Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunset, Sunrise and a Dream

Just a few days ago, I was in CA, having a picnic supper and looking over the Pacific ocean to watch this beautiful sunset.

This morning I watched the sun rise, from the airport terminal in Korea.

I'm here to live out a dream, one that I've been thinking about for a very long time.  I'm on a tea tour of China, Tibet and India.  We'll see many, many places - both cultural and tea-focused.  It brings me to tears just to type this, because I'm so fortunate! 

Special thanks to my DH, who has been my cheerleader and encourager for this trip, and who remains at home tending the garden with his loving and magical touch.  (I'm touring with a fellow tea fanatic.)

I hope you'll follow along with me.  Kind friends have offered to post blogs while I'm gone (I can't access blogger in China but Yahoo should be OK to forward things along).  Having said that, most of the posts will happen when I return.  We're very busy on this trip, and I'm not sure how frequent I'll be able to produce them in real time...but I'll do my best! 

I'm looking forward to sharing this adventure with you.  It's a real life dream-come-true for me!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Leaf Room

Next to the Tao of Tea's teahouse is the Leaf Room, a place to taste and buy teas.  It's a nice compliment to the restaurant/teahouse.  It's a temptation, for sure - so come prepared to part with cash or keep a lock on the pocket book!  :-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tao of Tea's Original Teahouse

I recently checked off something on my "Want to Do" list...visiting the original Tao of Tea's teahouse.  This place, while well-known for its tea, is equally well-known for its delicious meals.  And not to forget, its lovely and reclaimed interior.

I had a pot of chai (made with honey - I had many sweeteners to choose from!) and a wonderful plate of dal (lentils) and rice.  Very yummy!  

I pulled out my journal and spent more than an hour nestled in here, jotting down my thoughts and enjoying my chai and meal.  It was a weekday, so there was no weekend rush, and I felt at-ease to enjoy myself and the surroundings.  I will definitely return!  There were many foods and many teas that I want to try.  Next up - a look at the Leaf Room next door.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Lingering Days of Summer

Toes - colors picked and painted by the niece

I love this photo! 

The kids are already back in school in most places, yet it's still the heart of sweet summer here.  Warm but not too hot, long days of light.  Yet I see the signs of autumn, the changing shadow's angle, the sun sleeping in a little longer, the first leaves that brown and fall.  I've given up on lamenting summer's departure.  It's futile.  Yet I do try to enjoy what I have, to get the most out of these lingering days.  When I return from China and India in a little over a month, summer around here will have shaken hands with fall and gone off for a long vacation.

My efforts to preserve summer include freezing things from the garden (pesto, chard, squash), spending a few more hours at the pool, packing up another picnic, and sitting longer on the patio.  How do you encourage summer to linger a little longer?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Morning Cup of Unexpected Contrasts

I'm taking an online photo class, and the instructor assigned us a scavenger hunt of shots...including our morning cup.  One of the points she's making is for us to click away because often, the best photos are the unexpected ones. 

I think the overall image above is so-so, but the contrasts are quite interesting.  Looking through the viewfinder, I did not see the reflection of the slats in the tea or the table ironwork on the saucer.  I only saw it upon reflection, after I downloaded the images.  Unexpected contrasts.  Kinda cool.  Kinda like life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oregon Bike Ride

My favorite photo (this is the DH)...
Riding into the rising sun on our first morning.  Notice the streamers.  ;-)

The DH and I just finished the Oregon Bike Ride.  We rode ~400 miles in a week.  Camped in a tent each night and I slept surprising well.  By the end, I had also finally made peace with the porta potties.  That takes a certain skill.  ;-)  Seriously, tho - it was an amazing week and a wonderful way to celebrate 15 years with the dear hubby.  Here are just a few of my favorite scenes from the ride.

A historically-significant grist mill, sitting pretty for the photo

The organizers put on the most amazing rest stops I've ever seen, and many of them were in lovely locations like this one. 

The foods included fruits, breads, crackers and cheese and peanut butter, and other fun treats to fuel hungry riders.  Spam with mustard was a particular hit, but I passed on that.  On many days, we rode over 70 miles and so the rest stops occurred about miles 25 and 50.

That's me helping set up the tent on a breezy afternoon.  Sunnyside Park, near Sweet Home.

We climbed this ascent!  We had cumulative elevation gains of about 4,000 feet this day.

The DH and me at Silver Falls State Park

Flower fields, grown for seed

In addition to the fields of flowers, we rode through Christmas tree farms, hazelnut groves, fruit orchards, lots of berries!  (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), fields of kale, chard, beets, green beans, onions, garlic, leeks, spinach, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, squash, corn...and on!

Here's how it works on a ride like this:  About 5 am, you begin to hear "zip zip" from the other tents.  At about 5:30, we would add to that - and begin packing up.  Breakfast at 6:30, on the road shortly after 7.  Most days we were back in camp by 2.  Eat, shower, put up tent, eat, have some entertainment, in bed by 9.  (Many days it was 8:30 for me!)  The DH has enjoyed staying up really late since we've been home!

It was a great ride.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Forever Stamps (or, to tarry)

Forever stamps plus postcard stamps

When was the last time you allowed yourself to tarry in the post office, to take in all the stamps that are available to you?  It's a sign that I'm on sabbatical that I've recently taken the time for this pleasure.  That's something I intend to change once my time off is over.  I need to tarry more for myself, rather than running to the beat of another's drum.

When you next visit the post office next, make it an adventure.  Check out the wide variety of forever stamps!  Selections include the ones above (except the flowers on the bottom right - those are postcard stamps), plus many more!  While the liberty bells are lovely, they are getting a bit old, you know?  I'm so glad we now have many choices.

I'm super pleased with the "Go Green" series below.  I bought two books of these.  (Note:  These are books of 16.)

For me, postal stamps are a fun way to send a happy thought out with bills, business correspondence, and especially letters.  Before I open a letter, I enjoy taking in the stamp and the postmark.  They invite me to tarry.

"Green" forever stamps - Use the green one in the middle, too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Wedding picture from fifteen years ago
With the addition of recent artwork by the DH

Thank goodness we still have a sense of humor!

Happy Anniversary to my DH!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Review: Brew Dr Kombuchas

Brew Doctor's Superberry Kombucha

Portland is a hotbed for kombucha, and I've been sampling my way through local brews.  My favorite is the Brew Dr line, by Townshend Tea.  The tea above, Superberry, is a gorgeous rose color.  This one, while very good, is on the sweet side.  I tend to prefer a "dry" version, so to speak.  I'm working my way through the entire line and enjoying it!

For your first time trying kombucha, go in with an open mind.  The flavors and experiences vary greatly, but most are tart with a hint of vinegar and a very light fermentation (fizz).

Kombuchas are touted to have many medicinal values.  I've not seen enough scientific evidence to make a claim, but I do try to ensure I'm getting a raw version. 

The Brew Dr kombuchas are lightly bubbly and refreshing, a great summer drink.

Have you tried this brand?  What did you think?  What about other kombuchas?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Details: Ladybug Teaparty

My mom, sister and niece visited for a week recently, and of course I held a tea party!  I wanted to celebrate my mom's birthday and introduce my family to some of my friends.  Plus, the niece is at an age where this kind of thing is really special.  She picked the theme, by the way.  ;-)

I had so much fun dreaming up and creating ladybug-themed items for this tea party! It's a perfect theme for the little entomologists in your life, with plenty of room for helping hands.

I knew I had to decorate the red teapot, above.  This was a great activity for me to do with the niece.  I used Crayola's window markers.  (Key learning:  Don't put dots where you or hot liquid will touch.  I.E., The handle and down the spout.)

I wanted to use my grandmother's Haviland china (blue and white), but I also wanted to play with a strong red and black contrast.  I think it worked out very well.  The DH (dear hubby) grew the gladiola. 

The food was also very fun to design.  My niece loves, loves cucumbers and we'd already given my favorite cucumber sandwich recipe a test run earlier in the week (thumbs up), so that was a sure winner for the menu.  The recipe is super-simple:  Thinly slice and blot cucumbers (peel if you must, but I often don't).  Chop fresh rosemary and blend into softened butter.  Spread butter on two slices of bread.  Add a layer of cucumbers.  Make the sandwich, cut crusts and slice into shapes.  Keeps well overnight if tightly bound in plastic wrap.

I wanted to use things from the garden when possible.  The rosemary is ours, and we have plenty of basil.  I also wanted at least one sandwich that would appeal to the grownups.  I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this one.

Toasted baguette, basil (for the leaf), fresh mozzarella (herbed) and half a grape tomato for the ladybug.  The almost-four niece didn't eat these, but she sure did think they were cute.  Here's another variation on this theme that my friend Marmalady sent to me.

Next up, one that was popular with all ages: strawberry cream cheese ladybugs.
I saw the idea for this one on the Internet, but I simplified it a bit.  I used cinnamon-raisin bread, cut into rounds.  Mom and I smeared the rounds with strawberry cream cheese and added the half slice of strawberry for the head.  We scored the cream cheese to give the appearance of wings.  These are quite tasty and super-easy to make.  A fun one to do with little helpers.

The scones - well, I'll admit it: they were a flop!  At least I thought so.  The niece seemed to enjoy their taste (she asked for two after I had  her taste one out of the oven).  I think I overworked the dough.  So no pictures...but here is the IDEA that I think will work in the future.  Cut the scone dough into rounds, then make a little notch out of one end (to simulate wings).  Also cut smaller rounds for the head (quite small), then cut that in half so there is a flat component.  My idea was to attach the heads to the bodies, for a 3-D effect, but they didn't stay attached.  I'll try attaching with butter or icing or something next time.  Any ideas?  When I get these to work out, I'll share pictures.  ;-)

For dessert, I created these fun ladybug cookies.  I used chocolate chip cookies, then iced them around the edges with red.  The chips provide the ladybug dots, and the red pulls in the color theme.  Fun!

For beverages, I served English Breakfast tea and this Ladybug Punch.  It's my variation of a Barefoot Contessa recipe.  Add 4 - 6 red zinger tea bags to 4 cups of boiling water.  Remove from heat and let steep at least 10 minutes.  Cool.  Add to that 2 - 4 cups of white grape juice (to taste).  Little helpers love to add chopped fruit to this mixture and to stir, stir, stir!  Serve well-chilled.

If you have a children's tea in the future, keep this theme in mind!  It's very flexible and lends itself to lots of creative and fun foods.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ladybug Teaparty

My niece, putting dots on a red teapot to make a "Ladybug Teapot"
More details soon!