Friday, March 06, 2015

Hanazuki: Month of Blossoms


I love that the Japanese have such precise seasonal words, phrases and poetry. March, for example, is called Hanazuki which can be interpreted to mean month of blossoms. (Translated word for word, it means flower moon.)  Where I live, March is definitely the month of blossoms.  Here are some pictures from our gardens. Sending thoughts of Spring to those on the Eastern side of this country.  

I love the subtle purple veins inside this crocus

More bright crocus

I love wild daffodils!  What stories they could tell!
Where did they come from? How did they get here?

Camellia with a Happy Bee
(We've just begun to see active bees)

Marsh marigold

Plum blossom

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Happy Girls Day! (Japan)

Happy Girls Day!  This Japanese celebration, on the third day of the third month, celebrates girls with special foods, prayers for their growth and happiness, and a long tradition of collectible dolls. 

The sweet above is made with white bean paste (sweetened with sugar) and in the center, red bean paste. For those who have never tried a traditional Japanese wagashi sweet, these are really delicious! This is my first attempt at a Girls Day sweet.  This is meant to be eaten just before enjoying a bowl of matcha tea (powdered green tea).

You can read more about Hinamatsuri (Girls Day, also called Dolls Festival) here.

For those of you interested in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, notice the word in the background of the photo, Harmony or Wa. I have had this piece of artwork (from Kelly Rae Roberts) for some time, since long before I began studying the tea ceremony. It just occurred to me today to make the connection. It seems that Harmony has been an important concept in my life for some time! 

Wa is one of the four tenants upon which Chado, the Way of Tea, is built. The four are Wa (Harmony), Kei (Respect), Sei (Purity), Jaku (Tranquility).

Monday, March 02, 2015

Moderna-Tea, Las Vegas

When I was recently in Vegas, I had the chance to visit a brand new tea store in the Palazzo Grand Canal Shoppes, Moderna-Tea.  I was eager to visit as I had seen the sign announcing its arrival over a year ago. The shop wasn't quite what I had expected. I was hoping for a tea shop that sold dry leaf tea as well as offering a brewed tea experience (like a tea bar). 

Moderna-Tea does sell loose leaf teas, but no drinking experience (beyond a small sample).  Much of its emphasis is on skincare products that include tea as an ingredient. 

The store is beautiful, as you can see above.  I really loved those light fixtures along with the modern graphics.

I also very much enjoyed chatting with the tea manager (below).  We had a long conversation about pu-erh and the proper way to bust up a very densely packed brick like shown. (My answer: These were so tightly packed, they may be meant for display only. In a normal brick, you can try to get a knife horizontally inserted around the top edge to see if any layers peel off.  You may need to work your way around a bit.)

 Moderna-Tea also sells a line of dried fruits that have been soaked in tea and then dried.

I came home with a box of tea, a gunpowder/mint combo (like Moroccan mint) that I enjoyed very much when my allergies were at full tilt.  I drank it with a touch of honey.  Note: I did experience a bit of sticker shock for the price of the teas that I considered average quality. 

I did not enjoy my experience with the skincare line. I was asked to sit in a chair for a sample. Curiosity caught me, but I should have known better!  I thought, "Oh, this is a fancy boutique store. It won't be the high pressure sales like on the street."  Unfortunately, I was wrong. I experienced the sample > selling trap to be quite aggressive.  However, this is Vegas.

Summary:  I would go back on my next Vegas trip, and I would be prepared to avoid the skincare sample chair but enjoy the ambiance and the tea chats.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Walking to a French Bakery

An early blooming cherry tree

This morning I met a friend (also my colleague) for breakfast.  We make space for this about once a quarter. The rendezvous is absolutely, positively a necessary work task!  Sanity-keeping. Stress-easing. Women-connecting.  Away from the office, we soothe our troubles with the balm of coffee, tea and French pastries.

I take the train into the city and walk awhile to arrive at our destination.  The walk is always lovely, but particularly so in Spring.

I love the light reflecting in the window

Courtyards like this are a delight to find nestled into the neighborhood

Once I walk in the front door of St. Honoré Boulangerie, I'm greeted with many temptations.  

Here I understand the phrase, "a feast for the eyes" - and the mouth and belly! The wreath-shaped couronne (crown) bread came home with me.  It's like a baguette, only shaped into a round that lends itself to breaking apart as rolls.  It's got that perfectly crisp, chewy outer texture and soft inside.

I'm so grateful for these getaways! They give my body a chance to move, my mind a chance to appreciate beauty and my  heart the time to commune with a friend.   Do you have a necessary escape plan?  Tell me about it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sweet Tea, My Version

I recently enjoyed (on Valentine's Day) this sweet tea time with my DH, dear hubby.  We drank an aged Taiwanese oolong tea.  Sweet tea, a little different.  :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas (II)

Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

Once again this February, I was in Las Vegas for work.  I had the good fortune of synchronized travel with a fellow tea lover who was also in town for business.  We both managed to carve out time for Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental.  

Food is presented elegantly on these cascading three-tiered stands.  As I mentioned last year, not only are the stands lovely, but they're also functionally smart as they save pace on the fairly small table.

We chose an Earl Grey-Jasmine blend of tea.

  • Smoked salmon and cucumber with watercress spread 
  • Curry chicken, sesame cone and lemon grass with Asian pear (served in a glass holder)
  • Goat cheese tartlet with apricot jelly, dried fruits and spice bread crisp 
  • Black Forest ham sandwich

Scones with jam and cream

  • Pineapple mousse (my favorite dessert)
  • Raspberry-pistachio bars with white chocolate
  • Chocolate praline truffles
  • Mocha cream puffs

 I love the carpet!

The Mandarin Oriental also offers a Gong Fu Cha service for parties of 3 or more. Some day I would love to try this!

Have you been here?  If not, I think you would find it worth the money and time on a trip to Vegas.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chinese New Year: Year of the Goat

Stylized character of goat (also a bell)

Gong Xi Fa Cai!  Wishing you much prosperity in the new year!  Chinese New Year festivities will begin at Midnight tonight and continue for ~15 days, with some estimates telling that up to one-sixth of the world will be in celebration.  

Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival) is based on a lunar calendar and falls on the second new moon after winter solstice, somewhere typically between January 21 and February 19th (this year's date).  

Traditions include fireworks and wearing red clothing (to scare away a mythical monster Nian), family reunions and  handing out red envelopes with money for children.  Here's a nice summary if you'd like to learn more.

Decorations at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas

Have you been to a Chinese New Year celebration? Tell us about it!  My Wu-Wo group will be gathering this weekend to enjoy cups and cups of tea and a feast.  Can't wait!