T Tuesday: Afternoon Tea and Thinning Out

Things have been a little quiet on the tea front lately, but yesterday I enjoyed a delightful afternoon tea with a friend and one of her other friends at a little tea house in the area. With my pot of jasmine and their Earl Grey, we enjoyed cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad, samosas, and more. (I wish I would have thought to bring my camera!) It was a fun change of pace from the coffee in paper cups that is typically imbibed during dates with friends. This morning I am enjoying Tazo's Berryblossom White with my little dog stretched out by my feet, gnawing on a chew toy. His devotion is quite endearing.
I am slowly continuing my thinning-out project: pictured are a few items that have made their way to Goodwill. I had had them for a long time, and I found myself wishing that I had been taking more pictures throughout this decluttering process to remind myself of the progress I've made. The crazy floral tin was bought at a thrift shop during college in Vermillion, South Dakota; I began making the afghan in 2001 but never finished it and by this point no longer like the color choices I made or have the patience for it; the old lamp I bought at a garage sale in high school and after nearly twenty years of not having rewired it, it seemed time for it to go, hard as it was. I ended up keeping the marbles because they were so pretty to photograph. These items in particular carried memories with them.
Do you have any decluttering tips?


A Tea Kettle From My Past

We've had sporadic internet problems due to a lightning storm, but we think (hope) the problem is solved now...so I'm back for Tea Tuesday! I have been rather obsessively going through closets and clutter these last few weeks. I even opened up the pile of sketches from Drawing 101 that had been taped up between two big pieces of cardboard for many years, sight unseen. (Drawing 101 was a very long time ago!) I enjoyed seeing the sketches again, and felt kind of sad that I haven't kept up with drawing, even if I have done lots of other arts and crafts in the meantime. I was intrigued by how many times the tea kettle in the bottom drawing showed up in the still lives - our professor obviously found it worthy of repeated attempts. The other images are also momentos of my past: the violin that I haven't touched in years, the Chuck Taylors that I wore in high school and college, my Great Uncle Louis who often visited for Christmas during those years. I kept these sketches, although many of them ended up on the curb (after being photographed if I liked them well enough - thank goodness for digital photography.) I was surprised that I finally let them go, since I tend to be very sentimental. But a big part of me is feeling that by letting things go, removing them from my home, I am making room in my life for new things.


T is for Transcendent

Just yesterday we returned from Pennsylvania, where we were blessed with a new goddaughter. The church her family attends has recently been beautifully restored after a fire. The icons that cover the walls and ceiling of the church are wonderful and a great joy to see. Being a very visual person, one of the things that drew me to the Orthodox Christian faith was its embrace of the visual and multi-sensory (a nicely holistic approach to worship), its use of icons to remind us of Christ's life and the lives of those believers before us. I love that when I enter an Orthodox church, I know I am in a church and that I am there to worship God; countless visual reminders help me focus on this fact. Some moments are truly transcendent.
Stash Moroccan green mint and Raspberry Zinger were the teas I enjoyed when not at church! They were a nice change. Of course, not much time was spent sipping tea on this trip. My husband spent quite a bit of time folding paper airplanes for our godkids to throw across the room, and we also spent time drawing and doing a little art project. The weather was delightfully cool compared to Houston. You can find more Tea Tuesday participants here.


T is for Twin Cities

A week ago we returned from a quick trip to Minnesota to visit family. One of the highlights was visiting the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, which was hands down the largest one I've ever seen - two blocks' worth of vendors. I was enthralled by the heaps of bright veggies and couldn't resist taking photos, although I did feel a little self-conscious shooting in the crowd - hence quick decisions about composition, etc.! We enjoyed some of the produce grilled, some of it raw, some of it steamed. I had quite a bit of quiet time on this trip to read, so I kept it simple and drank decaf Lipton and Constant Comment when I wasn't eating veggies! I've visited farmer's markets in Santa Fe, Rapid City, SD, Cannon Beach, OR, and Minneapolis this summer, but haven't made it to any in my own neck of the woods. For as large as Houston is, the farmer's markets here just aren't that impressive.


T is for Tasty

S'mores, anyone? I wanted to share this yummy dessert from one of our meals in Oregon - skillet s'mores! Graham crackers on the bottom, chocolate in the middle, and the best part - toasted marshmallows on top. I know it's Tea Tuesday today, but I confess I drank some Sleepy Monk coffee with this dessert instead of tea. The coffee was delicious, and the next day, we stopped at Sleepy Monk itself for some of the best hot chocolate I'd ever had. The chocolate whipped cream was perfection, thick and substantial. I brought some of their coffee beans home with me...I think it's time to go brew some up...
Smore's memories you want to share?


Traveling Tea

Often when I travel, I bring along a little assortment of tea. It seemed especially important to do so for last week's trip to Oregon, since I knew the weather would be cool and I'd likely be spending a lot of time reading and wanting a warm mug next to me. Tazo's Joy - their Christmas blend - has long been a favorite, and I stock up as soon as it appears around Thanksgiving.
Tea, of course, wasn't the only yummy thing about our visit to the coast. Here are some other highlights:
~Many hours on the beach, walking and reading.
~Finding peonies at the farmer's market! In July!
~Freshly baked cookies from Waves of Grain, a local bakery - moist and perfect.
~Enormous sugar snap peas at the farmer's market, perfect for snacking on at the beach, a long favorite.
~The constant sound of the ocean.
~Being able to sleep with the windows open - so incredibly quiet and cool.
~The glistening shore at low tide, mist and fog.
~Exuberant gardens around town.
~The silouettes of mountains and evergreens on the horizon (Houston is really flat.)
~Being able to wear sweatshirts, scarves, and even hats in July (Houston is really hot.)
So make a cup of tea, close your eyes for a moment, and imagine you're soaking up some of this peace as well.
More Tea Tuesday here.



We recently travelled to the Oregon coast, and let me tell you, I was a very happy girl. It had been nearly ten years since I had been back to Cannon Beach, and fourteen years since I spent a summer in college working there. It's beautiful whether it's foggy or sunny, but there is a wonderful cheerfulness when the sun is out and shining on the water and the wet sand. Most mornings we went out to catch low tide, which is also the time to find sand dollars resting on the shore. Most people are out looking for clams, but I'm just interested in the sand dollars. Fortunately, I was not disappointed!
I'm sure I'll have a lot more to share about this trip in upcoming posts. What are some of your favorite vacation memories?



One of my most recent tea discoveries is also one of my favorites: my tea forte ceramic infuser. I had been using unbleached tea bags to brew my loose leaf jasmine vanilla because modern infusers always seemed to contain plastic (which I did not want to mix with hot water - all those chemicals) and the old fashioned spring-loaded types always seemed to leak tea leaves. This is an elegant solution. The metal base screws off so it can be filled with tea leaves, and it rests in its own little matching tray. I see they have several other plastic-free infusers displayed on their webpage. Thank you, Teaforte!


The Flowers of Home

Is it silly to admit that one of my favorite reasons for going home to South Dakota in the springtime is to be able to visit favorite flower species that just don't grow in Texas? It's true, though. I plan walks along routes that I know will take me past favorite gardens or to places in the parks where poppies grow on their own. I carry the camera in my trunk and have been known to pull over to take photos of flowers when I come across them around town. A local gardening society does a wonderful job with the gardens at the Journey Museum; huge swaths of iris, columbine, and wildflowers meander through boulder-strewn beds. Orange poppies spring up every year along Rapid Creek in an undeveloped park; they are remainders of the gardens of homes that were lost in the 1972 flood. People are sometimes very generous with their garden flowers, handing out bouquets of peonies and irises without even being asked (including the bouquets pictured here, which were given to me right on time for my birthday, just by coincidence!) Of course, the lilacs are also a big star, and if you don't have any bushes of your own, you may have discovered places to cut a few branches to bring home with you. Flowers are certainly a way to celebrate spring! Do you seek out favorite gardens in your town?


T is for Taos

After we left Santa Fe on our May roadtrip, we drove north to the town of Taos to meet an old friend for lunch. We had many miles to cover that day, but decided to make one last stop to visit Taos Pueblo, a Native American settlement that has been continuously occupied for over 1,000 years. For some reason, I'd never heard of this pueblo and was astounded to learn that there are actually dwellings in North America that have been inhabited for that long. The tribal members who live here do not use modern conveniences. They haul water from the creek and use kerosene lamps. Every year, another layer of plaster (mud and straw) is applied to the buildings, perhaps best seen in the middle photo of the church window. The igloo-shaped dome in the fourth photo is a traditional oven for baking bread. Originally the dwellings were entered through the roof, but today doors have been added. At one time, a very tall wall surrounded the village, but it has been shortened to a few feet. I'm glad we stopped here before heading back to the plains.
As for tea these days, I'm still stuck on my jasmine vanilla, although I did break habit and use Tazo's delicious Joy blend with my homemade crepes yesterday!
These photos are by my husband.


A Surprise

I was delightfully surprised to find a complimentary copy of Somerset Life in my box yesterday - another one of my travel journals has been published. It's a lovely spread, pages 100 - 101. Thanks, Somerset Life!


T is for Travel: Georgia O'Keefe

Last month, my husband and I set off for our annual road trip north. Instead of heading straight to South Dakota, we swung west to New Mexico. I'd been wanting to see Santa Fe for some time and we both yearned to be in the true West again, with its dry air, varied landscapes, and huge spaces. We were not disappointed. One particular goal was to visit the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. I have admired her work since high school and had only seen a handful of her works in person. The museum was our very first stop in Santa Fe, and I was treated to a few dozen of her paintings. I spent much time admiring a series of three seashells, the canvases only about 8x10 inches. Their smallness surprised me, given how bold her work is. And I was delighted to see her portrayals of cottonwood trees, landmarks in the West, and a favorite of mine. Outside the museum, I smiled to see lilac bushes blooming against the adobe walls in the town. (They don't grow in Houston.) The next day, we drove out to Ghost Ranch, where O'Keefe lived and painted for many years. My husband took these photos of the scenery at the ranch. The sources of her inspiration were clear. An artist/retreat colony is now found on the grounds, and perhaps someday I'll be able to return for a workshop. It was fulfilling to finally see these places, after years of wanting to. Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to drink tea in New Mexico, but I'm enjoying my old standby jasmine vanilla now that I'm home.



I was fortunate to take a solo writing retreat early this month out on the South Dakota prairie with a well-known regional writer (more on that in another post.) I stayed all alone in an old ranch house for three days, with twice-daily visits from Linda to discuss writing. I was surprised at how comfortable I was staying alone at night with the nearest neighbor a half-mile down the road, the rest of the neighbors being cows and numerous species of birds. But I think much of the reason of why I was so comfortable was because of how familiar much of it felt. There were many little things that reminded me of my mom and my early childhood years: blue flax growing by the front door, windchimes, a birds nest sitting on the bookshelf, prairie flowers in the yard. All these were things my mom loved and that were little parts of my early years. When I was small, our house was on the last block in the neighborhood, the undeveloped prairie stretching out south. We would take little walks out in the grasslands, handing grass to the horses over the fence, watching the birds, gathering flowers. It was delightful to find these things again, decades later, in another place. What small things remind you of your early years?


In the Kitchen with My Sister

Where have I been and what have I been doing? Driving through the West and now enjoying being home in the Black Hills again, staying with my sister and her family, for one. There are several adventures I hope to share here in the next month or so. We haven't been doing as much cooking together as usual during this spring's visit, but last night I did make soup using French green lentils for the first time, combining this and this recipe for a final dish that was quite yummy. We found these lovely spring onions at the farmer's market and used them as a garnish on the soup. Also at the farmer's market: little radishes and lots of canned goods, including chokecherry jelly, pumpkin butter, and raspberry rhubarb preserves that I look forward to using in Houston later this summer.
My brother-in-law is usually the one who whips up some of our Grandma Helen's Swedish Pancakes (really crepes) now and then for breakfast, but I also attempted them for the first time this trip. I'm thinking some of these green onions would be tasty in them! My sister and I fondly remember eating them at her house when we stayed overnight as kids, sprinkled with plenty of sugar. Here's the recipe - we now eat them with sugar and lemon juice or Nutella.
3 eggs
1 1/4 C milk
3/4 C sifted flour
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
Beat eggs 'til thick and lemon-colored. Stir in milk. Sift dry ingredients; add to egg mixture, mixing 'til smooth. Drop batter by tablespoons (I used quarter-cup measure) onto moderately hot, greased griddle. Spread batter evenly to make thin cakes. Turn when underside is light brown.


A New Favorite

Today for Tea Tuesday I will share that I have been drinking a lot of peppermint tea lately. I also like to add a bag of peppermint when I make iced tea for extra refreshment. But mint is one of those herbs that I don't dare plant in my own garden, given its amazing tendency to take over. Kind of like the variegated artemisia that I thought was so pretty last year, even though the nurseryman warned me it would take over. I've dug it out several times now and it keeps coming back - must need only the smallest fraction of a root to sprout new! But these photos are of another popular herb. Any guesses? It's parsley! It bolted after I trimmed it back six weeks ago, reaching three feet and developing these lovely flowers. I'm going to plant more just to enjoy the show next year. I've been admiring it a great deal. I'd make tea from it, but am not sure how palatable it would be!