Friday, November 30, 2007
The Finish Line
To the best of my knowledge, I've blogged every day in November! Wahoo! And I only had to cheat with fluff content a couple of times. Participating in National Blog Posting Month was much more challenging than I anticipated. I'm a frequent blogger by my nature, so I thought it would be no big deal. What I realized is that the days I don't blog are as important as the days I do! They give me ideas and passion to write more. So now I will return to my frequent - but not every day - blogging. I hope you come back!
A special thanks to those of you who visited, and especially those who left comments!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
#1 - Limit the number of gifts I give. There are a handful of gifts I give out of habit - not because I really want to. I'm letting go of these in favor of offering my heartfelt well-wishes. I'm also letting GO of the associated guilt.
#2 - Give donations. I started this for b-day gifts last year and felt really good about it! I like to give to Heifer International. Instead of giving my new niece a bunch of plastic toys, I'm giving a donation to her college fund.
#3 - Give experiences. I really like this one because it can fit any budget, inspires creativity and is what people want most from us - our time. Last year I gave the DH (dear hubby) gift certificates for a walk in the woods, a homemade treat, etc. He loved them!
#4 - Give homemade gifts that people will really like. For example, I made homemade blueberry jam this year and a few folks will be seeing it for Xmas.
#5 - When I do want to purchase something special (and I'm cutting back on this with the items above), I try to give from people I know or artists I can connect with. Examples:
-Chocolates from two local chocolate stores. I've met the owners and the money stays local.
-Handmade items direct from artists. Here are some of my favorite options:
- Glass hearts and other items from Enchanted Moon Studios. Thank you, Cindy, for following your passion!
- Gorgeous, one-of-a-kind jewelry from Junque Revival. I have a necklace from Jes and it's one of my absolute favorites.
- Mixed media prints from Kelly Rae.
#6 - Give TEA!
#7 - Buying absolutely no wrapping materials - zip, nada, nothing, zero, zilch! Recycling existing materials in creative ways to wrap fabulous presents. (I even have some wrapping I saved from pretty gifts last year!)
If you have any suggestions to offer, I'd love to hear them!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Long Spout Tea Pouring
Photo from article
While you're at it, here are a few other interesting tidbits I've found recently...
* A new variation on tea and toast. Note: I think "pud" refers to "pudding, " a generic way of referring to dessert in Britain. (From Tea Guy Speaks)
* Crack-me-up teapots. (From Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea)
* Knitting Tea Cozies - with a reference to a tea quilting pattern (from Tea with Friends)
* Voice your etiquette pet peeves. (From Tea Party Girl)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Tiny Asian Tea Set
This beautiful, tiny Asian tea set came in the mail to me recently. It was an unexpected gift and I was delighted! Look at how lovely the hand painted scene is. I've seen lots of small European-style tea sets, but never one like this. Thank you!
Monday, November 26, 2007
A Grandmother's Gift
The day was perfect for tea! Chilly, rainy and gray. Three friends joined A at her lovely home, nestled in the woods on the outskirts of town. We watched the rain and the leaves fall while we sat snugly in her beautiful home.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I wish we could sit down together
And have a cup of tea
But since we can’t
When you have this one
I hope you’ll think of me.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Today I enjoyed one of my (new) favorite holiday traditions - the Tuba Santas! This is a group of tuba players from Indiana University. The group plays Christmas carols and raises money for charity. The sounds of the tubas are fantastic! It's such a jovial instrument. Harvey Phillips (on the left in the photo) is the founder of the Tuba Santas, and it's a delight to hear him sing "Santa Wants a Tuba for Christmas." Here is more about the Tuba Christmas organization.
There is so much for me to fret over in the "holiday" season. I can easily get overwhelmed by the busyness, the expectations, the consumerism. And then there are such sweet things, like the Tuba Santas. They give me a very old-fashioned experience as Harvey talks about good will and giving to those less fortunate and praying for world peace. I long for the world to have this kind of Christmas experience - one where the emphasis is on family (by birth and by choice) and sharing with those in need, not the newest toy to hit the stores or the 4:00 am store openings.
I've enjoyed and been encouraged by Tea Party Girl's suggestions for reclaiming the holiday experience for ourselves. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, another holiday or simply the return of the light to the northern hemisphere....may it be meaningful for you!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Canopy of Lights
Image from downtownbloomington.com
Thursday, November 22, 2007
A Local Thanksgiving Dinner
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Photo from teasmade.com
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Buy Nothing Day
Join me in this "consumer fast!"
Monday, November 19, 2007
Tea Tastings and Tea Parties
Tea Party - Traditional British-style afternoon tea, often with three courses (savories, breads, sweets). Brought into fame by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. This can be a very fancy affair, but it can also be a very humble and simple event. Both varieties - and all those in between - are lovely. I've written before about hoping more men in the US will learn to enjoy this experience, as they do in Europe.
Tea Tasting - Very much like a wine tasting. The emphasis is on the tea itself - the variety, where and how it is grown and processed, the look, flavor, aroma, body, finish. I don't serve food during the tea tasting so that it does not interfere with the tea. These are unfrilly events - I tend to use glass teapots (to showcase the steeping leaf) and handleless cups. This is the type of event I blogged about yesterday. I find tea tastings to be a great way to introduce men to the joys of tea because tea tastings are unfrilly and unpretentious.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
What I particularly enjoyed was this group's great explanations of the tea flavors and aromas. I asked them to put aside judgement in favor of using descriptive terms. They came up with some great ones! In addition, I was very impressed that there were as many men in attendance as women. I am inspired!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Smirnoff's Raw "Tea"
Friday, November 16, 2007
Teas on Sale
If you are interested in purchasing a tea, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Photo from corbis.com
Serve before dinner
Pumpkin Spice - Breathe in the wonderful aroma of pumpkin pie spices and watch your guests relax as they dream of treats to come. Normally $2/oz - on sale for $1.75/oz.
Serve with dinner
Ice Wine - One of my favorites! This black tea is scented and flavored with Canadian Ice Wine. Works well with some of the heavy foods of Thanksgiving. Normally $2/oz - on sale for $1.75/oz.
Serve with dessert
Chai - Black tea flavored with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and a secret spice. Normally $2.75/oz - on sale for $2.25/oz.
OR, for the traditionalist or those who prefer a decaf...
Earl Grey Decaf - A traditional tea (flavored with bergamot) in the decaf variety. Normally $2.75/oz. - on sale for $2.25/oz.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Wailin' Jennys
The Wailin Jennys are a Canadian girl band. They sing folkish stuff. I heard them at Lotus Fest a few years ago. They are incredible! They write most of their own stuff, play many different instruments each, and have the most hauntingly beautiful harmonies I've heard since Wilson Phillips (yes, that dates me!).
Hear their song One Voice here. This song moves me to tears. It's so beautiful, so metaphorical.
Today is one of those days where I listen to this song over and over and over.
The 40 Days CD won a Juno award (the Canadian version of a Grammy).
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Speaking Out Loud
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Curbing the Clothes Collection
My clothes collecting came to a head when I had my first job out of grad school. Three things merged to make clothes shopping and hoarding a very fun - but very bad - habit:
- I had money in my pocket
- I needed clothes of the professional type (I had to wear a suit)
- I lived across the street from a Marshall's (like a TJ Maxx, to those of you East of the Mississippi)
What my closet used to look like
Photo from corbis.com
Over the past 10 years (yes, it's taken 10!), I've learned some strategies to curb my inner clothes hog. I'll share them below. But here's the real magic of this work: I feel so much BETTER with fewer clothes, fewer shoes. Seriously! When I open my closet, there is breathing space - I can easily see my clothes, and I see things I like. I continue to struggle with the wanting, but I am happy with my progress and continue to work toward a closet like the one here. (OK, this may be a wee bit extreme, but you get the idea.)
My dream closet
Photo from realsimple.com
My Strategies for Curbing the Clothes Collection
- Keep only clothes that I really like. This was a tough one for me because I had a tendency to save my favorite clothes and never wear them. They might wear out, of course! So they sat in my closet for special occasions only. Some pieces went out of style. I'm sure you can see the issue with this behavior. These days, I try to ensure I wear things I like and get rid of things I don't. Not an easy task, but one I continually strive toward.
- Continually cull the closet. I've given up hope that I'll be ready to let go of everything at one time. My process is more one of continual culling, continual letting go. Just last week, the DH (dear hubby) took a big box to the thrift store. The very next day, I had more items ready to go. I keep a thrift store box always near the closet, ready to fill and make other people happy for a good price.
- Avoid retail therapy. A lot of people shop to fulfill some other need or to relive stress. I could see this tendency in myself. I try to live a conscious life, and now I ask myself these questions before giving in to the pressure to go shopping: "What is the trigger for this shopping need? What else is going on here?" When I can deal with the real issue, the need to shop for clothes subsides.
- More goes out than comes in. When I do find something new (or recycled) I want to bring home, I find an item (or two) to release back into the clothes-recycling stream. No exceptions.
- Know my triggers. Target and sales racks. I love to sift through a sale rack and Target is like one big store of eye candy! To avoid this shopping sport, I avoid the sales rack and Target unless I am really looking for something specific or extremely committed to a major closet clean-out. This should also be a no exceptions rule, but it's probably the one I struggle with the most.
- Find alternatives to new stuff. I have had so much luck (and fun) recently shopping at thrift stores! For example, I recently found a brand new Express dress - in my exact size - for $5 at Goodwill. Original tags still on it. Sweet! This doesn't cut down on the amount of stuff I get, but it does cut down on the dollar amount I spend. And it cuts down on the contribution to consumerism, which I really dislike. If I find something at a thrift store, I hold myself to the rule of letting something else go.
Another great way to get new clothes and recycle gently used ones is a clothing swap. I've attended several of these and have had an absolute blast! I spent zero dollars on clothes, gave away many more items than I came home with, and supported excellent causes (recycling; not spending/being a consumer; supporting a local thrift store; girl time).
- Refocus that energy! I realize that shopping is fun and a source of stress relief for me. I've found a great replacement for it! The public library! I can roam the stacks and find shiny and new books. I can check them out - and as many others as I want - take them home, and then take them back! I get that same "new thing" rush at no cost and no closet-cluttering, permanent ownership. Yahoo!
What are your secrets for managing your clothes addiction, if you have one?
Monday, November 12, 2007
Cookies and Milk
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Outside Julius Meinl, face on right is of the friendly manager as he greeted us
Saturday, November 10, 2007
La Petit Cafe
We started the day with tea (English Breakfast) and toast (cherry-walnut) to fuel us for the day of Christmas shopping.
We hit the Outlet mall and had a great time. We stopped in the Harry and David store and shared an awesome Moose Tracks candy bar - I highly recommend this!
We finished out the day with dinner (the DH joined us) at La Petit Cafe, a "French Provencal" restaurant. Yummy! I had gnocci with a yummy and intense cream sauce. This was homemade semolina gnocci, not the potato, tortellini-shaped, vacuum-sealed type I've had before.
A good day and I'm always grateful when my Mom can visit!
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Argo Tea Cafe' and Chocolate with Bacon
While strolling along Armitage, we also entered two chocolate specialty stores. The first was Ethel's Chocolate Lounge. This is a really cute place, decorated in chocolate and pink. We didn't indulge, but it would be a very fun place to catch up with a friend!
The second was Vosges Haut Chocolat. Now this was a very interesting spot! Creative chocolate blends were the feature, but the store also sold some clothing, boutique style. One of my most vivid flavor memories of the trip is trying a sample of chocolate flavored with bacon - yes, that's right! And it was kind of tasty! Tho at $7/bar, I didn't come home with any.
Photo from Vosges website
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Baha'i House of Worship
Not far from the campus of Northwestern sits the Baha'i House of Worship (in Wilmette, IL). Unless you knew it was there, you might not find this exquisite building because it sits in the middle of a residential area. There is a visitor's center and anyone is welcome to sit quietly in the main sanctuary. Enjoy the photos. Some interesting points from the brochure I brought home:
- The House of Worship was dedicated in 1953, after more than 30 years of construction.
- It is listed in the United States Register of Historic Places and has been designated as one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois.
- The general design is of a nine-sided structure covered by a single, majestic dome (symbolizing the unity of all people and religions under God).
- While it looks to be carved limestone, the building's ornate decoration actually comes from cast concrete panels composed of quartz crystal and white cement.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Northwestern and Tea at the Celtic Knot Public House
Read a little about Northwestern's history from Wikipedia. Pretty interesting. The campus was dressed in beautiful colors for our visit.
Yes, those are edible chocolate teacups, filled with a caramel sauce and covered in chocolate ganache. Oh, wow - yummy! And the scones were also very buttery and wonderful.
Next up - a visit to the the Baha'i temple.
Monday, November 05, 2007
It's also worth noting that both places had a wide selection of gluten-free cupcakes, tho neither had vegan cupcakes. A marketing opportunity, perhaps?
Sunday, November 04, 2007
We tried a scented Oolong (Bosa Nova) that was very nice to drink. Two of us came home with some as a souvenir. From Tea G's website: Bosa Nova - "Semi-oxidized Oolong tea with a creamy, slightly nutty taste enhanced with the finest vanilla. Ingredients: Oolong tea, hazelnut brittle, mullein blossoms, natural flavor." I have been enjoying this tea all week!
When a customer purchases a tea, s/he is also sent away with a sample. I chose another Oolong, Sumatra Oolong Barisan. This Oolong is interesting because it is not from Taiwan - but rather from Indonesia. I've never had an Oolong from anywhere but Taiwan. In addition to the sample, customers receive a tea scoop called a Teelamass in his/her choice of color (red, blue or green) for measuring out the appropriate amount of tea. The brewing instructions on the package correspond with the scoop measurements.
If you visit Tea Gschwendner, be sure to sign up for the e-mail list and also request the company's "Book of Tea." It's free and contains over 100 pages of tea information, along with descriptions of the teas. For any serious tea connoisseurs, Tea G also offers various tea-of-the-month clubs.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Back to Chicago....
On Friday night (still day one) of the trip, we saw the movie Bella. The movie's tag line reads, "True love goes beyond romance." It's a movie that I highly recommend! Check out the website and read about it for yourself. The "indie" movie has won numerous awards. We were lucky to see it on opening night in Chicago.
After the movie, we headed to Pizzeria Due for a take-out order of Spinnocoli pizza. YUM! If you've never had Chicago pizza, you really need to add that to your list of things to do before you die! The deep-dish crust is buttery and crumbly. It's just wonderful.
While we were waiting for the pizza, we stepped across the street to Trader Joe's (also just across the street from our hotel!) Trader Joe's is such a fun place to shop! I came home with two jars of Indian sauces (like pasta sauce in a jar, but with Indian spices). Indian food is my favorite, and this variety is very tasty. We bought a few things this evening, but also made plans for a bigger shopping trip later in the weekend.
It was a very full and fun day! Next up - Tea and cupcakes in several places across Chicago!
Friday, November 02, 2007
Think this sounds tough? It's nothing compared to what the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) folks are doing - writing a Novel in a month!
I'm feeling prolific today - two posts in one day - wahoo! Cheers!
Fridays and New Tea Blogs
There are two tea blogs I've recently discovered that I want to point you toward. I am regularly reading these two blogs, and enjoying them greatly:
Rosemary's Sampler - One of the authors, Nancy, is a friend from the Tea in London tour. I particularly enjoyed the recent St. Fiacre post! The DH has spoken about St. Fiacre, the gardening saint, but I didn't know the back story.
Tea with Friends - Check out the current post about Sew Somerset magazine and making tea tags.
I'm off to comb my hair!
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Passions and Halloween Costume
Here's my Halloween costume. I was supposed to be a witch, but the costume took on a life of its own and became a punk witch . Back to the Chicago trip tomorrow!
A close-up so you can see the red in my hair.