Thursday, May 31, 2012

Picnic at Pittock Mansion

View from the grounds of Pittock Mansion, looking across the city to Mt. Hood

The DH and I recently visited Pittock Mansion, an historic landmark and city park in Portland. The grand old home sits high on a hill in Forest Park, overlooking the city and its rivers, and on a clear day, with views of five mountains.

The mansion was built in the early 1900's and was home to Henry and Georgiana Pittock.  I admire these two visionaries.  Henry worked his way from poverty to owning the Oregonian (the local paper).  He was an avid hiker and bicyclist, riding until the very end of his life.  In addition to hosting some of the earliest rose shows in the region, Georgiana dedicated herself to improving the welfare of women and children.  Clearly, they were a power couple dedicated to improving the lives of those in the community.  "With great power comes great responsibility."  ~Voltaire
Mt. St. Helens

We enjoyed a picnic with this customized blanket from my sister.  It's from the Thirty One company.

The blanket is just the right size for two adults to share.  The backing is lined so that it's moisture-resistant, while the inside is soft fleece.
We enjoyed apple-walnut lettuce wraps.  Super simple and super fast to pull together.  Chop apples, walnuts and celery and dress with honey and lemon.  Serve with fresh leaf lettuce (lucky me, ours from the garden.)  Yummy, fast and healthy!

View from our picnic spot

Now let's go inside the mansion...

The marble staircase

 View of the back lawn

Sewing Room

Ready for tea in the sewing room, where Georgiana and her friends worked to raise funds for various causes.

If you're in Portland on a sunny and clear day, Pittock Mansion is worth it!  You can enjoy the grounds and the views for free.  The entrance inside is $8.50.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tea in the Desert

These hills frame the horizon when looking out from my friend's home in Arizona.  There's something that calls me to reflect upon contrasts when brewing tea in the desert.  Wet and dry, sun and shade, hot and cold, brittle and pliable, bitter and sweet, these contrasts are present both in tea and desert.

We brewed three teas in gong fu style.  We started with a Huang Shan green, then a Wuyi Oolong and finally a Shou Pu-erh.

Contrast of dry leaf and wet.  Above:  Shou pu-erh ball.  Below:  Spent leaves from the three brews.  The pu-erh is the darkest on the bottom.

Like beautiful desert flowers that add vibrancy to a subdued desert landscape, my friends were the heart of this tea brewing experience.  It was an honor to make tea for them.

I'm grateful for this chance to share many small cups with my amazing friends!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Meatless Monday 9: Sage and Italian Cheese Grilled Sandwich

I've been in Arizona over the weekend, and a friend had this delicious sandwich at the Aji spa.  We recreated it at her home, thumbs up!

Sage and Italian Cheese Grilled Sandwich
Hearty whole wheat bread (we used Tuscan Whole Wheat Pane from Trader Joe's)
Fontina cheese
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Fresh tomato (in AZ they are now in season!)
Sage leaves
Dill springs (our addition to the sandwich)
Butter or olive oil

Spread a light layer of pesto on both slices of bread.  Layer:  Fontina, fresh tomato, sage, dill, shaved parmigiano-reggiano.  Grill in butter or olive oil, like a grilled cheese sandwich.  Delicious!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Some Indulgences

Awesome artwork/vase from Flor; flowers from the garden

Summer scarf I whipped up in 15 minutes; thanks CO Tealover for the fabric!

Gift from the DH

Weekend with girlfriends, including the Aji Spa

I hope you are indulging yourself, at least a little!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thyme for Tea (and Lemonade)

Fresh Thyme

Just in time for Memorial Day...let's talk about thyme tea and lemonade!  I'm learning to love this herb.  Its small purple flowers attract bees and make pretty, edible garnish.  We like to throw sprigs of it into salads.  I think I'll try adding it to my bath water.  The herb itself has many other uses, including an herbal tisane. 
The flavor of this infusion is slightly bitter and medicinal, but in a GOOD way. I like its bite.  Part of thyme's chemical makeup includes thymol, an antiseptic and an ingredient in mouthwash.  I'm planning to drink up this tisane the next time I have a cold.  (It's a year-round hearty herb in the Pacific Northwest.)

I wanted to experiment with adding thyme "tea" to lemonade.  Wowzer, we like it! Thyme provides a subtle, but definite, foundation.  It reminds me of margaritas, without the alcohol but with the bite.  Definitely making this again!

Thyme Lemonade
2 cups of strong thyme "tea" (I steeped mine for 45 minutes)
1 cup of water
1 cup of lemon juice
1/2 cup (or less) honey or sugar

How do you use this pretty herb?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Herbal "Tea" Series - Red Clover

Red Clover

 I'm going to be blogging throughout the summer on fresh herbal "teas" - aka herbal infusions and tisanes.  (It's not really tea without camellia sinensis.)  This will be fun!  I'm learning tons about what's brewable right outside in the front grass, along the ditch, from the tree or in the garden.

I'm starting with Red Clover because we have fields and fields of it in bloom right now. It's used to replenish nitrogen in the soil.  

To brew it, I used two clean (and pesticide-free) large red clover blossoms.  I added boiling water and steeped for 10 minutes.  The aroma - well, it's like clover!  The taste is lightly sweet and fresh and springy.  See the link above for info on ways that Red Clover is believed to benefit your body.

My next herb will be "Thyme for Tea".   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meatless Monday 8: More Onions and Dirty Blonde Brownies

We could sell at a Farmer's Market. That's how many onions we've got this year.  My favorite way to eat them is grilled, but we've also had them in:  soup, quesadillas, green salads, garbanzo salad, salad dressing, stir-fried rice, fried potatoes, quiche, spanikopita, and scrambled eggs.  We've talked about pickling and freezing.  We've also given lots away.  I post this list to help those of you who will get CSA veggie baskets this summer.  Fun, Fun - yet it can be tough (and a little stressful) to eat up all of the goodies, especially when one produce item peaks.  Get creative - it's amazing how many different ways a vegetable can be used! 

Now onto dessert.  Dirty Blonde Brownies (because they're made with whole wheat, get it?).    I'm thinking this photo will make your mouth water.  I know that dessert doesn't (usually) include meat, but I include the recipe below because it's delicious and is made with olive oil and whole wheat.  It could easily be made vegan.   
Dirty Blonde Brownie

The original Blonde Brownie recipe came to us from a friend of the DH's long ago.  Thank you, MG!  We've changed it up to use whole wheat, olive oil, and less sugar. 

Dirty Blonde Brownies (with vegan options)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups packed brown sugar (we often use only 1 cup; adjust based on your preference and the sweetness of the chocolate)
2/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten (or vegan egg substitute)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (or vegan chocolate)
1/3 cup nuts

Mix nuts and chocolate chips together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a third bowl, beat eggs (or prepare vegan replacement).  Add oil, then sugar, then vanilla.  Slowly add about 1/3 of dry ingredients into wet, and then 1/3 of the chocolate/nuts.  Repeat twice.

Spread in a 13x9 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for ~30 minutes.  Cool in pan for about 30 minutes and serve warm.  Try not to make yourself ill by eating half the pan.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My New Favorite Boutiques

Out and about on a recent sunny afternoon, my friend and I made our way to Flora.  This has become my new favorite gift boutique.  In the light-filled store, the owners and staff artfully display soaps, soft furnishings, purses, jewelry, stationery and other miscellaneous treasures.  Many of these goodies are made by local artists.  (I came home with an amazing vase - to be shown soon.)

One of the best things about this shop is that you are offered a cup of tea while you browse.  The teas are for sale, many being original blends.  Of course, we found our way to the tea shelves!

My other new favorite shop is Radish Underground.  This clothing boutique also features local designers/sewers.  Both innovative and classic mingle together (often in the same piece).  This bubble-top is an example.  It gets the fullness at the bottom from being doubled under - it's one long piece of fabric! 

I'm looking forward to returning to both Flora and Radish Underground!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Afternoon Tea at the Propylaeum (Indianapolis)

Tea Treats at the Propylaeum

I recently enjoyed afternoon tea with my family and dear friends at the Propylaeum in Indianapolis.  What a lovely building and a lovely time catching up!  The Propylaem is a long-running (since 1888) women's organization.  Its mission is "to emphasize a sense of civic responsibility and community services; to foster the love of literature, music, science and the fine arts; to provide women a social and cultural center."  What a perfect place for a tea room.  I'm inspired just to read about it!

Our room was lovely, lots of natural light, chandeliers, delicate china, etc. My mom peeked into one of the other rooms to find a large group of older women meeting.  It made an impression on her (and therefore me too!).  How cool that these women are actively engaged in civic pursuits.

And of course, it was very special to have tea with my niece.  I'm so proud of her, she's already a dedicated lover of tea parties. (In fact, she's having her first as the hostess this weekend!)
My tea-loving niece!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tea Under the Scope and other Science Adventures

Looking at tea under the microscope

Spent a few days recently at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.  (I highly recommend it!)  One of the activities was a science lab.  How cool to be able to look at TEA under a microscope!  I should have taken a snapshot of coffee - they do look different.

Below, we are performing a science experiment with a peacock feather. 
Peacock feather experiment

Love this photo below!  :-)  The niece and I are excavating a Terracotta Warrior.  What's so cool about this is that I saw these in person last fall on the grand tea tour!  Fun times.
Excavating Terracotta Warriors

Monday, May 14, 2012

Meatless Monday 7: Grilled Onions and Asparagus

This Meatless Monday supper was a simple one, and aren't those the best?  We made use of local and fresh foods, preparing them as straighforwardly as possible. The flavors of the food - not the salt/butter/sugar trappings - but the real food shines through!

We (er, the DH), grilled spring onions (from our garden, Egyptian walking onions) and asparagus (from the farmer's market).  The only addition was a bit of olive oil to prevent from sticking.  What's not to love about asparagus?  And oh my - the grilled onions were so sweet, like dessert.

With this, we had a blend of rice/wild rice/quinoa and a plate of raw carrots, celery and beets (from the garden). 

My favorite type of dining - simple and unadulterated!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Wonderful Mother

Niece, Me, Mom

This picture (taken by my sister) makes me happy and teary.  I'm so grateful for my mom.  She led my sister and me through heartbreaking times, made sure that our family had fun and adventure, encouraged us to pursue our interests, and showed us how to be strong, responsible women.  Mom made sacrifices that I've only begun to understand as an adult.  I love you, Mom!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Special Indian Dessert

Gulab Jamun

Marilyn has done a nice job of describing the full menu of our Spice of India tea at the gathering of tea friends in Ohio.  Here, I want to dive into specifics of one particular item, Gulab Jamun. This is an Indian dessert and it's special to me because it's something we had (twice!) in India.  And oh, it's so yummy! 

I was thrilled when I learned that MJ would make this.  She's an intrepid chef...this is not a recipe I would attempt.  Here is a similar recipe.  (MJ did not use raisins.)

We learned that the trick is to have the oil temperature LOW.  Otherwise, the outsides get too brown and the inside remains uncooked.
MJ cooking the dough balls

MJ made the dough balls and did the frying.  My small contribution was to make the rose syrup, a simply syrup scented with rose water.  The gulab jamun sits overnight in this, soaking in the delicate sweetness.  Gulab jamun are a delicious treat, and a way to share a bit of Indian culture through food.

Gulab Jamun in India

Monday, May 07, 2012

Tea Friends Old and New

I've spent the last few days in a gathering of tea friends. Some are old friends, first met during the Tea in London tour. Others I knew from online forums, just now meeting in person for the first time. I was excited to meet my penpal. She writes wonderful letters on pretty paper. It was a delight to spend time with two of my Asia Tea Tour companions including my special "room friend" MJ. Special thanks to her from all of us for hosting and organizing! My heart is full!

We tea-partied hard and long! The first day was an elegant and sensual affair, the "Spice of India" theme so well done. The shared preparation was ideal. Everyone contributed and added to the creativity and beauty. As we feasted on delectable morsels, we sampled three different flushes of Darjeeling, carried back from the mountainsides by MJ. We toasted the event over cups of chai and dessert. Then we retired to the patio for an Osmanthus oolong. More on the menu later.

The next day, under beautiful skies and sitting in dappled sunlight, we shared in a Wu-Wo tea ceremony. Being in the moment, silence, serenity, sharing tea and spirit in community, birdsong, flexibility and generosity...these are the things I experienced.

More to come in a few days when I'm not blogging from the mobile phone!

I am so grateful for tea friends!

Photos below (I haven't yet learned how to add them into the text on the iPhone):
- Granita made with Meyer lemons brought from CA
- Mary Jane and me
- Flowers from a tea friend "across the pond"
- Dessert

Meatless Monday 6: Vegan Spanakopita

What do you do with a garden full, Full, FULL of delicious spring onions (but you need the space)?  Isn't it obvious?  Make onion spanakopita!  :-)  I suggested a puff-pastry onion tart, and this is where the DH took that idea.  This dish is vegan. 

Here's how he made it - layers of the following:
  • Phyllo dough
  • Sauteed onions
  • Phyllo
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Phyllo
  • Sauteed chard
No cheese included, but I didn't miss it.  Wow, this was good!