Warm Scarves and Tissue Bags

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This is my faithful companion, traveling everywhere with me these days, and keeping my neck nice and warm. My Mom loves color, too, and she picked out this gorgeous watercolor yarn and knit it in a knit one, purl one stitch so it appears all knitted from both sides. I love wearing these soft muted colors. As I see them everyday, I am beginning to be inspired to pull out my polymer clay and mix up these colors. Hmmmm, what shall I create?

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing whose colors, pattern and/or texture inspires you?

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Every year at my show, I would bring tissue paper and stickers so I could individually wrap each item I sold from earrings to necklaces to bracelets. Well, this was a time consuming task, especially when the only surface I had to wrap on was a plastic molded chair. Also, my customers would have to wait in line while I wrapped each parcel. Not good for selling. I was trying to keep costs down by not purchasing gift boxes or bags so I could in turn have my jewelry more reasonably priced as well.

This year I sat and thought about this for awhile and I came up with the idea of taping the tissue beforehand.  And thus, my tissue pouches were born. These pouches are easy to make and so much fun!

First, you take one layer of tissue paper and spread it out. You will see that it has natural folds. Cut along each fold so that you have a long strip about 3 inches wide or so. The folds already there make it super easy to know where to cut. Now fold your strip in half lengthwise so you have a shorter strip double layered. Now fold up the raw end side (lengthwise) to about an inch or so below the folded end side. Tape the sides with scotch tape. Be careful here because once the tape is on the tissue, you can’t remove it. Ask me how I learned this! I placed half the tape lengthwise on one side and then folded it over to the other side, thus sealing that side. Once you’ve taped up a bunch of tissue pouches, you can have fun with your paint. I used Lumiere gold and copper acrylic paint. Now paint over the tape on the sides to hide it and paint along the bottom of the pouch. You can randomly paint on the pouch (as I did) or leave it plain. Now hang your pouch upside down to dry. I purchased some festive stickers for closing the flap. It’s a perfect size for a small gift. For larger gifts just cut your tissue paper according to the size you need and make your pouch the same way.

Now I’m thinking that I could do this with fabric. Oh, the possibilities…

The personal life deeply lived always expands

into truths beyond itself.

-Anais Nin

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Saturday Morning Tea

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I’m up early on this cool late November morning, contemplating all of the abundance and treasure that fills my life. The hamster wheel of thoughts in my mind can often bring me back to what is lacking or missing in my life, all that I have lost. We all do that from time to time, right? If only I…I should have…why didn’t I? I try so hard not to get caught up in this negative spiral of thoughts. I have found that the best solution in the face of that downturn is to stop myself, take a deep breath and focus on what is actually here, what I do have. So, in the spirit of all that is present in my life, I am sipping a China white tea called Fuding White Treasure. This tea is grown in the Fuding hills of Fujian province.

fudingwtwet112908White teas are harvested from a Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (tea plant) varietal that will grow bigger leaves with more downy white hairs on the new growth. It is these fine hairs that give the leaves its whitish look and its name. The silvery white down is accentuated on the dry leaf which then turns a beautiful light green during a 3 minute steeping in 180 degree F water.

fudingwtsteep112908The green look of the wet leaf foreshadows its vegetal aroma and taste, much like that of a very fine green tea. To me, the difference lies in the soft delicacy of this tea, a gentle treasure. I find this tea much lighter in taste than a green tea.  It also has a whisper of sweetness that lingers in the smooth finish.

fudingwtpour112908White tea is hand picked in the springtime, most ideally in cool, dry weather. After picking, the leaves are withered (dried out) in the sun. During adverse weather conditions, the leaves are brought inside to be withered under carefully controlled conditions. The temperature and humidity will contribute greatly to the final taste of the tea so the tea master monitors all of these conditions very closely. After withering, the leaves are roasted or baked to further remove moisture from the leaves and halt oxidation (turning dark). White tea is the least processed of all of the tea categories so the leaf is the closest to its original state which gives it its delicate flavor.

fudingwtteabowl112908I wrap my hands around my warm teabowl and give thanks for this treasure that is now warming my hands. I love doing that in cold weather, a lovely little ritual that helps me stop what I’m doing and be present in the moment. I focus on the delicious warmth of my teabowl and how wonderful it feels on my cold hands.

What do you do that helps you become present in the moment?

Thanksgiving

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The other day I was sitting on the couch writing in my journal. As I glanced up, I noticed that the room had filled with light as the sun came out from behind a cloud. This hibiscus bloom had just fully opened that morning and it glowed as the light from outside came in and illuminated it from behind. I was so taken with the moment that I held my breath and just gazed at this magnificent flower. Then, of course, I ran and grabbed my camera.

I am thankful for amazing moments like these.

I am thankful for my wonderful family and friends.

I am thankful for being able to get up every morning, take a deep breath and then journey out to experience this beautiful world.

I am thankful for the ability to see and love colors, patterns, textures and shapes and express my authentic self through them.

I am thankful for everything warm these days – a steaming mug of tea, a roaring fire, a cozy scarf, a fleece blanket.

I am thankful for being closer to nature in my new home – the majestic trees, the birds and wood critters, our gardens sleeping now under big piles of leaves, the sunrises and sunsets, the clouds writing their messages in the everchanging sky.

I am thankful for all of the friends I’ve made here and the opportunity that we have to connect and share our stories and passions.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday Morning Tea on Sunday

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This week we’ve experienced January weather with temps down into the high teens at night and a slight rise to the 20s during the day. Brrrrrr. A cold wind has swept all of the remaining leaves from the trees so I gaze out upon a stark, winter-like landscape as I sip my morning tea, a dark, rich Assam from the Banaspaty estate.

banaspatyassamwet112308The tea leaves are fully oxidized, giving the wet leaf a deep mahogany color. When I first opened my tea packet, I was treated to a darkly sweet, malty aroma with hints of fruit. This tea has been cultivated organically at the Banaspaty tea estate, located in the heart of the Assam Valley in northeastern India. Fair Trade certification has given estate workers the opportunity to establish a wide range of social initiatives such as a scholarship fund so their children may attend school and a local pharmacy that helps raise the standard of their healthcare.

Here is an interesting 1850 engraving showing the stages of Assam tea production.

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banaspatyassamteapot112308The russet tea liquor glows like a rich jewel in my glass teapot. A strong malty aroma wafts up as I remove the lid to pour my first cup of the day. This tea is very full-bodied with a malty flavor and characteristic Assam astringency. To smooth out the astringency, I add a dollop of milk to my cup after a few sips. Even though I will add a little milk to most full-bodied black teas such as Assams, Ceylons and China blacks, I like to taste the tea plain first so I can detect some of the subtle flavor notes. This tea has a hint of fruitiness which I had originally detected in the dry leaf aroma.

banaspatyassamteacup112308I have a confession to make. I have developed quite a fondness for Social tea biscuits lately, especially for dunking in my milk laced black teas. I am discovering that there is an art to how long to leave the biscuit in the tea. Too short and the biscuit is still hard, too long and it falls in your teacup (oh my!). So, I have been working on my timing to achieve the right melt in your mouth softness to my biscuit.

My jewelry show yesterday went very well and I had a lot of fun. I caught up with old friends, made some new ones and sold a bunch of jewelry. My primary observation is that these challenging economic times have caused shoppers to be more discerning with their choices, with most looking in the lower end of the price range spectrum. I sold mostly earrings in the $5-$30 range and a few bracelets in the $40-$50 range. I didn’t sell any necklaces, including the faux jade chokers I created a couple of weeks ago. I have been considering opening an Etsy shop for awhile now and this just might be the right time to do it.

What is your Etsy experience?

Saturday Morning Tea

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On this rainy, misty morning, I am sipping the rarest variety of all teas, a yellow tea. Called Jun Shan Yin Zhen, its name translates to “Silver Needles of Jun Shan Mountain”. Jun Shan is actually an island located in Dong Ting lake in China’s Hunan province. The climate and soil on this small island, along with the special processing of the tea, create a unique aroma and flavor.

guywan111508For steeping the yellow tea leaves, I chose my gaiwan, a lidded teabowl popular for enjoying the delicate aroma and taste of white, green and yellow teas. After steeping, the leaves are left in the bowl and the lid is used for sweeping them out of the way for ease of sipping.

yellowteasteeping111508I like the wide opening of this little bowl so I can watch the leaves as they infuse. I used 165 degree F water and steeped for 3 minutes. The aroma is delicate and soft with wisps of fruitiness. The taste is sweet and smooth with a hint of fruit.

The flavor is closer to a white tea than a green tea because there isn’t any vegetal quality to it.

yellowteawet111508The leaves are plucked in the early spring. To stop oxidation, they are quickly fried in small batches and then wrapped in a very thin old yellow paper while still moist. They dry naturally for several hours and then this process is repeated several times. This way of processing the tea leaves was first developed during the Tang dynasty, over 1300 years ago. Because this tea is created by such a tedious hand process, only small lots are made. I am honored to experience such a rare treat, created so artistically. The liquor lives up to its name with its delicate golden color.

yellowteabowl111508This morning I was tagged by Autumn to list 8 random things about myself. Since I’ve done this a couple of times already, I direct you to these posts if you’d like to read random things about me, here and here.

Next Saturday I will be displaying and selling my jewelry at the 14th annual Arts and Crafts show at the Middlesex Community College in Bedford, MA, from 10am-4pm. If you happen to be in the area, I’d love for you to stop by and say hello. As I’ll be leaving for the show that day before the sun comes up, my tea review will be postponed to the following day, next Sunday.

Studio Wednesday

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We are now entering the late fall and I think that the darker bronzy colors of trees and leaf are making their way into my jewelry. I beaded these earrings today. The photo doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous antiqued gold black twisted bugle beads. I made a bugle bead ladder and then added the light orange and bronze beads along one side of the ladder with a 2-bead brick stitch. After beading that side, I added a tapered fringe on the other side, using the same beads and the russet glass leaves. I like the way the outline of the leaf veins matches the light orange beads.

peppercornpathfall08A carpet of dark russet leaves lined the path on my walk the other day. I’m so glad to live in a place where we experience all 4 seasons. I’m ready for the weather to grow cooler at this time of year. In the evenings, I’ve been cozying up next to a roaring fire in our new fireplace insert. Wow, that insert really works great. When it reaches a certain temperature, a fan turns on and blows the heat (that normally would be lost up the chimney) out into the room. With the fireplace downstairs in my studio, we have set up a small fan in the stairwell to bring the heat up into the rest of the house. So, with my fire going and the house nice and warm, I am very content at this time of the year. I feel so blessed.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
–   John Muir

Gabriella

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When I hold Ella and talk to her, I feel like she knows so much more than I do. She holds so much wisdom inside of her and you can catch glimpses of it on her face if you look closely. Now some might think that’s crazy because she’s 2 days old and I’m 50 years old. However, to see her listen intently like this, I can feel how close her spirit is to the divine source and to the answers to all of our questions. She is so newly arrived in this world that I can feel how strongly connected she is with everyone and everything in this world and beyond. She just can’t tell us because of the limitations of this brand new tiny body she is in. It is there though and I am listening carefully. What do you have to tell us, precious little Ella?

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Can you tell how much I love her already?