Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A 2014 Tea Blogger Roundtable Moment

For the 2nd year in a row, I'm so happy to be invited to participate in the World Tea Expo Tea Blogger Roundtable.

Among the featured tea bloggers are Naomi Rosen of Joy's Teaspoon, Chris Giddings of Tea-Guy, Linda Gaylard of The Tea Stylist, Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review, Nicole Martin of Tea For Me Please, and Gary D. Robson of Tea with Gary!



This year the World Tea Expo moves to Long Beach, California, which is a hop, skip and a jump from the O.C. where I call home. I extend a huge thank you to Jo Johnson, of A Gift of Tea, for making this roundtable event possible.

Tea enthusiasts and bloggers, this is a conversation you won't want to miss. RSVP now for this fun event. We'll see you on Friday, May 30th!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day 9 Meditation Moment - Allow for Joy

There are weeks that seem to extend endlessly, where every minute is scheduled and the minutes that are "free" are used to catch up on the basics so that everyone has food or clean clothes. We're all told, especially moms, to take time for ourselves. That if we don't make recharging a priority, we won't have anything left for anyone else.

Well, sometimes there literally isn't time to even fantasize about recharging for weeks or even months on end. But I feel the important task is to allow for that recharge, that little piece of joy, whenever we can take it.


There's a sushi place near my house that I used to escape to every couple of Saturday afternoons before Anne Marie was born. I'd take my book, order my 'usual' and get a pot of their oolong tea. These days, a Saturday to myself is out of the question and the week is packed solid with other necessities, but last week I took an extra long lunch break and visited my old haunt.

They were happy to see me, they asked about the family, they remembered my love of the crunchy roll. It felt nice. It was a joy to have that moment all to myself, just me, a book, sushi and tea.

It's ok that "free" time looks a little different now. And it's ok that there aren't as many moments to recharge. But when those moments come your way, allow for them. Don't feel guilty. We were created for happiness, and part of that happiness could be taking 30 minutes to go for a walk, puttering in the garden, going through a McDonald's drive-thru, watching mindless TV, taking a nap. You don't have to justify it, you just need to allow yourself to enjoy it.

Today, on this final day of my Lenten Tea Novena, I intend to be on the lookout for little moments of joy and allow myself to embrace them, and allow others to have their moments of joy as well without interference.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 8 Meditation Moment - Being Neighborly


There was a time when you could run next door and unashamedly ask to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar or a ladder, and the response would be, "of course!" I remember being the one having to do the running and asking, and although I was a shy kid, the part I had a hard time with was the actual talking, not the act of asking. The understanding was different then. Everyone was of the mind set that "of course you can borrow something, because next week I'll most likely be the one who's doing the asking."

I experienced this once again in college as an exchange student in France. I found this neighborliness alive and well amongst my peers. When one person was short on francs (yes, this was before the euro when 5 francs = $1. I miss those days...), someone else would buy the bread or the sandwich on their behalf. No one kept tabs. We all knew we'd be the one in need sooner or later.


I'm still in contact with this community, nearly 2 decades later. We took care of each other. That's what being neighborly is all about.

I feel it is a dying tradition. In the industry I currently work in, which is all about communities, I find through my research and my own experience that most people couldn't care less who their neighbor is as long as they're quiet. It seems as people get more dispersed from their immediate family, whether due to schooling or jobs or adventure, they're not necessarily building their own community up around them. There are a lot of people out there without a safety net. To make matters worse, we all have too much pride to ask for help when we need it. We'll take that half-hour trip to the store, kids in tow, all to avoid asking someone for a single egg. And it doesn't have to be that way.

I'm fortunate that a little over 2 years ago, we moved into a new neighborhood where people seemed to be determined to be neighborly. There are a lot of young families, a lot of people who moved to California from the Mid-west, a lot of people who are making it on their own. They have pot lucks, they celebrate birthdays together, they pitch in when someone learns of a family in need, some even go on vacation together. It's a good feeling. I've even called on one neighbor to break into my house and turn off my stove when I left some soup simmering and I was over 30 minutes away. She was happy to do it.

People need people. I guess that's why I have a soft spot for tea companies who use their businesses to be neighborly and take care or more than just the business. Live Your Love is one of those companies. A portion of their profits goes directly to healthcare and education for those who were devastated by the tsunami in Sri Lanka. It is Sri Lankan tea (Ceylon) and it supports the Sri Lankan people. For the founding couple of Live Your Love, this was the neighborly thing to do.

As I sip my Ceylon this morning, I'm thinking about the opportunities that come up to be neighborly. Bringing dinner to a family with a newborn, delivering cookies to a new neighbor to welcome them, having the neighbor kids over for a play date to give the parents a break. Charities and organizations are critical to meeting so many needs, big and small, but we shouldn't overlook the needs and opportunities right next door.

Today I intend on looking for ways to be more neighborly. Maybe checking in on a neighbor I haven't seen for awhile, or inviting a mom to lunch (or tea). Those little connections can sometimes make all the difference. I know. I've been there. By the way, can I borrow a drop of vanilla extract?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 7 Meditation Moment - Chill

It's a funny time of year in Southern California. There are days that will chill you to the bone and days where you could throw on the bikini and head for the beach. We're somewhere between fall and summer...

Most mornings have a bite in the air, so when I opened a package of teas from the up and coming tea retailer, Nelsons Tea, and spotted Winter Nights, I knew that is what I wanted today.

 

A smooth black blend with just a hint of cinnamon spice and all things warm and toasty. I like its subtlety of wintry-ness, as it allows for the upcoming possibility of spring.

(I also love the label design.)

http://nelsonstea.com/?product=winter-nights


This is the time of year when its easy to look only toward spring, wishing desperately that the cold would melt completely away and we could take full advantage of the sun and outdoor activities. But it's also worth it to savor the wintry moments that remain. That fluffy winter sweater, the warm and fuzzy slippers, hot soups and stews that simmer on the stove, the fire in the fire place.

Today I intend to just chill and not rush so quickly to the next season, but appreciate the luxuries that can only happen in the now. And now, back to that cup of tea...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 6 Meditation Moment - Plan Your Next Move


It's feels so luxurious to sit quietly with a cup of comfort at hand. This morning's companion is Irish Breakfast from California Tea and Coffee Brewery in Temecula, California. It's one of the few teas they hand blend, and I love them for it. It is strong and bold and will set you on a good course to tackle the busy-ness of the day.

There was a Harvard Business Review article review recently that exhorted people to please stop complaining about how busy they are, and it caught my attention because I've absolutely fallen into that trap when people ask me how I'm doing.

It's true, we're all busy, and somehow we think that our work load, child care situation, travel schedule, number of commitments is larger, more unique or more important than everyone else's.

This morning is the first school/work morning of Daylight Savings Time, which means that getting the household up and running at 6 feels exponentially more difficult because it's really 5 until we get used to the new time. I had planned a couple of moves ahead and laid out the girls' clothes and packed Edie's snack to buy us a few more minutes in the morning. It made all the difference.

It was a simple thing that took me less than 5 minutes last night. And it's common sense that we all know, but that I typically forget. Look at what's coming up, anticipate, plan your next move so that you're not scrambling to catch up.

Today I intend to take a few minutes to survey the coming week and see what small moves I can plan to make the coming events less busy and more productive, even more enjoyable.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 4 Meditation Moment - The Spice of Life


 
 
It's so easy to get in a rut, a daily routine that becomes more deeply entrenched as time goes by. So it's always a nice surprise when something pops up to change things up a bit. 

 
Spicely Organics’ mission is to ethically source ingredients from all over the world in the most sustainable manner possible. And their variety of spices and teas is enough to spice up anyone's routine.  In this small, beautiful package was a selection of 6 unique tea  blends. One for each day of the week, and on the 7th day I can have my favorite of the bunch!
 

 
Yesterday, I began with Jasmine Cacao, an earthy-sweet concoction of green tea, jasmine and cacao nibs. With an almost coffee-like scent, it somehow balances bitter, floral and sweet notes in perfect harmony.
 

 
This morning, I'm starting the day with Organic Earl Grey. Earl Grey is the most popular blend in the United States, and this one does not disappoint. A strong black tea blend with just the perfect touch of bergamot!
 
 
Variety and spice can come in so many forms, whether choice of tea, wearing a different color, trying a new hairstyle, adding a new vegetable to the dinner plan, or even driving a different route to work. It awakens the senses and makes the moment more intentional.
 
Today I intend to try something new or different and encourage the kids to try it too. Let's explore the spectrum of life. We just don't know what we may be missing!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 3 Meditation Moment - Being creators

"But unless we are creators, we are not fully alive." - Madeleine L'Engle


Edie asked me the other day if God made the houses, and I explained that God created the minds in people so they could have the imagination and creativity to design and build the houses.

Which made me think about the fact that as we get older, it's easier and easier to focus on consuming rather than creating. There's less time to use that part of our brain to cook or sew or garden or build or tinker. There are stores and services for all of those things. And yet, it's true, we're NOT fully alive unless we're creating. That's what we were created for.

I recently attempted my first baby quilts for a friend and also a family member. When my girls were born, the gifts that I loved (and still love) most are the hand made quilts they received. It suddenly dawned on me that those individuals had somehow carved out time to create them for my girls. Why could I carve out time as well?


My handicrafts are much less than perfect, but I will say that a dormant part of my brain came suddenly to life as I evaluated colors, shapes, sizes, construction, and more. It was challenging. It was frustrating at times.

It was fun.

Don't expect me to become a quilt hobbyist any time soon, but I do have some ideas on how I'd make future ones better. Mostly it's the creative process that speaks most to my newly activated brain.

Creating doesn't have to equal craft. For some it will be cooking or baking, building or tiling, growing a flower or vegetable garden, putting together a presentation or designing a more functional spreadsheet. It is you and your mind thinking of and doing something that was previously not in existence before.

Like tea blending. (Yes, I dabble there too. Here's my own Calm-o-mile Tea - carefully concocted with my own two hands).


Today I intend to look for opportunities to be a creator, even if it's a small way, because each of our creations makes life and the lives of those around us a little better. Just the Creator intended.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 2 Meditation Moment - Set Aside Every Fear


For me, parenthood is fear incarnate. From the moment Edie was born I discovered a level of terror and anxiety the likes of which I had never before encountered. This incredible weight of responsibility for an actual life, realizing that if anything happened to her it would be my fault was paralyzing.

The thing is, things have happened to her. Things that could have or should have been prevented. I was taking her out for a walk in her stroller when she was around 1 year old, possibly younger. There were long, gently sloping steps that led from our front door to the cul-de-sac. I remember putting on the brake of one set of wheels as I turned to lock the front door. I remember losing physical contact with the stroller. I remember watching with absolute horror as the stroller seemed to roll in slow motion down the steps, tipping my daughter face-down onto the street as I could not get my arms and legs to move quickly enough to stop it.

As I pulled up the stroller and unbuckled her from this contraption, thoughts of stitches, concussions, comas and paralysis flooded my mind. She screamed. She cried.

I cried.

We didn't go for a walk that day. I scurried with my baby and my fear and my shame indoors.

When I had examined every millimeter of her body, there was only the faintest pink mark the size of a quarter on her forehead. I have to believe that the restraints in the stroller and the angle of the handles didn't allow her head to more than graze the ground.

Fear has prevented me from taking my daughters to some activities or even some vacations. I've mellowed out considerably, but the what-if's are never far from my thoughts.

Yes, there will be moments when we get chipped, cracked or broken, That's a part of life and it is what makes us who we are. And while it is a natural, and even helpful, reaction to strange or dangerous situations, fear can be crippling, it is not life-giving - it can take you out of the game. Sometimes completely.

Fear is what we allow it to be, gigantic or miniscule. If we can minimize it, if we can set it aside, we have the opportunity to meet more people, try new foods, hear new music, see new places, experience more life. And not only is it possible that we'll like it, we may discover our new niche.

Today I intend to set aside every fear, as St. Catherine of Siena encourages. I will acknowledge my fear exists in interactions or wanting to protect my children, but I will step forward in greater faith when the size of my fear is incongruent to the situation at hand. I will remember that I am not alone, and I will look at the greater opportunity of experiencing life as it comes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Lenten Moment - Day 1 - Being Present

I'm kind of "over" multi-tasking. And I don't think I'm alone in that. The other day, my co-worker announced to the team that he would no longer subject himself or those around him to multi-tasking. He would be mono-tasking from here on. We had been warned.

And while we all chuckled and shook our heads at how many zillions of directions we all felt we were being pulled in, I know that inwardly I thought, "yes. enough."

This morning I mono-tasked with a cup of tea, a straight black tea blend from S.D. Bell. A morning tea, a wide-awake-here-I-am kind of tea. I sipped. I thought.


Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Catholic tradition. There is the usual talk about what this person is giving up or that person is giving up, but one thing I have held onto since my Catholic journey began in college is that a Lenten sacrifice isn't just about giving things up. It can be about doing more, doing better, or giving back, which can be almost more of a sacrifice because it's not about intentional inaction but intentional action.

At the core of faith is the understanding of constant presence. God with us. It's a model that, while seemingly impossible to perfect, is something worth pursuing. Being present to those around us. 

The truth is that we ARE pulled in a zillion directions. While at work, our email is constantly popping up a new message that needs to be addressed right now. The phone rings, a text message comes in, an email arrives on your phone. At home with the family, dinner must be made, crying children must be soothed or plopped down in front of an iPad, spouses and friends must be listened to, dogs must be let out, and the emails and the calls and the texts keep coming. 

Enough.

In the past few weeks, Edie has asked me on more than one occasion, "When can you play with me?" And my instant thought is, "Not now," though when I try and identify when would be convenient or feel feasible, there is no good answer. And so, that must change. 

Today I intend to be present to those around me. I want to really see them for who they are today. I want to hear what they are asking or needing. I want to respond with understanding. 

How will you go about being present to those around you

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Moment to Consider The Implications of Roasting

It feels like in the past year, I've had more opportunity to taste similar teas side by side. And I'm liking it! There's the peaceful moment of sipping a cup of tea and letting the mind wander where it may, and moments shared with friends or family, catching up, laughing, engaging. And then there are those moments that feel more scholarly, more scientific. When eco-cha, who was created to represent artisan teas from Taiwan, introduced me to their teas, I was intrigued to see the teas they sent me were a spectrum of unroasted and roasted oolongs.




Seeing them side by side, there is no doubt which is which. 

I began with the unroasted oolong, the Jin Xuan Oolong from the Spring 2013 harvest. 


Along with its buttery color, was a very light buttery texture and flavor. It looks and tastes like spring, with bright grassy notes evened out with a subtle nuttiness.

Next was Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Concubine Oolong from the Winter Harvest. This fell in the mid-range of roasting.


The flavors are as complex as the name. This is not a subtle tea, it certainly packs a punch, but there is an element of honey that softens the blow. I enjoyed the strength of this tea.

And finally, the Dong Ding Oolong, which is heavily roasted.


One taste, and there's no doubt it is roasted. The flavor is deep and very bold. It might even be a contender for my morning cup of tea! It's interesting, I sometimes read about notes of fruit flavors in single origin teas and I have rarely detected any, but in this case, I experienced a nutty - cherry flavor. It was hidden in the depths of the finish, but it was there.

My appreciation for Oolongs has grown exponentially over the past few years, and these examples only reinforced that appreciation. There's an oolong for every mood. The heavily roasted Dong Ding for the morning, the Shan Li Xi for a mid afternoon pick-me-up, and the light, sunny Jin Xuan to end your day with a smile.

Who wants to bet what will be in my cup tomorrow morning?

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Moment to Soak It All In

The rains descended upon us these last few days. The rain, the wind, in gusts, in sheets. And we'll take it, very gratefully, we'll take it. We're in the midst of a drought, yet again. And so this rain is warmly welcomed.


Sitting on the front covered porch, I watch the rain pour down as I sip the creamy comfort of Milk Oolong from American Tea Room. It has the same warm and cozy effect that hot chocolate and watching the snow had on me as a child.

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down...


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