Friday, February 27, 2009

Tea at the Office

Hard at it at work today. Got a lot to do, but I like finishing the week with a sense of getting stuff done! I can be such an over-achiever. It's a blessing - and then it's not. ;-)

I am very, very blessed to have my office in my home these days, but it wasn't that long ago that I worked in cubicle land.

I still managed to have nice tea there. My work mates and I were fortunate to have a break room on each floor, equipped with super-hot water spouts. I had a small teapot at my desk, a small strainer and a mug with a lid. (A lidded mug was a safety requirement. No loose hot liquids.) I would make myself a pot of tea in the afternoon, to keep myself going. I generally chose green teas b/c the temps from the hot water spout were about right for a green.

I still smile when I think of the looks I got and conversations I had about my tea time. Many were curious about my tea routine. Some just chuckled. Others asked for a taste.

If you fit tea into your work routine, how do you manage it?

Happy weekend! Raising a cup to you!
Images from

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

China Beauty Rings

The dry leaf of this Chinese green tea is just so pretty. I love the shape and texture of this hand-shaped tea. The tea comes from the Sichuan Province - Mount Meng Region. The tea is picked in March and April, so it is a fitting tribute to Spring.

I love the color of the steeped tea. It's a soft peachy-gold, looking just fabulous with this cup and saucer. The flavor is toasty.

While steeping the leaf unfurls yet maintains some of its curled shape. It's such a textural treat to watch as it steeps! It moves around as it opens.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Crocus

Beneath the sunny autumn sky,
With gold leaves dropping round,
We sought, my little friend and I,
The consecrated ground,
Where, calm beneath the holy cross,
O'ershadowed by sweet skies,
Sleeps tranquilly that youthful form,
Those blue unclouded eyes.

Around the soft, green swelling mound
We scooped the earth away,
And buried deep the crocus-bulbs
Against a coming day.
"These roots are dry, and brown, and sere;
Why plant them here?" he said,
"To leave them, all the winter long,
So desolate and dead."

"Dear child, within each sere dead form
There sleeps a living flower,
And angel-like it shall arise
In Spring's returning hour."
Ah, deeper down cold, dark, and chill
We buried our heart's flower,
But angel-like shall he arise
In Spring's immortal hour.

In blue and yellow from its grave
Springs up the crocus fair,
And god shall raise those bright blue eyes,
Those sunny waves of hair.
Not for a fading summer's morn,
Not for a fleeting hour,
But for an endless age of bliss,
Shall rise our heart's dear flower

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Turkish Tea

I love exploring tea customs from across the world. There is both depth and expanse to tea. It is a study in world cultures, for certain!

I am fortunate to live in a University community, which means I have access to fabulous ethnic restaurants. The DH and I are both adventurous eaters, and we love exploring new places. Having said that, one place we go to repeatedly (and there aren't many repeats for us) is a Turkish restaurant. Of course, one of the highlights for me is the Turkish Tea.

Turkish Tea is made and served in stacked teapots. Hot water is made in the larger pot, and a concentrated tea in the smaller pot on top. The tea is served by pouring some of the concentrate into a glass cup and then diluting with water. It's a very visual feast!

Friday, February 20, 2009


So Spring is here, and it isn't. The DH and I celebrate the first day of Spring on Feb. 1st. That's the time when gardeners in my area begin to notice subtle changes. The light changes, the ground warms a wee bit, trees stir, bird song is louder, etc. AND it's a long time from Feb 1st to the warmer days of traditional Spring. So between Feb. 1 and March 21, I have devised strategies to get myself through. I've been taking full advantage of all of them of late:
  • Walking in the sunlight
  • Flower-spotting adventures; I'm happy to report we saw our first crocus blooming this week!
  • Eating blueberries I've frozen from summer picking
  • Cutting branches (quince this time) and forcing them to bloom inside; mine now have fat green flower buds. I expect them to bust out with flowers soon.
  • Looking at seed catalogs
  • Planning a camping trip with the girls and a week-long bike tour with the hubby
  • Forcing bulbs in pots and enjoying their beauty and aroma. (See hyacinth photos. The first hyacinth flower peeked out at me on Wednesday. Potted daffodil bulbs will bloom in a few weeks.)
How do you manage spring fever?

This is actually my favorite image of the set; I like the blurred lines

And more to come!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grandma's Pin

This pin (which is actually a cameo - it's hard to tell) is from a clip-on earring set that belonged to my grandmother. I loved this set, but probably wouldn't wear them as earrings. (They are heavy! How did women do that?) But I LOVE this as a pin! And I love having something of Grandma's with me!

Do you have jewelry from a family member that you love? Or something that you've re-purposed? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The setting is London and Guernsey (an island in the English Channel) in 1946, just after WWII. The story unfolds via letters, a format that I love. Juliet Ashton, a main character, is a writer (from London) with an adventurous spirit and a deep, deep love of books. (She called off an engagement over books! My kind of gal!) She forms a relationship with a book club in Guernsey and decides to tell their story about the Nazi occupation.

I found the book to be very witty and funny, and at the same time very serious. The subject matter is a tough one - the nightmare of Hitler's actions. The authors don't let the reader off the hook. While much of the book is light-hearted, it's anchored in the very real need to survive atrocities. And some people didn't. In addition, the authors don't make it easy to form clear lines of good and bad, even among the German soldiers. Oh, and there's a love story, too!

I am always grateful about a book that opens my eyes to history and challenges my perspectives. This one did just that.

The book left me with a deeper sense of the importance of thinking for one's self. Read this book. And thanks to MEP for the recommendation!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Menu for a Thank You Tea

I've already shared the recipe for Blood Orange Hearts, but I wanted to pass along the rest of the menu from my recent "Thank You" tea. I kept the menu simple because I needed to be able to pull this together quickly. It was an after-work tea. We also chose herbal "teas" since it was evening.

  • Squash soup (Soup made by the DH with squash and pumpkin, both from the local CSA)
  • Blood Orange Hearts
  • Sprouts with rosemary butter on honey-wheat bread. (The DH grew the sprouts, too. He's a one-man sprout industry in the winter.) Aren't those sprouts just the cutest?!!?
  • Pesto Puff Pinwheels (Pesto also made by the DH, from basil we grew. The pesto freezes soooo well!)
  • This course and the scones were served with Hurricane Herbal from Tea G. Unfortunately, this blend is discontinued.

  • Treacle scones with butter, the real deal
  • Dates stuffed with pecans (and toasted - so simple and YUMMY!)

  • Blood orange sections
  • Brie and strawberry jam in puff pastry cups
  • Chocolate-covered almonds rolled in matcha. These were tasty, but next time I will use dark chocolate. I used semi-sweet. I think dark chocolate will pair even better with the matcha.
  • Served with honeybush tisane

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Thank You Tea

I've just had the joy to share a supper tea party with a friend. She had recently taken some pictures for me and I wanted to thank her. It was her first official tea party (with real tea party foods), and so it was fun, fun for me to plan!

Our menu was special in two ways: 1 - I made up several of the recipes and 2 - I used many things that were either locally grown or grown by the DH! More on that in a future post. For today, and in honor of Valentine's Day, I want to share with you my recipe for the sandwich I've named Blood Orange Hearts. Blood oranges are offered only for a limited time each year (which is now), so give this a try soon! This sandwich has just become my new favorite!
  • Honey whole-heat bread (I made this from scratch a week earlier and froze it, tho purchased bread will work fine)
  • 4 oz cream cheese (I used "light" cream cheese; it was also the softened kind, which I find easier to work with)
  • 1.5 Tablespoon honey (I used local, wildflower honey; you can adjust the amount of honey to your taste - I go lightly on the sweeteners)
  • Zest of a blood orange, some in tiny shreds and a few longer pieces for garnish
  • Dash of ground ginger powder

Mix the cream cheese, honey and ginger powder. Stir in the blood orange zest (use as much or little of the zest as you prefer). It's good to make this a few hours ahead, so the flavors can meld. When you're ready to make the sandwiches, thinly slice the bread. Cut into heart shapes and reserve the cutoff pieces for another use. (I gobbled them immediately.) Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the bread and add a heart dimple in the corner. If not serving immediately, cover with a lightly damp cloth and store in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Awake in the Present

It's windy, grey and stormy here today, surrounded by bits of sunshine and blue sky. A dramatic day in which I get lost in the skies and see my life unfold in a moment. Here's a poem that seems to fit today, and all days.

~by Thich Nhat Hanh
You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

Only in the awareness of the present,can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savor the aroma,taste the sweetness,appreciate the delicacy.

If you are ruminating about the past,or worrying about the future,you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

You will look down at the cup,and the tea will be gone.

Life is like that.

If you are not fully present,you will look around and it will be gone.

You will have missed the feel,the aroma,the delicacy and beauty of life.

It will seem to be speeding past you.

The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go.

The future is not even here yet.Plan for it,but do not waste your time worrying about it.

Worrying is worthless.

When you stop ruminating about what has already happened,when you stop worrying about what might never happen,then you will be in the present moment.

Then you will begin to experience joy in life.
*Photo from

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sweets for the Sweetheart

I recently learned to make this cute little cupcake bag and gave it to my sweetheart niece for Valentine's Day! My other sweetheart, the DH, didn't think it would work too well for him, though he did contemplate wearing it as a hat.

The bag is fast to assemble and is padded. Perfect for a busy toddler. It's cushy and bright and just so cute. Almost as cute as the little one below. Sweetcakes taught me to make it, of course!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Bite of Summer

The weather has been jumping around in extremes this week! Last Sunday, we saw a sunny day and warm 50s temps, and then in the middle of the week, we were back into extreme lows. The kids had a late-start at school because of the low temperatures. Then yesterday was nearly 60 degrees! All of this bouncing around is a bit of a roller coaster ride. The hardest part, for me, is getting a taste of spring - and knowing it's not truly here yet!

To comfort myself, I busted out some homemade strawberry freezer jam and ate it on crackers. Oh, my. It's just so good!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Web Roundup

I've found some great things on the web lately, and I thought I'd share.

Recessionistas. A friend sent me this link, b/c she thinks it fits us! We LOVE going to consignment stores and resale shops. I very seldom pay full-price for any clothing. And, if I can find a gem that's second-hand, well even better for the planet! Buffalo Exchange rocks!

Restyling clothes. On the same note as above, I love how the author of the Angry Chicken blog restyles clothes. Just brilliant! I've yet to try this, but I'm on the lookout for a potential.

Fat Quarter Month. Sew, Mama, Sew! is running a month of Fat Quarter projects and related info. A fat quarter is a different way of cutting the fabric and can be useful in many situations. A fat quarter is 18 x 22 inches, instead of 9 x 44. Read this for more info.

Philigry. I don't know how to knit, but Philigry inspires me nonetheless!

Spooners. Do you know what they are? I didn't, but I think they're fun!

Don't drink this before a drug test. In bizarre news....just read it yourself.

Now it's your turn. I'm in the mood to go exploring. It's COLD outside and I'm feeling a bit cooped up (tho I did go for a great walk yesterday in 18 degrees). Help me beat the winter blahs by leaving me a fun link to check out, tea-related or otherwise.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cookbook Holder

I've been on the lookout for a cookbook holder for some time, so I was very happy to find the one above! I ordered it from a Jr. High student selling things to make money for a school trip, so I can't list a source for you.

In addition to the cute tea theme, I also like that this is collapsible. It fits neatly into the cabinet.

Here it is with my hefty Moosewood cookbook, the one that never stays open!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tea for Bad Days

I'm having a bad day. It started out fine enough - I got up, exercised, had a good breakfast. Then things fell apart over a breakfast conversation. The DH didn't let me out of facing something I wanted to avoid. Bless him. I'm trying not to growl at him. It's not easy.

Off to work, where things are changing like shifting sands. The minute I think something is stable, everything adjusts. I'm in a bad mood and I fear it's getting worse. I'm eating lunch (at my desk) again. I'm having to work very, very hard to stay engaged and positive. Blah blah. I'm not ungrateful, tho. In this economic nightmare, I regularly say thanks for the job and I do not take it for granted.

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.

I finally pull myself away from the corporate drain long enough to make a mug of tea. No cup and saucer for me today. I'd be a hazard to it - I might slam it down too hard and chip or break it. If my mood could design a mug, it would create one like above. A sturdy mug is necessary to handle this mood. I'm drinking Genmaicha tea. I want to find the perfect angry poem to match my mood, but none appears.

Maybe I have PMS. Maybe not. But aren't we all entitled to a mug of bad day tea every now and then? I hope to get to a place of peace, like the picture below, soon. Until then, I'll slam down my chunky mug.

*Images from

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Red Mittens

Sweetcakes just gave this adorable work of functional art to me. I love it!

First, check out the wonderful packaging. Orange is my favorite color, and red is definitely in my top 5.

Can you feel the anticipation building?
Red mittens! These are made from felted wool sweaters. Just sooo cool. And, very warm!

The insides are snugly and soft, since they're lined with fleece.

Thank you very much!