27 April 2006


I just realized I've been blogging for a year now! Time for a Celebratory Sencha!

26 April 2006

I am!

You Are Likely a Second Born
At your darkest moments, you feel inadequate.At work and school. you do best when you're evaluating.When you love someone, you offer them constructive criticism.
In friendship, you tend to give a lot of feedback - positive and negative.Your ideal careers are: accounting, banking, art, carpentry, decorating, teaching, and writing novels.You will leave your mark on the world with art and creative projects.
This is kind of freaky. Only accounting and banking are out of the question.

Roget is Feeling Neglected

I admit I use the word "great" often enough. It fits many descriptions, it's short and to the point, and it's an easy word to use when smiling. If someone tells me good news or promises to give me something I'd like to have, I'll say, "Great!" and toss my head in that way that comes instinctively to blonde Americans. I even did a search of this word on my blog, and before today I've used it eight times.

I find, though, that there is overkill of this adjective, especially when the English language has so much to choose from. In the past one would have to topple the Persian Empire before being labeled The Great, and who knows if this was truly deserved? Now the word is thrown about willy-nilly, without regard to appropriateness or boredom. I was watching TLC's "What Not to Wear," and nearly every garment that was recommended was great. "This is a great top", "Here we have a great jacket": ouch! It was grating my mind! Then I heard it repeated on the Style Network, all kinds of shopping programs, magazines, ebay, everywhere!

People - we have some wonderful adjectives out there. Try these: splendid, terrible, marvelous, lovely, beautiful, magnificent, splendid, brilliant, fabulous, fantastic, cute, superb, sensational, outstanding, fine, amazing, grand; even groovy works sometimes. I don't recommend "hot," it's too Paris Hilton.

Next time I ask you how that cup of tea was, what are you going to say?

24 April 2006


I finally got around to visiting Communitea on Friday afternoon. Though Cathy B. and I had attempted to go there the previous Sunday, it had been closed for Easter. So on Friday when I realized I had about two hours to kill, I took the N to the 7 to Vernon Blvd. It's not that long a ride, just annoying that I need to take two trains to go to an area that is fairly close to Astoria.

And yet, it was nearly another city altogether. There's the feeling of an attempt to be interesting, whereas Astoria has seemed to give up (with the exception of the constant raising of new apartment buildings which a native Astoria could not afford.) I stopped into a vintagey store called Just Things, where I was able to find some decent books and had a look at some old toys - and some teatime hats.

Some real winner had put graffiti on the front window of Communitea. So the owners called in an artist to work over it, and "make lemonade" out of the lemon of that situation. I guess even in a pleasant neighborhood there has to be property damagers.

My first impression on stepping inside was Wow, there are more guys here than girls! There was an affable staff, and one orders at the counter - they were nice about not putting tomatoes in my curry chicken sandwich. The sandwich was really tasty, though a bit heavy on the mayo. The tea, which was a sencha with cherry blossoms, was mild and refreshing. As I sipped, I stared at the black chalkboard menu wall, and was happy to see they have a wide variety of $4 smoothies, other hot drinks like Ghiradelli hot chocolate and hot cider: though I'm a tea person it's nice to try beverages of all sorts. When I was bored of reading the menu wall and reached for the New Yorker magazine, which was there amongst other strewn about newspapers and magazines. I think that's rather courteous of the owners to provide. Not to mention the wi fi for those bearing laptops. Then I got back to studying for that night's book study.

One slight disappointment was their having run out of scones. Usually I try a tearoom's scone as a gauge for whether the place is worth returning to or not. Still, it's not an Afternoon Tea environment, so I let them get away with it and tried a marble pound cake slice instead (it was good even though lowfat - and I love marble pound cake!) For dog lovers, they provide biscuits in case your friend has to wait outside. It's not Paris, after all. Anyway, even though the loose tea they sell retail is overpriced, I would certainly recommend Communitea as a relaxing neighborhood tearoom. (The owners can feel free to open a second Communitea in Astoria....)
-picture taken from teamap.com

19 April 2006

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Cuppa

Giving advice on what to wear can be really sensitive. I for one do not like to be dictated to by fashion magazines or celebrities, or even well-meaning friends. So tackling the subject of suitable getup for tea parties or anywhere tea related is not easy. That being said, here are my feelings about tea wear, take it or leave it:

Tearooms: It all depends on what the style of the tearoom is. If you are taking afternoon tea in a hotel like the St. Regis, you don't show up in jeans and t-shirt. You just don't. It's too fancy a place, you'll feel like a jerk with I Love New York emblazoned on your chest. Extra effort is necessary. If you hate wearing skirts, I'm sure you have some nice trousers (some call them slacks, I don't know, that word makes me gag) and a blouse, that's fine. For guys, skirts would probably be out of the question, though I would have no problem with kilts or kurtas.

Now if you are visiting an "urban" tearoom (see teamap.com), casual wear is just fine. I would still lay off the sloppy t-shirts. Be yourself, just not the yourself as you'd appear rolling out of the bed in the morning.

Tea Parties At Home: It's not always worth it to go all out and frilly when you are invited to take tea at someone's home. If a group of people are coming and it's an apartment, you may end up sitting on the floor. Know your host/hostess and their home if possible. If it's going to be at a dining room table, then lean slightly more towards the Hotel Tea look. Otherwise, even jeans are fine (Marie) as long as they are in good condition and fit. And please, please! No shorts! Cropped pants, maybe, but shorts should be left for the beach and picnics.

Outdoor Tea Parties/Picnics: Also depends on whether you will be at a table or a blanket.

Accessories: This section is certainly not for the guys. Gloves are a waste of time, there are too many finger foods. I love wearing hats to tea, but not baseball caps. It's not necessary, though, just my preference. Too outlandish a hat is no good either - we're not at Ascot, are we? Wear a tiara and wings if you really want to ruin your parties' appetite.

These are only suggestions. I would not apply these bits of advice to the person enjoying a mug of Irish Breakfast at 9am (Gata): by all means, wear pajamas! But when there is an invitation involved or an outing, isn't it nice to look nice? Really, this is applicable to many areas in life. We have a lot more latitude nowadays, it's great to be creative in our dress when possible (modestly, of course.) Have fun, wear something "ethnic" if you want, break out your favorite necklace. And don't forget your best accessory - your smile! Teatime is supposed to be fun! Just not frumpy.

18 April 2006

Shortest Personality Test

Your Personality Profile
You are pure, moral, and adaptable.You tend to blend into your surroundings.Shy on the outside, you're outspoken to your friends.
You believe that you live a virtuous life...And you tend to judge others with a harsh eye.As a result, people tend to crave your approval.
The World's Shortest Personality Test

17 April 2006

Gata Spend More Time in Brooklyn, or A Tea Lounge Grows in Brooklyn

Apparently there are two Tea Lounge(s) in Brooklyn. I went to the one in Park Slope, 7th Avenue, with my sister Pam.

Why don't they have places like this in Astoria? I mean, the setup was kind of like Cafe Bar, all random couches thrown about. There was a backgammon table and maybe chess as well. It was real casual, with the token pretentious people conversing nearby - but who can avoid being pretentious once in a while?

Anyway, about the tea. I picked from their adequately varied list two different types of tea. A single pot (which would have been enough for Pam and I) was $2.75, and I had one Persian Peach, which had black tea, and Northern Lights, which was a Chamomile Citrus Blend. There is a counter where you make your order. The staff was friendly in an efficient manner, and prepared to explain what was in each tea. That's always a big bonus. The tea and cup was placed on a block to carry to your seat, which looked unwieldy but turned out to be just fine.

Though we'd already eaten at the Indian restaurant across the street, I ordered a maple scone to split between the two of us. It costed about the same as the pot of tea, but it was good. It would have been better if we were hungrier, I suppose, but good nevertheless.

Otherwise, there are different types of pastries and soup which would have been good on a rainy Friday. There were many different coffees to chose from, and beer - it is after all a lounge - among other beverages. I would certainly recommend this place over Alice's to my male friends.

We were there in the afternoon. At night they have music performances, but I'll have to leave that to another time.

I'm really beginning to appreciate Brooklyn, besides just the Heights. There were so many shops and restaurants on 7th Avenue that I would have loved to explore, if I had more time, as well as 5th Avenue. The buildings around there were so much prettier than Astoria, it was almost a disappointment to return home. Not almost, it was.

12 April 2006

Tavalon Tea Bar

I saw Tavalon from across the street a few Sundays ago with Marie, but it looked closed. Actually, it was just about to open. Yesterday, when I heard that it opened, I determined to visit it as soon as possible. So today during our lunch hour I dragged Bonnie through the 4 train to Union Square. That's really not the brightest thing to do, as it seriously cuts into our relaxing and unwinding time. My curiosi-tea got the better of me, though, so on we went.

Tavalon is a small place, with comfortable seating for 5 or 6 tops. It's bright and airy, with a dj above playing dj-type music. There were 2 men staffing the shop, and another giving out samples of a white tea with plum that tasted heavenly. I was informed that there would be a tea class every Friday evening, for anyone who is interested. The man behind the counter (I've got to ask people their names) was informative and friendly, and I ordered the Chai Seduction, iced because it's kind of warm out today. I'm glad to say it was really good, even with soy milk.

Additionally, they had some sweets on offer. I had a green tea cookie. They also have little scones, rice pudding, croissants, and more. I believe they offer sandwiches but as I didn't see any and forgot to ask, I would not go in hungry the first time.

If the two teas I tried were any indication, I would certainly recommend Tavalon. This is not an Afternoon Tea kind of place, it's in a busy but fun shopping area (and getting busier with Trader Joe's having opened nearby.) So if you are shopping in Union Square - and I know you will be eventually, do stop in. They sell loose tea and paraphernalia - I may add them as a link.

Caveat: Don't try to come here during your lunch break if you work in the east 40's (Grand Central Station area)- it's just too much trouble. Really, with Koli Koli closing, there is no lunchy tea place in walking and enjoying distance from my job! Commenters: if you know of any, please let me know.

Beatles Tea Party

11 April 2006

Alice's Flippin' Tea Cup, Chapter II

I really don't know about this place.

First of all, I absolutely love the decor, it's all purpley and fairy, ultrafeminine. That being said, it's one of the most difficult places to drag a male. Unless he is with a spouse or kids, the average guy is going to be sick inside Alice's. Even though the food is magnificent, he would not deem the prices worth the torture of the interior (waitresses with fairy wings!) I will no longer attempt to convince any guys I know to visit Alice's Tea Cup, except maybe Marie's Anthony. He was fine with it, though I'm sure it wouldn't have been his first choice.

Maybe this is a good thing. Teatime was always (in western society, anyway) the place for females to get together - an answer to coffeehouses and pubs I guess.

If you are going to Alice's, though, whatever gender you may be, please make a reservation beforehand: not same-day, though. On Sunday Cathy B. and I called an hour before and the hostess advised that they don't do same-day. This I thought a bit odd - in March we made a reservation 2 hours in advance, no problem. Back to Sunday, though I was told on the phone we'd have a 20-30 minute wait, upon arrival it was an hour. Then the hostess said I should have called to be put on a waiting list. Um, duh! Didn't I call an hour before?

I get tired of this kind of treatment at tearooms. I don't really need to be THE TEA QUEEN wherever I go - it's just that everyone wants to feel welcome in a tearoom. This is especially true when I arrive dressed for tea - I could have come in jeans, but I wore a very appropriate and if I may say - lovely! - outfit on Sunday. So did Cathy B. (Tea wear, not ware, will be discussed in an upcoming post.)

We were seated upstairs (this is the eastside Alice's, of course) which is airy and usually the more pleasant option. Sadly, some baby shower spilled out into our room and their table exploded with laughter - not once, but over and over again. HAHA!!..........HA HA!!!!..........................................................HAHAHA!!!!!! Oh, migraine!

Finally, come on! A little more cream! This is supposed to be Alice's adventures, not Oliver Twist!!! (Dang!)

Perhaps the real chapter borrowed from Mr. Carroll's stories was the Mad Tea Party, with emphasis on MAD. The owners must suffer from mercury poisoning.

Love the sandwiches, though.


Once an English professor said that more suicides happen in early April, not because of holidays but because springtime is supposed to be the promise of something better. Cherry blossoms, more sunlight, everyone looks forward to this in the winter. For a depressed person, though, it doesn't give hope (unless you have the Seasonal Affective Disorder, I think that's what it's called.) Squashing of hope leads to despair, thus the suicides.

I don't suffer from clinical depression, though I can feel low at times. I do find less joy in April than I used to. I lost two grandparents in April. I took Cinnamon home on 10th April 1993. Now that he's gone it only makes me sadder. My least favorite UK trip took place in April (1999: It's just hard to enjoy oneself when one is absolutely broke and unemployed!)

There are some good moments left, though. Bon's anniversary is this month, I was first exposed to Bohemian Rhapsody, thus turning me into a Queen fanatic, this day in April 1992, and my vacation last April was really nice.

Still, they don't make Aprils like they used to.

10 April 2006

Grandma, Grandma

I could never write a tribute as fitting as Bonnie's, so I won't. Suffice it to say I'll miss Grandma very much and remember all the good times we had together as a child and recently. I loved her energy and presence of mind: hopefully some of her positive qualities will manifest themselves in her descendants. I loved the way she posed for a picture on a bicycle, even though she never learned to ride. Sounds like another Catherine I know!

This picture is from last September, when Pam took Grandma and I to the New York Botanical Gardens. We had such a pleasant day. It was rather sunny out, so she had to purchase a hat in the gift shop. It looked like a safari hat. She was slightly self-conscious about it; Grandma always took pride in her appearance, as her many photographs show. Pam and I loved the way the hat looked on her, and I'm glad I had my camera phone that day to get this last image of her.

(As befits this blog, she was also one of my influences in getting into tea. Her 1940's rationing story encouraged me to stop sweetening my tea.)

03 April 2006

Weather...or not

I am not particularly fond of weatherpersons right now. All week they have been predicting the opposite of the outcome. It was supposed to rain late last week: I lugged my umbrella unnecessarily. My neck hurt from the extra weight, and I had an inordinate amount of sweat from wearing heavier clothing than was needed. Today I watched two news channels to check for precipitation. Yesterday I had a haircut and it looks really cute and I did not want rain to mar such a good hair day. Both channels said it wouldn't rain till late evening, so I left my umbrella at home. Noontime it was already drizzling! Blast! I feel like I'm watching Bizarro weather forecasts!

At least it was appropriate weather for Tartan Week. They hold this event every year in Grand Central Terminal, so I stopped by. Five travel brochures, two pens, and fantasic live music later, I feel a latent desire to return to Scotland. It's been nearly 12 years, and I'm slightly more mature than I was in my teenage body. It would be a great experience. Yet another possibility to contemplate...