It's okay to sit down

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I haven't been feeling well lately, so I decided to sit out on my deck yesterday afternoon and just have a breather.

I never do this.

Don't ask me why I feel guilty just sitting down and doing nothing in the middle of the day. I need to get over this.

Anyway, I was sitting there in a reclining lawn chair having this argument with myself.

"So-and-so is helping her aged parents today. So-and-so is busy teaching piano. So-and-so is working . . . so-and-so is painting her whole house. All by herself. And here you sit, doing nothing." Blah, blah, blah.

I felt the warm sun on my face. The light breeze caught the wind chimes. I watched a blue jay fly up to the top of a tree and wondered about what kind of nest his little family has. I looked at the flowers on my deck, pink and yellow, and stubbornly cheerful in the face of my dark mood.

I have a choice, I thought. 

I can spend this time feeling guilty, and ruin the little pleasure I have here, or I can embrace it as a gift and enjoy the sun, the flowers, the birds.

The feeling of "I'm not enough," or "I'm not doing enough" is so common. Why is it that when you actually do take time to stop and smell the roses you feel like a slacker?

I shared these feelings with my daughter when we were shopping together last week. She found me a coffee mug that made me laugh out loud.

"I'm too pretty to work" (and, yes, that's a stroopwafel on the top of the mug, a traditional Dutch cookie with caramel inside that melts as the steam from the coffee rises).
There's always plenty of work to do, but it really is okay to relax. In the middle of the day even. Remind yourself. You are enough. Bless the Giver of the sun on your face and accept it with gratitude.

Tea in China . . . and at home

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Well, I didn't drink all the tea in China, but I sure made a start.

Our first full day in Beijing we went into a tea shop. I was thrilled my fellow travelers were willing to spend time poking around, looking at all the tea and cups and pots.

It was lovely to smell all the exotic teas. Dried rose bud tea . . .

Lidded tea cups with fitted strainers inside.

We were given a tea demonstration, and able to try a half dozen different kinds of tea, including a jasmine with ginseng, some peurh tea (a type of fermented tea I had discovered in a tea shop in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this year), a fruit tea, and some oolong.

Here, our hostess is holding up a large cake of puerh tea. These teas are similar to fine wines, in that they are dated by age, and the older, the better. Puerh tea is credited with lowering cholesterol, as it contains small amounts of lovastin, a natural statin. 

Puerh is also supposed to help with digestion, weight loss, and even sleep. Although it contains small amounts of caffeine (but less caffeine the older the tea), it doesn't seem to disrupt sleep because it also contains GABA and theanine, shown to reduce stress and aid in the production of melatonin. I'll be drinking this tea for sure. I really like its earthy taste.

We also enjoyed some flowering (or blooming) tea. The bulbs are made by wrapping tea leaves around dried flowers. When you add hot water, the bulb opens, simulating a flower blooming. 

We were told you can get a couple pots out of one bulb, and that Chinese people then leave the opened bulb in the clear glass teapot to display. I bought some of this tea, as well as the jasmine ginseng. I usually think jasmine is too floral, like I'm drinking perfume, but the ginseng seems to cut the too-floral taste.

Several in our group loved this "tea," which was just dried fruits. It produces a very rich, fruity tea that reminded me a little of the Celestial Seasonings zinger teas, only more deeply flavored.

My husband told me to pick out one of these to take home. I picked a yellow one, very traditionally Chinese. I thought the lid was to keep the tea warm, but you tip it to hold the tea leaves away as you drink the tea.

These clay teapots are very popular, and they hold in the heat very well. They also will pick up the flavor of the teas brewed in them over the years, so it is good to dedicate each pot to a different tea.

While we were in Shanghai several of us went to a mall to shop for pearls and silk. We went into a little shop selling tea accoutrements, and were served tea by this sweet girl.

She served us tea in these cute little cups while we looked around and did the obligatory bargaining. Never pay more than half the starting price, I was told. I learned to bargain by gesturing and punching numbers into a hand calculator!

I got a few sets of chopsticks, and then a couple packs of these brightly colored ones.

I had this ice tea out of vending machines several times while we were in China. I was happy to see the English on this bottle, as I would not have been exactly sure if it was even tea.

After Shanghai, we took a bullet train down to Guilin, and stayed at a quaint, homey inn where I ordered chrysanthemum tea. You can see the flowers in the pot.

 In Traditional Chinese medicine, the "chi," or life force, is supposed to be disrupted by ingesting cold food or drinks, but the Chinese sure seem to like ice cream anyway, if the number of Haagen-Dazs shops I saw was any indication. The inn we stayed at offered one or two scoops of ice cream on their menu.

I hurt my chi here.

This is what they consider two scoops of ice cream. Pretty fancy.

I had to dissect how they fixed up this slice of orange. Isn't this clever and beautiful? Peel a slice of orange a little more than halfway down, carefully cut slices into the peel as shown, and then bend the center of the peel back to allow the cut pieces to fan out.

Another evening I got a mug of chrysanthemum tea. Notice all the flower heads floating on top.

I have no idea why one night I got a pot, and why I got a mug here. Language barriers.

I have another post planned on food in China, and one on shopping, if you'll bear with me.


Tea times continue here at home.

A friend brought by this pretty dessert for me in honor of my birthday. I'm drinking tea from my Royal Albert June teacup.

My husband brought me flowers. I had just got home from getting groceries and couldn't help noticing how pretty everything looked together.

On my birthday proper, my daughter took me out for afternoon tea.

I had already started in on these when I realized I hadn't got a picture. The waitress brought me another muffin and scone just so I could get a picture!

Daughter got me a lovely big crystal honey pot and a toast rack. I've always wanted a toast rack, especially after watching all the English period dramas. So elegant. I'm off visiting a friend this week or I'd take a picture of them to share.

I did get a picture of this gift from our youngest who just went to England and Scotland. The Big Ben tin contains English Breakfast tea. The spoon is from Iceland, where he stopped for a layover.

Mr. Beautiful got me an opal necklace.

It was a big birthday this year. As in a big number. (Hmmm . . . I guess they only do get bigger.)

Happy first day of Summer tomorrow.

Back from China

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Yep, you read that right. I've been in China! Can't believe we actually went. An opportunity came up, and we decided to go for it. What an amazing trip.

I walked the Great Wall. Or at least a tiny part of it.

We started out in Beijing, where we saw the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven. I had arranged a few tours for our group, which was good, as the language barrier is formidable. I got very good at simple requests/sign language!

(We did have a couple scary taxi rides where the driver knew no English, and we knew no Mandarin, and our phone translation app suddenly decided not to work!)

We got to go to a tea demonstration which I'll share later for my tea-loving friends. And you know I brought home lots of tea and a teacup!

After Beijing we went on to Shanghai. I've never seen anything like it. It is huge, with the largest metropolitan population in the world. Well over 34 million people, and skyscrapers that go on for miles.

The Pearl Tower, in Shanghai's financial district. The second tallest building in the world is also here, and my husband got some incredible pictures from the top. (I was shopping for pearls and silk that day!)
Because of my severe allergy to sesame, we took two duffel bags full of food, an allergy translation card (in Mandarin), and my Epipens. I was prepared for not being able to eat on our trip, as I'd read that sesame and sesame oil use is widespread. But, thanks to some wonderful English-speaking tour guides, and accommodating chefs, I was able to eat at almost all the restaurants we went to. 

I did have one experience where I showed my allergy card to a waitress (no translators with us that day), and she ran screaming something into the kitchen. When I tried to question her using sign language/gestures, she burst out laughing. I did decide for that meal it might be safer to avoid the food!

I (kinda) mastered the use of chopsticks.
There were some familiar-looking items.

We took a bullet train down to Guilin (with speeds up to 190 mph), and saw these beautiful terraced rice fields.

And took a river cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo among these beautiful limestone mountains.

Here's an umbrella I got. (I got pretty good at bargaining for goods!) Everyone uses umbrellas in China to protect their skin from the sun. Surgical masks, too, for the pollution, although it wasn't bad while we were there.

We met some wonderful people, and found our trip fascinating. I'm having trouble downloading and editing my pics, but I wanted to get something posted. I hope to share some better pictures and more adventures soon.
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