Friday, April 30, 2010

Congrats and Our Poem

First, thank you to everyone who commented on my 5th Anniversary blog posting!  I was so inspired by our collection of 5 words that I have made a poem from them (see below). A fitting way to close National Poetry Month!  This collaborative poem is a real joy to me.

Now the winners...congrats to these two people selected at random!
Trombonegirl24 and SDQuilter

I've sent you both notes on how to connect with me - look for your prizes in the mail soon! 

And to our poem...

5 Words of Spring
by Steph's Cup of Tea blog readers

Flowers lifting their pretty heads
Fresh green flowery pink joy
Biking flower and house adventures!
Historic home and garden tours!
Renew! Refresh! Revive! Rejuvenate! Rejoice!

Afternoon tea in the garden
Heady scent of Orange Blossoms
Rain glistening on baby leaves

Pretty flowers butterfly warm weather
Good food on the grill!

Fragrance of fresh picked lilacs
Rejuvenation of Earth and Soul
Spring green tender Maple leaves
Hot chai with my Mom
My Garden Awakes! It's Spring!

New blooming flowers daily outside
Sipping tea to whispering wind

Sunshine warming my winter soul
Remembering my friends love me
I love my friends, too

Violets, pansies, dogwoods and lilacs!
Beautiful flowers and birds singing!
Sipping wine on the porch
Greenery peeking from cold soil
April showers bring may flowers

Glorious green and flowers delight
Wild flowers in the mountains!
Sipping First Flush Darjeeling Tea!
Sunshine, pussy willows, daffodils,forsythia
Cherry blossoms swirl, tumble, flutter

Fresh morning dew, new beginnings
Warm sunshine and bright flowers
Sunshine kissing the rose petals
Sunshine, green grass, flowering trees!
Tea time on the porch

New surprises each garden visit
My daughter's tinkly bubbly laugh
Replacing snow shovel with trowel
Nurturing nature and baby birds
Butterflies, wind chimes, books, tea

*Photo from Microsoft images

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poem In Your Pocket Day

Here's my poem for today. 
I have 6 copies to give away! 
Oh, what fun to read and say,
"Today is Poem in Your Pocket day!"

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.

"Green Tea" by Dale Ritterbusch, from Far From the Temple of Heaven.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tea Party Today - Poems to Sip and Savor

Wrapping up National Poetry Month...

Here's a fun book for the young-hearted tea and poem lovers in all of us!  Tea Party Today - Poems to Sip and Savor by Eileen Spinelli and with lively illustrations by Karen Dugan.  The book is available  hard and soft-covered.

I was impressed by the multi-cultural influences in the book, both in the images of the children and in the poems themselves.  An excerpt from Tea Around the World...
"In Ireland tea is cozy.
In Russia tea is strong.
In China tea is served to guests
And sipped the whole day  long..."

The rhymes are strong and fun to read out loud.  There are plenty of tea adventures to be found - like tea on Noah's ark or tea time with a grouch (who just needs a hug).

I look forward to reading it with my young niece this weekend!

Also, don't miss a very special day tomorrow!!  Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

5th Blog Anniversary and Giveaway

Today is my 5th Blog Anniversary!  I almost let it slip by quietly, until I realized it was year #5.  That seems worthy of celebrating.  So I'm holding a tea-themed giveaway.  The prize will include tea, tea-themed stationery and other goodies. 

To enter, let me know in 5 words only something about spring that lifts your spirits. Mine is:  Time with friends and flowers.

I'll pick a winner on Friday, April 30th.  Good luck!

The photo above is from the gardens at the Indiana Museum of Art.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Celebrating Dirt

Happy Earth Day!  Today I'm celebrating dirt, the source of so much beauty.  As my DH, a fabulous gardener, likes to say, "It's all about making dirt." 

Here are a few other nice sayings I found as I was perusing a copy of Mary Jane's Farm magazine at a bookstore.

"A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust."  Gertrude Jekyll
This saying reminds me so much of my grandmother!

"If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom."  Audra Foveo

"I saw an act of faith today.  A man was on his knees, not in a pew in a church, but in a garden planting seeds."  Unknown author

The purple lilac photo is for Esme. Happy birthday!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mary Oliver Poem

April is National Poetry Month, in addition to National Letter Writing Month.  Here's a poignant poem by Mary Oliver that integrates them both.

A Letter from Home
She sends me news of blue jays, frost,
Of stars and now the harvest moon
That rides above the stricken hills.
Lightly, she speaks of cold, of pain,
And lists what is already lost.
Here where my life seems hard and slow,
I read of glowing melons piled
Beside the door, and baskets filled
With fennel, rosemary and dill,
While all she could not gather in
Or hid in leaves, grow black and falls.
Here where my life seems hard and strange,
I read her wild excitement when
Stars climb, frost comes, and blue jays sing.
The broken year will make no change
Upon her wise and whirling heart;-
She knows how people always plan
To live their lives, and never do.
She will not tell me if she cries.

I touch the crosses by her name;
I fold the pages as I rise,
And tip the envelope, from which
Drift scraps of borage, woodbine, rue.

Mary Oliver

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Sunny Day at a Cafe

I recently had the chance to sit for a few stolen moments at a cafe (Stone Cutter's) and enjoy a cup of oolong tea. The cafe did a fine job with keeping the brewing process easy while giving me loose-leaf tea!  It used in-mug brewing filters.  I like this method because:  1) I can control the steeping time myself  2) I can use the leaves more than once 3) I get higher-quality teas with the loose leaf  and 4) It's pretty.  I hope other coffee and tea shops give this a try!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Letting Go...

Letting go is a beautiful thing.

We are in the flow of letting go.  Of china and clothing, tea pots and cups and saucers, steer horns (another story!) and bicycles, a scooter and a car, shelves and file cabinets, tea books (yes, even tea books!), the lot...

We are letting go.  Of stuff, stuff, stuff.  Of plans and dreams.  Of control.

We are drawing to us new plans and dreams, new ways of living.  More flexibility.  Strength to not gather so much stuff!  Wisdom to know that life is one big lesson in letting go.  Of everything eventually.  That isn't meant to be sad.  It's a truth.  When I face it, embrace it, I shift into the frame of mind I desire.  Letting go is a beautiful thing.

*Photo from Microsoft Images

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Harney & Sons Tea Tasting: Dragon Pearl Jasmine

Sometimes things happen very serendipitously...

I'm working my way through the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea.  My next tea to be reviewed was Dragon Pearl Jasmine.  Angela had already given me a sample, but I drank it up so quickly, I didn't take any photos!  Tsk Tsk.

 As it turns out, just when I was ready to place an order, I received a gift of Harney & Sons Dragon Pearl Jasmine from a fellow tea-lover and friend.  What an indulgence!  I love Dragon Pearl Jasmine, and the H&S version is great.  (Note:  You can get small sample bags from the H&S website, which makes this affordable!  Disclosure:  H&S did not give me anything in return for this review.)

Dragon Pearl Jasmine is an exquisite tea.  Preparing and drinking it is, for me, equally a visual feast as well as one for my nose and taste buds. The dry leaf is rolled into those lovely balls, alternating with threads of dark and light.  (Much of this is still hand-rolled!)  It's hard to imagine that those tightly bound balls will unfurl, but they do!

I brewed my tea for 3 minutes at 180 degrees.  In that short space of time, the leaf went from the first photo to the second.  The aroma is its signature - intensely jasmine.  The flavor is hard for me to describe.  It's sweet, but not too much.  A bit floral, but not too much. Not bitter at all. I enjoyed an additional 2 steepings.

The way the tea and jasmine are merged is a beautiful story.  The tea is placed on screens or trays, alternating with trays of fresh jasmine blossoms.  The tea and jasmine blossoms are stored together for several days, until the aroma of the jasmine permeates the tea.  It takes several weeks to finish.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pen to Paper

My favorite pens for letter writing

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I love letters!  I love to write them and receive them.  Whenever I pick up the mail and there is a hand-addressed envelope, I smile and my day brightens.  It's a special thing to get a letter.  It means someone took the time to think of me for a few precious moments of that day.

April is National Letter Writing Month!  Will you join in and write a letter or two or three?  I've combined this with some Mondo Beyondo challenges.  I've written to two of my favorite authors, thanking them for their works.  I am writing letters to babies and grandparents, to my niece, to the DH and even to myself.  Who in your life would love a letter?  And I don't mean just a card that you sign. I mean a real letter with sentences!  At least a paragraph.  There need not be a purpose.  Just talk about the weather or your weekend.  What's important is the idea that you thought specifically of that person. 

When I write a letter, I carefully choose my stationery and my pen.  The pen is very important.  Sometimes I don't have a "good" pen around.  I persevere anyway, but a good pen makes a big difference in my experience.  It makes the tactile experience pleasurable.  I just picked up some AMAZING pens this week at Staples - see photo at top.  These are BIC Mark-It ultra-fine point markers.  They come in many colors (I got 10).  I love the way they write on the page and the colors.  Advice for pen buying...if possible, give them a try before you buy to see if you like how they feel on the page.  Nothing annoys me in my letter-writing more than a scratchy, sticky pen.

CO Tea Lover and I have been penpals for over five years now.  The DH and I send each other letters.  Two friends, I'll call them Kale and Dana (pseudonyms from a night out in San Fran 10 years ago!), and I have a traveling journal that we send round to each other. 

The traveling journal

I keep my favorite letters in pretty boxes.  I try not to be a packrat about stuff like this.  I don't keep every card or note ever sent to me, but I do keep the ones of substance that will feed my soul on a cloudy day.

Letter stored in a pretty box

Who would you like to write a letter to today?

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Posy for My Sweater

I love this red sweater.  Yet, I've had it for a looooong time and wanted to do something new with it.  So I added a posy!  I got the idea for free-style machine embroidery this from the book, Bend the Rules with Fabric (at my library!).  I wanted the flower to look whimsical, like a doodle, imperfect like real life. 

I didn't have the book instructions in front of me, so I winged it (a risky proposition with me and sewing, so I'm pleased it worked!).  I recalled that I needed to reinforce the fabric, so I added a bit of light interfacing on the back side.  I drew, with disappearing fabric ink, the general sketch of the flower.  Then I stitched it, round the stem and each petal twice for the doodle look.  I believe Amy Karol calls for using a free-motion technique, but I don't have that sewing equipment.  So, I just went really slowly.  Two stitches, stop with the needle down, lift presser foot and pivot, and so on. 

I think it makes the grade.  The real joy for me is having something fresh without being a consumer!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

My "New" Favorite Outfit

This is my "new" favorite outfit, with new in quotes because the dress is vintage and the sweater has been reworked.  I am very happy with the way this turned out!

The dress has the original Ladies Garmet Workers label inside. 

I must tell you - I don't believe clothes are made to this level of quality anymore.  Look at the finishing for the edge.  And, the pockets and zipper facing are both lined in the contrasting fabric.  The construction of this piece is a thing to admire (and learn from!). 

The DH calls this my June Cleaver look.  That works for me, as I describe my style as classic with an edge.  I like the length of the skirt, just below my kneee.  It's good and swishy when I walk.
Here's the dress without the sweater.

More on the sweather in a separate post.
Roxyred found this on one of her many vintage/thrifting excursions!  Thank you!  I love it!

*Photo shoot by the DH.  It's so fun being his star!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Austin, TX: Tea at the Four Seasons

I was recently in Austin, TX for a very quick one-night trip.  I'd never been to Ausin, but had heard great things about it, including the opportunities for tea.  I read many reviews and decided to give tea at the Four Seasons a try.  I was not disappointed; in fact, I was delighted!

I walked into the gorgeous Lobby Lounge at the Four Seasons and my gaze was immediately drawn to these large windows with amazing views of the water and green space.  As I made my way to the hostess stand and introduced myself, she said "Hello!  Welcome to Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons!"  I produced a big, big smile.

That smile grew even larger as Shelly, the hostess and tea steward, led me to my table next to those captivating windows.  The table was sprinkled with rose petals.  I sat there for several moments just taking it all in.  I was a bit unsettled from traveling since the wee hours, and this moment of quiet and beauty went far to restore me.

Shelly brought the tea menu round in the form of samples which I could smell.  She asked about my preferences and recommended an orange-jasmine.  It was very good!  The loose tea was served in a tea press, allowing me to control the steeping time.  Between the view and the tea, I felt back to my normal self with an extra pinch of serenity.  The setting here really was magical, and I took it all in with gratitude. 
Take a peek at the menu here.  The sandwiches were perfect - tasty, dainty and lovely.  The scones included pistachio-cranberry and dried apricot.  The desserts included a small chocolate cake with banana cream filling, a chocolate-dipped strawberry, and a passion-fruit French merenge, also dipped in chocolate.  It was delicious and presented prettily.  I couldn't eat it all, and so I took a few treats with me for a later snack.
After tea, I went for a walk through the Four Seasons grounds and along the water.  It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon! Tea at the Four Seasons is expensive - $30/person.  I think it's worth it.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns

Do you know the nursery rhyme Hot Cross Buns?  Listen to it here.  I made a whole wheat version today, based on this recipe from Joy of Baking.  I used a ratio of 2/3 whole wheat bread flour to 1/3 white flour.  The texture and taste are great.

I kneaded in the raisins and orange peel, then allowed the dough to rise.  Then I shaped into balls and brushed with an egg wash.  After another rise, I sliced crosses into a few of them and baked.  The crosses didn't show that well, but the rolls are still lovely.  (Other methods to get the cross include using dough or powdered sugar.)
Traditionally, these are served on Good Friday.  I didn't know any better, so I made them for tomorrow.  We'll see how many are left by then!
Read about even earlier traditions related to these rolls.

Wishing you peaceful celebrations of whatever your faith inspires.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Not Alone

I just returned from a very quick one-night work trip to Austin, TX.  (More on that later - Austin was awesome!)  The meeting was mostly very good with 1/2 hour of strangeness.  I came home focused on that 1/2 hour and trying to figure out how to solve the problems brought to me.  I felt very alone and at a loss.  And then, I had the idea to call one of my peers.  And guess what?  She was able to offer a crack into my bleak outlook.  She had a solution in mind, one that I couldn't/didn't see, and I left the meeting with hope

I tend to be a "do it by myself" kind of gal.  But today I'm reminded that I am not alone.  I'm not expected to solve all the problems by myself.  None of us are.