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

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Studio Wednesday – Art Projects

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A Spring nest of yarn.

With these 2 luscious skeins, I’m knitting a “Ripple” scarf, a pattern I purchased from Spincycle Yarns. The yarn in the nest is the Berroco “Seduce’ yarn I was talking about last week. Yum…

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I love the contrast in textures between the linen/silk yarn and the mohair-y wool yarn. I find myself being deeply drawn to pale blue these days.

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With this wonderful pattern, I’m learning all about “yarn overs” and how they can create a fabulous see-thru lacy look. I’m also being drawn to lacy, flowy designs.

More work on my free-form bracelet. It will be ready for the clasp very soon.

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For the past several months, I’ve been gessoing the pages of an old datebook, preparing it for transformation into an art journal. I walk by it everyday and feel its call to add color and images and words and doodles. I daydream about what I will do. Yet, I do nothing. A couple of days ago, I stumbled across the most wonderful blog called Caspiana and posts about Soul Journaling, a 22 day step by step guide to creating a soul journal. Hoo-ray! It was just what I needed to inspire and guide me to sit down with my art journal once again.

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I’ve glued down my ripped up dictionary pages and am ready to write using the prompt “Today I feel…” I’ll do that tonight. Next will be gessoing over my words and doodling my name all over the first page with colored pencils and markers.

I am joyously taking the first steps in my art journaling experience.

I stopped by the library on the way home from work and have a new pile of books to snuggle up in bed with tonight.

Opening each book and sifting through its words. That pleasure and a steaming cup of herbal tea to guide me toward sweet dreams.

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Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own. ~William Hazlitt

Saturday Morning Tea

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As I gaze outside my window, I see that it is still mid-winter and we are encased in snow and ice here on Ramble Road. However, inside my cozy house, in my cup of morning tea, it’s a different story. I am sipping the first picking from the Arya estate in Darjeeling. Lot 1 of 2009. But it’s only January, you say. Is this a first flush tea?

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Actually, it is labeled as a “winter tea”. Oh dear, and here I thought I was cheating winter a little bit with springtime in my cup. Still, it is the first 2009 Darjeeling I’m enjoying and that is cause for celebration.

The preparation for this tea began last July when select bushes were carefully pruned. This pruning process encourages the bushes to “flush” right after the monsoon season which ends in September. This is actually considered the fifth season in India besides the regular four seasons that we know of – spring, summer, autumn and winter. It is a season of intense torrential rains that can cause landslides that block the Darjeeling district off from the rest of India.

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The leaf has a lot of green bits and some stem mixed in with the darker leaf. This tea has been processed as a black tea where the leaf is allowed to oxidize and turn dark.

I steeped the leaves in water just under boiling temperature for 3 minutes.

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A soft floral whisper drifts up from the amber liquor as I take my first sip. I taste a fresh fruitiness with a hint of green, almost like a ripe fruit that holds echoes of its unfolding flavor before it ripened.

I am enjoying my cuppa with my latest favorite treat, an oatmeal raisin flax cookie from Kashi. These wonderful cookies contain all sorts of goodness and one cookie is very filling.

My shoulder continues to heal, slowly but surely, and the pain fog is starting to recede, allowing my ability to concentrate to return bit by bit.

This past week I found a sketchbook that I had purchased last summer and, in the evenings after my acupuncture treatment, I started painting the pages with Twinkling H2Os, shimmery watercolor paints. Very simple. I place swirls and washes of color on each page randomly, allowing myself to just play with the paint. In my online browsing, I discovered Teesha Moore’s website and blog. Her unique and creative art journal pages have inspired me to create my own. You can read Teesha’s tips and recommendations on how to layer the pages here. I love to have guidelines when first attempting a new art technique. Guidelines allow the spirit of experimentation and play to come out and dance. Speaking of play, I want to purchase some crayons. Teesha recommends Caran D’Ache Neocolor II crayons. I found a bunch of different sets at Dick Blick’s and they look positively scrumptious.

Dipping into my creative life once again feels like a long, cool drink of water after a journey through the desert.

Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.

~Julia Cameron