Saturday Morning Tea

Here in New England, we’re in the midst of an arctic blast with temps in the teens and howling winds making it feel like the air is below zero when you step outside. Brrrr… I’m grateful to be tucked away in my little nook with a steaming mug of green tea to warm my hands and my spirit.

This morning’s tea is called, interestingly enough, Lonely Mountain White Mist. Of course I chose this tea for its poetic name, conjuring images of a faraway land with tea bushes gracing a mountainside.

This tea comes from a fine plucking (top 2 leaves and a bud) of tea bushes grown in Fujian Province located in southeastern China. Traditionally described as “eight parts mountain, one part water, and one part farmland”, its climate is very suitable for tea growing with over 1200 tea plantations scattered throughout the province. So, our image of the mountainside is right on.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree water. As I gently lift the lid of my glass teapot, the pale golden liquor imparts a fresh, clean aroma. Is spring almost here?

The tea is so pale that I can see the texture in my hand crafted teabowl. If I could choose one word for this tea it would be

sweet

A sweetness that swirls and lingers through the asparagus notes and right on into the finish. So smooth…

As I mentioned in my last post, I am itching to play with my beads in a free-form way so today I will journey into the world of bead soups, mixing colorful bowls full of beady goodness.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

~Maya Angelou

What are you creating this weekend?

Color Inspiration

In my continuous quest to find and connect with other artists who drench their lives in color and beads, I have discovered a beady kindred spirit, Beverly Ash Gilbert.

Wandering around the web, I stumbled upon a blurb about the release of Beverly’s new book, Beaded Colorways: Freeform Beadweaving Projects and Palettes.

A rich title full of words I love: color, freeform, beads, palettes.

After excitedly purchasing her book, I went on an internet journey to find out all I could about this artist who loves color and freeform beadwork as much as I.

Inspired by the colors of nature in her northwest home, Beverly creates what she calls “bead soups”, mixes of seed beads, gemstones and pearls in variations of a hue. Mmmmmm, just the combination of those 2 words evokes yummy and juicy to me so I know that I’m on the right path, the path of rich becoming. Beverly goes on to create art jewelry pieces using these “bead soups”, transitioning from one “soup” to another in a beautiful flow of color. Take a look at the gorgeous pieces in her gallery.

In my own freeform approach, I choose a color palette inspired by nature.

a sunrise

an autumn walk in the woods

and then create patches of color (from that palette) that weave over and around each other.

Beverly has inspired me to expand how I look at my color choices and enhance my work with my own “bead soups”. Even though her clear writing and instruction speaks to all levels of beading experience, I find that it is ideal for someone like me who already has a fairly large bead stash for mixing and blending.

A New England winter palette threads its way through the fiber of my being these days, evidenced by my latest knitting creations.

and the beads I chose on my birthday bead store excursion.

Hmmmm, yes, winter….but look….peeks of spring here and there.

I think it’s time for another freeform bracelet.

What inspires you at this cold, muted color time of year?

The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Ward Elliot Hour

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning holds the promise of a warmer day as the sun streams through my windows and illuminates my space. I reach for my tea things and realize that I haven’t shared an herbal with you in a very long time.

So, without any further ado, meet Rooibos Vanilla, my herbal choice for this morning.

This particular rooibos is flavored with Bourbon vanilla. Vanilla flavoring is derived from the vanilla orchid, a flowering, climbing vine species from the orchid family. The trumpet shaped, creamy flower has a sweet scent, opening in the morning and closing in the late afternoon. In its natural habitat, the flowers are pollinated by a variety of stingless bees called Melipona as well as certain hummingbirds. Most commercially grown vanilla is pollinated by hand.

Here’s an illustration of the Vanilla Planifola, a species of vanilla orchid, from Kohler’s Medicinal plants.

Spooning 2 teaspoons in my glass teapot’s infuser basket, I steeped my rooibos for 8 minutes using boiling point (212 F) water. The deep russet colored leaf infuses to create a rich, deep amber liquor.

Besides being flavored with vanilla, there are pieces of vanilla pod sprinkled in with the leaf.

South African Rooibos is a bush grown in the Cedarberg mountain region of South Africa. The leaves are harvested and processed much like the tea plant, creating both “green” and “red” Rooibos. The Afrikaans word Rooibos means “red bush”. When the leaves are allowed to oxidize (similar to black tea), they turn a beautiful reddish brown.

Some people think of vanilla as a rather bland flavor as in it is the most boring ice cream flavor there is. Not me. I experience it as a sweet, uplifting spice that can take your senses and your imagination to lush, exotic places perfumed with lovely, delicate orchids.

The sweet vanilla combines with the hint of citrus in the Rooibos to create a pleasant melding of aroma and taste. When you’re looking for a late afternoon or evening caffeine-free respite, this is the perfect choice. I drink it plain but it would stand up well to any additions like milk and sweetener. You can ice it, too.

I’ve been in my new place for 3 weeks now and am trying to find and gather all of the threads that I had dropped during the moving process, namely, my Taos free range knitted wrap. I would love to finally finish it and wear it! So, look for some “ta-da” moments coming, hopefully, soon.

In my life’s chain of events nothing was accidental.  Everything happened according to an inner need.” ~Hannah Senesh


The Process of Becoming

First of all, my heart and prayers go out to the people of Haiti.  If you haven’t yet, you can find out how to help here.

Ever since a couple of Saturdays ago when I wrote about choosing a word for the year to guide and inspire, my mind has been filled with thoughts about what my word could be for 2010. I find it challenging and a bit daunting to choose a word that will define my direction for a WHOLE year.

As I discovered last year, a life can change drastically in a year’s time. A year ago, I was struggling with a debilitating condition, in a great deal of pain, both physically and emotionally, and now here I sit, in a healthier body in a brand new home. My own home.

Inspired by the flavor and color of that second flush Darjeeling tea from that day (mmmm), I’ve meditated at length on the word rich. This word is commonly associated with financial gain, however, there are many other ways to experience richness in one’s life. It can also describe how I feel about my life right at this very moment, fostering a sense of gratitude and abundance for all that I have and experience. In that respect, it brings me directly into the moment instead of focusing on the future. It gets me out of my head and into my heart, a way of being encouraged strongly by a psychic I went to see on a brilliantly sunny day last February. She told me that I should figure out how to live a more yummy, juicy life. Well, rich is yummy and juicy, isn’t it?

So, I thought that I was pretty much decided……that is, until I read my Daily OM horoscope e-mail last Thursday, entitled “The Process of Becoming”. Becoming? Huh? Hmmmm….oh….yes…..becoming. You know when you have a moment when something – a person, an experience, a WORD – resonates so strongly that you feel like it is a key that is perfectly shaped to your heart and soul? Some folks might call that experience an epiphany.

“a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

I read my horoscope every morning. Sometimes it offers inspiration or an insight into a problem or challenge I’m experiencing but most times, to be honest, it’s a quick skimming read over morning cereal. Not this time, however.

Becoming

“any change involving realization of potentialities, as a movement from the lower level of potentiality to the higher level of actuality.”

Of course, I could put those 2 words together. Becoming Rich. Rich Becoming. I think I like the latter phrase better which seems to evoke a yummy, juicy unfolding as opposed to conjuring images of get rich quick schemes.

Have you ever heard someone say that at this very moment you are exactly where you are supposed to be? How every moment of your life up until now has led you exactly to this place? These words have become my constant companions in the past year as I’ve experienced the process of purchasing my new home. This process was incredibly long and drawn out, involving slow moving banks and such, and it also involved the end of a relationship as it was, which would then make 2 endings of that sort in less than 6 years. When something like this happens, you go through all of the “should haves” and “should not haves”, right? I admit, I had my share of “woe is me” days about this but what I kept coming back to was how everything seemed to click into place in the last year to bring me here. Right here. Here is where I need to be. Where I’m supposed to be.

Have you chosen a word for the year? The first year I did this, I followed the advice found on Christine Kane’s blog here.

I copied and pasted all of the words from the list in that post into a blank document, arranged them on the screen so I could cut them out individually once I printed it. The pile of words then went into a colorful bowl. As I swirled the bits of paper around, I closed my eyes and thought about the year ahead and put my intention out into the universe for guidance. Then I grabbed a slip of paper. That was in 2008 and my word for that year was Beauty. That was another year of moving for me. My new home at that time was closer to nature and a garden so I immersed myself into those things and took a lot of photographs. Focusing on the beauty in the world became a very healing year for me.

Becoming

Rich Becoming

It’s only a word or two but what’s truly important is where it brings you.

“As we focus on enjoying each step along our journey to success, we immerse ourselves fully in the process of becoming.” ~from the Daily OM, The Process of Becoming, 1/15/10

Saturday Morning Tea

I had a wonderful start to my morning today. The phone rang as I was preparing my tea and, as I said hello, I was greeted to a happy birthday song from my parents. My heart smiled as I poured water over the tea leaves. Thanks Mom and Dad. I’m so blessed.

The tea I’ve brewed up this morning is a Kenyan black tea from the Milima tea estate. I’ve found conflicting information regarding this tea estate. Some say that it’s a compendium of 3 tea estates and other information indicates that it really is its own tea estate located in the Kericho Highlands of western Kenya. The Kericho region is where most of the tea is grown in Kenya and it lies west of the Great Rift Valley.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water. Most of the tea that comes from Kenya these days is of the CTC variety. CTC means crush, tear, curl, a mechanized processing of the leaf which results in a consistent granular structure.

This leaf, however, has an intact structure though it is broken, not whole. Its leaf designation is BOP which means broken orange pekoe.

The tea liquor steeps up very dark and full-bodied. It makes a great breakfast tea that would certainly hold up well to any additions like milk and sweetener.

I enjoyed my tea plain so I could discover the interesting fruit and spice flavor notes. Mmmm…apple…nutmeg….soft but there.

I’ve written about another Kenyan tea here.

While this tea is very smooth compared to its CTC counterparts, there is a zip in the finish. Look at that dark liquor, almost like coffee.

I am looking forward to a day of hanging out, shopping and lunch with my lovely daughter. A perfect birthday celebration. We plan on visiting the bead store which I’m hoping will jumpstart my dormant creativity. Now that I’m all moved in, my studio is ready and waiting to embrace me once again.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.  -Neil Gaiman

Saturday Morning Tea

A week of settling in. I sit here in one of my straight backed kitchen chairs, looking out onto a robin’s egg sky and ponder how I fit into this new place. My own place. Sometimes I feel like it is not real and I am living in a dream. And I sip my tea…

This morning I crave a tea to wake my mouth (and the rest of me) and chose the best tea for that job, a second flush Darjeeling from The Namring Upper estate. Located in northeast India amidst the majestic, towering Himalayan peaks, this estate is one of the more well known in Darjeeling district. I reviewed last year’s Namring second flush here.

Second flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summer after the leaves have “flushed” back from the first flush (spring) harvest. Usually, the appearance and taste is darker, richer, fuller.

This tea is all that and more.

After spooning the tea into my small glass teapot, I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water. I like to use bottled spring water for steeping. I find that gives the most consistent, true taste. The tap water in my town is unreliable for brewing tea.

The aroma is rich and fruity with a taste of ripe muscatel grapes. The finish has notes of wood and nut in a pungent bite that lingers, drawing all of the moisture out of my mouth.

Oooo…this would be marvelous with rich desserts.

While many folks are making resolutions this time of year, there are others who choose a word for the year. A word to guide. A word to contemplate. A word to open awareness. If I had to choose one word for this tea, it would be

rich

Even the color is rich, a dark amber which glows like a precious jewel. Serve this tea with dessert at your next dinner gathering.

Today I am spending the whole day in my new studio, unwrapping the many boxes piled in there and finding a place for each precious art supply.

“There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.” ~Chogyam Trungpa

Saturday Morning Tea

My first full day in my new place started out bright and early with a visit from the Verizon man. A little bit of wiring magic, actually a couple of hours of plugging, unplugging, testing, and I now have an internet connection. Morning has turned into afternoon as the snow dances and swirls outside my window and I’ve finally got the chance to sit down and quietly sip a cup of Chinese green tea called Bing Yin Zhen.

Downy leaf buds, the tender new growth, are plucked and processed. The leaves are then artfully hand twisted which shows off the fine quality of the leaf to perfection.

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

The hot water steep doesn’t even touch the shape of the leaf. What gorgeous handcraftmanship!

I know that Yin Zhen translates to silver needle. I couldn’t find the translation for Bing though. Does anyone know?

The aroma of the ecru tea liquor is soft and fresh, very reminiscent of a white tea. The tea settles in my mouth with a silky feeling and then releases faint flavor notes of tobacco that linger in the aftertaste.

The rest of this weekend will be spent organizing and decorating my new place. Stay warm!

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist

but the ability to start over.”

~F. Scott Fitzgerald