tea warmer

An essential figure in our cold weather rituals is our glass tea warmer. A simple device. It is built carefully, strongly shaped to support a full pot, with openings around the sides to bring air to the tea candle lit below. A steel plate holds the pot, and a little glass cup holds the candle. It keeps our tea astonishingly hot.

tea warmer © elisa rathje 2011

The tea warmer is particularly excellent for rooibos teas, which only get better as they steep. If I’m drinking earl grey I keep a strainer of leaves nearby on the tray and remove it after a short steep in fresh water, to keep the brew warming without becoming bitter. I set the copper kettle on the wood stove and fill the tea pot now and then. It requires very little energy to have tea all day long.

tea warmer copywrite elisa rathjer 2011


p>I must warn you against using a flat-bottom tea pot, which, though adorably shaped, is apt to put out the light if it covers the entire top of the warmer snugly. I found this warmer at my favourite tea shop in Vancouver and it was first in line to join us in England. It’s sustained me as I’ve worked through many a cold afternoon in the studio. The tea warmer will play a supporting role in a few tea parties we’ll be throwing over the next little while!


Or, my tried & true axe. I’ve only tried two axes, mind, and both of them were today. However my sweetheart and I have been building daily fires in our wood stoves for the last four months, and certainly a decent axe is a great thing to have on hand if you’re doing that. Except that I was afraid to use one, lest I remove a limb. Today I was elated to receive a lesson on the subject of chopping wood into kindling.


My friend sharpened the axe with a stone for us. Perhaps a lesson for another day, though I looked on in fascination.


He brought us a good chopping block, showed me how to hold my small axe near the end of the handle in one hand, and let the blade fall, giving it a bit of speed, to hit the block. Then he put a piece of wood there, and said to do the same thing again, as if the piece of wood weren’t there. Crack! I split the wood, just like that. Completely thrilling and exuberant work. I must say I’m becoming rather fond of very productive-destructive projects, kneading dough, chopping vegetables, pounding sauerkraut, needle felting, pruning vines, digging in the earth. If it weren’t dark I’d go back out to the log pile and split some more.


Of course kindling is brilliant, though we’ve made due with twigs gathered from the land and a surprising amount of cardboard leftover from moving. Those work perfectly well in one of our stoves, but the other is a bit stubborn and needs coddling and persuasion, and sometimes outright begging, to produce any sort of fire. This is just the kind of persuasion it needs. I won’t be buying anyone else’s wet bag of kindling ever again, and I may have to resist turning most of our log pile into little sticks. Chop wood. A very fine skill, even if you reserve it for camping on a summer’s evening.

log pile

While I may not have gotten to very many tasks today, the most satisfying of them all was stacking a cord of firewood. I like the work. It feels good to toss solid things and hear their clocking sound, and it is gratifying to see objects fall into order. A log pile is basic, it is organised and accessible, and done well enough, the air dries the wood.


The cold winter can go on now, we’re ready. I’m quite content just thinking of that stack of logs, knowing it is sitting there in its place.