The Light Within

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The last year of my life has been a journey through the darkness of grief back to light, or more specifically, connecting with the light inside myself again. In the spring of 2014, I lost someone I love dearly to a most dreaded disease. He faced every moment of his journey courageously, right up until his last breath. It has been a very hard and lonely year without my best friend, and I still find it difficult to speak of the reality of his passing.

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Just as I created this freeform cuff bracelet one bead at a time, so I got through this last year by taking one step at a time, even when it was the hardest thing to do.

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My beads have always been a place of deep healing for me. Sorting them, touching them, weaving them together to create a story. Here is a story of my light within.

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Just as I had done with my Albuquerque Sky necklace, I made the polymer clay focal with my favorite mokume gane layering, this particular one being Barbara McGuire’s Shimmering Gold technique using gold leaf, translucent clay and alcohol inks.

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Layering the translucent polymer clay with gold leaf is a lovely technique that gives an inner light shimmer to the focal piece.

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The colors of a watery realm reflect deep feelings and the undulating paths of the beadwork represent the ups and downs of my grieving path.

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When the beadwork was complete, I found that I didn’t like the feel of the wide cuff directly on my skin so I lined it with teal-colored ultrasuede and then finished the piece with four sew-on snaps. It feels like a hug on my arm.

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I still have my sad days, days when I miss my friend with such an achingly hollow feeling in my heart. Then there are my not so sad days, days when it’s easier to see and acknowledge all of the abundance in my life. On those days, I grab on to hope and my gratitude pulls me back to a more positive place.

I’m glad to be sharing my beadwork with you once again.

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Saturday Morning Tea

Huang Jin Gui Oolong Dry Leaf 11-23-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! Life has taken a busy turn lately, and it’s been challenging to find the time for my tea posts. I apologize for my absence last week! Ok, on to tea….

This morning’s cuppa is a Chinese Oolong from Anxi County in Fujian province. It’s called Huang Jin Gui Oolong. Huang Jin Gui translates to “Golden Osmanthus”, which refers to this tea’s intense floral aroma and flavor, as well as its rich gold color in the cup.

Huang Jin Gui Oolong Steeping 11-23-13

The leaves have been oxidized lightly (under 20%), like a Jade Oolong, and loosely rolled into roundish, crumply shapes.

I steeped for 4 and a half minutes, and the leaves unfurled and swelled open in the 190F water.

Huang Jin Gui Oolong Wet Leaf 11-23-13

Here is one of the accordion shaped leaves after steeping. Most of the leaves were huge and still intact.

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The golden yellow tea liquor is quite fragrant, filling my kitchen with the scent of flowers. Mmmm….

Huang Jin Gui Oolong Tea Bowl 11-23-13

The smooth flavor is rich and buttery feeling on my tongue, with pronounced floral notes that linger well into the finish.

The last of the dried leaves are rattling like bones off the trees, and the wind blows colder as winter approaches near. This tea is perfect for lifting my spirits with the sweet scents of spring flowers.

Have a lovely week and a happy Thanksgiving!

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday Morning Tea

White Mao Feng Dry Leaf 10-12-13Good morning, dear tea friends! As I sip my tea and glance out my window, I spy a flock of pigeons wheeling around against a sky of pale gray clouds. The high dome of cloud cover filters and softens the light so the changing fall colors on the trees really pop in fiery tones of red, orange and yellow. I’m not sure where that pigeon flock live. I see them now and again congregating on my neighbor’s high pitched roof.

This morning’s tea is from the Hunan province of China, a white tea called Organic China Mao Feng White tea. My first experience with a Mao Feng (translates to Hairy Mountain, hairy referring to the downy white hairs on the leaf) leaf was with a green tea and then with a black tea. Traditionally, Mao Feng, which refers to the large leaf’s processing and shape, was always processed as a green tea but is now being produced in black and white tea as well.

White Mao Feng Steep 10-12-13 I steeped the leaf for 4 minutes in 180F water. Because of the enormous size, I used approximately 2-3 teaspoons per cup in my glass teapot. It’s challenging to measure out tea leaf this big with a spoon so I pinch it and estimate. A tea scale would come in very handy with this tea. It’s on my wish list!

White Mao Feng Wet Leaf 10-12-13This particular leaf is a great example of how it’s twisted during processing. The length of the leaf, its twisted shape and the downy white hairs all contribute to its unique Mao Feng designation.

White Mao Feng Teapot 10-12-13

The tea liquor is a light golden color with a wonderful fruity aroma. I detected honeydew melon notes with my first sip and, as I sipped some more, the flavor progressed with some delicate peachy notes. The pronounced fruity flavor lingers long into the finish.

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The tea is light enough to show the interesting cracks in one of my favorite handmade bowls.

With the cool, cloudy weather outside, it’s the perfect afternoon to curl up with a good story and a big pot of tea. Have a great week!

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

~C.S. Lewis

Saturday Morning Tea

Jungpana Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling Dry 09-28-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! With almost a week past the autumnal equinox, the shadow of darkness falls earlier in the evenings. That said, when the sun is shining, the days are glorious and the trees look dipped in fire. I love this autumn time of year.

Speaking of glorious, my morning tea is a high-end second flush Darjeeling from the Jungpana Estate. The price per packet might take your breath away, however, the price per teacup is only .76 and compared with a latte price from the local Starbucks, it’s quite a bargain for such an amazing cup.

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Referred to as “an island in the mountains”, the Jungpana Estate is located in a rugged terrain surrounded by pine forests in northeastern India. There is a sad legend on how the area received its name. From their website:

Legend has it that many years ago a British hunter was roaming the Himalayas with his faithful gurkha Jung Bahadur by his side when they were attacked by a leopard.

In trying to save his master Jung Bahadur was severely mauled before his master dispensed with the beast. Jung Bahadur was weak and thirsty and asked his master for ‘pana’, or, water. He was carried to a nearby stream and given water to drink but died in his master’s arms soon thereafter.

Eversince that moment, the area has been known as JUNGPANA, or, where Jung Bahadur had his last drink of water. The tea estate planted later, carries the name till today.
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The leaves consist of new tip growth and leaf, some intact, some broken. I steeped them for 3 minutes using boiling point (212F) water. As I lifted the infuser after steeping, I noted the fragrant aroma of peach nectar rising from my glass teapot.
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The amber-colored tea liquor is rich and fruity with pronounced notes of peach and muscatel. As the tea cooled, some toasty nuances came out along with a gentle astringency in the finish.
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Tomorrow I’m going on a fabulous fall adventure – apple picking with family and friends. Mmmm, I can already smell that apple pie baking…
Have a wonderful week filled with many cups of delicious tea!
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
~George Eliot

Saturday Morning Tea

Halmari Estate Assam Dry Leaf 09-21-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! A blanket of clouds covered the sky as I poured my first cup of morning tea but now as I sit down to write, I see peeks of blue here and there. Tomorrow marks the Autumnal Equinox here in my corner of the world, the Northern Hemisphere, however, I’ve felt the winds of seasonal change for several weeks now. Going with that change, I’m enjoying an Assam tea today, a tea I enjoy most as the cooler weather comes. This one is a broken leaf selection  from the Halmari Estate. Look at all that beautiful golden tip interspersed among the leaves!

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It seems like the color orange pops out and surrounds us in the fall – pumpkins, butternut squash, autumn sunsets, chrysanthemums, even the light has a crisp golden-y orange hue. This tea fits right into the the colors of fall, with its wonderful russet glow. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Located on the plains of upper Assam in northeastern India, the Halmari Estate was started in the 1940s and is owned by the Daga family. You can see some cool pictures of their factory, where the tea processing takes place, here. That’s where it all happens, leaf to cup.

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Most of the leaf particles are broken, however, I found some little tips, which had turned the same color as the rest of the leaf, during steeping.

The aroma has light malty hints with a whisper of red wine.

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The burnt orange colored tea liquor reflects the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. The flavor is silky smooth, one of my favorite qualities to find in an Assam tea. The notes are dark honey sweet with hints of spice that linger in the finish. If you enjoy milk in your Assam tea, I recommend steeping this one longer than 4 minutes.

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The clouds are now moving swiftly, dark grey with tufts of white higher up. The glimpses of blue sky are growing as the moving clouds part. It’s a fine day for a long walk on the bike path, methinks…

I’ve been lately enjoying the audiobook version of The Fellowship of the Ring during my work commute. I leave you with one of my favorite poems from the book.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

The Evolution of a Beaded Flower Pin

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Hey wait, that isn’t a photo of tea leaves! I know, I know, it’s been many moons since I’ve shared one of my creations with you. I seem to have slipped into a quiet, inner space of creativity this year, a space I feel myself slowly peeking out of.

This pin had an interesting evolution.

Earlier this year, I received my copy of Contemporary Geometric Beadwork, Volume 1 by the fabulous Kate McKinnon and her amazing beady tribe. Using the instructions in the book, I taught myself how to zig zag, an MRAW (Modified Right Angle Weave) stitch that then morphs on into peyote stitch. The zig zags are formed by an increase and decrease at regular intervals. If you love to bead and don’t have the book yet, run to the link above and order it. You’ll be glad you did.

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So, zig zags to create a cuff bracelet. All was going well until the zigs got ziggier and the zags got zaggier and the whole cuff shrunk and was way too small to fit over my hand. Oh dear, lesson learned. Pay attention, Karen. Measure, Karen.

Moving forward, now what was I going to do with this too small cuff, I wondered. In thumbing through the book some more, I discovered that you could do some strategic weaving to pull the shape into a starfish or flower shape. Brilliant!

And a flower pin was born.

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Once I wove the zigs (or was it the zags?) together, the middle looked kinda empty so I beaded around a topaz rivoli crystal and ta-da – a sparkly flower center was born. Did I mention that you can make two layers on this type of beadwork? It gives the structure more dimension and strength.

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After all the beadwork and weaving was done, I sewed a pinback on and covered it with a small scrap of ultrasuede. I gave it to my Mom for her birthday.

And now that my Mom has received her gift and it goes perfectly on her new fall sweater, I can share it with all of you!

As always, thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more creations in Geometric Beadwork.

Saturday Morning Tea

Keemun Xiang Luo Dry Leaf 09-07-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! Change is in the air. The winds have shifted, welcoming in September with dry, cool air. As I sit and sip my tea, I watch the summer curtains dance and flutter around my windows.

I’ve chosen a dark, rich tea this morning, a China black tea called Keemun Xiang Luo, which translates to “fragrant snail”. The leaves are rolled and curled during processing, similar to the green tea called Pi Lo Chun, to resemble spiral snail shapes.

Keemun Xiang Luo Steep 09-07-13

I steeped the dark, glossy leaf for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Keemun tea is named after a county, Qimen, in Anhui province. There are several stories about its origins but the most common is one of a governmental official in the late 1800s who learned about black tea production in Fujian province and then decided to return to his native county, Qimen, to produce black tea there. He met with success and his new black tea was imported to England where it was enjoyed as a breakfast tea.

Keemun Xiang Luo Wet Leaf 09-07-13

As you can see, some of the leaf opened their accordion pleats during steeping and some stayed rolled. I detected a maltiness in the aroma as the leaves steeped, which dissipated after the tea cooled to reveal a hint of red wine and a toasty note.

Keemun Xiang Luo Teapot 09-07-13

The tea liquor gleams like dark honey in my glass teapot. The flavor is thick and rich with notes of dark cocoa, which linger in my mouth.

Keemun Xiang Luo Teabowl 09-07-13

This would be a great tea to take along to an outside fall activity, like a long walk through the woods or a football game. It’s very warming.

I’d like to wish my very dear Mom a happy birthday today. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!

“And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!”

~Audrey Hepburn