Saturday, September 29, 2007

Braggin' Rights

I've got two reasons to brag today:

#1 - I just became an Aunt on my side of the family. Welcome baby Lola!

#2 - I just ran a personal best in a 5K race. I got 2nd place in my age group (as did the DH, who left me in the dust). My time was 22:06 and I was really happy with it because the course was tough. The race had 5,000 participants (not all in the 5K run) and was a fundraiser for the local cancer center. I wore a tag in memory of my father.

I tried a new pre-race tactic: I had a cup of strong black tea about an hour before the race. I had read about athletes seeing positive results from drinking colas. Just the thought of putting a soda in my belly before race time is enough to make me queasy, but it made me wonder about tea. Who knows if it was the tea or those dang hill repeats the DH has been merciless about each Tuesday morning, but I did well today!
That's me, giving you the peace sign. But I did also get 2nd place in my age group. I suppose I could be showing off. LOL (laughing out loud)!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fall Has Fell, Finally!

I'm doing the happy dance, a rain dance! We FINALLY have cooler temps and rain. It has been a hot, dry autumn. Relief!

The persimmons are dropping. Have you ever eaten a raw persimmon? I'd love to hear your experience. I find raw persimmons to be very, very sweet and mushy. I like them, tho I like them even better cooked up in persimmon puddings.

Persimmon photo from Corbis

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Blog Elements

I've added a few new blog elements:

* A survey on the right (temporary)
* A listing of labels (Tea, Simplify, Garden, etc.) so that you can sort blog posts by topic
* The ability to compress the blog archive up to only 3 links (by year); click on the triangle

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stream Cliff Farm and Tea Room

I had a lovely outing yesterday, with a group of really fun women, to the Stream Cliff Farm and Tea Room.

Here are my lovely travel companions.

Stream Cliff Farm grows herbs, annuals and perennials. Grab a Radio Flyer wagon to hold your treasures as you shop!

The day was unseasonably warm for this late in September, and we enjoyed the shade as we walked through the different gardens.

Each garden has a theme. My favorite among favorites was the fairy garden.

The tearoom setting was lovely. We sat next to the windows that looked out into the rows of plants for sale. So tempting! We each had our own pot of tea.

The food was tasty and artfully presented, with lots of flowers and herbs from the grounds. That was a highlight for me!

If you go (and I suggest you do!), I recommend keeping the following two things in mind:

1 - Ask for boiling water when you order your tea (unless you are ordering a green tea). I have a suspicion our hot water was drawn from a hot water urn or a coffee tap, because it wasn't hot enough to properly steep the tea. Tea rooms - I can't emphasize this enough - you must purchase quality tea (which this tea room did) and serve it correctly (boiling water for hot tea)!

2 - The food was delicious and beautiful. The portions were a bit smaller than we'd been used to in our other outings. However, I had no concerns about this because the price was also proportionally less. (For example, we'd paid double this price at a tea room in Indianapolis.) So, have a snack before you go or get a cup of soup to accompany your tea.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making Space

I am making space in my life, both emotionally and physically. The two are so intertwined for me in this instance I cannot - or will not - separate them.

The DH and I are talking about adventures - what we might possibly do if we had the time. The possibilities are exciting and numerous. And they sometimes push me to my edge. To look over the edge and dream, and then to see those dreams as reality, I have to make space for new possibilities and opportunities in my life. This process of releasing the old and welcoming the new happens emotionally and physically for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Purpose of This Blog

I've had some interesting conversations with various folks over the last few weeks and they all relate, in one way or another, to this blog. I thought I'd share with you why I write this blog:

1. To stay in touch with friends and family.
2. To share my passion for tea.
3. To encourage myself (and hopefully others) as I try to live simply, consciously and lightly on the earth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maple Sugar Candy

A good friend (AZ Tea Lover) sent me some maple sugar candy from the Adirondack Mountains.

It was so delicious! I loved to take a little nibble and then a sip of hot tea and let the candy melt on my tongue. Heaven! The rich sweetness of the maple candy melds perfectly with a strong black tea.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tea Blog List

Tea Guy Speaks has compiled the most complete list of tea blogs I've seen. There are many of us blogging about tea! What I appreciate is that each has a unique perspective. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Farmer's Market

I've blogged before about how much I love the farmer's market where I live! The fall produce is here, and it entices all my senses.

Sight: The colors of the squash, fall flowers, corn, kale and chard are vibrant.
Sound: Walk through the market and hear musicians playing everything from bluegrass, blues, a symphony and an ehru.
Taste: Attend on a tasting day and you're in for an explosion on your tongue! The apple tasting is coming soon.
Touch: I run my hand over the textures of the various squash, melons, and gourds. Bumpy, smooth, rough, prickly.
Smell: The aromas of fall are here - decaying leaves, the kettle corn, the smell of the melons and squash.

Supporting the farmers and growers in your area is one of the best things you can do from many perspectives:
  • Money goes to your neighbors, the local farmers. Most of them are small, independent (not owned by an agri-corp), family farms. Many of them practice sustainable agriculture.
  • The travel distance is short, saving petro, reducing pollution, and increasing the nutritional value of your food.
  • Looking into the faces of the people who grow your food is a special thing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Few Tea-Related Links...

On the same theme as my previous post, Martha Stewart offers tips for creating personal tea ceremonies.

I stumbled across this interview with Tea Blender Giles Hilton of Whittard of Chelsea. From NPR's Living on Earth series.

I've been enjoying this tea-related blog: Tea Guy Speaks.

Here is a great article by Jane Pettigrew (for Adagio) on tea dances.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Over-Steeped the Tea

I make tea almost daily. I enjoy the comfortable ritual. On the surface, the process is simple and requires few necessities: water, a heat source, tea leaves and brewing vessels. Yet in the making of tea, I have a connection to ancient history, religious purification, diverse cultural rites, times of war, hopes for peace, social graces, class snobberies, a revolution, an investment in health, my own family background and this moment as it forms around me.

I over-steeped the tea today. Viewed from the outside, this event falls within a day's minor concerns. But I know better. When I over-steep the tea, it means I am distracted. I have stolen a moment of rest from myself. The making of tea is as much the gift as the beverage.

When I begin, I think carefully about what tea I will brew. What matches my mood? What does the day call for? Then I assemble the brewing tools. As the water heats, I choose my cup and saucer. And then, when I am kind to myself, I wait. I practice breathing and suspend my active mind. I look into this fire and see the fires that have boiled the water for millennia. I make the tea and wait again as it steeps. I find the power in waiting.

And sometimes I over-steep the tea.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Zhena's Gypsy Tea

I picked up a canister of Zhena's Gypsy Tea (Organic Breakfast Bliss) at TJ Maxx recently. I'm happy to report it makes a fine brew.

The tea was on clearance. The price was the same as what I would pay wholesale, so I decided to give the tea a try. A friend had recently given me a newspaper clipping about Zhena and her story of tea. It is interesting. She also has a blog. I admire that her teas are organic and fair-trade.

The canister was well-sealed (airtight), and that's an important consideration if you're looking to buy tea at TJ Maxx or other discount retailers. I have had good luck buying black tea when it is sealed properly and kept away from sunlight. Under these conditions, black tea will keep for at least a year (I've kept black tea longer and it was fine, but it was well-stored). I do not recommend buying green teas in this fashion. Green tea is much more delicate and generally should be consumed quickly. I try to drink it within 3 months, 6 at the max.

The real reason I wanted to buy this tea is for the canister. I've come to feel a little like a gypsy myself.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sometimes I Just Gotta...

Have a brownie. A bad day, PMS, whatever the cause...I am much easier to live with if I can get my hands on one. I know this about myself, so whenever I make a batch, I freeze a few.

And without the warning label, I can't keep the DH out of them! ;-) You'd think he'd learn he's putting himself in harm's way. Oh, well - the label saves us both.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Clothes On the Line

The breeze is blowing and the clothes are on the line. This makes me happy! I love hanging freshly-laundered clothes on the line to be tickled by the wind. And to save energy.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I have begun a writing class, called Women Writing for a Change. This class is very good for me. It is like nothing I've ever done. The focus is to support the work of each writer - nurturing her words and helping her find her own writing path. Feedback is given in a supportive and conscious manner. It is a life-changing experience to participate in the group!

Here are three haiku that I was inspired to write for my class. I wrote these after sitting in my garden this weekend. In case it's been a few years since you've thought about this, a haiku is a non-rhyming poem of Japanese lineage. The poem is made of 17 syllables, in rows of 5 - 7 - 5. Traditionally, haiku are about nature.

Love Lies Bleeding, sway
Your mane beckons my fingers
To touch, to feel, each

Blue morning glory
Opens life to sun, one day
Maiden, mother, crone
Pinched crown of thorns bleeds
Thick, sticky white drops of life
Wound, I hear your gasp

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

ATC Swap is Tea Themed - Wishful Thinking

Wishful Thinking, my favorite scrapbook and art store, is hosting an Artist Trading Card swap in September (scroll down on the page). The theme is Coffee/Tea Time. The store accepts mail-in participants, so if you'd like to play, shoot them an e-mail at The due date is September 15th! Here are a few more specifics.

I won't be playing as September is a busy month and I don't feel up to the level of artistry as those who typically contribute. I need to do a little more practicing first!

Never heard of Artist Trading Cards? According to wikipedia, they are "individual art miniatures that pass hand to hand." Read more here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Puff Pastry - A Tea Party Friend!

I had a dessert tea party on Friday evening. A dessert tea is a low-stress way to host a tea party, because all I have to make is a dessert (not three full courses) and I can focus on enjoying my friends' company instead of running around serving. I could even purchase the dessert (which I have done before!). These dessert teas work really well for me as evening teas, because they're easy to carry off after a full day of work.

At this recent tea, I used puff pastry to make a sinfully delicious and incredibly simple dessert. The recipe is from my former boss (thanks, J!). It never fails to impress and I could eat it all day long!

I don't have a photo, but the apple puffs below give a similar sense of the thing.

1 - Thaw one sheet of puff pastry, according to directions. Preheat oven to 350.
2 - Roll out the pastry so that the creases are worked together and the pastry is a little thinner.
3 - Cut into 4 sections.
4 - Add to the center of each section about 1 tablespoon each of chocolate chips and walnuts (or whatever nut you choose).
5 - Seal up the puff pastry around the choc/nuts by making a pyramid and sealing the seams.
6 - Place in container to bake (I use an oversized muffin tin).
7 - Bake for ~20-25 minutes. Puff pastry should be golden brown on top.
8 - Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream. YUM!

At the tea, my friends and I were talking about what else we could do with puff pastry. One friend suggested using apples, and I tried that yesterday. It was great! I chopped up apples and walnuts, added spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger) and just a dash of honey.

For a savory variation, I cut cherry tomatoes in quarters and added them into a small puff pocket with a bit of herbed goat cheese. Oh, wow - these were good!

Puff pastry is an incredibly flexible tool. I love it because it allows me to create very fast, yet delicious and fancy treats. See this post for another way I've used puff pastry. I find it in the freezer section at my grocery store, next to the frozen pies and cakes.