Saturday Morning Tea

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Every morning this week when I’ve left for work, I’ve been hit with a blast of frigid air as I step outside into a world of ice and snow. I hurry to my car and as I turn the ignition, numbers in the single digits and teens flashed on my rearview mirror. 9. 12. 15. Brrrr… It is bundling up weather so I wrap myself in a big fluffy coat, a handknit fuzzy scarf and a mint green fleece hat topped with a pompom. This is also weather perfect for a hearty black tea so this morning I am “wrapping” myself in the rich malty aroma and taste of an Assam tea from the Mangalam estate.

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Assam Indian black teas are noted for their full body and thick dark liquor. This tea is a broken leaf grade so it brews up quicker than whole leaf counterparts since more leaf area is exposed to the water. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling water. Notes of spice and bittersweet cocoa fill my mouth as I take my first sip. The leaf and liquor lend a dash of rich color to a cold winter morning.

Today is my polymer clay guild meeting where I will experiment with making glazed face cabochons. I will share my results in a future post!

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Saturday Morning Tea

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And precious the tear as that rain from the sky,

Which turns into pearls as it falls in the sea.

-Thomas Moore

I have been thinking about pearls lately and the wonder surrounding their creation. I invite you to join me in my thoughts for a moment. What starts out to be an intrusion, an irritation, is transformed into something beautiful. In meditating on the life of a pearl, we can use it as a metaphor in our own lives. In our day to day life, challenges arise and in the process of dealing with those challenges, we are transformed as well. In honor of my “pearl” musings, this morning I have chosen a pearl jasmine tea, Dragon Phoenix Pearl, for my cup of tea.

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Steeped in 180 degree F water for 3 minutes, I watched in fascination as the little spheres unfurled themselves, reminding me of hermit crabs reaching their legs out of their shells. Gorgeous full green leaves are revealed as I remove the pearls from the water.

The journey of the tea pearls. After green tea processing, the leaves are laid out with blooming jasmine flowers so they will absorb their intoxicating scent. This process is repeated and then the leaves are steamed and hand rolled into little pearls. I deeply feel that the pale straw colored liquor in my cup has been steeped from little works of art in themselves.

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The tea is so pale that you can see the wonderful texture inside of my tea bowl. This is one of the bowls I purchased at the Kaji Aso studio. The aroma is delicately floral and not overly perfumey. The taste is sweet jasmine, smooth and subtle.

I have not yet laid down a single bead for my January journal page but there is a lot of inner gestating going on. Being guided by my meditations on pearls, unfurling spiral shapes and turning 50 the other day, it will be called “The Journey to Myself”.

A Special Birthday Gift

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Before we opened our gifts at our family Christmas celebration at my parents’ home in Michigan, my Mom asked me to sit on the couch. As I did, everyone – my Dad, my children, my brother and his family – came into the room and sat around me. Then my parents presented me with a most wondrous amazing gift for my 50th birthday. A scrapbook of my life filled with photos. My eyes filled with tears as I turned the pages and reminisced with my family about all that I had experienced in my half century on this earth. Words are inadequate to describe this experience and how special this gift is so I will share a few of the pages.

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You Make My Day

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I was so surprised and “tickled pink” to see my blog mentioned in a recent post on one of my favorites blogs, Nicobella. Thanks to Acey for the mention and very kind words! Here are the rules for the “You Make My Day” award.

“Give the award to up to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel so happy about blogland! Beware! You may get the award several times!”

There are so many wonderful and creative blogs that I enjoy reading on a regular basis. It’s so hard to choose only 10 but here goes.

First, I’d like to mention Acey and both of her blogs, Nicobella and Sparkling Lotus Land. Everyday, I look forward to reading her thoughts and wisdom about plants, gardens, embroidery, beading and many more wonderful and interesting things.

My friend Amy at Musings from the Moonroom has been an amazing inspiration to me with her spiritual creations and wise words. I have enjoyed being part of her journey and watching her blossom with the creation of her art dolls.

My fellow guild member and pal Judy doesn’t have a blog. Yet. I know it’s coming this year though. I can feel it, Judy. Meantime, you can visit her and her fabulous mixed media creations on her website, Judy Shea Art, and be as awed as I am.

The deeply poetic words and photography of Nina Bagley at Ornamental warm my heart and move my soul. Her jewelry and mixed media journals and art are a feast for the senses. For my birthday, I just treated myself to one of her pieces. It will be arriving anyday now. I’m like a kid waiting for Santa Claus.

The Beaded Journal Project was started by my beady hero, Robin Atkins. Her blog, Beadlust, is filled with her wonderful writing and inspiration. Being part of this year long project has changed my life in many positive uplifting ways. All of the members are so talented and sharing.

I have been especially inspired by one of our BJP members, Bobbi at Beading at the Beach. The name of her blog even inspires me! She creates polymer clay faces and uses them along with fantastic batiked fabric in her colorful and outstanding beadwork. She also creates beautiful beaded jewelry.

Libby at Libzoid is a very talented jewelry artist, creating her beautiful pieces in polymer clay and metal. Lately, she has been posting some gorgeous free form peyote beaded bracelets which are getting my creative juices flowing.

One day while I was browsing the internet, I came across Sue’s lovely work at Sacred Circle Mandalas. Not only does she share her amazing mandalas created with Photoshop, she offers tutorials in that program as well. She has inspired me to find out more about this unique artform and I was happy to receive a mandala book recently as a gift.

A dear friend of mine, Laura, is a fantasy artist, her paintings being inspired by many visits to Africa and her work with big cats. The painting on the homepage of her website was created in honor of her experience with a tiger by the name of Angell. Over the years of our friendship, her paintings have touched me very deeply.

Last and certainly not at all least is my new online tea friend, Steph at Steph’s Cup of Tea. I love to sit down with a steaming cuppa and read her thoughts about tea and tea parties and the tea world.

This was so hard to choose just 10 people when there are so many in the online community who inspire me everyday. My resolution word, Beauty, is guiding me to the beauty in all of you.

My December Journal page

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My December journal page is entitled “The Birth of the Sun”, in honor of the winter solstice and the long celebrated “return of the sun”. Inspired by the beautiful color palette of the sunrise, my piece symbolizes the light of the holiday season. The days are now getting longer and my sun contains the seed/embryo of the warmer months to come and its continuing journey towards light. For me personally, I meditated on the light within my own heart as I set down each bead.

Inspired by the beautiful fiber embroidery of fellow bead journaler, Acey at Nichobella, I have incorporated some fiber into my page for texture and color. In a photo of my page taken in sunlight, you can really see the texture.

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I have prepared a fabric square for my January page but I have not been inspired yet to set down any beads. As I am turning 50 this month, I think I will start the page on my birthday. I have a glimmer of an idea about the path/journey of my life as I reach the half century mark. As for November, my idea for a photo transfer will take shape once I begin my experiments as per my 2008 goals. I’d like to transfer a photo of my beloved greyhound, Buddy, who passed in 2001. Even though it has been almost 6 1/2 years since he has been with me, I still miss him everyday. First, January and then catch up with November.

Saturday Morning Tea

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After the heavy rains of yesterday, today dawned clear and bright through high wispy clouds. The sunshine is illuminating a delicate mist that has settled in the hollows and a myriad of rainbowed water droplets clinging to the branches and power lines.

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As I sit at my window, I am sipping a cup of China Keemun tea called Xiang Luo. From Anhui province where the most prized Keemuns are produced, it is a treat to the senses from its toasty aroma to its rich honeyed amber color and buttery smooth liquor.

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Keemun tea is named after a county, Qimen, in Anhui province. There are several stories about its origins but the most common is one of a governmental official in the late 1800s who learned black tea production in Fujian province and then decided to return to his native county, Qimen, to produce black tea there. He met with success and his new black tea was imported to England where it was enjoyed as a breakfast tea.

The words I would use to describe Keemun tea are rich, wine, smoke and chocolate. While it is nowhere near as smoky as a Lapsang Souchong, there are hints in its flavor that might appeal to Lapsang lovers. Keemun may be enjoyed plain but it is certainly strong enough for milk or cream when the long, wiry leaves are steeped for 5+ minutes.

What are your experiences with Keemun tea?

Kaji Aso Studio on Chronicle

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A couple of months ago, I was honored to participate in a Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Kaji Aso Studio in Boston.

I was recently sent a link to a story that was done on the studio. It’s from the Chronicle news magazine show on a local Boston station.

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All of my creative moments this week have been spent beading my December journal page. It’s finally finished so I’ll be posting photos of “The Birth of the Sun” this weekend. When I took a break from my beading the other evening and looked out my window, I had to grab my camera. Mother Nature was painting again.