Christmas Wishes

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On this Christmas Day, I wish all of you….

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and a…

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to warm your body and a…

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to warm your spirit.

I am leaving today to visit family in Michigan for the holidays. Saturday Morning tea will resume when I return next week.

Happy Holidays to one and all!

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Saturday Morning Tea

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My morning tea tastes especially delicious and warming today after Dave and I just shoveled 10 inches of snow out of our driveway. The snow started mid-afternoon yesterday and continued on through the dark winter night. Businesses and schools shut down early so everyone could get home safely before the storm’s arrival.

I am sipping and savoring a second flush Darjeeling from the Namring estate. The Darjeeling district is located in the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India.

namringdarjwet122008I steeped the dark leaf for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water, resulting in a glowing amber liquid. The thing that I like best about Darjeelings from the Namring estate is that they always have that classic, rich Darjeeling aroma and flavor. Sometimes I am in the mood for an astringent tea that echos in my mouth for awhile after I’ve taken my first sip. This is perfect, with nutty almond, fruity richness. Second flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summertime and are usually fuller with the more mature taste of the summer leaf, as opposed to first flushes, harvested in the springtime.

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It’s hard to imagine the lush greenery that graced our backyard deck a short 2-3 months ago. It is now a white drifting world.

namringdarjteacup1220081As I was pouring my cup of tea, Dave offered me a piece of pumpernickel toast. It went perfectly with the rich flavor of this tea. The bare tree branches of our backyard trees look like they’d like to warm themselves in my steaming cup. This is the time of year when I never feel quite warm enough. My favorite spot is next to the fireplace with my hands perpetually wrapped around a hot mug and a good book opened in my lap.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough

or a book long enough to suit me.

~C.S. Lewis

Saturday Morning Tea

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As I write this, I consider myself very blessed. The night before last brought a dangerous ice storm north and west of here and there were many power lines and trees brought down causing a lot of damage. Many folks are without power and will be for several more days, I’ve heard. My thoughts and prayers go out to those people. I hope that power will be restored for them very soon.

This morning I am sipping a very unique black tea from Taiwan called “Sun Moon Lake tea”. The enormous twisted leaves have a very wiry appearance, reminiscent of a Keemun Mao Feng tea. This tea is grown and all hand processed in the Sun Moon lake area of Taiwan. Sun Moon lake is the largest lake on the island of Taiwan and is named so because the eastern side is round and the western side is crescent shaped. It sounds like a very beautiful area surrounded by mountains.

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I steeped the leaves for 4 1/2 minutes in 212 degree F water. This produced a very dark tea liquor with a toasty aroma.

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Here is the tea steeping right after I poured the water in the teapot.

tt54cup121308The tea is silky smooth without a trace of astringency. The taste is full and somewhat malty, reminiscent of a very smooth Assam tea. Notes of nutmeg and cinnamon are present with a whisper of mint in the finish. Mmmmm, I am enjoying this unique tea very much!

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.

~Catherine Douzel

Studio Wednesday

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It’s a wild weather day outside, pouring rain, whipping winds and temperatures……..in the 60s.  I spent most of the day in my studio but instead of crouched over one of my worktables, I cozied up on the couch with my knitting and crocheting projects.

I love to use a lot of different colors of yarn but then end up with a gazillion little threads to weave in. There’s something very meditative about the movement of yarn and needles. Click, clack, click. With every stitch made, I send love and warmth into my creation.

The photo above shows an afghan stitch (or Tunisian stitch) with a gorgeous purple, red and orange variegated yarn. You use a special long crochet hook and start off by making a chain of stitches. Then you draw a loop through every chain stitch, leaving the loops on the long crochet hook. Once you’ve drawn a loop through every chain stitch, you place the yarn over the hook, draw through one stitch, place the yarn over the hook, draw through 2 stitches and repeat drawing through 2 stitches across the row. Then you start all over with drawing a loop up through every stitch. So, you’re basically repeating these 2 rows throughout the whole piece.

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This is a seed stitch which is a knit one, purl one stitch across your row. Then, on your next row, you do the opposite of the row before. Where there is a knit stitch, you purl. Where there is a purl stitch, you knit. It creates this wonderful bumpy texture. This yarn is a sage green with little flecks of silky blue, tan and green threads.

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This is also a knit one, purl one stitch but where it differs from the seed stitch is that you line up all of the knit and purl stitches. So, on your second row, you knit where there is a knit stitch and purl where there is a purl stitch (from the first row). This is called ribbing and is commonly found at the wrists and waist of a sweater. It creates a very elastic texture and the purl stitches recede so that it looks like all knit stitches on both sides of what you’re creating. My yarn is a rich deep wine red with flecks of silky red threads.

I had some very exciting news today. My son, who is in the Air Force, is finally coming home after completing his tech school training in Texas. He’ll be home tomorrow afternoon and will meet his one month old daughter, Ella, for the very first time. My heart swells just thinking about this very special moment.

First Snow

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I woke up this morning to a world covered in white.

Our first snowfall of the season.

I bundled myself up and entered this hushed world , gently, softly, and went for a walk, my shoes crunching, crunching.

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Everything was glazed in light.  I felt renewed.

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…trees glitter like castles of ribbons, the broad fields

smolder with light, a passing

creekbed lies heaped with shining hills;

and though the questions

that have assailed us all day

remain — not a single

answer has been found —

walking out now

into the silence and the light

under the trees,

and through the fields,

feels like one.

-Mary Oliver

Saturday Morning Tea

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We’ve been enjoying milder weather here in central MA this first week in December, with temps reaching a balmy 50 degrees on some days. But yesterday a sharp, cold wind blew in from up north and swept all of the mild away. We may even get some snow flurries tonight. I’ve been cozying up to a blazing fire in the fireplace with a steaming cuppa.

This morning I’m sipping a Milky Oolong from Taiwan. Grown in the Dong Ding (Tung Ting) mountain area in Nantou county, the tea is harvested from March through December.  Dong Ding mountain, perpetually shrouded in mist and fog, has an elevation of over 2400 feet and means “frozen summit” or “ice peak”. It’s one of the best known tea producing areas on the island.

First, the leaves are plucked from a special varietal of tea plant with large leaves. Then they are withered and allowed to oxidize in carefully controlled air conditioned rooms. Oolong teas are not as oxidized (fermented) as black teas so after a shorter time, they are steamed with high heat to stop that oxidation process. This Oolong is more on the greener side so its oxidation time is less than other darker Oolongs. The leaves have been tossed during processing so they are all curled up.

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I enjoyed watching the leaves unfurl during the 3 minute steep in 180 degree F water.

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milkyoolongteapot120608Milky Oolong has such a unique taste that many stories have evolved to explain its unusual flavor. My favorite story is that the tea’s flavor came about as the result of a sudden shift in temperature during harvest that is an extremely rare occurrence. The first time this shift occurred was centuries ago when the moon fell in love with a comet passing through the night sky. The comet, passed by, burned out and vanished. The moon, in her great sorrow, caused a great wind to blow through the hills and valleys bringing about a quick drop in temperature. The next morning, local tea pluckers went out to collect their fresh leaves. To their surprise, when the tea was processed it had developed an amazing milky character, which was attributed to the motherly character of the old moon. I love that story and it reminds me of what we’ve been experiencing here recently with the change in the weather.

milkyoolongteabowl120608The aroma of this tea is floral with a rich hint of cream. Its flavor, also quite floral, reminds me very much of a Spring Dragon or Jade Oolong. It conjures up images of a blooming spring garden, ripe with its heady fragrance. There is also a buttery creaminess to the taste as well which gives a soft, silky feeling in my mouth.

This truly is a very special tea.

This weekend is a good one for knitting and crocheting holiday gifts by the fire, a hot cup of tea by my side.

Studio Wednesday

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It felt good to be back for a full day in my studio today! My last full studio day was 3 weeks ago because of busyness with my jewelry show preparations and the holiday last week.

I’m thrilled to have recently received a commission to create a freeform peyote bracelet in a green, brown, gold, russet and salmon palette. Here are the seed beads and pearls I’ve chosen so far. This bracelet will be smaller in width than the last one.

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I have some other projects in the works, like finishing my beaded turquoise cab necklace and creating a fringey bracelet with my citrus cane slices. I’m also working on some crocheted and knitted holiday gifts. I can post photos closer to Christmas so I don’t give any secrets away right now.

I’ve been thinking about what kinds of new projects I’d like to play with after the holidays. I find myself captivated by the book, “Wrap, Stitch, Fold and Rivet” by Mary Hettmansperger. Mary’s approach to manipulating metal and wire to create stunning pieces of jewelry resonates with my preference for creating in a freeform way. Her background in weaving and basketry brings a unique voice to these materials. I would like to try some of the projects in the book and see what I can create. Also calling to me are crocheting with wire, arashi shibori and making my own polymer clay beads for bead crocheting. I have many ideas floating around in my head and I’m looking forward to manifesting them in the New Year. Oh yes, I just got the book, “Masters: Art Quilts” out of the library and I am absolutely in love with the work of Cher Cartwright and her fabulous dyed fabric quilts. Grab a cup of tea and visit her website for an eye candy feast. Very inspiring!