Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Iron-Jawed Angels

Have you seen the movie Iron-Jawed Angels? It's excellent - I highly recommend it! (You can likely find it at your library. It's an HBO special that's been out since 2004.)
It's a story about early American suffragettes. It stars Hillary Swank, Frances O'Connor, Anjelica Houston, Julia Ormond, Patrick Dempsey and many others. This story is fictionalized, but based in history. From the website, "Iron Jawed Angels tells the remarkable and little-known story of a group of passionate and dynamic young women, led by Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and her friend Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), who put their lives on the line to fight for American women's right to vote."
This movie needs to be shown in all high school government classes. It motivates me, and it would have lit a fire in my passionate high-school self. (Note: there are some graphic scenes in the jail portion.)

Aside from the message, I loved the film for the hats! Oh, such eye candy! And look for the tea references. I've tried to pull a few of the tea/hat snapshots to share here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rocket Girls and Astro-nettes

This week wraps up Women's History Month. I'll be featuring stories about women who have defied boundaries.

I'll start with this radio story I heard last evening, Rocket Girls and Astro-nettes. When you get to the site, click the play button to listen.

Eileen Collins, the first female pilot and commander of a Space Shuttle, narrates. Other women astronauts, including several of the first, talk about challenges they faced as they made their way into the very-male NASA. I think it's an interesting story, and recommend it as one that any young woman should hear.

*Images from program website.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shape Shift

This is one of my favorite sweaters. It had, unfortunately, shrunk a little over time and I no longer liked how it hit me at the hips. In fact, it annoyed me greatly. So it was in the pile to go to the thrift store. But..... I couldn't quite part with it. Such a pretty color and nice wool.
Yesterday I had the great idea to turn it into a cardigan. I'm so happy! It was easy, too. I cut it up the middle, added a button at the V-neck point, and put some seam sealer on the raw edges. Voila! I like the cardi even better than the original.

You can also see other refashion ideas here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Mondo Beyond Space

My Mondo Beyondo space. The recipe included:

  • Written permission slip
  • Candle
  • Something from nature
  • An inspiring picture
  • A small bowl

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tea at the Brown Hotel

On Sunday, my friends K, A and I took a tea-trip to Louisville, KY. The trip was steeped in history and flowing with good conversation.

We started the day with a visit to the
Speed art museum. It was a great museum visit! My favorite part was viewing the English room. The original walls from an English manor are reassembled here. They're full of detailed mythical carvings. The original owner was a "Sergeant at Law" for Queen Elizabeth I (my favorite queen)!

After the museum tour, we headed over to the Brown Hotel, a grand hotel in the style of old opulence. The recent movie Elizabethtown used the ballroom from the Brown in one of its scenes.

The hotel used whole-leaf tea sachets, which I appreciate as a nice step above tea bags. It's an easy way for the hotel staff to avoid brewing in the kitchen and provide higher-quality tea. On the down side, it does leave you with the problem of what to do with the paper and tea sachets.
Our menu included:
Tarragon chicken salad with radish sprouts, smoked salmon and yogurt raita on pumpernickel and sun-dried tomato pesto with cucumber and eggplant spread.
We had Corinth raisin scones and, for dessert, a raspberry tartlet in vanilla pastry cream, a mocha chocolate ganache cup and a pistachio tartlet.

As we sat and sipped our tea, I could envision former guests like Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor and Gene Autry. They'd fit right in, and so did we! Thank you to my friends for this special day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

37 Things

37 Things I Invite Into My Life
  1. Gratitude
  2. Patience
  3. Conscious living and loving
  4. Kindness
  5. Centeredness
  6. Wisdom
  7. Adventures with my DH (dear hubby)
  8. Visits from family and friends
  9. A job that I love and that pays me well
  10. Bicycle rides
  11. Finding the beauty in the grey
  12. Truthful writing - my own and that of others
  13. Complete health
  14. Contentment
  15. Stretching - body, mind and soul
  16. Open time
  17. Fun and ease
  18. Laughter
  19. Lightness
  20. Playfulness
  21. The gift of listening - to me, from me
  22. Time to create
  23. Loving conversations through differences
  24. Walks along the beach
  25. Flower gazing, amazing
  26. Healthy, tasty meals from local sources
  27. Inspiration
  28. Serene moments at the Chinese garden
  29. Fingers in the dirt
  30. A new language
  31. Great photos
  32. Vivid memories
  33. Breath/e
  34. Pause
  35. Action
  36. The depth of old friends
  37. The expansion of new friends

I invite these things on the wings of health and goodness. Many of these I am blessed to enjoy already, and I bring them into focus here because I don't take them for granted.

So it is.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 26 - Climate Care Day

Climate Care Day - A Day Without Travel
March 26, 2010

Work from home on Friday, March 26! Avoid business travel and save commute time plus reduce your carbon footprint!

I'll be participating, but of course I work from home already. I can attest that working from home is a highly effective option. I get more done (because I have fewer interruptions). I save a lot of money in not buying petro, and I significantly reduce my negative ecological impact. I do travel via plane for work on occasion, but have been able to reduce that travel by the use of video conferencing . (Check out Skype, a free web video chat tool.)

Note: I will soon no longer be be working from home. A big move is in the plans. But even in the new place, I plan to walk/cycle/take the train to work! This is such a priority in our lives, that we are choosing where to live based on proximity to the light rail and to the office. I do not believe that individual metal boxes are the healthiest nor most ethical choice for me. I'm thrilled to see a coordinated effort targeted at businesses to recognize the value of NOT traveling/commuting for business. Read more at the website.

"Climate Care Day is intended to raise awareness of the importance of climate change - the 21st century’s number one environmental issue - and demonstrate how simple choices can make a significant difference to the environment. It recognises the importance of the planet to both the business community and our personal wellbeing."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My St. Patty's Dinner

I had last night to myself, and I indulged in making a supper of tea sandwiches. Welsh Rarebit (recipe from Celtic Tea with Friends) and cucumber with rosemary butter. It was one of those warm March days that make me think (wish) the cold days are over. I ate supper on the porch. I was shivered back to reality when I headed out this morning for a run and it was cold again!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green and White

Did you know that the Irish are given credit for drinking more tea, per capita, than anyone else in the world? I can believe it! I took a work trip to Ireland several years ago. During a mid-morning break, we headed to the cafe. A new hot water machine had been installed, specifically for making tea. A poster on the machine gave instructions for how to make a proper cup of tea. My Irish team was part humored and part insulted. "We don't need instructions on how to make a cup of tea!" one declared. That memory has stuck with me!

I suppose I should have posted this link before today so that anyone who liked these ideas could have planned ahead. Oh, well! The photo gallery includes green and white tea sandwiches as well as the pretty trio of teacups above.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

*Image from Martha Stewart's website.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Puddle Wonderful

spring when the world is mud-luscious

and it's spring when the world is puddle-wonderful

Note: Lines in this post are from the ee cummings poem In Just.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Harney & Sons Tea Tasting: More Chinese Greens

Huangshan Mao Feng (back) and Taiping Houkui

Slowly and surely, I continue working my way through the Harney & Sons tea tasting guide. It's fun! Last weekend, I compared Huangshan Mao Feng (Yellow Mountain Downy Tip) with Taiping Houkui (Taiping Best Monkey Tea).

Closeup of Huangshan Mao Feng

Closeup of Taiping Houkui

The Taiping Houkui is a new tea to me. I find it very interesting. The tea leaves are long - some over two inches. Harney states that it's from a special cultivar of tea, prized for its long leaves. These are certainly the longest tea leaves I've seen. Also notice, in the image above, the hash marks on the leaves. This is an imprint from the canvas that the tea leaves are pressed between.

I brewed each tea at 175 degrees for two minutes. I didn't like the first brewing of either - very light. I brewed again at 3 minutes. Much more flavorful.

Huangshan Mao Feng, on the left, was light in color, aroma and flavor. I picked up a bit of sweetness. The Taiping Houkui was darker in color, aroma and flavor. It was quite vegetal, but pleasant. In my opinion, it's leaning more toward the Japanese greens in flavor.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mondo Beyondo

I'm taking the March class of Mondo Beyondo! This is an "online class about dreaming big" and was a gift from my Mom for my bday later this month. One of the first activities was to print out a sheet of affirmations, add my own, and put them in a bowl for daily reflection. I chose a special tea bowl.

I'm looking forward to the class! If you are interested in this concept of dreaming big, visit the Mondo Beyondo website and the superhero journal.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cardamom-Nut Scones

I love the flavor and aroma of cardamom, and I made these cardamom-nut scones for the first time this morning. Mmmm! Both the DH and I liked them a lot.

The recipe came from the book Tea Time by Nancy Akmon. This book was a gift from my Aunt K several years ago, when I gave a tea party for her. It was the prettiest tea party I've ever done, as we used my aunt's pink depression glass. She lived in a historic house, and the setting was perfect!

Back to the scones - here is the recipe. (See my recipe attribution policy.)

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I used orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I used half butter and half olive oil b/c I ran out of butter. Hmm...it made a really nice dough! I might do this again!)
  • 1/2 cup milk (plus I added a splash extra of water b/c the whole wheat was a bit dry)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted (I used pecans)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. The instructions call for adding all dry ingredients to the food processor and pulsing to combine, then adding the butter bits and processing for about 10 seconds until the mixture is like a coarse meal. I didn't want to drag out the food processor, so I used our antique pastry blender. Worked great and made me smile!

I prefer to mix the milk, egg and vanilla in a separate bowl before adding to the dry ingredients. Then the directions call for turning the dough out onto a floured surface, kneading in the nuts (but not too much kneading!), then patting out the dough with hands to form a 3/4 inch circle. Cut into desired shape. Brush with an egg wash and bake for 14 - 17 minutes, until golden. (I baked for 15.)

Excellent with a cup of strong black tea. This recipe is definitely a keeper, as it does a fine job of featuring the aroma and flavor of the cardamom.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gongfu Tea at Tao of Tea

Gongfu utensils
I recently had the chance to introduce my DH (dear hubby) to one of my favorite places, the Classical Chinese Garden in Portland. After a tour of the garden we shared tea at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections (managed by the Tao of Tea) tearoom.

Last time I was here I had tea in the gaiwan style. This time we shared tea in the gongfu style. Gongfu is a Chinese tea ceremony. It is used with oolong and pu-erh teas. I will describe the ceremony as I experienced it (there are variations).

The utensils are shown in the photo at the top of the page. You need a kettle for the hot water, a drain tray for rinsing the tea (and pouring out the water), a clay teapot, a container for the brewed tea, the aroma (cylindrical) cups and thimble-sized drinking cups (not shown in the top photo), and of course a special tea.

We were drinking
Mensong tea, a pu-erh from an old growth tea forest.

First, the teapot and cups are warmed and rinsed with the hot water. The water is poured out through the slots in the drain tray.

Next, the participants take note of the shape, texture and aroma of the dry leaf. Then the tea leaves are added to the pot and and rinsed. This rinsing liquid is poured off.

Now the leaves are steeped again (considered the first brewing). In my case, the tea was poured into the glass pitcher and from there into the small cylindrical cups, then topped with the tasting cups. The two are inverted - and the participant uses the cylindrical (aroma) cups to inhale the essence of the tea.

First brewing poured into the aroma cups

Cups are inverted and participants appreciate the aroma from the tall, cylindrical cups

Again, this brew was poured off (and over the teapot).

Now we are ready to taste the tea! The next brew (and several more) are poured into the small tasting cups and enjoyed. According to tradition, this should be consumed in three sips.

It's a special moment focused on the conscious appreciation of tea. Unfortunately, my description leaves out a lot of nuance and detail. If you ever have the chance to attend a gongfu tea ceremony, please do!

(Apologies to my Oregon friends! I didn't have time for a visit this trip.)