desperate, in severe pain, and badly infected, the man arrived at Tanzania Christian Clinic. They removed the dirty cast and bandages and assessed the situation. Steady rounds of antibiotics and continuing dressing changes have eradicated the infection and through the help of the TCC and its supporters, the man is awaiting surgery scheduled at a teaching hospital 2 hours away.
Following this description of success, the Smelsers recounted an afternoon’s events. They wrote, “Yesterday, while patients crowded onto the clinic’s front porch, our grounds worker, Enock, spotted an eight-foot black mamba [snake] nearby. Needless to say, that was one patient that did not leave TCC alive! Meanwhile, our German Shepherd was disassembling our washing machine on the back porch of our house to capture a hedgehog which had taken up residence behind it. Oh the thrills of East Africa!” I suppose one has to laugh at an 8 foot snake! Eventually.
Treating the medical needs of patients who come to the clinic is only part of the picture. TCC also believes in empowering local peoples with knowledge of how to treat and prevent disease, infection, and wounds. Mobile medical clinics go around to areas surrounding the clinic with the intent of teaching. This, too, is an important element of CareNow’s mission and vision for helping. CareNow Foundation’s board and founders believe that part of the transformation of the African continent will come about through the “development of self-sufficient communities.”
Undoubtedly, those who are treated at places like Artress’ hospital in Karatu and the Tanzania Christian Clinic feel a deep sense of gratitude for the treatment and for their return to health. But what a lasting sense of gratitude must come from learning how to prevent further illness and infection. In a place where the patient-to-doctor ratio is a staggering 60,000 to 1, the odds are that a person isn’t going to see a doctor in his/her lifetime. But maybe a neighbor has and maybe that neighbor knows what to do for a skin infection or maybe that neighbor teaches how to wrap a wound to prevent infection. The ripple effects may be small but frequent. In a place where $1.50 can save a life, a little bit of knowledge can save many lives. That’s something for which to be grateful.