Saturday Morning Tea

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It’s time for another first flush Darjeeling. If someone asked me right now what my most favorite tea is, my answer would be a first flush Darjeeling in May.

This particular first flush tea was harvested on the Puttabong (also known as Tukvar) tea estate. First planted in 1852, this tea garden is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains near Kanchendzonga peak. With altitudes ranging from 1500 to 6500 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest elevation tea gardens in Darjeeling district.  Its tea plants consist mainly of clonal bushes and China jat, meaning tea bushes with origins from China.

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Unlike other first flush teas, its leaves are darker with less green bits. I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water.

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As I lifted the infuser basket from the teapot, the tea’s fruity aroma greeted me immediately. I looked forward to my first sip and was delighted with the lively taste of the cup. While it was bright, it wasn’t as characteristically astringent and seemed more like a second flush with its muscatel flavor.

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Ok, I’m already sipping my third cup and the tea is still very smooth. Sometimes Darjeelings will reveal their bite as the tea cools. Not this one.

It is a delight!

I’m also enjoying it at a cooler temperature and would recommend it as a wonderful iced tea. With the leaves I have left in my sample packet, I think I’ll steep them in the fridge overnight for a glass of iced tea tomorrow morning. We are anticipating warming temps this weekend after a cool, rainy week.

Have you noticed the background in my tea photos? It is a background paper that I picked up the other day at A.C. Moore to use in my art journal. It’s called “In the Forest”. I’m expecting little fairies to shyly reveal themselves in its beautiful depth of pattern.

I’m discovering a whole new world of art supplies. Joy!

Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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From the Studio

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Now that my studio time has become limited to evenings and weekends since my return to full-time work 3 months ago, I have slipped into a comfortable rhythm as I dip into one art project and then another. Depending upon my mood, my energy level (especially after a day of work) and whatever else is going on, I choose my project and settle in for some blissful art making. Lately, my choices have been between my knitting, weaving beads for jewelry pieces, and my art journal.

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My knitting is a dear old friend, with its cozy and comfortable rhythm, always there to wrap me in its warm embrace. Using a newborn sock pattern I recently found online, I’m making a rosy pink pair of booties for a colleague’s brand new daughter. It took me a couple of practice starts trying to find the right gauge and now I’ve settled upon using size 2 double pointed bamboo needles.

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My beadwork is constantly evolving as I try new and different weaves to express the beauty of nature and how it touches and resonates within my soul. I love the color palette I used for my Spring free-form bracelet and do not want to let it go just yet. Using the bead soup mix I found left over on my bead mat, I created a 2-drop peyote cuff.

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I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and easily this cuff came into being and am excited by the range of ideas floating in my head on how I can use it for a background for polymer clay work like canes, cabochons and buttons. For this particular cuff, I think I will create a glazed polymer clay face cabochon in soft pinks as a focal point. I haven’t figured out yet what I will do for a clasp. I want something that will go well with the design and colors of the cuff. I feel that if I add a metal clasp that it might be too jarring for the rest of the design, especially with the soft colors of this palette. Any ideas?

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My new love is my art journal. Sarah Whitmire’s wonderful Soul Journal prompts have taken me gently by the hand and guided me as I start out on this self-discovery journey. Now that I have almost completed the 22 days of prompts, I find my wings starting to flutter open. I want to fly on my own across my journal pages and see what happens.

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I am having so much fun mixing and layering paint colors on the pages. I’ve discovered the “My Studio” line of inexpensive acrylic paints at A.C. Moore and everytime I visit I am compelled to get just a couple more colors! I also find myself looking around the house for interesting elements to add and use for stamping and texturing my pages. Inspired by my dear friend Judy, my next step is to try my hand at molding paste to bring a lot more texture to my pages. I’d like to use that for the cover of my journal. If anyone has any tips or stories to share about your own art journaling/collage experience, please do!

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I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

~Pablo Picasso

Saturday Morning Tea

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Aaaahhh, the first day of a 3-day weekend with nothing planned. It feels great after a very busy week of work and the buying property process.

I have a confession to make. The tea I chose for my morning tea today is one I had reviewed back in March when it first arrived. Oops. I apologize to those of you looking forward to reading about a new tea! This is the first time in 2 years that I’ve done this. Anyway, it is a marvelous tea that is definitely worth writing about and photographing again. You can read my first review here.

Say hello once again to Keemun Mao Feng Imperial.

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The Mao Feng leaf style is a fine plucking of the top two leaves and bud, all of equal length. The leaf is rolled into long wiry threads during processing.

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I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling point) water.

The aroma is rich and sweet like a thick, dark sugar.

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China Congou or China black teas are often referred to as “red” teas, not to be confused with South African Rooibos, or “redbush” herbal tea. I can see why.

The taste is smooth as silk with a cocoa flavor note reminiscent of a bar of dark chocolate. Mmmmm…

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My cup reflects the low gray sky threatening rain any minute. A dear friend of mine loves to drink Keemuns on rainy days. Their rich aroma and flavor is comforting and warming.

I think that this is going to be a “puttering” weekend filled with art journaling, beading and, hopefully, some gardening.

“Puttering is really a time to be alone, to dream and to get in touch with yourself….To putter is to discover.”

~Alexandra Stoddard

Saturday Morning Tea

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My daughter gave me a lovely bouquet of tulips for Mother’s Day. This morning I was cutting the stems down and rearranging them in a vase when a petal fell onto the kitchen counter. It cradles this morning’s tea, a Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong called Special Tribute.

There is a legend regarding how this particular Oolong came into being. Many years ago in Fujian Province in China, a poor tea farmer named Mr. Wei would walk by a temple everyday on his way to the tea fields. As each day passed, he noticed that no one cared for the temple so it was becoming quite run down. Inside he found a statue of Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. He did not have the means to fix up the temple but he felt that something needed to be done. One day he brought his broom and some incense. He lit the incense as an offering to the Goddess and swept the temple clean. That night Guan Yin came to him in a dream and told him of a cave where he would find a beautiful treasure for himself and to share with others. The treasure turned out to be a tea shoot which Mr. Wei planted and nurtured into a large tea bush, producing the finest tea in the region. He shared cuttings with all his neighbors and started calling the tea produced from this bush Tie-Guan-Yin. Mr. Wei and all his neighbors prospered and were able to restore the temple to its beauty and many came to gather there. Now Mr. Wei felt joy everyday as he passed the temple on the way to his tea fields.

Isn’t that just a lovely story?

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I steeped the rolled leaf for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. It relaxed a little after steeping but, for the most part, still kept its curly appearance.

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The pale yellow liquor is smooth and slightly sweet with nutty, woodsy notes and a hint of floral in the finish.

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I enjoyed my cuppa with the last of the blackberry crumble I made the other evening. Crumble is so easy to make and you can substitute your favorite fruit. Mix 1/2 cup each of rolled oats, brown sugar, and flour with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Then cut in 1/4 cup of butter until it’s crumbly. Place your choice of fruit (about 2-4 cups, soaked in sugar beforehand, if you wish) in a baking dish and sprinkle the crumble over it. Bake at 350 until browned. In my oven, it took about 25 minutes. Mmmmm….

“Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people.  Forget yourself.”

~Henry Miller

From the Studio

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Another Ripple scarf!

I love this pattern so much that I’m making another scarf, this time in jeweled tones for a dear friend’s birthday next month. I imagine her wearing it with a vibrant fall colored outfit.

One of the things that I love best about this pattern, besides its wonderful rhythm, is the way you can choose 2 different yarns that coordinate in color but contrast in texture. As you only use one skein of each yarn, it’s also a great way to use up leftover yarn from a bigger project.

I’ve returned to my art journal pages. I put my journal aside for awhile when it was time to create some pages of your home, the one that you’ve felt most comfortable in. I’m sure that the intent was to journal about what home means to me. Well….in the past 6 years, I have faced a lot of challenging questions about that so this was an interesting exercise for me. After putting it off for days and days, I finally sat my butt in the chair and just started drawing a house.

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I’ve created my dream house with big windows and skylights. I love the idea of living in a home filled with light, illuminating my sacred living space in a wash of warmth. I have yet to find this place of my dreams in real life. As my writing states,

“Under an ocean of stars, I hope to find my true home.”

The house itself (on the left) is made of a brown paper bag glued onto my journal page as a pocket. Our assignment was to create some paper dolls of myself and the loved ones I live with. As my kids are grown and I am no longer married, I have decided not to make the dolls but I will place some beloved photos of myself with my family in the house pocket.

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The next assignment was to find a couple of interesting body shapes in a magazine and cut them out precisely. I laid the body shapes onto my page and then, using a makeup sponge, painted around each shape, thus creating a beautiful silhouette. I especially love the shape on the right and thought that she needed some wings. Then, using a gold gel pen, I wrote down as many descriptive words as I could think of. That exercise really sparked my imagination. I found that sitting outside in nature was the perfect setting for accomplishing this.

Visual journaling gives me such a calm, peaceful feeling…

“Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. Know that the world exists for you.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I love lilacs.

Their heavenly fragrance reminds me of many wonderful days spent in my garden, one of my most favorite places to be. The beauty of a flower reminds us of all that is good in our world, inside of us and outside.

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I’ve finished my Spring free-form bracelet. This bracelet is thinner than the others I’ve made. Keeping in mind the hours that go into creating a free-form piece, I am trying to make a more affordable bracelet, one that takes less time to finish.

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I loved weaving the colors of spring that can be worn upon the wrist.

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I like the idea of letting the colors in the natural world around me inspire my creations.

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Here is the clasp, a simple bead and loop. I’ve built up the loop so that there aren’t any gaps in the flow of the bracelet.

Enjoy the beauty of this day which honors the creativity of all women!

But if you have nothing at all to create, perhaps you create yourself.

~Carl Jung

Saturday Morning Tea

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The air felt very still and heavy with moisture this morning as I walked out onto the back deck and greeted the morning. The birds darted through the trees, twittering and chirping, happy to be back home. I was so glad to see a tiny hummingbird preening itself on the weigela bush, its iridescent back flashing green in the morning light. Two male orioles chased each other through the trees in streaks of brilliant orange. It’s mating season and I’m sure this flying dance was all about territory and one certain lady bird. As I headed back inside to put the kettle on, the sky opened up and let forth a deluge. Perfect timing for a hot cuppa.

In honor of the magnificent green unfolding of spring, I am sipping a beautiful green tea called New Season Top Lung Ching. The flat broad leaf has a silky texture and a slight nutty aroma. I’ve written about and reviewed Lung Ching teas before here and here. The flat shape of the leaf is caused by the motion of the pan when the leaf is heated to stop oxidation.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 170 degree F water.

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Some of the leaves open slightly but most retain their “pea-pod” shape. The pale yellow color of the tea liquor is so light that it reminds me of a white tea. Everything about this tea is gentle, from the whisper of vegetal in the aroma to the smooth buttery corn flavor note. Very soft, very ethereal.

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I’ve been reading A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Molly is best known as the author of the marvelous blog Orangette. With each chapter, Molly shares a life story and then a recipe. I love her chatty writing style and I feel like she’s sitting next to me sharing a cup of tea and a piece of cake from one of her mouthwatering recipes. Anyone who knows me well knows about my cooking phobia. So, as this year in my life seems to be all about standing up to my fears, I am taking the plunge and experimenting with baking. My work colleagues are quite pleased as they get to taste and enjoy the results of my efforts.  Since my experience with H.H. the Dalai Lama last weekend, I am thinking more and more about what life is all about and what gives me joy. I am discovering that I really like to create something with food.

A couple of evenings ago, I made the recipe found on page 20 for Blueberry-Raspberry Pound cake. I substituted blackberries I found on sale and added some orange and lemon zest. It came out quite wonderful and this morning I am savoring the last piece with my cup of tea. The blackberries lend a moist, jammy quality which I think balances wonderfully with the dense pound cake.

Hmmm, now what recipe shall I try next?

When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone.  Whether we know it or not, none of us is.  We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten.  Food is never just food.  It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”

~Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life