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

From the Studio

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A brand new knitting project. I love to pick out my yarns.

With the Jane Thornley free-form “Come Spring” vest pattern in hand, I’ve chosen a similar color palette as the pattern photo because I love the vibrant greens and browns of this lovely season. One of my art friends directed me to a great website for purchasing good quality yarn at affordable prices. I purchased all of my yarn (pictured above) from them except for a ribbon yarn, called “Copper Penny”, I discovered while browsing at Joann Fabric’s one day for art supplies.

So far, I’m liking the contrast between the stripes of rich color.

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Last week I picked up a beading book at the library. As I have been getting into a more personally expressive and organic, free-form flow with my beadwork, I have lost interest in books and magazines devoted to beadwork patterns and other artists’ designs. However, the title of this book, “Shaped Beadwork: Dimensional Jewelry with Peyote Stitch”, caught my eye and my interest.

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In the book, Diane teaches how to make geometrical shapes in peyote stitch, starting with flat one-dimensional shapes and then building upon those to create 2 and 3-dimensional sculptural shapes. So, I started at the beginning of the book and made a triangle. Geez, that was fun. How about if I make another one? Cool! Then I sewed them together and created a little triangular pillow. This little shape is fascinating me. I find myself picking it up and turning it over gently in my hand every time I walk by my beading tray.

Now, what shall I do with this little shape? Make another pillow for a pair of earrings?  Use it as a focal shape and free-form around it? Use it as a component in a mixed media necklace? The infinite possibilities bloom in my imagination with wild abandon like the riot of pink peonies in my garden. Hehe Interestingly, my thoughts also lead me back to memories of how much I enjoyed geometry class and its spatial language.

All this from a little triangle pouch.

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The start of another journal page. I had vaguely remembered someone mentioning or reading somewhere that you could paint on used dryer sheets. This so appealed to the recycling devotee in me that I collected some sheets after a weekend of laundry chores. After dripping, brushing, and wetting paint across its surface, I let my sheet dry and then ripped a piece off to create a waterfall shape on my bright yellow page. I then glued some dried tulip petals at its base and drew some water swirls around the petals with a white gel pen.

This page is far from finished but it has a good start. As I glued and painted my “waterfall”, I thought of water and its symbolism to feelings. I thought of how my page could represent my getting in touch with feelings that are frightening to me and how I sometimes relegate those frightening feelings to a very deep place inside of myself. Can I ride my tumbling waterfall into the depths of myself and explore some of those feelings? I wrote:

I tumble down the waterfall inside of myself

to get in touch with my feelings.

From the Studio

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Now that my studio time has become limited to evenings and weekends since my return to full-time work 3 months ago, I have slipped into a comfortable rhythm as I dip into one art project and then another. Depending upon my mood, my energy level (especially after a day of work) and whatever else is going on, I choose my project and settle in for some blissful art making. Lately, my choices have been between my knitting, weaving beads for jewelry pieces, and my art journal.

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My knitting is a dear old friend, with its cozy and comfortable rhythm, always there to wrap me in its warm embrace. Using a newborn sock pattern I recently found online, I’m making a rosy pink pair of booties for a colleague’s brand new daughter. It took me a couple of practice starts trying to find the right gauge and now I’ve settled upon using size 2 double pointed bamboo needles.

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My beadwork is constantly evolving as I try new and different weaves to express the beauty of nature and how it touches and resonates within my soul. I love the color palette I used for my Spring free-form bracelet and do not want to let it go just yet. Using the bead soup mix I found left over on my bead mat, I created a 2-drop peyote cuff.

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I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and easily this cuff came into being and am excited by the range of ideas floating in my head on how I can use it for a background for polymer clay work like canes, cabochons and buttons. For this particular cuff, I think I will create a glazed polymer clay face cabochon in soft pinks as a focal point. I haven’t figured out yet what I will do for a clasp. I want something that will go well with the design and colors of the cuff. I feel that if I add a metal clasp that it might be too jarring for the rest of the design, especially with the soft colors of this palette. Any ideas?

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My new love is my art journal. Sarah Whitmire’s wonderful Soul Journal prompts have taken me gently by the hand and guided me as I start out on this self-discovery journey. Now that I have almost completed the 22 days of prompts, I find my wings starting to flutter open. I want to fly on my own across my journal pages and see what happens.

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I am having so much fun mixing and layering paint colors on the pages. I’ve discovered the “My Studio” line of inexpensive acrylic paints at A.C. Moore and everytime I visit I am compelled to get just a couple more colors! I also find myself looking around the house for interesting elements to add and use for stamping and texturing my pages. Inspired by my dear friend Judy, my next step is to try my hand at molding paste to bring a lot more texture to my pages. I’d like to use that for the cover of my journal. If anyone has any tips or stories to share about your own art journaling/collage experience, please do!

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I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

~Pablo Picasso

From the Studio

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Another Ripple scarf!

I love this pattern so much that I’m making another scarf, this time in jeweled tones for a dear friend’s birthday next month. I imagine her wearing it with a vibrant fall colored outfit.

One of the things that I love best about this pattern, besides its wonderful rhythm, is the way you can choose 2 different yarns that coordinate in color but contrast in texture. As you only use one skein of each yarn, it’s also a great way to use up leftover yarn from a bigger project.

I’ve returned to my art journal pages. I put my journal aside for awhile when it was time to create some pages of your home, the one that you’ve felt most comfortable in. I’m sure that the intent was to journal about what home means to me. Well….in the past 6 years, I have faced a lot of challenging questions about that so this was an interesting exercise for me. After putting it off for days and days, I finally sat my butt in the chair and just started drawing a house.

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I’ve created my dream house with big windows and skylights. I love the idea of living in a home filled with light, illuminating my sacred living space in a wash of warmth. I have yet to find this place of my dreams in real life. As my writing states,

“Under an ocean of stars, I hope to find my true home.”

The house itself (on the left) is made of a brown paper bag glued onto my journal page as a pocket. Our assignment was to create some paper dolls of myself and the loved ones I live with. As my kids are grown and I am no longer married, I have decided not to make the dolls but I will place some beloved photos of myself with my family in the house pocket.

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The next assignment was to find a couple of interesting body shapes in a magazine and cut them out precisely. I laid the body shapes onto my page and then, using a makeup sponge, painted around each shape, thus creating a beautiful silhouette. I especially love the shape on the right and thought that she needed some wings. Then, using a gold gel pen, I wrote down as many descriptive words as I could think of. That exercise really sparked my imagination. I found that sitting outside in nature was the perfect setting for accomplishing this.

Visual journaling gives me such a calm, peaceful feeling…

“Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. Know that the world exists for you.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

From the Studio

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I’ve decided to rename my weekly studio post because Wednesdays are now a pretty busy day for me between work and a physical therapy session right afterwards. So, instead of limiting my post to being published just on Wednesdays, I’m expanding my vision to include other weekdays as well. In other words, I can post when I have free time during the week instead of trying to cram it into a half hour before bedtime on a full day!

For the most part, I’ve always been much more comfortable with having specified days or times for when I do certain things. The Capricorn part of me is soothed by structure and schedule and knowing what to do next. That said, there is a part of me that craves just flowing along with the ever changing tides of my life. I’m trying to develop that side of me a lot more these days. It requires more of an openness and an intuitive sense of what I need for balance.

I finally completed my free-form bracelet. I’m sorry to say that I was in such a hurry to mail it that I completely forgot to take a picture of it! Oh dear. Well, all went well with its finishing. I created a variation of a bead and loop clasp where I built up around the loops with peyote stitch so that the “holes” actually became part of the bracelet’s structure. I attached 2 coppery pearls as part of the clasp.

As I observe the unfolding beauty of Spring around me, I am being inspired to create a new free-form bracelet in a color palette that will reflect all of the budding and blooming going on. I love this part of the process, the choosing of harmonious colors and the laying out of the selected beads on my tray to see how they look next to each other. I’m thinking of delicate spring greens and tree bark browns and grays with a sprinkling of forsythia yellow, hyacinth purple and white along with azalea purply-pink.

What do you think of my color palette so far?

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I finished my second Ripple scarf, the one knit in the pink/peach colorway. As I have grown accustomed to having something on my needles now (and loving it!), I just started a pair of sweet, cotton candy pink baby socks for my granddaughter, Ella. Made with a simple eyelet pattern (yes, yarn overs!), they are knitting up pretty fast.

I purchased the 2 Jane Thornley patterns that I wrote about last week, the “Come Spring” vest and the “Knit a Beach” vest. I’ve decided to start with the spring vest. Jane suggests using a gorgeous silk/wool blend yarn from La Lana. I like the colorway she has chosen, especially wonderful for this time of year – apple green, pine, teal and brown. The back panel of the vest is worked up in a hand dyed ribbon yarn blending all of those colors. Time to go yarn shopping!

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Last Saturday I spent a lovely Art Day with 2 dear friends. I worked on the next 2 pages in my art journal, cutting out magazine images into “inchies”, that is, one inch squares. I glued them onto my purple/brown painted pages in a grid pattern and then brushed and wiped a light, muted blue green over the images so they would blend into the page better.

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The next day I collected a bunch of tape rolls – electrical, paint and some sort of grid tape – from all over the house. I cut and placed tape pieces on my next 2 pages in a random design and then sanded, gessoed and sanded some more. Green blue paint was gently wiped over and then sanded.

This was a very interesting and fun way to create a background!

I’m learning that art journal pages can be created with a wide variety of materials that you can find around the house.

The ordinary arts we practice everyday at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.

~Thomas Moore

Studio Wednesday

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This past weekend was a quiet one. With nothing scheduled, I spent it relaxing at home, taking a long walk in the woods and then working on art projects. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does, I sink into every peaceful moment with gratitude and joy for the opportunity to connect with myself once again.

I finished my blue Ripple scarf and started another one in a pink/peach colorway. This is a wonderful way to get a taste of some of the more expensive yarns before committing to a big project. It’s like getting a sample of a high end tea and then, if it’s positively fabulous, getting a larger packet. Now that I’ve had my sample, I’m beginning to dream of a bigger project like a vest or a cardigan made with these luscious yarns. I love the whole concept of the “yarn overs’ because of the lacy organic look it lends to the piece. I found this helpful video on Youtube. I’m a visual learner so watching this works wonders in my understanding of the stitch.

I’ve recently discovered the Ravelry website, an online knit and crochet community. You have to be invited to join but that’s really easy to arrange. Just click on the Request an Invitation link on their homepage and enter your e-mail address. In less than a week, I received my e-mail invitation. I haven’t had a chance to explore the site thoroughly but it looks like a wonderful resource and a great way to connect with kindred yarn and fiber spirits. In the profile you set up, you are able to keep track of your projects and yarn purchases, favorite patterns and designers. I stumbled upon a designer, Jane Thornley, whose beautiful patterns took my breath away, especially this beach vest.

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It reminds me of free-form beading, only with yarn.  Described as an “experience combining simple stitches to create textures that evoke the blue sea frothed with ocean latte and sand hues of a summer beach.”, I feel this pattern whispering to me.

I also love the “Come Spring” vest. In these colors, it’s so earthy looking.

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I was fashioning the loop clasp on my free-form bracelet when my thread broke. I’m not sure what happened there. Now I have to pull out beads so I can get enough thread tail to weave in. Then I’ll attach a new thread and finish the clasp. Once that’s done, I’ll post a photo of the completed bracelet.

I worked on the second page of my art journal entitled “Soul Armor”. The prompt is “What protects and nourishes my creative spirit?” This journaling exercise was so helpful for me to get in touch with what nourishes my creativity. Some of my favorite things include walking in nature, gardening, kindred art spirits, taking photographs and visiting the local bead and fabric stores.

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I’ve recently joined the 2009 Creative Everyday challenge, a very laid back commitment to do something creative each day whether it is cooking, writing, taking photos or working on art projects. You can read more about it on Leah Piken Kolidas’ website. Thanks for encouraging and inspiring our creative spirits, Leah!

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The April challenge is “Color”. Last fall I created polyclay citrus cane beads in lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange. This month’s challenge is perfect for starting a vibrantly colored fringe-y bracelet with my cane beads.

Stay tuned for another fringe-y bracelet journey!

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for”

~Georgia O”Keefe

Saturday Morning Tea

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It’s a grey day here in New England, perfect for staying inside and curling up with a good book, cup of tea by my side. It’s supposed to rain all day, wonderful nourishment for all the newly growing plants and flowers.

I’m stepping out of the box today from my normal tea choices. I’m sipping a black tea from the Bogawantalawa estate in Sri Lanka. Boy, those Ceylon names sure can be a challenge to spell let alone to say. My colleagues and I have a lot of fun at work  practicing pronunciation before we have to talk about them with a customer.

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This is a broken leaf tea. While the tea is being processed, some of the leaf breaks up into smaller bits. The leaf is then run through various size sieves to separate it into piles of the same size leaf bits. This is because a broken leaf tea has a shorter steeping time than a whole leaf tea. If the broken and whole leaf parts were mixed together, you would end up with either under-steeped or over-steeped leaf in your tea.

The Bogawantalawa tea estate is in the Dimbula region of Sri Lanka, located to the west of the central mountains at an elevation of about 4,000 feet. The island of Sri Lanka (old name Ceylon), located off the tip of India, has a highland ridge running right down the center of the island. This ridge blocks the monsoon winds that come in from the northeast in December to March and the southwest from June to August, creating a perfect climate for growing tea. Warm days, cool mornings and infrequent rain are perfect for producing the most flavorful leaf.

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As there is more surface area on the broken leaf that is exposed to the water, it brews up quickly in 2 1/2-3 minutes. The tea liquor is a dark amber with a fragrance that I can best describe as a “tea fragrance”, full bodied, lemony and brisk. It is the aroma that most people would identify with a cup of tea.

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The flavor is smooth yet brisk with citrus notes. While I am very much enjoying this tea hot, it would make an excellent iced tea with its lemony nuances. To enhance my citrus experience, I have spread some orange marmalade on honey crackers. This tea would also stand up well to milk but I recommend trying it without milk at first so you can taste its wonderful flavor notes.

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Continuing my work in my art journal, I filled 3 pages with journaling using the prompt “Today I feel…”. I then gessoed over the pages with a dry brush. The next assignment was to write my name all over the first page. I brought out my watercolor pencils and had so much fun doodling and coloring.

I created a little spring tulip garden.

“How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?

Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,

and in that freedom bold”

~William Wordsworth