Iced Tea for Breakfast

I drink iced tea for breakfast everyday – even when I worked in downtown Minneapolis in the winter! There was a Caribou in the skyway that I took to get from the parking deck to my office. Each day they had a different flavor and no matter what the temperature was outside, people were buying it. The iced chamomile tea was good (not enough caffeine in the morning though) but I didn’t like the Earl Grey.

I also use a Starbucks cup with a screw-on lid for a tea to go. My daughter calls it my adult sippy cup and she’s right! Even if it gets knocked over, it doesn’t leak. A few years ago at the start of a meeting, I did actually knock it over. My boss jumped back quickly and we were all relieved that nothing spilled.

The hubby and I eat breakfast out frequently. We started this years ago due to all the overtime I worked and in retirement, it’s a nice way to start the day.

This photo was for a project on the in-between week for A Month of Multiples with Kim Klassen. The creative group that I belong to decided on it and it was great fun to see everyone’s coffee, tea, and various morning beverages. The stories behind the mugs was the best.

This was post processed in Topaz Studio using SJ Watercolor. Textures were added from 2 Lil’ Owls – the Brilliance, Epiphany, and Fairy Dust collections. The border was from Photomorphis.

Practicing Stillness

Be Still. . . Preferably, With Some Tea; Photo Stylized With Topaz Impressions

This week’s photo challenge is minimalist, explained as:

An artfully executed minimalist photograph is anything but mundane. It illustrates a moment in time, or an artistic perspective, with simplicity and grace.


Minimalist photography is characterized by a large portion of negative space, a fairly monochromatic color palette with good contrast, and an interesting subject that is able to stand on its own to capture the interest of the viewer. At first thought, it may seem like it would be easy to shoot an engaging minimalist photograph, when indeed it can often be the opposite. A minimalist photo can also effectively tell a story, in spite of its relative simplicity, and it is anything but “plain”.

After I edited my picture, I added the minimalist phrase, “Be Still”.  It comes of course, from one of my favorite Bible verses:

Be still and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10

Simple.  Minimal.  And so very hard to actually execute.

It also comes from my creativity class with the ever-so-creative-herself, Kim Klassen.  In the very first week of “Be Still – Fifty Two”, she encouraged us to practice stillness, even if just for a minute a day.  To paraphrase, she said:

Take a breath ~ pause ~ move forward ~ one day at a time ~ center ~ peace ~ trust.

Also simple and minimal.  Also hard to actually do.

The reasons it’s hard to execute are not a surprise.  Too busy, too many demands, too tired, etc etc etc.  I could put a checklist out here and y’all would check them and add more to it.

That doesn’t make it any easier though to slow down, be still, and just be.

Be quiet.

Be simple.

Be present in the moment.

Be content with here and now.

Be grateful.

Be open to trusting God.

Which is why I chose a tea picture.  Making tea takes time.  There’s a whole ritual to it, starting with pouring out the old water and filling up the tea pot.  Get out a filter (or basket) and measure out tea.  Cut up a lemon, wash the cutting board and my hands, and wait more on the water to get hot enough.  And of course, the time waiting for the tea to steep, then cool enough to drink it.

There are days I don’t make tea for myself.  I don’t want to wait.  So I have a glass of plain water instead.  Which is still good for me, but it’s a shame that I don’t wait on my tea when I enjoy it so much.

If I slow down too much, even less will get done.  But I miss not sitting and just thinking as well.  I need it and function better when I do it.  I think like with anything, this needs practice and for me to make it more important.

So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking


We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
― Ray Bradbury






Pears With Textures


Pears Stylized With Topaz Effects
Pears Stylized With Topaz Effects

For the final assignment in my close-up photography class, we were to take a photograph of something with four different textures.  After a great deal of experimentation, I ended up four fairly boring pictures of a pear that we had.  So, to make it more appealing to me, I ran it through Topaz Effects and got the above.  What it looks like is a high school art assignment!

The textures (clockwise from the upper left) were a white towel, outdoor table for the Big Green Egg, a blue hand towel, and a wooden cutting board.

Here’s the original:

Pears As Originally Taken
Pears As Originally Taken

Once again, my failures ran amuck.  I was trying to do tea and chocolates, but due to the weather this morning, I had to do it inside.  The lighting was too dim and the focus is all soft.

I took my teapot and chocolate outside and did a final shoot on the deck.  It was unfortunately at dog level and as I checked the LCD screen of my camera, the miniature pinscher came over and started nibbling on the chocolates.  He was quite indignant that I wouldn’t share with him!  I, on the other hand, didn’t have quite enough to shoot again nor did I have many left to taste for myself later.  Thankfully he didn’t actually swallow any before I caught him, as chocolate can be fatal to dogs.

The chocolate should be sharply focused and it's not.
This was taken on the kitchen floor.

The picture above is one of the ones that didn’t turn out.  The chocolate should be sharply focused and it’s not.  However, it’s probably good enough I can do something with Topaz Labs Effects and salvage it.  I think I’d try taking the picture again when the lighting is better, using a better depth of field so the chocolate and teapot are in focus, and tripod mounting my camera so I can use a lower ISO and still have a crisp focus to it.

I’ve enjoyed the class and certainly got out of my comfort zone to try different things!  Some of it was frustrating, but there’s no other way to learn except by doing.

Time For Tea

Dark chocolate covered marshmallows with sea salted caramel tea. Picture is stylized using Topaz Impressions.

You’re invited to a virtual tea time!  I’d call it by its real name – PARTY – but in the wisdom of our politicians in this country, the name has been corrupted and I don’t feel like a bunch of landings on this page because people are looking for “the” tea party instead of “a” tea party.

So.  Welcome!  I’ve been wanting to do a tea for a while with all of you.  This will be fun!

What kind of tea would you like?  I have a plain black tea, grown in India, called Tiger Hill.  There’s also a caffeinated chocolate tea that’s not too chocolaty and has no added sweetener to make it sugary.  Or would you prefer decaf such as a blueberry rooibos or sea salt caramel?  No, no sugar added to either of them although they do have some natural sweetness.

And I have some chocolate to go with your tea.  No, sorry, no cookies today.  I didn’t get around to it.  I have almond toffee, truffles, or dark chocolate covered marshmallows.  One of each?  Yes, that’s what I’m having too.  As an aside, my love for those dark chocolate marshmallows goes way back, which I wrote up here.

Were you planning on reading while you slowly sip your tea or did you want to visit?  I know it’s a bit harder to visit over the Internet, but that’s what we do when we leave comments for each other and chat back and forth.

If you want to read, do something fun!  Some inspirational websites are Marc and Angel Hack LifeThe Happiness Project or The Daily Motivator.  If you don’t like the topic at the top, search down the sides for links to other posts.  Or get yourself a Sherlock Holmes pastiche on your Kindle / Nook.  Per Google, a pastiche is “an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period”.  In this case, the authors are imitating Dr. John Watson and some of them do a really good job of it too.  They are mostly short stories and you can easily finish one or two during your tea break.  I particularly liked the ones by Hugh Ashton, although June Thomson and Steven Ehrman are very good also.

One last item – why don’t you keep a pen and paper at the table with you?  If you’re anything like me, at some point your mind will start running off with everything you forgot to do, call, or take care of.  If this happens, note them down so you can release them from your mind and relax for a few minutes.  And turn off the phone while you’re at it.  That’s your first note – remember to turn the phone back on.

Almond toffee, a truffle and blueberry rooibos tea.
Almond toffee, a truffle and Tiger Hill black tea.  A perfect combination.  Picture is stylized with Topaz Effects.

So get your tea, a small sweet treat, and something to read.  Blow on your tea to cool it, then start sipping.  Read a few sentences, take a few more sips.  Repeat.  Every few sips, take a nibble of your treat.  Just sit and relax.  Enjoy the taste of the tea and the taste of your treat.  Ahhhhh. . . isn’t that good?  Do you need to close your eyes for a few minutes and relax even more?  Please do so.  In fact, do so and think some happy thoughts.  But drink a little more tea before you close your eyes.

Now reflect.

Think fondly of the last thing you laughed at or smiled at.  Yes, the dogs are always a good choice for finding laughter.

What are you proud of at this  moment?  Proudest of this year?  Don’t worry if you can’t answer this.  You’re here to relax and have fun for a few minutes.  Move on to one of the other questions instead.

What is going right for you at this time in your life?  There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s small.

What are you looking forward to?

Remember, if your mind is running amuck, write it down so you remember it later.  Then let it go.

So sit, nibble, read, and relax.

Do it until your tea is gone, the house is exploding (imploding?) or you have to get back to life.

Taking a break is a great way for me to nurture my creativity.  I hope you enjoyed your break as well!

Now aren’t you in a better mood?

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.




Still Life With Tea

Sun tea, stylized in Topaz Labs Effects

Tonight I unexpectedly nurtured my creativity by going prop shopping.  I have some ideas for pictures this weekend and needed some different types of teas.  I will, of course, have to taste test them as I take pictures!

I was thankful to not have many crowds.  I went straight from work, which helped, but by the time I was finishing up, it was getting noticeably busier.  My favorite boy toy met me at the mall and we have a wonderful supper at the Cheesecake Factory.  I got a flatbread pizza, with chicken added to it, and strawberries with whipped cream for dessert.  It was decadent and a great way to finish the week.

I stopped afterwards at Barnes & Noble and bought several books, including one on night photography.  I love it when night photos turn out well and after my posting here, I definitely want to try more of it.

This is a picture I took earlier this summer of sun tea brewing on the deck railing.  For instructions on how to make it, click here.

The original photo is below, uncropped and unadjusted on the left; on the right is cropped and adjusted.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Grow A Good Mood

This week’s theme for Six Word Friday is “grow” – as in my mantra lately:

Grow a good mood by choice.

I’m having an above average number of grumpy days lately.  It’s for many reasons, but the worst one is “just because”.  Why am I in a bad mood?  Because.  Am I achy? Tired? Hungry? Frustrated?  Nope.  Just because.  Certainly those things contribute, but lately it seems like I’m just grumpy for no particular reason.

What an unexpected find last Saturday – La Petite Tea inside the Williamsburg Antique Mall.

I’ve been working on recognizing this and changing it as an act of my will.  It’s not easy and it’s sure not fun, but I’m much more pleasant to be around and if I smile enough, it does improve my mood.

A few weeks back, an acquaintance at work commented that I couldn’t possibly be in such a good mood all the time.  I laughed and said no, it was a choice.  I was surprised that she was surprised by my answer.  I find being in a cheerier mood helps me feel better, enjoy my life more, and has a direct impact on everyone around me.  I can make people happier just by a few minutes of interaction (this is where I wrote about this last year).

Butternut squash & corn soup with a sangria tea (non-alcoholic with unsweetened fruit juice and black tea).

So the next time you feel grumpy, ask yourself – is this what I want?  Or do I want to improve my mood and enjoy my day?  Or do I choose to grow a good mood?

And a half-sandwich for some protein . . .

Sometimes a great way to improve a bad mood is a change of scenery, a pleasure in an unexpected place.  Last Saturday, my favorite boy toy and I went antiquing in Williamsburg.  We didn’t find much and probably won’t spend time doing it again, but in the course of our day, we found La Petite Tea inside the Williamsburg Antique Mall.  It’s not very big – probably only four tables – but it was cute and the food was excellent.

Dessert can cheer anyone up! Especially blueberry ice cream with a small wedge of chocolate torte. I DID NOT SHARE EITHER.

Thanks to everyone for their patience as I get back to blogging.  I still don’t have a regular schedule.  If you’d rather not be checking to see if I’ve published, sign up to get an E-mail notification when I post something new.  The box is just below the header photo, on the right.