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.

The Muse Has Left The Building

My chair and it's comfy pads along with a pile of books and my notebook.
My chair and it’s comfy pads along with a pile of books and my notebook.

Remember on the old Frazier show, how it would always end with “Frazier has left the building“, a riff of course on the phrase, “Elvis has left the building“. Well, in response to weekly photo challenge for this week on muse, I find it hard to show what’s calling to me because nothing is.

The muse has left the building.

Continue reading “The Muse Has Left The Building”

2014 Highlights

Here are some highlights from last year (Nancy’s 2014 Yearbook!):

My Favorite Posts

Some of my favorite posts from 2014 were:

A Gallery of My Daughter Growing Up – this was for a weekly photo challenge on endurance, of which I think parenthood is the ultimate test.

Books Everyone Should Read – these are not necessarily my favorite books, they were highly influential books for me.

Creativity versus Craft – on mistaking a lack of proficiency for a lack of talent.

What Inspires Me – my thoughts on what encourages me

Words of Encouragement – on change and what normal means in our lives

Working a Day Job – how my day job helps my creativity

In October, I participated in a 31 Day Challenge.  I could pick any topic I’d like, but the goal was to blog daily about it for 31 Days.  I blogged on Nurturing My Creativity, from a post that I’d written earlier in the summer (here).  It was harder than I thought it would be, but I am proud of how it turned out.  My landing page is here and my summary, in which I discussed how it went, is here.

Continue reading “2014 Highlights”

Naming My Emotions

Walking with my Vizsla
Walking with my Vizsla

I was laid off on Wednesday.  Outsourced.  Bye-bye.  7 years of my life over just like that for myself and my entire team, all of whom had been with me for over 5 years.

Whew!  There.  I finally told it.

My former employer left me in good shape, so I have time to thoughtfully look for another job, for which I’m glad.  But I’m also upset for all the hard work and effort I’ve put in.  I expect that in a very short time, all of that will be gone.  Outsourcers tend to use the cheapest labor they can find, which does not equate to experienced.

Each morning I’ve woken up with a different set of emotions about this whole chain of events.

Thursday I was elated.  Free time!  Time to do what I want!  No year end!  I can enjoy the holidays instead of working late most nights in December!!  I made lists and lists of all the things I want to get done while I’m out of work.  Five pages of lists in fact – I have a lot of catching up to do with my life.

Friday morning though found me sad.  I went back after hours on Thursday to clean out my desk and it was hard.  My favorite boy toy was with me to help out and the HR rep was compassionate about the whole thing.  She was (thankfully) someone I’ve known almost since my first day there.  I was glad for that and glad for her understanding, but it was still hard.  All those years reduced to a few boxes.  Packing up my desk was as upsetting as being told to leave.  I was also sad that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to people.  I had a lot of good friends at work and there was no closure.

Saturday was fear.  Fear of the unknown.  What’s going to happen now?  Will we have to move again?  I don’t want to move.  Are there jobs out there?  What will I do?

Sunday was fear again, but a different type.  I don’t want a bad boss – I’ve had several in my career and they really wreck one’s life.  I don’t want a ball busting job.  I want a better work / life balance, something I’ve had very little of with my last few jobs.  And I don’t feel like cleaning up yet another mess.  I’ve cleaned up too many of them in my career.  It’s no fun and there’s no glory in it, as no one wants to admit things were so bad before I came.  In fact, the job that I just left had been outsourced for two years before I came and the files and positions were non-existent, along with numerous errors that took me years to clean up.

I don’t know what my new routine will be yet.  The Vizsla is getting a long walk every day.  He’s gotten excessively clingy again and keeping him tired means we don’t have a dog jumping the gates at 2 am to come visiting, which he did Thursday night.  It took several hours and numerous tries to convince him that he was staying downstairs and not in our bed.  Thankfully the beagle slept through most of it and I didn’t have to contend with two of them refusing to go back downstairs!

I’m drinking more tea.  I sit at the kitchen table, looking out the windows and enjoying being quiet as I sip it.  Sometimes I read, sometimes I just daydream.  It’s nice to be able to leave my brain off even if for just a few minutes.

I’m finding a nap each afternoon to be good for me.  It doesn’t matter if I’m not sleeping as well as I should if I can make it up later.

I’ve gone back to taking daily pictures.  I enjoy it and it records my life for me even if they aren’t high art.  The silhouette above was taken with my cell phone during our walk at the woods.  I look like a lump in my winter coat (it’s been that cold here!) but I liked the way my grey muzzled puppy was looking at me.  That stick in my hand is actually a retractable leash.  His recall isn’t the best, especially if we walk past another dog, so I keep him tethered to me like the park requires.

After Thanksgiving, I’ll be contacting people and start the process to find another job.  For this week, I plan to enjoy time with my family.  My daughter says she finally looks pregnant, so I hope to get some baby bump pictures to show everyone.


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.




Bloopers and Practicing Failure

This week’s assignment for my close-up photography course (I discussed in more detail here) was to use items from the kitchen or bathroom.  The three above turned out really well.  I especially like the bubbles that’s almost entirely green.  But wait until you see what didn’t turn out.

I spent all afternoon working on this and by the end, was really frustrated.  Not only did I feel like a real fumble fingers trying to do this, but a lot of what I tried didn’t turn out.  Some of it was that my subject matter was just bad.  Others were bad technique, from not paying attention to the composition to being out of focus.

I did this outside on the deck and what a mess!  Eventually I realized that the tripod was not helping.  I had to move around to catch my subject matter and I couldn’t predict ahead of time where my focal point would be.  My favorite boy toy helped me figure out how to keep that cardboard upright (there’s a box behind it, plus the two Windex bottles to push it back against the box).  Sitting on the stool gave me the right height, but only some of the time.  The sun got really hot, but not until after I’d brought out the chocolate to photograph with the tea.

Geez, what a mess.  The only thing not here is the miniature pinscher who is off to the left, guarding me from elderly women taking a walk.
Geez, what a mess. The only thing not seen here is the miniature pinscher who is off to the left, guarding me from elderly women taking a walk.

So here are some things that I learned:

Continue reading “Bloopers and Practicing Failure”

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.


I Cannot Pass Up

Taken near Brown's Island in Richmond, Virginia
Taken near Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia

Things I can’t pass up:

  • Books – love, love, love them.  I can never have too many books.
  • Bookstores – I have to check them out whenever I see one.  Each one carries something a little different, so who knows what treasure I’ll find.  Checking out 2 or 3 in a weekend is better yet!
  • Taking pictures – No, this list is in no particular order.  I enjoy the walk, looking and observing, and recording it for future enjoyment.
  • Writing in my journal – I find it relaxing and rewarding to record my life.  It helps me work out my thoughts and emotions, plan, and later, remember what happened.
  • Chocolate – especially dark chocolate.  Yummmm.


Lunch at the La Petite Tea Room near Williamsburg, Virginia
Lunch at the La Petite Tea Room near Williamsburg, Virginia

  • Tea – I love buying loose tea, making tea, and drinking iced tea.  Everything about the tea process makes is irresistible to me.
  • Glass – I really like glass items, from paperweights to canning jars.  The feel and texture just draws me.
  • Leather – same as glass.  Leather has a great scent in addition to how good it feels.  Surprisingly, I’m not very nuts about leather coats or gloves, and my purses tend to be nylon.  But I love leather wallets, leather shoes, and leather books (no surprise there – two for one!).
  • Dogs – Yes, I love my three, but I also love petting dogs whenever I find them out with their owners.  I always let them sniff my hand first.  If a dog doesn’t want to sniff my hand or doesn’t wag after sniffing me though, I don’t touch it.  But I’ll pet every dog I see if it lets me.

A rare picture of all three them together!
A rare picture of all three them together!

  • Popcorn – I can’t stay away from fresh, hot popcorn.  The taste, the crunchiness, and how it fills me are all appealing.
  • Stationary – I love stationary and I love browsing through it at the stores!  Unfortunately, I’m not very good about actually using it.  This is something I try to not buy, as much as I love it.
  • Blogs – Reading blogs is a fascinating past-time for me.  There are so many great ones out there!  I love reading about people and their lives, finding out information, and so often, learning that I’m not the only one with that problem or who feels that way.  I have to limit how much I read on-line, but I’d do it all day if I could.

The tomatoes were from the garden; the berries came from the local farmer’s market.

  • Berries – These are my favorite fruit.  I love them all – strawberries, blueberries, and especially raspberries.  When my daughter was younger, we went to see “pick your own” farms.  We’ve done it a few times more recently when I visit her in the spring.  It’s fun, but a lot of work.  These days, I’d rather just buy them at the store.
  • Sea salt – In the last few years, I’ve become quite the connoisseur on the different sea salts.  I use different ones different ways, from the pink Himalaya salt in my regular cooking, to a smoked version for my soups, and the charcoal based ones on my meats and rice.  I enjoy trying out new ones too, so each time I see them at the store, I have to stop and look them over.
  • Pinterest – there is such a wealth of information on Pinterest, from diet to recipes to photography and everything else.  Some of it’s garbage, but much of it is actually very good.  If you’re interested in following me, click on the link to the right.  My quotes board is particularly good!
  • Surfing the Internet – Similar to reading blogs and pinning on Pinterest, I find the Internet to be endlessly fascinating.  It’s yet something else I have to be careful to limit.  There is a lot of garbage out there and it’s not worthy a lot of time.  But I like it nonetheless!

So that’s my list for Day #2 of 30 Days of Lists.  My personal journal was just a straight list, but I wanted to share it here with some commentary.  I don’t know that I’ll do that each day, but this was fun (for me).