Thursday, April 30, 2009

RTD: Weil/Ito En Green White

I tried this ready-to-drink (RTD) tea yesterday. I paid $1.99 for it at one of the local markets. I was prepared not to like it, but was surprised. It was fresh tasting and pleasant. I had a subtle experience that the beverage was salty, but that's unlikely because it has no added sodium. Probably my body chemistry. I'm conflicted in my opinions on bottled and canned teas, but I think this unsweetened option would be a much healthier alternative to soda when you crave something other than water.

Andrew Weil and Ito En have combined efforts to produce a line of healthy canned beverages. I've previously tried the Sencha Shot (I was so-so about it) and Partea Lady recently reviewed the Oolong Shot. (Company info here.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Online Tea Log

Steepster is an online tea log. My public page is: and you can register for your own account at

Steepster allows you to keep an online log of what tea you're drinking, along with tasting notes. I have a notebook that does this for the blog. I'm not sure which I prefer and I'm not sure if I'll keep using Steepster, but I will give it a whirl for a few days. The cool thing about steepster is that you can compare tasting notes with others.

If you're interested in knowing who is behind the site and more about its purpose, read this interview on the Tea Pages blog.

Do you use steepster? If not, do you think you would? I'm interested in knowing what you think about it. I'm undecided.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Girls Gone Wild

I am grateful to have spent much of this weekend camping, hiking and relaxing in nature with two girlfriends. The photo above is just one of the breathtaking views from the state park where we were staying. Notice the redbuds in bloom, and the trees just starting to leaf out.

Home sweet home. The temps were warm and the sun was out, yeah! Though one friend turned a little too pink! I was prepared for cold nights. I had an extra sleeping bag, running tights with fleece ones to go over, a down vest, a hat and gloves. Have I mentioned before that I hate to be cold? :-) Fortunately, it was quite warm and I had a good laugh at myself. It was also very windy, as in "Will my tent stay standing?" winds. I'm happy to report both tents stayed upright! I never doubted the other tent, as that tent-pitcher is practically a pro. Mine, on the other hand, well I almost danced a jig that it stayed true through the winds!

We found a pretty violet patch near the campsite. I love the juxtaposition of the new growth with the brown leaves.

We did a nice hike down to and around a lake (that fed this dam and waterfall). I should have taken pictures of the giant, huge, amazingly long and tall stairs that we hiked down and up!

Here's a little poem I wrote, dedicated to my camping friends:


Girls gone wild

Three friends. Campfire.
Wine in plastic cups.
Heaven. Earth.

Morning birds. Rising sun.
Tepid tea from the camp kettle.
Earth. Heaven.

Wild flowers. Skinks.
Down the big hill, then up.
Perfect. Motion.

Lounge in shade. Frozen treats.
A nap with nature's lullaby.
Stop motion. Perfect.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tea with a Toddler

Tea with a Toddler
For my niece, 4/20/09

The clock chimes eleven. "Ding!"
You say in your chirp-chirp voice.
You spy the teacup. "Par-ty! Par-ty!"
It's a command, not a choice.

I sit at the knee-high table.
You serve me a cup and plate.
Mommy heads our way. "No!"
Your voice tests its weight.

That makes me smile,
Knowing this is just for you and me.
I dream of many more
As you loudly sip your "tea."

Then as fast as it began,
You rise and squirm and flee.
Into Mommy's arms,
With a smile and giggles from all three.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Earth-Day Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Esme, and Happy Earth Day! One of the things I admire about Esme is her commitment to the local foods movement. Thank you for being an inspiration!

In honor of both Esme and the Earth, I'll share with you some of the behaviors I'd like to improve, to lessen my drain on our earth's finite resources. The DH and I are already pretty conscientious about this. We do wild and crazy things like wash and reuse the plastic veggie bags (and now we have some muslin ones), have a bucket in the shower to catch the water runoff before it's hot, and walk/bike as much as possible.

Here are the places where I need to improve:

  • Lessen shower time. Ooooh, this is a tough one for me! I LOVE to stand in the shower and just boil, for a long time. I really need to shorten my showers. I just gotta do it.

  • Incorporate more vegan meals into the diet. Have you read Skinny Bitch? It's a hoot, and a serious book all in the same. The potty-mouthed authors make a real case for vegan choices, both for our health and the planet. Read this book and your relationship with food will never be the same!

  • Turn off the PC power. I forget to power down and unplug at night. Need to get better at this.

Where else should I focus? What are your goals to help save the planet?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teacup Wristlets - More Pretty Ones

Lots of you have been ooohing and aaahing over my teacup wristlet. Here are a few more that Sweetcakes has made.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tea Swap from Tea Equals Bliss

Check out Tea Equals Bliss for info on participating in a tea swap. :-) I'm in!

More pictures from the family visit soon. (Indulge me.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anatomy of a DH Salad

The DH (dear hubby) makes the most interesting salads! This is our first spring salad. Everything here "we" grew - either intentionally or not! :-) There's baby kale in here, as well, but I couldn't find it in the photo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Violet Season

I imagine it's an interesting experience to go for a walk with me this time of year. I'm flitting around, spying flowers and birds. And now that it's violet season, I'm gushing about these lovely little purple (and white) blossoms! I don't understand why anyone would want to kill these lovely things. Did you know that the flowers are edible? High in Vitamin C, too! The wonderful thing about violets is that they're still wild. Most of us don't plant them intentionally, yet they keep returning and gracing us with their loveliness.

Violets have been a blessing in my life over the last few weeks. I was given this jar of violet pouchong tea, from Fortnum & Mason. (See picture at top of post, too.) The aroma is subtle - and to me, the best part. Like with all floral teas (rose petal, etc.), it's a complex tea. The flavor isn't for everyone. I like it, but it's a tea I would not drink every day. Rather, I'd save it for violet season or other celebratory occasions.

Last Saturday, I taught a tea class and served mini-cupcakes. I topped some of them with violets, plucked that very morning from my lawn.
I didn't sugar the flowers, since I was serving them right away. If you'd like to find out how to sugar violets, see Sweetcakes' post on the topic.

And just moments ago, the DH (dear hubby) brought me a cup of mint tea (from fresh leaves in the garden) with violets floating in the brew. What a guy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

National Library Week

Happy National Library Week!

As I've blogged about before, I love public libraries. I consider them a treasured public institution. I use mine regularly, and I volunteer there. I'll probably give money there when I die (none too soon, I hope).

A library celebration is in order! I will celebrate mine by reading children's books (from the library) to my niece, whom I will visit this weekend. How might you celebrate your library?

And, as a replay, here's a really awesome mug...more info from the seller. I don't own this because I have plenty of mugs. But it's really cool and tempts me!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cutest Thing I've Ever Made...

The cutest thing I've ever made, worn by the cutest little thing!

Niece and her mommy

She's got this figured out!

On the go!

A closeup of the skirt

Friday, April 10, 2009

Some of My Favorite Tea Poetry

In addition to this one, here are some of my favorite tea poems.

The first two are by Soshitsu Sen - Grand Master XIV, Urasenke School of Tea

On Drinking Tea Alone...
In my own hands I hold a bowl of tea;
I see all of nature represented in its green color.
Closing my eyes I find green mountains and pure water within my own heart.
Silently sitting alone and drinking tea, I feel these become part of me.

On Drinking Tea With Friends...
What is the most wonderful thing for people
like myself who follow the Way of Tea? My answer:
The oneness of host and guest,
created through 'meeting heart to heart',
and sharing a bowl of tea.

Recalling a Sung Dynasty Landscape
by Jane Hirshfield

Palest wash of stone-rubbed ink

leaves open the moon: unpainted circle,

how does it raise so much light?

Below, the mountains

lose themselves in dreaming

a single, thatch-roofed hut.

Not that the hut lends meaning

to the mountains or the moon--

it is a place to rest the eyes after much traveling,

is all.

And the heart, unscrolled,

is comforted by such small things:a cup of green tea rescues us, grows deep and large,

a lake.

In Tea... by Tim Maxwell

I have glanced into tea leaves,
and found a forest.
Tea is all in a moment,
and a way of life.
It is recollection,
and attention to Nature.
A murmur of the breeze through the trees of Autumn,
and the warm of the hearth.
Silent mornings at home,
when rain streaks the windows' panes.
If you analyze tea, you'll find chemical components,
but not a hint of Life.
Analysis is achieved through concentration,
Synthesis arrives through relaxation.
Tea relaxes the stomach,
but it revitalizes the Heart.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mighty Leaf Wuyi Oolong

I've blogged before about the Mighty Leaf tea sachets, and why I'm impressed because the tea is good and the sachets are biodegradable.

I've received another sample packet from Mighty Leaf, this one including a variety of loose oolong teas. I wanted to try the Wuyi oolong because it's getting a lot of press these days as the weight-loss/fat-burner tea. I can't speak to those purported benefits, but I can say that it's a very nice oolong.

The dry leaf (above) looks like gnarled old wood. I love it! The tea really moves as it steeps and expands. It danced up and down in the clear filter I was using.

I found the second steeping to be much more to my preference than the first. This is consistent with many oolongs, as the first steeping "washes the leaf." Many people pour off the first brief steeping of an oolong. The tea was slightly sweet, no hint of bitterness, and brewed up into this lovely peach color.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Teacup Wristlet

This fabulous (and one-of-a-kind) teacup wristlet was a birthday gift from Sweetcakes. Isn't this just amazing!?! My thanks simply can't express the true gratitude I feel. After all, I watched her make one of these. These are friggin' HARD to make! I'm trying to convince her to open an ETSY shop to sell these things, but she has a busy life!

Monday, April 06, 2009

To Market, To Market...

To buy a fat [bag of watercress]!

I look forward to the opening of the farmer's market each year, so I can have my annual watercress on baguette meal. Oh, it's heaven. I'm lucky that watercress grows in my area! (Note: It's important to find a clean source. It's so sad, but many of the natural waterways where watercress grows are polluted from agricultural runoff.)

Well, Saturday was the first market and it was sunny and warm and - once again, heavenly. The DH and I enjoyed some gardening and lunch in the back yard. Lambic and watercress sandwiches.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Dog Ate It, Really!

OK, Sweetcakes, tell highway he's related to some other distinguished dogs...

Read this story. I promise you'll chuckle. (And it's dated April 2, so I think it's real!)

Thanks to RoxyRed for the story!

*Image from

Friday, April 03, 2009

Poetry Friday

Some flowers from my garden for you!

April is National Poetry Month, and I'm going to be using Fridays to share some poems. Probably on other days, too. Here are a few for you. It's rainy here today, but the flowers love it!

Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise The Rain
by Conrad Aiken

Beloved, let us once more praise the rain.
Let us discover some new alphabet,
For this, the often praised; and be ourselves,
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf,
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone,
And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,—
Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion,
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.
There is an oriole who, upside down,
Hangs at his nest, and flicks an orange wing,—
Under a tree as dead and still as lead;
There is a single leaf, in all this heaven
Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig:
The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught
Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs;
There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom
Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.
The timid bee goes back to the hive; the fly
Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock
Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail
Surveys the wet world from a watery stone...
And still the syllables of water whisper:
The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait
In the dark room; and in your heart I find
One silver raindrop,—on a hawthorn leaf,—
Orion in a cobweb, and the World.

Rain by Shel Silverstein

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Some Fun from Yesterday and More Vegan Treats

Hi, all! OK, my post yesterday wasn't foolin' around. Those recipes are real and yummy.

However, Tea with Friends had a fantastic spoof yesterday that was not only very funny, but also very cleverly written (and enticing)! Check it out! It's amazing how she captured our personalities!

Also, I recently made these vegan pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies that Gracious Hospitality wrote about. Oh, la la! Very very tasty. And they freeze well. I eat them right from the freezer. I used whole wheat flour. I actually used honey, which is not vegan. I used a little less than the called-for sugar amount. If you wanted to avoid white sugar, agave nectar would work nicely as a vegan sweetener.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Vegan Tea Party Foods

A couple of my tea party guests follow a vegan diet . Vegan is not a scary word. Actually, it was easier than I expected to incorporate yummy vegan options into the menu. The entire menu is shown above (V = vegan; R = raw). I'll focus here on the vegan options. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the food. I was too busy serving and having fun!

Mushrooms on Toast
I served this to was deliciously vegan and very, very, very yummy! I made the filling a few days ahead and froze it. The night before, I pulled it out of the freezer to thaw. When I was ready to make the sandwiches, I just topped the bread slices with the filling and let bake in the oven until the filling was warm and the bread was toasty. So good!
Filling: Chop up a bunch of mushrooms and onion. Saute with garlic and olive oil. The mushrooms will release their juices. Once the mushrooms are soft and the onions translucent, turn the heat off but keep in the pan to let them reabsorb the juices. I added salt and pepper. Then refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Note: Chop up more than you think you'll need. The mushrooms shrink a lot.
Bread: Look for a sturdy bread with no milk, eggs, whey, honey or other animal product in the ingredients list. Many breads are vegan, so this won't be hard to find.
Cucumber-Rosemary SandwichesAlso an easy adjustment from my traditional sandwich.
  • Make the rosemary "butter" the day before. Blend together vegan margarine (softened) and chopped rosemary (fresh or dried). I find the easiest way to handle the rosemary is to chop it in my hand nut chopper. Let the blend sit in the fridge for a day, so the flavors meld. Soften before preparing sandwiches.
  • Slice cucumbers very thinly (I use a mandolin) and pat dry.
  • Slather the insides of two pieces of vegan bread with margarine/rosemary filling. Top one slice with cucumber and put the lid on. Cut of crusts and cut into desired shapes. Repeat until you've made enough sandwiches. Cover with a lightly-moistened towel in an air-tight container until serving. (Refrigerate if it's a long time, and let stand at room temp ~30 minutes - but still well covered - before serving.)
Maple-Blueberry SconesI made two versions of these scones. I used maple syrup as the sweetener in both. In the vegan version, I used Earth Balance margarine and flax seed meal-water as an egg replacement. I tasted the two versions side-by-side and was hard pressed to notice a difference.
Note: The recipe I used below was very yummy, but I think it was too wet. The scones spread out a lot during cooking. I think you'll need to adjust with more flour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (and I added a pinch of ground ginger and allspice, for fun)
Mix dry ingredients and blend in, with knives or a pastry blender, 6 tablespoons vegan margarine (like Earth Balance).
Wet ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 equivalent egg replacement OR 1 Tbsp Flax seed meal with 3 Tbsp water, whisked until it gets well combined (I used flax seed meal)
  • 1/2 cup water
Add wet ingredients to dry/margarine blend. Judge the texture for yourself. You may need to add extra flour if it's too wet. I'm going to work on perfecting these, and I'll update the instructions when I do. Gently fold in approximately 3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen. Turn out onto a floured surface and shape into a circle, approximately 1 inch thick. Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter (or wedges) and bake for ~16- 18 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden. When they come out of the oven, rub margarine over the tops to make them even more golden. Try not to eat them all in one siting.
Vegan "Clotted Cream"Oh, this was definitely a highlight. I thought it tasted really good! I made this recipe up. It's quick and easy to make! Definitely a keeper in the recipe files.
Equal parts Earth Balance margarine (softened) with vegan cream cheese. (I used 2 Tbsp of both.) Smoosh both together until well blended. Drizzle with agave nectar until it reaches the desired sweetness. Enjoy!!!
Choc-Dipped ApricotsThis was another item I served to everyone. You can buy vegan chocolate chips. I found mine at the local coop, but Whole Foods or any place like that would carry these. I could not tell a difference - at all - from regular choc chips. So I dipped apricots and nuts into the melted chocolate, and served to everyone.