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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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)

“Launch your Creativity” and tea

Yesterday I attended a really fantastic event called “Launch your Creativity” at the beautiful “Paris in a Cuptearoom in Orange, CA.  I attended the same event last year and really came away with a renewed sense of inspiration and excitement!  My friend Lisa who has been in the need to spark her creative juices came along with me.  It was a really fabulous day full of interesting and creative presentations along with an amazing morning tea.  The food as always was delish!  The room was full of energy and lots of creative ladies looking to follow their dreams and launch their businesses.  It’s hard to be surrounded by that kind of positive energy and not come away completely excited!  I sat next to a girl who is a pilates instructor and would like to open a wellness center.  We chatted about health and tea and at the end of the event swapped emails.

The message of the day, “Follow your Dreams.”  As simple as that statement, there are always naysayers who tell you to stay safe and secure and keep things status quo.  However, if you have a burning passion to shake things up and live a genuine life than by all means proceed.  One speaker went as far as to say to surround yourself with people who believe in you and support your goals and to drop those who are pessimistic and energy suckers.

The day was beautiful and I left with a renewed excitement toward my future tearoom.

FAB table presentation

Lisa taking in some creative energy

Tea and me

Yoga and Gypsy Tea….

Last night after a long day of training on new software at work, I dragged myself to a 7:30pm yoga class at Yoga Blend.  It is a mixed level class taught by Christy, the owner.  She is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever had.  She has such a warm and welcoming personality.  She always does something different with her class and presents a flow that is inspiring and creative.  Upon leaving her class I feel grounded, happy, safe and secure.  She always gets the energy and juices flowing that really open the mind and the heart.  I was completely exhausted from all the mental powers I had to utilize during my day but leaving her class last night I felt my body and soul cleared out and room made for more that was to come.  I’m thankful to have found her studio and happy to be back in her warm presence.

While practicing at Yoga Blend last year I discovered Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.  I am also thankful to have found this tea because I really do love it.  Christy keeps a wide variety of flavors out and available for pre/post yoga class.  It is a perfect way to finish a class and bask in the glow of doing something good for our bodies.  If you haven’t tried Gypsy tea I suggest checking it out!  The woman behind the company also has an inspiring story which will make you feel glad that you support her tea and her business.

Regardless of how tired or mentally fatigued you feel, do something good for yourself today:)

http://www.gypsytea.com/

The Goji Cacao Berry and the Coconut Chai are two of my favorites!

 

 

Clearing your mind with yoga- and a smelly mat

I’ve recently relocated back to Los Angeles for work.  I arrived over the weekend and for some reason the jet lag really hit me, I was also extremely achy from the flight and stress of the move.  I hadn’t been to a yoga class or even attempted yoga on my own in over a week.  I knew I needed to get back into the swing of things so Monday morning set my alarm for 5:15am and made it to my first early morning class back at Yoga Blend.

My usual yoga mat is a bit on the thick side so I brought my thinner traveling mat.  This mat I bought just before I attended my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica and used it the entire time I was there.  The mat has seen a lot of action so it is fairly dirty and very thin.  There were a couple of times in the past where I nearly donated it or threw it in a Goodwill pile.  However, it always brought me good memories and a connection to a very happy time in my life.  So it stuck around:)  On this particular Monday I used it for my practice.

I unrolled the mat a bit embarrassed by its appearance, hoping in vain that the lights in class would soon go off.  As I settled down into my mat and began my pre-class relaxation stretches the mat no longer offended me.  In fact it felt very warm and inviting.  Once we began practice, upon my first Chaturanga as I lowered down and deepened my breath I had this overwhelming sensation of being back in Costa Rica.  The mat literally smells exactly like my memory of the trip.  I was so overjoyed I wanted to sniff the mat some more!  Each pose and each time I was close to the mat I inhaled deeply and the memories of my trip and the happiness of that moment came rushing back.

After class I decided to stop by this apartment I kept seeing online.  It is a  small apartment community in Burbank near the Equestrian center.  I’m not a huge fan of amenity driven, homogenized complexes but after driving past twice I decided to pop in for a look.  I was only going to look.  However, when I saw it and I spoke with the leasing agent, I knew this is exactly where I needed to be.  I will be moving into my new home on Wednesday and I’m getting more and more excited.  In fact, they even have a small yoga studio on the premises.  The manager mentioned they would love to have a resident teach a class once a week.  It definitely has peaked my interest.

I truly do not think I would have had the clarity had I not dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning to attend my first class in LA.  I also feel that the strong smell of the mat and the happiness it invoked really brought me to a level of understanding what I was searching for.

Enjoying a cup of tea

 

 

 

 

 

while watching the sunrise in Costa Rica:)