Saturday Morning Tea

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This morning I’m preparing to go away for the weekend to visit a dear friend who lives on Cape Cod. Or, as we say here, I’m going “down the Cape”. It’s a cloudy, misty early spring morning here with rain expected by tomorrow. All of the little greenies emerging from the soil will love being nourished by the raindrops. My friend and I will pour some tea and have a nice long chat while the rain falls softly outside.

Last night I heard my most favorite sound of spring – a peeper. Spring peepers are small chorus frogs commonly found in the East. Every spring they start sounding their mating call at night and it truly does turn into a chorus of sound. I find it very comforting to fall asleep to their song.

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I’m sipping a Chinese green tea called Dao Ren Top Pekoe. The leaf is a Mao Feng style which I wrote about in last week’s tea post. It refers to the downy white hairs on the new growth plucked. The leaf is rolled and twisted during processing.

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

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The tea liquor is a pale straw, reminding me of a white tea. The aroma is soft and vegetal and the taste is smooth and delicate. I taste a hint of nuttiness in the flavor. This is a great tea for someone looking for a very smooth, light green tea without any astringency. The perfect tea for calming meditation on a misty morning.

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I have met brave women who are exploring the

outer edges of human possibility, with no history to

guide them, and with a courage to make themselves

vulnerable that I find moving beyond words.

~Gloria Steinem

Studio Wednesday

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Last Sunday I spent some time working in my studio on my latest freeform bracelet. I feel so much joy working in this way. Listening to the beads and letting my creativity flow and synch up with their special rhythm.

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Many different sizes of beads placed  and fit together to create something new and unique.

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Bridges are formed from one side to the other. Texture is added to give the piece dimension.

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Today is a very special day. 25 years ago I received a wonderful gift when my daughter, Aimee, was born.  Happy Birthday, Aim! We both took the day off from our respective workplaces and spent the day shopping and having a great lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. It was so much fun just being together. I feel renewed.

A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer.

~Author Unknown

Saturday Morning Tea

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A shell cradling some tea leaves. Both once living, now both transformed. One is part of my nature collection and one will be further transformed into a delicious hot beverage to drink. Both give me great pleasure.

Change. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and is a constant by which we can guide our lives. Some do not like change. Or, I should say, too much change all at once. I’m raising my hand on that one. However, it is the change in our lives that brings us to new and wonderful places.

Because the last year of my life has been filled with so much tremendous change, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’m sure that there a lot of folks experiencing the same in their lives. I find that when I embrace the change that it flows so much easier. Embracing it means that we have to move beyond our fears and that is sometimes a hard thing to do.

So, this morning I sip my tea and think about these things.

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My work colleague (thanks Dan!) gifted me with a sample of a brand new Keemun called Mao Feng Imperial. I’ve reviewed Keemun tea before and you can read more about it here. The leaf style is called Mao Feng which means “Fur Peak” or “Hairy Mountain”, referring to the downy white hairs on the leaf when it is plucked and also to the location where it is grown and harvested. During its processing, the full leaf is rolled into long, thin strands, characteristic of this style of tea.

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I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in 212 degree F water. The tea liquor is a beautiful deep russet color with a sweet, dark aroma. The steeping leaves reveal a reflection of the deep blue spring sky today.

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You can see how the leaf uncurls slightly after steeping.

The flavor is silky smooth with a lot of complexity, meaning many layers of flavor. I taste wine, fruit, smoke, chocolate, earth. Keemun is called the “burgundy” of teas. Sometimes when a customer is looking for a new black tea to try, I ask them if they enjoy a full-bodied red wine. If so, I think that they would love a Keemun.

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I am going to spend this first full spring weekend out in nature and enjoying the company of some dear friends, embracing the change of the season.

Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

~H.H. the Dalia Lama

Studio Wednesday

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In the time I have between my physical therapy treatment and my favorite tv show “LOST”, I’d like to share with you what I’ve been working on this week.

With the limited range of motion in my frozen right shoulder, I haven’t been able to do a creative activity that I absolutely love: mixing colors in polymer clay. Cranking the pasta machine is torture on my shoulder. I solved that problem by treating myself to a motor and foot pedal for my P.M. What a difference! This has opened up a whole new world for me.

I love my new motor.

My first color mixing project was to mix up some muted neutral colors for a cane I wanted to try out from the new Donna Kato book I picked up from the library. It’s called “The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiore Techniques: Projects and Inspiration for Creative Canework”.

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There’s a lot of cool cane ideas in this great book. Now that I’ve returned it to the library, I’m even considering adding it to my library permanently. The cane slices above were created with a rolled Skinner Blend plug, wrapped and squished and rearranged. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really into creating canes because I like a more organic look to my work instead of geometric precision. That being said, there are some fun organic cane patterns to play with.

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I had some fun with the cane ends I sliced off and rolled around. Here’s a scrap cane that ended up looking like crescent moons from another world.

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Ever since I received a small piece of plexiglas in a goody bag from the first Klay Karma retreat 4 years ago, I love making swirly lentil beads with cane scraps. The larger one with the cane slice bail will be used as a pendant in a necklace. The smaller one could be used for a freeform bracelet. That would be fun to incorporate some polymer clay beads in my freeform work.

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I thought that I’d do something different for the swirly pendant necklace. Using a very thin gauge black wire and some bronze colored size 11 seed beads, I made several lengths of chain stitch. The wire was a bit tricky to work with at first because there is no “give” as there is with fiber. It takes time to figure out how much wire to wrap around your crochet hook to allow you to be able to pull the wire through the loop. I found that working looser rather than tighter is best.

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I made some more chain stitch lengths using bronze wire and black seed beads.

This weekend I’ll work on putting my necklace together.

“Once there were two color kittens with green eyes, Brush and Hush. They liked to mix and make colors by splashing one color into another. They had buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets of color to splash around with., Out of these colors they would make all the colors in the world.”

~from “The Color Kittens” by Margaret Wise Brown

Saturday Morning Tea

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Looking out on a brilliant blue sky, I carefully measure my tea leaves into my glass teapot. This morning’s tea is one that I haven’t reviewed before, China Gunpowder green tea. I have never been fond of gunpowder tea because I find that it has a tobacco-ey smoke flavor note. As a reformed smoker, I shy away from anything that reminds me of those days, especially smells and tastes.

I find this tea, called Tippy Gunpowder Imperial, to be an exception in that there is none of that smoky quality to it. The leaves have been withered, heated and then rolled and shaped into the distinctive gunpowder “pellets”. These tea leaves have a looser shape, however, reminding me of the Yunnan Spiral Buds I reviewed 3 weeks ago.

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Steeping the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water reveals the fine plucking and tips. Wow, that is the intact end of the stem. Beautiful! You can see the tip, the new growth, in the middle between the 2 larger leaves.

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I found this great tea processing flow chart on Wikipedia. I’m a visual learner so it helps for me to visually see the steps taken to create the different kinds of tea.

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The processing of green tea leaves into gunpowder style tea dates back to the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618–907). It was originally done to expose the leaf to less physical damage and to retain more flavor and aroma. The name comes from the resemblance of the rolled leaf to gunpowder pellets.

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As I sip my tea from one of my favorite pottery bowls, I am greeted by a fresh, clean aroma which reminds me of the fresh air smell after a spring shower has passed. The flavor is also fresh and vegetal but not overly so, with a distinct astringent finish that lingers in my mouth for awhile. This tea has a robustness about it that I find very appealing.

It’s time to go make another pot of tea and go play in my studio! Enjoy the unfolding beauty of your world this weekend.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

~Rumi

Studio Wednesday on Thursday

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Last weekend I nourished my creative spirit as much as possible as I adjusted to my new schedule. I dedicated myself to creating and finishing a necklace for my “Grow” polymer clay pendant. With the help of my brand new mini bead spinner, I threaded a bead soup of pale blue, green, yellow, ivory and crystal seed beads onto my hand dyed silk cord. It was a little tricky at first to slide into the rhythm of needle and spinning bowl but I finally got the hang of it and then the beads literally jumped onto my needle like eager participants in play. As I eased myself into the flow of the spinning beads, I was reminded of my early school days when I loved jumping Double Dutch. You really couldn’t think about it, you just had to close your eyes and navigate by your inner compass and spacial instinct. In other words, jump in!  Once my cord was saturated with tiny beads, I started crocheting a simple chain stitch, catching one bead in each chain. I made 3 strands like this and tied the ends together.

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My next step was to create small bead caps/cones by weaving the beads in a herringbone stitch. I covered the knotted  silk cord ends with my beaded caps.

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I found a small textured silver toggle clasp in my stash and attached it to the silver loops coming out of the bead caps. I’m still deciding whether I like this clasp for this necklace. It is very easy to put on and take off the necklace so that’s a big plus. And it’s small size goes well with the delicate feel of  the necklace. I’ll have to wear it a couple of times to see how it works.

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Using 20 gauge sterling silver wire, I created a curled spiral bail for my pendant and threaded the strands through the curls.

Curls of soft misty colors. Silvery rebirth spirals. Crystal drops of rain.

Spring is here.