Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tasha Tudor Day

Today Clarice at Storybook Woods and some of her friends have implemented Tasha Tudor Day in commemoration of Miss Tudor's birthday. Each year for the past four, Clarice has shared memories of how this special woman touched her life and those of her friends.

Be sure to stop by Clarice's blog so you can participate in this special event! Here she shares pictures of garments that remind her of Tasha. And here is her post today which celebrates Tasha's legacy.

Happy Birthday to the memory of Tasha Tudor!

Tea & Tasha

Beloved Tasha Tudor, author and illustrator of many books and gardener extraordinaire, passed away at her home in Marlboro, Vermont on July 18, 2008. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 28, 1915 and was named after her father, Starling Burgess. But her father, who enjoyed Tolstoy's War and Peacepreferred to call her Natasha after a character in the book. Her mother's friends would sometimes refer to her as Rosamund Tudor's daughter. Tasha liked the sound of the name Tasha Tudor, and eventually had her name legally changed to reflect this preference. 

Ms. Tudor received many awards and honors for her exceptional contribution to literature. A Caldecott Honor was given for her work for Mother Goose in 1945 and again in 1957 for the book 1 is One. She also received the Regina Medal in 1971 for her contributions to children's literature. Her prose was always simple and captivating, frequently including rhyming text. Enchanting illustrations were detailed and realistic in soft colors that seemed to fade away onto the page. She was known for her love of nature and flowers, birds, and other charming animals were frequently featured in her art. 

Some of the books she wrote and illustrated are:

Pumpkin Moonshine
A Tale for Easter
Snow before Christmas
Thistly B
The Dolls' Christmas
Edgar Allan Crow
Amanda and the Bear
A is for Annebelle
1 is One
A Time to Keep
Corgiville Fair
Tasha Tudor's Seasons of Delight
The Great Corgiville Kidnapping

Tasha Tudor was one of the great artists of the 20th century. Her love for illustrating New England nostalgia and sentimental illustrations that made one think of a bygone era. She lived her life as she dreamed, simply and sustainably, preferring the old-fashioned in both lifestyle and dress. For 92 years the world has been blessed by her presence and contribution to American culture, literature, and art. Although she is gone from us now, her legacy and spirit will live on through the work she so fluently contributed to all. 

The photographs today are taken from one of my favorite books: Tasha Tudor's Garden by Tovah Martin and Richard W. Brown.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


"In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs."

Henry David Thoreau


"Oh, the summer night, 
Has a smile of light, 
And she sits on a sapphire throne."

Barry Cornwall


"Fairest of the months! 
Ripe summer's queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear."

R. Combe Miller

Kid Truths

Great Truths that Little Children Have Learned

No matter how hard you try, you cannot baptize cats.

When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.

If your sister hits you, don't hit her back.  They always catch the second person.

Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.

You can't trust dogs to watch your food.

Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.

Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.

You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.

The best place to be when you're sad is Grandma's lap.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Rose is a Tea Rose

The rose is a flower universally favored. It is ornamental and enjoyed for its pretty face. It has a sweet fragrance that is applied to perfumery for home and body. It is versatile, romantic, and elegant. Phrases that pertain to the rose scatter our conversations. I remember an record album with the title "Days of Wine and Roses". Some speak of something being a 'bed or roses' or 'a rosy future'. Floral essences like rose water were often used as flavoring in recipes in years past. Although vanilla is now universally favored as a basic ingredient in baked goods, the essence of rose has qualities that appeal both to the taste buds and ones sense of smell. When roses are united with tea, a delightful combination of fragrance and flavor result. Roses grown in a backyard flower bed that's free of toxic pesticides can make a pleasant contribution to the tea experience!

* * *

Fresh Rose Petal Tea

1 cup rose petals, fresh, pesticide free
5 tsp. black tea of choice, loose leaf
1/2 tsp. sweet leaf stevia (or other sweetener of choice)
4 cups hot water

Steep ingredients in hot water for 3 - 4 minutes. Decant using tea strainer. Enjoy a cupful plain or with your milk of choice.

* * *

Tisane of Mint 'n' Rose

1 cup rose petals, fresh, pesticide free
3 sprigs spearmint, fresh, pesticide free
1/2 tsp. sweet leaf stevia (or sweetener of choice)
8 cups of hot water

Steep ingredients in hot water for 8 - 10 minutes. Decant using tea strainer. Pour into a teacup and enjoy.

* * *

Diana, Princess of Wales Rose
Jackson & Perkins

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Tomato Salad

4 - 5 tomatoes, peeled and diced

1 sweet onion, medium, sliced into slivers
1/2 lb. fresh spinach
1 cup basil, fresh, chiffonade
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup Vegenaise
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
dash of salt
soy milk, enough to make Vegenaise drizzle

Gently stir the vegetables and herbs together to mix.  In a measuring cup, blend Veganaise, Italian seasoning, soy milk and salt.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently.  

*Tomatoes may be left with skins on if you prefer.

A Cashew Cream Tea

Those with an affection for afternoon tea delight in the creamy flavor and texture of clotted cream. This is a special, thick cream that's made by processing full-cream cows milk in a steam or water bath and then placing it into small pans where it forms clots as it cools slowly. It is served with scones, much to the delight of the the taster. Aunt Marcella enthusiastically comments on the subject whenever we share afternoon tea together. For nearly 30 years she would take an annual two-week summer holiday to the United Kingdom, planning the journey and schedule to include afternoon tea in Bed & Breakfast hostels across the countryside. Descriptions of puffy scones and large jars of clotted cream, so thick that a spoon stood straight up when set in it, delighted all of us in America as we marveled at such a creamy delight and wished to try something that seemed such perfection. Eventually, small jars of clotted cream   have been found available in tea rooms and speciality shops. But for a premium price! Although this is near and dear to Aunt Marcella's memory, the jarred creams still don't meet the standard of her seasoned tongue. But something close is better than none.

For those who cannot easily obtain jarred clotted cream, vegans (or those intolerant to dairy), or the health minded, other options are welcome. Although most alternatives are not equivalent substitutions, they can be just as delicious by their own right. Dairy cream is known for its high fat content and for the role it plays in raising cholesterol. Weight gain and heart disease can result from liberal use of high fat dairy products. Alternatively, non-dairy toppings can be free of saturated fats and can actually assist in healthy body weight and reduced risk of heart disease. A study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that women who ate one to two tablespoons of nuts or nut butter daily (peanuts, almonds, or cashews) weighed four pounds less and had waistlines an inch smaller than those who did not eat them. Nuts activate the metabolism. They also add protein and fiber to one's diet, making them feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. So, what does this have to do with cream? Nuts and nut butters make delicious creamy topping! Here's my family's favorite cashew cream recipe (below):

Cashew Cream

14 oz. soft tofu, organic
1 cup raw cashews, washed
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. stevia
1 tsp. vanilla
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs. agave syrup, organic

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Whiz until smooth and creamy. Pour immediately into a small pitcher or serving container. For a varied flavor, add a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

This makes a creamy, thick topping can can be poured over fruit or scones for tea. For a thicker topping, stir in some instant sure jel. This recipe will thicken over time as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Tea Party for Your Feet

Have you ever had a tea party for your feet? It might sound silly, but there really is nothing nicer! My mother started the tradition of foot baths in our family when I was a young girl. They were considered a soothing treat and were often followed by a nice foot massage. It was something our family enjoyed on Friday nights after a long, busy week. A hot foot bath, a foot massage, and cups of warm tisane were a great way to unwind and relax. Mother also used foot baths therapeutically when someone in the family was sick. Hot and cold foot baths were alternated to relieve head and chest congestion. It was thought that the additional circulation sped up the healing process. A hot and cold foot bath involved a large basin or bucket that was placed on a towel on the floor. The water level started low in the bucket with comfortably warm water.  A tea kettle simmered on the stove top and as the water in the bucket cooled, hot water from the kettle replenished the water supply in the bucket. Over time, as the feet adjusted to the hot water, more tolerance could be endured and the water in the bucket went from warm to hot. Sometimes Epsom salts or essential oils were added to the hot water to enhance the experience. More often dried herbs, dried petals, powdered milk, or baking soda was added in a little muslin bag, creating a foot bath tea that was milky and soothing. The longer the soak, the greater the benefit. River rocks or marbles added to the bottom of the bucket added texture and an easy massage as the feet were rubbed back and forth against them. After 20 or 30 minutes, mother would insist that it was healthiest if we cooled our feet down quickly by a brisk, cold dash in another basin of water. Often it contained ice! Sister and I thought it was torture, but it did feel wonderful afterwards. Once done, a dry, fluffy towel was used to dry the entire foot, including spaces between the toes. Then, a fragrant, botanical lotion massaged on the feet created a little bit of heaven! There's nothing like a foot bath tea party for your feet!

Nowadays the foot bath is a rare occurrence. Maybe life is too busy? Or maybe it's that I've discovered how easy and pleasant it is to get a pedicure in town, complete with jets, hot water, and gentle massage. The principle is the same.

Would you like a recipe for a stimulating foot bath tea? Here's one that I enjoy that I call Minty Foot Soak.

A basin or bucket of very warm water
12 drops of peppermint pure essential oils
1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves from the garden (or 1/8 cup dried peppermint tea, bulk)
1/4 cup Epsom salts
1 cup brewed green tea

The mint leaves can be placed in a tea sac or muslin bag if you wish, although I don't mind if they float around in the bath. The peppermint is stimulating and aids the circulation. And the menthol in the mint reduces muscle pain. Green tea has antioxidant qualities that absorb through the skin.

Soak for 20 - 30 minutes, adding hot water as needed.

Follow with a quick dash of ice cold water and dry feet well.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Purple Mountain Majesty

There's something very majestic about a snow capped volcano. When you can turn around and see another one directly behind you, the magnificence if multiplied. On a recent visit to see Brandon and Sally, they suggested that we go visit a lavender farm nearby. Of course we were interested! 

It was an added treat to find that the lavender farm was situated in a hollow with Mt. Hood in one direction and Mt. Adams in the other. Bright sunshine and blue skies only accentuated the beauty of the mountains. 
[Mt. Hood, Oregon]

As you can tell, we weren't the only ones distracted away from the lovely lavender by the mountain peaks!
[Mt. Adams, Washington]

Hood River Lavender Farm, Odell, Oregon

Saturday, August 04, 2012

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." 


Photo: Hood River Lavender Farm

Friday, August 03, 2012

Mint Infused Chocolate Truffles

8 ounces dairy-free semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (choose a good quality of 62% cacao or higher), chopped
1/2 cup plain soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
cocoa powder

Over a double boiler, heat soymilk until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and add mint leaves. Cover and steep in fridge for one hour. Then, strain and place mint infused soymilk back into double boiler and bring to a simmer again. Add a tsp. more soymilk if too much evaporation took place during the simmering process.

Place the chopped chocolate in a separate bowl. Pour the hot soymilk over the cocoa. Add the vanilla. Stir until the chocolate has melted and is creamy.

Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for two hours or more. Remove from refrigerator. Using a teaspoonful of chocolate mixture at a time, form small balls (wear plastic gloves for this process). Place rolled truffles on parchment set on a cookie sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Then, roll truffles in cocoa powder and place in individual papers.

Makes 30 - 40 truffles

Variations: sift a dusting of powdered sugar over cocoa coated truffles; or roll in chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds instead of cocoa powder. May also roll in unsweetened coconut.

These make a great accompaniment for tea!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Sharing and Sweets

We completed the Wu-Wo tea event by talking and sharing with one another.

Each participant brought a snack to share with the group.

It wasn't long until everyone congregating around the snack tables, enjoying a tasting party of the sweets and treats that had been brought. From popcorn seasoned with EVOO, nutritional yeast, and lapsang souchong --- to Japanese sweets --- deviled eggs --- truffles --- and dried fruits --- everyone enjoyed tasting and comparing notes about the food.

It was such a delightful experience. A joy. A pleasure. A bonding time with friends.

The End.

Gongfu Tea Sets

Let's take a look at the tea sets that were used for the Wu-Wo tea ceremony.

As I mentioned in my previous post, each "cover" was unique and expressed the uniqueness of the individual participant.

A gong-fu tea set is used for the Wu-Wo tea ceremony. Each teapot is very small. The pouring vessel and tea cups are equally proportionate.

A variety of shapes, colors, and designs were evident.

This set included a tea strainer to pour the tea through as it goes into the pouring vessel. The coasters were small wooden trays. And the miniature flower arrangement added life and beauty to the tray.

Instead of a flower arrangement, this tray featured a tiny ceramic turtle. The coral colored floral design on the tea set was bright and appealing. I love the variety of textures shown in the mat, table linen, and ceramic  and stone marker trays for the tea cups.

Some of the settings were set on mats placed directly on the ground. Others were set up on trays and a small stool provided for the participant to sit on. This created a user-friendly experience for those whose muscles and bones are not quite as flexible as they were then they were twenty!

The symmetry and variety in shapes (above) creates a space that is especially tranquil and inviting.

This mat has been partially covered with a colorful printed fabric, creating a unique setting that represents the host. A small sprig of lavender is set quietly along one side. Beauty.

A woven tray contrasts in texture and design with the table covering, adding interest. The repetition of the weave has just enough variation to attract the viewer. The tea cups provide symmetry.

This was my tea setting. Bare feet on green grass. Cups of green tea. Contentment.

* * *
Question: Did everyone have to bring their own tea sets with them? Or were they provided? All are so very lovely and unique. Tammy

Answer: We each bring our own set, but provide for guests. It is always fun to see how each person embellished her or his tea tray.

TEA, by Susan Branch

Thursday is our day to share about tea books. Let's take a mini-break from learning about Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony to review...TEA, by Susan Branch.

TEA, by Susan Branch, is a very small book that contains lots of tea wisdom. Each page is a small, tag-board unit with two holes punched on the side. Pages are stacked and placed in a folded cover, then tied with a pretty blue ribbon. The theme is tea and friendship, but the contents are otherwise eclectic. The font is Susan's beautiful script. Tiny hearts dot the pages. And drawings of teacups, polka dots, laces, and food fill the space between the covers. There's even a recipe for Lavender Tea Cookies! On one page, Susan advises the reader to invite your girlfriends over for tea --- make it cozy in front of a fire, eat treats, and talk, talk, talk. Isn't that wonderful advice? I love it! This book was published by Cedco Publishing with date not given. 

Photo: miniature tea set in blue

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Preparation and Service of Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony

After a short instructional session for the Wu-Wo guests, we moved from Marilyn's garden house to the back yard. Members of the Wu-Wo group who meet monthly in Marilyn's community slowly started arriving. After a period of meeting and greeting, the tools for Wu-Wo started to be set up on the lawn. There were four guests at this event, and we were all provided with our own tea "kit" so we could participate along with the others. The six regular attendees were helpful and attentive as they assisted us in this ceremony.

Wu-Wo is a style of tea ceremony. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for sharing tea together in an environment that promotes acceptance, thoughtfulness of others, and gracious hospitality. It is a place where meaningful sharing takes place without discrimination to any religion, race, or creed. Acceptance and an unselfish approach are principles expressed through this style of tea service. It includes all generations, cultures, and kinds of people. It truly is diversity exemplified.

Dewey, who taught us about Wu-Wo tea ceremony commented by saying: I love doing Wu-Wo because it is all about community, nature, and being present with the tea. I think the word "ceremony" makes one think it is very structured, and although there is structure to it, it is also about the acceptance of differences. In the end, the only thing that matters is that you brew, drink, and enjoy the tea however it manifests.

Seating is random and circular.  Ours was established by drawing a number and then finding the matching number on a card in the yard. This illustrates the equality of each guest with another.

Once seated, we were given time to open up our tea "kits" and set up our tea tray.

Those who regularly attend the Wu-Wo tea ceremony were generous and helpful in assisting the rest of us. Much kindness and cooperation were exemplified. Some of our questions might have seemed "dumb" or "silly", but we asked them and were given answers graciously and without a hint of censure. Guests were made to feel comfortable and at ease.

Once everyone was set up, we were encourage to walk around the circle and examine the tea settings of each participant. It was an enjoyable moment, as each setting was unique and expressed the personality of the individual. Although I didn't remember to take pictures specifically of the flower arrangements, I was pleased to see that each of the regulars had a small floral bouquet or stem of flowers somewhere in their setting. The flowers were not only  an element of self-expression of the participant, but brought a piece of life and nature to the still-life scene.

Marilyn's floral bouquet can be seen in this picture. She's all set up and ready to begin; quietly chatting with Linda who was seated beside her. She may have been sharing about Grand Master Tsai, Rong Tsang of Taiwan who modified the ancient ritual of Gong-Fu tea brewing in 1989 to create a ceremony that allows many people to participate in the brewing and service of tea in a casual and selfless setting.

After a period of visiting, viewing, and photographing, we returned to our own spaces to start the brewing process. From the moment brewing began until the end of the ceremony, everything was done in silence. Each of us had a thermos of hot water which we poured into our teapots. Each teapot had been pre-packed with its own unique kind of green tea. A timer was given at each cover. We used it to time our individual tea brewing and then poured the brewed tea into a small pouring vessel. From there we poured four cups of tea and placed them on a tray. Then each participant got up and placed one cup of tea on a designated individual tray or coaster on the mat of the three individuals to their left. The last cup of tea was taken back to the servers own mat and was set beside the tea cups that were set there by those on their right. This process was repeated three times, from brewing (the same tea leaves) to serving. The tasting process was exceptionally interesting and appealing. Each tea differed by type and by brew. No matter how perfectly (or imperfectly) the tea was brewed, acceptance and appreciation was the encouraged result. Essentially, there was no "bad" tea. Just as individuals were accepted with all their diversity, so was each cup of tea!

This was the first time Sally and I participated in a Wu-Wo tea ceremony. Later, when Sally returned home, she discovered that a friend of hers who has been teaching English in Korea for the past two years has participated in this ceremony many times. He asked Sally how many brews our group steeped, and he then mentioned that often they brewed fifteen or more times in one sitting. And that the process took a very long time! It is common that multiple rounds of tea are brewed from the same tea leaves, although I wonder if Grand Master Tsai Rong, Tsang of Taiwan ever expected fifteen brews in one setting!

After the tea ceremony, participants gathered up their cups, bowed to one another, and repacked their tea "kits". Conversation resumed and was again encouraged. In this picture, Linda and Marilyn have packed up and are ready to move along to the next phase of this event. I love how they are both laughing and smiling. I especially enjoy this photo of Marilyn because it looks like she is preparing to dance! She is a friend who always encourages the expression of joy! It's one of her traits that I especially appreciate. The Wu-Wo experience of sharing and acceptance cannot help but bring joy to the participant.

To be continued! Check back again soon.