I've been an early riser for as long as I can remember. Today, by choice, but growing up, not so much. My parents firmly believe that "The day is practically over by 12 pm." That meant — in addition to waking up at 5 am to practice classical piano for at least an hour before heading to school during the week — sleeping in on the weekends equated to 8 am, and only on Saturday if there wasn't a soccer game/tournament, as Sundays included a 6 am wake up to get to church on time. Granted, I took a long time to get ready — my showers included at least 5 minutes of sitting down, shutting my eyes and willing the hot water to wake me up — so I honestly more of a head start than my younger brother, in order not to make the entire family late.
Despite having the same routine for at least a decade, I still complained incessantly. I'd whine about not resting enough — even after an afternoon nap following our 8 am church services — or how my friends were allowed to sleep as late as they wanted. My parents didn't budge. So, I counted down the days until I lived on my own, make my own rules, and sleep the entire day if my heart desired. That has yet to happen.
Even after countless academic and social all-nighters in college, a stint of insomnia during grad school, and a few bouts of the flu, there have been very few times where I've slept more than 8 hours. In fact today, I pray every night that I'll be able to get at least 4 interrupted hours of sleep because once I'm up, I'm up. My brain just doesn't stop. Just. Doesn't. Stop. I'm always thinking, about everything; reviewing the next day's plans or making new ones. Sometimes, I blame it on being Type A, a notorious over-analyzer. Others, I think it's yet another side-effect of being a millennial who's just trying to figure it all out (and by a certain time of course).
I understand the value of rest, to the point where the mere idea of not getting enough stresses me out, which is often the cause of being wired even as my head hits the pillow. However, I've been working on letting go, being a little less rigid and a lot more laid back. I've been finding it beneficial to carve out quiet, lengthy moments of time throughout the week to just be. Yes, you read that correctly. I regularly plan periods of time to do nothing. But hey, it's a start. Plus, it's not as bad as Miranda wanting a window of time to cuddle with Steve, on Sex & the City, is it? Either way lately, those sweet moments tend to fall on Sunday.
I still wake up fairly early — at 5:30 am twice a month to sing with the worship team at my church and 7 am on the other two in order to hit the farmer's market before 11 am service — but I try and reserve a few hours in the afternoon for me. To relax and recharge; read, watch a movie or a few episodes of a show, listen to music, etc. Sometimes I'll have skype or phone dates with my friends, but I also make a conscious effort to give my hands and eyes a rest and put my phone down. However, idle hands have never been my strong suit, so I often head to the kitchen to whip something up. Yesterday, overcome with the bountiful bursts of summer via delightful spreads of berries, stone fruit and pungent herbs like mint at the market, I made some refreshing sweet treats: White Peach Mint Iced Tea and an Apricot & Strawberry Crumble.
Full disclosure: I never intended to make either. But, the strawberries were too beautiful and the mint too refreshingly pungent, to pass up. Plus, I had about 6 apricots sitting on my counter that I just couldn't waste. Oh, and I figured I should use these white peach tea bags that have been sitting my pantry for at least a year. So, I improvised.
I opened my windows, put on some Sunday Sway (see below) tunes — a mix of jazz and alternative R&B that almost immediately makes you take a deep breath and just enjoy the moment — boiled some water and proceeded to bake. The two aren't meant to go together, by any means, but they're both so simple and sweet that it's easy to prepare them back to back without feeling overwhelmed, and enjoy separately if you'd like. Sip a glass of the iced tea while you take bath. Eat a bowl of the crumble for breakfast as the sun rises, or as it sets. You can't go wrong. Just make an effort to take some time and enjoy something, anything, for yourself, today. Or, at the very least, one day this week.
White Peach Mint Tea and an Apricot & Strawberry Crumble
FOR THE WHITE PEACH MINT TEA:
3-6 tea bags (depending on how strong you like your tea)
1 large bunch of fresh mint plus a few extra leaves (washed)
1/4 cup of raw honey
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
1-2 cups of water
FOR THE APRICOT & STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE
Note: this crumble was quite heavy on strawberries because I simply had more of them. Use your own tastebuds, for whatever fruits, and how much of whichever kind, you'd like.
5-6 ripe apricots
2 cups, plus a few extra ripe strawberries, halved and quartered
1 lemon, juiced and grated
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons of raw turbinado sugar
3-4 tablespoons of cornstarch (I used 3)
1 stick / 4 oz. of butter, melted
1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of baking powder
A pinch of salt
FOR THE WHITE PEACH MINT TEA
Boil about 1 quart of water and prepare to steep tea bags.
While water is boiling, rinse and slice one lemon.
Steep the tea in a pitcher or tea infusion water pitcher for about 10 minutes.
Add honey and maple syrup to the slightly cooled (but still quite warm) tea, giving it a good swirl to completely dissolve.
Add lemon slices and large bunch of mint (with stems still on).
Place tea in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Meanwhile, add a few mint leaves to your serving pitcher.
Once completely cooled, pour tea from infusion water pitcher, or use a strainer, to pour only the liquid into the serving pitcher.
Pour tea over a few ice cubes, and enjoy!
FOR THE APRICOT & STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare your filling: add fruit, lemon juice and zest, 1/3 cup of sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt to a large bowl, mix to combine and set aside.
Prepare the crumble: add flour, the two sugars, baking powder and melted butter to a medium bowl, mix until small clumps form.
Place fruit mixture in a baking dish (I used a standard 8x8 square one.)
Add crumble all over the top of the fruit mixture.
Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes until the crumble is a golden brown (mine took 40 minutes, so watch closely).
Serve warm, with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream!