Friday, July 28, 2006

Hard at Work

Here's a photo the DH (dear hubbie) snapped yesterday while I was "hard at work" in a meeting. I have the incredibly great fortunate to work from my home office. And, to my defense, this meeting was at 7pm after a very long day. I just ran out of steam.

If you only knew how incredibly rare this situation is, you wouldn't envy me! Usually, I'm doing about 4 things at once: responding to e-mail, answering an instant message, working on a project, and participating in a phone meeting. I'm constantly multitasking. It's not something I enjoy, tho I am good at it. I often wonder if I could be successful at my job if I didn't have this ability. It's almost as if multitasking has become a required core competency. What I don't like about it is that I don't give my full attention to any one thing...and then in my personal life, it's sometimes an abrupt change. When I'm out of the work situation, I prefer to give my attention fully to what I'm doing, but I think I get so much practice of the other way of being, this centered, focused attention is sometimes hard for me. Nonetheless, I keep practicing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Quick and Easy Tea Party

I had a neighbor over for tea recently. I didn't have much time to prep, so I kept things simple. I served fruit, store-bought cookies (shortbreads), and chocolate. It was a success! I encourage you to host a tea party, even if you're drinking from a chipped mug and eating from paper plates. The focus is on the conversation and relationship with the person. All the other trappings are fun - but they are not necesssary for the spirit of the tea party to thrive.

By the way, it's only in the US that having a tea is a predominantly female thing. It's quite popular in Britain for men to enjoy afternoon tea, and of course its a pervasive beverage in Asia.

Here's the tea table from my recent tea:

Friday, July 21, 2006

Blackberry Lily and the Bee

Blackberry Lily and the Bee
I snapped this a few days ago…got lucky that the bee landed just as I pushed the button! Blackberry Lilies have these fun blossoms – they’re orange-pinkish. I love the bright colors!

However, this is just the icing on the cake to fans of this plant. What blackberry lilies are really prized for is the seed pod. Once it opens to disperse its seeds, it looks just like a big blackberry, and stays that way into late fall.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Whirly Girl

Spinning, spinning round she goes
Will she land on her feet?
Will she fall on her nose?

This is the second "circle skirt" I've made, and I love it! The skirt really moves and will be fun for swing dancing.

I like the intresting combo of the pattern and the fabric. 1950s full skirt meets late 60s Indian print fabric. The zipper is much improved from the last one I did and the waste band fits well. It was a joyous moment!

Monday, July 17, 2006

I'm out of control and too responsible...

dang it! It's 5:02 pm and I've been thinking about making a cup of tea since 6:15 am today, when I started work. I've never gotten around to it. I taught a "train-the-trainer" from 7 - 9 then spent the rest of the day fighting fires. Who knew that training materials could be so political and urgent!?! Thus is the life of an IT (info technology) training developer when a product is about to be pushed to 100K employees.

Did I procrastinate? No - that's not my style. There are just too few of me and not enough time to go around. Plus, the company is laying off people. Geez! There are days when I wish they'd pick me to let go!

Now, I feel better. Thanks for reading. I'm going to go make that cup of tea and let the company live without me. I'm sure it will do fine - and that's what I need to remind myself of more often!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A tea picnic at the winery

Recently, the DH and I met some friends at Oliver Winery. I'd never been before and was really impressed. The winery is as nice as any I've been to in Napa Valley. The grounds are beautiful. They offer free tastings, and I thought what I tasted was good (tho I'm no expert). I came home with a bottle of cider, my favorite.

The winery sits on a hill, and the back slopes down (quite steeply) to a pond and lovely picnic area. We had a picnic tea party here, watching the gigantic koi and geese beg (successfully) for food. The day was beautiful, thanks to the shade, breeze and interesting conversation.

We ate cheese and crackers; fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella; cream cheese sandwiches; olives. We drank iced tea (sencha kyoto cherry rose festival - green; apricot - black) and other magic concoctions. It was wonderful! Here are a few photos...

View from our picnic spot

Giant Koi

Friend feeding the fish, with the geese descending on the scene

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Updated recipe - Moroccan Mint Tea

Hi, All - I've updated my Moroccan Mint Tea recipe. I've been perfecting it. :-) Also, in my original post about Cafe et Crepe, I mentioned that they server Armenian tea. A reader pointed out I should have written Algerian tea, so I made that correction. Thanks!

Steph's Moroccan Mint Tea
Here is my recipe for Moroccan Mint tea. I prefer to use fresh mint, when it's in season.

A handful (~1 cup loosely packed) of fresh mint sprigs, plus a few extra for garnish
3 teaspoons green tea (traditionally, gunpowder green)
3 tablespoons sugar (or less, depending on your preference)
4 cups water
4-5 whole cloves to taste (whole - not ground)

This isn't a precise recipe, so taste and adjust to suit your preferences. Also, I should preface this by saying I prefer mine pretty that drives how I concoct this brew.

Add the mint leaves and cloves into the water and bring to a boil. Let boil for ~2 minutes to get a good mint base. (Once it starts to boil, bring it down to a rolling simmer.)

After the mint base is ready, bring the heat down so that the water is barely rolling and add the sugar and tea. Cook for another 1-3 minutes, depending on how strong you like the tea flavor.

Pour through a filter into a teapot or teacups and serve. Small glass cups are traditional, but be careful! They get very hot and, if there is a crack already, the hot liquid can pop the glass open.

Garnish with remaining sprigs of mint. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Daylillies for Form and Function

Form: Take a tour through my garden (photos below) and view the lovely daylillies! These are grown by the DH and loved by me! While their blooms only last a day, daylillies continue to produce new buds daily, as well. The flowering season is quite long. Add that they don't all bloom at the same time, and daylilly season runs a month plus. Yippee! Such bright colors.

Function: Daylillies are edible. I used daylillies at a recent teaparty as a bowl for curried chicken. Just take out the pistil and stamen, and place the daylilly in a narrow-necked container (like a wine glass). They make perfect containers - and they add an interesting punch to your salad!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sun Tea Yoga

8 a.m this morning, 78 degrees and a light breeze out of the west. I step outside and place the sun tea jar on the eastern corner of my neighbor's porch. The sun has just crept over the trees enough to wash my neighbor's porch corner in light, while mine remains in shadows a bit longer.

Like the tea, I face east. I spread my yoga mat and yawn, reaching up. I lower myself onto the mat and move into child's pose. It will be a gentle and slow yoga morning. I stay in child's pose for a while and listen. The wind is rustling the hollyhocks and daisies to my right. The wind also entices the wind chime to my back to melody.

I rise from child's pose and find the tea directly in my view, on my neighbor's porch. The tea jar is a nice focal point and I relax my gaze upon it. I watch the tea slowly moving up and down as the water heats. The tea leaves gently unfold, greeting the sun. I mimic this and move into a slow sun salutation, following the speed of the steeping tea. Slow and steady. Up and down. I continue listening to the gentle sounds around me. I wonder how many different birds I hear. Eventually, I wonder no more and let my mind and body move together.

Like the tea, I swim in the ocean around me - oxygen and nature. I absorb it, while it also takes on characteristics of my being.

The sun has now reached my toes as I sit in stick pose. The warmth feels wonderful as it moves up my body.

Now comes the time when I know my yoga session is complete. I have stretched enough. Like the tea, my steeping is done. I have given and received.