Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Point of View

by Shel Silverstein

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless
Christmas dinner's dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork, lobsters, lamb chops too
'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Autumn Tea in Yellow's Cheer

Shiny Silver

Baking soda can be used to clean silver pieces quite easily. Although this method may not be as gentle as a commercial paste silver cleaner, it works quite well in a pinch! Make a paste using baking soda and water. Rub the paste on silver pieces and then put them onto a sheet of aluminum foil in a pan. Add two or three inches of water to the pan and allow your silver pieces to sit overnight, then rinse. The tarnish will be mostly gone, but any remaining darkness can be rubbed off easily with a terry cloth towel. Some recipes call for the addition of 1/4 cup of Tide powdered laundry detergent to this technique.

Another method of silver removal using baking soda is to place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a large kettle. Add several inches of water along with 1 tsp. of baking soda and 1 tsp. of salt. Add silver pieces and bring the water to a boil. Be sure the water covers the silver pieces completely. After boiling for 2 -3 minutes, remove the silver, rinse, and dry. This method works well for cleaning hard to reach crevices.

Great-great-grandmother's silver that is a priceless family heirloom may not endure this method of cleaning. Be sure to test a spot first, as the salt and baking soda solution may damage fragile silver-plate. I've used this method, though, on pieces of silver that were not responding well to a cleaning with commercial tarnish remover and the silver shined up so well with this technique.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Teacup Handles, Yes or No

In times past, teacups did not have handles! It wasn't until the midde of the 18th century that they were added to teacups. In the olden days, gentlemen and ladies would sip their tea from cups of hot tea that they held between thumb and forefinger. And - gulp - it was common and considered good ettiquette - to pour their hot tea into a saucer, let it cool, and sip from there! Can you imagine? Try that at your next tea party and see what happens!

Friendships Rose

Jam Tea

This morning I enjoyed a gentle cup of jam tea! It was so delicious and the amber liquid slid down my throat with such ease! It's the kind of tea that children enjoy at tea parties with their dolls, teddy bears, and miniature cups and saucers. Yet, it appeals to adults too. The recipe is simple and I will share it with you here:

Jam Tea

1 cup of hot plain tea (Lipton's decaf is good)
1 teaspoon of your favorite jam (I used a fruit sweetened apricot this morning)

Stir together the hot tea and jam. The jam will melt into the amber liquid and you'll have a sweet treat to enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Redwork Embroidery

Redwork is the art of embroidery using only one color: red. I used to think the idea was quite boring, as I tend to like selecting color families that work together in a project. But, recently I tried my hand at redwork and have enjoyed both the process and the cheerful finished sampler. The redwork tea towel in the picture above is one I recently embroidered for a friend in the tea towel exchange group I belong to.

Originally, red dyed cotton threads were not colorfast and the colors tended to bleed when they became wet. Embroiderers tended to select other colors or stitch red's in silk threads that would not bleed. Then a red dye was developed in Turkey that did not bleed or fade when washed. Soon, Turkey red thread became a reliable and popular choice for stitching decorative patterns on household items.

In 1876 The Royal School of Art Needlework from Kensington, England produced a booth at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. American women were charmed by the intricate embroidery and were ready to try their hand at it. It soon gained popularity, as more and more stitchers created embroidered samplers and quilts using this process.

Redwork designs range from very simple to elaborate and intricate. Over time, pictures of nursery rhymes, people, buildings, animals, and flowers have been depicted in this art. In times past, squares of preprinted patterns were made available for redwork. These squares cost a penny apiece, thus the name penny squares became a common term when describing these blocks. Completed blocks were used for many household projects, but became especially useful and popular for bedcoverings. Blocks were sewn together and a feather stitch or cross-stitch was used to cover the seam line.

Stitches especially common when stitching redwork are backstitch, outline stitch, and the stem stitch. The stem stitch is also called the South Kensington stitch or the English Kensington stitch, a name that probably took hold because of the popularizing of this embroidery style by The Royal School of Art Needlework in 1876.

Opening the Heart

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend.

"Hear my prayer, O Lord, And let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; Incline Your ear to me; In the day that I call, answer me speedily." Psalm 102:2

Harvest of a Quiet Eye

Happiness is the harvest of a quiet eye.

My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.

Psalm 108:1 NIV

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fading Roses of Autumn

I picked the last of my Simplicity Pink Hedge Roses this week. The morning dew is still on the petal in this picture. Although these roses have been through several frosty and freezing nights, the are resilient and tenacious! Each bud appears to struggle to emit beauty for as long as possible. Thirty of these beautiful plants have graced my yard for several years now. They are a hedge that blooms abundantly from May through November. Each year we cut them back from their 10' - 12' height to make way for next year's growth. Yesterday was that day. They are now 5' bushes of green and stalk, freed of pink and fading roses, awaiting the warmth of spring's sunshine and showers.

November's Rose

More on Traditions and Tofu Croquettes

Family traditions and food seem to go together. Yesterday I received my most recent issue of "Tea Time" magazine. I love browsing the pages. The photos and ideas I glean there are like going to a tea party without dressing up! I was surprised that on page 45 there was a picture that looks nearly like the one I'm sharing with you today. "Tea Time" was featuring little Crab Cakes, but mine are vegetarian and have always been a family favorite! This recipe came from my mother who found it nearly 45 years ago when she was working as a cook's helper for a college food service. The recipe was passed down not only to her daughter's, but to her sister-in-law Mable, and from her to my favorite cousin, Wayne. Wayne loved this recipe and it was one he requested be made for him during a visit from his mother just weeks before his impending death. Now, I never make these little cakes without thinking of him. That's the way family tradtions work. They all hinge upon not only taste, but memories and emotions and the word pictures that they create in our mind when we share them with others. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as our family has!

Tofu Croquettes


1 lb tofu
1 oz cashews - coarse chopped
1 oz pimento
1 oz onion
1 oz celery
1 oz green pepper
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3/4 tsp seasoning salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp soy sauce
chicken-style seasoning to taste

You may be more generous with the vegetable ingredients. Mix together well. Form into patties or balls. Fry in hot skillet or bake on cookie sheet at 350F until golden brown.

Tartar Sauce

1 Tbsp onion
1 Tbsp green or red pepper
1 Tbsp pimento
2 Tbsp pickle
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Mix ingredients together well. Use as a sauce for the croquettes. You may add 2 Tbsp (6 tsp) of tomato juice for added color and flavor.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Family Traditions

Family traditions are a tie that binds. They act as the glue that holds a family together! Does your family have a tradition that they simply could not live without? Sometimes individuals have traditions too. Traditions can be as simple as a bubble bath after a day weeding in the garden, or as complicated as creating a specific menu for a family member's birthday each year. For nearly twenty years, Alma has formed a tradition in our family that is special and has created warm family memories. Ever since she married my dad, she has been making wonderfully delicious Almond Roca. It's sweet and crunchy and the chocolate melts in your mouth! In the autumn season she gets busy in her kitchen, preparing a multitude of this delightful treat. She carefully packages it into tins and then puts it in the freezer, ready for any holiday gift giving she has planned. My husband receives a large tray of this confectionary from Alma for his birthday each year. It's a gift that he looks forward to eagerly! It has become a family tradition. Alma's Almond Roca is also a traditional treat that co-workers and friends come to expect and delight in during the winter holiday season. Small things become warm memories and special ties that bind us to those we love.

*Almond Roca in the photograph is Alma's. Thank you!

Alma's Almond Roca

Alma's Almond Roca

1 lb. butter (salted or unsalted)
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons light Karo Syrup
6 Tablespoons water
2 cups raw almonds
1 – 7 oz. Hershey bar

Mix first 5 ingredients in large pan. Cook stirring constantly over high heat till mixture starts smoking, turning dark and almonds start popping. Have a 15 x 10 cookie pan or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Pour mixture into pan, smooth quickly and allow it to cool 10 – 15 minutes (no longer or Hershey bar doesn’t melt). Chop up Hershey bar into small pieces and scatter over candy. Allow it to melt and smooth with spatula. Sprinkle with a few chopped almonds. Cool completely at a cool room temperature. Refrigerate overnight, crack and break into pieces. Take out of aluminum foil or it becomes sticky. Refrigerate and enjoy!!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

O Lord, My Strength

Thee will I love, O Lord, my strength,

My fortress is the Lord, My rock, and he that doth to me deliverance afford:

My God, my strength, whom I will trust, a buckler unto me, The horn of my salvation, and my high tow'r, is he.

From Psalm 18

Passing On A Teapot

As you start a new home, I pass on this teapot,
brown-glazed, old and squat, unlovely, yes. . .

But it's more than a receptacle for tea,
having long experience in brewing endurance,
containing patience and dispensing courage.

Clasp trembling hands about this treasure
when the need asserts itself.

Over a steaming cup the lump of grief ---
intolerable at times ---
softens, and bitterness dissolves.

With clearer eyes one looks
through this amber well at truth,
and rises hope-refreshed.

Unfailingly with me it has been thus. . .
with you also let it be.

Anonymous poem

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Wayside Sacrament

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting --- a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing."

Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Tea Towel Friends

My computer helps connect me to the world. From the cozy comfort of my dining room table, I am able to chat with friends around the world. Right now my table is cluttered with post-it notes as I work to create a schedule for a tea towel exchange group I belong to.

For several months now I have been actively involved with a delightful group of ladies. Although we have never met 'in person', we keep up lively conversation and sharing with the assistance of our online chat group. We all share a love of 'afternoon tea' and decided that it would be really fun to exchange embroidered tea towels with one another. One friend, Martha, shared how she had some vintage tea towels that had been her mother's. Each one was stitched by a friend and was initialed with the stitchers initials. The ideas started rolling, and before long we had organized into a group of active tea towel exchangers! Our exchanges have included tea themed tea towels with our names or initials and holiday towels. Autumn, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Spring, and other themes have been selected as themes for the tea towels that we stitch for our friends. Each month a new flurry of packages are sent and received from all over the country. The tea towels are magnificent! The delightful little gifts tucked in as "extras" are appreciated. But the best of all are the strings of friendship that has developed among the participants. We have all learned that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive!

The Fragrance of Laundry

Have you ever noticed the fragrance of laundry? I love burying my nose is freshly dried sheets and towels, especially when they have been dried outside on a clothesline. Arizona winters in the desert have especially made me appreciate the smell of 'fresh linen'. It only takes a few hours on the clothesline for sheets, towels, jeans, and tops to be completely dry and delightfully fragrant! Winters in the our northern climate to not promote drying clothes on the line, as they simply will not dry in a day! There is too much moisture in the air, even on a sunny day. But during the summer months I dry many things outside on my porch clothesline. Cottons, linens, silks, and such get special care and dry quickly in the summer sun. They enter our closets smelling fresh, clean, and fragrant. It's a fragrance that the clothes dryer simply cannot duplicate, even with an abundance of smelly softener sheets. A friend recently gave me a beautiful little candle called "fresh linen". Surprisingly, it duplicates the fragrance of fresh, clothesline dried clothes very well. When lit on winter days, it carries me back to the warm summer sunshine and I look forward with anticipation to clothesline days ahead.

Singing of Lovingkindness

"I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever; To all generations I will make known Thy faithfulness with my mouth."

Psalm 89:1 NAS

Photo from first 'mountain' snowfall of the season.

Monday, November 14, 2005

No Free Fats!

For a long time I've been searching for a delicious combination of ingredients. My goal? A simple, delicious, and healthy recipe for salad dressing with no free fats. Free fats are fats that have been extracted from food like olive oil, corn oil, and Canola. They give a dressing creaminess and work to emulsify all the ingredients into smoothness. But, they are not as good for you as fats that are in whole food. Avocados and cashews work nicely in salad dressings in whole food form, but each has their drawbacks. Avocados loose their freshness quickly and are generally expensive and are not common in the kitchen on a daily basis. Cashews need to be ground in the blender for a long time in order to get the smoothness that's desired and a dressing with cashews needs to be stirred before use and can be generally inconvenient if stored. Recently I found a recipe that uses olives as the whole food source of fat in the salad dressing. I tried it, tweaked it, and have had good results. The basic recipe is posted below. It calls for ripe, green olives. They would be perfect in this recipe, but not all markets carry them (I have yet to try this option). Instead, I have used black olives and pimento stuffed green ones. Both times the dressing was delicious. The fresh lemon juice gives a wonderful 'tang' to the recipe and the olives give a creamy texture and rich flavor. The basic recipe is seasoned only with salt and fresh garlic. Other options work fine, though. I've tried Italian Seasoning as an addition as well as soy sauce, garlic and onion powders, and sweet basil. Each time the results were delicious! This dressing stores will in the fridge for later use. Place in a bottle or jar with a tight lid. Enjoy the results of this simply delicious and healthy dressing for a green salad!

The dressing in this photo was made with black olives. Ingredients for the salad are: romaine, baby spinach, fresh parsley, green onions, chopped broccoli, and carrot coins. Garnish with lemon wedge and mint leaves or green onion.

Tangy Olive Dressing

Tangy Olive Dressing

1 cup ripe green olives, drained and packed

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

2 cloves fresh garlic

Liquefy all ingredients. Add herbs of your choice for taste. Ripe green olives are best.

Yield: 1 3/4 cup

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Simple Lavender Tea

Lavender tea can be made simply by the individual cup or potful. To make this fragrant tea, steep a teabag or tea leaves of your favorite type of tea. Flavored blends are not preferred for this. Instead choose a plain Rooibos, herbal, decaf black or green tea. To each potful of steeping tea, add 1/2 teaspoon of organic lavender bud. For each teacup, add a pinch of lavender. Remove the tea bag, tea leaves, and lavender bud after 3 - 4 minutes by straining and enjoy a cup of lavender tea with your favorite sweetener. Mine is the sweet leaf herb, stevia. Should I call my cup "Simple Stevia and Lavender Tea"? Enjoy! You deserve it!

Lavender's Variance of Colors, Shapes, and Sizes

About Lavender: The Herb

Lavender has been a favorite herb for centuries and is recognized as a calming and tranquil herb. It works both as a relaxant and toner for the nervous system. Lavender is used for nervous exhaustion, tension headaches, muscle pain and stress.

In the gospel of Luke, the writer tells of Mary annointing the feet of Jesus with spikenard and wiping his feet with her hair. Spikenard was the original name for lavender during Biblical times. It was an herb mentioned frequently in the Bible and had great worth.

It's herbal use has been documented as useful for over the last 2,500 years.
Lavender's fragrant perfume was desired by the people of the Middle East. The Greeks and Romans also bathed in lavender scented water. It was from the Latin word "lavo" that the herb took its name. "Lavo" means "to wash". Lavender first made it's appearance in France in about 600 BC. It is now a common herb in France, Spain, Italy and England.

Common uses of lavender in modern times are in both commercial and homemade
products such as perfumes, soaps, sachets, and potpourri.

Ointment of Lavender

"Then took Mary a pound of ointment of lavender, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." ~Luke ~

Wands and Bottles of Lavender

Lavender bottles or wands have been used to freshen linens and impart fragrance for centuries.

Elizabethan ladies used to gather lavender and
transform it into these delightful 'wands' or 'bottles' to put in their linen cupboards.

Use them to fragrance linen or lingerie drawers, or
wherever you would use a sachet.

Your basket weaving skills can be put to use to
make one or more of these wands from the fresh lavender flowers in your garden.

You will be glad you did during the cold winter months! Squeeze your lavender wand gently and the essential oils of lavender will waft throughout your room and bring some summer tranquility to your day.

Lavender Sugar

Lavender Sugar ~ flavor sugar by burying a few sprigs in a bowl of sugar, and let the mixture sit for few weeks; this makes a sweet gift! Place lavender sugar in a small glass jar. Add a jar with ring and cover with tulle or cotton print. Tie with a pretty bow and add a silver teaspoon for serving into a delicious cup of tea!

Blueberry Lavender Jam

Blueberry-Lavender Jam

2 Tbsp. dried, organic lavender flowers
12 ounces frozen white grape juice concentrate
3 cups fresh (or flash frozen) blueberries, washed and drained

Make a lavender sachet by cutting a piece of cheesecloth into a 6" square. Place the lavender in the center and tie into a bundle with kitchen twine or twist.

Place the lavender sachet, grape juice concentrate, and blueberries to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly to prevent sticking. The berry mixture will 'jell' after about 20 minutes. You can test if the mixture has jelled by placing a teaspoonful of it on a place and allowing to cool at room temperature. After cooling, lightly touch the berry mixture with your finger to see if it has the consistency of jelly. If necessary, cook for 10 more minutes. When done, cover and steep for 2 hours. Then, remove the lavender sachet and discard.

Divide the jam between two pint jars. Cover and store in a refrigerator for up to one month.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence This blend is delicious with fresh lavender flowers from the garden! Dry all herbs well and crumble them into a coarse mixture for best results. Herbs de Provence can be used to season nut casseroles, pasta salads, sauces and gravies.

3 Tbsp. oregano leaves

3 Tbsp. thyme leaves

1 tsp. basil leaves

1 tsp. sage leaves

3 Tbsp. savory leaves

2 Tbsp. lavender flowers
1 tsp. rosemary leaves

Crumble all herbs into a course blend. Combine and mix well. Store in a
small, airtight jar. Recipe makes about 3/4 cup.

Recipe of Life

"Friends are the most important ingredient in this recipe of life."


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Yixing and Melon Candle Centerpiece

Centerpiece from Household Items

During the time of year when fresh flowers and leaves are unavailable except from a florist, a pretty and inexpensive centerpiece can be made using items from around the house.

This centerpiece was made in short order using household items. A cream colored platter from a set of china was used as the base. Upon it, patchwork and crocheted hot pads were placed for color and style. Next, a melon scented candle and a Yixing teapot were added to provide a focal point. Around them and to accent the arrangement, colorful tea packets and sugar cubes were placed.

Except for the sugar cubes that were tempting to 'some' family members, these items create a centerpiece that won't wild or fade and will provide beauty to your dining room during this autumn season.

Pumpkin Pudding with Walnut Halves

Pumpkin. . .this delicious gourd makes so many tasty foods! This sweet baked pumpkin pudding was baked in the oven and garnished with some of Grandpa's walnut halves that were harvested this autumn from his walnut grove. Sweetened with honey and stevia, the sent of this spicy pudding fills the house. Delicious!

Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkin Smoothie

This is a favorite family recipe! For an 'on the go' breakfast, I serve these to my family in plastic, disposable cups with a straw. What a delicious way to get Vitamin A! This smoothie was garnished with pineapple mint and spearmint.

1 cup vanilla flavored soymilk

1 medium banana, frozen and broken into pieces

1/4 cup solid pack pumpkin
a dash or two of cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg

1/2 tsp. stevia (or to taste)

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until very smooth. Delicious! Serves 2.

Pumpkin's Nutrients

Pumpkin's orange pulp is a healthy way to add nutrients to family meals. Rich in vitamin A and fiber, it also contains the carotenoids beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein. These nutrients protect the body from heart disease, cancer, and vision loss. In addition to traditional pumpkin pies, this fleshy gourd can be used as an ingredient in smoothies, flans, breads, soups, stews, and chili. What a versatile and tasty food for health!

New Every Morning!

"For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

Lam 3:22, 23 NIV

The Graces of the Holy Spirit

"The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit. It means divine illumination, rejoicing in God. It means a heart emptied of self, and blessed with the abiding presence of Christ. When Christ reigns in the soul, there is purity, freedom from sin. The glory, the fulness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life. The acceptance of the Savior brings a glow of perfect peace, perfect love, perfect assurance. The beauty and fragrance of the character of Christ, revealed in the life, testifies that God has indeed sent His Son into the world to be its Saviour."

Christ's Object Lessons

He Restores My Soul

"He restores my soul."

Psalm 23:3 NIV

I Will Be With You

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Isaiah 43:2-3

Friday, November 11, 2005

Spa for the Soul

'The tea party is a spa for the soul. You leave your cares and work behind. Busy people forget their business. Your stress melts away, your senses awaken." Alexandra Stoddard

Margaret's Tea House

When you were a child, did you dream of having a playhouse in your back yard? You know, the type that had doors, glass windows, and electric lights? I sure did! As an adult, having your own private tea house for special friends is like the "cream" of tea! How special! I'd like to share with you about a tea house that a family friend had built for her in her back yard.

I've known Margaret since I was a small child. She is a lovely woman (a retired nursing instructor) who has always been a gracious hostess and strong supporter of church and community. She and her husband never had children. Her life was dedicated to career and service. She is now in her 80's and is still vibrant, vivacious, and busy! Recently she fulfilled her own dream. She had a tea house built in her back yard!

I was privileged to be able to visit with her in her tea house recently. What a delight! Her idea came from an article in Better Homes and Gardens where children's "dream" play houses were featured. She clipped the article for future reference. When her church had a missions project, members were encouraged to find a specific project that they could do to raise money (beyond giving from their pocket books). She kiddingly told two retired gentlemen (former instructors in building technology at a local college) that she would like to hire them to build her a tea room. Several days later they called her up and asked her when she wanted them to start!

Building codes in her city say that anything 8' x 10' can be built without inspections or codes (although her tea house far exceeds most codes), so this is the size they built. It looks exactly like a full-size house, in miniature! A bay window, siding, shutters, front porch, gray with white trim, window boxes, and paned windows invite you right in! Inside is a dream tea room! It is decorated exquisitely with tea-themed wallpaper,floral arrangements, a drop-leaf table, a custom-made bench seat in chintz upholstery, lace curtains, wall grouping and photographs, comfortable chairs, and guest book. Teacups and china adorn the walls. It is the essence of beauty and hospitality! Margaret invites friends over in small
groups to enjoy tea parties in her tea house. Food preparation is done in her home kitchen. A small path leads the way to the tea house in her back yard. [She also admitted that she and her new husband recently spent the night sleeping in the tea house too!].

When Margaret's tea room was completed she had a "ribbon cutting" ceremony with invited guests. In preparation for this event she took swatches of the upholstery chintz to the florist so they could create a floral arrangement to match her decor. The florist was very interested in this project and Margaret and florist had a lovely conversation. During this conversation Margaret talked about how she had never owned a doll in her entire life (she had been raised in a poor family and later never had children of her own). When the florist delivered the flowers they also sent a beautiful porcelain doll in Victorian attire to match! Margaret received her first doll when she was in her 80's and she treasures it! It stands on an end table at the end of the sofa in her tea room.

Margaret uses her tea house to serve teas and luncheons to her friends. She has found that sometimes individuals seem somewhat intimated when guests in her home. But, in her tea house, friends and neighbors relax and have quiet, intimidate moments of conversation and a cuppa herbal tea. Her gracious hospitality extends to other tea lovers also, as she welcomes the opportunity to loan her tea house out to others for their own tea parties.

I have been begging my husband to build me a tea house ever since my visit! He hasn't said "no", but I can tell by the indulging way he smiles and just listens. . .that it is not high on his priority list! But, I'm a patient woman! It's still on my list!

Creating a Gentle Cuppa Tea

Creating a gentle cup of your favorite black tea can be achieved simply by a home decaffeination process. Black and green teas contain a high volume of antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and assist the bodies ability to fight disease. Unfortunately, these teas also contain caffeine, known to trick the nervous system into believing the body has more energy than a person's reserve source really has. The decaffeination process is simple. To make a delicious cuppa gentle tea, follow these steps. 1. Place tea leaves or tea bag in teapot. Use 1 tsp. tea leaves per one cup boiling water. Pour boiling water over the leaves in your teapot and allow to steep for exactly one minute. 2. Use a strainer and pour off the water. It can be poured down your kitchen drain, but I find that my plants thrive on this tea! 3. Use the same tea leaves or tea bags and pour fresh, boiling water over them. Steep for 3 - 4 minutes. A fresh, decaffeinated cup will be the result. 4. Sweeten to taste (I enjoy using the sweet leaf herb, stevia, for this). If desired, add a splash of lemon or soymilk. As the tea leaves steep, the first thing released is the caffeine. The next is color, and the final, flavor. With this home decaffeination process you will eliminate the caffeine, sacrifice some color, but no flavor. And, you will gain the benefit of a myriad of antioxidants for good health!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New Stevia Plants in Herb Pot

Stevia Harvest

Yesterday's frost coated the leaves of my stevia plants with a thin layer of ice. When touched, the ice layer broke into tiny pieces and shattered in my hand. The leaves beneath were still green and fresh. Once the morning fog dissipated and the sunshine was able to reach the stevia plants, they were as good as new! There were only a few 'black spots' indicating damage on some of the leaves. Yesterday afternoon I harvested all the remaining stevia that was growing in my garden. The stalks with leaves were given a warm water bath and shake. Then, using kitchen shears, I removed the leaves and then gave them another quick wash. I layered the damp leaves on a large tea towel covered tray and set them in front of the wood fire to dry. After they reach the desired stage of dehydration, I will place the leaves in my food processor and give them a few quick pulses to chop them into small bits of dried stevia leaf. A zip-lock container keeps them safe from moisture and absorption until use. This leaf is a welcome and sweet addition to cups of herbal tea during the winter months.

About the Sweet Leaf

Stevia is a sweet leaf herb that has been used for many years in South America to sweeten herbal teas. It is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae). People in Paraguay and Brazil have used this herb safely for hundred's of years. In more recent times, Japan has implemented the use of this sweet herb to sweeten beverages and foods. It is a safe, natural, and non-caloric sweetener and has many beneficial qualities for health. Not only is it believed to prevent tooth decay, but it is beneficial to the pancreas and is safe for people with blood sugar issues. Stevia kills fungi, bacteria, and viruses and is claimed to lower blood pressure. Stevia contains more than 100 different phytochemicals including terpenes and flavonoids. The chemicals in the stevia leaf that provides the intense sweetness of this herb are called glyocosides. One-fourth teaspoon of dried, ground leaves of stevia in their natural form is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The natural, unrefined herb is delicious and most healthful, although refined forms are commercially available and can add sweetness to baked goods, beverages, and fruits.

Stevia Pudding Recipes for Natural Sweetness

Golden Stevia Pudding

4 cups water
1 Tbsp agar powder
2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp oil
stevia to taste
3 small yellow squash or sweet potatoes, cooked, chopped, and pureed
1 tsp of vanilla bean pulp, or vanilla extract

Dissolve agar in 2 cups of the water. Dissolve the arrowroot in 2 Tbsp. of water. Combine and cook on low until slightly thickened. Add the rest of the water and the remaining ingredients except the squash and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Pour into a dish and refrigerate to cool and allow to gel (about 1-2 hours). When firm, spoon into blender and blend until smooth. Add pureed vegetables and continue blending until creamy.

A sweetly delightful way to serve orange, Vitamin A rich veggies! If squash or sweet potatoes are not available, canned pumpkin can be used instead.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Tapioca & Stevia Pudding

2 cups soymilk
3 Tbsp. quick tapioca
1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia, white
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
4 ounces tofu, soft

Whisk together milk, tapioca, and stevia in a saucepan. Allow the mixture to sit for five minutes. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. When hot, add honey and continue stirring. Remove from heat once a full boil is achieved. Stir in the vanilla. Cool in container with a layer of plastic wrap over the top to keep a skin from forming. Before serving, blend tofu until creamy. You may need to add a small amount of water so that the tofu will blend. Gently fold into tapioca mixture. Spoon into pretty bowls and garnish with a strawberry and mint leaves. Enjoy!

*Stevia amounts may be altered to taste.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Season

Autumn, my season,
has come ~
the year wanes,
as does the moon.

The chilled air
taps upon the window,
saying: "Wake up!
Walk amongst
the woods!"

Brilliant, bountiful
yellow and red,
orange and gold,
summer has gone
to seed;
Winter is just
a breath away. . ."

Adelaide Dyson

Autumn Fires

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The gray smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Photo @ Brandon 2005

Season's Passage

Seasons pass and with each one, new beauty is found. Last night we had our first hard frost. It marks a passage of time; the end of summer and the passing of summer glory that the garden brought forth is upon our acreage. It's a sad day for me. My roses, blooming in abundance since June, are preserved in a white cocoon of frost. The morning glory vine that graces the dog kennel is a jumbled mass of wilted green. And the expanse of lawn is winter white, sparkling in the sunrise. Golden leaves are scattered under the deciduous trees. Although today marks an ending, it's also a new beginning. Today a helper will arrive to spend the day in the garden, pulling out the hollyhock and sunflower stalks, trimming the rose bushes, cutting the lavender plants into silvery mounds, and preparing the gardens for winter snows. Dark earth will replace the abundance of green and the vibrant colors of marigold, nasturtium, and rose. Rest, a clean palate, and cold will replace the energy and abundance of the spring and summer garden. As with our spirit when taking time to rest, this tranquility will bring forth new life in the spring and the cycle of the seasons will start again. For now, the preparation for the next season sends me seeking a fresh start and a joyful heart.

[Thank you to my son for sharing his photographs with me for today's posting.]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Road to a Friend

"On the road between the homes of friends, grass does not grow."

~ Norwegian proverb ~

Centerpiece of Autumn

Focusing on Togetherness

My friend, Tari, creates beautiful centerpieces for her dining room table. She selects a theme and changes her centerpiece each month, depending upon the holiday and season. I love her ideas for table runners, candles, silk flowers, and things that she hangs from the chandelier overhead. Her dedication to this task has inspired me to make sure that my tabletop also brings focus to a central point in my home. My centerpieces are not as organized and perfect as Tari's. I tend to like eclectic, quirky, and homespun things. Centerpieces I create generally use bits and pieces of nature that I see around me. I love to blend those elements with pretty items from my home, some of which are hidden away until I find a use for them. Candles, teapots, bowls, and linens are all items that help me create a focal point on my dining tabletop. I like the 'out of the ordinary' or 'unusual uses' of items that I find around me. When the family gathers for meals and chat, a centerpiece works to bring togetherness to the family circle. The table becomes the focus and all eyes are drawn to the center. The atmosphere of a meal is affected by the beauty of surrounding. Not only can a centerpiece induce conversation, but it helps center each individual and brings calmness and grace to mealtime. Those who gather at a well-prepared table will find respite from the cares of the day. There is warmth in knowing that someone took thought and care in preparing a beautifully arranged, original centerpiece to the table where food and conversation are shared. Everyone has a table where they eat. Whether they eat alone or with family or friends, a pretty table can make pleasant the day and set the tone for happy meals. The centerpiece in the photograph is one that has been set on my dining room table for the past week. A cross-stitched bread cloth, crocheted and patchwork hot pads, a crystal bowl filled with oak leaves, and a scented candle with topper are blended together to create a homey and fragrant focal point that uses elements both of the nature the season presents and home arts. The candlelight flickering throughout the day reminds me that my family will be home for dinner in the evening --- fragrance fills the house --- and a sense of place and calmness fills my heart.

Felt it Shelter

"I felt it shelter to speak to you."

~ Emily Dickinson ~

Sweet Vineyard Fragrance

A family drive this week-end took us past a large vineyard. The rows went on for miles and miles. The fragrance of Concord grapes filled the air and because of the lateness and the coolness of the season, many of the leaves on the vine were withered and yellowing. This only enhanced the fully ripened grape clusters that still clung to the vine, missed by the automatic harvesting machines. We stopped to gather a sack filled with this fragrant fruit. Have you ever eaten a 'fresh off the vine' Concord grape? The skins are deep purple and have a whitish haze on the surface. Once squeezed, the skins crack open easily and the juicy, fragrant insides can be popped into your mouth with ease. Because seeds grace the center, they are meant to be swallowed nearly whole and enjoyed for their sweet flavor. Local news tells that the juice plant that has been a part of our community for years and years is closing it's doors. Evidentially it will be more cost efficient to ship this fragrant fruit to other ports than to process it here where the farmers grow this crop. What will happen to this local farm? We are hoping their fruit really is desired yet and that it will ship safely to new ports instead of the vines being ripped out of the ground and another less fragrant crop planted instead.