Saturday Morning Tea

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This week brought another snow and ice storm to our area. As the piles of snow around our driveway grow and grow, it definitely heightens my focus in on the moment. That moment being one of gingerly walking to the car or to get the mail. Or, backing oh so slowly out of the driveway, more listening for cars in the road than being able to see them. So, when a day dawns clear and bright and the temps promise to reach freezing or a little above, we New Englanders celebrate. Tomorrow is February and spring is getting closer!

This morning’s tea is a real treat with a very interesting name. A China black called Golden Monkey Imperial. Its name comes from ancient legends of monkeys being trained to pick tea leaves from tea trees growing on high cliffs in mountainous areas.

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This tea comes from a very fine plucking of the top leaf and bud of the tea plant. I have read that it is the black tea equivalent of Silver Needles white tea. The leaves are very oxidized and dark with golden threads weaving through the dark needles. It is grown in Fujian province in China.

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When I opened my packet to spoon the tea leaves into my teapot, I was greeted by such a strong aroma of bittersweet cocoa. mmmmmm… For a chocolate lover like myself, I was already in heaven even before my first sip! The tea liquor is very full-bodied with strong cocoa notes and a whisper of sweet dried fruit. There is a little tang in the finish. This tea is definitely strong enough for the addition of milk and sweetener but I recommend drinking it straight for the full effect of its amazing flavor.

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I am headed out the door soon to spend the day with a very dear friend of mine, a kindred art spirit. We’ll start our day with a lunch at Panera. I’m thinking of a steaming bowl of broccoli cheddar soup with fresh, crispy bread on the side. How about a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of whipped cream? Then it’s off to the local bead store, armed with a gift certificate I received at Christmastime. Then we’ll go to my friend’s home, light a cozy fire in the fireplace and drink lots of tea while we chat and catch up on each others lives. A perfect day…

“It is a sweet thing, friendship, a dear balm,
A happy and auspicious bird of calm…”

~Shelly

Yarn Adventures

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I find that as I get older, winter’s icy fingers burrow farther into my bones and muscles and no matter how many wooly layers I wrap myself in, I just can’t get warm enough. So, before the holidays, my desire to steep myself in warmth gently nudged me to seek out one of my passions that was now buried in tote bags in the back of my closet.  Balls of yarn in colors rich as jewels – amethyst, carnelian and ruby – spilled out onto the floor all around me like found treasure as I rummaged through my bags. I sat down with my long metal crochet hook and my big round balls of yarn and created long strips of color blocks that I then wove together with a tapestry needle, one by one. As my blanket grew, it cocooned around me, warming my body and my heart with the rhythm of the colorful stitches.

I was happy when I finally finished my blanket but sad to give up the meditative state of the needles so I dug back into my bags to unearth another ball of yarn in a gentle sage green with silky flecks of brown, green and blue. I created a scarf and then when that was done, it was back to my yarn stash. Now a ball of shiny ruby red. Another scarf. Hey, this is as addicting as beading. I wrote about making the blanket and 2 scarves here.

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Before I left for my annual holiday trek to Michigan, my Mom told me not to bring any art projects with me because she had gone to the knitting store and picked up something for us to do. Oh joy, another adventure in knitting!  As the fairy lights twinkled like stars on my parents’ Christmas tree, I made my first pair of mittens out in snowy Michigan. While I was happily knitting away, I thought that it would be so nice to be able to wear my mittens while I work on my computer. So, I studied the mitten pattern and adapted it to create a pair of open mittens, that is, with no tips on the fingers. I know that there are knitting patterns out there for a pair of fingerless gloves, in fact, Dave has a pair where the top of the mitten flaps back to reveal the fingerless glove. I just wanted something simple with an opening for my fingers so I could type unrestricted. I used a double strand of wooly yarn for thickness and warmth and was able to make them in one evening. This is a great project for using all of those bits and pieces of yarn left over from other projects. It’s fun to use 2 strands of different yarns to create interesting color and texture.

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As we enter this last week of January, I feel a stirring in the inner chambers of my heart that whispers of thawing and melting. Perhaps it is just coming from the creative visualization that I’ve been doing for my frozen shoulder or just plain ol wishful thinking but I’d like to dream that spring is not too far away.

Saturday Morning Tea

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As I gaze outside my window, I see that it is still mid-winter and we are encased in snow and ice here on Ramble Road. However, inside my cozy house, in my cup of morning tea, it’s a different story. I am sipping the first picking from the Arya estate in Darjeeling. Lot 1 of 2009. But it’s only January, you say. Is this a first flush tea?

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Actually, it is labeled as a “winter tea”. Oh dear, and here I thought I was cheating winter a little bit with springtime in my cup. Still, it is the first 2009 Darjeeling I’m enjoying and that is cause for celebration.

The preparation for this tea began last July when select bushes were carefully pruned. This pruning process encourages the bushes to “flush” right after the monsoon season which ends in September. This is actually considered the fifth season in India besides the regular four seasons that we know of – spring, summer, autumn and winter. It is a season of intense torrential rains that can cause landslides that block the Darjeeling district off from the rest of India.

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The leaf has a lot of green bits and some stem mixed in with the darker leaf. This tea has been processed as a black tea where the leaf is allowed to oxidize and turn dark.

I steeped the leaves in water just under boiling temperature for 3 minutes.

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A soft floral whisper drifts up from the amber liquor as I take my first sip. I taste a fresh fruitiness with a hint of green, almost like a ripe fruit that holds echoes of its unfolding flavor before it ripened.

I am enjoying my cuppa with my latest favorite treat, an oatmeal raisin flax cookie from Kashi. These wonderful cookies contain all sorts of goodness and one cookie is very filling.

My shoulder continues to heal, slowly but surely, and the pain fog is starting to recede, allowing my ability to concentrate to return bit by bit.

This past week I found a sketchbook that I had purchased last summer and, in the evenings after my acupuncture treatment, I started painting the pages with Twinkling H2Os, shimmery watercolor paints. Very simple. I place swirls and washes of color on each page randomly, allowing myself to just play with the paint. In my online browsing, I discovered Teesha Moore’s website and blog. Her unique and creative art journal pages have inspired me to create my own. You can read Teesha’s tips and recommendations on how to layer the pages here. I love to have guidelines when first attempting a new art technique. Guidelines allow the spirit of experimentation and play to come out and dance. Speaking of play, I want to purchase some crayons. Teesha recommends Caran D’Ache Neocolor II crayons. I found a bunch of different sets at Dick Blick’s and they look positively scrumptious.

Dipping into my creative life once again feels like a long, cool drink of water after a journey through the desert.

Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.

~Julia Cameron

Saturday Morning Tea

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Yesterday on my birthday, a colleague brought in a blooming periwinkle colored hyacinth as a gift for me. As it was the coldest day on record in years and springtime seems so very far away, it brought hope and a beautiful fragrance to my day.  Thank you Rebecca! With the memory of that heavenly fragrance still permeating my being, I have chosen a white jasmine tea for my morning cuppa. It is called Jasmine Downy White Pekoe.

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A white tea is scented with jasmine blossoms to create the ethereal beauty of this tea. Early in the springtime, tea buds are gently plucked from the tea bushes. These buds are so new that they are still covered with the white down of the just emerged growth. They are newly born. The tea buds are dried and then heated to halt the oxidation process that would turn them dark.

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I steeped the delicate leaf in 180 degree F water for 3 minutes.

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It is important to remember that this tea is not flavored, it is scented. Since the tea leaf is so sensitive to picking up the scents and aromas to anything that is placed by it, it is perfect for scenting with flower blossoms. Once the jasmine is blooming in the summertime, the leaves are laid out and the jasmine blossoms are laid over them. This process is repeated until the tea master is satisfied with the level of scenting. There are no dried blossoms mixed with this tea. Its fragrant jasmine aroma and flavor come directly from the scented leaf. The delicate herbaceous quality of the white tea blends perfectly with the jasmine. Truly an aromatherapy experience!

jasminedownywhiteliquor0117I treated myself to a big bouquet of orange carnations this week. In my healing process, I am trying to bring as much warmth into my life as possible to thaw out this frozen shoulder of mine. The beautiful salmon orange color of the flowers brings color and sunshine to my spirit.

As I focus on healing, I have been, unfortunately, away from my studio and my artwork. I yearn to feel my materials in my hands, weaving them together to express what is present in my soul. I am hoping to return to my studio soon and my Studio Wednesday posts as the pain heals and I regain more mobility. A big thank you to all of my readers for their patience as I continue to step back from my creative side just now.

Of winter’s lifeless world each tree

Now seems a perfect part;

Yet each one holds summer’s secret

Deep down within its heart.

~Charles G. Stater

Saturday Morning Tea

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As I gaze outside my window, words come into my mind.

Clear.  Sharp.  Bright.  Cold.

Yes, very cold.

I’ve been away from my regular blogging, I know, only dropping in once a week now to share a cup of tea with you. I am hoping that I will be able to come visit more often as my healing progresses with a quite painful physical problem I’ve been struggling with. A frozen shoulder. How appropriate for this time of year when all is rimmed with frost and ice, including me. My acupuncturist gives advice that speaks straight to my heart.

Drink more tea.

This morning’s tea is a unique China black from Fujian province called Yin Lan Zao. A large leaf that is rolled into curl shapes, it is usually a leaf used to make Oolong tea. The tea master decided to produce a black tea, however, and the leaf was oxidized more to produce a lovely tea whose leaves unfurl into strands of ribbons.

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I steeped my tea for 5 minutes in 212 degree (boiling) water.

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As my tea steeped, I reflected on the frozen world outside and also inside of me.

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The tea liquor is a beautiful amber color. Amber. Tree resin from so long ago that can trap remnants from an ancient world inside of it.

As I take my first sip, the warm, toasty aroma fills my senses. The warmth comes through in the rich flavor with spicy flavor notes reminiscent of nutmeg and a hint of cinnamon.

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Last year, I chose a word as my touchstone for the year. Beauty. As I moved through my year and experienced many changes, I thought of my word and it helped me to stop, focus on the present moment and enjoy the simple Beauty in and around me. I am still pondering over a word for this year. The word Listen kept coming into my thoughts over the last several weeks but I feel like it is telling me to listen for my word. I am listening…

In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me

lay an invincible summer.

~Albert Camus

Saturday Morning Tea

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Happy New Year!

While the winter winds howl around the outside corners and eaves of my house, I am warm and cozy inside, enjoying a little taste of springtime in my teabowl.

This is a beautiful hand-tied display China green tea called Bai Hua Kai. It comes in a little pod form that transforms when hot water is poured over it. Watch and enjoy!

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I steeped the pod for 5 minutes in 180 degree water. The resulting liquor is delicate and very sweet. Delightful!