Monday, November 16, 2020

24 Days of Tea Advent Calendar and 12 Days of Tea Gift Set

A complimentary Tea Advent Calendar and 12 Days of Tea Gift Set was provided to enable this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. 

When I was a kid, I was not a fan of tea. I'm not sure where or when I had had it but I remember thinking that it was without flavor and left a 'dry' aftertaste in my mouth. I knew that I also had tried and didn't care for sun tea. My feelings about hot tea changed when I was in high school. I had a really good friend that was a fan of tea and when I was at her house to work on a project or doing homework, she would often times drink tea but it wasn't plain tea. Rather she was always drinking different flavors and the aroma was enticing. I think the first tea that she had me try was a peppermint tea around the holidays. There was something that was so good about the fresh pop of the flavor. She also introduced me to apple cinnamon, lemon, and probably a few other flavors.

As I got older, I became more adventurous and liked to try new flavors. Dining out, hotel breakfast bars, and offerings at business meetings were the easiest places to try new flavors and further experience tea. There are a few that are definitely not for me and I have a tendency to primarily purchase herbal teas. I enjoy a mix of loose tea and tea bags. I like the flexibility to adjust the intensity of the tea with loose tea but there is an on the go convenience to bag tea. My tea making supplies expanded with time too. I have a tea kettle for boiling water. I have both a ball infuser that screws together and a snap ball tea strainer. One year for Christmas, I received a carafe with a center infuser that allows me to make several cups at once. A few years ago, I picked up a ToastTEA travel tea infuser from Adagio tea which makes taking loose tea on teh go a little easier.

Winter is my favorite hot tea season and it is my go to beverage when I am looking for something warm in the afternoon or evening. Lately, I have been preparing myself a mug of tea after the work day winds down. Being at home, makes the transition a little different but I have found that putting up my feet and sipping on tea is such a great way to relax and unwind. I think that with all that is going on, the ability to take a few minutes of down time and relax is an important thing for mental health.

If you are looking for a gift for someone on your list, check out these two items from Adagio tea. The 12 Days of Christmas Tea Gift Set comes with 12 varieties of tea, each in it's own tin that you can hang from your tea or stack for a cute ornament image. I love that they are each ornaments that you can hang in your tree. How fun it would be to seek each numbered tin on the tree. The teas include: White Pear, Rooibos Peacan Turtle, Lavender Lemon, Candy Cane, Golden Monkey, Jasmine Pheonix Pearls, Blue Mango, Cream, Cha Cha, Earl Grey Bravo, Fruit Medley, Rooibos Nutcracker. I'm curious to see what Golden Monkey is and the Rooibos Nutcracker I am expecting to love. Of course, it not only makes a great gift for the poeple on your list but you may also decide to make it a gift for yourself and experience the twelve flavors.

Looking for a unique Advent calendar? This Tea Advent Calendar from Adagio makes an 8 oz serving of tea each day, as you count down to the holidays.
It gets the thumbs up from my daughter, as she noted, the numbers are not in order, which from her point of view makes for a better Advent calendar.
I was thinking that buying one for your friends and family, could be a fun way for everyone to connect through a common experience. Enjoying a cup of the same tea while video chatting with your friends or family could help bring your together in a year where there is real potential that more families are apart during this time of year than normal. With 24 unique teas, you will have the chance to try many flavors. If you are enjoying it as a group, perhaps you could make a chart and rate the groups' favorites. The added bonus is that you would then have insite and could order more of their favorite tea as a gift in the future.

Do you have a favorite variety or flavor of tea? Who in your family would enjoy these gifts?

A complimentary Tea Advent Calendar and 12 Days of Tea Gift Set was provided to enable this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Just Under 6 Weeks to Christmas!

For as long as 2020 has felt, it is so crazy to think that Christmas is less than 6 weeks away. I think I am ready to start getting out Christmas decorations and adding a little extra cheer. There are already a handful of houses where I have seen Christmas lights and other decorations and it makes me smile.

I expect the holidays will feel different this year. We don't often travel for Thanksgiving, so it will probably be similar for us, with the exception of no plans for Black Friday shopping. Sales have started early this year, which I guess has been nice. When my mixer that had served me well for 25 years stopped working a few weeks ago, I was able to take advantage of a Black Friday deal at Target to pick one up without even going in the store. In fact, I imagine a lot more of my shopping will be online this year. I have been doing a majority of my shopping online with shipping or curbside services since March. I have always been a look and see shopper, so this was quite an adjustment for me. I have returned to buying produce in person because the items I was getting through pick up services were not to my liking.

The gatherings that normally fill my schedule for Christmas will look a lot different this year. The normal outings with girlfriends and friends, I assume will fall to the wayside this year, especially if our governor decides to close restaurants for 4-6 weeks as is currently being speculated. There won't be carry ins or outings for work. I assume that the extended family, for the first time in my life, will not be planning a family get together with family, food, and gifts. It is always a great time, a chance to see cousins that I don't get to see through out the year. With over 100 people though, it just isn't likely. Assuming that it makes sense, we do hope to see my family over the holidays for a family dinner after the holidays.

I think that gifts might be a little different this year. In part, the difference will be driven by shopping online. Plus, as the kids get older, their lists of wants and needs seems to be getting smaller. I have turned back on my Gift Guide link on the side bar. It will lead you to not only new posts from this year but ideas that I have shared over the years. I continue to stand by my approach of Foster Imagination, Stimulate Creativity, Challenge Their Problem Solving and Stretch Their Minds. I am a big fan of experiences, over things but that might be harder this year with concerts, plays, musicals, escape rooms, laser tag, and other like things being postponed/closed.

How do you shop? How will your plans change this year?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Plans We Made by Kathryn Cushman and Lauren Beccue

A complimentary copy of the book was provided to enable this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. 

When I first heard of the new book from Kathryn Cushman and Lauren Beccue called The Plans We Made, this quote came to mind:

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." -- Robert Burns

I was immediately intrigued by the title and wondered what type of an adventure we might be in for. I decided it was a book that I must read.

Suffice to say, I was quickly drawn in to the story and as is often the case, found myself wanting to read just a little more before putting it down. It translated to a couple of later nights and a few lunch hours where I was reluctant to get back to work.

I enjoyed getting to know the two (although not called out I think there were actually three) main characters. I was so disappointed in Caroline's fiance and his assumption that she would simply follow him wherever he went regardless of her own dreams and desires and when this perspective didn't change even after a broken engagement, I was not only mad at him but frustrated with her willingness to consider accepting less than what she deserved. It was good though to witness the growth that she had and watch as Caroline came to learn more about herself and her value. Linda was a strong character who recognized that she had to be stronger and vulnerable to do the right things and open up about the secrets that she had kept from absolutely everyone. What a tough spot, the relief she could finally feel by sharing something that no one else has known about her was well offset by the ripples that revealing it caused in her family and community. Chris was the third main character in the story. I loved the foil that he provided to Caroline. They simply were fun together, even though they were on opposite sides with their respecitve employers in the battle for a historic home, there was a nice balance in how they each pushed the other to be better and to be courageous in taking the next steps that each faced as they grew and put their faith in God.

Despite things not turning out the way you might expect, it is refreshing to know that things can still turn out in a way that works.

Many plans are in a man's mind, But it is the LORD'S purpose for him that will stand (be carried out). -- Proverbs 19:21

If you are looking for a story that brings together love, loss and growth with a warm and endearing group of individuals, this is one book that is definitely worth checking out.
About the Book
When past secrets hold the only key to hope for the future… Caroline Chapman is reeling from a broken engagement. Determined to start again, she moves cross-country for her dream job of planning events in the historical mansions of Newport, Rhode Island. Just as her life is getting back on track, she gets an email that shakes her very foundations.

Linda Riley’s life looks picture perfect - a wonderful husband, two great kids, involved in church and the community. Then comes the diagnosis that shatters the facade. In order to save her son’s life, she must reveal secrets that can rip everything apart.

Connected by more than painful circumstances, these two women discover a sacred bond. In this beautiful story of love, loss, and the fight for life, Caroline and Linda experience the reality that life doesn’t always go according to The Plans We Made.

About the Authors
Kathryn Cushman graduated with a degree in pharmacy from Samford University. After hanging up her lab coat, she shifted her focus toward writing. Her previous works have received multiple nominations for both the Carol Award and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. The Plans We Made is her tenth published novel. Learn more at Follow Kathryn on Facebook (@authorkathryncushman) and Instagram (katiecushman1).

Lauren Beccue graduated from Holy Cross with a BA in English and now lives with her family in Santa Barbara. She writes about faith and family, with an emphasis on agricultural passages of the Bible. This is her first novel. Learn more at Follow Lauren on Facebook (@beccue.lauren) and Instagram (@lauren_beccue).

You can check out the trailer for the book here: Enter to win your own copy of the book here:a Rafflecopter giveaway If you pick up a copy on your own online or your local book store, be sure to participate in the author's giveaway:
MAKE YOUR PLANS IN PENCIL! Now, go buy your copy of The Plans We Made online or at a local bookstore, then be sure to head to Lauren’s website to claim your bonus freebie! THREE CUSTOM PENCILS: Make Your Plans in Pencil The Plans We Made Proverbs 19:21 Just contact Lauren with your name, address, and where you purchased the book, and she’ll send you a set. That's it! (US only and get 'em while they last.)
A complimentary copy of the book was provided to enable this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. 

210 Days - A Habit Times 10?

Back in the spring, we things started to shut down, I was concerned that I needed some routine in my life. I was unemployed and soon my kids were going to be home all day, every day for at least a while. (It turned out they were home for the rest of the school year but even when they started 'school' online there was little routine to what they were doing.) The reality of Schmursday was about to be very real for us. Family dinners each night (in spite of crazy schedules for other meals), semi-standard bedtimes (maybe not normal but at least consistent) and a daily walk were my best stab at having routine.

Little did I know when I started my plan to walk at least 30 minutes a day that I would be sitting here in the fall, having completed my 210th day in a row yesterday. It feels good. I have always heard it takes 21 days of repition to make a habit and I can tell you that having walked that many days consistently, I don't want to not walk. Even when it would be easier to just chill and not worry about it, I still recognize that I need to find a time to get out there. I would hate for a silly reason to be the reason that my streak comes to an end...that is serious motivation.

I would say that over 95% of my walks have been over the same space, around my neighborhood. I have 'met' many other people that live in my neighborhood and although I haven't had an extended conversation with them, they are a friendly and familiar face when we cross paths on our individual journeys or while they are working in their yards. I have come to meet most of the neighborhood dogs and know which ones are a little too yippy, which ones don't like people walking near their yards and which ones are so well behaved, patient and kind. I have watched the flowers, tress and bushes through three seasons. There are some really pretty plants that I will consider next time I update my landscaping.

The few not around my nieghborhood were to the ice cream shop with my husband; twice around the pool while my daughter was at practice; once around a park with my brother, his wife and our girls and once with his wife near their house; twice around the car dealership while my car was being serviced for a warranty issue; and once around the hotel while traveling for a night.

Most of the time, my weather has been good. Sure, I have adapted to morning, afternoon or evening to hit the 'best' weather for the time of year or on a daily basis. I had one walk where there were a few pop up showers and I had to pause under a tree for a while (timer paused) and then continued my journey tree to tree to maximize my walk time and to keep reasonably dry. I had one wear I simply didn't have enough time and had to finish the last 5 minutes walking a loop around my first floor.

My committment was at least 30 minutes and I have walked anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, with the majority around 45-50 minutes.

I am glad that I made the committment and have stuck with it. It really does feel good. I know that it has been a huge help mentally - a chance to get away from things and decompress. I know that each day, I am walking hills and getting my heart rate elevated and helping to keep myself healthy. When my friends joke about the Covid 20, I know that my walking consistently has offset my less than stellar eating and drinking habits over the past seven plus months. I know that working remote I simply don't get the steps I would at the office - to/from car, to/from coffee pot, to/from meetings, and so on. It used to be that on a typical day I would get 10K at the office without a walk and now, I'm not always able to get that many even with a walk. My hope is that I will keep up the walking even as other parts of life return to normal and I can couple improved eating, a more active day and my walks to help me lose weight too.

This is one habit that I hope I can keep up for the long term. What new habits do you have?

Monday, August 17, 2020

Game Night - Telestrations Upside Drawn

As a participant in the Tryazon Telestrations Upside Drawn party, I received an Upside Drawn party pack which included two copies of the game and coupons to buy the game to share with my guests. All opinions expressed are my own.
I love to host a good gathering. There is a lot of work that goes into planning and hosting a gathering but I enjoy it. Finding the right food for the event, preparing the house for the arrival and planning the preparation of the food, so that it all comes together at the right time in the right way. I enjoy it and the sense of satisfaction when it all comes together. With Covid those gatherings have all but disappeared from our social calendar. We have had a few bonfires with friends, where we can all sit socially distant and visit, relax and enjoy each other's company. Everyone has brought their own drinks, snacks and chairs. 

This weekend we extended our gathering to include a cookout and plans for a small game night. All planned for outside where we could rely on the benefits of sunlight and the lack of close quarters. We kept the cookout simple with burgers, chicken and hot dogs. For sides, we had garden veggies, fruit, macaroni salad, and salad. We also had chips with homemade onion dip, fresh garden salsa and a jalepeno dip. For dessert, we went Disney inspired options. We made chocolate cupcakes with chocoalte hazelnut buttercream frotsting. Our friends brought their soft serve maker and Dole whip mix so we could all enjoy Dole Whips. And, of course, with a bonfire planned to cap the evening, we had all the makings for S'mores. 

As with most plans, we had to make some adjustments. As we approached the day, we confirmed that some were unable to join. I forgot to buy watermelon, so fruit was scratched from the menu. Then, the day of the event, as we were finishing up the cookout portion, we were concerned briefly about rain as the cloud cover increased and the sky darkened. It didn't rain but we wound up having to relocate to the front of the house to follow the sun and the warmth when the non-rain cold front passed through and the temperatures dropped. 

 It was so nice to have an event to plan. It was so nice to hang out and visit with friends. As sometimes happened, we spent less time than planned playing games because we got caught up in visiting and eating! Fortunately, my daughter had played the games many times with friends and was able to easily explain the game and roles that everyone on the team would play. Telestrations Upside Drawn

is a unique in that the artist is one of the guessers. They don't know what they are drawing but rather are taking instruction from the guide as they move the drawing board under the marker, providing up or down instructions telling the artist to lift or lower the marker back to the board. Needless to say, even more so than other drawing games, the pictures can be pretty interesting as a result and lead to laughter and kidding when the answer is learned. Fortunately, there are hints along the side of the board that you can guide the board to (be sure to have the marker up as you move so you don't cross thorugh the drawing). The game is enjoyable but I will say that I think I still prefer the original Telestrations game - the 'telephone' game of drawing and guessing has been the center piece of many game nights at our house over the years. 

All in all, it was a good night. The group was smaller than expected. The cupcakes were a big hit. The bonfire was enjoyable and I even got to have a couple of toasted marshmallows, even if it was after the guests left. We even had a bonus copy of the game that we got to share with friends to enjoy at their own game nights.

What are some of your favorite games to play with friends?  You can find Upside Drawn at Amazon and Target.

As a participant in the Tryazon Telestrations Upside Drawn party, I received an Upside Drawn party pack which included two copies of the game and coupons to buy the game to share with my guests. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Fitness Goals - Staying Active!

Sometimes it can be hard to maintain consistency in working out. For me, it is usually because life happens and I'm busy or up late or have to be somewhere early. I have generally had success with morning workouts. When the kids were little, if I got up before them I could get my workout in before really starting the day. I have done it on my own and taken classes. I enjoy the accountability of a class. When others ask "where were you" when you miss a day, it makes me think twice about missing without a good reason. 

With Covid19, there wasn't much of 'life' getting in the way. Everything that we normally were busy with seemed to one by one close or get cancelled. But, I did have to be on my own the past 5 months to work out. In our area the schools closed 151 days ago and the Y cancelled classes and the eventually fully closed for 12 weeks 148 days ago. Even when they reopened, the group classes did not return. 

When the schools closed and knowing that the Y had been cancelling classes, I made an assumption that the Y would likely close, so I decided to make a commitment to make it outside for a 30 minute walk each day. I needed to have something to keep me active, something to allow me to decompress from all the news and continuous fear that seemed to be presented and with everyone home all day, every day, I needed some me time. Yesterday marked 150 days in a row that I have managed to successfully complete at least a 30 minute walk. Probably 90% of those walks have been within my own neighborhood. I started at 30 minutes but stretched it to 50 minutes most days. I have walked any time of day from first thing in the morning until the sun was setting. I walked in the snow and rain, under sunny skies and cloudy skies, in the heat and the cold. Most days, even with weather, I was able to find a 30 minute break in the precipitation where I could get in my walk. There was one day where my timing was off and I walked the last 10 minutes by circling the rooms on my first floor over and over. It feels good to have made the commitment and stuck to it. I think my next target is 183 days (1/2 a year) and then likely 200 days will be my next target. How long will I continue? I don't know. It will be a sad day when I can't fit in the walk and my streak comes to an much like others asking me "where were you" I think the fact that I have such a long streak, I will think twice before I just decide to skip a day. 

Before and after closures, my other primary activity this year has been swimming. I swam a few times in December but really started swimming regularly at the beginning of the calendar year. The YMCA posted about their 100 Mile Swim Club (with a 150 mile anniversary challenge). When the Y closed in March, I had been on pace to complete the first 100 miles by the end of March. When they finally reopened in June, they had limited hours, were limiting total time in the pool to one hour and limiting one swimmer per lane. In addition, I fortunately was starting a new job which meant less time available to swim. The good news is I was still able to complete my first 100 miles by the end of July. 3,520 laps (yup, down and back). I hadn't swam with consistency or purpose for almost 30 years, back when I swam on a team. It felt so good to be back in the water. I missed it when the Y was closed and am glad to have it back...even though I generally only make it 1 or 2 days each week. I am still on target to reach the 150 mile challenge by the end of the calendar year. 

How have you been staying active? Have you any streaks or accomplishments that you are celebrating?