Tea, ghosts and Casa Loma

I recently spent one week of my autumn holiday in my beloved city of Toronto.  This is my favorite time of year and the day I arrived to the island airport was nothing less than a perfect quintessential fall day.  There are many things to love about this great city.  I had the opportunity to revisit both old and new.  My favorite being the plethora of small and delicious coffee and tea shops.  My old hood, the Annex, is host to many cozy and warm spots to take the edge off of a cool autumn morning.  Ezra’s Pound which serves lattes up by the bowl is an all time favorite.  My timing was impeccable early one morning as I popped in for a chai tea latte just as hot yummy croissants were being pulled from the oven.

The neighborhood where Ezra’s Pound resides is also nearby to Casa Loma.  Toronto’s very unique “castle” in the city.  Casa Loma was built by a famous Toronto business man named Sir Henry Pellatt.  The home is now owned and operated by the Kiwanis club and open for tours.  The prettiest room on the tour is the “Conservatory” which was a green house of sorts for many exotic plants and flowers.  This was also Lady Pellatt’s favorite room where many afternoon teas were once held.

David’s Tea is another favorite.  Although, David’s has moved to the States and growing at a rapid pace, it had it’s beginnings in Canada.  David’s mirrors the changing season’s the way the fashion industry does.  It introduces blends that are new but still retains customer favorites.  During the fall season I cannot get enough of David’s pumpkin chai tea.  I can be anywhere in the world but when I open a tin the fragrance automatically takes me back to my kitchen in Toronto.  My very good friend Mike surprised me with three tins of pumpkin chai tea upon my arrival.  Hurrah!

The evening concluded with a ghost tour of the University of Toronto.  The university campus is a wonderful place to walk and explore.   The tour we did was with “Muddy York Walking Tours.”  The tour guide (as well as founder of the company) was exceptional.  We started at the old steps of the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and continued through the historic campus.  He shared with us many stories of ghosts and ghouls as well as history of Toronto and the campus.  It was an exhilarating walk and by the end it appeared the entire city was haunted.  The Hart House on campus has a wonderful restaurant called “Gallery Grill.”  They have a nice variety of loose leaf tea that can be enjoyed in the lounge near the fireplace.

Toronto's Castle in the City!

Toronto’s Castle in the City!

Ezra'sPoundChai

Ezra’s Pound- Latte bowl

hauntedUniv

“Haunted” building on the ghost tour

torontoSkyLineatDusk

Toronto Skyline at Dusk

 

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Nepali Tea

A friend recently introduced me to this really amazing website called “Kickstarter.”  Kickstarter essentially is a place to raise funds for creative projects.  Case in point, my friend used Kickstarter as a place to raise money for an independent animated film she is making called “One Per Person.”  She recommended the site to me since she knows I would love to start my own business and also as a place to possibly raise capital for my jam making.  It’s really an amazing place to reach out and help the “little guy.”

Kickstarter is also one of those websites to get lost in.  It has everything from art, music, film to food!  Yes you got it food!  It is so inspiring and if you need to kick (pun intended) your creative juices into high gear this place will do it!  It’s refreshing to see people passionate about the projects and work they are creating.

During my perusing of Kickstarter, I came across a company called “Nepali Tea Traders.”  After reading about the company and their intentions I immediately sponsored them.  In return for my contribution I was rewarded with the most delicious tea.  I selected a set of black tea.  The first a Himalayan Masala black tea.  Incredibly tasty with a nice hint of black pepper and spices.  I’ve been partaking each morning with just a splash of milk.  The second is the Shangri-La Classic Organic Black Tea, this one I have yet to try but look forward to a cup when I get to work:)  I cannot wait to order more varieties and support a business that stands for so much more than the bottom line.

If you haven’t already please check it out.  It feels good to reach out to a small business and help support a dream!

Kickstarter

Nepali black tea

Tea Rose Garden (Pasadena)

It was time for a girl’s day out of shopping and tea.  A friend recommended “Tea Rose Garden” in Pasadena.  Pasadena is a great little town with a thriving historic downtown area.  There are tearooms a plenty and even more shopping.  The mix is a bit more big label than small boutique shops but still has a bit for everyone.  My two accomplices and I (who are buddies from my short time in Dallas and now we all reside in California) headed out on a chilly, overcast February morning.  The tearoom shares a space with a florist so off the bat the smell of flowers and baking permeate the air.  We knew we were off to a good start.  I rarely give any big critiques when I write about a place and overall everything was really lovely.  Some of the nice touches include edible flowers and the tasty sandwiches.  I think my one big complaint would be the very lukewarm service we received.  Our waitress seemed overall “put out” to be there and even less interested in taking our order.  I really, really did not like the tea I ordered (Lapsang Souchong) but it was one I have been interested in trying.  When I asked about switching teas it really seemed to upset her.  I felt it necessary to continue to apologize for “wasting” her time (and terrified at the notion that she would spit in my tea pot!)

Regardless of her unhappy demeanor we managed to enjoy ourselves and even found humor in her BAD humor.  That’s what good friends do.. they help to keep you grounded and talk you off the ledge.

Here are are the highlights!

Tiffany and her fine cup of tea!

Tiffany and her tea

Dorothee and tea cakes

sandwiches with edible flowers

me enjoying my new cuppa tea

me happy with my new cuppa

delicious fruit spread with edible flowers

delicious berries

Super cute teapots!

Pretty tea pots

These ladies were having a great time

(I think their tea may have been spiked;)

cute hat ladies enjoying their tea

 

 

The digital age and tea

I am fortunate enough to work for an amazing animation studio (with a long legacy to boot!)  The past couple of weeks there have been a slew of interesting guest speakers and field trips that have really provoked thoughts on the digital age we reside in.

The animation industry moved from 2D (hand drawn) to what most people currently see out in the theaters 3D (computer generated.)  With this change came the transition to use Photoshop to create the art and backgrounds as opposed to hand painting.  I’ve always been a little dismayed by this concept.  I realize that it is quicker and cheaper and easier to make changes but what have we lost with this digital transition?  The company I work for has a library of artwork steaming back from its first feature film.  Beautiful works of art which are now carefully preserved for future admirers.  I wrestle with the disheartening feeling, now that we have moved to a mainly digital media, what will we have to show to inspire the next generation?  A Photoshop JPG (albeit equally as crafted) can never take the place of a tactile canvas.  There are no brush strokes to absorb; the smell, texture.. it’s all taken away with a digital piece of art.

In yoga we are taught about balance and moderation.  Everything has its place.  I wonder in this technical age if we can find that balance?  What if the great Masters only painted in Photoshop would the Mona Lisa have the same appeal?  Would she hang quite as majestically?  It is easy to be seduced by “convenience” but let’s step back a moment and realize the impact it has on the grand scheme of things.

I think of tea and the advent of the tea bag.  To have a perfect cup of tea it is a timely process, it becomes almost a meditation.  If we were left with only low-grade tea bags filled with “tea” fannings our palettes would surely suffer.

I have an IPhone and a laptop however, to unplug I still go to bed at night with a real book on my bedside table and a good cup of slow brewed loose leaf tea……

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa jpg- see not the same

Good cup of chai tea

Good cup of chai tea

Good book

Good book

Downton Abbey and French Tea

A friend was recently in Paris and brought me back a tea blend from one of the oldest tea houses in Paris, Mariage Freres.  I visited the tea room on my first trip to Paris back in 1999.  It was so exciting to be in such a gorgeous city with three of my closest friends and nothing brings back memories more so than the taste and scent of a good cup of tea🙂

Today I’ve enjoyed the delicious tea with a thick slice of buttered bread (from La Brea Bakery) and homemade cranberry jam.  Tonight as I settle in to watch the season premiere of Downton Abbey, which always requires a pot of tea, I’ll reminisce of my first visit to Paris and a time well spent with good friends and a cup of tea.

 

tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jam with Tea

I started making jam about two years ago.  The first experiment was at my friend’s family farm house in Canada.  An amazing experience as well as intimidating considering her family cooks and cans all sorts of delicacies.  I found a pear/vanilla jam recipe in the New York Times and started my experimentation.

Today I made that same jam only I used Vanilla Chai tea in place of the water.  I also experimented with a tea/jam recipe from this months Tea magazine.  The jam is a cranberry/apple using a black tea.  I made the jam using a spicy Masala tea (a friend had brought me from Kenya.)  The jam came out delicious!  I was really happy with both considering my cooking experiments sometimes go awry!:)

jams

Pear Vanilla Jam

http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/3057/Chunky-Vanilla-Pear-Jam.html

I substituted water for brewed Gypsy Rooibos Vanilla Chai tea.

http://teamag.com/

Cranberry Apple Preserves (taken from Latest Issue of Tea Magazine)

This preserve is equally at home on the breakfast table or with your afternoon scones as it is on your Thanksgiving dinner table.  It can also be made with pears in place of apples or a combination of apples and pears. For the black tea, Darjeeling, Ceylon and Keemun are excellent choices, but any black tea should give you a very good result.  This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily, so make plenty to use and to share.

Yield: 4 cups preserves

4 cups peeled and diced apples

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed

3 cups sugar  (I also cut the sugar to 2 cups)

2 limes

3/4 cup triple strength black tea  (used a spicy masala tea)

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger root

1/4 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients except the lime and ginger to a heavy pan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and turn down to medium.  Simmer, skimming the foam after about 5 minutes.  Let simmer until the cranberries have burst and the apples or pears are tender, roughly 10 to 15 minutes.  Add lime juice, zest and grated ginger.  Simmer until thickened and remove from heat.  Let cool.  Process in a canner, or store covered in the refrigerator.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Big Bear and Tea

I’ve recently returned from a rather shortened sabbatical.  I was on the East Coast visiting family when hurricane Sandy hit.  Fortunately, my family is safe and well.. Unfortunately, my trip was cut a bit short due to the flight cancellations, and difficulties traveling.  I retreated back to LA and settled back into my Hollywood Hills retreat.  My little place is coming along and feeling cozier by the minute.

Heading back to work in less than a week, I made a very short escape to Big Bear Lake.  It is located a bit over 2 hrs outside of LA.  It is known for outdoor activities such as hiking, snowboarding and skiing.  The weather being still a bit warm for the latter, I decided hiking would be on the agenda.

It was my first time visiting the area and was pleasantly surprised to find two tearooms.  One unfortunately was closed however, the other was suggested to me.  It appeared to be more of a coffee shop, however, when I entered I noticed quite an impressive lot of loose leaf tea.  Also many interesting tea accessories.  It was really such a treat considering that I missed out on shopping my favorite tea shops in Toronto.  Also, I was happy to find that all of their teas can be ordered online.

Have a look for yourself and if ever visiting the area, I highly recommend a visit to

The Tea and Coffee Exchange.

PS: They also made a To Die For pumpkin chai with fresh pumpkin puree!

Hiking Big Bear

This tea house was closed:(

The Tea & Coffee Exchange

 

 

 

Sunrise yoga

 

Lately I haven’t had much of a chance to attend my morning yoga classes.  Work has been insanely busy and when waking at 5:30 am I am torn between staying in bed to contemplate life or getting out for a good stretch!  This morning I decided to attempt both.  I face the Griffith park hills and have this really awesome private-ish patio.  Each morning I see the sun rising I tell myself I will do yoga on my patio, well this morning I actually did!

The sun was just beginning to rise above the hills, there was a sliver of the waning moon still in the sky.  I laid out my mat and began with some simple breathing and meditative exercises.  Soon it moved into gentle stretches and mini sun salutations. It wasn’t a strenuous feat but I think until I can get back into my normal routine this could possible be a nice way to start the morning.  Just as I was doing my routine I noticed my little hummingbird buddy coming back to curiously buzz about the tree near my patio:)

Of course I blame all of this inspiration on my new nail polish from O.P.I cleverly called,  Sun Salutation!

This is close to what my morning moon looked like – insert a bit of warm horizon:)

 

My favorite new polish!

O.P.I Sun Salutation

 

Namaste!

 

Boston Tea Party

Have you heard, there is a new museum that has cropped up in BostonBoston Tea Party Ships and Museum.  Just in time to celebrate the birth of our Country, a few days before July 4th I received an order of tea from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.  The particular teas are a special blend created by the museum’s master blender Bruce Richardson.  The gift pack I ordered contained two teas which were created specifically to commemorate the opening of the museum.

The first called Abigail’s Blend (which is also the namesake of the tea room at the museum)- is a blend of Chinese black tea and also a bit of India and Kenya.

The second tea (which has become my iced tea addiction!)  Is a Strawberry & Apple loose tea.  It is an herbal blend and caffeine free.  It represents the colonists love of tea and in rebellion and boycott of England created their own blends out of herbs and fruit.

The museum looks to be an exciting and educational outlet to celebrate our beautiful nation.  I look forward to visiting in the fall!  If you are interested in reading more about it pick up a copy of  Tea Magazine, there is a great article featuring the museum as well as other interesting tidbits on tea and the world of tea.

Here’s to tea and independence:)

Summer Solstice

Last night at Yoga Blend I celebrated Summer Solstice with an amazing group of ladies and a few men.   I have been in the habit lately of trying to get back to nature and the roots of our existence.  I work in an industry where it is highly technical and spend loads of time on the computer.  So in order to balance the scale I love to attend similar events to learn and grow from a place that is more natural.

The Summer Solstice as I learned is the height of everything in nature.  It is the climax of energy and rebirth.  It is the time to welcome in a change to start fresh.

This morning when I woke up and feeling less than reborn.  I made a cup of tea and sat near my window facing the hills.  As I read through a story that a friend and myself are working on, a hummingbird came poking at my window!  If I lived in the country this would be a normal occurrence but I live in LA– I see hummingbirds on hikes and walks in the hills but never so close as to visit me at my own window!  It really put a smile on my face:)

Of course, being a girl of technology I had to Google what the meaning of a hummingbird symbolizes and found the following information:

Hummingbirds, called new world birds cause they are native to North America, Central and South America, are considered to be symbols of peace, love and happiness, moreover, ancient pagans held them sacred for their tireless energy and anxiety.
In Native American culture, a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the Nectar of Life. It’s a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible and will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances.

I am so happy to have had my morning visitor and again I am amazed how nature puts life back into perspective.

My morning visitor
(image borrowed from the web)