Tea Parties – Not Just for Sarah Palin

When planning an upcoming, intimate, period themed event – say for a bridal shower, birthday party, or just because, consider having your party be a Victorian inspired high tea. Give me a chance to explain, they are fun, especially if you’re a history loving nerd like I am that likes to spend weekends watching dorky BBC documentaries. The history part of it is what makes it fun, it wouldn’t be as exciting to pull out some nice china, brew fancy loose leaf tea and wear a trendy romper or worse yet, leave the china in your grandma’s cabinet and drink tea out of styrofoam or Ikea, no that’s not what I’m talking about. The fun part is dressing the part and putting on the Downton Abby theme song while sipping tea out of antique tea cups.

For the wild and crazy kick off to my bachelorette party, my girlfriend treated me to a high tea at a cafe in a nearby town. The tea came complete with a lace table cloth and heated, raised tea pot with a lit candle underneath to keep it warm. We chose our selection of sandwiches that came out as triangles on tiered serving trays. There were little sweet treats on beautiful china. The other events of my bachelorette party were not nearly as reserved as my Victorian collared shirt of the high tea, but for two whole hours we were as proper as ladies of the house.

Somebody paid attention to my affinity for tea and history and planned a gorgeous tea bridal party. The bridal party was put on by my aunts and sister. The location could not have been more perfect – it was held on the wraparound porch of  my aunt’s fantastically restored Victorian brick house. There were five tables on the porch for guests with each one having  it’s own individual set of vintage china. My aunt had collected them at estate sales and second hand shops and she put them to good use for the tea party. She even IMG_3193made homemade cookies that so precisely resembled a real teabag that I had to double take at the teacups when I first walked on the porch to realized that they were edible. There’s a recipe here for similar cookies.

Tea parties are a nice  changes of pace to parties with alcohol because they’re generally quite and well mannered so conversation can be easily had. They cost less since alcohol doesn’t add to the cost of hosting, but they do require time to plan ahead. Things need to be collected, borrowed, or pulled out of cupboards. Hunting for the bargains and the sets with the most beautiful or unique patters is fun though, so the work ahead of time doesn’t feel like work at all. Our local thrift store often does 50% off of items if they’ve been in the store prior to a specific date, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to walk out of there with a four piece china set for around $5.

Of course the major benefit of using vintage items is that they’re real. No plastic forks, cups, or straws. Less waste and an appreciation for what was once very special items of the home. At my bridal tea party, my aunts took the zero waste even further than the teacups and saucers, they also put vintage table cloths on each table along with linen napkins. Some napkins had vintage lace napkin holders that added to the period theme. Another way to decrease waste would be to use teabags that do not have strings or labels, my favorite brand in the U.S. for that very reason of not messing with strings is Celestial Seasonings. A step beyond would be to get loose leaf tea in bulk in a reusable container brought in from home or even beyond that, to dry your own herbal teas from the garden, mint being my favorite and easiest.

Other ideas for your future tea party are to dress up for the occasion. Theme your tea party as Victorian like mine was or more modern such as the 1950’s. If you have it in the summer have some iced teas as well or instead of hot teas. If hosting a tea party seems like too much work then find a local cafe or bed and breakfast that hosts one. The tea that I went to was in Warren, PA at a cafe called The Arbor Coffee House (reservations are required for high teas in advance.) Make your tea party unique to you, try to create as little waste as possible, and remind yourself that tea parties are for grown ups (and men,) too.

 

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Teachers – Create a Community in Your Class

We all know the usual drill of attending a yoga class – walk in with your mat, take off your shoes, roll out your mat, either at the back of the room if you’re shy or a beginner, or at the front of the room if you’ve been practicing a while or show up late. Then sit on your mat, maybe stretch out a bit (before you’re about to stretch out) as you wait for the teacher to begin class. Often times it’s quiet in the studio, no music, and generally students don’t speak to each other unless they already know each other outside of class.

The class commences, sometimes without the teacher getting names, the flow is guided, students follow, it all ends in a relaxing Savasana from which the teacher pulls you back into reality and everybody silently rolls up their mats, exits the studio space to slide their shoes on, and walk out the door.

Although the yoga practice itself is calming and rejuvenating, in an atmosphere of solitude and isolation on individual mats feelings such as loneliness and anxiety can also creep in as a result of slight social anxiety and students comparing their body’s abilities in poses to the rest of the class and the teacher, as teachers we have a responsibility to make everyone as comfortable and at ease as we can, which requires some effort from the teacher.

 

As a yoga teacher there are a few easy things that we can incorporate into our teaching to make students feel a part of a community in class.

Meet & Greet

Get names. Ask names as soon as a new student walks in, shake their hand, and give them your name. It seems a simple and polite thing to do, but I’ve been to plenty of classes as a student in which I never meet the teacher and vice versa. Also, have students introduce themselves to each other, it may feel a little forced as if it’s the first day of school (which it technically is,) but by meeting each other relationships may build over the course of the series or if returning students continue to attend.

Definitely as the teacher you should know your students’ names to greet them as they enter class, inquire about their days, and to then use their names to ask permission to make a physical adjustment. I have even attended a class in which the teacher asked us to write our names on a sticker that was put on the top edge of our mats. It was effective for the teacher to remember our names, but I don’t like to be wasteful, so would not suggest to do this unless you are hosting a large workshop.

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Music

Play music before and after class. Even if as a teacher you choose not to play music during class you should have something on as students enter and leave to break any awkwardness. Like music in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, gentle background music can lighten the mood of the room as people enter. It does not have to be elevator music, it could be yoga music or contemporary, just be sure that it is non-offensive and not too loud.

Share Events

Before class begins and as you are waiting for students who are running late, introduce any upcoming events at your studio to promote and ask students if they have any events coming up. This is a great way to learn about things going on in the community and gives students to share any events that they are a part of or care about.

These are a few basic ideas of how to make your class feel more like a community. At this time of polarization and divisive fear-mongering, your yoga studio should be a safe and welcoming place, create that atmosphere as a teacher and keep spreading the love.

Teacher Tech Tools

Being a yoga teacher requires a lot of self promotion and preparation for classes. Whether you get yourself a regular gig at a yoga studio or go completely free lance you’ll have to self promote your classes, style, skills, and experience. And then once you get in the studio, you’ll have to deliver. Here are my top tech teacher tools to help you be the best yoga teacher you can be.

Blue Tooth Speaker

Invest in a good quality blue tooth speaker, one that’s light and transportable and that delivers on sound. These come in handy to bring with you to outdoor, public space classes where other options requiring plugging in may not be available, keep in mind however, that if you host class in a very public space or near to a busy road, then even the best blue tooth speaker won’t be heard over honking horns or screaming kids. If you teach on an early Saturday when the public space isn’t busy yet, then bring your speaker for added energy to the class. Chose your playlists wisely.

Actually, Let Someone Else Chose Your Playlist

When I first started teaching I used to stress out about making the perfect playlist for each class. Honestly, I would spend more time on the music than on the sequence. I was fixated on having the best tunes for the varying layouts of each class. Thankfully for my schedule and my nerves I’ve loosened up about my music. Now I rely on a sharing service to have strangers in cyber space chose what students vinyasa and hold to. My choice of music site is 8 tracks. I know most people in the U.S. use Pandora, but Pandora wasn’t available abroad in Korea, so a friend introduced me to 8 tracks and I much prefer it. My go to vinyasa flow playlist is simply titled: Yoga.

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Get some Great Graphics12010532_899109916831156_7065303320034350228_o

When creating a social media event page, photos generally star as an eye catcher or are just generic-googled yoga images. But it can be more fun and more professional to create a poster or well designed social media image for your classes and events. For this you can hire out a graphics designer by using 99designs, a website where designers line up to design for you after you’ve set guidelines and price, but this site can be pricey and may not be financially feasible for a free lancin’ yoga teacher (may in fact be a better option for a logo.) Another option is Pic Monkey. This site is easy to use and offers a lot of fun fonts and backgrounds, they have recently started charging for they’re services though, which is a bummer. Above is a simple graphic made in 2015 for a community event I co-hosted with a bunch of great activists in Busan using Pic Monkey.

There you have it, a few simple tips from me to you for using tech to get the job and in class once you have it. Teaching yoga involves a lot more than just shouting out a pose name. As a yoga teacher aim to make your classes and events special and memorable by meticulously planning from the get go all the way through to the song that plays in Savasana. Utilizing tech tools can aid you in achieving that goal which in the long run will aid you in retaining students.

 

Hosting a Plastic Free Event (and Why I Did It)

This post is about my first experience hosting a plastic free event. I did not do this alone, the organizers of the Busan Veggie Fest were amazingly proactive with my initial idea to go plastic free for their event, and did a lot of work. Initially I thought this would be a simple, short bulleted post  comparable with, but not as bad, as Buzzfeed, but it was impossible. I had to include the reasons why to host a plastic free event, because it’s not just something to do for fun. There is substance and ethics behind it. You have two options as a reader, you can jump to the bullet points and read the How-To’s, or you can read the post in it’s entirety.


Single-use plastic is everywhere. When I comb the beach for litter, I mostly collect cellophane wrappers, candy wrappers from individually wrapped candies, coffee cups (paper and plastic,) water bottles or other beverage containers, and straws.

That plastic that either comes in with the tide or goes back out with it, or is haphazardly dropped by a hand,  will be floating around the ocean for quite some time as it slowly photo-degrades, seeping out chemicals as it does so. An equally depressing result is that it will be consumed by marine life that mistakes the small, broken down plastic for food. If you’re no animal lover and could care less about flounder being discovered with plastic stomachs, then at least consider this – that plastic consumed by fish, will make its way through the food cycle straight onto your plate. Plastic is even being found in table salt. You can do your part by planning Plastic free Event and sharing why you did it.

Generally people planning parties find it more convenient to buy a box of plastic forks, some colorful paper plates, and those ubiquitous red cups for their guests to eat and drink from. I agree, it is easier to toss a box of plastic forks into the cart with ingredients for your food, but is it wise? Those forks might not make it to the recycling bin and instead go straight into the trash where they’ll take hundreds of years to go away. That fork that assisted food from your plate to your mouth for twenty minutes will take hundreds of years to go away. And recycling is nice and green, but it still uses a lot of energy to transport, process, and reproduce when the alternative would be to wash some forks in the sink.

That fork that assisted food from your plate to your mouth for twenty minutes will take hundreds of years to go away.

Ditch the straws and plastic forks and opt instead for what’s in your kitchen drawer. Here are some tips for planning a plastic free event.

  • PROMOTE – As you promote your event let everyone know that no single use plastics will be used, so they must B.Y.O.E., Bring Your Own Everything. Include this information in your invitations if you go old school with paper invites, or write a prominent description in the events page if you use social media.

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  • EXPLAIN – Although it wasn’t that long ago that plastics were nonexistent, the majority of the population has gotten used to the convenience of using plastic. It might seem odd to some guests to pour holiday punch into a coffee mug that they carted with them as opposed to filling up a red dixie cup, so be sure to let them know why you are making them do so. Once people learn or are reminded of the dangers of plastic pollution in the oceans, they will hopefully jump on board for your party (and carry the habit into their daily lives.)
Above: An informative display on the afterlife of plastic if disposed of improperly. The numbers are the estimated years it takes for such items to decompose. Photos are of a local beach, covered in PLASTIC LITTER FROM A TROPICAL STORM.
  • RECRUIT HELP – Ask like-minded friends to help you get the word out. My first attempt at a plastic free event would not have been possible without the help of the organizers of the Busan Veggie Fest. They let the providers of food know and even provided plates and supplemental utensils.
The amazing hosts of the Busan Veggie Fest did a beyond expected job of making the event plastic free.

The amazing hosts of the Busan Veggie Fest did a beyond expected job of making the event plastic free.

  • CONSIDER OPTIONS – If you have a kitchen with enough utensils, cups, and plates for all of your guests, then of course you would provide everything instead of asking your guests to B.Y.O.E. If you’re hosting a big event and do not have enough to go around, then do both: encourage guests to bring their own, but also bring extras for those that are uninformed or lack the materials.
  • BE KIND – It’s not us vs. them when it comes to environmentalism, it’s educating those who simply are unaware of the extremely negative impacts of single use plastics. Before public awareness and mass drives of knowledge, people used to smoke cigarettes without a care in the world, but once the science came out actions and laws changed. I’m saddened almost daily by the damage that human beings are causing the land, but I try to remain hopeful at the same time. If someone comes to your event with a fresh bottled water in their bag, don’t scorn them or even double take. In order to get your point across to everyone give a small talk about why you chose to make your event plastic free, and/or create an informative display or poster, hopefully inspiring the water bottle holders to go to their local thrift store and look for a tumbler.

Best of luck in all of the planning of your next event. It’s not impossible to host an event plastic free. On a smaller scale, say a family event, it might be what you’re doing already, I hope that this post inspires you to expand that to bigger community events. The Busan Veggie Fest had around 30 guests and not a single plastic utensil or bottle was provided for them.

How have your plastic free events gone?