Natur’el Tea Tasting

Natur'el Tea

Natur'el TeaShortly after I last wrote about how much I love tea, Jolene from Canadian tea company Natur’el Tea contacted me. She offered to send me some samples of her organic tea. I sure am glad I accepted her offer!

I tried several blends of my choosing and I am particularly fond of the “Black Mate Morning” and “Assam… man!” flavors of Natur’el Tea. They’re both strong, yet not overwhelming black teas with a nice tannic mouth-feel. I could taste that the tea leaves are hand blended in small batches, because of the subtle flavors that seeped through every sip of tea that I’ve taken – and although I’ve been looking forward to reviewing the tea, I have to admit that it’s been a busy month or two and it’s been incredibly nice to enjoy the tea throughout this time.

If you’re in the market for some great flavors and a fan of trying some interesting tea that’s sourced from exotic locations throughout the world, definitely check out the Natur’el Tea website at http://www.naturelifestyle.com/. You can also use the coupon code HappyTea0113 to get a 25% discount if you order in the next two weeks!

“You’re Never Alone” Mentality

brain

brain

As the media show us almost daily, a single individual has the power to destroy others lives instantly. Bystanders are often put in harms way because someone has lost touch with humanity and succumbed to their irrational emotions. But we all are only human, and developing a mentality of never being alone can help society improve the quality of life for everyone. I wanted to write about this topic for Mental Health Day.

Countless cases have shown instances of physical brain trauma, from undetected tumors to accidents or even chronic stress, which have altered people’s decision-making abilities.[1] A least a portion of the harmful acts in the world happen due to such a loss of control, which anyone could experience! What if we could spot this loss of control? Or train people to recognize it in themselves and in people that are confiding in them?  And could we teach everyone to seek professional help at that point?

The first step is to follow Machiavelli’s advice: “Know your enemy and know thyself.” We tend to distance ourselves from people who we don’t understand, instead of trying to see situations from an opposing perspective. By respecting everyone’s point of view, and encouraging open and respectful discourse in the case of disagreements, we can build a foundation upon which people will learn to be vocal in times of need. It will be a strategy that will not only protect us from potential harm, but also help grow and learn as individuals.

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.Through listening to different viewpoints respectfully we all become much more accepting, broadening our horizons. Most importantly, listening and acceptance reduces the isolation from society that many people feel at one point or another, or even consistently throughout their lives. It diminishes the prevalence of negative stereotypes, including racist and sexist assumptions that have been slowing the evolution of our society for millennia.

We can never prevent all bad events from happening. But we can definitely seek to improve our own lives, and those around us, through the simple act of listening and accepting people who are different. At times, we may all need to seek professional help – whether it’s for ourselves or someone who has confided in us – and doing so could change countless lives for the better.

My Cup of Tea

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Whether morning, noon or night, hot or cold, a cup of tea is soothing and relaxing to enjoy.  I drink tea daily, and choose different flavors based on mood or time of day. I’d like to share some of my favorites and when I tend to drink them!

P&G Tips, English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe , Tetely Ginger and Cardamom are all teas that I tend to drink with a splash of milk in the morning. The milk counterbalances their bitterness or spice. They’re all fairly bold too, which is why I enjoy them at the start of the day.

When stressed out, my go-to teas include ginger, peppermint (Celestial Seasonings and Stash are my favorite brands), chamomile and a mixed tea called “Tension Tamer” by Celestial Seasonings. These flavors are all calming, and great for any kind of stomach issues, which sometimes accompany my stress.

My favorite flavor of tea, which I will drink any time of day and buy in bulk, is “Bengal Spice” and it’s also by Celestial Seasonings. This tea is a mix of cinnamon and other warm, amazingly smelling spices that make me all fuzzy inside. I tend to drink it whenever I feel like a random cup of tea and prefer something decaffeinated.

Another perennial favorite tea of mine is jasmine. I’ve been drinking it since high school and love both green and black jasmine tea varieties. I quite possibly have never had a bad cup of jasmine tea. Maybe it’s the particular taste, or the thought of those pretty white flowers as I drink it. Either way, it’s relaxing and soothing, generally precisely what I love about tea.

Of course, I drink other teas as well. I have tea drawer at work, and another drawer in my kitchen. Everything from oolong to matcha powder and a random tea sampler can be found somewhere nearby and I love it. At the end of the day, all of it warms me up and makes me happy, which is exactly my cup of tea.

Desk stretches

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I’ve had a pseudo-joke email floating around with a few coworkers during the past few years about various desk stretches, which we call deskercises. Some include instructions that are ridiculous for the office and give us a good laugh. The majority, however, are practical tips to get your blood flowing and your mind clear in the time-frame of a reasonable work break.

Work-related stress can be one of the toughest forms of stress to deal with because so often it seems completely outside of our control. I love my job, yet find that at times the sheer amount of work to do becomes overwhelming, or that I’m focusing on it so much that I’ve become literally numb. I often get writers block at this point, and the only thing that helps is getting up, walking around and stretching.

http://www.shelterpub.com/_fitness/_desk_stretches/desk_stretches.pdf

This routine is two to three minutes. Combined with a bathroom break and a trip to the water cooler, a ten-minute break is all that I need to complete this and be back on track with the job at hand. Conversely, if I begin checking the news aimlessly or working on something entirely new, I lose track of my place in the assignment that I had frustrated me and ultimately spend much more time getting caught up on it later.

Sometimes just taking a five minute break to go to the bathroom and grab some water or tea is also enough to refresh my mind. Such five-minute breaks are indeed proven to improve overall worker efficiency in a relatively recent study. They also resulted in employee relaxation, especially reducing eyestrain.[1]

Though some may look silly, many desk stretches can be done relatively inconspicuously at your workstation. Besides, even if your boss wonders what you’re up to, you can explain that they’re a win-win strategy for your productivity and health!

Guest Post: Positivity

christina ross

christina ross

Christina has an incredibly positive and uplifting personality. I could feel her positive energy while shopping in Sur Le Table one day, and sure enough she soon began helping a fellow shopper pick out a juicer. They began talking about her business, PattisseRaw, and her blog, love-fed. At that point I joined in on the conversation and we all exchanged information; I was excited to meet someone who was also living and sharing her healthy lifestyle, but more importantly someone who was incredibly positive.

I recently asked Christina to jot down some notes on what she does daily to stay so positive, and here is the list she made. I am incredibly proud that she references some of the methods I’ve already featured on Fresh Grit!

  • Practice gratitude: Whether I take one minute to acknowledge some of the things that I am grateful for or fifteen minutes it always feels good. It’s an instant pick me up especially when I catch my mind wandering off into the trap of not having enough or not being good enough.
  • Get outside: This is my daily vitamin, Rain or shine I must go outside! I love waking up and first thing going right outside when it’s calm and peaceful before the day gets busy! I’m always in instant appreciation for a bright new day, fresh air provided by the trees, and the beautiful birds that sings songs to me upon waking. Being outside, quiet with nature is a powerfully moving experience. I feel centered, inspired and infinite perhaps because in nature there are no walls, growth is abundant, and anything is possible!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast: I love starting each day with a juice, this helps me set the tone for my day, choosing to treat my mind and body with nutrients that encourage positive growth.
  • Exercise: At the very least I walk daily. Sometimes, I only make room for 15 minutes.  No matter how long or short I have to move to stay positive. I find moving my body helps me release energy that I am holding on to. I also find the moving my body helps fight fatigue, which can sometimes cause irritability, and mood swings. When your feeling blue it may be hard to do so but get to moving, chances are whatever feelings or emotions were weighing you down will have passed right through.
  • Breathe: Much like moving the body, breathing helps me to focus my mind on my breath therefor taking my mind off of distracting thought patterns that tend to interfere with my clarity or positive attitude. Break free from constant mind chatter by taking a few deep breaths and you will notice an instant reset.
  • Be aware of thoughts: By paying attention to my thoughts I am able to correct the ones that are not in alignment with my beliefs. For instance, if a negative thought passes through my mind instead of getting tangled up in it and possibly depressed by it, I can choose to acknowledge the thought as passing by, but I certainly do not need to feed it. If I don’t feed the negative thought it will starve and then I can replace the thought with something positive.
  • Refill my creative heart: When feeling a little less creative or in need of new inspiration I take these feelings as a sign to do something new. Check out an art show, look through cookbooks that I may not have ever considered before, take a different street when I walk. I use boredom or lack of new ideas as a gentle reminder to try something new, to go out and explore. This always helps me refill my creative well!
  • Create something: make time for creativity! Sometimes my creative time is also my mediation time. Just as you might make time for exercise, seeing friends, or eating, make time for creating. We all have great ideas and our ideas deserve some attention too. I find that I always feel fulfilled when I create whether it be a new recipe, painting or planting a new plant in my garden. Creativity is a birth-gift, why not share yours with the world?!
  • Doing kind things for others: Whether it’s buying a tape roll at the post office for the next customer to use or leaving a dessert in someone’s fridge I feel a great sense of joy when I do something for others. A great way to take my mind off of myself is wishing the best for those around me.
  • Walk with a smile and live out loud: I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to meet someone new all because I was smiling, wearing a bright outfit or simply because I said hello! I love walking around my neighborhood and taking a moment to say hi to people, if not with my words then with my smile. It’s amazing how a reciprocated smile can hug me straight in the heart.

Plants: Quintessential relaxation

Plants are like art; the greenery of leaves and vibrancy of flowers is gorgeous. Plant structures are superbly diversified and have amazing lines to contemplate; I often wonder how vines can stay upright and reach so far! I look forward to watering plants and pruning leaves; caring for anything living is gratifying.

Indoor plants are an especially important connection to nature in urban environments. Some benefits are that they filter the air for us, turning carbon dioxide to oxygen and even filtering out some of the pollution our society creates.  They are also interesting to observe over time as they grow and change. They go through cycles of growth, flowering and eventually death.

Because I don’t really enjoy that last part, I love having plants that will thrive for years; perennials as opposed to annuals. Yet these tulips I came across on Pinterest look gorgeous and I plan to give this project a try.

tulipMany plants are superbly easy to grow and need to be watered just a few times a month. The first plant I owned died early because I didn’t follow the growing instructions; I didn’t have a spot in our apartment with the right amount of light for it. But I’ve learned since then on how to better care for plants by buying the ones I can properly care for.

Just like with most things, you need to plan ahead to properly take care of a plant. I now seek out staff at a nursery to get advice on which plants will work best for the spot I want to put them in and the frequency with which I’m able to care for them.  Thereby I make sure that I can properly take care of the plants I keep.

Sunlight and water, resources that are available to most of us, are all we need to provide for plants in order for them to flourish in or around our homes, and even in the workplace. Surrounding ourselves with such greenery helps to relax and reduce the stress in our busy lives.

Cooking Basics from a Professional

Hundreds of cookbooks, websites an magazines feature quick meal ideas, but the most important thing is to start with basic skills so you can evaluate a recipe, and have the knowledge to not only follow it, but adapt it to your needs, the ingredients at hand, the tools at your disposal, and the tastes of your family. Add seasonality and freshness, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Read new recipes through and then think them through before you start, making sure you understand them. After a while, you’ll find ways to modify your favorites to make them your own. Check to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools and ingredients before you start.

Hone up on basic techniques

The first thing I teach my own students is how to hold a chef’s knife. Remember to hold your wrist straight, and hold the knife with thumb and first finger on either side of the blade, and the other three fingers curled around the handle and you’ll have better control. Here is a demo I found on Youtube from Chef Drew Tait.

knife-onion

The second thing to learn is how to cut an onion. Remember that the root end holds the whole thing together, so cut up to it, not through it. A lot of savory dishes start with a chopped onion. If you and your sharp knife can do that quickly and easily, you will have a quick start. Practice this basic technique until you are confident and you will become a better cook. Again, there lots of Youtube videos on the subject but there is a lot of misinformation out there and I could not find a perfect demo. Here’s the best (none are perfect!) video on how to cut an onion featuring Chef Curtis Stone. My only quibble: if you cut the stem end first, and stand the onion on that flat surface to cut in half, it’s safer than cutting through a round onion.

Choosing and maintaining knives

Keep your knives sharp, store your equipment logically so you can find it when you need it, and you’ll save a lot of time and work safer. Keep a sharpening steel in your knife block, and use it every day. There are numerous videos on how to do this. If you keep your knife steeled, it will keep its edge much longer.

If you don’t have a decent set of knives, go to one of the many cookery stores and get demos from the staff. Figure out what you like, what feels comfortable for you, and what you can afford. But start with knives that are sharp, and suited to the task at hand, and you will be a happier cook.

In my kitchen, because I have so many knives, I buy relatively inexpensive ones. The trade-off is that I need to sharpen more often, because they don’t hold their edge as well. Be sure to have high carbon steel, not stainless — it’s too hard to sharpen.

About Terry’s business: Paulding & Company

The Paulding & Company kitchen is located in Emeryville, California, one freeway exit from the Bay Bridge and is accessible by public transportation from San Francisco and the East Bay area. The 2400-square-foot, state-of-the-art kitchen and dining area was built in 2003 by Terry Paulding, as a combined teaching and catering facility. The kitchen is a warm, friendly, clean space that combines lots of room for group work and dining, with a professional catering kitchen set-up. Combining teaching and catering allows Terry to share her love of good food and her creativity in the kitchen with her students, her corporate team building clients, and her many catering clients.  For more about the company, click here.

Meditation

542256_10151030279261269_1022995346_nI am always grateful to my neighbor, Gretchen Brown, who lent me books on meditation and answered some questions I had after reading them. At the time, I was in middle school and entirely uncommunicative with my parents. Meditation helped me calm down on countless occasions after disagreements with them, as well as other family and friends. I’ve never maintained a steady, daily practice of meditation; I just do whatever works for me in the moment. I simply find a quiet time for it whenever I feel overwhelmed – some days I meditate several times.

One of the most direct paths to stress relief is through meditation because you have to relax your mind. For me, it is much easier to return to a stressful situation afterward and recognize that the situation isn’t that important in the scope of your existence. Often this fresh mindset helps me to resolve the problem much more quickly. Meditation helps me to press the reset button and approach issues from the beginning.

Meditation to me is about letting go of my inner dialogue and observing my breath without controlling it. By doing this, I put aside whatever is stressing me out, and allow my mind and body to relax. After a while I can generally let go of my focus on the breath and clear my mind. Even if this doesn’t happen, however, just observing my breath and letting go of any thoughts that pop up is calming.

Just as with other aspects of fitness and stress-relief, everybody is different. There are countless ways to meditate and everybody has to find their own way to inner peace. I highly recommend talking to someone in your life who has a meditation practice, and also finding out more about the basics.

Keep in mind, however, that whatever you find out is a guideline, not a definite path for you. This is why different sources outline a variety of meditative practices. Through continuous experimentation, you will be able to relax into yourself.

Go Outdoors

nature

nature

For as long as I can remember, I’ve gone outside at nearly any and every opportunity. Whether I’m sad, or happy, want to be alone or talk to someone, I will choose to go outdoors if it’s an option. I even hold work meetings outside when the weather is nice! Being outdoors and breathing fresh air has an invigorating effect that clears my mind and makes me want to smile – it’s a stress reliever.

In particular, I love going outdoors in the early morning or for sunset – when the light is golden and creates long, dramatic shadows. The air is often the most fresh then, and the sky changes colors. Experiencing these changes often make me think about the day that’s coming or going, and I will often contemplate about the world, whether it be just relevant to my life or global affairs. I’m often inspired by the beauty around me, and sometimes impressed by the forces with which nature can impose changes in the landscape, such as when it is incredibly windy, foggy or even crystal clear.

Scientific research confirms that spending time outdoors can be beneficial to our health, and there is a positive correlation between physical activity and time spent outside. For example, older adults are the least likely to spend time outdoors compared to other age groups – and they are also the least active.[1] Likewise, youth living in suburban areas are more likely to spend time outdoors than rural youth, and the time spent outdoors by these groups has a positive relationship with how much physical activity they tend to get. Ironically, the kids with the most nature surrounding them choose not to spend as much time in it![2] Even in highly polluted Beijing, spending time outdoors can benefit health, like your eyesight.[3]

Especially because we spend so much time sitting around for work, eating, watching entertainment and socializing, the outdoors provides us with a break from a regular schedule. Exposure to sunlight, wind, rain, temperature changes and various nature smells boosts our senses and reminds us to be thankful for the world in which we live.

One of my favorite American writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson dedicated a significant amount of his time to nature. Here is a quote I find particularly inspirational: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says,–he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight.” [4]

Cooking: Sans le stress

woman-dancing-in-the-kitchen-270-thumb-270x270Cooking at home is the only way that you can truly control what you eat, but many people find it stressful. Personally, I think cooking is fun, and I’ve developed some practical, and not-so practical habits that help to keep it that way.

Firstly, I always plan out time to cook or reheat food for dinner, depending on my schedule -and I do groceries ahead of time to last me the entire week.  If I know I’ll be busy during the week, then I pre-cook food and keep it ready in the fridge or even just pre-chop things so that they are ready for me to cook fresh yet quickly. Another thing I love doing is using the slow cooker: I simply throw in some raw food during lunch or breakfast, turn it on and have a meal to come home to! Similarly, I will pre-make breakfast or lunch beforehand if I expect to be rushed during those mealtimes.

Keeping the kitchen tidy on-the-go is another way I keep cooking stress-free. For example, I’ll wash a cutting board and knife right after using them, while whatever I chopped is cooking on the stove. I also wipe counters clean as I’m cooking, and I keep them clean by using a tray, plate or paper towel for food that might drip or crumble all over the place. These all go into the dishwasher as soon as I’m done using them! I’ll also sweep things on the floor to the side so that I don’t have to vacuum constantly yet don’t track foodstuffs all over the place.

The most important part of keeping the kitchen tidy though is having an organizational system – and sticking to it so that you can reach for something and find it ready to use! I recently moved all of my spatulas, wooden spoons and ladles into an open crock next to the stove, which has made them much easier to access than the drawer in which I used to keep them. This makes sense because I use them pretty much every time I cook.

Finally, a great way to reduce your boiling point is turning on some music and dancing around the kitchen. Pretty aprons, nice dishes and a bright cheery atmosphere can also make you want to cook more. So clean up your act, put some spice into your cooking habits and enjoy cooking sans le stress!