Monday, June 29, 2009


I left my camera with the bike adventure photos at my mom's house, so more on that soon, once the camera gets here. In the mean time, here is a little vacation snippet...

On the tail end of the vacation, we were able to swing by my parents' home. It happened to be that my mom and stepdad were taking ponies to a vacation bible school. (The ponies belong to a's a long, connected, community story.) Anyway, being the resident pony expert, I got to play a role. :-) Here's me with the niece and the pony we named "Bean" for the day, as in Pinto Bean.
And here she is on her first pony ride! She's a natural, I think!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Farmer's Wife and Bike Mechanic Ride Office into a Solstice Sunrise

Photo courtesy event sponsors
Farmer's Wife (that's me) and Bike Mechanic (the DH, aka Farmer) will be riding off into a solstice sunrise on a week-long bike tour this week. Send thoughts my way of cool breezes and shade!

I won't be blogging for a week or so, but hope to have stories of fun and adventure to share when I return. Until then, enjoy your summer!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Portable Flower Box = True Love

Sometimes cardboard and tape can yield the most beautiful artwork! The flowers are lovely, of course, but I am in love with this cardboard box. Or rather, the man who made it (the DH). I plan to walk downtown to have lunch with two friends today, and I want to take them flowers. I had the jars ready, and the next thing I know, the DH comes upstairs carrying this box. So my arms won't get tired holding the jars. I love this man. And, isn't the box just the cutest thing? So functionally cool and beautiful! And all from recycled materials, except for the tape.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

So, Sew Happy

I'm always so happy when a sewing project works out! Here are two recent ones I'm pretty pleased with.

All-Weekend Sundress
This was one of the patterns featured in the book Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. This was my first experienc sewing with knit and it worked out well. It was also my first time sewing with elastic thread, and I loved that! The elastic thread (in the bobbin) causes the smocking at the breast bone and the waist. This is a very comfortable and versatile dress.

I didn't have quite enough fabric for the bottom tier, so I pieced it together, and it worked out fine. (Note - if you're going to make this dress, consider getting a little extra fabric, or doing a better job in laying out the pattern.) I also made the dress into a halter-tie instead of an over-the-shoulder tie. I am really happy with this dress!

Circle Skirt

Thanks to AZ Tea Lover for this circle skirt panel! (I threw this photo in so you could see our Asiatic lillies!) I added light blue ricrac to the bottom hem.

(Photos by the DH)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tea with a Twist

In case you haven't heard, there's a new book out called Tea with a Twist. I had a gift card waiting for special use, and this was a good choice for it. The book is full of very lovely photography (by Lauren Rubinstein) and eight creative tea party themes (by Lisa Boalt Richardson). Topics include a Flower Power Tea, a Bubble Tea, a Mexican Fiesta Tea and so on. My favorite tea party theme is an Under the Table Tea. My favorite recipe idea is scones with green chiles.

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

If you're looking for a copy, Marmalady's may have a few left.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lucky Duck, That's Me!

Lucky me! I won this fabulous watermelon quilt from Wendy. I am using it as a table-topper. I love the summery colors; the quilt lifts my spirits just to look at it!

I learned something important the summer after I graduated from High School. I learned it on a trip to Disney. In the van, as we were driving, I was chatting with a professional social worker about my career plans. She shared this lesson on LUCK with me, and it's a lesson that has positively impacted my life. It is this: Luck = Opportunity + Preparedness. In other words, we can shape our luck. I am a believer and a practitioner of this philosophy.

I am a lucky person, and I'm grateful. Certainly, some of it is chance. However, other parts of luck are because I was prepared when the opportunity came around. Case in point: I won the gorgeous watermelon quilt in the Sew, Mama, Sew! giveaway day. (Thank you, Wendy!) The chance part was that my name was drawn. But if we look at the formula above, it works like this: Luck (winning the quilt) = Opportunity (Sew, Mama, Sew giveaway day) + Preparedness (I was prepared for this event! I blocked my lunch hour, a week in advance, so I would have the free time. On the day of, I spent the hour browsing blogs and entering my name. It would have been easy to miss this opportunity if I hadn't prepared in advance for it.) So while I have been blessed by the Fates, you can also see that my own action played into this. Luck = Opportunity + Preparedness.

Where can you shape your luck today?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Unloved Fruit

For anyone living in the Midwest this time of year, you know that I am talking about the mulberry. Ubiquitous, messy, loved by birds, with plump purple fruit that stains - it's a mixed blessing. The fruit is sweet, nutrious, seedy, and free for the taking. I remember making mulberry jelly with my grandma. I'm guessing she made jelly instead of jam, so that she could simply skim out the seeds and stems.

Yesterday morning, I made mulberry muffins. I started plucking off the little stems, then gave up. I recalled advice from another mulberry fan who said to leave them on. They disappear when baked. So I did. And I didn't (notice them, that is).

Got mulberries nearby? Just pick enough for your favorite blueberry muffin recipe. Swap out the fruit and enjoy! Here are some other interesting mulberry recipes.
Did you know? A variety of mulberry is the sole food source for the silkworm?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Little Red Book

With a sense of urgency, I realized that there was a whole generation whose stories would never be told unless someone did something. And so, for the sake of posterity, I decided to commit social suicide and starting asking about first periods. Although my questions made some women cringe, the replies made it all worthwhile. With each new story, I felt that I had stumbled upon buried treasure that deserved to be shared. Thus began My Little Red Book. --Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

This is a book about first periods. It's also a book about the universality and connectedness of women, and also about the diversity and uniqueness among us. One thing is for sure- we each have a first period story.

I'm inspired by the author, an 18-year-old who collected these stories. I'm even more inspired that funds from the book's sale will go to helping girls in Africa stay in school by providing them the necessary sanitary supplies, water, education and private toilets.

Esme turned me on to this book, and I'm very grateful. When the time is right, I'm going to recommend it to my niece. And maybe I'll share my first period story.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Harney & Sons Tea Tasting: Yin Zhen and Bai Mei

I've had the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea sitting on my desk for months. Angela at Tea with Friends has been faithfully reviewing teas each Saturday, and doing a heck of a job with it too! She's generously shared some hard-to-find teas with me. I've finally gotten around to starting on this journey!

I'll be (sporadically) tasting and reviewing the teas listed in the Guide, in the order presented. I'll do at least two at a time, as I enjoy having a comparison.
Before I get started on these first two teas, let's talk about the essential equipment. For these tastings, I want to brew the tea as precisely as possible, according to Mike Harney's instructions. To do this, I need two tools: a thermometer and a timer.

I'm fortunate to have two tasting sets. To use these, you brew the tea in the little mug with the lid, loose leaves inside. What you can't see is that on the side of the mug, there are little teeth that allow you to pour the tea out (with lid on), while keeping the tea leaves inside. Then, once done, you can display the leaves on the top of the lid, as I've done below.

The first two teas (dry leaf shown at the top, left to right) are:
  • Yin Zhen (Silver Needles)
  • Bai Mei (White Eyebrow)
Here are Angela's reviews - Yin Zhen and Bai Mei.
I brewed both at 175 degrees Fahrenheit, for 2 minutes for the first steeping. I did a second steeping at 3 minutes. I enjoyed both and would drink them again.
The Yin Zhen is on the left and Bai Mei on the right. Both are very light brews, but with distinctly unique flavors.

The Yin Zhen leaf looks soft and cuddly. The dry tea smelled exactly to me like freshly cut hay. (I've been riding my bike next to fields of cut hay recently, so it was "fresh" on my mind!) Harney uses the hay reference, too. The taste/feel experience for me was very smooth. No bitterness. Lightly sweet flavor, and it left my mouth feeling very clean.

The Bai Mei is hand tied, and I think it's so pretty! The flavor has more of a presence. It's slightly vegetal, to me. I experienced a lightly bitter aftertaste, but it was pleasant.

And now a word about the book itself. I was expecting a somewhat hard-to-read book, if a person didn't have a bit of background in tea. I am glad to report my assumption was wrong! I think this book is very accessible to even a casual tea drinker. Michael Harney sums it up in his introduction when he says, "I only have one hard and fast rule, for myself as well as for you: Have fun."
Finally, if you embark on a tea tasting, either with Harney or with your own teas, I have two pieces of advice:
  1. Try to be descriptive, rather than judgemental. What I mean is that you'll have more fun if you challenge yourself to be creative and use descriptive words. If you don't like a tea, find the right description to say why. When I do tea tastings for others, I encourage them in this approach. One participant described a Pu-Erh as smelling "like my grandfather's basement." Now that's using descriptive words!
  2. Don't ever think you're wrong! If I say a tea tastes like a grape popsicle and you think it tastes like mud, then we're both right! Tea tasting is totally personal. The water, the steep time, the water temp all make a difference. Even if we're drinking from the same pot, your body chemistry plays into the mix. It's fun to compare differences.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ladies in Pink

I recently concocted this dessert. I've named it Ladies in Pink. It's super-easy, and I hope you'll give it a try because it's very tasty and pretty! I had never used mascarpone before, but I enjoyed working with it.

  • For one serving, you need 9 lady fingers (split in half), in groups of three
  • Sliced strawberries, sweetened (I used honey)
  • Mascarpone cream, blended with lemon peel and sweetened slightly with honey or powdered sugar
  • Chopped nuts (I used toasted almonds)
  • Mint leaf, for garnish
  1. Spread a layer of mascarpone cream on one layer of lady fingers. Place the lady fingers on a plate, cream facing up.
  2. Top with strawberries and then sprinkle with nuts.
  3. Spread another layer of mascarpone cream on the second layer of lady fingers.
  4. Stack on top of the strawberries and nuts, cream facing up. Press down lightly to stabilize.
  5. Top with strawberries and nuts.
  6. Spread a layer of mascarpone cream on the final layer of lady fingers.
  7. Stack on top of the strawberries and nuts, cream facing up.
  8. Top with strawberries and nuts and garnish with a mint leaf.

Note: I don't like my desserts very soggy, but if you're a fan of soaked sweet breads, you can liberally pour the strawberry juice over the lady fingers, too. I did this judiciously.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sewing Machine MeMe

Sew, Mama, Sew is hosting a fabulous giveaway for a fancy sewing machine! In order to enter, you need to answer questions (a meme) about your machine, and submit it to the blog owners. Details here.

What brand and model do you have? Euro-pro Shark

How long have you had it? 4 years

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? In the $200 range

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? Tote bags, clothing, will try quilting

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? 2-3 weekends/month (sometimes more or less)

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? I like it! It has done everything I need, and for the price, I think it's a great bargain!

What features does your machine have that work well for you? Just the basics

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? The instruction manual is very basic (and not too helpful)

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! Got it from my Mom for Xmas. Thanks, Mom! It has definitely opened up a new world for me!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? I think it's a GREAT starter machine for those who want to see if they like sewing without investing too much.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? I'm too new to this to know.

Do you have a dream machine? I'm reading of several in this blog posting from Sew, Mama, Sew!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Hat, Please...

Two hat things:

The giveaway winners (drawn from a hat):

Blogger: Hootie!
Reader: Belinda!


Belinda, let me know how to contact you. (Email me at I'm excited because I actually know Hootie. I'll start up another round of color postings (and giveaways) in July, after vacation.

The new hat picture (my profile): Thanks for the compliments. It's a vintage hat that belonged to the grandmother of someone for whom I did a tea party a few years ago. I think it's fabulous. By the way, the thing near my ear, on the side of my face opposite my braid, is my phone headset. I actually wore this hat for a work video conferencing. We were having a very looooong video conference meeting, and to make it fun, we had "hat day." So there you go, the story of the hat.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I'll announce the giveaway winners tomorrow! In the mean time, here are the other pinksters (those who've blogged about pink).

  • Hootie has a fun photo display, with music.
  • The cutest pink hat, among other things, if featured at Comfrey Cottages.
  • ParTea Lady shows us this gorgeous pink Hall teapot. And look what the summer Tea Time magazine has - a pink story!
  • Southern Touch Catering has lots of beautiful pink things, but I'm drawn to those pink flip-flops! Two styles!
  • IN addition to a beautiful teapot, Angela at Tea with Friends has these amazing pink gloves.

If I've missed anyone, let me know.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I Spy: Petal Pink (and Giveaway)

Rose petals and lemon balm in sun tea

Welcome to week four of the "I Spy" color series. It has been fun! This week wraps up round one, and I will soon announce the winners from this series. One reader and one blogger. It's not too late to enter! Leave a comment here or blog about Petal Pink yourself.

I was surprised, actually, about how much pink was in the garden, and how little pink is in my home. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, because I've never thought of myself as a "pink" person. The pastel color palette is not what attracts me. However, I do like pink, and I have a small corner in the bedroom, my "tea cozy corner," where pink thrives.

The perfect pastel pink

Sweet Pea, in a blanket of honeysuckle


In my cozy tea corner
A Limoges cup and saucer

A pretty cup and saucer from Mom

Monday, June 01, 2009

Strawberry-Rhubarb Tea Cake

Rhubarb season is upon us here in the Midwest. So is strawberry season. Those two have been culinary friends for a long time.

This recipe is my own, consistent with my no white stuff efforts. I am thinking the recipe will be in the little tea book I'm working on. So, you'll have to wait for it! :-) Basically, it's a a whole wheat batter with honey and/or agave nectar as sweeteners. It was very yummy.