26 May 2005

Hands-on Tea

Though I usually prefer teas like Darjeeling, Sencha, Oolong which require no flavoring, sometimes it's fun to try the fruit-flavored or scented teas. It just brightens up a rainy day really.

I tried my Whittard Green Jamaican Mango for the first time recently. This one I purchased in the Whittard T-Zone in Covent Garden. It was my final activity in London, not counting the airport shopping.

I love the Whittard T-Zone. There aren't too many of them - the only ones I know of are in Covent Garden and Carnaby Street. In these shops, you are able to blend your own flavored teas. I did this the first time in 2003. Basically there is a large table with a selection of loose teas like Sencha, Keemun, Ceylon - the ones that blend well with flavoring. Then there are dried fruits, loose herbs, and oils. There is a wheel of blending recipes. You pick one and go step by step. I suppose you could try your own creation, but you should at least check out the measurements - too much oil might prove overwhelming. Everything is mixed in what looks like a cocktail shaker. The end result is carefully poured into a 4 oz. bag. The instructions say you can design your own label, but time was running out so I didn't look into that. The tea costed a little more than the other flavored blends, but not in a tremendous way.

About a week after I got home, I tried my creation for the first time. It was magnificent! I really have to get my own ingredients and make blends more often! It may also be fun to try herbal concoctions.

Speaking of Whittard, my sister bought a strawberry fruit infusion there. She shared with us at a recent tea party, and everyone was impressed. Tea is good - even if it's not technically "tea".

25 May 2005

Thank You For The Music....

It was really nice to go to a live concert on Sunday night. It's been a long time.

Only problem was, I saw signs of aging creeping up into my attitude. First of all, most of the people in my age range attending the show (which was, by the way, the radio station-sponsored "Zootopia") were either parents or somehow escorting the younger fans. Some of the performers were older than me, but I don't think any of them were over forty. And most of the singers, or bands, certainly catered to a young audience. This was confirmed by the high-decibel screeching that ensued when they entered the stage. The music sounded fine once I stuck my fingers in my ears.

So I'm thinking, am I past it now? Do I go hobbling back to the White Album? Therein lies the answer. I tell everyone how I'd loved to have been there when the Beatles used to perform live. Yet, I've seen their mid 60's concert footage. Seen it. You could barely hear the music above the prepubescent hysteria. So maybe I'm not old. Maybe I'm mature. I don't know which sounds more frightening.

19 May 2005

Irritable Mind Syndrome

One of the things that annoys me, especially in the morning, is getting a once-over from the women I pass in the street and in the subway. It's almost worse than stupid comments from men on the street. I get more upset when they stare at my shoes. The worst is when they are new shoes, and I'm struggling to get used to walking in them. It's stupid, I know, but I immediately feel defensive; maybe I've lived in NY too long. If it is a quick glance, I barely notice - I'm sure I do the same thing. Outfit-watching is a fun pastime. It's the critical look I hate, or the long, drawn out stare.

On the other hand, if someone smiles, or compliments what I'm wearing, it can make my day. I'm probably meant to live in a cave.

18 May 2005

Wild Thing!

I took my cat Cinnamon (nicknamed Sino) to the vet this weekend. He was getting sick all over the house, even on some of my books! Not only was it annoying, but I was concerned. Sino is 12 years old and our other cat Baby (Duforth) died last year at 13 years, so I wanted to be more vigilant about his health.

Although my dearly departed Duforth never enjoyed her trips to the vet, her vocal complaints were kept to a minimum and she was a very good patient. Not my Sino. His file at the Astoria Veterinary Group labels him a "Caution Cat". The minute he's carried into their waiting room, the trouble begins. His pupils become large and dark, and the growling starts low, like an evil purr.

Nothing can prepare a viewer for his actions on the examination table. He makes noises which can only be called demonic, while he thrashes at the oven-mitted vet techs. Since he is a big cat like most orange shorthairs he is doubly hard to control. At this visit 2 techs had to use towels to restrain him while they gave him tranquilizers. Soon he grew limp and relieved himself on the table. I found myself making apologies for his behavior, but that's pretty dumb. It's all him. Besides, at home he is affectionate and cuddly. Only at the vet's office does he decide to be the Hulk.

After only a few minutes into his sedation, his strength begins to return to him and he swats drunkenly at the techs as they clean his teeth and cut his nails. Finally the veternarian advises me his condition looks to be Inflammatory Bowel Disorder. Somehow he has inherited a disease common to my family! This is besides the fact that he sort of resembles my dad. Sino is prescribed 2 kinds of pills to be administered daily, preferably by the mouth. Right. I'm gonna try to pry his fangs open and throw pills down there. My sister, a former vet tech, can't do it!

So now we have a month of sneaking meds into my cat's food. Of course, he is discerning and tries to eat around it, but he must be getting some of it into his system. He hasn't made a mess since Sunday.

17 May 2005


That's an expression I like to use for spending a day, or even a few hours, the way I would if I were truly on vacation. Since I really don't get to go away that often, but live in the most diverse area in the world, this works out really well.

Here's how it works: preferably on a day off, in decent weather, I decide on a neighborhood or street, depending on which borough I plan to visit. I try to choose a country that I'd like to see but may never get a chance to. Then I go to an area where the restaurants and shops specialize in my particular choice.

For instance, yesterday was my day off. It was warm in the afternoon, so I walked to Jackson Heights. I shopped for bangles in Butala Emporium. I was not the only one on a mini-trip: lots of non-Indian woman were in the shop buying incense and hair products. One woman asked the man behind the counter if he had any CD's of morning chants. I told him my morning consisted of more groans than chants and he smiled indulgently. I'm glad they removed their "No Joking" sign a while back. In the end a lady working in the shop showed me how to check what size bangles to go for: I am 2-6 (at least my wrists are thin!)

From there I visited a "Bollywood" music and movie shop, which was reasonably priced. They were helpful in this shop too, but it was good to know a little bit about what I was looking for (Veer Zaara!) And for all you Hindi film lovers, I even found some Karaoke music!

Normally my mini-trip would consist of a nice lunch (in this case maybe Jackson Diner for their buffet), but I wasn't too hungry and (gasp!) didn't even feel like chai. Instead, I opted for mango kulfi. This is similar to ice cream, served on a stick, with a slightly different consistency. It is magnificent on a warm day, and only $1! I ate this on my walk home.

So this was a mini-mini trip, only 2 hours perhaps. But it gave me that feeling that I'd been somewhere that day. I think it helps to stick to the theme for even that short time period. It's not as easy to try this if you live in a one-or two-culture place, but it's worth a try. Just remember to keep your mobile communications to a minimum during this time, or it won't be fun at all!

More on my mini-trips to come.....

10 May 2005

Clone Attack!

Since nothing of serious note has happened since I returned to NY, I'll rant a little on my observations of my recent visit to London.

I guess my powers of observance were lax on my previous trips to London, but this time I noticed something quite disturbing. Not counting my friends in Clapham/Balham, who have their own minds, the ladies in London had one thing in common. They were dressed in uniform. I mean, nearly every female that walked the streets of West End, Chelsea, Kensington, Portobello Road, etc. were wearing the exact same thing...the boho/hippie/prairie look, whether it suited them or not. My sister and I particularly remarked on the long white skirts, everywhere!

Don't get me wrong. This is one of the looks I've worn myself for many years, particularly in the warmer months. And if I feel like wearing a tiered skirt or a funky belt, I go for it. What bothered me is everyone and their mother looking like this, with no thought to what works for them or what they actually like. They are dictated to by magazines which they must follow religiously. It's sad!

That being said, it's not terrible to look at the latest something or other in the shops and trying it out. I've done that before, but be true to yourself or you won't enjoy it at all!

Finally, there is one person getting all the credit, or is it blame, for this style - Sienna Miller. I have nothing against her personally. I think she's pretty and looks good next to her fiancee as well, which can't be easy. But what I don't understand is the media making her the inventor of the latest style. Hello! People have rocked this look since the 60's (and some people should have left it there.) All of a sudden it is "new" and apparently only one person in this world ever dressed this way. Come on, people! Get real!

I've said my piece, and I'll wear whatever I like to wear, whether everyone else likes it or not. (Of course, I won't wear a mini-skirt, that would not work.) And if anyone starts to credit tea-drinking popularity to Sienna or any other chick, they will have the Queen to answer to!!!!!

06 May 2005

Living up to my name

I haven't done anything tea-related since I started this blog. Bad Tea Queen! So I'll dedicate this post to my tea experiences in London.

First of all, I can't say the tea is better over there - it's tea, which is good anywhere. That being said, I do like the little things, like the fact that many eateries serve tea in pots, whether bagged or loose. This is a rare thing for New York, where you have to go to a tea-themed restaurant to even see a teapot. Still, every once in a while I ordered tea and got the bag with nowhere to put it but the saucer. Why would anyone do this to their customers? Don't they know what happens when you put a spent teabag on a saucer? The minute you raise the cup to your lips, little drops flicker off the bottom onto your lovely new white top, and you lose any teatime decorum you may have acquired in past years. But I digress.....

Second, though I know that London has been infected with chain store-itis, I have absolutely no problem with one particular shop scattered all over the high streets: Whittard. Sometimes they call it Whittard of Chelsea. Anyway, this is a shop that sells all kinds of loose teas in tins and bags, however you like it. There are flavored teas and estate teas, even first-flush Darjeeling. For those that like it fast and sweet, they sell instant teas in cans that last forever. You can usually sample a few of these in the shops. Then there are teapots, cups, strainers, tea towels, gift sets, tourist items...anythinga tea lover would go for, it's there at reasonable prices. My sister Pam bought a book there written by one of Whittard's tea blenders. I must read it sometime. A few of the Whittard shops, one in Covent Garden and one in Carnaby Street, also have a T-Zone. In this section you can blend your own flavored teas! I managed to do this on my last day there, though I spilled some of the dried fruits.

Of notable mention is the Haagen Dazs Cafe in Leicester Square. They have Ice Cream Tea on the menu. For a rather exhorbitant price, you get a scoop of ice cream, a mediocre scone with cream and jam, and a pot of tea. I secured my position as Clumsy Tourist of Astoria by knocking over our table when leaving the cafe. I watched in slow motion as the teapot careened to the floor. Thankfully it didn't shatter.

But my favorite tea experience in London is, and always will be, The Muffin Man. It's located near Kensington High Street tube station. Here, for a decent price, you get the best tasting scones in the world. Once in a while a few of them get slightly burned. Otherwise, they are perfect. The atomosphere is cozy and feminine, but I saw a number of men enjoying lunch here. Their sandwiches are also to die for. Their cakes are okay too. If you ever make it to London, make time to visit the Muffin Man, even if it's not on Drury Lane.

05 May 2005


While away in UK and France, I didn't check my email once, nor did I have a cell phone (mobile). Occasionally I felt uneasy about this. I guess I experienced technological cold turkey. When I heard a ringtone, I'd reach for my phone and then stop short out of habit. I phoned home a few times, and that was the only time I had contact with NY.

In the long run, the only thing I truly missed was text messaging, but even this I survived.

Now I recommend that everyone try taking a holiday from being totally reachable. It's hard to do in while vacationing somewhere in the US perhaps. Still, try even for one day turning off your cellphone, your pager, your laptop, whatever. Take a long walk or drive away from your hometown and listen to silence for once. Reach out and touch...the off button.