(All photos and haiku courtesy of Alexis Siemons)
I swore I’d boycott tea for at least a week after my cell phone slipped out of my hand and plunged into a cup of steeping Earl Grey. A few hours later, I discovered Alexis Siemons’ teacups.
These fun-yet-functional drinking vessels are hand-printed with haiku Siemons designed while drinking and thinking about tea.
A Philadelphia native passionate for prose, her imagination has been brewing since childhood. She says, “I would always sit at the end of the dock, writing and thinking I would someday become a poet.”
For years Siemons has been crafting haiku, jotting details in her journals, saving folded fortunes from Chinese restaurants and arduously studying the cadences of the English language.
In college, Siemons designed her own major—communications and culture. After loads of courses in creative writing, the history of the English language and graphic design, she became an active freelance writer.
During an assignment with a tea corporation, it dawned upon Siemons to write poetry on porcelain cups.
“I feel very fortunate to have discovered a way to artfully blend two passions in my life: tea and writing. In the process of writing the haiku, I learn more about tea itself as I observe its creative complexities.”
(Featured above: Alexis Siemons)
Her haiku are nuggets of imagery; most are simple day-to-day reflections that make you smile, some stimulate the brain when you wake up in the morning, amuse you when you get bored in the afternoon and relax you when you’re ready to sleep at night.
“There is an art to tea that maintains a balance of tradition and creative freedom. I feel that the haiku cups achieve that harmony, as the structure of the traditional Japanese poetry and the physical cup itself blend with my imagination as I write about the beauty of tea.” ~Alexis Siemons
As reflected in her designs, tea inspires moments of creativity. Time to write a meaningful phrase and sip a cup of a good brew require the same quiet contemplation.
“I savor the few moments in which I carefully brew each pot. Within that time, I allow my mind to wander and then express those thoughts in a haiku. My hope is that those who sip their favorite blend from my cups will enjoy those few peaceful moments as they read the haiku.”
A former coffee drinker, she now drinks tea and only tea. Siemons loves the floral taste of Jasmine tea and the nutty flavor of Genmaicha (green tea combined with roasted brown rice) and a nice cup of masala chai. She says, “The spices are incredibly warming. Sometimes I add agave syrup and milk, but most of the time it’s delicious, plain and simple, as it is.”
Although she admits she’s no tea PhD, she spends much of her free time researching and reading about its historical traditions and trans-cultural tea drinking ceremonies in order to pour her heart into her work.
Her lovely custom-made teacups (and coming soon, her unique antique cups and mugs) are microwave and dishwasher safe. She will inscribe them just for you, a friend, or anyone else you’d like to send it to, with a memory, a quirky detail, 17-syllable story or any other personal touch based on the information you provide for her.
A few years ago, Seale designed "Nun for the Road," a group of sassy sisters featured on dessert plates, coasters, napkins, cheese spreaders, hors d' oeuvre trays, notepads, magnets, aprons and tote bags. You can find them in houseware stores and on the internet.
This holy order includes sisters Mary Culinary, Mary Mesquite (with her spatula, in front of a smoking barbecue grill), and other rebellious ones (clenching their cocktails as if they were heaven-sent) such as Mary Martini, Mary Margarita, Mary Mai Tai, Mary Merlot, Mary Mimosa, Mary Manhattan and Mary Cosmopolitan.
There's even a Sister Mary Immaculate dish towel and soap dispenser!
Oh yeah, let's not forget the Sister Mary Menopause mug. What a great gift for the mom whose insults and hot flashes are neverending.
And now, Seale has a whole line of napkins including "Ale Mary" (a nun raising her beer mug with delight) and "Ninety Nun Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
Even if you're not religious, you've got to laugh.
I didn't include any photos because Seale doesn't want anyone to electronically copy them. That's okay, though, because you can view them right on her website.
Also, you can buy some of her products here.
I have the coaster set, and I absolutely love it.
If you buy the dessert plates, you may wonder whether glomming a huge piece of Devil's Food Cake is just as sinful when served on the image of Sister Mary Immaculate. You'll just have to examine your own conscience.
And it was no surprise to hear Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" drifting through the air just as we walked back upstairs to taste the wines. Unlike many oenophiles, we refuse to spit vino unless it tastes like vinegar...so you could only imagine the "danger" we faced with the slew of budget-friendly, award-winning wines that lined the shelves in front of us.
I was practically waltzing on the moon with a sip of their Traminette--a delicate white with a note of pear and a honey-like finish ($10 a bottle, by the way). And then there was the Steuben, a pink-colored wine with a floral bouquet and a grapefruit finish. This one deserves its own welcoming party when you bring it home. It was obvious, from the first few I sampled, that the Starr family specializes in younger, sweeter wines than oakier ones aged for longer periods.
On a day like today when I'm dripping with sweat, the last thing I want to do is turn on an oven. Who wants to eat a heavy meal in this kind of weather, anyway?
To go light and easy, I have the recipe for a maple-ginger balsamic chicken salad I dreamt up and actually tested a few minutes ago. It'll take you about five minutes to prepare, and you'll gobble it up in two. It's that good.
For a single serving, you'll need:
Grilled chicken strips--about four of them equal one breast (I recommend Trader Joe's brand, already sliced and prepackaged for you in the refrigerator section. If you can't find a Trader Joe's in your area, Purdue grilled chicken strips will work okay, too)
A bag of pre-washed spring mix (use as much or as little of it as you like)
1 sliced green pear (put about 1/4-1/2 of it into the salad)
1 small orange, cut into sections
For the dressing, whisk together:
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger
1 teaspoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Drizzle over the top of the salad and toss with kitchen tongs. Double the recipe if you're serving two people, triple it for three, and yada yada yada.
For the perfect dinner drink, add two fresh strawberries to a 6 oz. glass of chilled riesling. I recommend the Australian brand Yellow Tail because it's cheap (about $7-10 a bottle), fruity, and pretty darn good. The notes of pear and orange blossom will compliment the fruit and chicken in the salad.
Try it tonight!