Friday, December 29, 2006

Practicing Patience

The lot closing has been pushed out again (to January 17th). Apparently, the woman selling the lot inherited it along with her sisters. One sister recently died and the other has Alzheimer's. That sister's son needs to be power-of-attorney so he can sign off on selling the lot. We continue to wait for the paperwork to be finalized. Our realtor indicates we could walk away, but we do want the lot, so we'll wait.

I'm trying very hard to be patient about this. It's very easy for me to get frustrated and think this will never happen. That does nothing but get negative thoughts brewing in my mind, unhelpful chemicals chugging through my body, and frustrated energy flowing in the universe.

Today I'm choosing to be patient. I will be patient tomorrow, too. And so on. This is not an easy one for me, but it's what I'm doing. I'm also choosing to practice non-attachment and be OK if this lot deal doesn't go through. My happiness in the world is not tied to this lot.

Thank you for your continued good wishes! I do hope we end up with the lot, but if not it will be OK. I'm definitely learning about myself with wonderful chances to put into practice qualities I want to manifest. That's the biggest benefit.

Synchronicity...or Crawl Space Teapot

Check out this narrative from a guy who found a teapot in his crawl space. It's a pretty "mind blowing" story. Hang in there though the end, as he digresses, but eventually brings it all together.
(Thanks to MT, Teamailer, for the story reference!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Cup of Christmas Tea

A Cup of Christmas Tea, by Tom Hegg

Listen to the touching poem read by the author, here.
My Mom gave me the book a few years ago. It's one of my absolute favorites.

Cookie Exchange

I attended a Christmas Cookie Exchange recently and it was very fun! Each person brought 1-2 types of cookies, and we left with a wide assortment. :-) The only problem has been not gobbling them down at one sitting.

We also had a kitchen gadget exchange. That was fun - and I came home with Bob the Builder cupcake toppers! Here are a few photos of the beautiful cookies.

The hostess's marvelous creation - gingerbread reindeer (an upside-down gingerbread man).

The lovely cookie table

My teapot shortbread cookies. Butter, sugar and flour - what could be better?

Monday, December 18, 2006

More Eco-Friendly and Socially Responsible Gift Ideas

From my last post on this topic, I had a few great suggestions from readers. Thank you!

Heifer projet
Provides animals that can support a sustainable food source (e.g., milk/eggs) to impoverished families.
  • Heifer envisions…A world of communities living together in peace and equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet.
  • Heifer’s mission is…To work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth.
  • Heifer's strategy is…To “pass on the gift.” As people share their animals’ offspring with others – along with their knowledge, resources, and skills – an expanding network of hope, dignity, and self-reliance is created that reaches around the globe.

Ten Thousand Villages
  • Ten Thousand Villages provides vital, fair income to Third World people by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America.
  • Ten Thousand Villages works with artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. This income artisans earn helps pay for food, education, health care and housing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Keeping Tea Hot

I don't like cold tea (when it's supposed to be hot). Actually, I'm luke-warm toward iced tea, too.

Here's how I keep my tea hot. It works tremendously well! It's a teapot warmer and you can find them at various tea stores and with a simple search online. I'm using a beeswax candle below because I don't like to burn the petro (regular) kind - especially near food.

Another tip: Use a small cup and pour out only a little tea at a time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Auntie Ms Tearoom

I'm very fortunate to have made the acquaintance of a group of women that enjoy traveling to area tea rooms! Last Saturday, we visited Auntie M's Tearoom in Franklin, IN (just less than an hour away from my home). Eight of us carpooled through the serpentine and very scenic Indiana backroads to our destination.

It was a sunny and temperate day, and I was struck by the beauty of the barren corn fields in the afternoon sun. That winter image of fallow fields is one that so clearly whispers to me, "Midwest." It is one of my favorite views.

The conversation on the way was very connecting. We talked about life, its joys and sorrows. It's an honor to share the truth of another person's life....and in doing so, to learn more about my own truth.

Auntie M's serves lunch and afternoon tea, and is available for special engagements. There is a small shop in the front with tea-related items and the restaurant to side/rear of the building.

We enjoyed the high tea (afternoon tea)...tea, fresh fruit, assorted sandwiches, sweet potatoe chips, and scones with jam and cream. Two items are especially worthy of comment. 1 - The sweet potatoe chips are round slices of sweet potatoes, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are incredibly yummy! 2- The scones were like none I've had before. They were cooked in muffin tins and were lighter than I'm used to having. They were also yummy.

It was a lovely afternoon and I look forward to the next one!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


A Dear Hubby's Dilemma.....

My life partner is the most environmentally-concerned person I know. I love that about him. And sometimes it makes me laugh. Take this's Tuesday Recycle Day. The recycling truck comes about 6 am. The recycling is supposed to be curbside by 5 am. Most people put out the recycling the night before. Not us.

The DH gets it ready the night before (nicely sorted into like groups) and gets up at 5 am to put out the recycling so that it doesn't blow away or get wet. (Wet cardboard is against the rules, according to the city recycling authorities.)

However, the plot thickens....we've noticed that it very often rains on Recycle Tuesdays. So, the DH doesn't put out the recycling because it would get wet. He waits, thinking there will be a break in the weather, hoping he will still be able to get it out before the truck comes. (This is now ~5:20 am.) He has been staking out the neighbor's recycle boxes -- with wet cardboard and unsorted other contents. As he waits, what does he see? The recycle truck pulls up and dumps in the neighbor's recycling. The DH has a dilemma!

To top it all off, they don't put the recycling in different bins. The DH notices they dump it all together and crush it in a plain old dump track. So, there's glass shards, wet cardboard, crushed plastic, newspaper and aluminum cans all together.

I joined the DH (commiserating on the floor of the living room) this morning. He greets me with these words, "I'm going to City Hall to find the truth. Do they really recycle, or do they take it to the landfill? And what's the deal with the wet cardboard?" It makes me laugh because this will become an adventure, I'm sure.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pecan-Stuffed Dates

I had a reader ask for the Pecan-Stuffed Date recipe that I referred to in a recent post about a tea party. This recipe is soooooo incredibly simple! It's also healthy, and I plan to include it in a recipe book that I'm preparing on healthy tea party foods.

Pecan-Stuffed Dates

Buy a bag of pecans and a bag of pitted dates (long, intact ones - not chopped).

Slice the pecans in half, lenth-wise (so that they resemble long slivers). Lightly toast over low heat.

Slice the dates in half (not-lengthwise, but like a grapefruit) so that you have two shorter segments, each with a hole through the center.

Stuff the pecan into the date. I like for the pecan to show on both ends. You can do this prep the day before serving.

About 10 minutes before serving, warm the pecan/dates over low heat. You want to soften the dates and get the sugars moving just a bit. It takes 10 minutes or less.

Serve warm. Enjoy!

I just read some not-so-great things about toasting nuts. I'm wondering if I toast them under 170-degrees, if the health benefits are retained? I also use them in cooking a lot. :-(

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tea Party Photos

I was blessed last night to be joined by six of my women friends for a tea party at my home. I was also blessed that my team covered for me the night before, so that I could prepare!

A special thanks to the DH for making the scones and all the other help.

Here are a few photos. The menu is at the bottom.

Luminarias, a carry-over from my NM days

Tea table

The centerpiece is floating cranberries and candles.


  • Savories: Pecan-stuffed dates, cucumber sandwiches with rosemary butter, dried fruit-cream cheese sandwiches, and Welsh rarebit
  • Scones: The DH's healthy scones (whole wheat, flaxseed meal, oatmeal, currants) with Devonshire cream and homemade jams
  • Sweets: Sweet stilton cheese with candied lemon peel, chocolate truffles from the Chocolate Emporium and blonde brownies

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Thief's Bounty

I'm a thief, and my team at Big Company are accomplices!

Last night, two of my sweet co-workers filled in for me! I was supposed to teach a class from 8 - 11 pm my time (to students in Asia), and two folks covered for me so that I could have the evening free. This was a very wonderful gift, as I'm preparing for a tea party at my house tonight.

I spent part of the time thieving! I took my trusty hand clippers and stole some holly branches from a bush in front of a building downtown. I am an ethical thief, if there can be such a thing. I chose carefully which branches I would remove. I only took holly branches from the back and side. No one will ever notice, I tell myself!

Here is the result of my work. If Big Company every decides to live without me, maybe I have a career with FTD Floral!

I'm calling this time last night my "Martha moment."
Here's how to create this.

1 - Go and steal some pretty branches from your neighbor's pine tree and a public holly bush. (The neighbor won't mind b/c she's coming to the tea party. The only people that might notice the missing holly are the smokers, and that's if they drop their cig and are crawling on the ground looking for it.)

2 - Dig out your cake plate and attach a Styrofoam floral ring (green) to it with florist clay.

3 - Stick the green branches around the floral ring, all facing the same direction. Think of making a crown. I found that using a blunt, rounded chopstick to poke a hole in the ring made it a lot easier to insert the branches.

4 - Add the holly berries to fill in and show color. (Did I mention that wearing gloves might be a good idea? Both the pine branches and holly are prickly!)

5 - Add more greenery to fill in the gaps.

6 - Cut a piece of green florist foam to the right height for the middle riser. (This will hold a candle.)

7 - Position a pretty candle on top of it, and stick it on the foam with double-sided tape. (So it's less likely to fall off and start a fire. This was the practical addition from the DH.)

8 - Stick pretty things in the riser block so that you don't see much of the Styrofoam.

9 - Place in an appropriate spot in your home and enjoy. Oh, and you may want to light the candle. I forgot that part for the photos!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas

I'm going to post ideas for giving holiday gifts that are kind and gentle to our planet.

This is my first post, and I'm hoping my very smart and eco-minded friends will chime in and make additional recommendations. I'll post these at least once/week between now and the big X day.

Idea #1: Adopt an Acre or a Reef
Check out the
Nature Conservancy's site that explains how you can save an acre of rain forest from development or help protect fragile coral reefs. Both start at $50. While that might be a bit pricey on a single budget for someone like your boss, I think this would make a delightful group gift!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Welsh Rarebit

I am trying out a few recipes this week, in anticipation of a small tea party I will host next week. One I tried tonight is called Welsh Rarebit. It's basically a fancy/spicy grilled cheese. Both the DH and I found it to be quite tasty. I would recommend a nice green salad as a side. See photos below.

This recipe came from the Totally Teatime Cookbook (a gift from NM Tea Lover). According to the author, "..there are unsubstantiated reports of a Welshman who returned home empty-handed from a hunting expedition - hence the grilled cheese sandwich for dinner."

This recipe makes enough for 5-6 English muffins, split into halves. It's very cheesy. Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon mustard (we used spicy mustard, and more of it)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (we used black)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 pound sharp cheddar, grated (~3 cups)
5-6 English muffins, split and toasted

Preheat your broiler.
Combine eggs with mustard, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in food processor until blended. Add cheese and process to form thick paste. Spread mixture over cut surfaces of English muffins. Place on a baking sheet under broiler, until melted and beginning to brown (about 10-12 min). We also sprinkled them with dried Parsley after they were done.

Muffins with paste, before going into broiler.

The finished Welsh Rarebit

Friday, November 24, 2006

My Woodpecker Moment

I was walking yesterday toward the site for the big Thanksgiving feast the DH was helping to prepare. (We served almost 80 people!) I was using the walk to get myself centered to deal with preparing tables and food for so many people. (It was at our church and since we're a "green" congregation, we used real dishes and flatware instead of paper/plastic.)

It was about 60 degrees, sunny and no wind. An absolutely delightful day and my walk was marvelous. I had just noticed a number of blue jays pecking around under cover of a brush pile. Then I noticed a bright red cardinal (one of my favorite birds). About this time, another bird swooped in front of me. It was a pileated woodpecker. These birds are beautiful and big! It was such a special moment! I stood there in awe for a minute.

Here are the specs on these birds. They're found in the Eastern US and along the West Coast.

  • Length: 15 inches
  • Very large (crow-sized) black and white woodpecker
  • Prominent red crest at rear of head
  • White throat
  • Entirely black body plumage at rest except a white line that extends from bill down sides of neck to upper flanks

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm Thankful For...

  • This moment - sitting on my porch with a steaming cup of ginger tea (tisane) and typing this post!
  • A patient life partner (the "DH" - dear hubby)
  • A family that loves me intensely
  • Mom, who taught me to be an independent woman
  • Technology that makes my far-away friends seem not so far away
  • Smart, efficient, creative, fun and kind co-workers
  • Health
  • Dancing (especially the Lindy Hop!)
  • Every time someone chooses to walk, bicycle, carpool or take public transit instead of driving a car
  • People who pick up their dog's poop from sidewalks, parks, other public places and especially my yard
  • That the DH is a good cook
  • Flowers
  • Do-nothing days
  • The wonderful blessing of working from home
  • Times of clarity when I can put my ego (being right) aside and focus on being happy
  • Chocolate, cheese, bread and tea
  • Afternoon runs on sunny winter days

Been Workin' Too Hard

Today when I shut my computer down, I'm committing to NOT turn it back on for work purposes until Monday morning. I need to say it and be accountable, or I'll end up sneaking a peek over the weekend. That's a slippery slope (and a danger of working from home).

I'll let ya know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Nov 24 - Buy Nothing Day

From the Buy Nothing site (Adbusters):

"Every November, for 24 hours, we remember that no one was born to shop. If you’ve never taken part in Buy Nothing Day, or if you’ve taken part in the past but haven’t really committed to doing it again, consider this: 2006 will go down as the year in which mainstream dialogue about global warming finally reached its critical mass. What better way to bring the Year of Global Warming to a close than to point in the direction of real alternatives to the unbridled consumption that has created this quagmire?"

Monday, November 20, 2006

List of Current Teas

Here is the list of my current teas. If you are interested in placing an order, send an e-mail to Teas in green are on sale.


Current List of Teas
All teas are $2.50/ounce (plus sales tax), unless otherwise noted.
All teas are from estates that have been audited for social responsibility by the
Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP).

Black Teas

  • Angel's Dream - Flavored with maple sweetness, blackberry pungency.
  • Out of stock - will be reordered in next batch. Apricot - Scented and flavored with natural apricot oil and rind.
  • Chai - Black tea flavored with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and a secret spice. Normally $2.75/oz - on sale for $2.50/oz.
  • Chocolate Mint - An after dinner tea. Chocolate mint is a base of black Ceylon that has been infused with the chocolate mint herb. Best taken solo or with a smidgen of sugar. People either love it or hate it. One customer uses as potpourri.
  • English Breakfast - Traditional British favorite. A blend of several black teas.
  • Ice Wine - Tea that is scented/flavored with Canadian Ice Wine. Heavenly with chocolate!
  • Earl Grey - This uniquely-flavored tea gets its distinctness from the natural oil of bergamot (a Mediterranean fruit).
  • Lady Londonberry - A favorite among Serendipity Teas customers! Hints of strawberry and lemon.


  • Black Currant - Intense black currant flavor. A best seller even among those who don't mind the caffeine. - $2.75/oz.

Green Teas

  • Jasmine with Flowers - A green Jasmine tea with Jasmine blossoms. One of my favorites.
  • Gen Mai Cha - Also known as popcorn tea or brown rice tea. This tea is a specialty Japanese green sencha blended with fire-toasted rice. The rice gives a nutty aroma and subtle taste to the blend.


Pu-erh tea (pronounced Pu-Air) is for serious tea drinkers! This black tea is famed for its medicinal properties. The leaves come from the Yunnan Dayeh variety of tea tree - which is purported to be closely related to the original tea tree of pre-glacial times. The tea leaves are picked, rolled, withered in the hot sun, after which they are steamed and pressed into cakes. The steaming process generates some moisture and when compressed (without drying) into the cakes, in the course of time the tea takes on a musty and earthy character. Pu-erh that gets somewhat moldy before it naturally dries is considered the best. Pu-erh is then stored for years. Interestingly, the taste of pu-erh becomes more mellow with age and perhaps more acceptable to the western palate.

  • Pu-Erh Beeng Cha - A pu-erh cake tea made from 7 layers of pu-erh and compressed. This Beeng Cha is 2 years old. - $3.00/oz.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Healthier Pie Crust

The DH has created a healthier "press-in" pie crust that I wanted to share with you. I'm anticipating a few of you will be cooking pumpkin pies over the next few days. Cooking with the DH is an experience in artistic expression. He's a very good cook; a very intuitive cook. I'm a not-so-great cook (at least that's a convenient excuse) and I'm very literal when it comes to recipes. Learning to make something that the DH has created is a bit of a challenge for me. :-) The DH patiently attempted to quantify his amounts, but these are still a bit shaky.

Here's the health scoop on this pie crust. It's made with whole wheat as its base and includes oats and flaxseed meal (heart-healthy), plus whole flax seeds (for visual appeal), sunflowers (for taste and texture) and cornmeal (for texture - can replace with whole wheat). The DH also uses olive oil instead of lard, Crisco or butter.

Don't expect your Grandma's flaky crust. Think of this as a crunchy granola base. The sunflowers add a really nice nuttiness. I actually prefer this variety over its white-flour cousin, but this variety may not be for everyone.

Below is a photo that shows the crust. We used a spring form pan for the pie so that we could remove the outer edge and feature the pretty textures in the crust. The pie looks slanted, but it's my shooting alignment that's the problem.

The DH's Healthy Pie Crust

1 + 1/8 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 + cup sunflower seeds (the plus denotes an area where the DH added a little more because he just "felt like it needed it")

1/16 cup flax seeds (whole)

1/4+ cup oats

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1/4 cup corn meal

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup milk (or soy milk or water) - may need a little extra

Mix dry ingredients well, then add oil and milk. Mix together with a fork until it's the consistency of cookie dough. May need to add a little extra milk. Form into 2 balls. Press into pie pan. If using spring form, make a wall around the edge (see photo). Add your pie filling and bake per pie instructions.


1 - The crust could easily be made Vegan by replacing the milk with soy milk or water. (The DH uses water sometimes and I can't tell the difference.)

2 - If you are using a springform pan, fit a piece of parchment paper (lightly greased) to the bottom before pressing in the pie. This will help you remove the pie from the bottom of the pan.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sunday Paper Tidbits

If you still have Sunday's paper, look closely through the national advertising flyers. There's likely a coupon for 50-cents off a box of Lipton's new pyramid teas lurking somewhere in all those flyers. The teas have landed in grocery stores here in the Midwest. Not sure about futher west. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on these teas! I've only had a chance to sample one. Will write more on my experience in the near future.

Also, in yesterday's Parade there was a discussion on the health/heart benefits of chocolate. To reap the reward to your heart, you need to consume dark chocolate that is at least 60% cocoa. I'd also recommend organic. More info on chocolate and heart health. Before you get too excited, remember that chocolate packs a very high caloric value for its weight. So think in terms of small bites - one small piece of dark chocolate a day!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Choose Your Chocolate Well

"After cotton, cocoa is the most heavily sprayed crop on the planet. It's responsible for an awful lot of the Lindane and DDT that ends up in the atmosphere and rains down on us." -- Body + Soul magazine, Oct. 2006, pg. 24.

Choose organic chocolate. It's better for you; it's better for the world. My sister tells me she can find Dove organic chocolate even in the middle of the rural Midwest.

My favorite brands are Green & Black's and Endangered Species chocolate. Endangered Species recently moved its headquarters to Indianapolis. The company used green building practices in the construction of its facility.

Perennial Tea Room

I'm still blogging about my Seattle trip!

One of the absolute highlights of the trip was discovering the Perennial Tea Room.
Thanks to Cup of Tea and a Blog for the recommendation! Your Tea in Seattle guide was fabulous!

The Perennial Tea Room is in the Post Alley area of the Pike Place Market (1910 Post Alley). It's a beautiful store! I had a great cup of Makaibari Estate Second Flush Darjeeling tea while I browsed through the book I purchased on reading tea leaves.

I had a great time chatting with one of the owners as she told me the history of her affair with tea and the evolution of the business. I also enjoyed meeting the creator of the Tea Geek website and came home with a "tea shirt."

If you find yourself in Seattle, this is a great place to visit! I hope to make it back there some day!

Cherry Blossoms Image

The image I've got posted in my profile is the cherry blossom stamp that is on my newly refinished desk.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Crumpet Shop

Back to my Seattle trip... You know, on a side note, blogging about the trip is a great way to re-live the experience!

One of the places I sought out at the Pike Place Market was The Crumpet Shop.

I have become a crumpet-lover! I'd never had fresh crumpets before, and they are marvelous! They're kinda like an English Muffin, but not really. The bottom is crispy, and the top is soft and melts in your mouth. It's full of bubbly holes from the yeast used in the batter. Marvelous!

The first day at the Crumpet Shop, I had lunch. I enjoyed a crumpet topped with cream cheese, salmon, and an egg.

Appropriately, the Crumpet Shop also serves tea - and I mean very nice, loose-leaf teas! On my last day in Seattle, I got up at 7 am so I could make my way down to the store and have one more crumpet before I left. I had a crumpet with butter and honey, and a lovely Tie Kuan Yin tea. (This is a high-quality oolong tea, this version is very lightly oxidized.) The store offers unlimited refills on the tea (hot water for your loose leaves).

The Crumpet Shop has been in business since 1976, tho not always under the same name. It started out as "United Metropolitan Improved Crumpet Baking & Punctual Deliver Company". According to the shop's paper bag, customers simply called it "The Crumpet Shop." So, they changed the name to "English "T" Crumpets". Once again, customers called it "The Crumpet Shop" and that is where the name lays today.

I came home with 3 bags of crumpets, one to share and two for the DH and me! YUM!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Day of the Dead Thinking

I am intrigued by the Mexican celebration of Day of the Dead. I began to learn about this tradition while living in New Mexico, and have continued to learn of it in bits and pieces since then. For example, there is a store in town that carries miscellaneous Day of the Dead items.

Some people assume Day of the Dead is like Halloween, but it's not. Halloween focuses on being "afraid" of the dead. Ghosts and skeletons are supposed to be scary. Day of the Dead celebrates our ancestors and welcomes their spirits with a party.

Coming from the rural Midwest, with very little ethnic diversity, it takes deep curiosity and a resistance to fear to explore the Day of the Dead. At least it did for me. The fear part is that the concepts, initially, seem so strange. Decorating gravestones and having fiestas to honor the dead? In reality, it's not so different from our Memorial Day. However, I would suggest that Day of the Dead ceremonies are a lot more fun - probably more sincere. The families spend time together remembering those who have transitioned. The families remember details: favorite songs, favorite foods, words of wisdom.

I think Day of the Dead celebrations will become more common in the US, as the distribution of ethnicities is changing dramatically. I think this is a good thing, and I look forward to learning more!

Day of the Dead starts on Nov. 1, a day to remember the children that have died. Then on Nov 2, all of those gone before us are remembered. Here is a little of what I will remember about my family:

  • My Father - His words and love for words, his bravery for starting his own business, our long horse rides together, his dreams
  • My Grandma Tressie - Her devotion to family, her independence, her hands, her many skills, her rolls, "oh, shaw!"
  • My Great Grandmother Shelton - Her energy, her nickname for me (snooky), her marigolds and her noodles
  • My great grandmother Edith - Her sense of humor, that she chose to live life on her own terms, her ticklish kisses

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pike Place Market

On Day Two of the trip (Saturday), I walked down to Pike Place Market. This is one of the most famous sites in Seattle, of course second to the Space Needle. I had such beautiful weather, and the market was really busy! It had wonderful art and craft vendors, vegetable growers, fishmongers, and floral arrangements. The flowers featured below are dahlias and ornamental kale. One of the fish vendors actually throws fish around, but I never got to witness that exciting event.

Just to show that I really was in Seattle, here is the Space Needle. I took this photo on the walk down to the market from my B/B. And I mean DOWN! I stayed at the top of Capital Hill, and it's downhill the entire way to the market. Notice the poster on the left called Bodies? This is an art/science exhibit. I didn't go, but now wish I had. A guy in Europe figured out how to plasticize the human body and it's touring around. The DH would have loved it. It made me think of my friend, John, who is in nursing school. Probably would be an interesting field trip! More info on Bodies the Exhibition. It's being shown in Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas and New York.

Sorrento Tea

So, here's me at the Sorrento - in the Fireside Room having tea.

Sometimes blogspot is frustrating! I tried about 5 times to get this photo into my last post, but no luck.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seattle Tea Vaca - Day 1

I recently took a "tea trip" to Seattle. I had a free SW ticket to use by Nov 1, and have always wanted to go to Seattle. It was a solo trip, which gave me the freedom to center the entire thing around tea. :-)

I landed midday on Friday and made my way to the Bacon Mansion B/B. My room was so cool - literally, in a dormer in the attic! I love slanted walls as they remind me of my childhood room. The room was perfect for me! Check out the cute door to the closet. The main door looked this way, too.

After I was settled, I went for a walk. Not even 2 blocks away was Volunteer Park. I visited the park Conservatory. I love the integration of human-made physical things, like this bell, into the conservatory plant space. For me, this added an experience of contrasts and similarities. The hard, shiny surface of the bell and the soft, delicate petals of the flowers. But they blend beautifully.

Later that afternoon, I walked through the Capital Hill/Broadway area (on my way to Afternoon Tea). The Capital Hill/Broadway shopping area is very trendy and a great place to observe human differences. All types of people were through here - working folks in costumes of all kinds (from designer suits to mechanic jumpers), young girls with pink hair, old women with blue hair. It's all here! One of the best things, for me, was that this shopping district was only about 3 blocks from where I stayed, through a well-lit and safe neighborhood. This meant I felt safe walking there alone at night.

I had Afternoon Tea on this Friday at the Sorrento Hotel. I sat in the Fireside room. The Sorrento served Mighty Leaf Teas in a silk triangle (but flat) bag. I had the "Leaves of Provence," a black tea blended with the Herbs de Provence mixture. It was a decent tea, but it didn't seem to take the second steeping too well.

The menu:

Savories (finger sandwiches)
  • Smoked salmon roulade
  • Mint chicken apple sandwich
  • Celery root salad in a cucumber cup
  • Apple wood smoked ham sandwich


  • The biggest scone I've ever seen! It covered almost the entire dessert plate! The scone had dried cherries and apricots (entire ones) in it. While the size was impressive, I think smaller ones might have actually been a better choice, as the middle wasn't completely cooked through.
  • Served with a yummy and tart Devonshire cream (a tangy whipped cream)

Dessert (which I took most of with me to eat later)

  • Blackberry fruit tartlet
  • Cream puff filled with a Bavarian-cream like center and topped with whipped cream
  • Petit four
  • Cookie assortment (tiny little cookies): shortbread, walnut, madeleines, etc.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Deep Minutes

One of the first signs that I'm not centered and need to get that way is when I am scattered and forget things. This happened today. I forgot a phone call chat that I have regularly with a dear friend. Whenever I'm under a lot of emotional strain, I tend to forget things like this. (We said farewell to my boss today and that was sad, plus a few other work things worthy of a Dilbert cartoon in the funniest/saddest way had distracted me.)

The message for me is to slow down and get myself centered, even in the midst of chaos. The DH recently described something he heard on a radio program. It's called a "Deep Minute." The guy, whose name I don't recall, said that asking people to jump into longer periods of meditation without baby step practice likely leads to frustration and abandonment of the meditation practice. The concept of a Deep Minute is to take one minute once a day and get centered - close your eyes and breathe deeply. Then, slowly work more of these into the day.

I want to incorporate this into my life. The sitting still type of meditation is very hard for me. (I'm more of a moving meditator.) But I think I can do one minute -- and who knows, with practice, maybe even more! Part of the tape playing in my head needs to change. I tell myself I don't have time. But who doesn't have time for one minute? I can think of very, very few things in my life that cannot wait one minute.

Had I taken a minute to center myself today, perhaps I wouldn't have neglected my appointment with my friend!

I'm flying out tomorrow for a long weekend in Seattle. I'm going solo (and I enjoy solo travel). I think this will be a refreshing experience for me. New sights, sounds and experiences always help to remind me that there's a bigger world than Stephanie's personal dramas. :-) Plus, it will be a time to get myself centered. Watch for Seattle photos and tea stories in the near future.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tea at Columbus Inn

A group of friends recently had tea at the Columbus Inn. Tea room info can be found here. The tea room is called Empire Tea Services and is available for afternoon tea parties (6 or more, resv. required).

It was a great time in celebration of the birthday of the gal at the head of the table. Here are some photos from the day. Enjoy!

Finger sandwiches included:
Roast beef, smoked turkey, salmon, cucumber, and asparagus

Desserts included:

Lemon cake, poppyseed bread, cream puffs, chocolate cherry cake, chocolate torte.

We also sampled three different teas. One was a nice Black Currant (serendipitous because that's a favorite for the b-day girl!) and another was called Snow Berry.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


To my friends at work who've been impacted through all of the craziness going on (and that's all of us)....know this:

If you want to celebrate, then I'll pour you a drink
If you want to cry, my shoulder is open
If you want to cuss and hurl things, I'll make a dart board with a big blue swoosh on it
If you want do all three, then it sounds like a great party! :-)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Cool Desk

The DH (dear hubby) and I have been working on refinishing my work desk and it's finally done!! Wahoo!

Background: I purchased the desk at a thrift store for ~$7. I was on a quest to find a desk that actually fits me. I think this is a child's desk, but it fits! The other benefit is that, by being small, it prevents me from stacking up a bunch of crap on it!

The original desk was a natural wood color, but had lots of dents and dings. It had been well used. The front had serious veneer peeling, which the DH fixed with wood puddy (several coats) and lots of sanding. I filled and sanded the scars on the main body.

The light spots indicate blemishes that we've filled with wood puddy, which then has to be sanded (and sanded and sanded) to make it smooth. I used a power sander, but lots of edges and curves had to be hand sanded.

Here's the finished product! The inside drawers are red, along with the drawer pulls and the inside panel of the desk. The red/black color theme matches the Asian decor in my office.

The red drawers make me smile when I open them. It's like a surprise flash of color.

I used a stamp to add three red cherry blossom imprints to the desk. One on the desk surface, one on the front panel and one on the side panel. You can't see those because I couldn't get the photo to load after multiple attempts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Drinking Tea May Lower Stress

I've always known this quote is true:
"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea."
- Bernard-Paul Heroux

A recent article published in Psychopharmacology journal indicates that drinking tea (black tea) contributes to lower stress levels. Green tea was not tested. Read the abstract to learn more.

From the conclusion statement: "Compared with placebo, 6 weeks of tea consumption leads to lower post-stress cortisol and greater subjective relaxation, together with reduced platelet activation. Black tea may have health benefits in part by aiding stress recovery."

Having an interest in good research, I must point out that the study was funded by some pretty neutral-sounding organizations (like the British Heart Foundation). At the same time, partial funding came from Unilever - which owns Lipton Teas.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I had a very spiritual experience this morning. The DH and I were walking downtown for an early breakfast. It was about 6:45 am, still dark. As we passed over the bridge near our house, we looked over our right shoulders (to the West) and saw an incredibly large and full moon - directly at the end of our street. It was one of those, "be quiet and observe" moments. We had the good fortune of repeating the same experiece a few streets later. It was awesome, in the most literal sense.

It's been a day of contemplation for me. I was browsing through a local gift store and found this great pendant of a woman holding the moon above her head. It was very symbolic of the morning's experience. It reminded me of the value of the female perspective that is so masked and devalued in many societies. My hope is that women (and men) will raise our voices and put a stop to violence, aggression, domination and fear.

I've recently stumbled onto this great quote:

"One day we may all owe our survival to subversive women." I pray that it is so and that I may be subversive enough to speak my truth. You, too (men included!).

I think a cup of pu-erh tea is in my near future. It's an aged tea and it is purported to bring one deep into her roots. And, by the way, I think I'm a feminist - if that wasn't obvious. :-) Not an "I hate men" person - but a woman who demands that women and men be valued equally for thier gifts.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pleasures and Pain

I am sitting on my front porch. It's an Indian Summer - warm now at 80-degrees, with a light breeze. Last week was much cooler. I'm working - tho this is a small (5 minute) diversion. It's so lovely out here. I hear the wind chime and the birds. I see our fall flowers. I am grateful for all the abundance I've been given.

It's a tough time at work now. The layoffs are hitting close to home and today I found out about two people that I admire greatly who are being let go. Good people, bright and dedicated. It's tough on me. I feel tired and sad. Yet, this also reminds me to focus on the gifts of each day. Like the pleasures of sitting on this porch.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

World Vegetarian Day

Oct 1 is World Vegetarian Day. The DH and I call ourselves "meat-eating vegetarians." We're not vegetarian 100% of the time, tho we are most of the time....and it increases as I become more conscious of my food choices. I choose to eat a predominant vegetarian diet because of the health benefits, but beyond that, the sustainability benefits to our plant. It takes many-fold the amount of resources to eat beef than to eat vegetables. And when I do eat meat, I do so consciously and with gratitude. When I eat beef or pork, I prefer to do so at my parents' home, because I know that the animal was locally grown and given sunlight, grass and space.

I am attending a vegetarian potluck tonight. Here is what I will take.
Wilted Kale
(recipe from the DH)
Two big handfuls of Kale (grown outside my back door)
2 tablespoons (or more) sunflowers (unsalted), toasted
1/2 red onion
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Toast the sunflower seeds. Sautee the onions (sliced) in some olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Wilt the kale by steaming. Toss with the onions and olive oil. Splash in a little balsamic vinegar, to taste. Add in the sunflower seeds and serve warm.

This recipe reminds me of my grandmother's wilted lettuce, which I love. However, this recipe is missing the bacon grease. :-)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lipton Pyramid Teas

You know, Lipton has a bad reputation in the US among the "tea snobs." It's a reputation that is just on one hand, and not-so on the other. On the just side, the quality of tea in a Lipton tea bag is pretty crummy. However, folks in the US have been drinking Lipton tea (mostly iced) for a long time, and are used to that flavor. So, if it works for you, keep it up!

Lipton started as a purveyor of fine teas over 100 years ago, and slowly degraded its product (in the US) to be cost-competitive. In other markets, Lipton has retained higher-quality teas. In fact, a friend who recently visited Asia reported that Lipton sold loose teas there. Another friend sent me a recent newspaper clipping from the NY Times that spoke of Liptons re-entry into the high-quality tea market in the US with its "Pyramid Teas."

Pyramid teas aren't unique to Lipton. Other companies, such as Revolution, Harney & Sons, etc., have already been releasing high-quality teas in pyramid-shaped mesh bags. The idea is to combine the portability of the tea bag with the desire for high-quality, long-leaf tea. The pyramid shape also gives room for the "agony of the leaf" - the unfurling and expansion of the leaf that is necessary for a good cup. I think the pyramid tea bag does a pretty good job, and is especially convenient for traveling.

I haven't had the chance to try a Lipton Pyramid teabag yet. The one thing I wonder about is their flavoring...will it be natural or synthetic? Time will tell. There are 6 varieties being offered, all flavored except for one.

The big kickoff events for the US are underway. In NY, next Wednesday, Oct 4, Lipton is hosting a "Gen Art" party to showcase the pyramids. Never heard of a "Gen Art" party, but then I live outside of most media streams.

I'm not sure when the Lipton Pyramid Teas will hit stores. When you see one in your area, let me know. I'd enjoy your review.

To read more, check out Lipton's Pyramid Tea website. It's a snazzy little site.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

I don't cook much, but I do love to make bread. It's a very therapeutic process for me. When I was on vacation last week, I made a batch of Honey Wheat Bread (whole wheat) that was very yummy!

Here's the recipe:

3 cups warm water
2 cakes yeast (or 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup honey
6-7 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt (I didn't use this)

Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Allow 5 minutes for the yeast to start to bubble. Stir in the honey, 3 cups of the flour, the oil and salt (optional). Stir this mixture by hand until smooth.

Slowly add the remaining flour (3 cups), cup by cup, until the dough becomes easy to handle. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and satiny. Use more flour if the dough is sticky (that extra cup of flour).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour). When doubled, remove the dough and "punch" it down. Divide into 2 parts and shape into loaves. Place into 2 greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again until doubles in volume.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until the top is well browned. Remove from pans to cool.

* Bread made with honey stays fresh longer than bread baked with sugar.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hot Stone Massage

My sister runs Practical Magic Day Spa in Salem, IL. It's a marvelous place and I think everyone deserves a trip there!

I visited recently, and she gave me a hot stone massage and facial. It was really cool! This photo is from the facial part. The different colored stones correspond with the colors of the chakras and are used to align the chakras. During the facial, she alternates rubbing the face with hot (warm) and then cold stones. It's quite refreshing! I would recommend this!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Flower Survey

Yesterday was the DH's birthday. To celebrate, I will share some photos of the flowers in our garden right now. Enjoy!

Mexican sunflower with monarch butterfly. The butterflies love this flower!

Fall-blooming hostas (they like shade).

Fancy Coxcomb. These dry very well; I'm about ready to harvest this one.

Brown-eyed Susans

Cleome - these things are so cool! They look like aliens to me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Matcha and Japanese Tea Ceremony

I'm playing around with matcha tea these days. Matcha is powdered green tea, traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. The color is incredible - very vibrant green. Here's how to make a cup of matcha.
(If you dont' have a bamboo whisk, you can use a wire one.)

Here's a great summary of the Japanese Tea Ceremony:
I particularly like the gesture of humility - stooping to enter the tea room.

I had the great fortune to observe a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Albuquerque a few years ago. The instructor had studied under a tea master in Japan for a long time. She taught a class via SEED. If it's still being offered, it's worth attending!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Swing Dance Video

Check out this really cool swing dance video! It's from the swing dance club that the DH (dear hubbie) and I are members of. We are not in this video. We might have been able to hang in there, but only b/c it's a choreographed routine. This is pretty advanced dancing! These folks are great!

In this video, you'll see a variety of dancing, including: East-Cost Swing (6-count), Lindy Hop (8-count), Charleston, and individual jazz dancing.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

If you like dark comedy, this is one movie to add to your list. Thanks to my friend KV for the recommendation! I laughed, I cried, I laughed more until I cried. It's funny, irreverant and poignant.

Here's Roger Ebert's review.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Travel Tea Kettle

I recently had a chance to use the Bodum Ibis mini kettle (electric hot water boiler) I purchased several months ago in CA. I'd been looking for a travel kettle that would pack nicely, and this one does it! It's pretty flat, so it fits well in a suit case. It boils enough water for about 3 cups at a time. (The reason I needed this kettle is that I cannot stand the taste of hot water out of a coffee pot...even when no coffee is involved. The coffee flavor penetrates the water and hotel pots are the worst!)

By the way, I purchased this at an incredible tea store in Folsom, CA. Hina's Tea & Sympathy. 1004 E. Bidwell (in the parking lot area, near Trader Joe's). If you're ever in Folsom, check it out. I think Hina is also starting a tea bar in Old Town Sacramento.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Big Fish Stories...

I recently spent a weekend at Rend Lake with my family. We did some walking on trails, fishing, lounging, more fishing and boat rides, and lots of relaxation! Here's my mom, catching the big one!

All that work and this was what she caught! :-)

I, however, didn't catch anything!

Goofing around. The DH, my sis and my mom.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

High School Photos

Here's some high school photos for those of you who've been asking. :-) I will attend my high school class reunion this Saturday night - 15 years. Wow.

This is my Sr. photo. These were the days of big hair and guns-n-roses. :-)

This photo is of me and Sasco Rocket. One of the most beautiful animals ever, in my humble opinion. My Dad and I started his training together. When my Dad passed away, I continued it with help from my Mom and dear friends Besty, Mike and Barney and Anne. Sasco was a tempermental animal, but when he was "on" he was really on! Selling him was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but it was a lesson in letting go. He helped pay for college. I miss him!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Cereal Saga

It started last week, when I was explaining to my team at work about my excitement of going to the Cereal Barn, a new restaurant in town. The Cereal Barn offers 30 different types of cereals. You can mix and match. Plus, they have "mix-ins"....fruit, nuts, granola and sadly, even candy. They also offer PB&J sandwiches with freshly-ground peanut butter. I was planning to visit the Cereal Barn last week, but didn't make it. I was excited b/c we're not big cereal eaters around here. Our cereal adventures tend to stick with the healthy kind - grapenuts being the favorite. The DH does make a lot of oatmeal...the chewy steel-cut kind.

So, all this build up with the Cereal Barn discussion.....then the "grapenuts incident" yesterday. :-) I was closing up a box of grapenuts, and I was smooshing the air out of the bag. I happened to move my head over the box at the same time, and I poofed a bunch of grapenuts dust into my eye. It really hurt! I rinsed my eye and didn't think much of it until ~30 min later when I looked in the mirror. My cornea was really swollen. It scared me, so I was diligent yesterday about icing my eye on a regular basis. That seemed to do the trick, and my eye is pretty much back to normal today.

Well, to round out this story, we did walk to the Cereal Barn this morning. I had a small bowl with Corn Flakes/Life cereal and strawberries/walnuts as add-ins. (The basic bowl includes 2 cereals and 2 mix-ins.) The DH had grapenuts (the nerve!) and honey grahams, with bananas and strawberries. We split a PB&J with honey-roasted nuts and orange marmalade. I thought it was great fun, but the DH wasn't all that impressed. His comment: "I could make this at home." Very true, except that we never buy Corn Flakes or Honey Grahams! >-)