Friday, March 27, 2015

A Moment to Remember Eddie

It's been 10 days, and I still can't really believe our Eddie dog is gone.

Photo by Edie Piccotti on January 23, 2015

When Gene and I got married, I told him that when we bought a house we needed to get a dog. Shortly after we bought our first house, he called to say a co-worker had a puppy that needed a home. The man's wife was pregnant with their 2nd child, and their oldest was only 2. The puppy had to go. Despite the fact it was a male puppy (I had only ever had female dogs), we went to look. And then I saw him.

And we brought him home, wabi-sabi ears and all.

They didn't know what kind of dog he was, but there were guesses about being part lab and shiba inu, you know, medium sized, 40 to 50-lb type dogs. When the puppy, now named Eddie van Halen, began gaining 3 lbs. per week, we realized this would not be a 40-lb. dog. He topped out at 103 in his prime.

As puppy parents we did all the right things: Puppy School...

...runs at the dog park, daily walks around the block. Despite all of our attempts, Eddie was always a nightmare on a leash. He wanted to go fast, or to play tug of war with the leash.

But that was all forgivable when he would curl up on the couch next to one of us and rest his head in our lap. He was a snuggle dog of the best variety.

When we brought each of our newborn girls home from the hospital, Eddie knew to treat them with the utmost care. There were numerous times when a baby would be crying in the bassinet and Eddie would stand over her looking up at me and down at the baby and then back at me as if to say, "Hello! Need a little help over here!"

He turned into our beloved family dog, allowing the girls to crawl over him and pull on his ears. He always responded with a gigantic lick to their faces. And he was ever the protector, barking his terrifying bark whenever the dreaded UPS man drove by or the doorbell was rung.

When I began my own consulting business in 2006 and began working from home, Eddie became my trusty, albeit useless, office assistant. Though he never fetched me a cup of tea or made any copies, he was a constant companion and a sounding board for whatever project I was working on.

He and Gene would walk for miles on Saturday mornings. Oh, how excited he would get when he heard the rattle of the leash! He was the first one we attended to every morning, and the last one we attended to at night.

Eddie loved soggy cheerios and hated when I (not anyone else) vacuumed. He was a master thief of left-behind food and a lover of cheese. When string cheese is consumed in our home, the last bite belongs to him. Belonged.


One of many habits that is difficult to break.

And besides being everything a pet should be, he was a handsome devil! One woman at a local dog park called him the Matthew McConaughey of dogs. On a nearly daily basis, when we took him for a walk, people would stop, even pull over, to ask what kind of dog he was. He was beautiful, his fur was so soft, and he could run so very fast.

The decision to let him go was one of the most difficult we've faced in our marriage. But knowing that this aggressive cancer was already causing discomfort was too much to bear. We could not let our good friend suffer.

And so, we spent one last special day with him. I had a very usual and pleasant morning with him as my assistant. He got in one last great bark at the UPS man. Gene and I took him for an extra long walk together. We shared our funniest memories of him. I fed him an entire cheese stick. We ran our hands through his beautiful coat over and over again.  And then it was time to say goodbye.

Photo by Joseph Powell, Champa Street Productions
Thank you for your service, our good and faithful friend.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Moment For My Tea Retailer Friends at WTE - Working With Tea Bloggers

I'm so excited to announce that I will be speaking at the 2015 World Tea Expo. For my tea retailer friends who will be attending, I encourage you to come to this May 6th session entitled, Amplifying Your Business Voice Through Tea Bloggers.

In this session, you will learn the secrets to approaching the right bloggers for your target market as well as the do's and don'ts of requesting a product review. Knowing the right way to partner with bloggers not only raises awareness of your company and products, but also increases revenues with no-to-low cost to you.

Joining me on this panel are veterans to both the tea industry and the world of tea blogging:

We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Series of Unglamorous Moments

I could use a little zen in my life.

It all started last week when we picked up Ed from the kennel and our longtime "innkeeper" delicately informed us that the groomer had discovered a "cut" on Ed's "butt." No one knew how the cut had come about, but they wanted us to be aware of it.

The next day, said cut began to look a little (more) disturbing. One ruptured anal gland surgery later, Ed was home with a cone of shame and a packet of antibiotics and pain medication. At his follow-up visit, it was deemed the surgical site was not healing as quickly as they would like, so now there was a topical antibiotic that was to be applied twice daily. They also supplied some rubber gloves.


The day after that, our youngest girl began what would be a 4-day bout of the stomach flu. To her credit, she made it to the toilet every time she needed to puke. Not bad for a girl who will turn 3 next week. Her older sister posted this note above her bed - whether as a reminder to herself or as a prayer, I'm not sure, but I think we all were feeling this way about it:

"Make sure that my little sister does not barf"

Monday and Tuesday were spent running the toddler to the toilet, swabbing a dog's hind end, doing several loads of laundry - all in between online training sessions for clients. I'll go ahead and put it out there that I'm so glad these were not video conference calls.

Needless to say, Mama needed a break.

That's when I happily discovered a box of Chai Tea that my friends from Buddha Teas had sent me.

I'm not usually a casual chai drinker. The chai's I've had feel more like an event: the spice, the sweetness, the milk. Sometimes I can find them a little overwhelming and over-filling. This chai, however, was one that allowed me to feel a little more in control. As I steeped my chai, I inhaled the warm exotic scent of the spices: cinnamon, cardamom. I chose to not add sugar nor milk. A clean, zen moment to make up for the dozens of hectic and unglamorous moments of the previous days.

I sipped the first sip and was rewarded with a smooth, bold black tea laced with traditional chai spice. It delivered all the warmth and comfort without the heaviness. Finally, despite all the craziness, sickness and discomfort around me, I was finally able to sit quietly as both the baby and the dog slept peacefully.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A 'Fine Words Butter No Parsnips' Moment

When The Devotea issues a challenge, The Underground Tea Syndicate rises to the occasion most splendidly. In this case, we were asked to take on the issue of, "Fine Words Butter No Parsnips."

The Syndicate has managed to make the little known connection of Parsnips and Yaks through this exercise. Paula Deen has even been brought to the table (figuratively). The opinions on parsnips, butter and yaks are many and varied.

Taking this into consideration, I've devoted a good amount of time ruminating on the issue. And here's the conclusion I have come to.

Parsnip Preparation by Alan Telford

Fine words butter no parsnips.

People do.

And with that, I feel I can sleep well tonight.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Long Jing Grand Cru Moment

It's been an unusually warm winter in Southern California. There are days that I long for the chance to wear sweaters and boots, but those days have been few and far between. Then there are days with just a hint of crispness and the morning sun has that twinkle of spring that bounces off the dew drops covering the blades of grass and shoots of lavender.

It was on a morning like this that I brewed up a cup of something very special. I had received a gift from Le Palais de Thes, a Grand Cru. Long Jing Premium 2014. Long Jing is arguably the most well known Chinese green tea in the world, but the description of this particular one makes it even more exciting and enchanting.

The tea leaves are harvested starting on April 5th, a holiday known as Tomb Sweeping Day, and continues for several weeks. The very first leaves harvested during the first three days are not sold. These are specially gifted to Chinese dignitaries.

There is quite an art to shape these leaves into "Buddha's eyelid," with the resulting leaves looking like a young shoot. There is roasting for a specified amount of time and movement that requires extreme precision. In the end, something very special is created.

As I inhale the fragrance of this highly prized brew, I encounter spring in my cup.  I can't wait. Time for the first sip. The tea itself is the height of luxury, so smooth, so rich. There are hints of nuttiness that float on the bed of earthy green hay, with the lightest citrus rounding out the edges.

In moments like these, I don't mind that winter never really appeared. I'm happy to welcome spring.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Young Mountain Tea Moment

It's rare that I would champion a tea that I have not personally tried, but then a visionary comes along who presents an idea that seeks to elevate the many, and not just a few, and that's something I'm very happy to champion.
Photo by Young Mountain Tea

In the Himalayan Mountains, in the Kumaon region, tea grows wild - an abandoned experiment by the British, who found it too difficult to transport the tea grown there to the ports. Raj Vable, Young Mountain Tea's founder, was inspired by his work with the non-profit group Avani, that creates rural livelihoods. He felt that if the tea could be cultivated once more, it would be something the world would want. And so the project begins.

Photo by Young Mountain Tea

Today marks Day 1 of the 30-Day Young Mountain Tea Kickstarter fundraising campaign. They aim to raise $24,000 to launch Young Mountain Tea and bring a beautiful new tea, Kumaon White Peony Tea, to the marketplace.

Backers of the project will:
- Be the first to drink a new white tea hand made in small batches, using traditional techniques and the highest quality leaves
- Create dignified rural livelihoods for remote mountain communities in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalayas
- Increase resilience of mountain ecosystems by supporting organic permaculture that intercrops tea with other mountainous crops to restore biodiversity, strengthen native soils and prevent landslides.

Backer rewards range from a $10 sapling sponsorship to a $5,000 authentic Indian Tea Pilgrimage, including spending time in the new tea region and tours of each of India's main tea growing regions.

Learn more about how you can support this project by visiting:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Moment at Pelican Hill

I've heard the name, "Pelican Hill," since I moved to California 15 years ago. It's the kind of place that's always said with a raised eyebrow or a meaningful nod. The meaning: a place reserved for the upper crust.

So when I discovered that Pelican Hill, the Pelican Hill, offered afternoon tea, I just had to find a way to check it out. As it happened, a friend suggested we get together for tea before the holidays, and I told her I knew just the place!

South Orange County has beautiful coastlines, but the wild, rugged beauty of this particular venue is breathtaking. Nestled in the foothills, at the end of a secluded road that alternates between ornate and manicured entry gates to exclusive neighborhoods and the wild, native flora of Southern California.

Arriving at Pelican Hill there is the option of self-parking or valet. On display at the entrance are a 2015 car enthusiast's dream line up of Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Porsche and Tesla - the owners off romping about the resort.

Upon entering, you can see straight through to the opposite wall of glass that offers that that breathtaking view of an unspoiled, native coast.

We were seated for tea, accompanied by the lovely strains from the harpist whose repertoire had something for everyone - from classical pieces, to Train, to AC/DC.

Champagne was the first item on the agenda, a perfect aide to the next task of choosing the tea. The tea selection was presented in probably my favorite presentation to date. A box with glass test tubes, each labeled with the type of tea or infusion contained within. We were encouraged to explore, remove the stoppers and inhale the aromas before making our selection.

The tiered tray of sweets and savories arrived and we tucked in. I was happy to enjoy a version of both cucumber sandwiches and egg salad as well. The currant scones included jam, clotted cream and lemon curd on the side. And I was very pleased to note that a bowl of proper sugar cubes was on the table as well!

It was a full house that day. Every type of occasion was being celebrated, from friends catching up, to mother-daughter time, to a couple of suspected dates, to a large family holiday party where a grandmother presided happily over her daughters and granddaughters.

I don't know what voodoo magic takes place over tea, but time flies and stands still at the same time. What a pleasure to spend time with a good friend, catching up on all that has been happening. It felt like we were there for just a half hour, but just like that three hours had passed!

The price tag might be higher than other tea venues, and it might not be an every day thing, but the place, the view, the beauty, the experience... the moment... is worth indulging in every once in a while.

Afternoon Tea in the Great Room at Pelican Hill
Served Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance
Call: 855.315.8214
22701 Pelican Hill Road South
Newport CoastCA 92657