Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Special Holiday Tea

I feel so pampered and loved!  My friend Sweetcakes recently held a tea party while I visited, allowing me to spend some quality time with friends.  Thank you!

It was a beautiful day.  The fire blazed, the teas smelled heavenly, and I was so happy to see my friends.  The place settings were winter white, with pink and silver accents.  It perfectly accompanied the snow outside and the rose in my friends' cheeks from the crisp air.

We began the tea feast with white bean-rosemary soup.  Then we enjoyed egg salad, chicken salad, and cucumber tea sandwiches.

The scones were cranberry-orange served with cream, orange marmalade and cranberry relish. For desert, we had an amazing assortment of Christmas cookies and candies, and sweet and salty chocolate cupcakes.

And if this wasn't enough, the next day I enjoyed an inspiring brunch, prepared by Esme, and in the company of my writing friends.
Two very special women. Thank you for making my visit home one that I will treasure!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Japanese Garden on a Rainy Day

The DH and I recently visited the Japanese Garden in Portland.  It was a drizzly, cool day, and it was a fantastic time to visit! Here are some photos to enjoy.  The artwork above and below is by Shihoko Fukumoto.  She dyes this sheer fabric with indigo, in a very traditional manner.  Read more.  The forms are gorgeous!  Above, a demonstration tea ceremony.

And some views of the garden from our stroll...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winner, Yay!

Wow- I've never had this many blog comments.  Thank you all, I've read each and every comment and am inspired by all the love and creativeness put into what you are making.

And the winner is...Wendy.  And I love that she was also a participant in Giveaway Day.  A nice reward for her generosity.

Tea and granola on the way, congratulations!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fuel for the Last Weeks of Holiday Crafting (Giveaway)

I'm participating in Sew, Mama, Sew's Giveaway Day by offering a giveaway of loose-leaf tea (Ice Wine) and homemade granola, gifts that will fuel your body and inspire your creativity, to get you through those last crafting days before the holidays. 

Or if you're one of those plan-ahead types and you're all ready, then you can sit by the fire and sip away while reading a book.

My warmest wishes as  you celebrate all that is this season!  Stephanie

Please leave a comment telling me about the holiday projects you have remaining, or have already completed. I'll pick the winner at random on Friday, Dec 17th.  (International shipments OK.) 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Giveaway Day - Dec 13, 2011

Sew, Mama, Sew is hosting its annual Giveaway Day on Monday, Dec 13th.  Check its website for a list of all participants, then come here to register for my giveaway!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fire, Sun, Ice

Sitting at the counter, Portland Bijou Cafe

I love this image.  It's incomplete, a small snippet of life, yet it tells me a story:  Cafe, brunch, sunshine, weekend.  Actually, it tells me two stories.  The second story is based on color:  Fire, sun, ice, solstice. 

One of the things I've enjoyed most about this blog is that it's an avenue to work on my photography skills.  I've learned so much, and have so much yet to learn.  One thing is for sure, a good image tells a story. 

What story does this photo tell you?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Starting the Giving Tradition

Photo by Dave Anderson for World Ark magazine

I was browsing through the Heifer International magazine (World Ark) recently and came upon the photo above. It just grabbed me.  The woman, Nai Paulo, is making tea.  I was drawn to the bright colors and the elaborate ornamentation as it stands in contrast with the sandy, bare soil and the preparation of tea.  The story tells that the tea is made from tea leaves, a spoonful of raw sugar, water and camel mik.  After the tea, she will make porridge for the village children's breakfast.  The story is how camels (initially provided by Heifer International) have improved the lives of the Maasai people in Tanzania.

Heifer International is an organization I admire.  It gives families in impoverished ares (in the US as well as internationally) livestock or seedlings, along with training, to help them improve nutrition and earn an income.  For example, a family can use camels for milk, chickens for eggs and bees for honey.  Heifer asks that the family pass along offspring from their gift to others in the community.  From the website, "Heifer's mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.  By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.  With gifts of livestock and training, we help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways."

This Christmas, I will begin a new tradition with my niece.  I'll talk to her about how some children don't have food or toys, and that she can help.  I'll let her pick rabbits, chickens, bees, etc., that we will contribute.  I think, even at three, she can learn the joy in sharing.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Wise Ones

Thank you to everyone who shared thoughts and read the comments in my Wise Women series!  Here's a recap:

How do you hold joy and sorrow in your heart at the same time?

How do you forgive yourself?

How do you cultivate patience?

How do you remain true to your unique life's path?

Congratulations to last week's giveaway winner, Esmerelda!
(Her name was randomly chosen from the commenters.)

Thank you for sharing and for reading.  This has been a very meaningful series for me!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Warm and Snuggly Teapot Sweater

Do you know the magazine Ready Made?  They also have a cool blog.  I love it!  I can check the magazine out from the library and it has the coolest projects.  I saw this idea recently, to repurpose a sweater into a tea cozy.  It was fun and easy (just scissors and hand stitching).  And it works!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cranberry-Ginger Vinegar

Cranberry-ginger vinegar

This is a fun and fabulous project for the holidays!  (It makes a super-cool gift.) 

  • Glass bottles with lids.  (Don't buy these - use recycled bottles!  Above I'm using Tazo tea bottles, salvaged from the recycling.)  Wash these in super-hot water or in the dishwasher. 
  • A plastic funnel.  You can make one by punching a hole in the bottom  of a small yogurt container.
  • A saucepan.

Ingredients:  Fresh cranberries, fresh ginger root, white vinegar, bottle garnish like a sprig of rosemary and a string of cranberries (below)

  • Sanitize the glass jars and lids
  • Wash the cranberries (a handful per bottle)
  • Wash and peel the ginger root; cut into small match-stick sized slices (6-8 per bottle)

  • Determine how much vinegar you need for the bottles (a quick pour in/pour out works well).
  • Bring the vinegar to a boil in a saucepan.
  • While the vinegar is heating, place a handful of cranberries and the ginger in each bottle.
  • After the vinegar has boiled, let it cool for just a minute to make it easier to handle.
  • Using the funnel, pour the vinegar into the glasses.  The cranberries will pop and immediately begin turning the vinegar into this lovely pink color!
  • Let the vinegar sit for a day or two.  Pour out and save the pink liquid while straining the ginger and cranberries. 
  • Refill the jars with the pink vinegar and new cranberries/ginger.  Garnish the bottle and enjoy.
  • This should be stored in the fridge.  I will use it on rice, or in a oil-vinegar dressing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wise Women Wednesday - #4 and Giveaway

This week's question:
How do you remain true to your unique life's path?

It would be easy to ask a question about gratitude today, but I'm sure you're already thinking grateful thoughts.  So let's take a different approach...I want to know what strategies you employ to stay focused on being honestly YOU regardless of pressures from society.  I look forward to your responses!


Congratulations to last week's giveaway winner, Mary Jane

(Her name was randomly chosen from the commenters.)

This is my last Wise Women question for the month, but I've enjoyed this so much I'm sure I'll bring it around again.  For what it's worth, these questions are very real to me and I take your thoughts to heart. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thank You Tea

"A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the hardest things about moving has been leaving some very close women friends in the Midwest.  And I'm so grateful that those friends remain close to me - let me praise email and Facebook!  I've come to learn that a network of supportive women friends is crucial.

And when I arrived in Portland, there was another group of women here who welcomed me into their company.  This has carried me through.  Without their companionship I would have been very lonely.  And so I recently had a "Thank You Tea" to offer my gratitude to four women that have made me feel part of a community .  And also thanks to my abiding friends - from coast to coast and in between, in the desert and in the mountains, in the plains and the cities.  Thank you!

Marilyn has written about the tea party in a lovely way, and I encourage you to visit her blog! 

For this special day, I used some of my favorite china dishes.  I served East Frisian tea and cranberry-walnut tea bread, along with fruit and cheese.  It was fun to host a tea party in our apartment.  The day was chilly and damp, perfect for a tea in front of my fireplace and to share the warmth of friendship.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Parsley Pesto

Our garden is still going strong with lettuce, kale, turnips, beets, rosemary, cress, and lots of parsley!  We found this delicious and zingy recipe for parsley pesto in our local newspaper.  (I think it originally came from the book Cook Italy.)  It's an interesting recipe because it uses neither Parmesan cheese nor nuts, staples of traditional pesto.  Yet the results are great!  If you have surplus parsley, this is a winner!

Parley and Lemon Pesto

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (I like the panko style)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp lemon zest
Salt and pepper (optional)

Put everything into a food processor and run until a nice paste forms.  Enjoy!  It freezes well, too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wise Women Wednesday - #3

This week's question:

How do you cultivate patience?

Patience is not my natural tendency.  I'm more of the "grab it by the horns and wrestle it down" type of personality.  But I've been working hard to cultivate patience.  What tips can you offer?


Congratulations to last week's winner, Faith Hope CherryTea!
(Her name was randomly chosen from the commenters.)

Each Wednesday, I will post a question and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Comment each Wednesday for a chance at a giveaway! (4 for the month.) The winner each week will get a sample of tea, a surprise, and my thanks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My New Downtown Bag

Me and the bag, in the heart of the city

For over a year, I've been on the hunt for the perfect camera bag.  I want a cross-body style (instead of a backpack) because I want to be able to slide it around and take out the camera.  I also want it to hold other stuff - my keys, water bottle, map, journal, etc.  It needs to be comfortable for a day-long trek into the city.  And it needs to look good.  Finding a bag that meets all requirements has been tough, but I've finally found one that I'm very happy with, the Lowepro Passport Sling.

Note: I didn't intentionally color coordinate my outfit with the walls (freshly painted in living room)

What I like best about this bag is that it looks cool, and NOT like a camera bag. The bag has room for one D-SLR camera body with lens attached and an additional lens (in padded compartments), plus some extra stuff. (It's a little tight with the cam body and lens together, but it works and doesn't jostle around.).

This is me flirting with the photographer, the DH

I've tested the bag twice now and I can tell you that I really like it!  The bag expands with the black zipper shown down the seam, above, but I haven't had to use that yet.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Marmalady Marilyn

Meet Marmalady, also know as my friend Marilyn!  She writes a wonderful blog and has her own tea and jam business, Marmalady's.  (I'm currently loving the Cherry Amaretto jam.)

Marilyn has many talents, one is pattern design.  She offers a pattern for this vintage-styled cloche hat.  I have the pattern and look forward to showing mine, once I get it made.  I'll make one for me and one for my niece.

I made Marilyn's acquaintance through blogging, and we met in person for the first time two and a half years ago, when I was in Portland for a work trip.  Little did I know that I would one day be living here.  Thank you, Marilyn, for helping me to transition into my new home!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wise Women Wednesday - #2

This week's question:

How do you forgive yourself?


Congratulations to last week's winner, Marlena
(Her name was randomly chosen from the commenters.)

Each Wednesday, I will post a question and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Comment each Wednesday for a chance at a giveaway!  (4 for the month.)  The winner each week will get a sample of tea, a surprise, and my thanks!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Book review: Sew Retro

I've thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of sewing (and, in parallel, a look at feminism and gender roles) in the new book Sew Retro, by Judi Ketteler.

I was inspired by the profile of Ellen Curtis Demorest, who made paper patterns accessible to the home seamstress.  Among many enterprises, she ran a magazine that encouraged positive messages for women.  It encouraged them to seek employment, apply to college, and applaude the successes of their women peers.  She provided jobs for women in her shops throughout the country, including hiring African-American women who received the same benefits as white women. 

If you're interested in fashion, sewing, and/or women's history, this book is a fun and informative read.  (Your library probably has it, if you're willing to wait in line.)  The book also provides sewing projects for the modern woman, inspired by the past.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Agave Granola

I've been eating a lot of granola lately, and I've taken to making it myself.  I like the flavor of agave nectar and I like to add things not typically found in the store versions, like hazelnuts or coconut.

Here's my version of this recipe:
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup nuts (hazelnuts are especially good!)
  • A couple of handfuls of seeds - sunflower, pumpkin, etc.
  • 3 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup agave (or honey)
  • Other goodies as you desire:  Coconut, choc chips, etc.
I like the olive oil/butter combo.  I've tried it with just butter, and while tasty, I wanted to cut down on that.  I've tried it with just olive oil, and again, while tasty, it didn't brown up the way I wanted.  So I go half and half.

Preheat oven to 250.  In a large bowl, add the oats, nuts, seeds and flax seed meal.  Stir.

Melt the butter and add the agave.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about a minute.  Take off the heat and stir in the olive oil and vanilla until well blended. 

Stir this liquid mixture into the dry ingredients above.  Mix well. Spread onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet (you may need two, depending on how much stuff you've added).  I do not recommend putting in the dried fruit now.  It gets too done.  I stir in the fruit after the stuff comes out of the oven.

Bake for ~1 hour or a little more, until the oats get nice and brown and to the level of crunchiness you desire. 

Bring out of oven and stir in the fruit and any extras (if you are using something that melts, wait until it cools.)  Enjoy several handfuls right away, but don't burn your tongue!

When it cools, pack away in an airtight container.  If I go easy and have some of this on granola every day for breakfast, it lasts a week.  Sometimes I don't make it  that long!

This version is lightly sweet, so it's not what you'll buy at the store.  Also, you could choose to stir in the nuts, seeds and flax seed meal with the fruit and get even more healthful benefits from those items in raw form.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wise Women Wednesday and Giveaway!

Bouquet from the Farmer's Market last Sunday

How do you hold joy and sorrow in your heart at the same time?
Joy in these glorious flowers
Sorrow in knowing this is the last of them for a time
A metaphor for the unspoken joys and sorrows in our hearts

I'm celebrating National Blog Posting Month by starting a Wise Women Wednesday series.

Each Wednesday, I will post a question and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Comment each Wednesday for a chance at a giveaway!  (4 for the month.)  The winner each week will get a sample of tea, a surprise, and my thanks!

How do you hold joy and sorrow in your heart at the same time?

By the way, men can comment too!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Harney & Sons Tea Tasting: Hojicha

I think this is a really cool photo!  I like how the small glass teapot has steamed up and framed the steeping stalks.

Hojicha - This tea is a novelty.  In the world of tea, many things are old, ancient.  Tea has been consumed a looong time.  Yet hojicha is relatively new on the tea scene.  It was created as a by-product of mechanized tea picking (which began in the '20s).  The leaves get used for bancha and sencha, the twigs remain, and that's what this is - twigs of tea.  This tea is roasted over charcoal.  Very different from its steam-fired Japanese green cousins, and an entirely different flavor and aroma profile.  

I'm drawn to the metaphor that is offered to us in each sip.  I like how the creators of this tea looked for a way to use the leftover materials, what many people would throw away, and make them into something useful. 

In his tasting book, Michael Harney recommends this tea as a good one for coffee drinkers. While I don't drink coffee, I understand the comparison. It's darkly roasted in flavor and color. What I found most interesting is the sweet aftertaste and very dry tongue feeling.

Hojicha is not very known to those of us in the US. If you get the chance to try it, do!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Harney & Sons Tea Tasting: Genmaicha

Today's tea review is Genmaicha, also known as brown rice tea or "popcorn" tea.  There is rice in this tea, but no popcorn.  That nickname comes from a "popped" kernel of rice that really does look like popcorn!

I regret that I don't have my own photo for this review.  I should!  Heaven knows I have sipped my fair share of this tea.  (I brew at ~190 degrees for about 2 minutes.)  But I don't have any on had at this moment...and I want to move along in the book, so here's a shot from wikipedia.

In my opinion, this tea is a fun one, and a great one for new green tea drinkers.  I say that because of the inclusion of toasted brown rice, which gives the tea a nutty, gentle flavor that balances the stronger bancha (or sometimes sencha) green.

From Harney's website:  "Once considered a cheap peasant beverage, Genmaicha has recently come into vogue among Japanese urban elite and in the United States as a health drink."

If you drink this tea, what do you like about it?

Sunday, October 24, 2010


When my niece was born and I met her for the first time, I whispered in her ear what I knew to be true,  "You're amazing.  You are smart and strong and creative.  You are compassionate and kind and giving."  I also told her she was pretty, but I tried then - and continue trying - to make that subservient to far more important qualities. 

Today I found this recording of Katie Makkai at a poetry slam and watched it three times.  I hope you will, too.  

"The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will will never be merely pretty."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Horrible Cup of Tea

I had a horrible cup of tea yesterday, and it was made by none other than yours truly. The root cause: I was in a hurry.  It unfolded like this....

2 minutes between meetings, dash to the break room.
Get hot water and grab the first teabag I can get my hands on (Stash white/green blend). I don't normally drink tea bags - I have my own "stash" of loose tea, but I was in a hurry.

Steep tea for all of 15 seconds thinking, "I'm going to be late."  Toss teabag because I don't want oversteeped tea.  I'm in a hurry.

Toss in two ice cubes from the soda machine because I'm thirsty,  I'm in a hurry, and I don't have time to wait for it to cool.

Discover that tea is truly horrible.  Proceed to office anyway.  I'm in a hurry.

Join phone meeting a little late.  Try to calm myself by sipping horrible tea.  Cough and make faces.  Be grateful that I'm on the phone and not in person.  Push horrible tea to back of desk.   

Finish meeting without tea.  Finish day without tea.  Remind self - being in a hurry yields nothing but horrible tea!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Exploring the Wide Range of Tea

A favorite thing among favorites at the NW Tea Festival was participating in the many varied tea tastings.  Offered by experts also in love with tea, these tastings allowed for a deep appreciation of a particular tea category- be it type of tea, country, processing technique, etc.

The photo above is from the Aged Chinese Tea tasting, led by Charles & Laurie Dawson.  In many cases, tea is best when it's not allowed to get old and stale.  However, in the hands of a master tea maker, some teas can be very special when intentionally aged.  That's what we explored in this tasting.  We tried an aged Bai Mu Dan (white), an aged Ti Kuan Yin, a basket-roasted Liu An (a new tea to me - similar to but distinct from a Pu-Erh), and young and old Pu-Erh.  The teas were prepared in gaiwans, using a lot of leaf for a fast infusion.

Next I attended an exploration of Korean teas and tisanes, led by Yoon Hee Kim.  Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from this excellent tea tasting. I wish I could show you the tea ware.  The Korean tea equipage was marked by the use of a water cooling bowl.  A person experienced with this style of brewing uses the palm pressed against the bowl to gauge the right temperature.  Many scholars believe that Korean tea practices were an influence in the formation of Japanese tea culture.  In this tasting, we sampled wild golden mini chrysanthemum (tisane), mulberry leaf (tisane), an organic spring green, and hydrangea (tisane - very sweet!).

Brett Boynton (of the Seattle Tea Cup) led this tasting, which focused on Sri Lanka (Ceylon) teas.  We tasted two teas from different estates, one from each of the main tea-producing regions.  I was reminded that Sri Lanka is the world's biggest exporter of tea.  It's number three in production, but other countries drink a lot of their own tea, reducing the export volume.
Jennifer Sauer, of Bon Teavant, led us through a comparison of spring v winter oolongs.  I loved her vivid descriptions of spring oolongs being like a teenage girl, and winter like a mature woman.  We tasted spring/winter baozhong (see above - notice the color difference) and spring/winter dong ding (yes, that's really the name).
You might recognize the gent on the left, James Norwood Pratt. He partnered with Jason Chen, author of A Tea Lover's Travel Diary, to lead a tasting of two special teas, Phoenix Oolong (single tree) and Ti Kuan Yin.  These two worked well together, sharing stories, information and good humor.  It was a fabulous way to end the tea festival.

As I walked away from the event, I told my traveling companions that I felt euphoric.  If you apply the drug formula - the drug (tea and lots of it), the human, and the setting -  I think you'll understand why!  

Thursday, October 07, 2010

NW Tea Fest: Exhibit Hall

A very fun part of the NW Tea Festival was visiting with the vendors at the Exhibit Hall.  The offerings ranged from high-end teas to tea equipage, chocolates and cookies, teapots and cozies, and more.  Here is a list of the vendors and below are just a few snapshots...

Tea Lady of Olympia, Washington
 The Tea Ladies had an interesting and colorful array of tea pots, kettles and cups.  I loved the little white porcelain cups with rubber nubs in bright colors.

High-quality teas available for tasting

 It was fun to talk to the vendors and learn about what they offered.  Here, a rep from SA Japanese Green.

 A new product soon to be on shelves from Tao of Tea.  I really liked the RTD (ready-to-drink) Tulsi.

Otaku Tea is reaching out to new tea markets. From the program materials, "Otaku Tea is focused on making tea for the steampunk and cyber punk sub-culture. Gamers, Anime Fans and Geeks Welcome." Read more about steampunk, if you're interested.  I love innovation and wish this company all the best!