Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Tea: Tea and Travels II

Not a day too is my second Tea and Travel posting, my July tea party theme. I had a Trader Joe's nearby and a movie on the hotel TV! (I don't have TV at home, so this is exciting for me!) I made a nice little tea party spread with sparkling water (and some hot tea), a plum, crackers and cheese, and a heavenly strawberry-peach-cream cheese scone from Great Harvest Bread Company.

It was a great way to spend the evening!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Contest Entry - Why I Love Tea!

This is my entry into Felicitea's contest for using words (prose or poems) to explain why I love tea, in the hopes of converting others. I've had a little fun with is my entry! (And if you'd like to enter, you've got until end of Thursday. Fun prizes offered!)

Why I Love Tea
Amazing varie-tea
A friendship socie-tea
A drink of proprie-tea
Why I love tea

Reduces anxie-tea
Releases persnicki-tea
I love its entire-tea
Why I love tea

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wharf to Wharf

I'm in CA now and have had the wonderful chance to spend the weekend with two dear friends in Boulder Creek, CA. Boulder Creek is a small town, formerly a logging center. It's great - not far from the ocean and nestled in the redwoods. I feel like I'm staying at a B&B. My friend GC's house is such a comfortable and gorgeous cottage! The hydrangeas and blackberries are in their full splendor!

Today, a group of women walked the Wharf to Wharf 10K from Santa Cruz to Capitola by the Sea. It was a great time! To borrow CC's analogy, it's like a parade, except the bands aren't marching and we are. Here are a few scenes. As you can see, it's quite the spectator event, as well, and everyone approaches this with a sense of humor!

After the walk, we had lunch at the Crow's Nest and then a walk along the beach. By now, the fog had lifted and the sun was brilliant on the steel blue water.

I'm very grateful for this chance to spend some time in Boulder Creek and near the ocean. Wow, what a serious nature boost, the mountains and the ocean in one trip! And I am particularly grateful for the great hostesses and guides, GC and CC!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Marmalady and Tea Zone

One evening this week, I had a few extra hours and I took the fantastic Portland Max light rail into the Pearl District, downtown Portland. I met Marmalady (Marilyn) at the Tea Zone.

Marilyn is a fellow tea-lover and blogger, and she also runs her company Marmalady's. This company specializes in tea jams, jellies and marmalade, along with other tea wares. It was great fun to meet Marilyn and learn about her passion for tea. And check out her rhinestone teapot pin!

I came home with a gift bag of Marilyn's new Cranberry Ginger Tea Marmalade and a few other goodies. I can't wait to get home and try this! What I love about this line of products is that they all feature tea as an ingredient.

We met at Tea Zone, a hip tea lounge and cafe on 11th street. Marilyn is a big fan of the chicken curry empanada and had that along with a bubble tea. I had a great cup of Ti Kuan Yin oolong and a giant shortbread cookie.

And here's a little Portland scenery...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July Tea: Tea and Travels I

It's hard to believe I'm already up to July for my year of blogging about monthly tea parties! This fun blogging idea has indeed challenged me! July slipped away and I'm on biz travel through the end of the month! SO, my July theme is Tea and Travels. My first post is an in-transit tea party at Chicago Midway airport! I had an almost 3-hour layover, and found myself a great little spot for a private tea party.

The DH kindly packed me a tea party to-go early in the morning, and off I went on a big 'ol jet airliner! When I arrived at Midway, this view caught my attention:

And then I found this rocker and these tea party companions!

I settled in, brewed my Blueberry Acai Zhena's Gypsy tea (large-leaf tea sachet)...

And opened my tea party box!

Yumm! I had a cucumber sandwich (with butter and dill), grapes, and a ginger-almond oatcake. A few steps up from airport food!

The next time you travel, give it a try! I had a blast and found it very relaxing in between flights.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And I'd Like to Thank...

Linda, at Friendship Tea, for presenting me with the "Just Plain Fun to Read" blog award. Thank you, Linda! I'm very honored. And thanks to everyone who reads!

In the spirit of passing along the fun, I'd like to recognize these blogs:

* Tea with Friends. I love this daily dose of tea-related info. Angela finds the most interesting things! Thank you!

* Tea Party Girl. Such thoughtful and well-written posts. And a great brush-up on modern manners!

* Two Boys and a Beagle. This blog belongs to a good friend. The fun thing is to see her life through the lens of her blog. This one is also full of cooking tips!

* Kelly Rae. Kelly Rae is a friend of a friend. She's an artist and a social worker and I love the beauty of her art - both her mixed media work and her words. This blog inspires me!

And thank you to all the other wonderful blogs that I didn't mention here, but that definitely deserve it! Blogging really has changed my world, and I'm grateful for all the great blogs I read!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mama Mia!

Any fellow Dancing Queens out there? If you're an ABBA lover, or if you just love a good musical, get yourself to see Mama Mia! (Watch the clip and the trailer at the movie site!) You may want to go early because the seats are filling up fast!

I went last night with some girlfriends, and you can see I got into the the spirit of things. Hey, Mom - recognize those earrings? Were they originals from the Dancing queen era? (I love them!)

My outfit was of the backup singer caliber, as Esme took the lead role with her sparkly feather boa!

I really enjoyed myself! It brought good memories back of seeing this show in Las Vegas with my mom and sis! And even older memories of my mom listening to ABBA 8-tracks!

The plot includes a love story - well, several actually. All the characters played their roles with great heart. The signing isn't always fabulous, but it is always real and some of it is very good. And I left being totally infatuated with the three main women characters (Donna and the Dynamos). They are just beautiful and so talented! Meryl Streep plays the lead, along with her two fabulous girlband companions played by Julie Walters (from Calendar Girls and Mrs. Weasley in Harry Potter) and Christine Baranski (Saturday Night Live, Cybill, Mame).

It's an easy, fun time. Grab your girlfriends and go! And don't forget the glitter.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tchaikovsky at Tea Time

I recently received (from Alice - thank you!) the CD called Tchaikovsky at Tea Time. If you are a Tchaikovsky fan (and I am), this is a great CD because it's a compilation of his most famous stuff. Some Swan Lake, some Nutcracker Suite, some Sleeping Beauty, etc.

It's quite clever marketing, really, that this company has done. Other titles include:
  • Mozart in the Morning
  • Mozart at Midnight
  • Bach for Breakfast
  • Chopin and Champagne
  • Vivaldi for Valentine's
  • Baroque at Bathtime
  • Beethoven for Book Lovers

And so forth....

Inside the sleeve, I read:

You may be interested to know that Tchaikovsky was a devoted
tea drinker. His most productive years were spent on his country estate
where he would go for long walks in the afternoon, during which ideas came flooding to him. Every afternoon he returned home for tea at 4:30 p.m. He adored strong tea. A pinch of soda added to the tea made it look much stronger than Russian teas normally do. He could not play Whist (a popular card game of the day) without his strong (soda spiked) tea.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fabric Dreams

I've recently had a windfall of gorgeous fabric! The first comes all the way, hand-delivered, from Mauritania, Africa. It's a wonderful batik. My friend who brought the fabric offered several choices, and it was a very hard decision!

The second fabric came from a Hancock Fabrics in Denver. It was the last of a bolt, and my good tea-loving friend snatched it up for me! Look at these gorgeous teacups!

Now comes the hard part - what should I make? I'm sure at least one skirt will be on the plan. Both of these fabrics are so lovely, I have a hard time cutting into them! Whatever I make, I will do a trial run on some less special fabric! Ideas for projects welcome!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Work Travels and Tea

I'm on a mega-work trip starting next week. I'll be gone the 22nd - Aug 1, but I'll still be blogging. I am spending part of my time in Oregon and part in California. I am hoping to mix in a bit of fun along with the productive work time.

One thing I hope to do in Oregon is visit the Tea House in the classical Chinese garden.

Photo courtesy the Tea House website.

And I'm looking forward to walking the Wharf to Wharf in CA next weekend.

In addition to these excursions, I plan to blog about my July tea party theme - Tea and Travel. Expect exciting tea parties in unusual places!

And, by the way, do you have any recommendations for tea spots in Portland?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008


Today, I'm sharing two poems I wrote for a women's writing retreat this past weekend. (And a reminder that while this blog is often about tea, it's sometimes not.)

As you read these poems, I'll share a principle that our writing class uses - assume these are fiction. The "I" isn't necessarily me in the personal.

Dream State
"I have trouble telling what's real and what's a dream," says the grandfather.

The baby sighs as she sleeps. Does she dream?

I dream of past romances, but with different endings. Like I'm writing a romance novel as I sleep.

Husband leaves his body as he dreams. An adventure. The return is hard.

She doesn't dream. The meds put her to sleep, away from herself.

He doesn't remember his dreams, but he paints a world unknown to him.

They dream of not dreaming. The violations are unending.

That man has lost his dream. The zephyr no longer comes to him.

This woman calls upon her dreams to heal. Inner spirit, lead the way.

I have trouble telling what's real and what's a dream.

I am the lightness, the teasing, the time taken for a kiss.

I am the hand-written letter, the knowing someone thought of you in specific.

I am the unexpected little gift.

I am the compliment from 20 years ago that you never forgot, that you believed, and that shaped your path.

I am the warm bath and the cool, gentle settling of the dew.

I am the red cardinal, its reminder to pause and look.

I am the brownie batter you lick from the bowl.

And I am the moments when you think of fear but do not find it.

I'm interested in your reactions to these poems. Not so much whether you like them, as liking isn't the purpose, but rather what thoughts/emotions/images did they evoke for you? If you'd like to leave a comment, I'd eagerly read it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Review: Tea Bliss

I've been reading Tea Bliss by Theresa Cheung. The best thing about this book, in my humble opinion, is the incredible photography. I enjoy thumbing through the photos and taking in all their exquisite detail.

I picked this book up at the library. When I began to read it, I was a bit surprised. The book is more about lifestlye, using tea as a metaphor, than about tea itself. The book's subtitle is, "Infuse your life with health, wisdom, and contentment." Each chapter starts with two short statements, one about tea and the other about life.

Once I began to understand what the book was really about, I enjoyed it more. There is beautiful writing and sentiment in the book. I also enjoyed the quotes sprinkled throughout, many of them ones I had not read before. Here are two of my favorites:

Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me a hundred things. -- Saki, British writer
Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things. -- Kakuzo Okakura, Japanese writer

If you are interested in this book, here is my advice: Browse it carefully before purchasing. Make sure you're getting what you expect. If, after opening, it resonates with you, it is a book worth keeping. If you were expecting more on tea and less philosophy, then leave it at the store. Or, do as I've done, and get it from the library!

Have you read this book? If so, please share your opinion of it in the comments!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tea Review: Queen Catherine Tea

I recently received a wonderful surprise gift box from Alice at Tea in My Cup. The gift was part of the "Pay it Forward" blogging event. Included among the wonderful tea goodies was a tin of Queen Catherine Tea by Harney & Sons.

Description from the website:
"As lovers of good tea, we have many reasons to be thankful for Catherine of Braganza of Portugal. By marrying King Charles of England, she brought tea drinking to the British and thus on to the Colonies. We have created this blend of select Chinese black teas in her honor."
More on Queen Catherine.

The tea is a blend of chinese leaves, from three regions. The instructions on the side of the tin tell me to steep this tea for 5 minutes, but I've found I prefer it steeped between 3-4 min. I take this tea plain or with just a touch of honey.

Would I recommend this tea? Yes. It's a sophisticated black - full of flavor but not overpowering.

Since I'm discussing tea and Queen Catherine, here's a poem written by Edmund Waller in 1663, in honor of Queen Catherine for her birthday:

Venus her Myrtle, Phoebus has his bays;
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise.
The best of Queens, the best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.
The Muse's friend, tea does our fancy aid,
Regress those vapours which the head invade,
And keep the palace of the soul serene,
Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Guest Blogger and Mindful Eating

Note: It is a true privilege for me to introduce today's guest blogger! AZ Tea Lover is a long-time friend. I call her a friend of my heart, because I know that we'll be life-long pals. AZ Tea Lover and I have many connections - professionally, educationally, philosophically, and of course through tea! Enjoy!

When Stephanie asked me to be a guest blogger, I thought immediately of how much I enjoy having tea with her. I am grateful for the gift of a guest post on her blog. Thanks Steph!

Two beneficial aspects of having tea are portion control and food-savoring. (There are many more benefits, certainly.) Small, dainty, carefully-made savories, scones, and sweets are neatly placed for display on beautiful plates with care and thought to making the food look pleasing in addition to tasting pleasing. It is exciting to think about how to savor all these little bites! Usually the sandwiches are quite small, no larger than a half-dollar coin. I often think when I see these tasty treats, "I only get three bites of this before it's gone... I'd better savor every bite!" The slow-foodie movement emphasizes being conscious of our food and how we eat it. Tea treats are perfect for savoring and eating modestly, and they are even more special when made with care and thoughtfully chosen ingredients. Almost every time I have tea at a tearoom (or a friend's home), I take treats home because I feel full long before getting to the plate of sweets. And it's usually less food than I'd eat at a normal meal. There's a psychological aspect to eating slowly and with appreciation that is really good for me. We'd all eat less and be healthier in mind and body by reconsidering what we eat, how we eat it, and how much of it we eat.

AZ Tea Lover (left) and me, having tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, 2005

When I have friends over for tea, I like to put out whatever I have on hand - a few crackers with cheese cubes, chocolate chips, scones (King Arthur is my favorite mix), nuts, whatever seems to be a complement of sweet, salty, and savory (I'm not good at making tea sandwiches yet). Small plates are best, with just a few of each item. Just enough of each to enjoy a meal and pleasant conversation. The care of preparing a meal for friends feels good.

To enjoy tea and tea treats is to learn the art of appreciation - taking a moment to reflect on why we are here, who we spend our time with, and how lucky we are to enjoy these things.

For more information on the concept of mindful eating, visit this
Wall Street Journal article.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pies: His and Hers

Tis the season for fresh berry pies!

The fruit
His: Gooseberries from the Farmer's Market
Hers: Blueberries that I picked


The crust
His: A DH original recipe (tho never the same and not written down). The crust includes whole wheat, oatmeal, sunflower seeds and olive oil. It's kind of like granola and is wonderful!

Hers: I tried this vanilla wafer - almond recipe. The crust is very yummy, but also very sweet. I don't eat as much sugar as I used to, and I can really notice when things are super-sweet. On one hand, I loved this crust. On the other, it bordered on too sweet for me.

The pie
His: Made in a spring form pan. No recipe to share. He quickly glanced at a pie recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The pie turned out great! Lovely color, lovely texture, not too tangy and not too sweet. Just right. More, please!

Hers: I followed this recipe (thanks, BloomingtonGirl!). Oh my - this is the best blueberry pie filling I've ever had! You cook one cup of berries and have three cups uncooked. This filling is just bursting with fresh blueberry goodness. I will definitely use this recipe again! Unfortunately, I didn't find that this filling worked well with the vanilla wafer crust. The crust wanted to crumble when it came out of the pie pan, and then the filling would get messed up. Bottom line: It tasted GREAT, but next time I will use a traditional crust.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

When the Pickin's Easy

I'm in the mood to celebrate the 4th of July this year. It's been a while since I've felt like our country had much to celebrate. But this year I have hope for change, and I am also marching in the 4th of July parade. Good things.

The 4th of July also means it's blueberry time! I went berry picking with Sweetcakes this morning. We had a perfect day! We didn't know it, but today was the opening for berry picking, and the bushes were loaded with big, fat, plump orbs. Gorgeous and delicious! And fortunately, we wrapped up just before the rain came!

Last year, I made blueberry jam. I think I'll make a batch again, and freeze some berries, too. I'm also imagining a round of blueberry scones. And maybe blueberry cake. And blueberry pie? I picked nearly 10 pounds!

Here is a poem about blueberries from Robert Frost.

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!

I'm not planning to blog over the long weekend. I'll be back on Monday. Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tea Seeds for Hope

Camellia Sinensis (tea) seeds

Hope has been on my mind a lot lately. How hope changes a person. How hope inspires. How having something to hope for gives conception to more hope. How hope is sometimes (often) a choice. Like when I choose to hope that our world will be healthy and clean in 30 years, for my new niece.

Living with the DH (dear hubby) for nearly 12 years, I've absorbed one of his key means of generating hope - the planting of seeds. Seeds represent potential. They give me hope.

Here are some camellia sinensis (tea) seeds. They came from
Vee and I send her a big thank you! Two of these are living with me, planted in a mix of sand and soil. One seed was loaned to a friend who has a greenhouse. These seeds give me hope.