Country Living Series

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's the little things in life

Our microwave is broken.

This is not a huge issue in our house. We have the smallest-sized microwave available, and use it solely for heating things up (rather than cooking). So while it's convenient, it's not essential.


However, there's one exception: heating my tea.

I'm an early riser, and over the course of my early-morning quiet hours before the family gets up (which is when I do a great deal of my writing), I have two mugs of tea. I use a thermal-style mug I bought at a thrift store, which helps keep the tea hot.


This mug holds a nice hearty 17 ounces or so. When I'm about halfway done, it starts to cool off, so I pop the mug in the microwave and heat it up again. About halfway through my second mug is about when it's time to release the chickens and feed the cows, so when I come back inside -- often chilled if the weather is cold -- then I re-heat my tea in the microwave and continue to enjoy my steaming beverage.

In short, I like my tea HOT. And the microwave sure was handy for that. No microwave, no hot tea.

I considered this problem quite awhile ago when thinking through what conveniences we take for granted, and decided the best option was to find carafes in thrift stores. I figured this would be the best way to keep things hot.

Coffee carafes were easy to find. Within a week or two, I found one for Don's coffee.


But I needed to find a carafe dedicated to tea. You see, I loathe coffee in any size, shape, or form. The taste makes me gag, and I can detect even the slightest flavor. I can't have coffee contaminating my tea mug, so I make sure it's never used for coffee. But I encountered a problem while searching for second-hand carafes -- they'd all been used for coffee, and the insides still reeked with the smell.

It took several months of diligent searching before I found a carafe that had never been used for coffee.


I snatched it up for the delicious price of $2.49.


Once purchased, these carafes sat on the shelf for well over a year, unused. This morning, with the microwave out of order, it was my first chance to test how well these carafes work.

The next problem to overcome was how to steep the tea. I use loose tea purchased in bulk from Upton Teas (a lot cheaper this way!)...


...and I use a tea ball.


But my tea ball wouldn't fit inside the mouth of the carafe.


So I cut a square of thin batting...


...and spooned my tea into that.


I secured it with a rubber band...


...then attached a string.


I hooked this over the handle of the carafe, and stuffed the tea bag inside. Once the boiling water was poured in, I just left the tea bag inside to steep since I like STRONG tea.


Rather than using my large mug, I used a small ceramic mug so I could pour smaller amounts. Worked beautifully! The tea in the carafe stayed nice and hot, even after I got in from feeding the critters.


Clearly this is just a temporary solution. If I start using the carafe on a regular basis, I'll sew a proper little bag and use it for a tea ball, but in the meanwhile this worked well.

See? It's the little things in life -- a nice cup of HOT tea -- that can make all the difference in attitude. When considering one's prepping inventory, sometimes it's important to think of small comforts in addition to big survival issues... especially when it's as simple as a carafe of hot tea.

38 comments:

  1. We have been microwave, dishwasher, and coffee maker free for almost a year. I don't miss it one bit. We keep a tea pot of water on the stove so we always have hot water for tea or oatmeal.

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  2. Necessity is the mother of invention. What a fabulous idea! Thanks for sharing. What did homemakers do before microwaves?

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  3. Upton sells empty tea bags too, though your way is more frugal and longer lasting I have to admit! Love Upton, I order tea from them regularly.

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  4. That is just the type of fix that could make a bad situation bearable...not just for us but also those around us LOL! Nice solution & reminder

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  5. Where there's a will there's a way.

    I'm not a coffee drinker either.

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  6. I have a glass press designed for coffee, instead of using it for coffee, I use it for loose tea. It works great and if I want to keep the the tea hot from the press,I pour it in a tall Stanley thermos to keep hot for hours.

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  7. Myself, I would not use the rubber band, just string.

    Then there's the British way...put the loose tea in the carafe, pour on the boiling water, and use a strainer when you pour....

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  8. Wife just puts the tea right in my pot and after steeping, I use a strainer to pour it into my cup. I would think the rubber band would flavor the tea.

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  9. I just put the loose tea in my carafe, then pour through a strainer into my cup. My strainer stays in the dish drainer and gets rinsed right after using, so there's no mess.

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  10. Have you ever considered an electric tea kettle?
    We use ours like crazy! It has become an indispensable kitchen tool!
    You could always use your tea ball, a 2nd time, and refill your mug. Great price on the carafes! Certainly are handy to have!
    I VERY much admire your ingenuity and your use whatcha' have, attitude!
    Donna G.

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    1. I accidentally burned up a teakettle, was made to feel guilty by my husband (not a usual occurance), and then witnessed his humility when TWO WEEKS later he burned up the substitute teakettle (thrift shop variety). We decided that we were too much inclined to get busy and try to do too many things at once and bit the bullet and purchased an electric teakettle. It has been a lifesaver since we are tea drinkers also. We make it in a 1960s Pyrex teapot and save it in a thermos for the brief time before it is all consumed.

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  11. i have been using two of those pumpstyle thermos bottles (that are used in coffee houses, service staations and restraunts). one is for tea and the other is for coffee. i make my coffee or tea and put it in the appropriate thermos...stays hot all day long and into the evening without having to warm it up. that way none of my appliances have to stay plugged in or on the stove wasting gas or electricity.

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  12. I also dislike coffee and "coffee water" (when they get hot water from the coffee machine, or have run the coffee back thru the coffee machine...) it makes my tea taste horrible! It's astonishing how many places don't know how to serve tea! My fav is Yorkshire Gold with Sugar in the Raw! Great thinking here! Blessings, DWLee3

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  13. Also a coffee hater here. I had to get rid of my favorite insulated mug after a guest used it for coffee (not knowing). Now I have insulated mugs just for my coffee drinking guests.

    We haven't had a microwave in years. I have a purple Stanley thermos that keeps water hot for hours and hours. And yes, everyone knows the purple Stanley is off limits.

    Love your blog Patrice and read each entry.

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  14. What about using a coffee filter to put the tea in?

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  15. About your microwave.

    There is a strong possibility that the high voltage rectifier has failed. It is possible that replacing that part will give your microwave a bit more life. I got about one more year out of a microwave this way.

    It might make sense to replace this part, which should cost only a few dollars.

    If you (or the husband of the boss) are not comfortable with such an operation, perhaps a local fellow frugal type will undertake it for you.

    DO NOT try to override any safety features. Do not increase any fuse ratings, but do feel free to replace any fuses with ones of the same rating. Fuses may be internal. Make sure that the unit is not plugged in and that you discharge any capacitors before digging in.

    While you have it apart, give it a cleaning - particularly where the door meets the oven.

    Just some cheapskate suggestions for you.

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    1. You stole my thunder-there are soldered in fuses on some microwaves, and the easiest thing to do is get one of those "clip on" fusesholders designed specifically to make replacing these fuses in the future easier.
      One died on the microwave I have,when the unit was about three years old-about three bucks worth of fuseholder and fuse later-it's now approaching its 12th year.
      Did it just quit? No odd odors or smoke? Chances are it's the fuse, followed by the high voltage rectifier(which, if I'm remembering things right, had a 6000volt rating). Let it sit all night unplugged-it may have a capacitor in it-sometimes, capacitors have bleeding resistors, sometimes not. The best way to discharge a capacitor is by connecting a 1 megohm resistor acroos it with clip leads-not by shorting it out with a screwdriver.

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  16. I am so glad to discover I am not the only non-coffee person out there! I love the smell of coffee...and properly creamed and sugared into something civilized, it doesn't taste too darn awful, HOWEVER...I am allergic.
    I also like a good strong tea...or herbal teas...but I LOVE to sweeten mine with a slice or two of crystallized ginger.

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  17. Necessity is the mother of invention,right?...I also love you 'can do' attitude. I also don't like coffee and only drink loose tea that I purchase in bulk at the Asian store. Would love to join you for a cup of tea one day. I live in Texas, so that may never happen, but I'll have a cup in your honor this morning. You're awesome and your site is always so much fun to read. At your suggestion, I started a blog about my brainstorming ideas before we go on our 18 acre homestead. Will have 4-6 chickens next month and see what happens with that. Have a great Sunday. Alicia...:)

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    1. lol..okay. It's: www.eastexashomestead.blogspot.com

      Enjoy and let me know what you think.
      Thank you...:)
      Have a great Sunday.

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    2. It's nice to know that I am not the only one who cannot stand coffee. I hate it. I hate to order tea in restaurants because their carafes, as you noted, reek of coffee. It pollutes the delicate taste of the tea. They also do not carry proper decaffeinated tea, just herbal blends. Patrice, we are being discriminated against! I too use a carafe dedicated only to tea. I just about had a fit when my daughter, who should know better, used MY tea cup for coffee at a family gathering. I made sure the primary tea cups were hidden before the next gathering. We do not make coffee since my hubby is allergic; he drinks only tea. Our grown kids bought us a coffee maker, so there is one at the house, and know to bring their own coffee and creamer. They make it. I don't know how!

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  18. A microwave is hard to beat for heating up leftovers, making popcorn, thawing food before cooking, heating water or tea, making day old French bread just like fresh bread, making scrambled eggs, oatmeal, heating canned vegetables. It is practical and energy efficient. Don't underestimate the usefullness of a microwave

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  19. My husband fixed our old microwave when it died. He opened up the back and found a small fuse that had blown. He had taken it to a small appliance repair guy who told him that microwaves were throw away items, but he's also the one who told him to look for the fuse. Found it, FINALLY found a replacement fuse, and fixed it.

    FYI, liquid dishwasher detergent will clean even burned coffee out of mugs and carafes. We found four old made in the USA Stanley thermoses, one coated with dried coffee inside that I could not scrub or scrape out. Tried boiling water, vinegar, ammonia. Finally squirted the dishwasher detergent into the thermos and rotated it around to coat the insides. A few minutes later, I rinsed it out and was pleased to find a shiny clean interior. I took all the coffee stains off everything I owned that day.

    Even if you don't have or don't use a dishwasher, some liquid DW detergent is handy to have around.

    sidetracksusie

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  20. I think that you may have reinvented the tea pot.

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  21. Also a coffee smell lover,but coffee taste hater. Bleh. I'm trying to get used to drink tea instead of Coca Cola (yep the full leaded variety). But the tea gets cold in my little fancy ceramic mug I bought at the thrift store. I never thought of an insulated mug. Huh.

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    1. I say the loss of your microwave is a blessing! To your health!

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  22. Every time I walk by one of those large displays of coffee grounds I'm kind of sad that I don't like coffee. It just smells SO GOOD. Tastes awful no matter how much other stuff is added. :(

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    1. I agree. Love the smell, hate the taste.

      - Patrice

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  23. If I may suggest a product, the Thermos Stainless King Midnight Blue mug is all stainless steel (except for the guts of the top) and will keep your tea hot to warm for about 9 hours! I make a hot cup of tea at 7:00am and it's still warm enough to drink at 2pm. It's pricey at $20, so it may not fit into your budget, but boy is it a luxury I've come to enjoy! http://www.amazon.com/Thermos-Stainless-16-Ounce-Leak-Proof-Midnight/dp/B002PY7AYS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1361771130&sr=8-5&keywords=thermos+midnight+blue

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  24. A great solution to look into is to make your tea in a teapot, then keep the pot on a teapot warmer. If you've never seen one, it's a little stand to put your pot on, and it holds a... tea light candle! I don't have one. But would like to get one as I'm frequently reheating my tea throughout the day. I think the microwave makes it taste a little "off".

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    1. We use ours all the time (teapot warmer). We got it at one of the dollar stores.

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  25. A possible solution to look into would be a teapot warmer. If you don't know what they are, it's a stand that holds the teapot with a... tealight under the pot! I don't have one, but have wanted to try it. I think reheating my tea in the microwave makes it taste "off" somehow.

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  26. So what tea do you like Patrice? I looked at the Upton site and am a little overwhelmed with the selection! Please give us some recommendations. I usually drink english breakfast or earl grey.

    Thank you for your blog, been a reader for over 2 years. Hubby and I are making plans to move to the redoubt. Getting a little, ahem, restrictive here in Illinois.

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    1. I like a hearty black tea (the exception, surprisingly, is Earl Gray; I've never been fond of it). My particular favorite is Darjeeling, which I drink with milk and sugar). I order it in one-kilo bags (item TD06K). I also like their English Breakfast and their Irish Breakfast teas.

      Sometimes they'll throw in a sample tea with an order. One time they included something called the River Shannon blend, and it was awful. Other samples, notably their fruity teas, have been terrific.

      - Patrice

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    2. I just was looking at that site as well.....certainly a far cry from the grocery store selection. I was able to get some sort of tea ball thingie at the store today...a hard thing to come by.

      I picked seven different "sample" sizes, so we will see what I get!!

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  27. I wouldn't replace the microwave.Just keep doing your coffee and tea the way you are,and use the stove and oven for reheating.That will give you more space for some books.

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  28. When my microwave died it turned out to be a small battery on the inside.That was an easy fix.

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