Filtering by Tag: tea

Disney's Flower & Garden Festival 2015: Let the Fun Begin


After missing Disney's Food & Wine Festival for the first time in forever (it still haunts me), I swore that nothing on this planet would stop me from attending Epcot's other annual festival: Disney's International Flower & Garden Festival.

This is not my favorite festival of the two. March is usually sweltering, and it certainly is again this year. Right on time. Also, my mom is notorious for jumping and screaming at the mere wing-beat of a bee or wasp - they are very, very attracted to her (she's like a Bella Swan for devilish insects). So all the beautiful flowers can be a (funny) obstacle course at times.

But in recent years, Disney has added a few irresistible new features, including food booths. Ooooooh yes.

I was so prepared this year to kick foodie butt with my passport and gift card loaded with money for eats (the gift cards are WAY easier to use that juggling cash, and way prettier too).

The new design for the festival too? Cute. I love the icons growing from the vines.

With only one day to spare this spring for the festival, I studied the menus ahead of time and planned what I was going to try from the booths. Some old favorites and new ones. What I hadn't expected was to be wowed by the gardens set up around Epcot. They are, as usual, very beautiful, but I lingered in some of the gardens and took too many pictures.

Both of my favorite gardens were in England. The first was the Shakespeare Garden. Be still, my English major heart! The Shakespeare bust in the back was charming, and I loved reading the quotes Disney had chosen to plant among the flora.

The other garden is the classic English Tea Garden, where you can wander in a maze of flowers and Twinnings tea, looking for your favorite among the bunch.

During the Flower & Garden Festival, you can get stamps from not only the food booths, but also the gardens around Epcot. So of course I got my stamp in this lovely garden as well:

I always have to stop at my favorite little German village, especially when there is a festival afoot. Quite the celebration, it looks like:


Then, there was the food. From left to right:

Teriyaki Curry Bun, from Hanami, the Japan Booth. 

(Totally delicious, but then, I have a weak spot for curry.)


"Piggylicious" Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch, from The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, the America Booth

(This could have easily been a disaster. I wasn't brave enough to try it last year, but... wow. I was wrong. The flavor combinations strangely worked well together. I really enjoyed it.)


Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw, from The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, the America Booth

(Nothing fancy but... you can't go wrong with pulled pork.)


Oolong Peach Bubble Tea and Beijing Style Candied Strawberries, from Lotus House, the China Booth

(Okay, two different items here. I've had bubble tea before, and I love it, and it was THE perfect drink to have when walking in the 88-degree heat back to the car. So... thank you. 

I have two old favorites that made triumphant returns to the festival this year, and the candied strawberries are one of them. I LOVE THEM. I think the sesame seeds in the sugar is what makes this dessert so wonderful. And without fail, people always ask us where we got it. Usually with drool glistening on their chins, haha.)

Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade, Pineapple Promenade

(My other favorite oldie. Violet flavoring in anything is delicious.) 

Macaron Guimauve a la Fraise (large strawberry macaron), Fleur De Lys, France Booth

(I love it when Disney makes macarons, and this new one was fantastic. Marshmallow with strawberry jam packed into the middle? WRAPPED IN FRENCH NEWSPAPER. Perfection.)

The strawberries and bubble tea were the last items I ordered before going home. I missed a few of the foods that did not make it back this year (Oooh, how I loved thee, Hamani Sushi, with your violet sauce), but even if I had wanted to try a few more, my stomach was like, "Noooo, it's too hot outside, Kim. I can't." 

So I called it a day. 

Have you had any early springtime adventures or are you still stuck in the snow? No matter the weather, it's ALWAYS a good time to try new food and have fun. 

What I Learned From Being a Fiction Editor

Drinking tea is becoming a serious habit for me. I've been steadily going through my hoard of mostly unused spice and fruit teas, staining my mugs and floating away in the hazy afterglow of sugar and murk. Have I drunk enough tea to fill an ocean? Maybe. But then, a curious thing happens when you develop a habit like this: you start caring about what you're drinking your tea in.

Which leads me to a discovery and a serious case of nostalgia.

My former graduate professor, John Henry Fleming, gifted both past and present Saw Palm staffers with fantastic mugs. I hadn't used mine until now; it spent the beginning of the summer on a high shelf with other lonely mugs. With all the tea drinking, I finally made it up there - and seeing the glossy literary journal cover on the mug brought back a flood of memories.

I have been a fiction editor (twice!). And I'd like to think that I learned a few things along the way.

When you're a writer, you know that one of the first steps in getting published is to make those opportunities happen, usually by submitting your short stories or poetry to literary magazines. You'll find some amazing journals and mags along the way, some you may even subscribe to in order to devour the stories inside. You'll also accumulate a healthy amount of rejections. Don't eat too much ice cream when you get them - and don't be so quick to rage against the editors who sent them to you.

Rejection letters sting, no matter how long you've been writing, but what helps me get past them is remembering my time on the other side.  

When I was a freshman, I joined my college's literary journal, Cantilevers: Journal of the Arts, as a wet behind the ears staff member. The following year, I became the one and only literary editor. My duties included collecting and organizing all fiction and poetry submissions for the journal, developing an evaluation system (this was before Submittable existed, mind you) for choosing what pieces go in, and writing up rejection and acceptance letters. If an argument broke out over a piece, it was my job to be the deciding vote (though, more often than not, I rather left it up to our adviser. She was much better at that). Since we were a small organization, I also worked closely with the Art Editor and Managing Editor.

In graduate school, I served on a team of fiction editors for Saw Palm, the graduate literary journal that focuses on publishing Florida-specific prose, poetry, and art. The best part about this experience was being part of a large, reliable staff where everyone worked together to produce the new issue; although there was much work to be done, having more people on staff than my undergraduate experience made the work fun (and manageable). For us fiction editors, Submittable was our best friend; the site made it easy for us to make decisions about each submission and share them while balancing crazy grad schedules, haha.

Check out these lovely covers!
It's hard to sum up the eye-burning hours of writing and printing rejection / acceptance letters (and licking the envelopes), evening pizza parties, developing grammar pet peeves, and learning when exactly, by the clock, my patience runs out. But I can think of three:

1) Formatting Matters. Nothing physically hurts the eyes (brain) more than opening up a submission and finding the rules of writing physics forgotten. No indented paragraphs. Comic Sans font. Dialogue punctuation? Nonexistent. No matter how seriously you take your job as fiction editor, it's almost impossible to keep your cool when you find one of these stories. Even more so, it's harder to read past the first paragraph. I told my students this all the time: make sure you edit your stories before submitting. If you don't understand formatting, simply open up any book the universe and observe. You'll be glad you did.

2) Learn to Compromise. Part of the challenge of being a fiction editor is that, obviously, you're not the only person deciding what pieces are going in the next issue. There's usually co-editors, or regular staffers, or higher up editors with enough time to look over your shoulder. Whether you get together in person or communicate over the Internet, there's going to be a clashing of opinions. You may think that the story about a talking palm tree should be accepted, but Beth thinks that it's cliche. Staffers take sides. Many a meeting turned into a courtroom, editors battling it out with clever words and heating arguments. If you feel strongly about a piece, stand up for it - but be ready to defend your position. As a writer, know that the decision to reject or accept your piece isn't easy; yours may have been one that was debated over (and congrats to that!).

3) Pizza Parties. Or rather, having some fun. A lot of work and money go into creating an issue of a literary magazine. When you're a staffer, certain times of the year get clogged with work and it's hard to remember that the people you work with are your friends. Saw Palm was really great at maintaining that balance; we told jokes during meetings and held events that kept us excited about the upcoming issue. On Cantilevers, the other editors and I lightening the mood whenever we could - especially after keeping the staff in a classroom, evaluating submissions for eight straight hours (anyone would get a little punchy...). Sometimes, even the best of us needed to be reminded about why we were here: our love of words and art brought us together and we're here to promote the talented writers, poets, and artists that grace us with their submissions. Pizza parties don't hurt.

Question Time! Dear readers, have you ever been a staffer / editor on a literary magazine? Newspaper? Yearbook? What advice might you add? 

Tidbits: December Edition

Picture / Photo Find

Something I Did / Video I Watched Too Many Times

More like something I will do for the holidays. I love winter and am, like the next person, a big fan of cooing over plastic snowmen and candy cane floor mats. However, you won't find me sitting in front of the television, watching hours of Christmas movies. I'm just not that into them. I find them to be very corny and more predictable than most made-for-TV movies. Of course, there's always the classics - like Rudolph and Jack Frost, the lovely claymation creations that can make anyone smile. But I watch them in the summer months, or on a whim, and rarely during the time I should - this chilly month. 

However, there is one movie that I always watch, every year, ever since I was reunited with it during college. Haha, sounds epic, right. It's an animated film called The Nutcracker Prince (1990), a movie I saw when I was a child and fell in love with right away. Our VHS was lost to time and moving, just like some of my other favorite childhood things (most of which I've recovered thanks to Amazon, haha!). So now I own the DVD and thoroughly enjoy sitting down with my chin on my knees, big eyes shining. The animation style is gorgeous and fluid and the dreamlike quality to the setting just gets me every time.

Here's the description on the back of the DVD:

"The magic begins with a Christmas party at the house of aspiring ballerina Clara. Her godfather Drosselmeier brings one special gift: a nutcracker that is really his nephew, Hans, transformed into a doll by a curse of the evil Mousequeen. The nutcracker becomes a prince, who rules over the land of dolls, but will return to human form when the spell if broken. Join young Clara, whose new wooden nutcracker draws her into a glorious realm of adventure and enchantment."

Kiefer Sutherland (A very young one) plays the voice of the Nutcracker Prince - I would follow him anywhere, I think, if I ever heard his voice leak from a nutcracker's mouth, haha. The story is very mature for a cartoon; it takes the original, simple nutcracker story and takes it to the next level, bringing in an entire backstory and wondrous ending (makes me tear up and sigh). Clara, when dancing with the wooden nutcracker, even sings lyrics to the melody of Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers. That, my friends, is epic.

Now, the awesome part about all this is that someone uploaded the entire movie on Youtube. So please, if you want to enjoy an intricate, romantic, and whimsical rendition of the nutcracker story, then click away!

Quote from a Book I Love

Although I always have a huge pile of books to read, I wanted to spend a good portion of my break reading charming and adventurous stories led by very young, spunky protagonists. The more dated the story, the better. My model for finding such books is a favorite, The Little White Horse, so I tried to keep a look out for other novels that seemed to give off the same vibe. And so I came across The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell. 

The description on the front flap does a great job at setting the scene:

"Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she's confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it's a comfortable life, and if it weren't for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too. 

But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old mystery - and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too."

I literally read through this book in day, staying up way too late to race to the ending. My eyes hurt so bad by the time I closed the book and drifted off to sleep. I didn't bother to check the time. I like how whimsical  and dusty this world is; there are secrets everywhere, and all of them kept me biting my nails. I won't give too much away, but I will say that there are ghosts. Plenty of them. And - I'd love to discuss this you've read it - I loved the ghosts so much that I wished the ending... ended a bit different. I kind of developed a crush on one of them and it was a shame to have to say goodbye and shut the book. Still, this really is a wonderful read. I'm so glad to have found it.

Here's a quote from the book:

"In spite of herself, Clara let out a scream, and then clamped her mouth shut. There, knocking on the pane with his sturdy black beak, was the white cockatoo, his sulfur-tinted head feathers raised high. 
Mustering her nerve, Clara unlatched the window and pulled it up, praying she would not frighten the bird away. But the cockatoo stood patiently until the sash was lifted, looked at Clara with his golden eyes, and pleaded in such a rich, melancholy voice that she was bound to him with all her sympathies: 
'Please? Please? Oh, please?"

A Writer Thing

Winter break usually is a strange time for writing. The semester ends with me staggering into my bed-nest of perfumed pillows, plushies, and thick quilts (I keep the ceiling fan on to pretend to simulate a cold winter night). My brain is constantly twitchy, poised for rest but not quite getting it. I called one of my friends the other day, making belated plans to spend the holidays together, and I could barely form sentences when I left a message on her machine. I listened to myself bumble and wondered if I'd ever recover fast enough to enjoy the short vacation until the next semester begins. I'm still seeing read from a lot of grading, haha.

So that leads me to writing. I'm itching to put my fingers to the keyboard and just write, write, write until I'm left hazy and smiling with a pile of words. But a ghostly headache has been following me to the laptop and after a few paragraphs, I have to give up and try to turn up the volume on my inspiration. It's different from writer's block, I think. I know how to handle that. This is probably sheer exhaustion. But I wonder exactly what I need to do to get some real rest. I've been relaxing, drinking lots of tea, wearing sweaters, gawking at the food competitions on the Food Network, and eating too much peppermint bark. 

I've even taken the air with a few wandering shopping trips. So, hmmm, any remedies to suggest? I'm sure this is only a temporary thing - I have to remember that school ended only a few short days ago, that break has only just begun. Time is strange around this time of year. Very heavy and slow. I like my winter breaks long, as long as you can stretch ribbon candy on rack. And I'm sure my writing rhythm will start up again. I just need to figure it out... or take a nap, haha.

Song I Can't Stop Repeating

"Lost and Found" by Katie Herzig

I found a great singer named Katie Herzig and I've been wondering what particular song to showcase. I've been listening to her album, The Waking Sleep, way too much in these past few weeks, but I can't say I regret it. Her music has such spirit and rhythm to it. Makes me want to write (always a good thing). One of her more well-known songs is called "Lost and Found" - and after hearing it the first time, I got major chills. It's the perfect song to listen to while writing one of my writing projects (top secret! haha). The lyrics and melody are stunning:

I know you left me standing there

Out of the calm of the coldest air

I don't believe the words you said
But I can't find the words I want
Oh, I can't find the words I want

If you were gone in another life
I don't believe I would just survive
I could feel you next to me
An escape from the world I'm in
Oh, I'm afraid of the world I'm in


Somebody found me here

Somebody held my breath

Somebody saved me from the world you left
If you're gonna cry my tears
If you're gonna hold my breath
If you're gonna let me see the sun you set
Oh, I am lost and found
Oh, I am lost and found

Tea and Finger Sandwiches (Fingers Not Included)

This post is more or less about food. Food blogging is popular, isn't it? It's one of those extremely fruitful blogging trends, much like the ever-popular fashion blogs. At least, that's what my peek at Bloglovin' has revealed. It's disheartening to see that the most blogs under "literature" have an average of three followers. That's where I am - huzzah! Representin' in the lit category, haha.

I can understand why food is so popular. I actually watch way too much of the Food Network. Whenever a competition or some behind-the-scenes food history show comes on, I just can't look away. It's so fascinating. It must be the joyful atmosphere that naturally comes when people flock together to enjoy a good ice cream sundae that is so attractive.

I've been drinking a lot of tea lately. We have way too many in the closet, so my mom's plan is to make giant glasses of them to stick in the fridge. She's even been combining different teas to make some rather pleasant concoctions. The last one was a raspberry and chamomile tea combo. Delicious.

This is very important. My top three favorite flavors of tea:

Cinnamon Plum

My mom and I had some cinnamon plum tea the other day. We sat together, drinking from our very plain blue mugs in silence. Well, she was. I was grading and staring longingly at my steaming cup. She had asked me what I was waiting for, and I merely shrugged and said, "Well, I might as well finish one more paper. It's probably still too hot for me."

"But it's been sitting there for fifteen minutes already."

"I can't drink hot stuff too well. I always burn my tongue," I said. I jabbed my finger in her direction. "It still surprises me that you can just drink it right away. It's way too hot. I bet you could drink fire if you wanted to."

And I strongly believe she could. I can picture her as a female Dustfinger from Funke's Inkheart, playing with fire like no one's business. I comfort myself my knowing that I can down very, very cold drinks with a lot more enthusiasm that she can.

I've been ruminating on tea. It's a beautiful type of drink, for many reasons. It prompts thoughtfulness and relaxation. I found some great quotes I wanted to share that capture that softer spirit:

The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose. ~George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecrof

We had a kettle; we let it leak: Our not repairing made it worse. We haven't had any tea for a week... The bottom is out of the Universe. ~Rudyard Kipling

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on. ~Billy Connolly

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~C.S. Lewis

And, of course, where would we be without special cups to drink tea out of? There are so many, and it's hard to say which ones are the best. For no reason other than being proud to have the knowledge, I want to be able to memorize popular brands of tea cups like Wedgewood of Ginori (hahaha, not Corelle). I feel like the knowledge might come in handy someday. And how? Well, I don't know. But it's got to be exciting. Here are some cups I wish I had to drink my tea out of (from We Heart It, again):

Pretty, eh? And they have humor to them. I confess I don't have any fancy tea cups. I just have some plain mugs I grab from the cabinets. I just dunk a tea bag in water and heat it up in the microwave. Hardly romantic, but at least I admit it. And have to have sugar. A lot of it, haha.

What teas do you like? How do you enjoy it? I haven't had a tea party in a while, I could go for some chicken salad sandwiches on a croissant, or cucumbers with cream cheese. Yum! Sounds like a plan.