Saturday Morning Tea

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Danny has been downgraded to a “tropical depression” and that’s exactly what the weather feels like since last evening.

Lots of rain cascading from gloomy skies.

A rainy day like this calls for a heartier tea than my usual summer cuppas so I’ve selected a China black Keemun called Hao-Ya “B”, the letter referring to its leaf grade. The leaf is dark and twisted (sounds like a character in a horror story, lol) but what really stuns me about this tea is the tea liquor color – a rich, warm red brown.

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I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling (212 degree F) water. My glass teapot shows off the amazing color of the tea.

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Isn’t that color just gorgeous?

Keemun tea, often called the “burgundy” of China black tea, has been produced since the late 1800s.  I first wrote about it here.

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The aroma of the dry leaf has a rich, winey cocoa note that follows through into the taste. A hint of ripe fruit lingers in the full finish. It’s a wonderful tea for chasing the damp away on a day like today.

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This tea is hearty enough for the addition of milk and sweetener. I find it to be smooth enough and sweet enough on its own so I am enjoying it plain.

The weather forecast is calling for rain all weekend as Danny makes his way up the coast. It’s a great weekend for indoor activities. Time for another cup. Now, where are my pointy sticks?

Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot

where dreams may go.

~Louise Driscoll

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A Pumpkin Hat

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While visiting my parents last year, my Mom gave me some skeins of Blue Sky organic cotton yarn in pumpkin (#622) and fern (#620) along with a pattern for making a pumpkin hat for my granddaughter. So cute! Yet, at the time, I thought it was perhaps a little too advanced for my knitting skills. Well, as you can see from the photo above – SUCCESS! Just in time for her to wear this fall.

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This yarn has a beautiful feel to it and comes in a wide range of yummy colors like honeydew, flamingo and circus peanut.

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If you are interested in knitting a pumpkin hat for a special little one in your life, I found a  free online pattern here. Or, you can purchase the original pattern I made here.

Work is love made visible.

~Kahlil Gibran

Saturday Morning Tea

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This morning the air had such a presence when I walked out onto the back deck. I strongly felt its steamy thickness pressing in on my body. Everything is air conditioned these days – my car, my house, my work, the stores – so it is almost a shock when I walk outside. All that said, I much prefer this thick heat to what lies ahead in about 3-4 months from now.

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With tender buds and full leaf sets, this morning’s tea is called Huo Shan Yellow Buds, a yellow tea from China. In touching the beautiful intact leaf, I imagined women moving through a tea field, their picking baskets strapped to them as their delicate hands reach out and pluck the tender new growth from each tea bush. Women are chosen for this task for their small hands and graceful movement.

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

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How does yellow tea differ from green tea, I wonder? From what I’ve researched and read, it is processed very similarly yet varies in the heating/firing steps. These steps are much more time consuming in producing the yellow tea in that the tea leaves are gently steamed with moist heat and then wrapped in some sort of material. This process is repeated several times. It produces a tea that tastes more like a white tea than a green tea. Such an art form. You can read about it here.

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Just like the air outside, this tea has such a presence in my mouth. That is called a “full mouth feel”. It is very apparent with the first sip of tea. It is not thick like an Assam tea but more buttery and silky.

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The tea liquor is quite pale with just a hint of color in my teapot. The aroma is soft and the flavor is slightly sweet and peppery/spicy. Very delicate and subtle.

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The tea is so light that it shows off the speckled inside of my teabowl to perfection. ahhhh..

Infinite riches are all around you if you will open your mental eyes and behold the treasure house of infinity within you. There is a gold mine within you from which you can extract everything you need to live life gloriously, joyously, and abundantly.

~Joseph Murphy

From My Studio

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I was so enchanted with knitting my first vest that I dove right into knitting a second one in a different colorway. Above is a photo of the back center ribbon yarn panel. I used Knit one, Crochet Too Tartelette yarn in the Rainforest colorway. Mmmm…

I’ve just completed the knitting and am now carefully weaving in each little yarn end, one at a time. While I love choosing my yarns and knitting them together in a free-form way, this weaving part seems very tedious to me. There is a soothing rhythm to it but it takes such an awfully long time to complete. It’s much like sanding polymer clay work. And, just like with that, it’s time to slow down and not be so impatient for the finished product.

I’d love to hear how others cope with this never ending task.

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With my first vest, I stayed with very similar colors as the original vest pattern. This is what drew me to it in the first place. Now I’ve branched off into a colorway that expresses me uniquely – muted, soft blues, greens and tans. I am so looking forward to wearing it. My first vest is going to be a gift for someone special.

The free-form knitting bug has bitten me quite deeply, taking over all of my free art time. I am enjoying myself so much in this luscious world of color and texture. So much so that I will eventually need to rouse myself out of this infatuation soon to get back to jewelry making for my show in November.

Not just yet though.

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I’ve started gathering a yarn stash for my next free-form project which I will be knitting in Taos, New Mexico. I’ve signed up to participate in a Jane Thornley workshop in September. More on that very soon…

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Last weekend during a visit to Lowe’s, I grabbed some paint chips in southwestern colors to help me in picking out my yarns.

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I’m also trying to decide what color to paint the kitchen in my new condo. After months of waiting, my closing is drawing near. I happened to put this fresh Oasis green yarn on top of my chips and was immediately enchanted by the color combo.

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While shopping in Joann Fabrics several days later, I came upon this beautiful fabric. Does that ever happen to you? I get a specific colorway on the brain and I keep seeing it everywhere! This will be perfect for some pillows.

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While browsing the internet one day, I came across 2 lovely blogs bursting with color and granny square crocheting – Lucy at Attic24 and Vanessa at do you mind if i knit. Oh, I remember granny squares! I’ve made many a blanket over the years with this sweet, old fashioned technique. In fact, carefully folded away in my closet is one of my children’s baby blankets in a rainbow of sherbert colors. Anyway, I started to think that quite possibly it was time for another granny square adventure so I found some very reasonably priced cotton yarn called Sonata at elann.com. A granny square blanket in greens, blues and purples would be just perfect for my bed in my new place.

My art world lately has been filled with yarn, yarn and more yarn. How about yours?

Saturday Morning Tea

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Does anyone else feel that August is cruising at warp speed towards September? It’s always felt like a “getting ready” month to me. There is a buzz, an undercurrent in the lazy haziness. That being said, this weekend stretches wide before me with its warmth and sunshine and relaxation possibilities.

Today I’m starting the day sipping a tea with a delightfully whimsical name.  White Monkey. It conjures up images of an exotic creature peeking out with keen, intelligent eyes from myth and story.

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Despite its name, this is a green tea. It is cultivated and processed in the Taimu mountains of Fujian province in China. I found this information about the mountains on Wikipedia:

“The Taimu mountains are known as the “Paradise at Sea” for its steep mountains, spectacular rock formations, secluded caves and foggy climate.”

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I also read that there are over 300 rock formations on Taimu mountain, some in the shape of fish, rabbits, monks reading.

And monkeys.

It sounds like a fabulous place to go hiking.

Ok, back to my tea.

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

Yesterday a dear friend asked me what I meant by listing the temperature of the water. A very good question. Green and white tea (and some Oolongs) leaves are minimally processed, not like black tea where the leaves are allowed to oxidize and turn dark. So, the leaves are closer to their original green state and thus too fragile to steep in the temperature of boiling water. Their flavor must be gently coaxed in water of a cooler temperature.

I have an electric kettle which automatically turns off when it has reached boiling point. There is a steam tube inside the kettle that causes the mechanism to act when it detects steam. So, I allow the water to come to a boil in my kettle and then I gently prop open the lid and carefully place my thermometer in the kettle. I then monitor it until it reaches the proper temperature for the tea I’m going to brew. I use a small meat thermometer that I purchased at William Sonoma.

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I almost didn’t use this photo because it’s somewhat out of focus but there’s something dreamy about it. Plus it shows off the color of this tea very nicely.

A pale, champagne color. Lovely.

The aroma is distinctly vegetal with a flavor that is quite refreshing and smooth. Its delicate sweetness becomes more pronounced as it cools. This tea would taste wonderful iced. I also detected a whisper of pear in the finish.

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Another dreamy out of focus picture in pale colors showing a slice of the summer blue sky. Time for another cup!

“To see the Summer Sky is Poetry….” ~Emily Dickinson

Saturday Morning Tea

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Between work and visiting with my granddaughter, this past week has flown by. The almost daily rain pattern has finally left us and it’s felt more like summer these days. The air was even quite brisk this morning when I got up, a reminder that summer is winding down towards the fall. Even though August is a rich month full of color and harvest, it always makes me feel a little bit wistful.

This morning’s tea is quite the treat – a very high grade of Oolong Extra Fancy tea from Taiwan. Its leaf is very large and twisted, all processed by hand. After steeping, many of the leaves unfurl to reveal a whole, intact structure. This style is often referred to as “Champagne Oolong” and I can see why.

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Using 190 degree F water, I steeped the leaves for 4 1/2 minutes. Because the leaf is so large, I used 3 generous teaspoons for my small teapot.

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My oldest son gave me this beautiful leather journal. Isn’t it yummy? I love to write down my daily thoughts as I sip my tea.

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My glass teapot glows like an amber jewel in the early morning light. A light floral aroma drifts up, sweetening the cool air.

As I slowly sip from my cup, I taste juicy ripe peaches, warm in the sun, and a honeyed wine note fills my senses. Mmmmm…

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I invite you to read about other Oolong teas I’ve enjoyed and reviewed here.

This weekend I hope to get more granddaughter time in before they return home on Tuesday. I think that this picture from our zoo trip yesterday says it all – one joyful gramma!

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“If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

~Rachel Carson

Saturday Morning Tea

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Happy first day of August to you!

It’s a perfect day to celebrate the start of the arrival of the 2009 Assams.

This morning I am sipping a cup of black tea, an Assam from the Halmari estate in northeastern India. The dry leaf is quite dark with a sprinkling of golden leaf tips. A beautiful, earthy variegation.

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I steeped the leaf for 4 minutes in boiling hot (212 degree F) water. The malty aroma is rich and dark.

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Although you can drink an Assam tea at any time of the day, as you prefer, they are best known as a breakfast tea because of their hearty flavor which goes wonderfully with milk and sweetener. I wrote about another Assam tea here.

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The steeped tea liquor’s gorgeous russet color speaks of harvest times and crisper fall days ahead.

The flavor of this tea is quite brisk and lively with notes of malt and a hint of bitter chocolate. As with most Assams, the astringency dries out my throat. Even though there have been reports that adding milk to tea reduces its health benefits, I am more interested in its taste so I will add a dollop of milk to my cup later to smooth out that astringency.

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My DIL and granddaughter arrived this week for a visit from their home in New Mexico. We spent a wonderful day together yesterday enjoying each other’s company. At 9 months old, Ella is a delight! She’s constantly on the move, crawling, standing, exploring, laughing. I forgot how active a baby at that age can be! I was in heaven just being in her company and seeing the world through her eyes, so new and fresh and amazing. Even though she was sitting on the floor surrounded by colorful toys, her favorite thing to do was to crawl over to her car seat and play with its fascinating buckle. I am looking forward to my next visit tomorrow.

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“Seek the wisdom of the ages,

but look at the world through the eyes of a child.”

~Ron Wild