Apr 30, 2013

Next year's Sakura mochi

The delicious sweet we have in April called Sakura mochi is composed of a bean paste and sweet sticky rice wrapped with a pickled cherry leaf.   We enjoy it while the Sakura cherry trees are blooming.  The interesting thing is that the Sakura blooms before there are leaves on the tree.  After the petals have all fallen, the leaves then come out.  So for next year's Sakura mochi, pick the leaves now and preserve them using this recipe:

How to pickle Sakura leaves:

Choose the double blossom cherry trees.  Make sure that they are not sprayed with chemicals.
Pick leaves in the Spring when tender but large enough to wrap sweets (about  4-6 inches long).  Most of the leaves come out after the blossoms have fallen. Don’t wait until they are too tough.

Wash leaves in cold water and remove stems.  Arrange in a single layer and steam for about a minute.  (it smells heavenly).  Rinse leaves in cold water to cool.  Put a layer of kosher salt in the bottom of container (plastic or ceramic). Do not use aluminum.  Over the salt put a layer of leaves, then salt, then leaves. End up with salt.  Pour hot water over the stack until leaves are submerges.  Put plastic wrap over and put a weight on top. 

Let pickle for 3-7 days.  Remove weight and layer leaves together in plastic wrap Do not wash.  Wrap and  put in freezer bag and freeze for next year.

Apr 25, 2013

Bloggers and Blog posts

I have been writing about Chado on this blog for nearly 6 years and there is always more to write about the way of tea.  I am opening it up again to my readers and taking requests.   What I'd like is to have more conversations and comments.  I'd like to write about things that interest readers so we can explore aspects of Chado together.  What would you like to see here on this blog?

For your interest I have updated the Issoantea.com site.   Please explore the new Articles, new Links and New Workshops.

Apr 24, 2013

New Class: Beginning Chado

As an instructor of Chado, I am continually thinking of ways to pass on what I have learned and instill in my students the enthusiasm and joy that I feel in the way of tea.   Being connected to the rich history of chado and honoring all of the efforts my own teachers have invested in me, make me glad that I have found a passion in life that I can share with others.

I have developed a new class for students who have taken the Introduction class and would like to continue.

Beginning Chado class.  It will begin Friday, June 7 from 7-9 pm, and run for 10 weeks.  In this class students will learn a complete tea ceremony procedure called ryakubon, or tray style.  It is a complete tea ceremony with all the essential elements, but you can do it without a lot of equipment or tea room.  I have shared tea this way for public presentations, and also while hiking, in the living room, on the train, in my hotel room while traveling and under the cherry blossoms.  Students will also deepen their understanding of the guest role, learn to make different types of sweets, and learn basic preparation and set up of the tea room.  We will begin to explore seasonal aspects of the tea ceremony, and at the end, put on a tea gathering for friends and family.  Come join us for this class.

You need not have taken the Introduction to Chanoyu class, but it is recommended.  For those interested, please reserve your place by using the Paypal button to the left, or contact Margie 503-645-7058, margie@issoantea.com.

Apr 23, 2013

How to Sharpen Pencils

Book review:  I have just finished reading a book titled, "How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, and Civil Servants," by David Rees.

This book classified in the humor section, but I read it with the seriousness of a technical manual.  I used to work in technical publications for a large electronic manufacturer.  The author, David Rees, talks about what to do with the shavings and how present the newly sharpened pencil. He also talks about the history of pencil sharpening, the origins of pencils and how pencils are made as well as the care and maintenance of your equipment. 
“Each action we take is an act of self-expression. We often think of large-scale or important deeds as being indications of our real selves, but even how we sharpen a pencil can reveal something about our feelings at that moment. Do we sharpen the pencil carefully or nervously so that it doesn’t break? Do we bother to pay attention to what we’re doing? How do we sharpen the same pencil when we’re angry or in a hurry? Is it the same as when we’re calm or unhurried?

Even the smallest movement discloses something about the person executing the action because it is the person who’s actually performing the deed. In other words, action doesn’t happen by itself, we make it happen, and in doing so we leave traces of ourselves on the activity. The mind and body are interrelated.”
― H.E. Davey, Japanese Yoga: The Way of Dynamic Meditation.
If one observes closely, there a thousand ways to sharpen a pencil, just as there are a thousand ways to make tea. Different situations and different uses call for different types of sharpened pencils. Different occasions and different guests call for different types of temae.

Some people may consider the art of pencil sharpening as inane as the art of making tea. For those who take it seriously, though, it can be sublime and imbued with meaning.  It also illustrates that the attention to detail for something as mundane as sharpening a pencil or making tea can be totally satisfying.

Apr 22, 2013

The last of the Sakura

To my regular readers, I am sorry that I have not posted in so long.   I promise to post more regularly in the future.

In the meantime, Sakura season has come and is nearly gone.  The late cherries are dropping their petals like snow and it is getting warm and sunny here in the Pacific Northwest.

There have been so many activities the last few months, from Girl's Day to the Camellia Festival and Sakura Festival demonstrations.  We had a visit to Portland from Soujuan Kimono from Kyoto and got a kimono dressing lesson.   The Friday night Introduction to Chanoyu class had their final chakai at the Portland Japanese Garden, and the advanced students are now studying chabako.  Also students Colorado visited Issoan and we had several sewing classes for our practice kimono. The Saturday Introduction to Chanoyu had their calligraphy class, incense and poetry class, and tea bowl appreciation class.  Only 4 more lessons and they, too will have their final chakai.

With that, I am announcing the Beginning Chado class.  It will begin Friday, June 7 from 7-9 pm, and run for 10 weeks.  In this class students will further their training on the guest role, learn how to purify utensils, make sweets, serve tea from the kitchen with goal of conducting a basic tea ceremony in the ryakubon, or tray style.  You need not have taken the Introduction to Chanoyu class, but it is recommended.  For those interested, please reserve your place by using the Paypal button to the left, or contact Margie 503-645-7058, margie@issoantea.com.