Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Another Way to Cook a Holiday Bird

A whole chicken, deep fried
Muzha, Taiwan

Well, here's another way to cook up a holiday bird - you can deep fry the whole thing!  And how do you serve the meat? Like this!  With oven-proof gloves covered in plastic. 

The turkey was very moist and delicious.  It's a local specialty.  At this feast (and feasting was a daily occurrence), we also enjoyed sauteed greens, bamboo shoots, eggs with pickled daikon (another local specialty), soft noodles with tea oil (below), fried shrimp, soup with fermented winter melon and bamboo, fried soft tofu, fried sweet potato, and a special seasonal green onion from a field nearby.

This Turkey Day, I am going bird-free again.  The DH and I are having a quiet dinner in front of the fire with cava (sparkling Spanish wine), cheese and crackers, and fruit.  Happy Thanksgiving to you however you eat your bird (or don't eat it).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hiking in Sun Moon Lake Area of Taiwan

Old growth tea plants in between betel nut trees

I've been sifting through Taiwan Tea Tour photos and will return to blogging about that trip for a few days. 

One of the most physically engaging aspects of the trip was the time spent near Sun Moon Lake.  We did lots of hiking, much of it through betel nut/tea groves.  These tea bushes are old, from the Japanese Occupation era in Taiwan's history (~1895-1945).  Taiwan tea was a popular crop (black even!), but over time the market weakened and betel nuts became more of a cash generator.  Fortunately, the Taiwan tea market is finding its strength in black tea once again and these tea fields are becoming lucrative.  In the photo above, the darker green bushes are the tea plants.

One fine morning after an interesting breakfast of pesto sandwiches, hot dogs with relish, sweet potatoes and eggs, we set off.  (The place we stayed, Black Tea Workshop - and I highly recommend it - was offering a 'European' experience.  I think something was rather  humorous in the breakfast interpretation.)  Then we set off to climb up, up, up...

And past signs like this...  It took me awhile to figure out that our guide (above) was banging his walking stick into the bushes not because it was great fun, but rather because it was scaring the snakes away.  I'm not a fan of snakes and prefer they stay out of sight.  I am very glad that they did.

We crossed a beautiful creek

On a rickety bamboo bridge...
And we all survived!  (Note to my traveling companions - this  image and the first one are actually from the day before).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bamboo Vase

Bamboo vase with rose hips

I've always liked the look of bamboo, but after a recent class on carving bamboo scoops and making bamboo vases, I am even more enamored with this plant.  Technically, bamboo is a grass.  It's strong and grows quickly, making it a wonderful renewable resource. 

I had help in making this bamboo vase, from my Chado teacher. What's cool is that in between each bamboo node, the plant is hollow like a tube.  Using a Japanese hand saw and a vice grip, I very carefully cut just above and below nodes to make the desired length.  Then we used a chisel to cut out a hole in the middle (where the flowers go).  The final step was to drill a hole in the back for hanging.  When I have plants that need water, I use a plastic baggie tied around the bottom of the stems and tuck that inside the tube.  (I don't want mold to develop inside the bamboo tube.)

It hangs in my entryway.  I love it!

The DH, making sure I don't take myself too seriously   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Herbal Teas for the Evening

Ginger-Thyme Tea

Hello, blog readers - As the nights grow longer, darker and cooler, I find myself wanting a warm beverage to sip in the evening.  And more often than not, I want that beverage to be without caffeine.  I'm fortunate that we grow many herbs in our garden and I'm often able to make a fresh herbal tisane, like above.  I also enjoy dried herbal/flower teas.  I recently picked up some dried plum blossom and a friend gave me some linden flower tisane (more on these later!)  What are YOUR favorite herbal brews?  Does anyone dry your own herbs?  Any tips there?

Recently, I was approached by the Buddha Herbs company to review some of their blends.  Given my interest in herbals these days, I agreed.  I was expecting a handful of herbal tea bags, so imagine my surprise when I received a giant box in the mail with several boxes of herbal teas as well as supplements!  I have been enjoying the herbal blends, particularly the raspberry leaf. The DH has been drinking the chamomile.  (I don't drink chamomile because of allergies - it's in the ragweed family.) I am also sharing the generous bounty with a local community group that regularly has meetings over coffee/tea, and they send thanks as well!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Watermelon Radish and How I Write a Blog

Watermelon Radish

Way back in 2005, when I started this blog - Wow, really?  Has it been that long?! - I thought first about the message I wanted to write and then maybe added in a photo that kinda-sorta fit.  That was before I dove down the DSLR camera rabbit hole. 

These days, I just as often start with the photo and then craft the message.  That doesn't mean the message has taken a back seat.  Rather, I've thought in generalities about what I want to say much earlier in the timeline.  When I'm taking photos, my mind sees potential story threads to match the experience I'm shooting.  Back at my desk, I let the images weave that thread together with the other parts of the story.

And then...
Sometimes I just have an image that I want to share.  Like the watermelon radish above.  This picture makes me SMILE every time I see it and I wanted to share it with you.  There is a story here:  The DH grew these.  Sometimes they have a spicy bite and sometimes they don't.  And I love them for their cheery colors. 

If you write a blog, how do you go about crafting your stories?  And do you sometimes post photos just because?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

I Know How Much Work It Is...

Homemade macarons

I know how much work it is to host an afternoon tea gathering.  The planning, the shopping, the cleaning, the decorating, the cooking, the cleaning again, the presentation.  (This doesn't even touch on making homemade macarons!!)  It's a labor of love, but it's also an endurance sport.  That's why when I'm invited to a tea party, I am so appreciative!  And when that tea party is hosted by a dear friend when I visit from far away, and she brings together friends I have not seen in a long time, my heart swells with gratitude.  I was honored with this very thing on a recent visit to the Midwest.

Each place setting was unique

I was so busy catching up (and enjoying the food) that I neglected to take photos of all the courses.  However, everything was scrumptious and beautifully presented.  There's just something about an afternoon tea, isn't there?  The beauty invites me to slow down and savor.  The tea encourages me to listen and to share deeply.  And I believe the love put into preparing the event and each morsel is amplified and returned to the hostess.

Artistry in the sweets

Monday, November 04, 2013

Enter with Joy

My tree-lined street, vibrant with color

I used to feel a little sad when autumn would come.  I knew the days would grow shorter, darker and colder.  But over the past few years I've re-programmed myself to welcome fall with joy.  I welcome the color, the seasonal produce, the crunch of dry leaf, the smell of wet leaf, the crisp air, the pause.  And now, I even welcome the rain, the grey and the cooler temps.  I've learned to embrace warm mugs of tea and toasty socks, movies and books, nesting and inward reflecting.  

How do you welcome fall?

My front door