K is for Kindness

I’ve received the most wonderful gift from my dear friend, Judy, an artist who creates amazing mixed media art including personalized wooden letters. You can read more about her “love letters” here.

My “K” now hangs above the door to my studio, watching over me as I work. I am so blessed to have my art friends who constantly enrich my life with their inspiration and support.

Speaking of artists and inspiration, I’ve recently joined the 2010 Creative Everyday Challenge, a group of artists committed to doing something creative everyday whether that is cooking, painting, knitting, composing a song. It’s a very low pressure commitment with no performance deadlines, however, there are suggested monthly themes to get the creative juices flowing. If you’d like to find out more information about this challenge, just click on the button in my sidebar.

This weekend is going to be a very creative one. I’m taking a workshop at the Lexington Arts and Crafts Center in Lexington, MA. The workshop is on polymer clay mokume gane, a technique I’ve long been enamored of, given by Julie Picarello. I’m so excited!

As I have to leave for the workshop early in the morning, my Saturday Morning Tea post will be postponed until next Saturday. I’m looking forward to sharing a cup of tea with you then and also sharing my adventures in polymer clay!

“We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.”

~Maya Angelou

Saturday Morning Tea

Happy first day of Spring, my friends! Outside my window, birds flit across the bright blue sky, welcoming the season with their lovely songs.

For my morning cuppa, I chose a black tea from Assam in northeastern India. It’s from the Harishpur estate.  The Assam tea growing region is the only area in the world, besides southern China, that has native tea plants.

I chose this particular tea because of some correspondence I had with a customer this past week. He had purchased this tea and found it had an unpleasant burnt aftertaste. So, we decided to do some testing by steeping the leaves at 3, 4 and 5 minutes, respectively. I repeated this test at home this morning.

Usually, I will steep a whole leaf Assam, as this is, for 4-5 minutes, reserving a 3 minute steep for the broken leaf teas. What I found out this morning from my testing is how very individual teas really are and it’s important to experiment with steeping times for each tea.

The 3 minute steep was rich yet quite smooth with some malty and fruity notes. No need for milk or sweetener, the tea tasted wonderful plain. I didn’t detect any aftertaste.

The 4 minute steep, while retaining some of the flavor notes of the 3 min. steep, was starting to exhibit a sharp astringency which I’ve always described as a taste I can feel in my teeth.

The 5 minute steep was incredibly astringent and left a sharp, yes, almost burnt taste in my mouth for awhile. Even when I put a little milk in it, it was still in my opinion, oversteeped.

As you can see, the tea liquor is the same color – a deep amber – no matter how long the steeping time.

One of the things I love about my job (and there are many things!) is that I have the opportunity to converse with tea lovers from all over the country. Each moment is a learning experience and my tea journey is constantly expanding with new knowledge and ways of seeing the world.

I encourage you to be open and experiment with your teas and would love to hear of your experiences!

“How gently the winds blow!  Scarce can these tranquil air currents be called winds.  They seem the very breath of Nature, whispering peace to every living thing.” ~John Muir

A Colorful Knitted Cowl

One of my favorite times of day during the workweek is when I am able to settle down onto my cozy sofa in the evenings and pick up my knitting. Just picking up my pointy sticks immediately brings me to a place of meditative calm, a place where I hear the whispers of my deepest creative dreams. I love getting lost in the yarn-y world of color and texture.

One of my latest projects, a linen stitch neck cowl in oranges and browns, was inspired by Jane Thornley’s Winter Forest Evocative Guide.

A couple of summers ago, I shared some yummy batiked fabric here. To add extra texture to my cowl, I found myself ripping off thin strips of the “seed pod” fabric to add to my knitting. What a great idea, Jane!

This is a fabulous little piece that knits up easily and is perfect for jazzing up a solid colored shirt or sweater.

Next up: a feather and fan wrap whose colors speak of sea and sky.

What are you creating today?

Saturday Morning Tea

Oh my, where did the morning go to?

I started out the day by indulging in a sleep in, getting 3 hours extra sleep than normal. Very decadent, I know. It’s the perfect day for it though – gray and dreary with heavy rain and wind. A day you want to stay under the covers a little longer.

I felt like something lighter this morning so I brewed a pot of Pai Mu Tan, an organic white tea from China. The least processed of all the teas, you can still see the downy white hairs on the leaf. Also known as Bai Mu Tan tea which literally translates to “white peony”.

I have read that the plucking rules for this tea are very strict. It is only allowed to be picked between mid-March and mid-April and only when it is dry out. No rain, no dew, no frost on the ground.

The epitome of spring in a cup of tea.

As you can see, it is a fine plucking, meaning the top two leaves and the bud. The tender leaves remind me of what is starting to peek out of the soil here in New England. Soon the crocuses will begin the blooming parade of color.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. The pale gold liquor is delicate and sweet with a bloom of fruity notes in the flavor.

I am often surprised when people say that white tea has no flavor. Yes, the taste is delicate but I find it full of complexity and flavor. The expectations are not the same as those for a black or Oolong tea.

Amazing how they all come from the same plant though. It’s like people. All of us are born with the same parts, we breathe, we eat, we have blood flowing through our bodies. What happens after that, our experiences and how we respond to them contributes to what makes us different.

I love the color of this teabowl. The white tea is so pale that it shows the beautiful green color of my bowl.

What tea is in your cup this weekend?

“Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” ~John Muir

Winter Woods Vest

In January, I treated myself to a yummy gift, a year’s subscription to Jane Thornley’s Inspired Knitter’s Club. Ever since I discovered Jane’s website last year and then attended one of her retreats in Taos, NM, Jane has inspired me to unfurl my free range knitting wings and soar into a world of color and texture. Jane describes her vision for the Club:

“Inspiration is air to the lungs, light to the spirit…..Here is a book in monthly format that captures the essence of the creative muse for knitters, beaders, weavers, spinners and dreamers alike. Packed with photos, concepts, ideas, inspirational journeys both internal and global, tips, techniques, stitch spells and color delves this is like a feast for the creative spirit.”

In this “vestal creation”, Jane teaches how to move from darks to lights with a textured stitch calling to mind the forest floor during a woodsy walk. As I’ve been enjoying that very activity every Sunday, I’ve drawn much inspiration for my vest color palette.

I’ve created the button from polymer clay, using black, white, translucent, and silver foil. I discovered a love for making buttons and am now looking at the cardigans hanging in my closet with that in mind. Hmmm….

Now that my vest is finished, I am turning my creative thoughts to another project – a feather and fan stitch wrap in vibrant blues and greens. With spring fast approaching (yay!), I need some colorful yarn on my needles!

“I see knitting as art, as viable as any other, and no matter what the tool or preferred palette, in human hands, magic happens.” ~Jane Thornley