Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Story of a Friendship & Teacup of the Day

If you are reading this, you probably understand the importance of friends we make online. Sometimes people call them invisible friends or imaginary friends, but I believe that online friends are as vital to our well-being as those we meet in person. Some of my dearest friends are those whom I've met on web groups related to things I enjoy. Tea friends, home school friends, herbal friends, chatting friends. . .all are important to me. Julie is one such friend.

We met nearly ten years ago on a home school support list. A rapport developed, sparked by common interest. When the online home school group organized a quilt block exchange for the students, Julie participated by air mail from Australia with those of us residing in North America. Her son's shared quilt blocks proudly featured flowers and fauna of their homeland. At that time Julie lived in Tasmania and shared information about geography and culture. Her husband, a Finish gentleman, was a professional gatherer of wild herbs for a pharmaceutical company. How interesting that was to me! I'm afraid I peppered Julie with a million questions on a wide variety of subjects, and she was always willing to share answers and exchange points of interest with me.

Five years ago she sent me a beautiful gift she made; a beautiful china painted cup. I treasure it and keep it in a place of honor in my china closet. Whenever I see it or use it, I think of her. It's the featured 'teacup of the day' today. The flowers painted on this cup are all native to Australia and I had to ask for an explanation of some of them, as I did not recognize them. The little, fluffy balls of yellow are called wattle, while the red colored flowers are bottlebrush. Gumnuts and blossoms are the small, round objects on the painted cup. The blossom or flower part comes out of the gumnut and when the blossom has died, it leaves the shell of the nut behind. The blossom portion of this plant is red. And the daisy-like flower on the back of the cup that is white with greenish tips is called flannel flower. They are all beautiful.

That's our botany lesson for today, and the story of a friendship with a person whom I hold dear! Thank you, Julie, for your friendship.

Walnut Sauce with Spaghetti

Imagine yourself at a health spa with a beautiful name like Cedervale, pampered with plant-based meals, detoxification treatments, facials, massages, and classes on natural health. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Julie recently returned from several weeks of pampering at such a place! Since then she has been trying new plant-based recipes at home and inventing some herself. She shared this one with me recently and our family loved it! Although it sounds unusual, it's tasty and filling. I've adapted the recipe slightly, as there are some ingredient variations between her home near Newcastle, Australia and mine, but I think this recipe is pretty close to her original intention.

Walnut Sauce with Spaghetti

3 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped (fresh or canned)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 onion
olive oil
2 tsp. sweet basil
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt

Sauté onions in olive oil. When tender, add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add sweet basil, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Simmer gently. In a food processor, grind walnuts until coarsely chopped. Add to sauce and stir. Remove from heat and serve over your favorite pasta.

*Photo shows walnut sauce served over corn and brown rice pasta for a gluten-free option.

Monday, January 30, 2006

China Doll

Treasured and Pondered

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

The china doll was treasured by my mother-in-law. When the body wore out from age, my mother stitched a new body and trimmed it for her with laces and dried flowers. It was a work of heart, as they were friends.

Crazy Quilt

This crazy quilt was a wedding gift for loved ones more than fifty years ago. Satins, velvets, and perfect embroidery create a quilt that should be named "exquisite" rather than "crazy"! Pretty indeed!

Identical Bakers

Identical bread machines keep busy most every day at our house. One is for wheat bread made from freshly ground, hard, white wheat. . .and the other is for gluten-free bread made from bean flours, potato and tapioca starch, and other unusual ingredients like apple cider vinegar. Everyone in the family knows how to fill the cannister with ingredients and start a fresh loaf. Cooperation makes the task lighter and fresh baked bread more abundantly available. Here's our simple recipe for wheat bread.

Wheat Bread Recipe
*for automatic bread machine*

1 cup warm water
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup Florida Crystals (unbleached sugar)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. REAL salt

Place ingredients in bread machine and push 'start'. If the dough is too dry, add more water 1 tsp. at a time. If it's too moist, add more flour until the machine kneads a perfect ball of dough.

Yummy toasted and served with Smart Balance and strawberry jam!

*May adjust types of flours used to only all-purpose or 100% whole wheat.

Mom's Snowdrops

Snowdrops were one of my mother's favorite flowers, probably because they were the first plant of the year to bloom. Each January mom would start looking for the milky white blossoms in her garden. Once she spotted the first blooms, some of the drop-like flowers were picked and arranged in tiny vases that were set on a counter or table to grace her home. This little watercolor is one she painted while waiting for spring one winter while she was mending from chemotherapy treatments. I never look at a snowdrop without thinking of mom.

Garden Snowdrops

Mom's snowdrops now grace my own garden beds. Last fall, before mom's house was sold, I dug snowdrop bulbs from her garden and brought them home to mine. Mom's legacy goes on. . .and I cherish memories of her through the things she loved.

Galanthus nivalis

Snowdrops are usually the first to bloom each season, sometimes pushing their way through the snow to poke out their milky-white blooms. The flowers on a stem look like three little, white, milk-drops on a green ribbon. They are usually a very small plant with little blossoms, so planting them in clusters or groupings make a better showing than one or two bulbs scattered in a garden bed. Once planted, they will provide a life-time of early spring beauty in your garden.

Milk-White Flowers

Snowdrops. . .the classic winter flowering plant.

Agates on Tumbler

The agates continue to spin on the rock tumbler. Yesterday the grit was changed again, this time to a much finer powder. This begins week three of tumbling the agates. Only two more weeks to go! I can hardly wait to see the polished agates!

Sid with Boy

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small. . .all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

Ferret: a weasel-like mammal,usually albino, that is related to a polecat.

Yesterday Levi introduced me to his new pet, a ferret named Sid. Although Sid has a cage in Levi's room, he spends much of his time with freedom to explore outside of those confines. He even has a leash and goes for walks with Levi and his parents. I think it would be safe to say that Levi adores the little guy!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tea Traditions

Rituals and traditions are important for the well-being of the spirit. They create centeredness and security for an individual. Traditions established with loved ones and dear friends creates a bond that glues relationships together. Cherished traditions are a tie that binds.

Aunt Cella has created a tradition that I love! After living in Europe for thirty years, she has returned to her homeland. But, fond memories and friendships keep her connected to her home of adoption. Each year dear friends send her a large box of sweet treats from Germany and England. They are treasured and each bite relished! This special treat has been passed along to me in a tradition that Aunt Cella has created; each year she shares some of her lebkuchen and other treats with me for tea! If we are together, we have afternoon tea and enjoy chatting as we nibble. She always sends some home with me and I save them so that I can pass along the tradition too. During the winter months, my friend, Bonnie, and I meet with our families at the sea. We share the rest of Aunt Cella's lebkuchen together there as we sip our tea and watch the ocean waves. One simple package from Germany is passed on to create so many other traditions among dear ones. Yesterday my package arrived from Aunt Cella. I am saving some to share with Bonnie, but this afternoon I couldn't resist a cuppa tea with some of the goodies in Aunt Cella's package. Thank you, Aunt Cella! The lebkuchen, baumkuchen spitzen, and shortbread was delicious!

Aunt Cella is my prayer partner and in my package was a lovely devotional book called God Calling by A.J. Russell. I look forward to reading it.

Teacup of the Day ~ English Rose

This two-cup teacup and saucer was a gift to me from my friend, Bonnie. She sent me two identical teacups and saucers, so that when she came to visit we could have "twinsy cups" for tea. Although tea is thought of as a 'dainty' ritual, I sure enjoy this large-sized teacup and use it frequently for my morning tea!

Oregon Chai Tea Latte

I usually prefer a plain cuppa tea sweetened with some sweet herb, stevia. But occasionally I wish for something with a richer flavor. One of my favorites, during times like this, is Oregon Chai. The decaf black tea, honey, vanilla, and spices in Oregon Chai meld flavorfully with rich soy milk. Delicious with lubkuchen, they made a perfect match!

Great-Aunt Pansy's Tea Plate

Great-Aunt Pansy's tea plate by Royal Crown Derby has a handpainted design and was made in England.

Family Tea Times

Friday Evening Tea Tradition

Friday evenings are always welcome at our home! After a busy week of chores, work, school, and activities, everyone is ready to relax and spend some time visiting together. It's been a tradition we've always had. Tea is a part of our Friday night ritual. Herbal tisanes and infusions, although not technically "tea", are our favorites.

Teapot ~ Teekanne Mikado
Table Runner ~ Gift from Aunt Cella who purchased it in Romania on one of her trips

Tea of Ginger

Tea of Ginger

Although not an actual tea, this infusion is delightful on a breezy winter day! The combination of fresh ginger, lemon, cloves, and stevia create joy for the palate!

8 cups pure water
2 ounces grated ginger
15 whole cloves
2 juiced lemons
3/4 tsp. sweet herb stevia
lemon wedges for garnish

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and add grated ginger, cloves, and lemon juice. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add powdered stevia and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and pour into teapot or teacups. Add lemon wedges for garnish. Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lavender Perfume

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 ~

Lavender Rose Tea Garden

This lavender rose grows on a bush under the Norway Maple tree in my back yard. I never think of it without remembering my sweet friend, RuthAnn, in Tennessee. RuthAnn is a gracious, southern lady who is an expert on the topic of tea and who owns the Lavender Rose Tea Garden. She is warm, friendly, and shares of herself with an open heart. This week she celebrates a birthday, so I am sending warm wishes her way with a request for God's blessings of health and wellness for her in the year ahead!

Happy Birthday, RuthAnn!

The Fragrance of Lavender

Lavender; a wonderful fragrance. When it's gentle message wafts across a room, tranquility and relaxation automatically are triggered in my head. It is my favorite fragrance!

Even during the winter months, there are many ways to enjoy this lovely smell. Here are some ideas for turning your home into a fragrance-haven!

~ place some dried, lavender bud in a crystal bowl and put on a sunny windowsill so the heat of the sun will draw out the scent

~ add a drop or two of pure, lavender fragrance oil on a lightbulb so that the perfume can be broadcast throughout the room when the light is on

~ place a small kettle of lavender bud (or oil) and water on the stovetop or wood stove and let it simmer

~ toss dried bunches of lavender stalks into a fireplace that's burning brightly

~ store some lavender oil in a porous container or jug so that the perfume seeps into the room

~ place dried lavender arrangements around the room and crunch them occasionally with your hands to release the fragrance oils

Table runner made by my friend, Karleen
Teacup by Royal Doulton
Lavender bouquet contains Spanish, Grosso, Hidcote, and Hybrid lavenders from my garden last summer

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Smile and a Welcome

What a desolate place would be a world without flowers. It would be a face without a smile; a feast without a welcome.

Clara Balfour

Peace to This House

When you enter a house, first say, "Peace to this house."

Luke 10:5

Shoes in Time

For more than seventy years, these little shoes of her daughters have graced Grandmother's home. They represent memories preserved from a time gone by. Little footsteps. . .the patter of tiny feet. . .footprints in the dust; all look back to childhood past. Several generations of tiny feet have since come and gone, but we await the joy of childhood patter again some future day.

Touch of Time

I love the things that bear the touch of time,chips and all --- they are more beautiful than perfection.

~ Victorian Magazine ~

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Appliqued Tea Tablecloth

This simple tea themed tablecloth is appliqued on natural-colored muslin. My mother used blue prints for the applique portions. A teapot, teacups and saucer, and silverware are sprinkled with flowers in this design. A cream colored, crocheted edging is added to the tablecloth hem. Mom enjoyed stitching on needlework projects in the evening and always had a project nearby to work on.

Breakfast Tacos

A family who cooks together enjoys spending time together. Our children learned to cook at a very young age. There are some 'famous' experiments that have been conducted in our kitchen!  Here's one of them:

Breakfast Tacos

Part 1
Flour Tortillas

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup warm water

Blend flour, salt, baking powder, and shortening together until the texture of coarse cornmeal. Slowly add water until dough is soft (more water may be needed, but don't use too much). Knead dough and then form into 8 -10 balls the size of golf balls. Set aside for 20 minutes with a damp cloth over the surface to keep from drying out.

Filling A

4 - 6 potatoes
olive oil

Peel potatoes and dice into cubes. Fry in olive oil in a hot skillet. Season to taste. Use medium-high heat, as the centers of the potato pieces need time to soften. High heat will brown edges before centers are done. Set aside when done.

Filling B

4 corn tortillas
olive oil

Dice four corn tortillas into squares. Fry in olive oil in a hot skillet. Set aside when browned.

Filling C

1 block extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1 sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped olives
2 oz. pimento peppers
1 Tbsp. chicken-style seasoning*
olive oil

*Bill's Best Chicknish or McKay's Chicken-Style Seasoning are both vegetarian

Crumble tofu into a small bowl. Add chicken-style seasoning and stir together. Set aside. In a hot skillet, heat olive oil and saute' onion. When soft, add crumbled tofu. Fry until browned. Add pimento peppers and black olives. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the flour tortillas. Flatten each ball between hands and then use a rolling pin to form a thin cake. Bake on a hot, dry skillet. When the first side starts to bubble and brown, turn and brown the top-side.

Prepare breakfast tacos by placing a portion of the potato topping, the corn tortilla topping, and tofu topping in the center. Fold over and garnish as desired with cilantro, red pepper sauce, and olives.

*For gluten-free option, prepare as given, but omit the flour tortilla and use a corn tortilla as a replacement.
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Counsel from King David

"Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control."

Psalm 32:9

Great-Uncle's Rock Shop

I don't know if ranchers ever really retire, but there was a time when great-uncle said he was now retired. The cattle were still on the ranch. Horses, donkeys, and goats still graced the corral. They all needed tending and care, but great-uncle declared that he was changing the course of his life. He decided that something else needed to fill his days. Rocks! He loved rocks, so creating rock slabs with painted pictures and rock clocks and rock trinkets became his passion! Of course, rock hounds love to talk and share --- and the best way for this to happen was to bring people to where he was! Great-uncle opened up a rock shop on the ranch. It doesn't smell like potpourri. Nor does it have tranquil music or fancy decor. Instead, it shares the heart of the man who created this space. Open shelves of rock book-ends, lamps, jewelry, and pieces are displayed in every room. Indian artifacts, hand-outs containing trivial bits of history, photos from the past, and books about the locale are scattered among the rocks. And through it all, great-uncle's hospitality shines forth with energy and friendship.

The Rancher

Gracious hospitality comes in many forms, and great-uncle exemplifies this. Although ninety years old, he greets each day with purpose. His ranch has always been a place where people love to come! Friends, strangers, neighbors, children, yuppies, artisans, rock-hounds, snow-birds, ranchers, naturalists, historians, and cowboys. . .all make their way to partake in great-uncle's hospitality. If you stop by, you'll be sure to hear stories of days gone by, local history, and current events. No one is a stranger. Grace, humor, stories, friendly teasing, experience, times-past are all words I think of when I think of great-uncle. Time stands still when you visit him and stress levels fade away as you experience some of the hospitality of days gone by.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Swedish Fruit Soup

Naturally sweet and absolutely delicious!

2 cups dried fruit (apples, pears, peaches, apricots, and prunes)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups water
3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 cup apricot All Fruit spread (sweetened with fruit juices)
1 1/2 tsp. sweet herb stevia (or to taste)
3 Tbsp. tapioca
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup mandarin orange pieces

In a medium sized kettle, bring water to a boil. Add dried fruit,raisins, and pineapple juice. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes until fruit is soft. Add fruit spread, stevia, tapioca, and salt. Stir gently. Add cinnamon stick and simmer mixture for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mandarin orange pieces. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place into individual bowls or goblets. Garnish with mint springs, cinnamon sticks, and a dollop of tofu whipped topping. Enjoy!

*Also delicious served slightly warm.

Crocheted doily, handmade by my friend, Karleen
Handpainted gold plate; found at a garage sale for a dollar

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Remembering a Summer Afternoon

Afternoon Tea

My copper kettle
whistles merrily
and signals that
it is time for tea.

The fine china cups
are filled with the brew.
There's lemon and sugar
and sweet cream, too.

But, best of all
there's friendship, between you and me.
As we lovingly share
our afternoon tea.

- Marianna Arolin

Whiter Than Snow

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Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

Embroidery, Applique, and Crochet

A tea themed luncheon set made by my mother uses embroidery, applique, and crochet as construction techniques. This little cream-colored cotton tablecloth is framed in blue with accents of pink, lavender, and green
. It was a work of heart! Posted by Picasa

Teapot Lamp

This quaint teapot lamp was found in an antique shop window in a little town nearby. I photographed it, as I thought it was a cute idea for a craft project. Although this teapot is brass, it seems it would work well with a silver or china teapot also.

Teacup of the Day ~ Paisley Shawl

The mother of the four boys who came to pick up my organ yesterday brought me a beautiful gift. I lovely Royal Albert teacup, it has a paisley pattern in pale yellow, pink, and green. Fragile, yet strong, I will remember Karen each time I sip from this teacup. Interconnected through life's experiences, sharing my organ has brought a new friend.

Conversation, Tea, and a Friend

A joy worth repeating, again and again, warm conversation, tea, and a friend.

Miss Madeline

A Cup of Flowers Tea Towel

This tea towel is one I stitched for an exchange partner on the tea towel forum. I love the simple, whimsical design. A cup of flowers on a tea towel! I enjoyed this pattern and the muted colors so much that I made a dozen of them! It's been fun to share them with friends and tea towel partners. I even kept two for myself so they could grace my kitchen, too.

Simple Supper Taco Salad

2 bunches Romaine lettuce, chopped
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro
4 corn tortillas
olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. taco seasoning

Chop lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and olives. Place in large bowl. Add black beans and gently mix.

Dice corn tortillas into half-inch squares. Preheat a skillet. Add olive oil to coat surface. Fry tortilla squares until crispy. Add garlic powder and taco seasoning to mixture when nearly browned (If you prefer a fat free version, bake in a hot oven instead of frying).

Gently stir tortilla squares into salad. Place salad into individual serving bowls. Garnish with a dollop of Veganaise. Enjoy!
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Agates Week One

Here are our agates after one week of tumbling. The old grit and water has been discarded and a finer grit and fresh water added. They are already looking shinier, but they have three more weeks of tumbling before they are done. Posted by Picasa