Happy Birthday Dad…

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There’s no timetable to say you’re going grieving over a loved one.  And no one should feel an arbitrary amount of months or even years that it’s time to say you’re done.  I don’t know what being done is.  What I do know is…

Our parents don’t want us feeling sad all the time.  They would want us to live the best life possible, while they’re here and when it’s their time for the afterlife.

It was my dad’s time.

As much as I don’t like admitting that, it’s the truth.  My dad got sick over a year ago, and never could recover.  For some of us, the pain doesn’t that last that long.  It’s the pain of the children, the siblings, the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and everyone in between and on the peripheral to feel and to come to terms with.

I’m still not sure if I’ve come to terms.   Not even five months later, it hurts but it’s a different kind of hurt.   I haven’t looked back on the two previous times I specifically wrote about my father (here and then here) right about the time he passed.  I’m not ready to look back and read them just yet.  Maybe I will with a fresher set of eyes down the line. So in some ways have I really come to terms?

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I can’t say for sure.  But what I can say is it only felt right, on his birthday and the first birthday without him (the holidays could be tough this year), to go back to our place, more so his place, Spice Xing, for a meal to honor him, honor his memory, and maybe bring some more peace to me.

I don’t recall a time that we didn’t have lunch buffet here.   Well things have changed, as that buffet is now only reserved for the weekends.   Well no big deal there.   The place was eerily quiet on this Monday afternoon, but I almost preferred it that way.

Of course on a day like this it’s grey, it’s rainy, and the sky is telling me something.  What that is, and what it may tell you are completely different things.  For many that might feel comforting.  Ordinarily, I would say it wasn’t.  But today it fit the mood.  If it was sunny and 80 degrees, I would say that would fit the mood.  But this was the mood and I’m grateful for that.

The last time I was actually here was the beginning of the healing process.  I’ll leave that to your own interpretation and speculation, as some things are better left unsaid.  But I’m forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support, that it will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I mean that.   It’s a once in a lifetime thing.  Literally.  It’ll never happen again.

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But what can happen again is a lovely meal to honor a man who has helped shaped me and our family to be in the position to be where we are today.  If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where I would be.  He was the man.  And he still is the man.  Hi dad, I hope you see this sometime.. Love you…

What actually never crossed my mind until including these photos was, is he sitting across from me?  That’s a cliche but well….

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I did it different this time with the chicken reshmi kababs with a side of chana masala, salad, and naan bread.   Why kababs in an Indian restaurant?  Well why not.  Our background is Iranian, and we’ve had our share of kababs at many fine establishments in the area, and at home.  So I couldn’t think of a better meal to celebrate the best of all worlds.

My dad would just rather have the buffet.   And some of that naan bread too.  But I’ll get to that in a little bit.

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The masala tea was a gem and reminds me of simple black tea that my dad and I would share on a regular basis.   I could’ve ordered any beverage, but this seemed only right.  So I’m grateful to honor him within honoring him.  That makes me feel good.

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I sat in a different spot, yet I had a view of where we used to sit.  We’ve sat in a lot of places, but this spot felt comfortable.  I had a view of where his photos and a candle were positioned several months back.

While I was in a familiar place, I still felt removed and detached from everything. There’s safety in that.  Even by coming to a place we’ve been going to for years, I felt relieved being away from everything else.  Maybe that’s another part of the healing and grieving process.

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But today there really wasn’t much sadness.  Just like the week and days leading up to Father’s Day, I got so much out of me to the point of being physically exhausted and drained.  And now I know what it feels to have nothing left.  I feel transparent as I write this.  But more importantly I feel relieved.

I’m relieved that my dad is in a happier place.  Where that place is I don’t know.  But I believe he’s at peace and harmony with everything.  It’s what we wish for our loved ones when it’s their time to go and when they’re gone.  As heartbreaking as it sounds, it’s also so beautiful.

This is life.  This is death.  It’s good to cry, but it’s also good to be happy.  Our true family, our dearest friends, and love ones want only want the best for us.  They would sacrifice their own joy just so you can feel some.  My dad did that for everyone while he was alive, and maybe he did it when he was saying goodbye.  That’s the most beautiful and selfless act of all.

While I was sad on the days and eve of his birthday, that sense of sadness has turned into calm.  Maybe it’s numbness or maybe it’s something else.  Maybe I’m just tired.  Yet maybe it’s just the universe telling me I’ve handled enough and now it’s time to take a break, until the next phase of grieving.

I don’t want to think that far ahead, because I don’t know what even tomorrow will bring.

What I do know is I’m proud of my dad, and I miss him.  I love him.  And while I know his spirit is with me, and will always be with me, I’m starting to see a light. I’m starting to see hope, and starting to see that the best life is still in front of me.  My dad would want this for me.  Our parents would want this for us.

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So I raise my cup and say salud, I say cheers, and I say I love you dad.

And next time I’ll be sure to pocket all the leftover naan bread and sneak out like a little kid in your honor… Ha!

I love you dad and Happy Birthday…

Your son,

Ideen

I Will Not Take These Things For Granted

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So the title came to me earlier tonight.  And it’s inspired from this.

As I mentioned last week, there are certain teas, stores, and cafes that will hold sentimental value to me.  Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company will always be in that conversation.

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As you can see in my history of posts, the love affair is real.

The teas haven’t always been the best, but the service from their Annapolis and Timonium locations has always been stellar.

If I were to do a weekly blog just based on this wonderful company, I would never run out of material.   I’ve been here that many times, but sometimes I go just for me.  No blogs no writing, not anything.  Sometimes we need that.  Not everything is meant to be shared.

But as the title says, sometimes a story is necessary.  Sometimes an entity deserves all the praise. I can only do my part to show my appreciation.  Because that’s what Baltimore Coffee & Tea deserves, all the appreciation.  Because I can’t take a place like this for granted.  It’s been so good to me.

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And you know where else has been good to me?  The state capital of Annapolis (my history with tea in and relating to Annapolis can be found here) is the backdrop for so many small things and memories, that are truly the big things.

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I can’t go the entire summer without not giving love to this magical, colonial, and historical place.   So with that, my most recent visit was last week, and I was going merely for a cup of coffee.

That changed because I felt inspired.

When I’m reviewing teas purchased here, I usually grab them a bag from the display rack, or kindly ask one of the friendly staff members to open up a box of a tea I’d like to try.  They’re so good about that.  It’s opened up many new doors and experiences, I didn’t know existed.  The tea journey is never-ending, and they’ve added multiple dimensions to that.  I’m thankful for that.

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So how fitting is it, that I decided to order a tea from the menu.  And what do I see but the original or originals, the Eastern Shore Back Porch Iced Tea,  As the description says, it’s your standard iced tea.  There’s nothing fancy or earth shattering about it.  But if you know what to expect it’s going to be just fine.

For where I was, it was just fine.

I’ve never been a fan of just iced tea.  It’s not that I’m opposed to it, but I’ve always wanted something just a little more.  And I don’t mean sugar or any additives.  I appreciate a little natural flavor of some sort.

But sometimes you just want a cup of tea, you want some iced tea, and nothing else.  Well I can’t be too dramatic.  They did give me a lemon, which was plenty.

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I also got a simple chicken salad over lettuce.   And I found myself in a front corner spot of the store, which has now been a home away from home.  I’m serious when I say this.  I’ve sat here countless numbers of times over the past couple of years, that if I don’t get that spot (or porch in this instance) a part of me feels confused.  And no I haven’t always sat there but I think this resonates with a few people.

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In saying all this, the old man or old soul is coming through a little more than I’d prefer. But that spot, and this place is a part of me.  It has a small piece of my heart, and I’m grateful to give that piece to them.

After I took a few pictures I sat there for a while.  And it may have been an hour, but it felt like time stood still and I could sit there all day.  In many ways I did, I’v had before, and I will again.

Man I love this place.

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I’m not ready to put an end to summer just yet.  I’ve got iced teas I could write about for weeks, and maybe months.  I hope I can get to all of them, if not, I’ll save it for another time.  But you can be sure Baltimore Coffee and Tea will be a part of the conversation again, and soon.

How can it not be?

To purchase this tea, along with others, click here.

If you’re in the area, or will be visiting, here’s their list of stores, FAQ, and contact information.

Finally, here’s more from Eastern Shore Tea Company.

Thanks so much and I wish you a happy upcoming holiday weekend.

We’re just getting started.

Blessed,

Ideen

 

Tea, Art, Happiness…

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I think my visit to St. Petersburg, FL came at the most perfect time.

The amount of items I could write about is going to be endless.   And I will be spacing them out.  Last week it was Tampa, this week and for the foreseeable future it’s going to be St. Pete and all St. Pete.  No not every week but sporadically through the summer I’m going to expound upon how incredible the tea culture is here.  And incredible might be an understatement.

I found tea places, I stumbled upon tea places, tea shoppes found me, and my reaction to a few were that of a kid in a candy store.  Yes it’s these little things (that are the big things) that give me natural and spiritual highs that words may not always do justice. I’ve made that proclamation before but I stand by that.  Sometimes words an pictures aren’t enough.  Memories are for us and all we can do is our best to share them in our own harmonious and sentimental way.

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With that one of my first stops in St. Pete was Pom Pom’s Teahouse.

I know, how awesome is that name?

And just as awesome is the place.  Everything about is, was, or whatever you want to call it a constant reminder of why this town is beautiful.  And why it now has my heart.

When I first arrived in town my friend guided me through St. Pete and I noticed so many amazing looking shops, restaurants, businesses, and everything else in between that makes this place (that’s on the rise) already look like it’s there (in a good way) and I wouldn’t want anything about it to change.  I probably put this paragraph in the wrong part of the post.  It’s as if I put the finish or the crescendo here, before I’ve even gotten into the tea and this incredible salad that I ordered.

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So let me get to that and see if I can come up with another finish with some big words that will enhance this experience that doesn’t need any more enhancing but deserves all the praise in the world.

Ok…

So I was there on a weekday afternoon, presumably on the tail end of the lunch rush.  If there is a lunch rush here it doesn’t mirror other major cities, and I found that so refreshing.  It was a mix of students, police officers, office workers, tourists, and overall a lot of people that seemed genuinely happy to be there.

I was happy to be there.

There was so much art adorning the walls, which is a point that Pom Pom’s wants to promote.  They’re all about local art, and creating and promoting art is one of the greatest things in this world and in this universe.

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After taking so many pictures of the inside, I requested to my friendly server, Brett, if I could sit outdoors.   He kindly obliged.  I was surprised that I was the only one out there. But how could I complain?  I was the only person on Earth for about an hour, or at least in that moment.

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I made a new friend outside, as you can see.  I felt as if he could read my mind.  And maybe he could.  I think he was saying everything is great, everything is going to be fine, and you’re on vacation, enjoy yourself.

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And I did…

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My meal comprised of a Kiwi Pear Iced Tea and their Seasonal Berry Salad, which may have been one of the best things I’ve eaten, not only on my holiday, but in a long while.  It almost looked too pretty to eat.   But those berries were heavenly.    I almost forgot there were almonds and peanuts in the salad.  It was that great.  The goat cheese and onions made for a simple yet artistic looking salad.  This really was a masterpiece.

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Those berries were something out of a smoothie or freshly made ice cream.  And on a gorgeous day in Florida, what could be better.

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The tea was the understated, yet still elegant part of my meal.  It was light and on this day this was a welcome treat versus something a little too sweet, since the berries were sweet enough.   I did wish I could taste a little more kiwi and pear, but really no complaints from me whatsoever.

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Brett, who like many of my friends I got to visit, is a transplant from Maryland.  I can see the appeal.  I can see why so many people like the mellow vibe and harmonious ways of being in beautiful St. Petersburg.

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More posts are coming and if they can match this experience than I’ve already succeeded.  My time at Pom Pom’s was one of joy, of peace, and of art.  Yes I did take many pictures but then I just sat, relaxed, and started off into the distance.

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I might have been there an hour, two hours, or somewhere that time can’t measure.  But this one hit my heart in a different way than many other tea and dining experiences. And I want to believe it was more than just being away from home, being somewhere else, and being one with the universe.  Well the latter part is great.  But I hope you know what I mean.

This was beautiful.

If you’re in the vicinity, or are a local and have never visited, I can’t recommend this place enough.

Here is more about them, their menu, the art, the buzz, directions, and their contact information.

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When I’m back in the area, and I will be back, how do I follow-up?  It may not be the identical experience, but I sense it will be spectacular, and will tell a different story of what makes Pom Pom’s and this town special to me and special to so many.

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Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

Organic Olympics Party, I Think

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It’s not hard to believe,  but we’re in the homestretch of the Olympics.  Time is flying and ordinarily I’d be sad, but I’m ok this go around.  In addition, I have so much to keep me occupied, including my blog.

With the limited amount of time this event provides us, I wanted to take advantage with some posts that somehow connect to this storied and iconic spectacle.

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My summer tea posts would not feel complete if I didn’t incorporate lemonade.   I wasn’t aggressively seeking it out, more so I was hoping it would it present itself without it feeling like a chore.   Thankfully, while I was at my local Wegmans, I noticed this display case which just looked like lemonade to me.  Upon a second look it was a tea & lemonade duo, and as an added bonus, we have an organic combination.   The Tea It Up (which I find quite charming) is as refreshing and delicious as it presents itself to be.

I’m always hesitant of the organic label.  It doesn’t guarantee a product tasting any better, and it in many cases it may have the reverse effect.  But I liked this so much, I had to stop myself from overdoing it and getting an unnecessary sugar high.

To counterbalance my glass, and to keep the healthy theme going as best as possible, I paired my drink with some healthier eats.  At least that was my intention.

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As an appetizer, we have some pretzel thins brought to us by our same grocery gurus. Wow I just said that.  Initially, I was hoping for a little more salt, but I preferred this. The duo worked well of of each other and I had to stash the bag away or the whole thing would have never had a chance.

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I wish I could say I made this salad.  I can pretend I did but that would take away from the authenticity of what I’m presenting.  To complete the trifecta, this is from Wegmans salad bar, which if you’re not careful, will hit your wallet.  At upwards of $10.00 a pound, you could easily find yourself purchasing a meal at double that amount.  Luckily, yours truly is fiscally responsible and got mine at three digits.   Go Team!

Actually there was no team, this was a party for one.  Maybe next time I’ll gather some more folks but this was impromptu, which is how some of the best parties turn out.  The salad (which featured buffalo chicken) turned out alright, yet not my favorite, but nevertheless, in the spirit of the Olympics, I seek for the positives wherever I can.  I’ve had plenty of dishes from the salad and hot bar, that one misstep is not going to stop me from coming back. It’s been overall a magnificent experience.

This tea/lemonade is simple and quite delicious.  You might think the black tea and lemonade may clash but this works here tremendously.  Throw in a few ice cubes and you’re golden. And speaking of which, does it win a similar medal?  That’s up to you to decide.

If you’re like me, you get lost in Wegmans and find yourself there as much as possible. There’s a store minutes from me, and that tends to happen every time.  For a store near you, click here.  If you’ve never been I’ll think you’ll find it a magical place.  It may not be quite the hysteria of the Olympics, but there’s plenty of inspiration.

Here is my original post on one of my favorite stores.

I hope you’ve getting your fix of the Olympics, while enjoying some great tea and accompanying eats.

All The Best,

Ideen