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Literary Heroine Blog Party!

LHBP at Accordion to Kellie

You’re Invited to The Literary Heroine Blog Party at Accordion to Kellie

I am so pleased to announce that ArtfulTea is one of this year’s sponsors for the Literary Heroine Blog Party and Giveaway (hosted, coincidentally, on my new favorite blog Accordion to Kellie.) It’s an honor to be featured alongside a dozen exceptionally beautiful shops, each offering the most amazing and generous handmade items as prizes for this event! You really must see all the wonderful goodies in the give-away!

I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with this annual event that Kellie has created. If you love to curl up with Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, or Charlotte Bronte, and you enjoy connecting with other gentle souls who admire the feminine characters of yesteryear, then the Literary Heroine Blog Party was designed especially for you! But you needn’t participate in the blog party portion of the event in order to enter the give-away. So take a peek. You just might win the ArtfulTea Sampler of 12 Individually Handmade Teas!

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Front Page on Etsy

ArtfulTea’s “Winter Forest” green tea blend was recently included in a stunning Etsy treasury created by Demi and Dean of AvolieGlass. Today, that lovely collection made it to Etsy’s Front Page! (It’s always so exciting to see our tea featured there. I’ll never get tired of this particular thrill.)

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I’m attending Breakthrough Boot Camp

I recently stumbled upon a Facebook post announcing a six-week workshop called “Breakthrough Boot Camp” to be held online by a blog called She Makes a Home. Although I wasn’t familiar with either the blog or the workshop, something about that post grabbed me. It’s not like me to click on things posted on Facebook, especially when I don’t know the folks involved. But, for some reason, this time I did – just to see what would happen.

I was pleasantly surprised to be taken to the incredibly lovely blog of another Etsy seller, Ashley Pahl. A quick scan of a few of her blog posts both impressed and inspired me. I popped over to take a peek at her Etsy shop and was equally amazed. Hmmm…

Despite being busy to the point of absurdity, and wondering how in the world I thought I could squeeze in one more thing to my already overly-full schedule, I jotted a note on my calendar that “Breakthrough Boot Camp” would start on January 28th. Perhaps I jotted that note down on my calendar BECAUSE I’m busy to the point of absurdity and cannot figure out how to squeeze in one more thing to my already overly-full schedule. Perhaps it is time for a BREAKTHROUGH!

I’m trusting my intuition on this one. I have a feeling taking the time to do the exercises offered by this workshop just may be exactly what I need to make a shift in how I approach my days, my business, my creativity, my life!

So – here goes.

One of Ashley's designs - found in her sweet Etsy shop

Wholehearted

I’m so proud of my dear friend Kelly Everman. She has just released her first book!

I’ve known Kelly since the mid-1990′s when we were both living in the Florida Keys. In 2000, she and I took a leap and opened a sweet little bookstore and tea room on Simonton Street in Key West. “Kindred Spirit” was a labor of love that touched so many people so deeply. It was an honor to partner with Kelly for such a heartfelt business endeavor.

Many years and many hurricanes later, we have each ended up in different towns leading far different lives than the ones we had in Key West. But, as true friends do, we’ve remained close despite the miles and can “pick up right where we left off” whenever we talk, even if it’s been far too long since we were last in touch.

Wholehearted: Nature's Reflections

Kelly began writing the essays that have made their way into Wholehearted: Nature’s Reflections while we lived and worked together in Key West. She has called these essays “musings on how Nature often reflects our inner journey of transformation.” I can remember how, with each essay she wrote, it seemed a bit like giving birth for her. Over the days (and sometimes weeks) that a piece called to her to be written, she would go through a whole range of emotions. From conception to labor to birth, each essay worked its way through her. All I could really do during those times was be a witness, offer encouragement, find compassion, and basically stand back and marvel.

For a long time now Kelly has wanted to compile these various writings and put them “out there” for the world in bound form. You can imagine how, despite support and encouragement from friends, it’s still been a monumental task for her to take on. Most of that was perhaps the knowledge that releasing this book is, in a way, preparing herself for the journey of transformation that comes next! And while that’s exhilarating, you can appreciate how it’s also terrifying in its own way.

Yet, she has done it. Wholehearted. In tangible form. Ready for the world. Won’t you take a look?

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Cornbread

A while back I took a quirky photo of a vintage cornbread pan. I needed a shot for the listing I was creating to offer the pan for sale in my Etsy shop Anidar. I wanted something a bit artsy that would catch the eye.

Little did I know my photo would end up being used to illustrate an article about cornbread on the Vintage Etsy Society blog!

Take a look at: Tastes Like Vintage: An Author’s Corn Bread

Thanks so much to Laurie at Recent History for the terrific article.

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ArtfulTea on Etsy’s Front Page!

It’s always such a thrill when one of my Etsy shops has an item that makes it to the Front Page! Yesterday, this lovely treasury was featured, along with ArtfulTea’s Organic Lemon Cream Rooibos herbal tea. Thanks so much to Lina of TheAtticPrincess for her beautifully curated collection.

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The Toilet Mishap

I know…it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything. Life has felt like a big roller coaster ride lately. I’ve either been arms-in-the-air-screaming-with-delight or boo-hoo-ing-like-a-baby. But there was an incident that, strangely enough, has brought me back here:

“The Toilet Mishap”

I do a few hours of bookkeeping weekly for a couple from Florida who own a second home here in Santa Fe. Since they’re here only occasionally, they kind of rely on me to keep an eye on their property. It’s several acres in the hills, including an orchard, with a lovely main house plus a little one-room casita (guest house) that’s been made into an office where I do the bookkeeping. The buildings on the property are rather old – in a charming way – but old nonetheless. And it’s isolated.

I was in the casita, quietly paying bills, when I noticed the toilet was running constantly, so I went in to jiggle the handle to see if it would stop. When it didn’t, I lifted the lid off the tank and noticed the “flow master” was stuck just below the water line so I reached in to lift it up. The whole contraption promptly flew off and a geyser of water began shooting up out of the tank like a fire hose, hitting the ceiling and raining down all over the bathroom. I was immediately drenched. After that initial moment of total shock, I got my wits about me and reached down toward the floor to turn the water off at the valve behind the toilet. Imagine my delight when the valve broke off in my hand.I think the Toilet Monster was just waiting for me!

With water raining everywhere, I ran out of the bathroom, closing the door behind me so it wouldn’t spray into the main room. I began frantically pacing around in circles trying to figure out what to do next. It occurred to me there had to be a way to shut the water off from outside the casita. I remembered the little outdoor storage closet that has a hot water heater in it. I figured that must be where the main shut-off valve was. Unfortunately, that storage closet hadn’t been opened in years so, when I got the door open, I was met with masses of cobwebs and some dead mice. With the casita quickly becoming a lake, it was no time to be squeamish about spiders and dead rodents. I saw a maze of pipes and a valve buried in a tangle of cobwebs. I reached in to turn the valve and, wouldn’t you know it, the thing was frozen solid. It would not budge.

For want of a wrench!

At this point I was standing outside dripping wet (in a white t-shirt no less!) with my hands full of cobwebs, trying not to stare at the dead mice, when I noticed water beginning to pour out of the little window in the bathroom. The geyser was shooting water all over the place and enough was hitting the windowsill to overflow and seep out the window.

That’s when I almost panicked.

I kept thinking “I must phone someone for help!” but I couldn’t think of a soul who would be close enough by. The property is a ways out of town and anyone who could help was miles away. In my frenzy I decided I should just start calling plumbers to see who could get there the fastest. I went back into the casita to get the phone. By now, the entire floor of the main room was covered with water. I grabbed my phone and began looking for a phone book, but quickly realized there probably wasn’t one in the casita. I’d have to go up to the main house to find one. But the computer was still on, so I could just use Google. I was standing in an inch of water typing “plumbers Santa Fe” when it occurred to me that electricity and water don’t mix very well. But I was already typing and hadn’t been electrocuted yet, so I kept at it. Of course it took forever for the painfully slow old PC to pull up a list of plumbers. First on the list was Roto-Rooter. I started dialing.

A young woman answered, listened to my panicked story, and said she could have someone out within the hour. I thought, well, in an hour the whole casita will have floated away…but, sure, send him out. I wanted to try other plumbers, but decided it really was too dangerous to stand there up to my ankles in water at the computer, so I grabbed my phone and headed outside.

I was pacing with phone in hand when it dawned on me I had the number of a neighbor with adjoining property stored on my phone. She hadn’t come to mind earlier because it was also her second home – she was probably in Texas! I dialed her number and by some miracle she answered and was actually in Santa Fe. She said she’d call her plumber and come right over.

When Gail arrived, she still had her plumber on the phone. He was instructing us to find the well and shut off the power to the water pump. We went racing across the apple orchard to find the well. There was an electric box on a pole next to it. We found it but immediately discovered the box was rusted shut. The plumber said he was on the way.

We kept trying to get the box open, but no luck. I took the cover off the well and looked down in there. More dead rodents and cobwebs. I was NOT climbing down to try shutting the water off…besides, I could see it was an old valve and probably frozen too!

I left Gail at the well and went back across the property to wait by the gate for the plumber. While I waited, I looked down and saw that my cute strappy red sandals had not faired well after first being submerged in water and then running across the dusty property a few times. Sigh. The plumber soon arrived and – bless his heart – all “hero-like” he got the water shut off at the casita.

As I was headed inside to survey the damage, he warned me not to step in water as I might get electrocuted. I smiled at him as if I had never thought of that! Fortunately, the casita had a brick floor, so the water began receding pretty rapidly. Somewhere in the chaos, I had apparently picked up most of the things from the floor that would have been destroyed, so there was actually not that much permanent damage. However, we did need a clean-up crew.

Some hours later, after things had been mopped up, fans were drying the place out, the various broken toilet parts and frozen valves had been replaced, the plumber and clean-up crew had been paid, and I was alone again, I sat down and burst into tears. When I was done weeping, I left the casita, locked the door behind me, and drove straight to the nicest restaurant I could think of. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a drink. It didn’t even matter that I sat there looking like a drowned rat with ruined sandals. I sipped my cocktail and enjoyed the secret knowledge that I not only had a great story to write, but it was also about time to go shopping for a new pair of strappy red sandals.

Photographing Tea

For several weeks now I’ve been working on a much needed overhaul of the ArtfulTea website. My wonderful web designer Christine, of Budding Lotus Designs (who created the original site back in 2007 and has hung in there with me through it all), is doing all the behind-the-scenes work. She’s taken on the task of converting the whole site to WordPress so I can do more of the editing and upkeep in the future, and she’s also widening the whole format so the site will look more stylish and current when we launch it (yes, soon!).

Christine’s part of this project is probably the more difficult part, but I find I’m struggling a bit with my end — which mostly involves writing text, photographing tea, considering revisions, photographing tea, checking Christine’s progress, photographing tea, and…did I mention photographing tea?

For the new homepage, I needed some horizontal shots of the ArtfulTea packaging, so I went into the studio with the camera and came up with these:

But I’ve decided it’s time to update the photos of all of the teas (nearly 50 of them!) so I’m working away on shots of loose tea leaves.

I’m chomping at the bit to get the new site launched as soon as possible. There are a number of new teas that aren’t even on the existing site — I opted to wait to list them so you can see them in all their glory on the new site! But before that can happen there sure is a lot of photographing to do!

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National Hot Toddy Day

January is the official “Hot Tea Month” – and if that weren’t enough for you, it turns out today, January 11, is “National Hot Toddy Day!”

What exactly is a Hot Toddy, you ask? Well, it’s a drink intended to warm you up, traditionally made with: honey, lemon, a spirit (whiskey, brandy or rum), and tea!

Hot Toddy’s originated in Scotland in the 18th century. And like so many historic drinks there are many recipes. Here’s one that’s tasty and simple:

1 oz. whiskey
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. lemon
hot tea
cinnamon sticks
cloves

Stir all ingredients together in a mug until the honey is melted.

I prefer using a hearty black tea such as English Breakfast or an Organic Assam or Ceylon, but you could try something less conventional like a Chun Mee green tea if you wanted less caffeine.

So, be sure to make the most of Hot Tea Month, and if you need something a little stronger to “cure what ails ya” – try a Hot Toddy!

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A new year arrives

Here we are at the end of one year and the beginning of another! The past few months have been a whirlwind for me of arts & crafts shows, having friends from near and far come to work on the labyrinth, and juggling the challenges of maintaining an internet business during the busy holiday buying season! Reflecting back on it all, a few things stood out as highlights:

In early October, I was honored to host an impromptu “field trip” for a group of photographers who were in town for a workshop lead by Sam Abell and Leah Bendavid-Val (both noted for their work at National Geographic). Apparently Mr. Abell inquired if there was a labyrinth nearby…and also asked where he could get some White Peony tea to take back to his wife. My friend Kitty Leaken, a participant in the workshop, said she knew where he could find both! She contacted me to ask (a little sheepishly) if they could come see my labyrinth, and could Mr. Abell purchase some tea? Soon eight photographers arrived with cameras clicking away. Several walked the labyrinth while others opted just to take photos. A few drank some tea, then they took a “class photo” before piling back into their cars and returning to their workshop. It was definitely an interesting chapter in the story of my labyrinth.

Santa Fe Photographic Workshops: Leah Bendavid-Val and Sam Abell with the workshop participants

Later that month, I was invited to participate in the Fuller Lodge Arts & Crafts Fair in Los Alamos. It was my first time at this show and was a lot of fun for me to display my work and offer my tea in a venue outside of Santa Fe. I surprised myself by packing a lot of stuff into a 6′ x 8′ space that day!

The Fuller Lodge Arts & Crafts Show, Oct 2011

In mid-November, I was part of the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival held at El Museo Cultural in the Railyard. This was my second year for this event and I was a bit more prepared than I was last year. Over half of the assemblage angels I brought to the show flew off to new homes! The quality and variety of work at the Recycled Art Festival is so inspiring, I was delighted to have such a wonderful response to my work. All of the art at this event is created with at least 75% recycled materials, so it’s really a perfect venue for me. I can hardly wait to do it again in 2012!

Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, Nov 2011

Then, in early December, a group of twelve artists gathered again at Pat Jackunas’ beautiful home for a Holiday Artisan Show (the third year she’s hosted this, I believe). I had the pleasure of setting up my little display alongside Maggie Beyeler of Magpie Pottery, whose work I adore. We got to talking about the labyrinth, and it turns out Maggie had a big box of broken pottery pieces stashed in her studio, which she offered to me. Now my dwindling supply of “shards” is restocked with a wonderful array of colors and images. And I’m thrilled to be able to include her lovely work in my project!

I’ve managed to acquire some other meaningful “pieces” recently too: my friend Kelly sent a bowl of hers that broke, one that I fondly remember she used whenever she made her tasty “tomato/basil/mozzarella” pasta. Around the same time Kelly’s bowl arrived, a lovely blue & white casserole dish that I’d sold on Etsy was unhappily broken in shipping. The customer phoned me about it and, as we got to chatting, I mentioned the labyrinth. He sweetly offered to send the broken casserole back to me (at his expense!) so I could use it too. And there have been plates, mugs, bowls and platters from other friends that have made there way to me. As much as I’d love to get out there and put them to use, it will have to wait until the ground thaws next spring before I can get back to work on the labyrinth.

Inside the labyrinth in greener days (photo copyright Gabriella Marks)

In case you’re wondering about the upside-down teapot: in the center there’s a stake and a string marked off in even intervals that I use like a compass to space the lines correctly. It needs to remain there until the labyrinth is complete. After tripping over it one too many times, I finally covered it with this broken teapot. Several people have suggested it should stay there permanently, but I’m not so sure. There’s still plenty of time to decide. We began this project last July, on my 50th birthday, and I would like to complete it by my 51st.

Of course, we shall just have to see what 2012 brings! Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

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