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More Tea Time

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I discovered another Tea Room in the San Diego area and had Afternoon Tea there today. The Aubrey Rose Tea Room is located in the old town area of La Mesa, CA. I recognized the area as one where we (my sister, her husband and my son) had attended an Oktoberfest celebration when my son was little – many, many years ago. It is a large venue with retail products, like tea pots, tea cups, strainers and tea, bordering the old fashioned dining areas. It was a charming touch to have a personalized reservation card at my fully prepped table.

Personalized Reservation Card

Personalized Reservation Card

Queen Victoria Afternoon Tea

Queen Victoria Afternoon Tea

The Aubrey Rose Tea Room - La Mesa, CA

The Aubrey Rose Tea Room – La Mesa, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will say that each of the tea rooms I visited sat me in a chair I least preferred when dining alone. Understandably, most people will tea with a friend or several friends, but I was on this mission to peak my creative side by focusing on the mixed media books I was reading while enjoying warm and iced tea with finger foods. Almost every location had the table set for me to face a wall, while one of the four had me with my back directly to the door. I sat where I preferred and the service was easily moved, but in retrospect I wonder if there was any thought given  to the best of two options for seating. For example, at Aubrey Rose I was to sit facing an L-shaped tea display with my back to everyone else in the shop. I chose instead the seat in front of the display so that I could look at the other people and see my server approaching. Is it just me or do people simply not think through (or better yet try out) the best seat options at a table usually set for 2 or 4?

I opted for the Queen Victoria Tea which started with a broccoli cream soup with mini croissant. The soup was delicious, which was good because the croissant lacked any flavor, making me presume they were store bought not handmade. The savory bites included a baked artichoke and cheese crostini, a sundried tomato swirl bite and a mini biscuit like scone. None of these items were terribly exciting, but I do love me a tea sandwich and the cucumber cream cheese and egg salad were both creamy and flavorful. My favorite part was the sweet lavender and lemon scone served with the best cream I’ve tasted and lemon curd. I tasted the scone first alone, then the scone with cream, then the scone with cream and lemon curd and, surprisingly, thought the lemon curd overpowered and was too sweet for the scone. My Cheeky Peach hot tea was delicious, but for my second pot I needed to switch to decaf, so I tried the Decaf Apricot Peach.

The service was excellent and the owner’s husband, he jokingly talked to a table nearby about being referred to as her husband, handles reservations and ensuring that service is satisfactory. It is definitely a welcoming spot and they give every effort to having you as a return patron. I did find a bit of humor on their website, as the “Now taking reservations for Mother’s Day” in July is either very ambitious or simply outdated. And the photos on their menu page look marvelous, but maybe that is a special tea like for Mother’s Day?

I’d love to return with a group of friends and spend a couple of hours chatting and drinking tea. The parking is limited and metered, so the longest a meter will take is 2 hours. Which means making that your time limit or running out to feed the meter. Possibly why their customers refer to the Aubrey Rose as a “two-hour mini-vacation.” Regardless of the parking situation, my preference,  both here and the at the other tea houses I visited, would be to stick with just the tea sandwiches – like cucumber dill or watercress, and salmon spread – and sweet scones with cream and jam or lemon curd. These, with the tea, of course, are my favorites. Adding soup and savory bites didn’t seem to be worth the extra cost to me. The mini desserts don’t do much for me either; most are often too sweet, at least after enjoying scones with cream!

So, overall, the best venues were outdoors on the patio under the canopy with the nice cool breeze surrounding us at Shakespeare Corner Shoppe and Tea Room and the Aubrey Rose Tea Room. While I liked the Coral Tree Tea House being given a lovely window view, again with a nice breeze, being a historical house, it was not as accessible as other locations. The best tea? I think each of the locales served great tea, with many options. I actually bought the Apricot Black Tea at Tea Upon Chatsworth. And the best food overall? Hands down, my favorite would be Shakespeare because of the sauces, spreads and flavors in all of their food. Which really shouldn’t surprise me since I like Shakespeare Pub’s food, like bbq pork shanks and french fries with curry sauce for dunking… to quote Rachel Ray: “Yum-o!”

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I lived in the South for half-a-dozen years in the mid-1990’s. One of my BFFs at the time, Linda, and I used to have workweek lunch dates (until the extra pounds from all that luscious food pointed us in the direction of Weight Watchers!). I’ve recently been reminiscing about the Glenwood Tea Room in Shreveport, LA. The patrons were mostly women, although if a guy had lunch there you could almost always bet that he ordered the Chicken and Wild Rice Crepe, which was the most substantial item on the menu. Personally, I love the tea sandwiches, in particular the watercress and cucumber ones. The whole tea room experience makes me feel dainty and feminine, which is pretty impressive considering I often think of myself as a bull in a china shop. Being a clutz was why my mom started me in ballet classes, which helped, but only as long as I was on stage… I could literally trip heading off stage after performing ballet, tap, toe and jazz dance.Glenwood Glenwood2

Glenwood was my first tea room experience and the first time I tried devonshire cream, lemon curd and scones… and I’ve loved them ever since. Our local Trader Joe’s grocery makes a box scone mix that is easy to make, moist and yummy. They also sell a great lemon curd, even though I’ve made it from scratch, too. There’s probably a simple answer to where to find devonshire cream for my scones, but it’s definitely better I don’t know about it.

So, recently, I decided to find and try out the local tea rooms in San Diego, CA. My first reservation was for tea and scones at the Coral Tree Tea House in the historical 1887 McConaughy House in Old Town Heritage Park. I took an art book from the library and read almost two-thirds of it, enjoying my tea (kept warm in a lovely silver tea warmer) and scones and walking away brimming with creative mixed media ideas I couldn’t wait to try out. Their website says that Sunday August 7th is National Sisters Day…  My sister lives in the Midwest, but if yours is nearby plan your own celebration, maybe even Afternoon Tea?

McConaughney House

Coral Tree Tea House logo Cream Tea 1

I was inspired to make three textured fruit paintings from that lovely afternoon sipping tea and reading about art.

A couple of weeks later, I visited Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe & Tea Room who promote a traditional UK Afternoon Tea. I have to say that the chutney style relish for the Sausage Roll was a new favorite. Actually, I think they call it the Branston Pickle and I meant to see if they sell it in the Corner Shoppe but later forgot about taking a jar home. I did pick up a bottle of Ribena Black Currant Juice for topping off a favorite hard cider (as served in the Shakespeare Pub next door). I also thoroughly enjoyed the roast beef with horseradish, the cucumber and the salmon spread tea sandwiches, and the outdoor patio venue with the lovely cool breeze.

Shakespeare Logo Shakespeare Afternoon Tea Shakespeare PatioI realized while reading the mixed media book of my choice during this afternoon tea that with photos I had taken of pieces I’ve already sold, I can make prints on canvas to sell in my Etsy shop, therefore while my original paintings may be gone, they aren’t forgotten or gone forever! I’m trying metal prints as well as prints on canvas. These are intensely gorgeous and I love the metal surface!

Today I headed to Point Loma for Tea Upon Chatsworth’s Queen Tea. I’d have to say that I felt a bit rushed to “get through” tea and be on my way. I was not very impressed with the warm eats, the scone was dry and I took most of the desserts home to eat later, but the chocolate mousse was a nice touch and I loved the tea! I even bought a bag of the Apricot Black Tea to make at home. I had a pot of that warm and an iced German Ginger herbal tea. The pot did not have a warmer so it was lukewarm before the end of tea. This was disappointing as it was delicious warm, but I added it into the remaining iced ginger tea and was thrilled with how much the flavor intensified.

On a different note entirely, drinking all that tea usually means a trip to the Ladies’ Room and my advice is to be sure to take your cell phone with you! Weird, huh? Well, I remember a recently closed scrapbooking store, The Making Place, in Escondido, CA, that had wonderful knick knacks and vintage pieces everywhere. There was plenty of inspiration to snap photos of, particularly the vintage photos in the restroom. So I’ve actually found that unique little spots like these often have kitchy decor in the restrooms and Tea Upon Chatsworth did not disappoint. A hand crocheted holder for the spare toilet paper roll, a magazine sized book of the Top 50 fav Norman Rockwell paintings, and a couple of colorful tea drinker paintings on the walls. Think Klimt or Matisse meets Israeli artist Isaac Maimon or teenage artist Dimitri Milan… a vibrant visual feast!

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And today’s art book revelation was an idea of how to repurpose the slide frames (and the photo negatives inside) into separate 2″ pieces of mini art and then adhere those in rows on a canvas. Should be fun to play around with different techniques and patterns!

TeaPainting2


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The Spark is ReIgnited!

This past year had been a bit of a challenge for me, as it has for many of us. I see, for example, the last time I wrote on my blog was 2015 just after my brother passed away from complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Since then, I’ve focused on taking care of myself, because, really, who else is going to do that for me, better than I will? I had a knee replacement and have been doing water aerobics and swimming laps several times a week. What a joy it is to be back in the water (must be the Aquarian in me?)!

Along with improved health, I’ve lit a fire under my creative side and have been happily creating new mixed media projects, many of which you can see in my Etsy online shop: CarlasCraft.etsy.com but, of course, I plan to share some with you right now – I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them!


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The Never-ending Challenge of Family, Part 1

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As it is Memorial Day, and we stop to thank our veterans and those who have selflessly served us and given for us, I can’t help thinking of my younger brother who passed away about a month ago.

This post will be a bit off from my usual subjects of art or food, but don’t let that stop you from reading! I think many of us will admit to having grown up in a dysfunctional family. I know I will! I still remember my Abnormal Psychology class where the first discussion was to try to define normal. Okay, so we learned there is no “normal” and applying that to my childhood there wasn’t much “functional” in our family life.

My younger brother was diagnosed with juvenile-onset (Type I) diabetes when he was 10. I remember that it was at the holidays because they let him come home for Christmas morning with the promise that he not eat anything while there. Well the story goes that, during his hospital stay, the doctor and our mom were talking outside my brother’s hospital room and my brother overheard their conversation. The doctor supposedly told mom that my brother would most likely not live past 30; now remember, this was the early 70’s. The story my brother tells is that he decided to enjoy his life while he was here and he used this to substantiate not taking care of himself, not eating right (he would drink a Big Gulp of Pepsi – no, not diet – most mornings), not exercising, drinking and doing drugs… a cautionary tale, for certain, when one has access to syringes for insulin use, they can also easily double for drug use.

This past decade showed the results of his lack of care, and lack of accountability for his health and his situation. He was on dialysis, then he was blessed with a kidney transplant, then if his MediCal had been in effect he could have had a double transplant and received a new pancreas (wow! what a difference that would’ve made).  Then he had one leg amputated below the knee and about 6 months later the other leg, too. He was wheelchair bound and unwilling to help himself in any recognizable way. Due to neuropathy, his hands became useless curled-in claws; he was for awhile able to use a spoon to feed himself, but mostly needed round-the-clock care.

Throughout this time, he was to put it as politely as possible: a curmudgeon. No one, and I mean, no one wanted to be around him. He was a victim and he made sure everyone was as miserable as he was. In many respects, he because the junior version of our father. He was also in a lot of pain as he had wounds that were not healing and spent the majority of these past couple of years in the hospital. The care facility had, with this last trip to the hospital, informed us that he was no longer welcome there and could not return.

Growing up, I found myself being a die-hard optimist. Whenever I would get into a pity party, I would think about how lucky I was; I wasn’t, for example, in a wheelchair, blind, deaf or suffering from any other inability to care for myself and others. There were times I wanted to shake my brother and yell at him Cher’s famous movie line, “Snap out of it!” I still recall the Christmas Eve dinner out at a local Chinese buffet with mom and my brother when I repeated the infamous Dr. Phil line to him, “And how’s that working for you?” Surprisingly, that stopped his whining in it’s tracks (at least for the remainder of the meal)…. on an aside, he later starting attending NA, which help him build friendships and gave his life some purpose.

He was the type of person who had always been bailed out by someone and never took responsibility for his own life or actions. I had loaned him money, given him advice, and even gotten a lawyer acquaintance to take on a case to defend him when I later learned he was guilty and had lied to me! My parents, too, had gotten him out of every conceivable situation he could get himself into, giving him money or letting him move back in with them for the last several years.

And he was cantankerous, obnoxious, and had reverted back to a child in many ways; throwing temper trantrums from his wheelchair like he was a 4-year-old. In the end, he managed to push everyone away from him. My sister, who lives in Omaha, was the one to tell me he was back in the hospital and not doing well. I was his only living relative in the San Diego area. So, guilt, I guess, made me and my son drive to the hospital to see him the night they decided to take him off life support.

I’d spoken to the nurse caring for him and she knew we were on our way. His heart was not going to keep him going much longer and they were discussing a move to hospice. It was a Sunday night and hospital visiting hours were ending at 8:00 p.m. however she said we could come and stay as long as we wanted. When we arrived one of the nurses asked when I had last seen my brother. This took me back and with a lump in my throat I said that it had been about 2 years. The breathing apparatus was horrible, keeping his jaw propped wide open so that he could breathe. I know that he recognized my voice, although I still wonder if the fact that as I age I sound more like our mother and maybe he mistook me for her. I know that he recognized my son’s crazy afro curls. But, he could not speak.

He could express pain, which he was in a lot of with wounds on his leg stumps which weren’t healing. He was being given morphine, which we knew gave him hallucinations, making him think people were going to throw him out of where he was living or that he was being kept against his will, etc. But at this point, I don’t know how much he knew about what was going on with him. We talked to him and went with him as they changed floors for the continuous care making him as comfortable as possible.

Seeing my brother this way broke my heart. It’s hard to be angry with someone you love when they are this helpless. Also, the fact that he could not talk back, made him easier to be around (wry smile here while wiping tears off my face). I had so many emotions coursing through me all I did on the drive home was cry. I took the next day off and stayed in bed grieving. Tuesday night after work I wanted to see him again. They had decided he would not make the transition to hospice and were keeping him in the hospital.

I kept thinking I would not want to die alone and knew that none of his friends had gone to see him. I have to admit the shock when seeing him. He was wearing a green hospital gown that I can only describe as “fresh” green. It wasn’t a pale, washed-out hospital gown but a cheery color against the stark white sheets and pillowcase. He was asleep, unconscious, unresponsive, and heavily medicated. As I sat on the hospital bed with him, his breathing would stop for what seemed like long periods of time and my eyes would widen wondering if he was gone, but then he’d gasp and start breathing again.

He did not respond to my voice, as far as I could recognize, or my touch. I started to tell him stories of our childhood growing up in Prairie Lane, an Omaha neighborhood. Remember when we used to play Red Rover using the sidewalk in the middle of the front lawn as the dividing line in any yard game? Remember, back before childproof lids, we would mix baking soda and vinegar in empty pill bottles, put them in the middle of the street and then run like mad to get away before they exploded everywhere? Remember when you took my bike and wrecked it, losing your 2 front teeth? Remember when you shot a bottle rocket off from a soda bottle you held in your outstretched hand and it boomeranged back at you, burning you in the stomach? Remember the animals we had, what a menagerie! Remember when I realized what was actually in that foil-wrapped package in the freezer labelled “Snake Food”… well, you said, what did I think you were doing with the mice? Ewwww.

By this time, tears were streaming down my face and I no longer tried to stop them, just let them fall. My brother seemed so child-like laying in the hospital bed and peaceful. All my anger and resentment towards him evaporated; forgiven.

I don’t know whether it was for him or for me, but I sang lullabies to him, the ones mom used to sing to us at bedtime, starting with his favorite: Puff the Magic Dragon. Then, I Gave My Love a Cherry, 14 Angels Guard My Sleep, All the Pretty Little Ponies, and yes, Twinkle Twinkle. I have no idea if he heard, sensed, or even knew I was there, but that was the last time I saw my younger brother alive. His heart stopped the next morning. The hospital never called me as the written directions they had were to let mom know. My sister then sent me a text.

Rest in peace, little bro.


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A Visual Feast

Last fall I signed up for a week-long Artist’s Retreat in Puerto Vallarata. It was one of those rare (very rare, actually) decisions where I put myself first and escaped from work and home and the everyday. Arriving on a Sunday, with my largest bag stuffed with art supplies, I found myself at the Hacienda Mosaico searching for a way in. Eventually, I realized that the hanger wire poking through the stucco wall was a door bell, connected to an internal bell that let those inside my new haven know that I had arrived.

Once inside, the stucco’d walls encased an amazing world of tropical trees and flowers, a charming blue pool and several casitas. We had a wonderful chef who served us amazing breakfasts at 9 a.m. and late lunches at 2 p.m. which I usually followed with a swim to cool off. We eventually went out on the town between 8 and 9 p.m. for a bite or celebratory dinner on the beach, our toes wiggling in the cool sand surrounded by tiki torches. The hacienda is filled with mosaic and brightly colored art.

Our week included art classes and free creative time where we share ideas with each other and experimented with color, texture and products. A trip into town to a little art supply store and to purchase milagros, Spanish charms, and sundresses. Another trip one evening for the weekly Art Walk, a musical event in front of the Cathedral, and to watch the sun set. Here’s what I completed during my little reality escape:

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The Blue Circle Goes Round and Round

I’m an impatient person. I admit it. When things work quickly and then they don’t, I get frustrated. When the slow down continues, I get annoyed. At the office where I work, they refurbish laptops for employee use. In the last year, I was on my fourth refurb. The little blue circle going round and round on my screen spends far too much time there. I just want it to go away!

The IT tech doubled the memory on my latest laptop. I saw no improvement. Yes, I have multiple files, emails, documents and programs open simultaneously and I start trying to close things I’m not currently working on or not trying to remember to get back to working on with the hopes that the processing time will improve. But it takes too much time, everything freezes and eventually, I lose all patience and Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Rebooting takes forever, too, probably because of the protective programs employers are forced to use to mitigate the possible risks of viruses and information loss. I also think the SmartCard required to open encrypted or signed emails and documents doesn’t work well, either, and I know it adds to the slowdown.

To be honest, I’d be willing to pay for a new laptop myself if that would resolve the processing time. I recently spent a couple of hours showing a new recruiter how to maneuver in our systems and networks to help her do her job and she witnessed how slow my laptop runs. It was January 2nd, so we thought that maybe the IT team was doing maintenance or upgrades since most of our employees had taken the day off, but being temp employees, she and I were one of the few rattling around downstairs. Regardless, I wanted to scream by the time I logged off and re-booted the laptop.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that I care. If I didn’t care or if I could find a way not to care, then it probably wouldn’t bother me so much. Some people might think: ” Who cares what I do? I’m getting paid, right? If they pay me to wait for the computer, I wait for the computer.” Well, that’s not me. I think about all the things I could be doing if the computer would work with me and not against me. And worrying about it only compounds my angst.

So, what would help? Give me something to punch or kick or poke repeatedly at with my finger. The IT guys? My boss? Well, no, I was thinking something more productive… do they still sell these punching bag things where you put your foot on their cardboard feet and it rebounds after you punch it? I want one of those in the office. Forget stress management techniques… give me a a Bozo punching bag – yee haw!


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Coffee’s Lost it’s Flavor

Ever run into a patch of time when that wonderful first morning cup of coffee just don’t taste as wonderful as it usually does? For me, it’s like coffee has lost it’s flavor. I keep trying a cup every morning in the office, hoping for a return to the taste that matches the marvelous aroma when it’s brewing. But without success. So, you think it may be the brand. Maybe, like shampoo, you need to switch brands every couple of months and go back to your favorite after a two-week “diet” to fall in love with its effect again. So, you try that; no luck. Then you think, maybe you need a barista to brew you an espresso, so you stop in your local neighborhood Starbucks and order your usual soy latte, but even that isn’t right. Did they change soy milk brands again? It tastes sweet and each time they’ve changed brands over the past decade, the new brand has more sugar grams than the previous brand; maybe the chain is saving money, to the detriment of our blood sugar levels, thank you very much.

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So, coffee’s lost it’s flavor. It’s probably more a symptom of something else than a reality. Putting things off. Thinking about doing things, but not much more than just thinking about them. You find a TV series on Netflix that intrigues you, and you watch from Season 1 through Season 4, episode after episode in marathon fascination. You should be doing something else; you should be doing anything. You play mind games: do the dishes, then you can watch an episode; start the laundry and do that while watching, you can pause the thing, you remind yourself; steam a couple of artichokes for workday lunches, and watch an episode; read a chapter of the book you’re using in teaching that class at the university one night a week or grade some assignments on Blackboard.

In my case, it’s more like I prime a canvas and then stare at it. I could create a project and teach a class at the local independent arts and craft store; there are fewer and fewer of those in the metropolitan area and it’s important to support those still open to keep from losing them, too. I have lots of projects at work to complete, but don’t feel like I’m contributing much even once they’re done. The project I was hired to do has been put on hold, so I feel unchallenged; tough to motivate myself. I can step back and take a strategic view and know what at least our department needs to focus on, but everyone seems content to deal with the mundane routine, the pattern of continuing to work ineffectively and inefficiently. Where’s the 3-year plan? Where’s the 5-year plan? I’m tired of everyone being reactive; be proactive or go home.

Is this apathy? I don’t recognize it. It’s not familiar to me. This is apathy, right? Wait it out and it will go away, right? Daniel Goleman writes about the secret antidote for apathy:

Integrate to Motivate

One way to create a sense of community is to integrate the various moving parts of an organization as best you can. Acknowledge that we’re in this together. We’re not in competition with one another. Recognize thateach person brings something to the table to enhance the whole organization.

When you start to see the different workers and departments as part of a whole, you’re better able to link them together. They’re not just disparate elements. Just like a choir singing in harmony, a company that’s integrated will generate a vital, energized way of being.

When a company is not integrated it’s going to move either into rigidity—staleness, lack of productivity and innovation—or it’s going to move to chaos, where things are confusing, and there are abrupt, unpredictable shifts.

I predict my work atmosphere will move toward chaos. I guess I’ll need to put down the laptop and the remote to keep my personal life from heading in the same direction.