Monday, March 30, 2015

You Never Know What You'll See on a Portland Street...

 This incredible bubble art...

Or maybe two women dressed in Victorian-style clothes, out for a stroll...
To my fellow chanoyu students: Ms. M and I got a big kick out of this photo. Notice our tea hands!

The truth is my friend Ms. M (in blue) is much more practiced at costuming than I.  I was a little nervous to walk around in public, but I am SO glad that we did!  Truly, I have never seen so many people look up from their phones or other occupations and smile genuinely.  I felt like the smile fairy.

All manner of people engaged with us, from children to elderly, across ethnic and socioeconomic groups.  It was fun and made me realize how much this human connection of smiling feels good. 

After our stroll, Ms. M and I visited the Heathman Hotel for Afternoon Tea.  It's a grand old hotel with a beautiful lobby. (You may have heard of the hotel from a certain super popular book/movie. Hint: There's a color in the title.)

Ms. M is wearing a riding hat and a bustle skirt.  I am wearing a top hat with feathers and a walking skirt.

The setting at the Heathman is beautiful.

 The tea menu...  Everything was delicious!

Here's my invitation to us all... take a chance and smile at a stranger, including the ones dressed differently.  It's amazing!

"If you smile at me I will understand
'Cause that is something
Everybody everywhere does in the same language."

~Crosby, Stills & Nash, Wooden Ships

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's a Small Tea World and Steven Smith

Steven Smith, at a cheese and tea pairing 
in August, 2013

"The man breathed in deeply - of rosebuds and mint, of sunny meadows and salty cliffs, of streams in no hurry and the sound of bagpipes."~Ethel Pochocki, Wildflower Tea, 1993

This quote reminds me of Steven Smith, who got his business start with "tea" by selling herbal blends along the West Coast.  He was a major player in the birth of both Stash and Tazo, and most recently Steven Smith, Teamaker.  Smith died this week and obituaries have been run far and wide, including this one in the New York Times and another from Oregon Live.

I am grateful for the small, connected and caring tea community around the world. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mitsuwa: Japanese Marketplace (San Jose, CA)

I recently spent a sunny day n San Jose, CA (looking out the window of a conference room). As I was heading to the airport, I welcomed the gift of a bit of spare time.  I stopped at the Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace and wanted to share with you some of the visuals and experience.  It feels like visiting Japan for an hour.

When I walked in, I was delighted to see that tea had such a prominent presence!  Ito En's Matcha Love shop was the first shop to the left, and just next to it was Lupicia.

The main reason for this detour was to visit the Japanese sweets shop.  Japanese confections are presented in such a lovely way! Below, rows of mochi (a stretchy rice dough).  These are filled with bean paste and whipped cream.

Ito En's shop had a small but attractive assortment of tea wares.  I looked long at hard at some of the side-handled pots (sitting on the green box).  I resisted, but they had some very nice ones.

I brought home Celebration sencha tea, an organic variety.  Spring is here and my desire for green teas is growing!

And I also had to try the sakura mochi (below).  These are a special seasonal sweet.  The sticky rice is filled with bean paste and wrapped in a cherry leaf. On top is a preserved cherry blossom.  I'm enjoying with a cup of tea from Ito En.

When in San Jose, Mitsuwa would make a fun and delicious adventure.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Birthday Cake

I made my own birthday cake this year, and I say that with JOY!  I like to make cakes, but I didn't want to have an entire cake around for just the DH and me.  (The pan of Rice Krispy treats he just made for me, I'm willing to keep those all to myself!) 

Recently, I had some friends over to share a Wu-Wo ceremony, and it was the perfect excuse to make this cake.  The fancy bundt cake pan in the swirl shape came from my library.  Love that concept!

The confection is called Day of Wine and Roses Cake.  It's super moist as it should be, with both pudding mix and sour cream added to the batter. It includes both chocolate chips and melted bittersweet chocolate.  It's perfect for the bundt pan and needs no icing. I don't recall where I got the recipe and I can't find it online, so it's a bit of a mystery.  If you've heard of it, let me know!  

Happy Spring!  Happy Equinox! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

A New Towel Rack

This post is for Mom and KD (sis), so they can see my new bathroom towel rack.  The DH made it for me.  I love it!  It's much more practical than the original metal bar - I can hang several towels on this at once. 

The wooden plank was salvaged along the side of the road. Wooden pegs came from Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. Metal peg (second from left) is from Old Portland Hardware and was reclaimed from an old pipe organ in Washington state.  The colorful/ornate hooks and pull knobs are from Anthropologie.

I had an idea of what I wanted for the end product and the dear hubby (DH) put his skills to work.  It was a bigger project than I had imagined, and I'm grateful!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Tea Launched a Revolution

I published this back in 2009, but thought it was time to share it again!

In honor of Women's History Month, I'm going to tell a story that began over the tea table.  It's July, 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined four friends for tea in upstate NY. Perhaps over several cups, Stanton shared her frustrations with the limitations placed on women. Women had not yet felt the freedoms of a new Republic, even though many women had fought for it just like men, only 70 years earlier in America's break from England. Stanton had high hopes that the new nation would engage its women more actively. Her friends shared that opinion, and they began to make plans to bring it to fruition.

Picture left: Stanton (seated) with Susan B. Anthony

Stanton went on to draft a "Declaration of Sentiments," using the Declaration of Independence as the framework. She named many grievances including: women were not allowed to vote, married women were considered legally dead by the law and had no property rights, women were not accepted into universities, and many more.

Stanton's work and the work of other women culminated in a women's conference (called the Seneca Falls Convention), July 19 and 20, 1848. Read an original report from the event. Lucretia Mott was a key player in the convention. Both Mott and Stanton (along with Susan B. Anthony) died before women gained the right to vote. I hope those three souls were able to appreciate that victory in 1920.

The story of tea and women's rights isn't finished yet. The tea room became a socially-deemed "appropriate" place for women to meet, and many tea rooms are famous for giving wings to women's suffrage efforts. The book Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn is one of my favorites. It explains how the convergence of the automobile, women's suffrage and the temperance movement led to the cottage industry of tea rooms along the Eastern coast of the US. Women of independent means!

There is so much more to this story - I hope you take some time to discover it. And leave me a comment with your favorite moments of women's history - past, present, or hopes for the future!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Hanazuki: Month of Blossoms


I love that the Japanese have such precise seasonal words, phrases and poetry. March, for example, is called Hanazuki which can be interpreted to mean month of blossoms. (Translated word for word, it means flower moon.)  Where I live, March is definitely the month of blossoms.  Here are some pictures from our gardens. Sending thoughts of Spring to those on the Eastern side of this country.  

I love the subtle purple veins inside this crocus

More bright crocus

I love wild daffodils!  What stories they could tell!
Where did they come from? How did they get here?

Camellia with a Happy Bee
(We've just begun to see active bees)

Marsh marigold

Plum blossom

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Happy Girls Day! (Japan)

Happy Girls Day!  This Japanese celebration, on the third day of the third month, celebrates girls with special foods, prayers for their growth and happiness, and a long tradition of collectible dolls. 

The sweet above is made with white bean paste (sweetened with sugar) and in the center, red bean paste. For those who have never tried a traditional Japanese wagashi sweet, these are really delicious! This is my first attempt at a Girls Day sweet.  This is meant to be eaten just before enjoying a bowl of matcha tea (powdered green tea).

You can read more about Hinamatsuri (Girls Day, also called Dolls Festival) here.

For those of you interested in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, notice the word in the background of the photo, Harmony or Wa. I have had this piece of artwork (from Kelly Rae Roberts) for some time, since long before I began studying the tea ceremony. It just occurred to me today to make the connection. It seems that Harmony has been an important concept in my life for some time! 

Wa is one of the four tenants upon which Chado, the Way of Tea, is built. The four are Wa (Harmony), Kei (Respect), Sei (Purity), Jaku (Tranquility).

Monday, March 02, 2015

Moderna-Tea, Las Vegas

When I was recently in Vegas, I had the chance to visit a brand new tea store in the Palazzo Grand Canal Shoppes, Moderna-Tea.  I was eager to visit as I had seen the sign announcing its arrival over a year ago. The shop wasn't quite what I had expected. I was hoping for a tea shop that sold dry leaf tea as well as offering a brewed tea experience (like a tea bar). 

Moderna-Tea does sell loose leaf teas, but no drinking experience (beyond a small sample).  Much of its emphasis is on skincare products that include tea as an ingredient. 

The store is beautiful, as you can see above.  I really loved those light fixtures along with the modern graphics.

I also very much enjoyed chatting with the tea manager (below).  We had a long conversation about pu-erh and the proper way to bust up a very densely packed brick like shown. (My answer: These were so tightly packed, they may be meant for display only. In a normal brick, you can try to get a knife horizontally inserted around the top edge to see if any layers peel off.  You may need to work your way around a bit.)

 Moderna-Tea also sells a line of dried fruits that have been soaked in tea and then dried.

I came home with a box of tea, a gunpowder/mint combo (like Moroccan mint) that I enjoyed very much when my allergies were at full tilt.  I drank it with a touch of honey.  Note: I did experience a bit of sticker shock for the price of the teas that I considered average quality. 

I did not enjoy my experience with the skincare line. I was asked to sit in a chair for a sample. Curiosity caught me, but I should have known better!  I thought, "Oh, this is a fancy boutique store. It won't be the high pressure sales like on the street."  Unfortunately, I was wrong. I experienced the sample > selling trap to be quite aggressive.  However, this is Vegas.

Summary:  I would go back on my next Vegas trip, and I would be prepared to avoid the skincare sample chair but enjoy the ambiance and the tea chats.