Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Learning About Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony

Sally and I were invited to Marilyn's house to participate in a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. Marilyn meets with a group of friends once a month for this tea ceremony. Guests are always welcome. How honored Sally and I felt to be invited to attend along with several other guests.

Jan spent time with us before the ceremony, showing us tea-ware that is used for the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony and explaining how the process works.

Jan even had hand-outs and brochures! She was a great teacher!

The tea ware included a gongfu tea pot, a bowl or pitcher, four small cups, a tray, a thermos, a dishcloth, four individual coasters, a timer, and appropriate wrappings and totes.

Linda came all the way from Kentucky to enjoy the experience with us!

I enjoyed the different styles and designs of gong-fu tea sets. Although a specific type of tea service is used for the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, there is latitude for self-expression in design and pattern of tea-ware used.

Dewey also instructed us on Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, concentrating on techniques and etiquette. Both Jan and Dewey have made many trips to Taiwan where they learned about this tea ceremony from a wise tea master.

Here Dewey demonstrates cup placement and how to bow in respect to the person she has served.

Dewey and the other group members were kind and gentle, helping us learn the Wu-Wo technique in an instructive manner that made us feel welcome and comfortable.

Please stop by again. In my next post I will be writing about the mechanics of Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Delight of Hearts

Moments. Delight. Passion. Joy. 

These are all words that describe my friend, Marilyn. She has refined the art of living with purpose and she does it so well. From the word pictures she posts on her blog each day, to her creative photography and design, Marilyn greets life with exuberance and a plan. She inspires everyone around her. Her friendliness and ability to network has made me christen her the "Ambassador of Tea". It is a rank of high distinction and one she holds so well.

Recently Marilyn and her husband, Jim, decided to christen their new garden house by hosting a luncheon for tea blogging friends from far and near. Jim built the garden house from recycled materials; beautiful old windows and stained glass. A candle chandelier hangs center-stage over a wide plank table which is surrounded by antique folding chairs. For our dinner, Marilyn's beautiful heirloom china was the center of each table-setting cover. A manicured garden and a stately maple tree surrounded this back yard scene. 

Guests arrived one by one, meeting and greeting as though we'd been real-life friends for years. In actuality, we have been friends for many years, but most of us had not had the opportunity to meet physically until Marilyn facilitated this luncheon. Some came from far, while others lived nearby. Linda traveled from 2,400 miles away while Jennifer dropped in from a city just ten miles distant. The rest of us drove from points in between and each looked forward to being on the receiving end of Marilyn's most gracious hospitality. Seven of us were friends who'd met in an online tea group group ten or more years ago. We enjoyed visiting in real life! Six were devoted bloggers, generally centering our blog themes on afternoon tea. As you can tell, a common cord was formed and is now tightly wound.

The summer lunch was delicious! Marilyn made a broccoli and an asparagus quiche. Caesar salad, gigantic green olives from California, and artisan bread filled our plates. Our tea was iced; a refreshing blend of a brewed green tea and sparkling apple juice. We toasted our friendship and our friend, Martha, who was unable to attend. Conversation hummed along and if there was a lull (which I don't recall), Marilyn had thoughtful tea quotes printed on cards that she displayed in antique floral frogs as our centerpiece; quotes that could evoke more conversation if needed. Dessert was as delightful as the main course. It was summer watermelon infused with lime and fresh ginger; so refreshing! Citrus scented sugar cookies in shapes of moon and stars were passed around for us to enjoy with our watermelon treat. 

It was a day of pure delight! But it's not over yet! Come back again soon! I'm pretty sure you'll want to know about our after-dinner tea ceremony. 

*Please click on the photo montage to enlarge it. I'd like for you to see all the beautiful details.
*I'm happy to be a part of Bernideen's Tea Time Blog "Open House" today.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Little English Book of Teas

I don't know if I like this book best for its artistic illustrations of food and drink, or for the wealth of recipes it contains. A Little English Book of Teas presents an exquisite array of afternoon tea fare. From crumpets, to watercress sandwiches, Florentines, Bramble jelly, scones, and more, each recipe is accompanied by a delightful full-color illustration. This darling little book was first published in 1989 by Chronicle Books. It's authored by Rosa Mashiter with illustrations by Milanda Lopez. If you enjoy the art of afternoon tea, I think you will like this book.

Photo: Teapot, St. Petersburg, Russia; a gift from Rylan.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lavender Peach Iced Tea

Makes about 6 servings

3 tea bags of black tea (decaf or neutral herbal blend)
5 or 6 sprigs of fresh lavender
2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
4 cups boiling water
3 cups chilled peach nectar

Place tea bags, lavender, and honey in a one-quart glass jar and pour on boiling water. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes and stir. Strain into a pitcher and chill until cold. Stir in the peach nectar and serve over ice in tall glasses.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sweet Summertime

Sweet summertime! The days may be hot, but the automatic sprinkler system faithfully works every night to water the gardens and lawn. The reward is a lush, green paradise in the midst of tumbleweeds and sagebrush in the fields nearby. This is the time of year that lavender sends forth long stalks of lavender blossoms. Whenever I walk past a lavender plant, I cannot help but brush my hand on the buds and sometimes even squish them between my fingers to release their glorious scent. I know, I am a bit crazy about lavender, but who wouldn't be! While out and about in the yard, I not only see and smell lavender, but I hear the mournful yet soothing sound of the mourning doves. They nest in the pine tree near the corner of the house each summer. At the first dawn they start cooing back and forth, calling to one another in gentle tones. To some this might be bothersome, but it's a sound I enjoy each summer day. "Our" doves have discovered the bird feeder outside of the kitchen window. They fit right in with the sparrows, juncos, black-birds, and goldfinches. The grain from the feeder has made them silky and fat! I think we have the fattest mourning doves in the neighborhood! They are plump and beautiful. Doves and lavender. A delicious cup of chilled tea in the garden. Such simple pleasures that sweet summertime brings. What pleasures do you find in nature during this season?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Avocado Stacks

Potato Stacks are a stand-by meal in our family. Simply take a baked potato, add chili, and a variety of green toppings like chopped onions, tomatoes, and olives. Add a ranch-style dressing or catsup and it's a one-dish dinner. But in the summertime, oven baked meals do not delight! Who wants to work in a hot kitchen? So, last week I developed a recipe that is a variation on the theme. Avocado Stacks! This recipe is simple, quick, delicious, and doesn't require much (or any) cooking in an already hot kitchen! 

Avocado Stacks

Three or four avocados, cut in half with pits removed
3 cups corn, cooked and cooled (can used canned corn for no cooking required)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch cilantro
½ sweet onion
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. garlic, minced
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Cut the avocados in half. Remove the pit, but leave on the skin. It works as a "bowl" for your meal. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Then, scoop into the hollow of each avocado half. Garnish as desired and serve.

*There will be topping left over. It can be used as a refrigerator salad for another meal.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Princess Perfection

"I'd rather have roses on my table, than diamonds on my neck."

~ Emma Goldman ~

What would we do without the beauty of roses? They have tremendous emotional appeal. Their fragrance and blossoms bring much delight to us all. I took a picture of this cluster of roses a few days ago. They are in a shrub bed beside the back steps. I pass by them daily, enjoying their beauty. I realized that if I wanted to record their beauty, I needed to take a picture before I forgot and their blossoms had faded. This rose bush was given to me many years ago by my friend, Nancy. I never walk by without thinking of her.

Diana, Princess of Wales Rose
Jackson & Perkins

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Best Remedy

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.” 

Anne Frank

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tea Time Friends

Tea Time Friends is a darling little book that is illustrated by Debbie Mumm. Most know Debbie for her artistic quilt and  fabric design, and home decor. I'm quite partial to her work because she's known in our part of the state as a local gal. Her art is whimsical, inviting, and cheerful. This little book is chalk-full of paintings of teapots, teacups, teddy bears, and honeybees. Quotes from famous people speak of teatime, friendship, and   life lessons. This is the kind of book that fits nicely into a table-top vignette or in a basket beside a cozy chair so it can be picked up and read in bits and pieces over time. This book was published in 1998 by The Brownlow Corporation. Text by Caroline Brownlow. If you like miniature books, this would be a great addition to your small book library.

Felted nest and eggs in photo by Salina of Moon Flower Creations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Traveling Teapot

Have you been keeping up with the adventures of the traveling teapot? There's a link on the right-hand sidebar that updates when new posts are made to the blog. The traveling teapot is a project that the Yahoo group, Afternoon Tea Across America, is conducting. For a year-and-a-half this little plum teapot will be traveling to visit group participants. Each month a different individual will be hosting the teapot and sharing the graciousness it represents with others. You can follow along with the teapot's adventures as they are shared on The Traveling Teapot blog. If you haven't been there yet, you have some catching up to do! But, I think you'll enjoy reading about what hosts are doing with the little plum teapot.

If you love afternoon tea and all that it represents, you are invited to join the group Afternoon Tea Across America. You will be welcome there! The tea kettle is on and your chair is waiting!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Cat's Green Eyes and Tea

When the tea is brought at five o'clock
And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
The little black cat with bright green eyes
Is suddenly purring there.

Harold Monro "Milk for the Cat"

Aren't these cabinet doors a delight? My friend, Tari, is the lucky owner of this quaint, old cabinet. It obviously needs some work done to it unless you are into a very "shabby chic"look. Tari will be restoring this cabinet so that it fits perfectly into the new home she's building. The little tea kettles seem to sing a cheerful song! All you have to do it to look at them to know.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Beautiful Compensations

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo: Echinacea (sometimes called purple coneflowers).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shortbreads for Tea

Although there are many wonderful cookies for tea, I think that when I think of the perfect tea cookie I think of shortbread. This delightful cookie originated in Scotland, and to this day the leading product for export in Scotland is Walker's Shortbread. A famous Scottish chef once said that shortbread is 'the jewel in the crown" of Scottish baking.

Shortbread is a small cookie (also called a biscuit) that is crumbly and tender due to it's high fat content. Traditionally shortbread consists of one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts plain white flour. Flavorings like salt or vanilla are added in varying amounts depending upon the taste and desire of the baker.

Once baked, shortbread should be light in color and not browned at all. Upon completion it should be removed from the oven when yet a nearly white or light golden brown. A trifle of tan on the bottom is all the color that should be observed in this traditional cookie. They need to be watched carefully during the last few minutes of baking.

Shapes of shortbread vary, but generally are formed into one of three forms: wedges, circles, or fingers. For special occasions they are sometimes made into stars or flowers for added appeal. Because they hold their shape well due to their stiff dough, they can easily be decorated by poking with the tines of a fork or by pressing a pattern into their tops before baking. Some bakers sprinkle sugar on them for added sweetness.

Because shortbread is made without eggs or dairy, it is a good cookie to convert to vegan simply by substituting vegan shortening (butter flavored) for the butter. Gluten free versions are also reasonably made by using cornstarch or white rice flours along with a gluten-free flour blend. By the way, even traditional cookies which contain wheat benefit from the substitution of white rice flour for a portion of unbleached wheat flour. It makes a delightful cookie with a great texture and lightness. 

Perfect for tea, shortbread is a little cookie that might look plain and simple, but it's tender, melt in your mouth sweetness is pure delight!

Here are a few of the shortbread cookies I've collected over time. I hope you enjoy them! 

Scottish Shortbread

1 lb. butter, softened (vegan shortening may be substituted)
1 cup sugar, extra-fine
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white rice flour
powdered sugar

Cream the butter (or shortening) until smooth. Slowly add the sugar, mixing as each addition is made. Then sift in the all-purpose flour and white flour. Mix only until blended.

Roll the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap so that it is 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Cut dough into desired shape. Place cookies on baking sheet and poke with the tines of a fork. Bake at a 325 degree F. oven for 5 minutes. Then at 300 degrees F. fr 15 - 20 minutes more. Watch carefully so they do not brown.

Canadian Oatmeal Shortbread

1 cup margarine (non-dairy) or vegan shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
2 cups rolled oats

Mix margarine, brown sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Blend flour, soda and rolled oats. Stir into margarine mixture. Chill 1 - 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough 1/2 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut into squares or fancy shapes. Bake on ungreased baking sheet for 10 - 12 minutes. Makes 3 1/2 - 4 dozen cookies.

Teatime Shortbread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1/2 lb. vegan shortening or Earth Balance 
2-3 drops butter flavoring

Sift flour, cornstarch and confectioner's sugar into a bowl. Add the shortening and rub into dry ingredients. Gradually mold mixture to a soft dough. Kneed Well. Roll out until about half an inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 310 degrees F. for 30-40 mins or until pale brown.

Thyme & Pine-Nut Shortbread

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, dried and crushed
1/2 cup margarine (non-dairy) or vegan shortening

Toast pine nuts in a hot skillet until gently browned. Then place in a food processor and process until finely ground. Pour into mixing bowl and combine with flour, sugar, and thyme. Add margarine and mix until soft crumbs result. Shape dough into a ball. Using a 1 Tbsp. scoop, shape dough into small balls and place on baking sheet. Then flatten t 1/2-inch thick by pressing with the bottom of a small glass that's been dipped in sugar. 

Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes.

Shortbread Crumbles

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup almond or cashew butter
1/2 cup carob chips, optional
1/2 cup dried fruit, optional

Mix ingredients except carob chips and dried fruit together, cutting in the nut butter last. Add a small amount of water, one teaspoon at a time, to moisten if needed. Add carob chips and dried fruit. Press into a prepared 8" x 12" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. This makes a crumbly bar-type cookie. Chocolate chips can be used to replace the carob chips if desired.

*For gluten-free options with any of these recipes, replace wheat flour with a gluten-free flour blend of choice. Butter can replace the vegetable 'fat' option in the recipes above as well for a more traditional approach to shortbread. Vegan alternatives for 'fat' in shortbreads are Spectrum shortening, Earth Balance, and coconut oil (solid form).

Photo: cabin woods; teapot by Susan Branch; teacup by Royal Doulton; crocheted table topper made by Aunt Evie.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heart Healthy Tea

Sipping on a cup of black tea can help lower blood pressure. A study reported in the published Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that drinking tea is beneficial for enhancing vascular health. Evidently the flavonoids in tea improve endothelial function. It is recommended that at least three cups of black tea be consumed a day in order to receive the full benefit of tea consumption. Now that's a doctor's order that's easy to take!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lavender Blue, Dilly, Dilly

"Lavender blue, dilly, dilly
Lavender green
If I were king, dilly, dilly
I'd need a queen."

It's lavender season! Karleen and I decided to take advantage of a hot summer day to drive in a cool car to a nearby lavender farm. Actually, the season is nearly over, so we knew we needed to go while we could or we'd miss it all!

We drove along the river, through sage and tumbleweed, to farm country where alfalfa and wheat fill the fields and hillsides. Nestled in next to a golden field of wheat is a lavender oasis called Blue Mountain Lavender.

Fields of many varieties of lavender greeted us and its fragrance filled the air. Visitors were walking amongst the plants, enjoying not only lavender, but rows of blacked-eyed Susan's, poppies, echinacea, and coreopsis. The orange and yellow interspersed with the masses of purple provided a beautiful contrast. The lavender was as magnificent as ever! Guests enjoyed the gift shop filled with a variety of unique, handmade sachets, wreaths, art, and food items. Some were having lunch at a picnic table in the lavender field while others simply sat on the Adirondack chairs and relaxed. 

On the patio, a fountain cheerfully dripped and gurgled. It was beautiful and was surrounded by boxwood which sprigged beautifully in response to its environment.

Pots of herbs and colorful planters filled with flowers in a riot of color created such a pretty space.

The complimentary lavender lemonade was cold and sweet; most delicious for a hot summer day!

Nearby a table was set for wand making tutorials. Pretty ribbons and yarns seemed to call the passerby to stop and admire -- and maybe to try their hand a weaving something with their eloquent charm.

Or maybe visitors would rather make a lavender basket? They are fun to make too! I've made tiny ones, but none this large. I enjoy their rustic beauty and how the maker has added other dried flowers to compliment the blossoms of lavender.

Young plants have been planted among rows of more mature lavender. For prolific production of the blossom, it is important to start new plants every few years. I suppose one could call this "crop rotation", although I don't think that's a term that is usually expressed for flowers.

A drying shed nearby was filled with bundles of lavender. The order and organization provided nearly as much "serenity" as the delightful fragrance.

I took one last picture as we left the lavender farm. A dry creek bed with a wooded bridge and wagon leads so sweetly to the green and purple just beyond our sight. We headed home to a cup of  hot Chocolate Oolong tea and ice cold watermelon, cucumber slices, and pecans. It may not be your traditional "afternoon tea" menu, but it was delicious!

And while we are on the subject of lavender, I thought I'd share a picture of Karleen's completed quilt and cushions. We spent some time examining it after our "tea". I think they are so pretty all lavender and sage green. If you're a regular blog reader, you'll remember that I shared her quilt "in progress" a few posts back. It was really fun to see the quilt after quilting. Quilting adds a whole new dimension to the process. I think it's very nice!

Afternoon Tea Picnic

The heat of summer is just arriving in the Pacific Northwest. Although this makes for great road trips, it isn't quite as pleasant to eat hot and heavy foods when the temperatures are so warm. Picnics for week-end outings that are simple, fresh, and cool in temperature are inviting and refreshing! Chilled soups, fresh fruit, veggies and dips, cookies, and tea in many variations provide a delightful and simple way to satisfy hungry travel companions while seeing the countryside.

Here's a yummy recipe that's easy to carry in a Thermos for an afternoon tea picnic. Carrots, fresh from the garden, are so flavorful this time of year!

Chilled Carrot Ginger Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
small pinch of salt
1 pound carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, peeled, shopped
1-1/2 teaspoons ginger, grated
5 cups chicken-style broth
zest of half a lime
juice of one lime

Heat olive oil in soup kettle. Add onions, carrots, celery, and salt. Saute until soft. Add grated ginger and good for a minute more. Add chicken-style broth and cook for 5 - 10 minutes at a gentle simmer. Cool slightly and then use blender to puree the soup. Add lime zest and juice. Chill and serve. Garnish with mint leaves, grated carrots, or a circle of lime.

Photos:  Summer hanging baskets and Snoqualmie Falls.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

With a Cup of Tea

The art of Sandy Lynam Clough draws richly upon scenes that include teacups, teapots, linens, and lace. If those are things you enjoy, you will not be disappointed with this little book. "With a Cup of Tea" is a small book that features the art of Sandy Lynam Clough. Interspersed between Sandy's paintings are quotes related to tea and a genteel lifestyle. I appreciate how thoughts from Emilie Barnes are liberally sprinkled among the quotes. This book was published in 1997 by Harvest House Publishers. If you are interested in discovering what it is about tea that warms and comforts us, I think you'll enjoy being drawn into the pages of this book. It beautifully shares the ritual of taking a cup of tea for any occasion.

Do you enjoy the art of Sandy Lynam Clough? Do you have any hanging on your walls or in your bookcase?

This chintz patterned teapot was a gift from my friend, Tari. It is Royal Patrician, England.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Barley Tea and Summer Fruits

A simple summer tea with Karleen.

Barley tea from Japan
Thank you, Toshiko!

A simple fruit dessert

Fuji apples
stevia to sweeten, generously
your favorite fruit yogurt, soy if desired

Garnish with fresh mint and roses

Teaset: from my mother
Franciscan Desert Rose
Made in England