Taos Journey – Day 1

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Despite getting a late start on the road from Albuquerque to Taos and also leaving during the height of rush hour traffic, we were graced with a very good omen that traveled along with us for quite some time. As I drove along, I just kept thinking how different and, even somewhat alien, the landscape seemed in comparison to my home in New England. But oh, how lovely it was with the shifting patterns of light and the towering mountains shadowing our route. The spirit of this landscape was speaking directly to my soul.

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First rule of thumb when traveling and driving to an unknown destination: plan your arrival during the daylight hours! Our drive to Taos took approximately 2 1/2 hours and, yes, we did arrive just as it was getting dark. Of course, we got a little lost but we finally pulled into the driveway of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House around 8pm, just in time to attend a welcoming gathering in the Main House.

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Mabel was a writer, social activist and patron of the arts. She moved to Taos in 1919 and purchased this 12 acre property. For those who saw the recently debuted Lifetime movie on Georgia O’Keeffe, another famous resident of New Mexico, it was to Mabel’s home that Georgia fled after her husband, Alfred Steiglitz, had an affair with another woman. You can read more about Mabel here. She has written several books on her life in Taos. One in particular, “Winter in Taos”, is at the top of my reading list.

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The next day dawned clear and bright as it always seems to do in Taos. As the day progresses, the clouds roll in and gather over the mountaintops in spectacular sweeps and shapes.

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After a delicious breakfast spread, our morning knitting session commenced. Our teacher and fearless leader, Jane Thornley, shared her philosophy of knitting with us, telling us that it was important to listen to your inner creative voice and let the yarn flow and come together in a free-form, or free range, way. We could choose to make a wrap, a shrug or a scarf, whatever was calling out to us.

You can see Jane’s gorgeous wrap called “The Road to Taos” here. Jane is an avid traveler and the harmonious flow and beautiful color palettes of her creations are inspired by the landscapes and nature she comes across in her travels.

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After lunch, we took a field trip to the yarn shops in downtown Taos, La Lana Wools and Weaving Southwest.

All I can say of that adventure is – oh my!

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It was a feast for the eyes for a color freak like moi.

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We finished our day with a lovely meal at the Dragonfly Cafe, a European cafe and bakery that uses seasonal, locally grown fresh produce, most of it organically produced. We sat in a cozy, cushioned alcove, a comfortable place to end our very busy day.

Stay tuned for my Taos Journey – Day 2…

“Of all the worlds that Mabel tried to create, her dream of turning Taos into a paradise regained speaks to us most clearly today, and not just because it was a modern reincarnation of the oldest American myth.  She addressed the issues that still challenge us; the possibility of our survival in an individualistic world, in a country where community is rarely found, in a land that slowly chokes itself on the effluence of its industrial processes.”

~Lois Palken Rudnick, exerpt from Mabel Dodge Luhan, New Woman, New Worlds

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A Trip to New Mexico and a Knitting Retreat

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With each passing day, my anticipation and excitement is growing and expanding as I think about my coming journey to New Mexico. 2 more days!

The first half of my trip will be spent in Albuquerque visiting with my youngest son and his family. And, yes, my precious little granddaughter! So, I will get some “Ella time” which is always welcome with wide open arms. Heaven.

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The second half of my trip will be spent in Taos where I will attend a Jane Thornley free range knitting retreat. We will be creating a garment of our choosing, a wrap or shrug, using the Feather and Fan stitch and an assortment of colorful, textured yarns in colors reflecting the southwest nature palette.

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I was also very excited to be able to complete my “Come Spring” vest so I can wear it on my trip.

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After I finished my vest, I couldn’t resist starting my granny squares. Here’s a peek at what’s done so far.

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I am just loving choosing different color combinations for the squares so that each one is unique. With 16 different colors and 4 rows for each square, the possibilities are many.

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Now that I’m officially a “granny”, how perfect is this?

I will take loads of pictures on my trip and look forward to sharing tales of my adventures upon my return!

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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On this sunny, late July morning, I’m getting off the tea path and venturing onto the herbal path.

This dried flower has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Here in New England, we commonly see it blooming from August all the way up to the first frost in October.

Have you guessed what it is yet?

You’re absolutely right – it is the chrysanthemum flower. In this case, yellow chrysanthemum. In my research, I have discovered that the Chinese use both the white and the yellow flower for medicinal purposes.

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I steeped the flowers for about 8 minutes in boiling hot water, resulting in a luminous, pale yellow infusion.

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Called Ju Hua, it has a cooling affect on the upper body so it is mainly used in Chinese medicine to reduce or clear heat from the body, such as bringing down a fever or high blood pressure. I have read that it is also a digestive aid, especially for greasy foods and can help with head congestion.

What a beneficial herb! I like to drink it for its honeyed, floral taste with notes of sage and pepper.

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Yesterday I purchased this lovely teabowl. The fabulous texture makes it look like it’s dripping with icing. Mmmm…

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A path dips down into my new bowl and awakens my imagination.

Where will it take me?

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

~J.R.R. Tolkien

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.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I love lilacs.

Their heavenly fragrance reminds me of many wonderful days spent in my garden, one of my most favorite places to be. The beauty of a flower reminds us of all that is good in our world, inside of us and outside.

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I’ve finished my Spring free-form bracelet. This bracelet is thinner than the others I’ve made. Keeping in mind the hours that go into creating a free-form piece, I am trying to make a more affordable bracelet, one that takes less time to finish.

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I loved weaving the colors of spring that can be worn upon the wrist.

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I like the idea of letting the colors in the natural world around me inspire my creations.

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Here is the clasp, a simple bead and loop. I’ve built up the loop so that there aren’t any gaps in the flow of the bracelet.

Enjoy the beauty of this day which honors the creativity of all women!

But if you have nothing at all to create, perhaps you create yourself.

~Carl Jung

From the Studio

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Most of the day a fine mist has been hovering in the air giving a moist dewy look to our spring world. The colors look so saturated under a blanket of gray sky.

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Last weekend was very warm with temps soaring into the 90s.  Very unseasonable for springtime in New England where we’re lucky if it makes it to 65 degrees on a late April day. So, I dug out a tank top and a pair of shorts for mulch adventures in the garden.

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So much is budding and blooming in our woodland garden!

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On Saturday I went out and looked at a couple more properties. I often sit and wonder: where will I be moving to next? Moving energy seems to still be very strong in my life. This will be my third move in the last 5 1/2 years. With this new move, I’m hoping to settle down for longer than a year, the amount of time I’ve been where I’m living currently.

I want to grow roots and have a chance to bloom myself.

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I finished Ella’s baby socks this week. For some strange reason, the eyelet pattern seems to be whirling in a different direction on each sock. Is that supposed to happen, I wonder. I might just make a third sock and see what happens. See which sock it ends up matching. They’re also a bit bigger than I thought they would be. They’re toddler socks and she’ll grow right into them.

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Since last weekend was so filled to the brim with house hunting and gardening, I didn’t get time to work on any new journal pages. Instead, I started a new free-form bracelet inspired by the blossoming world around me. Fresh spring greens, silvery bark browns, delicate petal pinks, ethereal blossom whites, fresh buttery yellows.

The explosion of spring colors has also inspired me to start dreaming about painting the walls in my new home. I’ve  been virtually painting walls on 2 websites, Benjamin Moore and Valspar. It so appeals to the Color Kitten in me! I’ve also learned that you can purchase 8 oz. samples of a color you’re interested in so you can try it out on the wall or a small object first.

Oh, the possibilities! A whole new decorating world full of color is opening up!

For my kitchen, I’m being inspired by the yellow orange color of a T-shirt I purchased while on a trip to Hawaii.

I’m looking at colors with names  like “Honeybell” and “Sunrise Beach”. mmmmm…

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Tomorrow a friend and I will attend a public talk given by H.H. the Dalai Lama at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. This has always been a dream of mine, to see him, to hear him speak, to be in the presence of such an amazing spiritual man. I feel my heart swell and open like a spring flower as I sit here and write about it.   Awe. Wonder. Embracing the peace that he is.

A few weeks ago the Boston Globe ran a great story about the building of the chair His Holiness will be seated upon during his talks. It sounds like an incredible work of craftmanship and I can’t wait to see its beauty and the love that was put into its creation.

My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow other-worldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather, it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.

~H.H. the Dalai Lama