POSTCARD TEAS - THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN LONDON ?

One of the reasons I love London (and Paris) - No matter how many trips I make and how at home I feel in the city (especially London), it always has surprise up its sleeve. An undiscovered spot grabs my heart and makes me fall in love with the city all over. On my last trip to London, that place was Postcard Teas. I spent an entire morning in the store. If you have seen my hour to hour travel itinerary or travelled with me - you know a place has got to be special to take up valuable exploration time. On a cold Christmas eve, eve (yep, thats a thing) - I braved the crowds on Oxford Street/New Bond street in search of the store (located on Dering street just off New Bond street).

As soon as I entered, I was welcomed with warmth, it felt like we we old friends.  There were a few customers in the store, I waited my turn and got chatting with a couple sat at the tea table. Both of them were in music, the lady was originally from New Orleans, LA. Being an ex-Louisiana dweller, we chatted about good ole days in Louisiana - the people, the food and we chatted about about tea.  Just then, Tim (the owner) delivered freshly brewed pot of tea to the table and they graciously invited me to share.   I was reading the book "Quiet" at the time (still reading it) and the guy mentioned he had recently read it; we discussed the merits of the premise of the book over tea. They recommended some of their favorite teas in the store and raved about how much they loved Postcard tea as they headed off.  After my time in the store, I completely agree with them and have not stopped recommending Postcard Teas to friends, family (and a few strangers). 

Just then Marie (one of attendants) freed up a bit and we spent some time chatting about tea. There were so many offering of tea, I needed recommendations. We talked about my tea preferences and tastes and she recommended the Assam Chai from India. I asked to sample one of their black tea offering - Tim gladly obliged. He brewed me a cup of supernatural black (a Japanese black tea) and It was perfection in a cup. I sat at the tea table, blissfully sipping my tea - I watched as they intereacted with each customer with warmth and kindness; Tim shared stories of some of the local farms where their tea is sourced. One thing I found interesting - tea sourced from small farms (less than 15 acres), so a lot of care goes into growing the tea which means you are getting authentic, high quality tea. That is evident in every cup.

I picked up a few tips on how to brew the perfect cup of tea - including the importance of water quality. Now it was time to make my picks - I wanted everything but decided on four - Supernatural Black, Assam Chia; Beijing breakfast (recommened to me by the couple I met). I asked Tim for a green tea option - he had a few recommendation. I chose the Nokcha from Hwagae Valley in Korea. I had such a lovely morning at Postcard teas, I could have stayed another few hours but was running late for my afternoon appointment at Shoryu.

I have brewed several pots of each and these are the best teas. This is one of my favorite places in London and exploration be barred - I see a lot of mornings spent here on subsequent visits to London town and that is just fine by me. If you are ever in these parts (even if you are not gone hole about tea like I am) - make time to visit, meet the owner and staff. They are some of the warmest people I ever met.

THIS IDEA OF TEMPTATION BUNDLING AND HOW IT HAS HELPED MY FITNESS JOURNEY

A very different post from what you are used to seeing in this space - but I hope you will find this post useful.  I first stumbled on this concept listening to an episode of Freakonomics - When willpower isn't enough. Katy Milkman (who I think coined the term) describes it as this idea that you can make it easier to perform a behavior that is good for you in the long-run by combining it with a behavior that feels good in the short-run. According to Katy, "You are essentially bundling behaviors you are tempted to do with behaviors that you should do, but often neglect" 

In the Freakonomics episode which aired in March 2015, she used the analogy of working out and watching her favorite shows. Her study for this concept was also focused on exercise patterns (clearly a lot of us struggle with motivation for gym time). A few other examples of temptation bundling - only get a pedicure while processing overdue work emails (I should try that one) or only watch your favorite shows while doing household chores.

When I heard the episode, I remember thinking it sounded like a great idea and I should try that soon. I did not get around to it until April 2017. After weeks and months of desiring to get back the gym and failing. I decided to give this concept a try. I saved up my favorite K-drama episodes and gave myself a week to put this concept to test. Here is how it went.

Instead of plopping myself on the couch after a long day at work to binge-watch the latest episodes of my favorites K-dramas. I decided that for one week, I will only watch my shows while on the treadmill. The first day, I was a half-hour into an episode before remembering the challenge. I stopped the episode and got myself to the gym to spend half hour on the treadmill whilst watching the second half of the episode. The next day, I only got through the opening credits before it clicked. I did this for a week and what I found was this.

Not only did I have more energy and felt better than I have in yonks, but I was actually enjoying the process of working out. Beyond that, spending a hour on the treadmill while watching an episode freed up an hour in my day to watch more shows or do something more tangible like finally putting up the gallery wall in my living room after almost fifteen months ; starting the decluttering process that I put on the back burner since Feb 2016 and other more significant things.

I thought it might be a fluke so I gave myself another week. This time around, like clockwork - I came home, changed into gym cloths and off to the gym. Once or twice the second week - I even forgot to take my phone with me and I made it through a workout session without my shows. I continued the challenge through the first week of May and by mid May, I found I no longer needed the shows as motivation to go to the gym. I was doing that willingly and freely. It has been about two months since I decided to give this concept a go and it has made such a difference. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some days I could not be bothered to go to the gym and on those days - I rely on the idea of temptation bundling to get myself motivated. The days when I rely on the concept have become very few. In the beginning it was every day and now maybe once a week if that. I work out five to six days a week so I think that relying on temptation bundling one of five days is a great batting average.

I bundled working out with watching my shows. Your temptation bundling might be doing chores and watching TV or working out while reading/listening to a favorite book. There is a write up about temptation bundling here including a guide to creating your temptation bundling. Full disclosure, I did not know about the guide or use it. I found it while looking into the concept more for this blog post. f you want to give this a go and are not sure where to start, the guide might come in handy. 

VISITING PARK GUELL - A UNESCO HERITAGE SITE // BARCELONA , SPAIN

I fell in love with Barcelona within minutes of arriving in the city. Walking around the city, I knew the architecture and design nerd in me was home. These were the grounds that Gaudi walked and several building and structures designed by him. Including, the most notable Segrada de familia. Segrada is so famous, we sometimes forget his other masterpieces. That oversight does not last long once you set foot in Park Guell - Life-changing. 

Maybe life-changing is taking it a bit too far, but Park Guell does stay with you long after you have visited and it confirms that Gaudi (almost 100 years since his death) is still one of the greatest that ever lived.

Planning a trip. I went with a tour group because I got a great deal on a tour package and wanted to make the most of y limited time in Barcelona. If you have no time constrains , I recommend navigating on your own. You can explore to your heart's content. You can find tickets on the park website here. Depending on the time of year you visit, it is best to purchase in advance. Several of the bus tour companies have a stop here or you can also get here via bus, train or cabs, 

Most of you are here to feast your eyes on the snapshots of a place you may have heard of, or maybe never heard of but your curiousity was sparked.  If so, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs to the snapshots. If not, indulge my nerdy architecture and history buff side as I have a Gaudi fan girl moment.

A little bit about Park Guell. As the Story was told to me by my tour guide who is a wealth of knowledge on Catalonian history.   A wealthy Catalonian - Eusebi Guell had this dream of building a space where he and other wealthy families could escape the concrete jungle of Catolona (now Barcelona). A place where they could surrounded by nature. A break from concerete jungle living. It was to be a city within a city equipped with its own chapel, market, water system etc.  He commissioned the great Gaudi to design the masterpiece. It took Gaudi several years to design and build the park. Once it was ready, another architect designed two model homes (still standing today) on the park grounds as a way to entice those wealthy families to build. The idea did not take off and there were no takers to build on the land. Ultimately, Gaudi purchased one of the home and lived there until his death. The Park Guell project supposedly preceeded the other known Gaudi work - like Sagrada la familia.

Gaudi was said to have loved nature and spent a lot of time in nature and being inspired by nature - that communion with nature is very evident when you visit Park Guell.  Since Mr. Guell was unable to convince other wealthy families to move into the space - it eventually became the property of the Catolonia government and eventually was named a world heritage site. Although parts of the park was closed off due to the filming of Emerald city, I had an incredible time exploring the grounds. I just wish I had more time to explore and take a tour of the model homes (one of which was supposedly Gaudi's home). THis is a stop I will add to the itinerary if I have the opportunity to return to Barcelona in future.

For more travel stories and inspiration - visit the wanderful wednesdays linkup on Lauren on Location

LESSONS FROM THE LAST YEAR - THINGS I'VE LEARNED SINCE TURNING 30

There is a birthday tradition of looking back over the last year to highlight some lesson learned.  Thirty-two was an interesting year.  I felt like I was on cruise control the entire year. No significant highs or lows; just a steady pace and it made me very uncomfortable waiting for the next major thing (which did not happen). I embraced the steady pace and picked up some wisdom along the way. 

LIVE UNAPOLOGETICALLY. There is something the thirties age bracket that sets you free from caring about the irrelevant opinions. This year, I fully embraced the idea of living unapologetically and not needing to justify myself. Part of that came with a realization that as long as I apologize for or continuously justify my life and/or travels (as though it were something to be ashamed of), I devalue it and cannot expect anyone else to give value to it. I had a mental shift this year to focus on seeking justice, loving mercy and serving God with humility. As long as I am striving for and living that daily, I choose to live unapologetically.

SETTING BOUNDARIES. "Don't let their lack of planning, become your emergency." Those words started me down the part of setting boundaries.  Saying no to people in my life was unthinkable even when fulfilling their (mostly last minute) request put me under immense stress and pressure. The last year has been about standing up for my time; setting boundaries; keeping and communicating those boundaries. Whether I am making myself inaccessible at certain times of day or saying no (especially to last minute requests) within reason, my stress levels have been at an all time low. 

IMPORTANCE OF BEING HEALTHY. I spent the better part of a year in and out of doctor and specialist offices. Just when I thought it was over, I had about six months of high blood pressure stemming in part from not setting boundaries and a few unhealthy habits. As soon as I started feeling better it was time for major changes in diet and lifestyle. The goal was no longer weight loss; it was cultivating a healthy lifestyle. With that mindset shift, I find going to the gym less of a chore and learning to make healthy food choices (most of the time) is much easier.

IMPORTANCE OF MEANINGFUL COMMUNITY. Lately, I have been thinking of that old country song - "You find out who your friends are Somebody's gonna drop everything Run out and crank up their car Hit the gas get their fast Never stop to think 'what's in it for me?' or 'it's way too far.' They just show on up with their big old heart You find out who your friends are." One thing that creeps up on you in this stage of lie - the transitions (both good and bad). From starting a family; dealing with loss; divorce; becoming first time parents; caring for ailing parents/children and significant others. The quality (not the quantity) our relationships becomes what matters most. The right tribe is what sees us through the (difficult) transitions. A connection much deeper than the social media likes and follows. A tribe that celebrates the wins and sits with you in the losses. A tribe that shows up in the moments of transitions with no expectation of recognition. I am incredibly humbled by the kindness and love of the tribe I have found this past year.

IMPORTANCE OF SPENDING WISELY. After years of trying and loads of (failed) financial planning efforts, I decided this was the year to get my finances in order; get out of debt and save more.  I took practical steps to make it happen. No insane spreadsheets or weird financial planning; just good ole fashioned discipline; avoiding swiping the credit card unless the funds were available to pay off (immediately); and focusing on the needs, not the want. Those practical steps have gotten me a lot closer to my financial goals than anything else. 

MUDSMITH - [THE PORTLAND | GRACE GUIDE] // DALLAS

Mudsmith ! 

I love this place. Before I visited, I read up reviews on google and one, in particular, caught my attention. I credit it for the reason I set foot in Mudsmith. The review read "If Wes Anderson owned a coffee shop, it would look like this." That was all the prompting I needed to visit this coffee/bar hybrid (those seem to be popping up everywhere). It did not disappoint with its quirky interior decor and walls lined with world maps and stuffed antlers

If you want a place to get work done or meet up with friends; have a fab meal and excellent beverage, then might I recommend Mudsmith as it delivers on all those points. The atmosphere is quirky, comfortable and inviting. I find myself spending hours here hunched over my laptop, flanked by a cortado and the avocado smash and egg toast. I am a huge fan of their specialty coffee menu especially the Iced mint mocha and mudslinger. If you want something stronger than coffee they have got you covered.

Mudsmith

Location: 2114 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206

Hours: 6am to 11pm

This is NOT a sponsored post.; just a foodie's opinion.