Saturday Morning Tea

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This weekend is what we have been waiting for throughout the cold, icy New England winter. Sunny skies and temps in the 80s with everything blooming and filling our environment with color. I feel joy swelling in my heart. I’m starting to think about iced tea and for me and my caffeine sensitivity, that means herbal.

My favorite herbal is South African Rooibos. I’ve written a little about it here and here. This morning’s tea is called Poire Creme, a green Rooibos decorated with sunflower petals and  flavored with pear and creme.

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I steeped it for 8 minutes in slightly less than boiling temp water. As the Rooibos and flower petals steeped, they seemed to be floating in an ethereal dance together.

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We had a truckload of bark mulch delivered this morning. The threads of reddish Rooibos remind me a little of the big pile in the driveway. Guess what I’m going to be doing this weekend?

The red amber liquor greets me with a fruity aroma which carries on into the taste. I love the blend of tart fruitiness and creamy richness in the flavor. This tea would make an excellent iced tea. I prefer the “cold brew” method of making iced tea. Fill a large container with cold filtered water and add a tablespoon of herbal tea leaves for every 6-8 ounces of water. Let this mixture sit overnight in the fridge and then strain into another container the next morning. As these measurements will make a concentrate, you can add water and ice to taste. I prefer drinking the Rooibos concentrate just as is with some lemon or orange slices.

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I’m enjoying my hot herbal cuppa with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Simply substitute chocolate chips for the raisins in your favorite oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.  Mmmm…

A thoughtful reader wrote to me this past week regarding my steeping times for Assam tea. I like to brew my whole leaf Assams for 5 minutes and he thinks that a 5 minute steeping time is too long and yields a bitter brew for him. That brings up a good point that it is important to experiment with steeping times to see what works best for you as everyone has different taste preferences. If a tea ever tastes bitter, that is a very good indication that it’s been steeped too long for you. Thanks, Bruce!

This morning I am off to look at more properties and then home to shovel bark mulch in the garden. Enjoy the weekend!

“Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

~May Sarton

From the Studio

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I’ve decided to rename my weekly studio post because Wednesdays are now a pretty busy day for me between work and a physical therapy session right afterwards. So, instead of limiting my post to being published just on Wednesdays, I’m expanding my vision to include other weekdays as well. In other words, I can post when I have free time during the week instead of trying to cram it into a half hour before bedtime on a full day!

For the most part, I’ve always been much more comfortable with having specified days or times for when I do certain things. The Capricorn part of me is soothed by structure and schedule and knowing what to do next. That said, there is a part of me that craves just flowing along with the ever changing tides of my life. I’m trying to develop that side of me a lot more these days. It requires more of an openness and an intuitive sense of what I need for balance.

I finally completed my free-form bracelet. I’m sorry to say that I was in such a hurry to mail it that I completely forgot to take a picture of it! Oh dear. Well, all went well with its finishing. I created a variation of a bead and loop clasp where I built up around the loops with peyote stitch so that the “holes” actually became part of the bracelet’s structure. I attached 2 coppery pearls as part of the clasp.

As I observe the unfolding beauty of Spring around me, I am being inspired to create a new free-form bracelet in a color palette that will reflect all of the budding and blooming going on. I love this part of the process, the choosing of harmonious colors and the laying out of the selected beads on my tray to see how they look next to each other. I’m thinking of delicate spring greens and tree bark browns and grays with a sprinkling of forsythia yellow, hyacinth purple and white along with azalea purply-pink.

What do you think of my color palette so far?

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I finished my second Ripple scarf, the one knit in the pink/peach colorway. As I have grown accustomed to having something on my needles now (and loving it!), I just started a pair of sweet, cotton candy pink baby socks for my granddaughter, Ella. Made with a simple eyelet pattern (yes, yarn overs!), they are knitting up pretty fast.

I purchased the 2 Jane Thornley patterns that I wrote about last week, the “Come Spring” vest and the “Knit a Beach” vest. I’ve decided to start with the spring vest. Jane suggests using a gorgeous silk/wool blend yarn from La Lana. I like the colorway she has chosen, especially wonderful for this time of year – apple green, pine, teal and brown. The back panel of the vest is worked up in a hand dyed ribbon yarn blending all of those colors. Time to go yarn shopping!

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Last Saturday I spent a lovely Art Day with 2 dear friends. I worked on the next 2 pages in my art journal, cutting out magazine images into “inchies”, that is, one inch squares. I glued them onto my purple/brown painted pages in a grid pattern and then brushed and wiped a light, muted blue green over the images so they would blend into the page better.

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The next day I collected a bunch of tape rolls – electrical, paint and some sort of grid tape – from all over the house. I cut and placed tape pieces on my next 2 pages in a random design and then sanded, gessoed and sanded some more. Green blue paint was gently wiped over and then sanded.

This was a very interesting and fun way to create a background!

I’m learning that art journal pages can be created with a wide variety of materials that you can find around the house.

The ordinary arts we practice everyday at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.

~Thomas Moore

Saturday Morning Tea

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This morning I am indulging in a cup of another brand new first flush Darjeeling. This one is from the Arya estate. I wrote a little bit about the origins of this tea garden here.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water. The leaves revealed their spring nature and the liquor bloomed into a delicate amber color.

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The aroma is so fresh that it reminds me of mint.

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The taste is clear and bright with that almost ripe fruity quality. Sometimes I catch hints of banana.

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I am enjoying my cuppa with some Irish Soda Bread cookies. I made them for our International Food Day at work yesterday. I found the recipe here. I substituted raisins for currants and made my buttermilk by mixing 1/2 T. of fresh lemon juice into 1/2 cup of milk. The caraway seeds give them such an interesting flavor.

Today is Art Day with 2 dear friends, a whole day devoted to creating art and chatting, chatting, chatting. Oh yes, a wonderful pasta and salad lunch is planned and I’m bringing strawberries and cream for dessert.

Time to pack up my art supplies!

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  Thet must be felt with the heart.

~Helen Keller

Studio Wednesday

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This past weekend was a quiet one. With nothing scheduled, I spent it relaxing at home, taking a long walk in the woods and then working on art projects. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does, I sink into every peaceful moment with gratitude and joy for the opportunity to connect with myself once again.

I finished my blue Ripple scarf and started another one in a pink/peach colorway. This is a wonderful way to get a taste of some of the more expensive yarns before committing to a big project. It’s like getting a sample of a high end tea and then, if it’s positively fabulous, getting a larger packet. Now that I’ve had my sample, I’m beginning to dream of a bigger project like a vest or a cardigan made with these luscious yarns. I love the whole concept of the “yarn overs’ because of the lacy organic look it lends to the piece. I found this helpful video on Youtube. I’m a visual learner so watching this works wonders in my understanding of the stitch.

I’ve recently discovered the Ravelry website, an online knit and crochet community. You have to be invited to join but that’s really easy to arrange. Just click on the Request an Invitation link on their homepage and enter your e-mail address. In less than a week, I received my e-mail invitation. I haven’t had a chance to explore the site thoroughly but it looks like a wonderful resource and a great way to connect with kindred yarn and fiber spirits. In the profile you set up, you are able to keep track of your projects and yarn purchases, favorite patterns and designers. I stumbled upon a designer, Jane Thornley, whose beautiful patterns took my breath away, especially this beach vest.

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It reminds me of free-form beading, only with yarn.  Described as an “experience combining simple stitches to create textures that evoke the blue sea frothed with ocean latte and sand hues of a summer beach.”, I feel this pattern whispering to me.

I also love the “Come Spring” vest. In these colors, it’s so earthy looking.

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I was fashioning the loop clasp on my free-form bracelet when my thread broke. I’m not sure what happened there. Now I have to pull out beads so I can get enough thread tail to weave in. Then I’ll attach a new thread and finish the clasp. Once that’s done, I’ll post a photo of the completed bracelet.

I worked on the second page of my art journal entitled “Soul Armor”. The prompt is “What protects and nourishes my creative spirit?” This journaling exercise was so helpful for me to get in touch with what nourishes my creativity. Some of my favorite things include walking in nature, gardening, kindred art spirits, taking photographs and visiting the local bead and fabric stores.

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I’ve recently joined the 2009 Creative Everyday challenge, a very laid back commitment to do something creative each day whether it is cooking, writing, taking photos or working on art projects. You can read more about it on Leah Piken Kolidas’ website. Thanks for encouraging and inspiring our creative spirits, Leah!

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The April challenge is “Color”. Last fall I created polyclay citrus cane beads in lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange. This month’s challenge is perfect for starting a vibrantly colored fringe-y bracelet with my cane beads.

Stay tuned for another fringe-y bracelet journey!

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for”

~Georgia O”Keefe

The conception and unfolding of a piece of art

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“Enlightenment is not separate from washing dishes or growing lettuce. To learn how to live each moment of our daily life in deep mindfulness and concentration is the practice. The conception and unfolding of a piece of art takes place exactly in these moments of our daily life. The time when you begin to write down the music or the poems is only the time of delivering the baby. The baby has to be in you already in order for you to deliver it. But if the baby is not in you, even if you sit for hours and hours at your desk, there’s nothing to deliver, and you cannot produce anything. Your insight, your compassion, and your ability to write in a way that will move the other person’s heart are flowers that bloom on your tree of practice. We should make good use of every moment of our daily life in order to allow this insight and compassion to bloom.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

When I read this quote, I feel that anything is possible if we are mindful of the present everyday moments in our lives.  It is those moments that enrich our lives and make our creative expression deep in meaning and spirit.

Saturday Morning Tea

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It’s a grey day here in New England, perfect for staying inside and curling up with a good book, cup of tea by my side. It’s supposed to rain all day, wonderful nourishment for all the newly growing plants and flowers.

I’m stepping out of the box today from my normal tea choices. I’m sipping a black tea from the Bogawantalawa estate in Sri Lanka. Boy, those Ceylon names sure can be a challenge to spell let alone to say. My colleagues and I have a lot of fun at work  practicing pronunciation before we have to talk about them with a customer.

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This is a broken leaf tea. While the tea is being processed, some of the leaf breaks up into smaller bits. The leaf is then run through various size sieves to separate it into piles of the same size leaf bits. This is because a broken leaf tea has a shorter steeping time than a whole leaf tea. If the broken and whole leaf parts were mixed together, you would end up with either under-steeped or over-steeped leaf in your tea.

The Bogawantalawa tea estate is in the Dimbula region of Sri Lanka, located to the west of the central mountains at an elevation of about 4,000 feet. The island of Sri Lanka (old name Ceylon), located off the tip of India, has a highland ridge running right down the center of the island. This ridge blocks the monsoon winds that come in from the northeast in December to March and the southwest from June to August, creating a perfect climate for growing tea. Warm days, cool mornings and infrequent rain are perfect for producing the most flavorful leaf.

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As there is more surface area on the broken leaf that is exposed to the water, it brews up quickly in 2 1/2-3 minutes. The tea liquor is a dark amber with a fragrance that I can best describe as a “tea fragrance”, full bodied, lemony and brisk. It is the aroma that most people would identify with a cup of tea.

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The flavor is smooth yet brisk with citrus notes. While I am very much enjoying this tea hot, it would make an excellent iced tea with its lemony nuances. To enhance my citrus experience, I have spread some orange marmalade on honey crackers. This tea would also stand up well to milk but I recommend trying it without milk at first so you can taste its wonderful flavor notes.

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Continuing my work in my art journal, I filled 3 pages with journaling using the prompt “Today I feel…”. I then gessoed over the pages with a dry brush. The next assignment was to write my name all over the first page. I brought out my watercolor pencils and had so much fun doodling and coloring.

I created a little spring tulip garden.

“How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?

Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,

and in that freedom bold”

~William Wordsworth

Studio Wednesday – Art Projects

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A Spring nest of yarn.

With these 2 luscious skeins, I’m knitting a “Ripple” scarf, a pattern I purchased from Spincycle Yarns. The yarn in the nest is the Berroco “Seduce’ yarn I was talking about last week. Yum…

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I love the contrast in textures between the linen/silk yarn and the mohair-y wool yarn. I find myself being deeply drawn to pale blue these days.

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With this wonderful pattern, I’m learning all about “yarn overs” and how they can create a fabulous see-thru lacy look. I’m also being drawn to lacy, flowy designs.

More work on my free-form bracelet. It will be ready for the clasp very soon.

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For the past several months, I’ve been gessoing the pages of an old datebook, preparing it for transformation into an art journal. I walk by it everyday and feel its call to add color and images and words and doodles. I daydream about what I will do. Yet, I do nothing. A couple of days ago, I stumbled across the most wonderful blog called Caspiana and posts about Soul Journaling, a 22 day step by step guide to creating a soul journal. Hoo-ray! It was just what I needed to inspire and guide me to sit down with my art journal once again.

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I’ve glued down my ripped up dictionary pages and am ready to write using the prompt “Today I feel…” I’ll do that tonight. Next will be gessoing over my words and doodling my name all over the first page with colored pencils and markers.

I am joyously taking the first steps in my art journaling experience.

I stopped by the library on the way home from work and have a new pile of books to snuggle up in bed with tonight.

Opening each book and sifting through its words. That pleasure and a steaming cup of herbal tea to guide me toward sweet dreams.

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Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own. ~William Hazlitt