Friday, February 27, 2015

Walking to a French Bakery

An early blooming cherry tree

This morning I met a friend (also my colleague) for breakfast.  We make space for this about once a quarter. The rendezvous is absolutely, positively a necessary work task!  Sanity-keeping. Stress-easing. Women-connecting.  Away from the office, we soothe our troubles with the balm of coffee, tea and French pastries.

I take the train into the city and walk awhile to arrive at our destination.  The walk is always lovely, but particularly so in Spring.

I love the light reflecting in the window

Courtyards like this are a delight to find nestled into the neighborhood

Once I walk in the front door of St. HonorĂ© Boulangerie, I'm greeted with many temptations.  

Here I understand the phrase, "a feast for the eyes" - and the mouth and belly! The wreath-shaped couronne (crown) bread came home with me.  It's like a baguette, only shaped into a round that lends itself to breaking apart as rolls.  It's got that perfectly crisp, chewy outer texture and soft inside.

I'm so grateful for these getaways! They give my body a chance to move, my mind a chance to appreciate beauty and my  heart the time to commune with a friend.   Do you have a necessary escape plan?  Tell me about it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sweet Tea, My Version

I recently enjoyed (on Valentine's Day) this sweet tea time with my DH, dear hubby.  We drank an aged Taiwanese oolong tea.  Sweet tea, a little different.  :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas (II)

Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

Once again this February, I was in Las Vegas for work.  I had the good fortune of synchronized travel with a fellow tea lover who was also in town for business.  We both managed to carve out time for Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental.  

Food is presented elegantly on these cascading three-tiered stands.  As I mentioned last year, not only are the stands lovely, but they're also functionally smart as they save pace on the fairly small table.

We chose an Earl Grey-Jasmine blend of tea.

  • Smoked salmon and cucumber with watercress spread 
  • Curry chicken, sesame cone and lemon grass with Asian pear (served in a glass holder)
  • Goat cheese tartlet with apricot jelly, dried fruits and spice bread crisp 
  • Black Forest ham sandwich

Scones with jam and cream

  • Pineapple mousse (my favorite dessert)
  • Raspberry-pistachio bars with white chocolate
  • Chocolate praline truffles
  • Mocha cream puffs

 I love the carpet!

The Mandarin Oriental also offers a Gong Fu Cha service for parties of 3 or more. Some day I would love to try this!

Have you been here?  If not, I think you would find it worth the money and time on a trip to Vegas.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chinese New Year: Year of the Goat

Stylized character of goat (also a bell)

Gong Xi Fa Cai!  Wishing you much prosperity in the new year!  Chinese New Year festivities will begin at Midnight tonight and continue for ~15 days, with some estimates telling that up to one-sixth of the world will be in celebration.  

Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival) is based on a lunar calendar and falls on the second new moon after winter solstice, somewhere typically between January 21 and February 19th (this year's date).  

Traditions include fireworks and wearing red clothing (to scare away a mythical monster Nian), family reunions and  handing out red envelopes with money for children.  Here's a nice summary if you'd like to learn more.

Decorations at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas

Have you been to a Chinese New Year celebration? Tell us about it!  My Wu-Wo group will be gathering this weekend to enjoy cups and cups of tea and a feast.  Can't wait!

Monday, February 16, 2015


Camellia, white plum, grape hyacinth, snowdrop

Oh, Spring - your beauty takes my breath away.  So do the allergies that you shepherd. Maybe someday my body will learn that these foreign particles floating in the air are harmless.  Nonetheless, I am a faithful lover and will continue to adore you with fervor.  I will go for long walks in the pollen-heavy breeze just to be in your presence.

Photo by the DH, dear hubby.  If I were getting married today, this is the bouquet I would chose. Picked with my sweetheart on an early spring walk.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Library Love! And Happy V-day

These cute little silicone teacup forms came from my library, which has recently added a bakeware selection to the lending offerings.  Cool!  I made a basic cake batter and cooked the cupcakes right in the forms. Then I topped with a coconut cream-chocolate chip icing.  (As an aside, it's yummy and vegan.)  

 The fabulous fabric is from Angela.  It's sweet and cheerful, just like her.

And Happy Valentine's Day!  I confess, I love this day.  I look forward to sending Valentines to my friends and family, and I love the sweetness.  I know that it's cool to dismiss this day as fabricated fluffery, but nonetheless I love it.  I think of Valentine's Day as an appreciation of friends day as much as anything else.  

So enjoy this day, even if it's simply to give yourself a little love.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Making Space

Taking time to find flowers in the early spring helps me keep my sense of joy

Busyness, an epidemic.  I'm sure we've all felt its weight.  I've been very busy at work, leading up to a giant trade show next week.  I've been consciously paying attention to my center, trying to maintain a calm state.  I think I've been better able to do so this year as compared to last.

To do so, I have to make space for regular moments of peace.  For me, this often involves tea. Other self-care practices that work for me include exercise, nature walks and journaling.  I also need to ensure I eat well and get plenty of sleep.  I've been working into a meditation practice (5 minutes is where I'm starting).

Small breaks make a big difference for me!

Something else I find helpful is re-framing.  Yes, I'm very busy but I also feel very fortunate to enjoy the work I'm doing. The busyness has difficult moments, but my experience is far more good than bad.  I am grateful. I try to focus on the good parts rather than allowing the relatively small uncomfortable parts to claim more than their fair share of attention.

I'm not perfect and have plenty of mental demons to battle.  I can fall into a spiraling story of panic, "Ahhhh!  I'm so busy, how will I get it all done?!"  

How do you make space for sanity in the midst of too much busyness?