Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! In a few days, it will be Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, or the longest night of the year, depending upon your perspective. In my little corner of the world, it occurs on December 21st at 11:49pm. I always try and imagine what is was like for the ancients witnessing the darkness growing with each passing day, not knowing whether the light would ever return. But, of course, it did and they came to celebrate the “birth of the Sun” on this day.

I’m celebrating the holiday season today with a special Darjeeling in my cup, called Victoria’s Peak Gold Organic. It really doesn’t look like a Darjeeling at all, does it? The leaf reminds me of a very tippy Assam or China Black Mao Feng.

This tea was grown on the Steinthal Estate in Darjeeling, northeastern India.

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I steeped the leaves longer than I normally do with a Darjeeling – 4 minutes in 212F water. 5 minutes would work well, too, especially if you like to add milk to your tea.

Here’s some information about Victoria’s Peak from the grower.

“This is a division within the Steinthal Tea Estate, named after Queen Victoria. Located next to Victoria’s Falls and Victoria Park as a memoir of one of the Queens who visited Darjeeling. It is a picturesque area – on the north  side we can see the Himalayan mountains on the east of this are the Botanical Gardens..and just above is the Darjeeling town. A very small quantity of tea is produced every year from this division, which are manufactured at the adjacent Steinthal factory.”

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In looking at the intact leaf sets and whole leaf, you can see that it was processed with great care and artistry. The cup aroma is rich with notes of cocoa.

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The red amber liquor has a mouth feel with majestic presence. The flavor is complex with notes of cocoa and spice and just a hint of malt. A warm toastiness lingers on my tongue. A very enjoyable tea experience!

In honor of Winter Solstice and this holiday season of light, I’m happy to share with you my beaded journal page from years past.

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My December journal page is entitled “The Birth of the Sun”, in honor of the Winter Solstice and the long celebrated “return of the sun.” Inspired by the beautiful color palette of the sunrise, my piece symbolizes the light of the holiday season. The days are now getting longer and my sun contains the seed/embryo of the warmer months to come and its continuing journey towards light. For me personally, I meditated on the light within my own heart as I set down each bead.

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I’m traveling to Michigan for the holidays so Saturday Morning Tea will return in 3 weeks time. Have a lovely holiday season!

You darkness, that I come from,

I love you more than all the fires

that fence in the world,

for the fire makes

a circle of light for everyone,

and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything;

shapes and fires, animals and myself,

how easily it gathers them!–

powers and people–

and it is possible a great energy

is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, On Darkness

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Studio Wednesday

Today in my studio I made some more citrus canes – pink grapefruit and lime. I was surprised by how much fun I had making all of these cane slice beads. While I’ve loved working with polymer clay for almost 15 years now, I have never had much interest in cane creation. Creating these canes opened up a whole new world for me. I love to create cane fruit!

This is the view from my worktable. Don’t those logs peeking out from the plastic remind you of…..canes?

I also got a little work done on my September beaded journal “Tree Spirit” bracelet. I love that twisty tree branch stitch.

My friend Amy recently started a new blog called “Exercise Diaries”. She asked me if I would like to be a guest contributor and I was happy to oblige. You can read my post here.

Studio Wednesday

Today was not the usual full day in my studio as I was organizing and packing for my trip to Texas tomorrow. I was able to string the necklace for my turquoise cabochon. Originally, I wanted to have each strand directly attached to the beadwork framing the cabochon but the beads didn’t lay right when I tried it. Then I tried adding a bead in between a couple of the caramel picot beads on top. As I did that, I realized that I could peyote stitch a piece coming out of the top. Furthermore, that piece could be built up 3 rows, one for each of my necklace strands. The small oval turquoise beads were purchased at the Whole Bead show a couple of weekends ago. I brought the cab with me to the show so I could match the color of the turquoise. It’s amazing how many different colors turquoise beads can be! I’m still mulling over what to do with the clasp.

I also got a little time in on my September journal bracelet. The turquoise beads on either side of the tree spirit face were also purchased at the Whole Bead show. I love the crackle pattern in them.

I looked on the Weather.com website and saw that it will be 87 degrees down in Texas. It’s a good thing I hadn’t put my summer clothes away just yet. Be back on Sunday!

Studio Wednesday

Today I had 2 goals in my studio. First, to prepare the face cab for my first journal bracelet. Second, to work on my freeform bracelet.

I found some old leaf canes in my polymer clay stash and reduced them to a very small size. Then I framed the porcelain face cab (on the left) with cane slices. Well, I liked the look so much that I took out one of the glazed face cabs I created last January and did the same thing with it. So, I’ve decided to use the 2 face cabs, one for September and one for October. In a previous post, I talked about honoring the trees that were taken down in our backyard last week. There were 2 of them so I’ll create a bracelet to honor each tree. I’ve also created a whole bunch of leaf beads from the canes so I can also use those in my bracelets.

After my polymer clay work, I started balancing out my freeform bracelet by working on the side that was bowing in. I’m hoping to be able to finish with the body of the bracelet soon. Then I’ll document how I create the pearl and loop clasp.

Studio Wednesday

Recently, a colleague of Dave’s (my S.O.) came back from a trip to New Mexico with a wonderful bead and cabochon stash that she generously shared with me. I couldn’t resist this gorgeous turquoise cabochon. With all of the variegated tan and brown swirls in it, it reminds me of a satellite view of Earth. I was pleased to dig through my own seed bead stash to find a hank of size 11 gold luster caramel colored beads I purchased in Frankenmuth, Michigan last year. I think they frame the cab very nicely.

Originally, I wanted to use this cab for my first journal bracelet but it’s too large for a bracelet. Instead, I chose a glazed porcelain face I purchased at a bead show last spring. In honor of the Fall Equinox this month, I want to create a bracelet of many leaves framing the face cab. I also want to honor the majestic oak and maple trees we had taken down 2 days ago. Unfortunately, they were getting too dangerously close to the house. Even though we will use the wood to warm our house next winter, I still felt very sad to see them come down. My bracelet will remind me of these wonderful tree beings.

I also worked on my freeform peyote bracelet today. I’ll post on my progress tomorrow…

12 months of beading

I am happy to present a year’s worth of beaded journal pages!

The first row (at the top, l to r) is June – September 2007, the second row October 2007- January 2008 and the third row February – May 2008.

When I finished my last page, I was so excited. When I look at this group shot, I am beyond excited and into jumping up and down ecstatic and really amazed that I actually did this.

I want to send a huge thank you and hug to my beady hero and mentor, the creator of the Beaded Journal Project, Robin Atkins. Her vision and inspiration has changed the lives of many artists through this amazing and wonderful project. I feel like my life has changed in an enormous way as I have learned much about myself through my beadwork and also to my commitment to stick with this project.

To all of my fellow BJP participants, bravo to one and all!

My last beaded journal page is done

Well, talk about getting down to the wire! With the 2008-09 Beaded Journal Project poised to begin tomorrow, I have completed my last page of the 2007-08 year, my November 2007 page. With my annual jewelry show in November, that whole month is dedicated to preparing for my show. Instead of creating my November page in December then, I was inspired to jump right into my December page at that time. So, November never got done until now. However, I always had what I wanted to create, a tribute page to my greyhound Buddy, in my mind. It was just a matter of getting the fabric paper to put in my printer, updating my printer cartridges and getting started on it.

I’m so glad to be finished with all of my pages. I feel a great sense of accomplishment even though I finished late. Now it is time to turn my sights to the new year and start on my first bracelet!