Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Five Cups

Five Cups

Five cups wait
Like wise ones

They know their time
To be useful
Will come

And they may need
The strength to 
Serve it up hot

Or to allow
Things to cool off

Maybe their touch
In your hand
Is enough

The delicate curve
The spiral
Into eternity

I'm celebrating today! I am officially on sabbatical.  Like these five cups, the next five weeks are waiting for their time to be useful, to be touching, to heat and to cool.  I will be spending my hours in reflection, writing, visiting with family and friends, drinking tea and playing with the DH.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Vintage Linen Inspiration

A friend recently sent me this gift of vintage linens.  Pure delight! They inspire me to make everyday things beautiful. I want to know more of the woman behind these articles. Who is/was she that so artfully and skillfully embroidered this cloth? 

Did she enjoy tea? How old is/was she? What's her name and where did she live? 

These linens bring to mind my own grandmother's hands. I am fortunate to have some pieces made by her, including an embroidered bed quilt. I remember learning to embroider with Grandma as my guide. I am a little nostalgic and sad that I didn't keep up that skill. 

Look at the great detail and lovely color selection of this flower basket. Who taught this woman her handicraft? Did she teach others? 

Did she work alone or with sisters or friends? I may never know the answers, but I take a moment to send my gratitude and respect to the woman whose mind, heart and hands so carefully worked these into beauty.

Monday, July 13, 2015

New Ramen and Yakitori Hot Spots in Portland - and TEA!

Co-Owner Gabe outside Noraneko

I'm spoiled.  We have such good food here in the Portland area. And thanks to Gabe Rosen and Kina Voelz, we have two more fun and distinct places to eat.  The duo, their chef and the hard working team recently opened Noraneko, a small ramen shop in the Central Eastside Industrial District (within walking distance of OMSI). Delicious foods and a menu that is "just right" - not too big and not too small. The best part? At least for me - the tea selection! 

The pleasures of friends and well-brewed tea

Disclosure: I happen to be friends with the woman who designed the tea service, and she did a fabulous job! She started by curating a small but wide-ranging selection of teas. See the menu here (scroll down). Then she trained staff on how to brew the teas properly. Honestly, I don't expect good tea when I go out and it's such a fine thing to find it!

Noraneko is under the Hawthorne Bridge at 1430 SE Water Avenue.  Open daily 11 - 2; Happy hour 4 - 6.

Tea served in a gaiwan

And just last week, the same enterprising couple opened Kotori.  It's a yakitori, a Japanese style of food specializing in grilled chicken and seasonal veggies. My favorite thing about this place, and there are many, is that it's taken a gravel, underused corner and turned it into something fun. Show up with a couple of friends and be adventurous!  On the corner (SE 9th and Pine) near the parent restaurant Biwa. Open through late September on Thursdays - Sundays, 4 pm until sunset. 
Kotori, a place for Japanese yakitori

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Writing Retreat

Opening the gate to new possibilities...

I've been away at a writing retreat. I'm learning to facilitate writing circles following the Women Writing for (a) Change principles and practices. I love it! I spent last week with 12 kindred spirits, nestled in a beautiful retreat center in Cincinnati, OH. We wrote of our experiences of being women in this world. We practiced deep listening and responding to one another's writing in safe and nurturing ways.  This style of writing in community is about honoring the path of each voice in the circle. The intention is to encourage and lift up each person's words. The experience is not at all like a critique-based workshop. 

The local hosts were so thoughtful! They prepared our rooms with flowers and candles. I added some tea things and had a very peaceful writing corner. 

Hours spent writing and listening are a gift, and I learned that I also needed to get out of my head and into my body each afternoon. I went for walks and runs. The surrounding community is full of historic homes and inviting benches.  

I am still discerning where this path will take me and am very excited to be on this journey! (I still have my day job, too.) I know this path will include heart, bravery, the help of others, and tea!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Red and Black Currants and Chimney Cake

I've mentioned that Oregon is berry heaven, right?  At the Farmer's Market last weekend, I was surprised and delighted to find currants, red and black.  I've been eating them out of hand all week and enjoying their tart, but distinct flavors. 

The black currants are plumper.  To me, they have a mild anise flavor in addition to the berry tartness. It's unexpected in a berry, and I like it. The red currants are bright pops of pucker with a finish of sweetness. They're just so cute!

I was also pleased to find this chimney cake, or Kürtőskalács. I had only learned of their existence a few days before, but the baker was sold out. What good fortune, to find these being sold at my neighborhood Farmer's Market! They're fun and delicious. It's a sweet yeast bread, not really a cake, and makes a beautiful display. They're cooked on a rolling pin device.

What summer treasures have you discovered lately?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunrise Solstice Tea in the Garden

Today is the summer solstice, the "longest day of the year," thanks to the Western Hemisphere's deepest tilt toward the sun. The sun rises and sets at its northernmost point along the horizon. It's funny, really, as the solstice is considered the start of summer and yet it's also the tipping point towards winter. From here, we lose a bit of light each day even as the temperatures continue to rise. That's because the land and oceans are still warming.

Humans are deeply connected to the shifting seasons and the moon phases, even though most of us don't acknowledge these subtle patterns in our life. It's something I aspire to observe.  I rose extra early to enjoy a solstice sunrise tea. I confess - it wasn't easy dragging myself out of bed - but I'm so glad I did! I took my chabako kit (a box with all the necessary implements for making matcha in the traditional style) to one of our garden plots. It was cool and quiet. The robins were beginning to hop around and the bees were still asleep inside of the hollyhocks.

I tried to follow the forms and practices of this tea procedure as best I could. I was both host and guest, which is unusual in a Japanese Tea Ceremony and required some adjustments. When I said, "otemae chodai itashimasu," thank you for making this bowl of tea, I was thanking all the people involved and the earth's generosity in bringing me this bowl of tea. It's an interesting contemplative experience if you dive into the thought of being both host and guest. 

I enjoyed being alone and spent some time journaling. Both tea and writing nourish me.

About an hour into the morning, the sun broke through the clouds, and everything began to sparkle.  

By the time I departed, about two hours after I began, the bees were humming and the sounds of human activity were floating in my direction. It was a time to go. A wonderful morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Berries, Old and New


I went berry picking last weekend, something I love to do.  I thought of my grandmothers as I moved through the bushes and vines. I remembered my mom and paternal grandmother picking wild blackberries; the chiggers were awful but grandma was determined! Fortunately, no chiggers here. I recalled summer mornings with my maternal grandmother, making jam in her farmhouse kitchen before the heat of the day crept in.

Gooseberries are an old-fashioned fruit, the plump globes are tart until they ripen a little, but green is when they're best for jam. They're naturally high in pectin so they gel up without any additives. Here's the recipe I used. Gooseberry pie also happens to be one of my step dad's favorite treats. I just wish I were closer to make him one!

The bushes were easy pickin', so heavy with fruit that I brought home far more than I'll need.  Thankfully, they freeze well.
At the same farm, I was introduced to tayberries, a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. They're a relatively "new" fruit, developed in 1979 in Scotland and named after the River Tay. This berry manages to have properties of both fruits, yet be its own thing.  I've been eating them out of hand all week and also made a batch of jam. They're delicious!

The gooseberry jam turns this pretty soft pink color, and the tayberry jam a deep purple-red. I'm grateful to live near berry farms, Oregon being one of the country's biggest producers, and I love traditions like this that keep family alive in my heart.