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

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Saturday Morning Tea

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Outside the sky is weeping, reflecting what my heart feels inside. This past week was a very sad one in my home. We lost our beloved black Lab, Jack, and the world feels as if it has shifted upon its axis and will never be the same again. It came suddenly, however, we had time to say our farewells and honor our dear old friend. It is amazing to me how everyone who hears the news comes forward and generously opens their heart and shares their own story about the passing of a beloved pet. They are in our lives for what feels like the briefest amount of time, like a shooting star blazing across the heavens and then it is gone. But their wonderful memory lives on forever in our hearts. Jack taught me so much about loyalty and unconditional love. So much about love…

I need a big dose of comfort this morning and so I turn to green tea. I am sipping a green tea from China that one usually associates with Japan, an organic Gyokuro. Produced for the Japanese market, everything about this tea is Japanese except for where it is grown. I have written about Japanese Gyokuro tea and its unique growing and processing here and here.

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The tea bushes are shaded with a dark cloth approximately 3 weeks before plucking. This gives the leaf an amazing deep emerald color.

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It reminds me of cooked spinach, very healthy and very green.

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

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The color of the tea liquor kind of reminds me of that Italian liqueur, Limoncello, made from lemon zest, alcohol, sugar and water. The taste is not lemony at all, however, but clean and quite vegetal.

As I slowly sip and gaze out at the wet day, a gentle calm slips over me.

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As the tea cools, a lively, tart pungency is revealed, a flavor note that I associate with Japanese green teas.

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Clean. Fresh. Simple. Calm.

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Rest in peace, my dear, beloved friend. You will always live in my heart…

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.

~Gilda Radner

Taos Journey – Last Day

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The last day. So final.

This is the day that you find yourself trying to fit in everything that you wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to on all of the other days. So, it turned into a “bits” day – a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

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A little bit of knitting.

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A little bit of walking around the grounds, poking in and out of all of the wonderful nooks and crannies of Mabel’s house.

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Here’s the door to that fabulous doorway.

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A little bit more shopping. There’s Dad relaxing while we buy more yarn at Weaving Southwest.

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A nice scenic drive for a little bit of picture taking.

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Relaxing in the living room.

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And the sitting room.

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I sure will miss this wild, beautiful land.

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted any photos of my shrug yet. Weeeelllll…it is almost done with just the sleeve seams to be sewn and the little yarn ends to be woven.

Stay tuned for the “ta-da” moment of my Taos Shrug!

It is not a country of light on things.

It is a country of things in light.

~Georgia O’Keeffe (on New Mexico)


Taos Journey – Day 3

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On the 3rd day of our Taos journey, we took a trip south to visit the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe, for the afternoon.

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For me, the highlight of our visit there was a trip to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. From the moment when I first gazed upon the closeup world of her lush, painted flowers, I have felt an answering resonance from within my heart and soul. It started my love affair with closeup photography over 20 years ago. To actually have the opportunity to stand before her paintings, in the one place in the world that housed the greatest number of them, was like heaven on earth for me. But, then again, it was New Mexico, and I felt a little bit closer to heaven there.

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There was a Fiesta going on in the main plaza that day. We threaded our way through the great throng of celebration to come upon a small French pastry shop, a welcome respite from the crowded plaza. A tart raspberry crepe with real whipped cream and a steaming cup of dark hot cocoa refreshed and revived me.

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After that wonderful treat, we made our way over to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a 122 year old church built around an older adobe church originally constructed in 1610. You can read more of its history here. Sadly, the spires were never completed due to lack of funding. This beautiful statue of a native woman adorned with turquoise jewelry stands in front of the church.

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While the church itself is lovely and impressive, I was drawn more to the exquisitely carved front doors.

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And the labyrinth located in the forecourt.

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As my Dad and I walked the labyrinth, I could feel its calming energy radiate up from its path of well worn stone.

You can read more about labyrinths and, specifically, New Mexico labyrinths here.

We got caught in a rainstorm as we wove our way through the mountains back to Taos. Good thing we already knew the way. I find that if I get lost while traveling to a place for the first time then I will know the way back as if I have lived there always. Does the same thing happen to you?

We ended our day at a warm and cozy (after the teeming rain) local landmark called Michael’s Kitchen. It reminded me of an old fashioned diner, a place where the locals go to hang out and eat a delicious homestyle meal. While I usually find that a place like this doesn’t offer many vegetarian options, I was absolutely delighted with their homemade garden burger.

Stay tuned for the last day of my Taos journey…

“To create one’s own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.”

~Georgia O’Keeffe

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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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