life curation · relaxation

Garden Planning – The First Steps

As if I’m not already busy enough . . . I have started working on my garden plan for this year. You see, last year, spring caught me quite by surprise (probably because I was starting to tutor more and COVID became an issue when I should have been doing my garden planning). So while I did grow a few things, I didn’t have nearly as many flowers and herbs as I would have wanted. I believe that a failure to plan properly is why my garden was so unimpressive.

Last year, I also completed a course in herbalism and became a certified herbalist. As part of my continuing study, I knew that I wanted to grow herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers that I can use in my practice. Also, part of herbalism involves studying plants throughout the four seasons, so that you can become intimately familiar with them. The best way to do that is to grow them from seeds/seedlings and observe them for a full year or two. I can best do that by growing them myself as opposed to trying to find certain plants “in the wild” and trying to keep up with them that way.

This year, I’m going to do better. I’ve already read a book about lunar and biodynamic gardening (book review posted here) as well as a book about how to group your plants in your garden. I’ve purchased some seeds, some seedling trays, and I have some soil left over from last year. I have my supplies, but now I have to actually work out a schedule for what to do and when to do it.

My seed stash

For assistance with scheduling my garden activities, I’ve been relying heavily on the Farmer’s Almanac website. There is a great, easy-to-read guide on when and how to start seeds indoors, as well as a guide for vegetable gardening for absolute beginners. Now, I’m growing herbs as well as flowers, fruit and a few vegetables, so I will have to check some other websites to get a good schedule for my non-veggie plants. But the Farmer’s Almanac website has a handy calendar to help you plan your vegetables based on your zip code, so I’m glad that they have made it so easy!

In the weeks to come, I’ll share my list of veggies, herbs and flowers that I’m growing, as well as any tools or resources that I’m using to help me with the gardening process.

Do any of you have a garden? If so, when do you start planning your garden? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

life curation · relaxation

How to Do a Tea Meditation

Happy Tuesday friends! I hope you all are enjoying a comfortable and happy day wherever you are.

In light of the recent events in the United States, I thought about how I could contribute to the collective energy of peace and kindness. It may sound a little simplistic, but I truly believe that good intentions, prayer, and self-mastery are foundational to creating a more peaceful world. Indeed, if I can create peace within my personal world, I can radiate this out to others, and eventually this energy can start to encourage a peaceful attitude around the world.

I looked around my home to see if I had anything that would create an immediate mood lift. I reached for what has always worked for me: a cup of hot tea. But, instead of simply drinking the tea, I decided to do something a little different. I created a tea meditation around my ritual of enjoying hot tea. After I finished my cup, I felt so much more relaxed and grounded. I figure, if this process can have that effect on me, perhaps it will be of use to you, too.

So here are the steps involved in my tea meditation. If you prefer to watch a video on it, you can see a video demonstration below. Also, if you’re interested in reading more about the rich history of tea and the culture behind the tea ceremony, you should check out The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura. I found the book unexpectedly enlightening and thoroughly inspiring.

  • Pay close attention to every step that you take in preparing your tea: select your tea carefully, listen to the sound of the water as it goes from simmering to boiling, feel the weight of the cup in your hand before and after adding water.
  • Select your sweetener carefully (if you choose to indulge). If you’re inclined. do a taste test of the different sweeteners available and see which one makes your taste buds dance.
  • Gently, slowly and intentionally pour the hot water over your tea. Look intently as the water changes from clear to colored. Look closely to see if the herbs or tea leaves make swirls in the water as it infuses. Get lost in the slow transformation from clear liquid to flavorful beverage.
  • Add your sweetener a little at a time. Taste the difference between levels of sweetness. Connect those levels of sweetness to emotions or actions (perhaps you can compare lightly sweetened to a mild happiness, and the perfect level of sweetness to bliss [maybe like a passionate kiss]).
  • Stir the tea gently with a spoon, to ensure that the flavors are evenly distributed. Immerse all of your senses into the process.
  • Allow the tea to cool a bit before drinking. Take deep, cleansing breaths while you wait, and concentrate on what you want to experience as a result of drinking your tea (happiness, peace, satisfaction, etc.,).
  • Bring the cup up to your lips but, before sipping, deeply inhale the aroma. Try to identify each of the components of the tea by smell.
  • Take a sip, noting the feel of the cup against your lip, the weight of the cup in your hand, and the smell of the tea.
  • Allow the tea to gently swish in your mouth, coming into contact with all of your taste buds. Try to pick up notes of sweetness, bitterness, sourness, or saltiness (an exquisite tea can have elements of each). As you swallow, concentrate once more on what you want to experience.
  • With every sip, engage all of your senses and focus on what you desire.
  • Upon finishing your tea, speak a few words of gratitude, and complete a few more deep, cleansing breaths.

That’s it for today. I hope that this meditation blesses you and helps you tap into a feeling of peace and relaxation, as it has done for me. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow.

*This post contains affiliate links.

life curation · relaxation · words of wisdom

Review of Archewell Audio

Even though I adore ClubHouse and all sorts of webinars that are designed to be instructional, I am always looking for podcasts that offer something different and enlightening to me. In my recent search, I found something truly special.

My latest obsession right now is Archewell Audio, hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan Markle. I didn’t know how this would go, since I was unfamiliar with the couple outside of what has been presented by the media. The media in the US has been pretty kind to the couple, especially during 2020. Here are my thoughts on this first episode of the show.

Simple. Tasteful. Focused on others. HUMAN and HUMANE. I loved it. This initial podcast offers a platform to a variety of people that offered their reflections on 2020 and the pain, joy, and resilience they felt during the year. I love that the Sussexes served as kindhearted moderators, gently steering the conversation without “overtalking” the individuals interviewed. I love how the couple interjected extra praise for the more modest guests, taking every opportunity to elevate the individuals interviewed.

This podcast is, simply put, beautiful. I cannot wait until the next episode, so I can listen to it while taking a walk on my treadmill. This is wonderful and so well done. Great job, Harry and Meghan!

health · life curation · relaxation

Take a Moment to Feel the Sun

The sun is such a blessing. I feel very connected with sun energy, and I embrace the times where I can go outside and simply feel the sun on my skin. My good friend Diana mentioned more than once that I need to intentionally connect with sun energy, and that’s why I’m devoting this post to her. I’m listening, chica. I’m choosing to regularly connect with this incredible energy source.

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Enjoy the sunshine

This life-sustaining ball of fire continues to remind me of all of the good things about life. Delicious fresh fruit and vegetables grow because THE SUN IS. My skin grows to a deeper chocolate hue every summer because THE SUN IS. Time and all things that we use to measure the span of our lives is possible because THE SUN IS.

So, if you can, take a moment, step outside and feel the sun. Let the rays kiss your skin and serve as a reminder that every day is magical. And then, embrace the other magic that shows up for you: it surrounds you, and it is waiting for you to see it.

art · life curation · reading list · relaxation

What I’ve Been Working On. . .

Let’s just take a moment to smile at the fact that we’ve made it to April. How blessed are we to see a new month and to know that things will only get better from here!

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I know that I’ve taken a couple of mini-hiatuses from the blog. As you all know, I’ve been nurturing my body after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia last year, but I haven’t allowed my diagnosis to stop me from pursuing my passions. At the beginning, this diagnosis felt like a hard stop: I had to relearn so many things and find a new normal.

I’ve had to adjust the pace at which I work toward my goals, but I am happy to report that, as I get better, I have more energy to work on the things that delight me. I still struggle with chronic pain, fatigue, and the mental fog that comes along with fibro, but those symptoms are not as pronounced as they used to be, which is such a blessing!

One of the biggest projects that has given me joy in the past year has been my publishing company, Bronze Butterfly Books. This precious project has allowed me to channel my creativity into designing beautiful notebooks and journals. I would love if you check out my website and let me know what you think.

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The bookstore is open!

I’ll have more special things coming from the book shop in the weeks to come. Thank you all for your continued love, support, and good vibes. Have a great day!

 

health · life curation · relaxation

NOW is the Time to Make Self Care a Priority

In light of current events, I have more free time and energy to devote to this blog. And now, more than ever, I’ve been called to resume my posting and offer encouragement and advice.

Our world has changed drastically in the past five months. I recall tutoring ESL students from China and they mentioned the effects of COVID-19 in its infancy. In a way, I was aware of the virus earlier than many of my family and friends, due to my students that provided me an inside view of what life in quarantine is like.

In the US, many of us are experiencing quarantines and mandatory shelter-in-place while we brace ourselves for the impact of the virus. This is a drastic change from life as we knew it, and the store shortages, sudden school closures, economic instability and unexpected loss of employment are devastating for many.

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I cannot emphasize enough that NOW is the time to invest more in your self care. If you are able to read this post, you’re likely more fortunate and privileged than you realized. Investing in taking care of yourself in small (or significant) ways can do wonders for reducing your stress levels (stress negatively impacts the immune system, which you need to be at peak performance during this time). It also helps you to relax so that you can come up with solutions to your problems or, at least, to simply appreciate the good things that are already present in your life.

I don’t write this to sound dismissive and flippant: certainly plugging “self care” when people are suffering around the world may not come across as the most politically correct position to take at this time. However, I’m an advocate for self care in its minutest forms: that can mean doing some deep breathing to help calm your nerves, or stretches in the morning to loosen the tension that your body is holding, or even reminding yourself to drink more water (hydration is important).

Please continue to take care of yourselves, and I look forward to sharing more with you all tomorrow. Goodbye for now!

relaxation · travel

Review: TownePlace Suites Hotel in Cary, NC

 

I’ve been to Raleigh numerous times, but when I visit, I stay in Cary, a small incorporated town bordering the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. Every time I visit, I stay at the TownePlace Suites, a cozy aparthotel that meets all of my needs.

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Quiet? Check!

Conveniently located? Check!

Reasonably priced? Check!

Ample amenities? Check!

Eligible for reward points? Check!

I always love my stays here and I’ve raved about it each and every time. However, I wasn’t blogging when I’ve visited previously. So now that I’ve had a recent visit, I can finally share this information with you all!

Instead of adding a bunch of photos, you can check out this video room tour. I stayed in the studio-style suite with an “office” (it had a desk area). If you’re ever in the area, I can’t recommend this hotel enough!

food · relaxation

A Brief Guide to Hot Tea

As National Hot Tea Month draws to a close, I’m a little sad. I’ve shared all of my hot tea pics with you all on Instagram, I’ve made a post about tea on this blog, and now I need to find some new content for February! However, given the big trip I’m taking in a couple of weeks (more about that coming soon!), I’m sure that I’ll have plenty of writing fodder.

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My tea and coffee-inspired painting that I did when I went to a Creativity Workshop at Blue Bee Cider a couple of weeks ago

 To close out the month, I want to share some of my tea drinking tips with you all. These are just a few of my observations, but I’d love for you all to weigh in with any tea tips that you may have!

 –          Have a dedicated tea cup. There’s something so soothing about the ceremony of using a dedicated tea cup (or, in my case, a tea mug) to drink your beverage. If you associate tea drinking with relaxation, then the very sight of your tea cup will put you at ease. Since I drink lots of tea, I have three cups that I use. I enjoy each of them.

–          Know that there is a tea for everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of black tea, there are so many varieties, with so many flavors, that it’s pretty impossible to conclude that there is NO tea that you enjoy. Keep trying, and don’t be afraid to reach out to tea professionals to learn more about the available tea options.

–          Carefully follow the instructions on your tea packaging. This is especially crucial for expensive teas. If the instructions say to steep for 3 – 5 minutes, don’t cut that time short (you’ll end up with a weak tea) nor exceed it (you’ll have an overpowering and likely bitter beverage at the end). Certain teas are best enjoyed when using very hot water, as opposed to boiling water. So pay attention to the instructions and follow them!

–          Feel free to dress up your teas. Honey, lemon, cream, sugar: add whatever you like. However, NEVER mix cream and lemon – the combination will curdle in your cup (yuck!)

–          Listen to your body and only drink teas that make you feel good. I used to like a tea that was designed as a detox (more about that in the next tip). However, it’d leave me feeling faint when I drank it. I had to cut it out, even though I enjoyed it. Likewise, some of my favorite teas can only be enjoyed before 12 PM, because I’m very caffeine-sensitive and drinking caffeinated tea at a later hour will keep me awake all night. Listening to my body and adjusting accordingly was a wise move for me, and I advise that you all do it, too.

–          Drop any notion that a tea will help you lose fat or “detox” your body. I know celebrities are constantly selling tea and other beverages designed to help people shed weight quickly. Don’t fall for the hype. You may temporarily lose water weight or even speed up your metabolism a bit, but the best way to lose weight or detox is a healthy diet full of high quality, well-prepared foods and exercise that both safely increases your heart rate and effectively strengthens the muscles.

–          Visit a tea room. This is on my to-do list for the year. Every friend of mine that has done it highly recommends it. The owners of these tea rooms are genteel, knowledgeable and friendly. They are a great resource for learning about tea and how to pair tea with foods. A visit to a tea room is also a great reason to get dressed up and spend time with friends!

That’s it for me, beloveds! I look forward to chatting with you all soon!

life curation · relaxation

All About Tea . . .

Have you all been following me on Instagram? If so, then you’ve seen that I’ve been posting daily tea pictures ever since I found out that January is National Hot Tea Month (Southern Season said so!)

I’m a tea enthusiast so I’ve been having a ball with the tea theme. I’ve been challenging myself to post a different tea every day (only one day missed, and not because I didn’t drink tea, but because I simply forgot to take a picture!) And, since I’m also a tea hoarder, it looks like I’ll be able to get through the month of January with no tea duplicates (and no, I didn’t have to purchase any new tea to make it happen!)

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(photo from All Free Download)

Did you all know there are tea consultants that you can employ to help you with selecting tea? Yes, there are experts that write about, teach about and work within the complex and beautiful world of tea. One of my personal favorite tea consultants is Jo Johnson, though, I didn’t learn about Jo through tea organizations or events. I saw her in this incredible video that discusses aging. Every woman in the video is striking, beautiful and vibrant, but there’s something about Jo’s presence that pierces your soul and holds your imagination captive. She *looks* like the kind of woman that floats around in her workshop, dispensing custom blended teas while chatting about adventures during her younger years and sharing invaluable life lessons.

Jo’s expertise allows her to instruct her clients on how to best pair different teas with appropriate foods, and she has the credentials to prove her capabilities. She also connects “avid tea enthusiasts with buyers & sellers of unique product offerings”. So if you’re looking for a rare and special tea, she’s the one to contact. You can visit her website here:

A Gift of Tea

I hope you all join in on the National Hot Tea Month festivities! After all, it only comes once a year!

Until tomorrow, take care.

food · relaxation

Grown-Up Hot Chocolate

After having a long and draining work week, I was ready to kick off my weekend and enjoy the holiday. To celebrate, I made one of my favorite treats, a cup of hot chocolate.

But, I don’t make any old hot chocolate. I dress mine up considerably, so that it’s the kind of sumptuous treat that I savor slowly as I forget whatever stresses me. It’s perfect for unwinding at the end of a demanding week (like I mentioned) or for cuddling by the fireplace on a snowy evening. It’s an exquisite way to end your day, no matter the occasion.

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Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Bronzed Butterfly’s Grown-Up Hot Chocolate

  • 1 pack Swiss Miss regular hot chocolate with marshmallows
  • 1/4 (3 mini bars) Hershey Chocolate Bar (my preferred one is the Special Dark, but the milk chocolate works fine, too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter flavored extract
  • 2 Rolo candies
  • 6-8 oz hot water (almost boiling)
  • (optional) 1 oz rum or vodka (I used Smirnoff vanilla vodka in mine)

Combine  hot chocolate powder, butter extract, and 1 crumbled mini Hershey’s bar in a cup. Add 1/3 hot water and stir until all solid ingredients are mixed. Add Rolo candies and the remaining crumbled mini Hershey’s bars and add 1/3 more hot water, and stir until all ingredients are melted. Add remaining hot water and stir again. If adding optional ingredient, stir in last.