Monday, April 30, 2012

Busy with Spring!

The world wakes up when spring arrives! Life is busy and satisfying. Sunshine, wind, and rain take turns sharing the days of the week. Chores inside and out keep one active and productive. It's a good feeling. The scent of lilacs fill the air. New garden growth is sprouting through the earth. Who knew that it took kale so long to sprout! I'd about given up on it when little shoots finally pushed their way to the light.  Tomorrow starts the month of May; the very best month of all! It's the month when the roses start to bloom and the vegetable garden really takes off with new growth. There's so much to be thankful for!

A trip to the Farm & Garden store for plants was productive. Not only was I able to find new plants that I needed for the garden, but a side trip took me to look at the baby chicks and geese. Aren't they adorable? It's the same Farm & Garden store where I'd take the boys when they were young. More often than naught, we'd come home with chicks, geese, or a turkey or two. Peep-peep! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Armchair Travels

Do you have a space in your home where you can take armchair travels to a place you hold dear? And I don't mean from the comfort of your armchair in front of the television! Adding collections and decor from places you've loved visiting can bring back fond memories and transport you to places far and near. Whether it is a trip to Paris, England, a tropical island, or the desert Southwest, mementos and decorating effects from interesting places can add variety and spice to your day --- and you don't even need to leave home! Such moments in time can add sparkle to the daily routine and it is fun to reminisce with loved ones as you chat about times spent together. A cup of tea while doing so brings in a bit of relaxation as you share together.

Photo: mementos gathered over the years ~ from Arizona and Mexico

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


"Come oh come ye tea-thirsty restless ones ---
the kettle boils, bubbles and sings, musically.

Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Second Cup

"When friends ask for a second cup
they are open to conversation."

Gail Parent

Monday, April 16, 2012


Our spring garden is sprouting. Scattered rows of kale, broccoli rabe, endive, radishes, and mixed lettuces are spread over the dark soil like green confetti. At our house, we're trying to add more dark, green, leafy vegetables to our daily diet. Homegrown organic is much more convenient and less expensive than greens from the supermarket or Farmer's Market. Hopefully we'll have some to harvest soon!

The renewed motivation for greens comes from the inspiration of Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He's the author of a book called "Eat to Live". It's one I've had in my personal library for quite some time. I have appreciated the wealth of good, sound nutritional advice presented within the pages of this book. My friend, Tari, gave me a series of DVD's for my birthday this year. They are of lectures that Dr. Fuhrman gave for PBS. Although counsel from a book is great, seeing and hearing live presentations has been even more inspiring.

Here's one of the tips Dr. Fuhrman shared. It's something I am trying to incorporate into my daily diet (and into the entire households). It is to eat according to a daily GOMBS plan.

G = greens and green tea
O = onions
M = mushrooms
B = berries and beans
S = seeds

These foods contain high quantities of substances that protect one's health and heal the body. Studies show that when these foods are consumed daily, significant health benefits result. 

Have you been eating (or drinking) your greens, green tea, onions, mushrooms, berries, beans, and seeds? Go for it!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Soft, Sober, Sage & Venerable Liquid

Early morning sunshine. . .spring flowers. . .and a pot of hot tea.

"Thou soft, thou sober, sage and venerable liquid! Thou innocent pretense for bringing the wicked of both sexes together in the morning! Thou female tongue-running, smile-soothing, heart-opening, wink-tipping cordial to whose glorious insipidity I can owe the happiest moments of my life."
Colby Cibber

Photo ~ My mother's "sweet pea" teacups with a Homer Laughlin "Priscilla" Eggshell Nautilus teapot. Flowers from my garden.

Friday, April 13, 2012


"Sunshine is a welcome thing."
Jimmie Davis

Isn't it wonderful?  The sunshine?

Moon Flower

Moon Flower is the common name for several kinds of flowers that bloom during the darkness of night. Frequently they exhibit flowers that are white. I especially like the one named Angel's Trumpets because they have such pretty, fluted trumpet flowers. They are graceful and elegant.  My friend, Salina, relates to them so well that she has named her blog, Moon Flower,  for these night-blooming flowers. She says that her creativity comes out at night and that she enjoys creating in the quietness and peacefulness that comes at the end of the day. For several years I have enjoyed observing the things she creates. Each of her projects comes from her heart and is an expression of who she is. She enjoys nature and this love is translated so well in her creations. I'm always amazed at the items she produces from simple, natural ingredients.  

Recently I was happy to receive a package from Salina. It contained one of her beautiful, felted bird nests with three baby-blue felted eggs inside. It also contained a matching handmade book and four pretty, stamped gift tags. They are so spring-like and look pretty on a table in my living room. Thank you, Salina!

If you would like to visit her shops, you can find her on these sites:

Handmade Books and Paper Items

Crocheted, Felted, Home Decor, and Jewelry

She also has a vintage and de-stash shop; linked on the sidebar of her blog.

I think you'll enjoy visiting her and seeing the pretty things she makes. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paper Piecing Quilts


The local community quilt show featured several quilts from our quilt guild. My favorites were the paper piecing quilts (above) that Debra and Judy made. They are intricate and so beautifully stitched together. I also know that they are something that I will probably never attempt, so I admire them even more.

Paper piecing is sometimes also called foundation piecing. Quilts made by this method are constructed by sewing pieces of fabric onto a base which becomes the foundation. Debra and Judy constructed their quilts on a paper foundation. Fabric patches are stitched onto an exact replica of the quilt block or piece. Work is started at the center of the design and radiates out. The only seam allowance on the template is the one that is around the perimeter of the quilt.

Judy's quilt (on the left) won 3rd place for the entire quilt show. There were about 400 quilts on display.

Click on the picture for a larger view.

Stitched in Love

The ladies at the quilt guild are very prolific! Millions of stitches flow out of their sewing machines as they create all sorts of beautiful quilts, wall hangings, and table runners. Some of them are experts in machine embroidery, while others own large quilting machines and are the designated "go to" members for quilting a completed quilt top.

~A colorful quilt top ~

Their creativity and skill never ceases to amaze me. From one guild meeting to another, it's possible to see their progresses as quilts that were started one month are completed by the next. The mathematics of quilt design offers endless possibilities, as do the variety in color schemes and print choices. Sometimes several guild members will be making the same quilt, but they never look the same. Sometimes the viewer has to analyze each project for a few moments before realizing that the quilt design is one and the same.

~ A unique quilt top featuring windmill blocks and a solid centerpiece ~

The best part of quilt guild (besides the potluck lunch, of course) is the "show and tell" that happens at the beginning of the monthly sewing session. It's the time when guild members bring the projects they have in process and share them with the group. It's not only fun to see what they are making, but to hear who they are making the quilt for. Guild members are an altruistic bunch! Maybe I should say that quilters are altruistic people in general. Quilts are lovingly stitched for so many people or groups: grandchildren, a retiring cook at the school district, the Cancer Center, community members who are seriously ill, and more. There's a lot of love that goes into each stitch!

My wish for you today is that your day may be a patchwork of both purposeful and impromptu activities. And that each moment of your day is stitched in love and bound by ties of graciousness. And while you are at it, be sure to take some time for tea! Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Host of Golden Daffodils


When I was a child, my mother would quote poetry to me my sister and me. At the time I remember thinking that it was terribly old-fashioned, but with the wisdom that comes with maturity, I now realize what a treasure mother's habit was. This was a poem she would recite. It goes so well with the daffodils that I've picked from my garden and put as a focal point on my dining room table. It seems there is something about spring that puts me in the mood for poetry. Pour yourself a cuppa tea and enjoy this verse with me!

William Wordsworth. 1770–1850
530. Daffodils
I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
  That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
  A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,         5
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
  And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
  Along the margin of a bay:  10
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
  Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,  15
  In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
  In vacant or in pensive mood,  20
They flash upon that inward eye
  Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012



My mother had a love for flowering trees. It's a love that she passed along to me, although I don't have as many, nor so many unusual (hard to find) flowering trees. Our Thundercloud Plums have just started to bloom. They remind me of puffy clouds or pink cotton candy! It won't be long until the dogwood, crabapple, and cherry trees start to bloom too! I can hardly wait! Sometimes I enjoy taking my cup of tea to the front porch, where I sit and sip while I observe the flowering trees and all the life around them. Have you noticed how they attract squirrels, bees, and birds?

Trees are such an important part of our existence. This poem author so aptly expresses my feelings too!

{Here's a link to some of my mother's favorite trees and shrubs]

My Beautiful Flowering Trees

One day I shall buy some land

Plant countless seeds 

And watch them grow
Into beautiful flowering trees

A cool breeze 

Will bring me 

Sweet fragrances
From a thousand flowering trees

I shall listen 

To the songs 

From birds perched 
In the tall flowering trees

I shall play 

With my children and theirs

In the vast expanse of green 
Amongst beautiful flowering trees

One day I shall rest

Passing into oblivion

My ashes scattered
Amidst the beautiful flowering trees

by Ash Menon

Monday, April 09, 2012

Books & Cooks

"We may live without friends;
we may live without books;
but civilized man cannot live
without cooks."

Owen Meredith (1921)

Picture: one of my favorite teacups and a chicken cookie cutter from my childhood.

Slowly, Spring!

It has been a cold and rainy spring. New growth is slow and flowering things are just coming out. It's been freezing at night, yet impatience for garden baskets and a vegetable garden is growing. One can only wait for so long without wishing to plant! A trip to a nursery  confirmed the cold spring! Everything is quite "new" and "small" yet as we all wait for warmer weather! 

Mostly a lot of "window shopping" was achieved, although a few heirloom seeds and some new mint plants made their way to my shopping cart. Pineapple mint, Catmint, Apple mint, and Spearmint all sound so good! I also found a lovely watercress nasturtium that should add great spicy flavor to tea sandwiches.

I left this plant at the nursery, but can you read the name? "Sweet TEA". Love it!

At lunchtime we braved the 45 degree weather for a quick lunch at the park. Thank you, Karleen, for indulging my love of eating alfresco dining! We were so thankful for the hot thermos TEA!

As we headed home, we couldn't resist stopping by a lovely little quilt shop. It was filled to the gills with yardage and a lovely shop owner who we shared an enjoyable visit with.

So, although spring is slow, it is slowly arriving and providing pockets of joy to the day!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Glorious Easter

We enjoyed an Easter drive in the sunshine amongst blue skies and puffy clouds...

...through wheat fields and the beautiful steppe terrain, a waterfall that cascaded 180 feet below.

Friendly marmots were active on the ledges of the rocky rim. They marmots were busy after a winter of hibernation. Social creatures, they seemed to enjoy their human observers, sometimes standing on their two back legs and looking right back at the humans. Their loud, shrill whistles filled the air as they communicated to one another. At one time there were seven marmots all lined up in a row, staring at the people lined up on the other side of a fence.
Hikers, photographers, casual observers, and fishermen could be seen in the park, on the trails, and as dots beside the pool of water below the falls.

The scene downstream was tranquil as the river ran deeply through basalt rocks and ledges that had been formed by the Missoula Floods years before. The landscape around the falls and surrounding areas is characterized by flood-created coulees, cataracts, plunge pools, potholes, rock benches, buttes, and pinnacles. The scablands look barren, but diligent farmers run cattle or grow dryland wheat on much of the surrounding countryside. 

It has been a cool spring, but the sunshine helped take the edge of the 50 degree temperatures. We enjoyed stopping to sit at a picnic table for our afternoon tea. I'm really loving the Teavana tea thermoses. They work so well at keeping hot tea hot! And our trusty tea mugs travel well. It really seems that tea tastes best from porcelain, don't you think?
A sign at the edge of the parking lot read "Watch out for rattlesnakes". I was depending upon the cold temperatures to keep them hiding out until the weather warmed up a bit! I'm happy to say we saw none!

Two tiny cottontail bunnies were sunning themselves as they ventured out from their hiding spot. They were babies and so very cute! They froze, which made them feel invisible. But when I tried to quietly step nearer to them to take a picture they scampered away to their hiding spot. I thought they were the quintessential Easter bunnies!

The desert sage is looking less withered and leathery, as the silvery green of new growth occurs. It's fragrant smell is characteristic of the steppe. . .and provides such beauty in a unique sort of way. As summer comes they will produce beautiful yellow flowers which provide another phase of desert beauty to behold.

God created such a beautiful world! How did you enjoy His handiwork on your Easter week-end?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Your Easter Bonnet

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade.

Written by Irving Berlin 

Natalie...ready for a cuppa TEA!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Chocolate for Today

"Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animal. Some seem to smile."Henry Ward Beecher

Decorating with flowers is really fun and helps create beautiful and unusual cakes and cupcakes. As you can see, the yellow miniature roses were accented with mint leaves and fresh lavender and were the decoration on the gluten free, chocolate cupcakes. The red and white baby roses were accented with fresh lavender and were what distinguished the wheat flour cupcakes from the others. 

Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour*
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar (Florida Crystals)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar lemon juice
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in liquid ingredients. Using a hand mixer, blend until batter is smooth and creamy. Work quickly, as the lemon juice activates the baking soda and starts the leavening action. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Measure into cupcake papers in muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 - 25 minutes. 

*May substitute wheat flour if desired. For a gluten-free flour blend, consider Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Blend or a mixture of equal proportions of cornstarch, garbanzo/fava bean flour, and potato starch. Add 1 tsp. xanthan gum for every cup of flour.


A Bed of Wild Violets

A Bed of Wild Violets

In a Public Square

Dear wilding violets, of the self-same hue
As those I first in happy childhood knew,
How like those nestling beauties ye beseem
The vernal sunshine, and the vernal green;
Though far from all the brookside's pleasant sounds,
The cooling freshness of the meadow grounds,
The only breeze that sweeps your lowly bed
By all the city's dust and noises, sped.

And with what peaceful singleness of heart,
I stand and gaze, from all the crowd apart,
Upon your blue and meekly joyful eyes,
As undisturbed, as tranquil as the skies;
Retaining, still, kind nature's simple grace,
Unmindful of the joys or ills of place.

O sweet refreshment, which th' aspiring mind
Can in your humble bloom and beauty find;
O sweet refreshment, that with blandest touch
Soothes to repose the heart that asks too much;
The claiming wish subdued, its ache forgot,
While your mild presence charms this weary spot,
Life's tuneful harmony at once restored,
At nature's lowliest darling's gentle word.

So fair the life, so calm the heavenly sense
Of holy hearts, dear hearts of innocence,
Within whose artless thoughts, like odorous bells,
Such placid hopes, such mild contentment dwells;
Their joys, unsought, in steadfast peace abide,
The rarest blooms of love untouched by pride.

by: Eliza Allen Starr (1824-1901)

I'm dedicating this poem to my friend, Gwen, who loves violets and TEA!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Quilt Vision Board

I love vision boards. I think a beautiful, gold-leafed frame that's hung on the wall with a blank space inside to place pictures and objects that inspire you is just lovely! But I really don't have space on my walls for one. Yesterday I was thinking about the quilt I'm making and wanted to see what it was going to look like when done. I found my wooden drying rack and discovered it made a very helpful "vision board"! Layers of print fabrics and some of the nine-patch squares hung on the wooden dowels gave me a vision of what my completed quilt might look like. And the secret to every good quilt and the coordination of prints, colors, and fabric? Squinting! I always analyze my choices by squinting, just to make sure nothing stands out too much --- or gets buried in the mix. A cuppa tea helps with the analysing process. 

Do you quilt? What is your secret to selecting fabrics for your project?

I Can Just Imagine...

"I can just imagine myself sitting down at the head of the table and pouring out the tea," said Anne, shutting her eyes ecstatically. "And asking Diana if she takes sugar! I know she doesn't but of course I'll ask her just as if I didn't know."

L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Poached Spring Vegetables with Lemon and Olive Oil

8 oz. French green beans, trimmed
8 oz. broccoli flowerettes
8 oz. peas in pod
8 oz. yellow zucchini, sliced into coins
12 small radishes trimmed and cut in half
12 asparagus tips
1/2 c. grape tomatoes

Cook the broccoli, green beans, asparagus, peas and the radishes until each vegetable is brightly colored and crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them as they are cooked  to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking. Then move the vegetables to paper towels and pat them dry. Chill them, covered. The vegetables may be cooked 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Mix the vegetables together and coat it with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables on a platter. Garnish with fresh herbs and more lemon.

Delicious served with spring potatoes, red quinoa, and main dish of your choice. Finish with a cuppa TEA.

Mrs. Flower Lady's Yard

Mrs. Flower Lady lives halfway between my house and Karleen's. I was enjoying an afternoon cuppa tea when I received a text from Karleen that said: "This would be a good time to take pictures of Mrs. Flower Lady's garden". I looked outside and she was right! The wind had stopped, the clouds had cleared, and we had sunshine!  I texted back, "I'll meet you there in five minutes". And so we did.

Enjoy some of the lovely blossoms with me! 

The magnolia tree was in bloom! I think the blossoms look like huge tulips! This tree is the centerpiece of Mrs. Flower Lady's front yard!

Karleen and Mrs. Flower Lady visited as the shadows lengthened. Everything about the yard exuded a peaceful calmness. What a lovely day to find my "center" on a busy afternoon! Thank you, Karleen and Mrs. Flower Lady, for a bit of respite in my day!

What elements of spring are you enjoying today?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A Rainy Day

Even a rainy day can entice one to adventure! A warm dry car, a willing driver, a thermos of hot tea, and a willing passenger or two makes for a perfect day! Rural roads that lead off the beat and track can take you to quaint and interesting places.

Raindrops were falling hard! Pictures were taken from the comfort of the car seat through an open window. Just past the gate, beyond the muddy roadway, were two wild turkeys. They were oblivious to the rain and were finding tasty morsels to eat. 

Early spring wheat fields were visible for miles and miles. They are so lush this time of year and make such a vibrant carpet of green. Imagine how much fun an Easter egg hunt would be in such a field! And isn't this the cutest farm? I love how all the buildings are coordinated in red.

Eddie Rabbit sang a song called "I Love a Rainy Night".  By simply changing "night" to "day", the words express so well what a lovely day it was! Sing along with me...

...well I love a rainy day, it's such a beautiful sight. I love to feel the rain on my face, to taste the rain on my lips, in the cloudy shadow. Showers washed all my cares away. . .yes, I love a rainy day, well I love a rainy day, I love a rainy day.

Welcome April! Remember, it's April showers that bring May flowers!