Is It Spring Yet?

There might have been a snowstorm here last Tuesday but I have this gorgeous blooming hyacinth on my kitchen windowsill to remind me that spring is getting closer.

Today I’m helping my daughter move into her new home and, as we want to get an early start to the day, my tea is quickly being poured into a travel mug as I head out the door. I will return tomorrow for our weekly cup of tea together.

I leave you with this wonderful quote from Thich Nhat Hanh.

Enjoy your tea.

“Suppose you are drinking a cup of tea. When you hold your cup, you may like to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, and you become fully present. And when you are truly there, something else is also there—life, represented by the cup of tea. In that moment you are real, and the cup of tea is real. You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries. You are free from all of these afflictions. And in that state of being free, you enjoy your tea. That is the moment of happiness, and of peace.”

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The Process of Becoming

First of all, my heart and prayers go out to the people of Haiti.  If you haven’t yet, you can find out how to help here.

Ever since a couple of Saturdays ago when I wrote about choosing a word for the year to guide and inspire, my mind has been filled with thoughts about what my word could be for 2010. I find it challenging and a bit daunting to choose a word that will define my direction for a WHOLE year.

As I discovered last year, a life can change drastically in a year’s time. A year ago, I was struggling with a debilitating condition, in a great deal of pain, both physically and emotionally, and now here I sit, in a healthier body in a brand new home. My own home.

Inspired by the flavor and color of that second flush Darjeeling tea from that day (mmmm), I’ve meditated at length on the word rich. This word is commonly associated with financial gain, however, there are many other ways to experience richness in one’s life. It can also describe how I feel about my life right at this very moment, fostering a sense of gratitude and abundance for all that I have and experience. In that respect, it brings me directly into the moment instead of focusing on the future. It gets me out of my head and into my heart, a way of being encouraged strongly by a psychic I went to see on a brilliantly sunny day last February. She told me that I should figure out how to live a more yummy, juicy life. Well, rich is yummy and juicy, isn’t it?

So, I thought that I was pretty much decided……that is, until I read my Daily OM horoscope e-mail last Thursday, entitled “The Process of Becoming”. Becoming? Huh? Hmmmm….oh….yes…..becoming. You know when you have a moment when something – a person, an experience, a WORD – resonates so strongly that you feel like it is a key that is perfectly shaped to your heart and soul? Some folks might call that experience an epiphany.

“a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

I read my horoscope every morning. Sometimes it offers inspiration or an insight into a problem or challenge I’m experiencing but most times, to be honest, it’s a quick skimming read over morning cereal. Not this time, however.

Becoming

“any change involving realization of potentialities, as a movement from the lower level of potentiality to the higher level of actuality.”

Of course, I could put those 2 words together. Becoming Rich. Rich Becoming. I think I like the latter phrase better which seems to evoke a yummy, juicy unfolding as opposed to conjuring images of get rich quick schemes.

Have you ever heard someone say that at this very moment you are exactly where you are supposed to be? How every moment of your life up until now has led you exactly to this place? These words have become my constant companions in the past year as I’ve experienced the process of purchasing my new home. This process was incredibly long and drawn out, involving slow moving banks and such, and it also involved the end of a relationship as it was, which would then make 2 endings of that sort in less than 6 years. When something like this happens, you go through all of the “should haves” and “should not haves”, right? I admit, I had my share of “woe is me” days about this but what I kept coming back to was how everything seemed to click into place in the last year to bring me here. Right here. Here is where I need to be. Where I’m supposed to be.

Have you chosen a word for the year? The first year I did this, I followed the advice found on Christine Kane’s blog here.

I copied and pasted all of the words from the list in that post into a blank document, arranged them on the screen so I could cut them out individually once I printed it. The pile of words then went into a colorful bowl. As I swirled the bits of paper around, I closed my eyes and thought about the year ahead and put my intention out into the universe for guidance. Then I grabbed a slip of paper. That was in 2008 and my word for that year was Beauty. That was another year of moving for me. My new home at that time was closer to nature and a garden so I immersed myself into those things and took a lot of photographs. Focusing on the beauty in the world became a very healing year for me.

Becoming

Rich Becoming

It’s only a word or two but what’s truly important is where it brings you.

“As we focus on enjoying each step along our journey to success, we immerse ourselves fully in the process of becoming.” ~from the Daily OM, The Process of Becoming, 1/15/10

Saturday Morning Tea

A most Happy Thanksgiving weekend to you all!

While the wind howls at the eaves outside, I am inside cozily sipping from a cup of this exquisite Formosa white tea. I watch the empty tree branches bow and sway and think about how resilient they are. While outside forces seek to move them, they simply go with the flow of the wind and then bend back to their original shape. Having strong roots and an inner core helps ground them against these forces.

The trees have much to teach us about life and change.

Tea is firmly woven into Taiwan culture, with tea houses or “tea-art” shops located all over the island. Its old fashioned name, Formosa, is Portugese for “beautiful island”. Many Taiwanese families collect teaware in the form of unglazed clay pots.

This excerpt from Wikipedia:

“Traditionally, “raising the teapot” at home is a way of life in Taiwan. Teapots are used to brew teas intensively so that the surface of the teapot becomes “bright”. This process is called “raising the teapot”, which enhances the beauty of the clay teapot. Tea stores are virtually everywhere in Taiwan. In big cities like Taipei one can easily find tea for sale on nearly every city block.”

Sounds like my kind of place. I love that they refer to their tea shops as “tea-art” shops!

Most tea grown on the island is processed as Oolong tea, or Wu-long tea. That’s what makes this particular tea very unique as it has been processed as a white tea. White tea leaves are allowed to dry slightly first and then heated up right away to prevent oxidation (darkening of the leaf) from occurring.

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

The aroma is fresh and delicate. The words I would use to describe the taste of this tea.

Clean. Fresh. Soft. Buttery. Smooth. Fruity, just a whisper.

Unlike the teas I have reviewed lately, this tea is crystal clear, a pale, straw color.

About 10 years ago, I attended an arts and crafts show locally and purchased a set of teabowls and a teamug. This is my favorite piece. I remember how the potter told me that she dreamed the symbols she painted on her teaware. I love the road running through this one.

The road of tea, one that I am most happy to be on.

I can’t recall the potter’s name. I think that she was from Colorado. If anyone recognizes this work, please do let me know as I would love to contact her and see her new work.

Last Wednesday, we had a tea and cheese pairing/tasting at work. It was a new experience for me and introduced me to the wonderful world of specialty cheeses. So far, my experience has been very limited in that area. I took some photos and am hoping to be able to post and share my thoughts with you soon.

This weekend will be spent painting my bathroom over at my new place. Starting several weeks ago, they ripped out the ceiling, walls and floor to reveal the inner structure of the room. Now everything has been transformed with new wallboard and beadboard. I’ve been pouring over Benjamin Moore paint chips and never realized how many creams and whites there were! The theme of my new bathroom will be luminescence.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.

That will be the beginning.

~Louis L’Amour

Saturday Morning Tea

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The bronzed leaves are rattling across my backyard deck like dried bones as they welcome this last day of October, All Hallowed Eve. Pouring rain and wind this past week have swept clean most of the leaves from their trees to create an autumn carpet laid across the lawns and streets. As I drove home last night, glowing jack-o-lanterns brought memories of carving pumpkins, and I inhaled the woodsy smell of fallen leaves as I got out of my car and made my way up the path home. I love this autumn time of year, perfect for cozying up with a hot cup of tea.

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As promised last week, this morning’s tea is very special. Called Zhang Ping Shui Hsian (or Xian), its leaves are finely plucked, hand processed and compressed into small bricks. Each “brick” is then exquisitely packaged into a shiny red, black and gold vacuum sealed packet for freshness.

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This Chinese Oolong is grown in Fujian province and lightly oxidized to create a greener Oolong tea, similar to a Jade or Tung Ting. I gently broke some leaves off of the brick for steeping.

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Because the leaves are not as oxidized as a darker Oolong or a black tea, I decided to steep at a green tea temperature and time, 180 degrees F for 3 minutes.

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As the leaves steeped in my glass teapot, they swirled and floated downward, reminding me of the dance of the leaves outside.

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It might be fall outside but it was like a springtime garden in my kitchen. A sweet lilac fragrance drifted up from my teapot as I removed the infuser basket. Mmmmm…

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The tea liquor is a pale gold brown with very distinctive floral aroma and flavor notes. A sweetness fills my mouth and gently lingers after each sip.

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I am sipping my tea from a gorgeous coppery red teabowl, generously lent to me by a colleague/friend at work. Thanks Rebecca. She purchased it at Target. I’ll have to go check out the teaware at Tar-zjay.

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The bronze leaves compliment the darker glazing on the bowl. After the Color Workshop I attended last weekend, I notice color everywhere! And, after looking through my tea leaf pictures, I’m not surprised that I chose green and orange as the color palette for my collage in the workshop. My life is steeped in tea leaves…

Happy Halloween, everyone!

“Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.”

~Linus from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Saturday Morning Tea

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After several days of rain, the trees are glowing with vibrant washes of gold, russet, ruby and magenta. The wind sighs through the branches, releasing a cascade of leaves that float and dance across the lawn. Autumn has truly embraced us here in New England.

2 years ago I reviewed a tea called Japanese Gyokuro Kamakura, a green tea. You can read that review here. This year’s harvest of Gyokuro is splendid and I am pleased to review it once again.

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Its deep emerald leaves match the saturation of the reflected autumn palette. The cut of the leaf reminds me of freshly mown grass.

In the purging process in preparation for my imminent move, I found this little beauty tucked away at the back of my kitchen cabinet. It is called a Yokode Kyusu, or commonly known as a Sencha teapot, with the handle being on the side of the teapot. The Japanese word for teapot is kyusu.

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The strainer, located inside of the teapot at the base of the spout, allows me to steep the leaves directly in the water. I steeped for 3 minutes with 170 degree F water.

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This is the tea that I will recommend to folks looking for a truly green colored tea. Most steeped green tea is not pure green but varying shades of brownish or yellowish green. China Pi Lo Chun even has a pinkish tinge to its liquor.

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The first word that comes to mind as I inhale its aroma and take my first sip is fresh.

So very clean and fresh. Delightful! Quite vegetal, with a whisper of asparagus, but oh! so very smooth. No astringency or tang in the finish. As it cools, the smooth quality becomes even more pronounced.

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I am enjoying my tea in a Japanese pottery mug I purchased at the Wabi Sabi gift store in downtown Taos, NM. I immediately knew it was my kind of place because as I entered, wide eyed and entranced by all of the teaware surrounding me, I was pleasantly asked by the store clerk if I would like a cup of Sencha tea.

Oh, yes, please.

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I am happy and excited to report that after 5 months of waiting, the closing on my condo has finally taken place this past week! This has definitely been a lesson in perseverance and patience and hanging in there for what you truly want. So, starting this weekend, a transformation will begin to take place as I pick up my paintbrush (and roller) and paint Morning Sunshine (Benjamin Moore) throughout my new living room and kitchen space.

The first step in this new chapter of my life…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~Lao-tzu

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 2

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Every morning we carefully stepped our way across the cobblestones to the workroom where we  settled down in our own individual cozy spot, picked up our pointy sticks and let the yarn flow from them in colors that spoke to us of the gorgeous Taos landscape.

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Jane showed us various stitches that would aid us in manifesting our impressions and made suggestions on what would work well with the different yarns that each of us had chosen for our project.

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Many of the participants chose to create a Feather and Fan wrap which starts at the bottom and blossoms open across circular needles to the top. I chose to create a shrug which is worked side to side, from one wrist to the other, increasing to the center and then decreasing down the other side.

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Perhaps you might have noticed the smiling man in the upper left hand corner of the workroom? A few of the ladies smuggled him in one evening. He is a cardboard man. They named him “Ford”, perhaps because it rhymes with “board”? Anyway, he looked pretty good modeling Jane’s shrug.

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After lunch on our second day, we were invited to go see a recently constructed straw bale home. I know, I know. I was scratching my head at first, too. Wha?? The concept is really neat though. The Taos climate is arid enough to allow for straw bales to be used inside the walls of the constructed home. It’s a superior insulation material. The walls are plastered over the bales in an adobe style and a window is placed along an inner wall showing the straw inside. You can read more about this kind of home construction here. Fascinating.

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One of the houses was located on a windswept plain, literally in the middle of nowhere and completely “off the grid”. This is their front yard. How amazing is that?!! I was simply mesmerized in learning about this way of living, so much the opposite of  my own suburban environment back home.

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A secret garden.

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On the way out to the house, we passed the Earthship community of sustainable and unique biotecture housing and drove across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, spanning the 650 feet deep gorge. Sweaty palms on that bridge, I’ll tell you.

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We finished the day with a sumptuous feast at a fabulous restaurant called Lamberts. If you only had one eating place to choose in Taos, it has to be this one. The food was beyond delicious and the service was impeccable. I had the potato leek soup with crème fraiche and chives, served hot, and the marinated roasted beet salad on greens with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds. The meat eaters of our group enjoyed the grilled Filet Mignon with horseradish crème, steak fries and grilled asparagus. I had to try their dessert, too, oh twist my arm – a warm apple & almond crisp with white chocolate ice cream. I wish that I had taken pictures of the feast but I was just so enthralled by my food that I completely forgot.

If you’re ever in Taos, it’s simple – treat yourself and go to Lamberts.

Stay tuned for more Taos adventures…