Tag Archives: tea

Get Hands-On in 2014!

During the dark days of winter, I’m tempted to hibernate as soon as I return home from work. Resisting that incredibly powerful urge and heading out to zumba class or a literary lecture or an evening with friends can be so therapeutic.

Doing something creative on those cold, snowy evenings is even more therapeutic. That’s why I can’t wait for the next Hands-On Workshop series to start in 2014. Held the first Tuesday of every month at the Main Library, these free workshops are a chance to learn something new, use your hands and perhaps go home with a unique gift to give to friends and family.

In January, our very own Lisa from the Job & Career Education Center will teach us the wonders of glass etching. The results are so classy, but the steps are truly a cinch. Using contact paper and etching cream, plus some of your creativity, we’ll transform everyday glass containers into custom pieces.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via Creative Commons license.

We’ll provide number, symbol and alphabet stickers for etching names or numbers, as seen here:

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via Creative Commons license.

These make great gifts, and can be given as personalized favors at weddings or showers. You’re welcome to bring your own glass items as long as the surface is flat – no quilted crystal jelly jars, for instance – or you can use some of the jars and containers I’ve collected, including this lovely pair:

Photo taken by Rita.

Photo taken by Rita.

The fun doesn’t end there. What a great series of workshops we have in store for 2014!

Is threading a needle impossible for you? Do you want to keep your pants from dragging on the floor? When a button pops off your coat, do you throw up your hands and donate it to charity? If yes, then the February program, Mending 101, is for you. Taught by Jenn Gooch, owner of WERK studio in Lawrenceville, this workshop will show you the basics of sewing repair – no machine required.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markus via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markus via Creative Commons license.

In March, when winter still has its icy fingers wrapped around us, we can warm up with a tea tasting from Margaret Harris, owner of Margaret’s Fine Imports in Squirrel Hill. She’ll share the history and health benefits of tea, as well as how to prepare it. As with all of our Hands-On Workshops, you can register online for this event.

Photo courtesy of user Takkk on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of user Takkk on Wikimedia Commons.

Bring in your own lidded glass container or use one provided to build a terrarium with Master Gardener Susan Marquesen in April.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user fsamuels via Creative Commons license.

For a dollar or two, you can pick up some nice covered containers at thrift stores, or shell out a little more at stores like Marshall’s. I snagged this for a buck at Goodwill:

Photo taken by Rita.

Photo taken by Rita.

As you can see from this picture, just about anything glass with a lid can be used to make a terrarium…

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75 via Creative Commons license.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75 via Creative Commons license.

Any good DIY aficionado in our fair city knows about the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. They prevent lots of items from going to the landfill, and promote reuse of these materials through crafting and other creative projects. Thanks to PCCR, we have hundreds of paint swatches that will make colorful wall art, banners, gift tags – you name it. You could even make a Mother’s Day card at our Hands-On Workshop in May using our paint chip trove.

Photo courtesy of user Iroc8210 on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of user Iroc8210 on Wikimedia Commons.

And last but not least, in June we’ll learn about Japanese techniques of cloth wrapping such as furoshiki. Katsuko, who has volunteered with some of our Japanese programming, will share her expertise in this workshop.

Photo courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser via Wikimedia Commons.

We’ll see all you makers and crafters in Classroom A at the Main Library in 2014!



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Tea Ritual

There’s nothing quite like a cup of hot tea to warm you up when it’s very cold outside or, as more often happens, you’re just so cold you can hardly stand it. When I’m feeling very cold (which, unfortunately, is often) it’s the only thing that will warm me completely. It’s also nice to share with my co-workers.
 I’ve always enjoyed an afternoon beverage after lunch; it’s my dessert, my daily ritual and it calms and centers me. And, after all, what goes better with a good book than a cup of tea? In the summertime, I drink iced decaf espresso but, during the cold months of fall and winter, I switch to hot English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea.

When I drink tea in the evening, it’s usually herbal (I like fruity teas best) or decaffeinated as I’m superstitiously convinced any caffeine after 2pm will negatively affect my sleep; my husband says it’s psychosomatic but I don’t care.

There are several lovely little books that describe the ritual of tea:

 Tea Bliss : Infuse Your Life with Health, Wisdom, and Contentment 

by Theresa Francis-Cheung

Tea Gardens : Places to Make and Take Tea  by Ann Lovejoy

Tea Culture by Beverly Dubrin

The Art of Taking Tea by Kim Waller


~Maria, who has recently discovered the treasure trove of teas to try at Nicholas Tea & Coffee in downtown Pittsburgh.


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Need a Fix Between Downton Abbey Episodes?


So I hear that this Downton Abbey show is getting to be a pretty big deal. People at work are talking about it. People on Facebook are talking about it. (I’ve even seen pictures of people in funny hats who have tea parties during the show.) People on the Internet in general are talking about it. I get it. People like this show. They really, really like it. But hey, there are only so many episodes shown only so often. You’re going to have some down time to fill in between. May I recommend a book for you to read while you wait for the next juicy installment?

I figure those who enjoy Downton Abbey are attracted by the themes—the inner lives of the rich in their grand English country estates, the behind-the-scenes lives of their servants, the subjects of love and war. So with this understanding, I offer these suggestions…

The Tregenza Girls by Rosemary Aitken – WWI changes a blind young woman and her vain sister for both good and bad.

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier – A fateful meeting in a cemetery brings together three people from very different backgrounds and changes their lives in unexpected ways.

Kate Hannigan by Catherine Cookson – Classic tale of love between the classes against the backdrop of northern England and the Great War.

Howard’s End by E.M. Forster – This masterpiece of English novels examines the connections made between friends and family and the consequences of those connections.

Love Is Not Enough
Love and War
Forbidden Love by Anne Herries – Saga of the Trentwith family and their personal conflicts and relationships with peers and staff.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton – A novel of secrets kept between servants and the family members they serve.

Fateful Voyage by Pamela Oldfield – Romance on board the Mauretania’s maiden voyage sets into motion a series of nasty events.

No Graves As Yet
Shoulder the Sky
Angels in the Gloom
At Some Disputed Barricade
We Shall Not Sleep by Anne Perry – Brother and sister team of sleuths solve mysteries during World War I in various locations on the European front.

Ask Alice by D.J. Taylor – An American marries up, becomes a famous actress, and is the toast of London society, but a secret from her past threatens to shatter her new life.

I’m thinking you should wear fancy hats and drink tea while reading these books too.

-Melissa M.


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Time for Tea

A little fact you might have not known: January is, in fact, National Hot Tea Month. I must say, I’ve traipsed around, completely oblivious to this national observance, but I’m making up for it now by posting about these dear leaves and drinking an afternoon cup.

Tea has a long history, with a recorded consumption dating back to 1000 BC in China. Besides its place in history, tea is known for its medicinal uses and its seer-like leaves left in the bottom of a cup, waiting to be read.

In honor of National Hot Tea Month, steep yourself a cup, curl up with a library book, and sip away!

– Lisa


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Let’s Have a Party

In colonial America tea drinking followed the British pattern, where during the eighteenth century tea was adopted as an alternative to drinking polluted city water and as a replacement for beer and gin. But the pattern of tea consumption in America was abruptly altered when a rowdy protest staged by residents of the Thirteen Colonies to fight taxation without representation left their tea cups empty.

Today is the 235th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, a signal event on the path to the American Revolution. As part of the process of overthrowing the governance of the British Empire, 116 patriots boarded three American ships loaded with tea that belonged to the British East India Tea Company. Between 7 and 10 PM they heaved 90,000 pounds of tea in 342 wooden crates into Boston Harbor.


"Boston tea-party." Three cargoes of tea destroyed December 16, 1773

The authors of The Empire of Tea report that as a result of the Boston Tea Party, Americans publicly represent themselves as coffee drinkers while continuing to enjoy tea in less public settings – at home rather than in tea houses or shops. Americans spend four times as much money on coffee as tea. According to a New York Times article, in 2003 consumers in the U.S. spent $5 billion on tea, compared with $20 billion spent on coffee.

Perhaps a lasting result of the 1773 rejection of tea as the national beverage is that tea in the U.S. is likely to be consumed in a form other than from a traditional pot of unfurled leaves. In a 1971 history titled Tea, Jamie Shalleck judged U.S. tea drinkers quite harshly. “American contributions to the art of tea-drinking are not calculated to reassure the tea purist. Tea bags, iced tea, instant tea, and canned tea are among the dubious American claims to tea inventiveness.”

Welcome news for those pursuing the pleasures of pure tea comes from the Speciality Tea Institute, which presently numbers tea shops in the United States at 1500, compared with 200 only five years ago. Many of these stores promote high quality, loose leaf tea.

Two of my favorite tea authors, both passionate and articulate exponents of Camellia sinensis are Helen Gustafson and James Norwood Pratt. Ms. Gustafson’s tea career began while hostessing at Berkeley’s citadel of dining, Chez Panisse. She suggested to owner Alice Waters a few improvements to the restaurant’s tea selection. Ms. Waters welcomed the changes, and Ms. Gustafson’s work eventually focused entirely on tea.

agonyleavesThe Agony of the Leaves: The Ecstasy of My Life with Tea by Helen Gustafson

Mr. Pratt, known as America’s Tea Sage, writes about tea, leads tea tours, and lectures on tea topics. I met him in Seattle a few years ago. He is as charming as is his writing.

norwoodprattThe Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt

The Tea Lover’s Companion: The Ultimate Connoisseur’s Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying Tea by James Norwood Pratt

Steep some leaves. Sip and read. Or have a tea party!


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