Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Gift Giving

'Tis the season of gift giving and receiving.  I enjoy both, I think most of us do.  Truthfully, I like this best when it's at unexpected times.  Nonetheless, we all find ourselves giving gifts or receiving them at prescribed intervals.  It can be a little maddening on top of the enjoyment.

I've been refining my gift-giving philosophy.  Here are a few of my guidelines.  What are yours?
  • Am I giving from a place of joy?  If not, then something has to change. I have cut back deeply on obligation gifting in favor of  giving with more thought and heart.  
  • Am I in a gifting pattern that is no longer necessary? Some long-time friends and I made the agreement a few years ago to stop the annual Christmas gift exchange.  It had become a habit, but none of us needed the stuff.  Instead, we spend time together.
  • Can I make a gift this person would appreciate?  Or can I give something made locally?
  • Can I give an experience (rather than another thing)?
  • Is this something that I think the person will love?  (I try to avoid "generic" gifts when possible.  A tea suited to the person's tastes or personality is always an awesome gift!)
  • I'm learning that the wrapping and unwrapping of something is half the fun!  The Japanese understand this well.  I'm not a neat corner-folder-wrapper, but I am creative so I go with that.
On the flip side, there is a skill to receiving gifts, as well - and gently directing what you'll receive from those closest to you.
  • The Dear Hubby (DH) and I seldom exchange gifts for the big holidays.  Instead, we share little surprises throughout the year.  On the "big days" we favor spending time together in a special way. If one of us really wants a thing, we make a specific request.  This took me a bit to wrap my head around in our early days, but the DH and I are both much happier with a specific list!
  • I also give Mom a list.  Thank you, Mom, for all of your generosity.
  • I am appreciative of any gift I receive (even the odd ones!) and write a thank-you note.  There is grace in practicing gratitude.

I hope your holiday gifting and receiving season brings you joy.  Do you have tips to share?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Morning

A suspended morning
  The fountain sings
       I've been home-making
         I am happy

A morning alone 
   The sun shines on my face
      I've been drinking tea slowly
         I am content

Morning today
   The raindrop glitters
      I've been writing messily
         I am

Saturday Morning:  A poem I wrote recently
The tea shown is King of the Forest Sheng Pu-erh from Global Tea Hut

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Revisiting St. James Tearoom (Albuquerque)

I recently had the opportunity to revisit the St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque, NM.  It's my favorite tearoom in large part due to the emphasis on well-made tea, excellent and creative food, and the superior service.  And also for sentimental reasons.  Over many cups of tea at the St. James I have dreamed, nurtured friendships, celebrated and even cried.  It was here that my friends bid me farewell from NM 10 years ago and it is here that I return whenever I'm in the Land of Enchantment.

Here's a tour and I hope you enjoy!

Above: The portal to a world of beauty.  Below:  The hallway that leads to the tea nooks.  I really like this hallway, especially the light with the directional signs.

You can choose a hat along the way.

This little welcome card awaited us.  Thoughtful small touches like this make a big impact.

In addition to lovely traditional china cups and saucers, the St. James now has its own custom china. Each cup and saucer showcases one of the St. James values with words like beauty, civility and excellence.

My dear friends who gathered for tea.

The Chronicles of Narnia provided the inspiration for this month's menu. It's worth noting, the St. James has provided a gluten-free option for afternoon tea since long before it was mainstream.  The gluten free menu is lovingly prepared and as substantial as the 'main' menu.  

Savories: Alsan's turkey apple pate, Pevensie's parsnip pear latke, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's cottage pie, Magical wild rice and butternut squash.  Served with Sir Philip Sidney traditional black tea.

Scones: The amazing St. James cream scones (the best, according to me!) and Professor Digory's apple scones,  with apple curd and clotted cream.  Served with Caramel Delights scented tea.

Sweets: Upside down chocolate nut cake, the White Witch's cranberry compote pavlova and chai custard ice cream with chocolate spice cookie. Served with Charleston green tea.

My heart is full of warmth and fond memories from my visit to this special place with special friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Days in the Desert

I haven't blogged for a week as I've been in the desert, nourishing my soul. I spent time there with women from this amazing community:  Women Writing for (a) Change, Bloomington.

 In fact, we've been basking in the sun in Georgia O'Keeffe's desert at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM.  In the photo above, the flat topped mesa toward the right is called Pedernal, but it's also known as Georgia's Mountain because she painted it regularly and her ashes were scattered there.

Time to write, time to hike and time to go horseback riding.  Life is good!  Socks was my trusty steed.

On the last day, three women and I set out on a sunrise hike to Chimney Rock.  It may sound like a cliché, but it truly was a spiritual experience hiking with the sun, greeting the moon and climbing to the top where we whooped with joy and then offered our gratitude and prayers.  

Joy in the beginning
Joy throughout 
Joy in the end

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Toasting Spices for Cider

Cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and star anise

It's apple cider season and I love this annual treat!  My favorite way to drink it is spiced, and I use my recipe for chai spices, shown above, along with coriander and fresh ginger if I happen to have them. I go heavy on the black pepper.  And here's the secret:  Toast the spices in a dry skillet and then crush them (in big pieces) in a mortar and pestle.  Place them into a cheese cloth and simmer in the cider for at least 20 minutes.  Aaahhh.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tea and Toast for Halloween

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

Happy Halloween!

I do love this day of imagination, playfulness and embracing childhood delight.  I also love the reverent side, the Day of the Dead observations and family remembrances.  I recall with fondness my time in New Mexico, seeing the graveyards decorated and people spending time there to honor loved ones that have passed.  May we all find both sides of our spirits today.

A little more fun...

From The Nightmare Before Christmas

"Dr. Finkelstein:  
That's twice this month you've slipped deadly nightshade into my tea and run off.  

Sally:  Three times.  

Dr. Finkelstein:  You're mine, you know!  I made you with my own hands."

And this one:

"Doctor, I made your favorite brew, just the way you like it - six ounces of lemon tea, and three-quarters of an ounce of frog's breath, plus three-quarters of an ounce of worm's wort!  And I definitely did not add three-quarters of an ounce of deadly nightshade."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Hundred Indecisions and Revisions

Meet Ribbit, my newest tea pet

Ribbit was given to me by a sweet and generous tea friend.  He's a tiny little guy - the scale is misleading in this photo because the teacup is also tiny.  He's the size of a pebble and he's adorable!  Small but mighty, he is. Ribbit and I have been doing some thinking and talking together.  We've discussed this poem:

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea.
    ~ T.S. Eliot

It's amazing to me how the poems I need find their ways to me at the right time. I've needed this poem.  

Aforementioned friend and a few other precious ones are helping me with a special tea project which has been brewing in my head and heart for 9 months.  Interesting timing.  :-)  I've been making a hundred indecisions and a hundred visions and revisions.  

I've learned about giving space to those hundred indecisions and revisions.  I'm normally a tackle and resolve sort of person when it comes to getting a project done.  This project is demanding its own time table and my patience.  It's requiring me to soul search and that was unexpected, but in the end rewarding.   I'm learning a lot, yes I am.