Saturday Morning Tea

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Welcome back sun!

As George Harrison sang, “it feels like years since it’s been here”.

With a booming thunderstorm last Thursday night, our weather finally turned from cool and drizzly to hot and sunny.  Summer’s finally here. And with the warmth, it’s time to make some iced tea!

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I make iced tea with the “cold brew” method. It’s so easy to make iced tea this way. Gather up your supplies either in the morning before work or in the evening before bedtime. This will give the leaves sufficient time to steep either all day or all night.

You’ll need a container, a tablespoon and some tea leaves. For my iced tea, I use a glass pitcher I purchased at Target and some organic green South African Rooibos. I’ve written about this herbal before here and here.

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Spoon your tea leaves into your pitcher, using one tablespoon for every 6-8 ounces of water. Next, pour your water into your pitcher. I recommend either bottled spring water or filtered tap water. Hard water can definitely affect the taste of your tea.

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Now all you have to do is place your container in the fridge. That night or the next day, strain the tea into another container to remove the leaves. I use a large Pyrex measuring cup to strain my tea into. Then I clean the leaves out of my pitcher and pour the tea back into it. You can also use an infuser or tea filter papers to put your loose leaves into, making cleanup easier.

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There are so many variations with iced tea creation. You can put lemon or orange slices in either while the tea is steeping or after you strain it. Or, you can fill your glass halfway with iced tea and then pour some flavored seltzer water in for a fizzy iced tea. The possibilities are endless!

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I’m enjoying my iced tea plain with ice and a bowl of fresh blueberries on plain yogurt. Mmmmm…. I’ve been exploring ways in which I can remove sugar from my diet because I believe there is just way too much of it in the food we buy. Even my Stonyfield Farm yogurt cup, while it’s very delicious and organic, has sugar added to it. So, I’m now buying plain yogurt and mixing it with fresh fruit, depending on what’s in season.

I’d love to hear your ideas on how to reduce sugar intake!

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

~George Harrison


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Saturday Morning Tea

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It has definitely been a rainy spring here in New England. As I look at the 10-day weather forecast, there are more clouds than suns and some of those clouds have lightning bolts coming out of them. Being an admitted doppler radar geek, I do love a good thunderstorm. But I digress from my cup of tea…

This morning’s tea is a black Ceylon tea from the Adawatte estate. Located about 1/2 – 3/4 mile above sea level on the eastern slopes of the mountains in the Uva district of Sri Lanka, this estate is a tea, rubber and forestry estate.

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You can read about how tea cultivation came to the island of Sri lanka in one of my previous posts here. Originally, coffee was grown there.

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The tea grown in the higher elevations of Sri Lanka tends to have a brighter, brisk quality to it. This tea is very characteristic of a high grown Uva.

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I steeped the dark, chunky leaves for 4 minutes in 212 degree F water. The dark amber liquor has a minty, citrus aroma that carries on into its flavor notes. This tea would make a very refreshing iced tea with slices of juicy lemon and crisp sprigs of mint for garnish. Mmmm…now if the weather would just cooperate with some hot, sunny, iced tea drinking days…

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Today I am attending a Garden Tea Party at the home of a dear friend. She has asked each guest to bring a plant to swap and also something chocolate to share. I was going to stop at my favorite local candy shop to pick up some dark chocolate creams. I especially love the ones filled with orange and raspberry cream. But then I came across this recipe in my blog wanderings. Made with melted milk chocolate, cocoa powder and milk chocolate chunks, it is sheer decadence in cookie form. In a recent issue of Vegetarian Times, I was so happy to see that cocoa was listed number one on the anti-oxidant list.

Tea and chocolate – what more can anyone ask for?

Giving chocolate to others is an intimate form of communication, a sharing of deep, dark secrets. ~Milton Zelman, “Chocolate News”

7 Simple Ways to make time for your art

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As I’m now back to a 40+ hour workweek and my art time has become more compressed, I’d like to share ways that I’ve discovered work well for me in my goal to make time for my art. Of course, these ways can work for anyone no matter what your schedule is like.

  1. Turn off the tv. Plain and simple. TV can be such a time sink and before you know it hours have gone by.  The same goes for browsing the internet.
  2. Schedule your art time & make it sacred. Pick a specific day(s) and time(s) and only do art during that time. Tell your family and friends that you’ll be turning off all communication devices and immersing yourself in your art. You and your art are worth it!
  3. Learn to say no. Volunteering and helping can be wonderful and fulfilling commitments. The important part is learning the balance and being in tune to how you feel about the balance of your time. If you feel that you aren’t getting enough time for your art then it’s time to look at the balance. 
  4. Divide art projects into small steps. This works wonders to help you feel like you are accomplishing something and working towards your goal. Once I know what I want to create, I actually write a list of the steps needed to complete a project. I can then check them off as I go along. This might sound very left brained and not supportive of the creative flow but the flow actually happens within the steps. It’s important to be flexible with your steps and rewrite your list, if necessary, as you go along. 
  5. Relax your housework standards. Enough said.
  6. Make your art project portable. Whatever your medium of choice, you can make up a small portable art kit to bring along for creating during the kids’ practices, lunch breaks at work, riding on the train, waiting at the doctor’s office, traveling on a plane.
  7. Carry a notebook/sketchbook with you at all times. Ideas come at all different times not just when I’m sitting in my studio so I always have a notebook with me to jot down observations I make during my day – colors, textures, patterns, the light, nature changes. Anything that inspires me.

What helps you make time for your art?

Saturday Morning Tea

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Green, green, green. After a week of cool, rainy spring days, the world outside is resplendent in a cloak of velvety green shades.

Do you find that the weather influences your choice of tea? I do. Darker, more full-bodied teas when it’s chilly and lighter, more delicate teas for those warm, light filled days.

The green world is definitely affecting my choice of tea this morning, a Japanese Sencha called “Koumi”. Grown in the Uji region of Kyoto prefecture in Japan, its dark green, glossy leaves have been lightly steamed during processing to halt oxidation.

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In the mid 1300s, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu promoted the cultivation and production of high quality green tea in Uji. The Tsuen Tea Shop, located by the Uji bridge, is reputed to be the oldest tea shop in all of Japan, with the first “Tsuen” serving tea to weary travelers in 1160.

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I steeped the tea leaves for 2 1/2 minutes in 160 degree F water. It’s amazing how green the leaves are, especially after steeping.

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The steeped liquor is a beautiful spring green with an aroma of freshly steamed asparagus.

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The flavor is delicate and smooth with light corn notes. I’ve read that one of the health benefits of green tea is the ability of the polyphenols to inhibit plaque and bacterial growth in your mouth. With its clean, refreshing taste and mouth feel, I can certainly believe that.

In contrast to last weekend, this weekend will be a lazy, hazy one spent puttering around the abode. Its time to take stock of all of the art projects I’ve got started and set some priorities for finishing them!

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world

where it was always June.

~L.M. Montgomery

Nantucket Island

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A trip to an island. There’s nothing like it for infusing a deep breath into your life.

Last weekend I traveled to the island of Nantucket.  Located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, its name has been cited to originate from the Native American word “Natockete” which means “faraway land”.

Faraway is a very good place to go for getting away for a few days.

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From the moment I stepped onto the ferry boat, I felt my worries slip off as I left them there on the dock and looked forward to a relaxing weekend with my parents.

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In years past, we have biked around the island but now that my parents are older and so am I, it was much easier to be picked up by a tour van for a jaunt around the island. Our tour guide, a native of 42 years, picked us up at the front door of our bed and breakfast and we set off on an adventure to all sorts of interesting places, both historical and scenic.

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The island’s original inhabitants were the Wamponoag Indians who lived there undisturbed until 1641 when the first English settlers, Thomas Mayhew and his son, received a deed from English authorities in Massachusetts colony.  He later “sold” his interest to 9 men “For the sum of thirty Pounds and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife.”

As time went on, more settlers came to the island and their presence led to the unfortunate demise of the island’s Native population.

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From the mid 1700s to the late 1830s, the island became famous as the whaling capital of the world.  During this period, one could find as many as 150 ships making port in Nantucket harbor.

In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Nantucket’s whaling dominance is mentioned:

“Two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires.”

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A great fire in 1846, along with the California gold rush, led many off the island to seek other fortunes and the whaling industry promptly died.

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It wasn’t until the late 1800s that tourism became the principle source of income for many on the island.  During the summer season, the population booms from around 9,000 to 50,000.

And so here we are, joining the rest of the tourists, moseying from shop to shop along the quaint, cobblestone streets.

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A fishing trip with my Dad was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend.

Saturday Morning Tea

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I wanted to share an iced herbal infusion this morning but it’s such a gray, dreary day outside that I will save that for a hot, sunny day in the future.

It’s a perfect morning for a cup of hot tea to ward off the cool dampness.

This morning’s tea was a very pleasant surprise. First of all, the leaf is absolutely beautiful in all of its variegated, tippy glory. It’s a Nepalese tea from the Kuwapani estate. Kuwa means “well” and Pani means “water”. The estate grows tea at elevations of 5,200-6,000 feet above sea level.

Like the Darjeeling district in northeast India, Nepal sits high in the Himalayan mountains. It is the home of Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth, at 29,029 feet above sea level.

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Like a Darjeeling tea, I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water. The tea steeped to a deep, rich amber with a honeyed aroma and flavor notes of fruit and chestnut.

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For those of you who do not enjoy the astringent “bite” of a Darjeeling, this tea is a perfect alternative. The liquor is very smooth with a tad more body. Mmmmm….

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I love my new bamboo placemats, purchased at Joann Fabric’s at 2 for $5!

Today my parents arrive from Michigan and tomorrow we’ll head down to the beautiful island of Nantucket, located 30 miles off of the Massachusetts coast. A ferry ride will bring us over to go deep sea fishing and shopping, to a whale museum and then a nature hike and, of course, partaking in some fabulous food. I’ll be sure to bring my camera and take lots of pictures so I can share some photos of my island adventure!

“At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a sharp, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor.” ~Moby Dick, Herman Melville

From the Studio

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A brand new knitting project. I love to pick out my yarns.

With the Jane Thornley free-form “Come Spring” vest pattern in hand, I’ve chosen a similar color palette as the pattern photo because I love the vibrant greens and browns of this lovely season. One of my art friends directed me to a great website for purchasing good quality yarn at affordable prices. I purchased all of my yarn (pictured above) from them except for a ribbon yarn, called “Copper Penny”, I discovered while browsing at Joann Fabric’s one day for art supplies.

So far, I’m liking the contrast between the stripes of rich color.

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Last week I picked up a beading book at the library. As I have been getting into a more personally expressive and organic, free-form flow with my beadwork, I have lost interest in books and magazines devoted to beadwork patterns and other artists’ designs. However, the title of this book, “Shaped Beadwork: Dimensional Jewelry with Peyote Stitch”, caught my eye and my interest.

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In the book, Diane teaches how to make geometrical shapes in peyote stitch, starting with flat one-dimensional shapes and then building upon those to create 2 and 3-dimensional sculptural shapes. So, I started at the beginning of the book and made a triangle. Geez, that was fun. How about if I make another one? Cool! Then I sewed them together and created a little triangular pillow. This little shape is fascinating me. I find myself picking it up and turning it over gently in my hand every time I walk by my beading tray.

Now, what shall I do with this little shape? Make another pillow for a pair of earrings?  Use it as a focal shape and free-form around it? Use it as a component in a mixed media necklace? The infinite possibilities bloom in my imagination with wild abandon like the riot of pink peonies in my garden. Hehe Interestingly, my thoughts also lead me back to memories of how much I enjoyed geometry class and its spatial language.

All this from a little triangle pouch.

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The start of another journal page. I had vaguely remembered someone mentioning or reading somewhere that you could paint on used dryer sheets. This so appealed to the recycling devotee in me that I collected some sheets after a weekend of laundry chores. After dripping, brushing, and wetting paint across its surface, I let my sheet dry and then ripped a piece off to create a waterfall shape on my bright yellow page. I then glued some dried tulip petals at its base and drew some water swirls around the petals with a white gel pen.

This page is far from finished but it has a good start. As I glued and painted my “waterfall”, I thought of water and its symbolism to feelings. I thought of how my page could represent my getting in touch with feelings that are frightening to me and how I sometimes relegate those frightening feelings to a very deep place inside of myself. Can I ride my tumbling waterfall into the depths of myself and explore some of those feelings? I wrote:

I tumble down the waterfall inside of myself

to get in touch with my feelings.