26 June 2006

Movie Magic

Bonnie and I were walking on 42nd Street between 5th and Madison on our lunch break today. The rain was tapering off, but we still needed an umbrella. I looked down for a moment, and then did a double take. Why was there snow on the ground? It was gathered around the curb like a February day a few days after a snowstorm. For a moment I thought maybe someone had dumped ice from a restaurant refrigerator - latent memories of defrosting the freezer in the 80's. The I noticed there was the same kind of snow across the street. I was briefly dumbfounded until I realized where we were. Midtown Manhattan. Every week a block here and there was used for filming a movie scene. Often I will pass by postings informing everyone that parking will be prohibited for so many hours because a studio is filming a future blockbuster, or maybe an episode of Law and Order.

Mystery solved. As a non-driver, it doesn't usually bother me that trailers will be taking over a whole busy block of Manhattan. When they were filming a scene for an upcoming Uma Thurman movie in Astoria, it was slightly annoying that I couldn't walk by a corner shop that normally I could pass without a second thought. I don't lose sleep over it, though.

I still think it's fun that by the miracle of modern movie making, we can have winter in June. I'd have taken a picture, but I'm sure I'll see that block full of snow in a few months anyway - if not, I'll catch it in my local theater.

What is it with cats and newspapers?

24 June 2006

The Perfect Couple

To me, nothing is more cozy than curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. I love going to tea rooms with my friends, but I'm just as comfortable showing up alone, with a nice chunky book I'm in the middle of. Hotel teas....maybe I need a breathing companion for that, but otherwise, books are the perfect accompaniment to a nice cuppa and a fluffy scone.

Therefore, few things excite me more than a tea-themed book. Whether it's a memoir, travel guide, or tearoom mystery, the combination is akin to strawberry jam and clotted cream - splendiferous! Here's two tea books I've had the luxury of delving into recently:

Blood Orange Brewing, by Laura Childs
I first discovered the Tea Shop Mysteries in 2002, and was enthralled. The reader gets to live a few weeks wth Theodosia Browning, formerly of the marketing world and now entrepreneur - she owns and operates the (sadly fictional) Indigo Tea Shop, with young culinary genius and student Haley in the kitchen, and Drayton, a tea conoisseur who loves all things past. If this place was real I'd be on the first plane to Charleston for Afternoon Tea.

Lke most mystery series, the sleuths somehow find murder mysteries landing in their laps far too often than is realistic. Of course, this time the Indigo staff are catering a candlelit celebration of a donation of an old home to the Heritage Society. Suddenly, a prominent figure drops dead in front of everyone. Whodunnit? Theodosia is called upon by the grieving widow to find the murderer, despite the corpulent Detective Tidwell's warnings to back off.

It's not a difficult read, and sadly I always know who the culprit is as soon as their name is mentioned early on in the book. I'm not giving it away, lots of names are introduced in each new volume. Something about the introduction just clicks "guilty" in my head. Despite this, I still want to know why, and I love living with the characters for a short time, with all the tea anecdotes and mostly kindly person occupying the world around the tea shop. Then there's recipes after the story ends, and some tea party suggestions. I'd like to try the Cupcake Tea. Who wouldn't love that?

Tea In The City: New York, by Elizabeth Knight
I found out about this lovely new book at Sympathy for the Kettle, which of course is featured in here.

New York is usually thought of as a coffee city, but us tea folk know better. In this city, tea is like a treasure, search hard enough and it you'll find it in rewarding measures. This glossy book is full of places to take tea and shop for tea things, as well as gorgeous pictures by Bruce Richardson. It's divided by areas in the city, and even has some places in the boroughs. Yes, even our beloved Queens, though of course not to the extent of Manhattan. At least there's plenty of places to purchase some loose tea and pots to take home. I've been to so many of these places, but I enjoyed reading about them anyway. Plus, it gave me choices for other tearooms to visit in NY. Sure, there's plenty of places on the internet to give me ideas, and they've been helpful. Still, there is nothing like reading about it in a good smelling book.

22 June 2006

One of the sweetest cat pics ever...

I sense that feeling of security young ones get from their parents - before they realize differently. What do you feel about it?

21 June 2006

It's That Time Again!

My semi-annual Book Review is here!

I'm trying to decide whether to dispense with this tradition, maybe making reviews more often. I love book blogs, such as Kate's Book Blog and Of Books and Bicycles, two readers whose love of books and writing is infectious. This blog, however, is really supposed to be general, with some emphasis on tea, cats, travel, and books. So, at best, this will be a part-time book blog. Who wants to work full time anyway?

Anyway, here are some highlights:

The Beatles, by Bob Spitz:
Everyone anyone would ever need to know about the Beatles and everyone in their path to success and breakup. At over 800 pages, you will be a certified Beatlemaniac if you've read the entire book. Spitz is a research fiend! Liked the photos, too.

Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson:
I love travel journals, especially humorous ones. Mr. Bryson is an American who lived in England for a long period of time. Before he returns to the States he takes a walking tour of England and some Scotland, catching a train here and there. He comments on the similarities of too many towns in England, and tries to find excitement in the most obscure places. Even though many times he's disappointment in this endeavour, you can sense the fondness he possesses for his second home.

Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
I've read his first two painful memoirs; this is his third. As the title indicates, this one focuses on his career as a teacher, and at times a student. His memory is almost too good: is all that dialogue for real or is he filling in the blanks with guesses? Perhaps I'll never know. Being a New York public school student myself, it was fun to see the story from the other side. Remember when the teachers moaned about their jobs? I wondered why...now I'm slightly more clued in. McCourt's struggle to make a difference and to live his version of the dream is poignant. There's a couple of laughs and coincidences thrown in as well.

The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai
I suppose I inherited loss of memory of the details of this book. I know it was engrossing, with manifold characters (though the only one I felt for was the cook's son and his struggle as an illegal immigrant in NY). The stickler in me was frustrated by different cultural references that did not belong to the setting of the book, the 1980's. I don't remember what it was, as I no longer have the book, but say you were writing about the 1980's and one of your characters was watching Desperate Housewives. It just takes something away from the believability. Not that I could do much better. That being said, the ending was sadly hilarious.

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin
Could have used this book when I did a college research paper on my favorite author. There is much emphasis on Austen's upbringing, education, the whole unmarried-woman situation of Regency England, that sort of thing. Also, this one doubles almost as a biography of her cousin Eliza, one of her more fascinating relatives. I can understand why: for a girl like Jane Austen who had no tv (probably why she wrote so well) and travelled very little, an older female cousin who'd been all over the world and lost a husband to the French Revolution was a window to the world. Took me a while to finish this one, though.

The King's English, by Betsey Burton
The true story of an independent bookseller in Salt Lake City. The struggles of surviving in a superstore world, dealing with partners and employees, making a profit, and doing all this while raising a disabled child. Burton includes anecdotes from book signings, and many encounters with various types of writers. Chock full of book lists, which I love.

The Rebels of Ireland, by Edward Rutherfurd
Sequel to The Princes of Ireland, these are the most ambitious sagas ever written by Rutherfurd. He takes a few families and follows them down throughout crucial points of history for that particular land. This volume pics up from the end of the Elizabethan era to the beginning of the twentieth century. The fortunes of these families rise and fall, usually depending on what religion they belong to. The reader ends up sympathizing with certain families and want to see if they get what they deserve, even generations later. You can tell who Rutherfurd is rooting for, even down to the characters' physical descriptions. I tell you, I learned more about Ireland from reading this than I did in school, even if it is classified under "fiction".

Napoleon's Women, by Christopher Hibbert
An in-depth coverage of the females in the vertically challenged emperor's life, from mistresses to relatives to wives. Not too detailed as regards to the famous battles as it's not supposed to be. Really, though, a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte, making true the saying "behind every great man..."

Neverwhere, by Neal Gaiman
Woooooooooooo, another world existing beneath the city of London! Richard Mayhew helps out an injured girl named Door and loses his identity in London Above. It's been compared to Alice in Wonderland. Definitely fun to read, with even the bad guys having fun dialogue while carrying out their dastardly deeds. My favorite character: The Marquis de Carabas. The name itself is fabulous to pronounce.

Ireland, by Frank Delaney
In 1950's Ireland, a family is visited by a storyteller, and the life of the son, Ronan, is changed forever. His childhood and young adulthood are laid out before the reader as he tries to find the Storyteller. In the meantime, you get a lot of stories from Irish history and myth, which makes for pleasurable reading.

Against Gravity, by Farnoosh Moshiri
The story of three lives are told, intertwining in explosive ways. You get three points of view, and just when you start feeling for one you get the next perspective, teaching you that it's important to really know where someone comes from before you try to make a conclusion about them. Set in Houston in the 1990's and deals with issues such as AIDS, refugees, education, depression, obsession, and much more. I was hooked till the end.

There was more, but I think I'll stop here.

19 June 2006

I Kinda Smart

Your IQ Is 120
Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Above Average
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

Not logically brilliant enough to figure out how to put a link on this post....

Guess what I ate!

12 June 2006

When You Need a Little Tea and Sympathy...

I happened to have a doctor's appointment near Tea and Sympathy. Pam was with me, and we couldn't resist. Tea and Sympathy is the first NY tearoom I'd ever been to. My first visit was either 94 or 95, I actually can't remember. I was so green back then. No idea what kind of tea to order, I ended up with some random black tea. Over a decade later, now I'm much more specific. On Friday I was in dire need of caffeine, so I ordered Yorkshire Gold. I was awake for the rest of the day. We weren't too hungry, so Pam and I both got the the cream tea and split a coronation chicken sandwich (no tomatoes!)

Tea and Sympathy does not boast a variety of scones, but what they have is fine. Their biggest selling point for me is the generous heapings of clotted cream...oh, and their puddings! There was no room in my stomach for one of those but Pam and I debated ordering one, but we decided to get real. Next time for the treacle, the chocolate cake, the apple crumble, whatever....must go back soon!

We also visited Carry on Tea and Sympathy, with all their British paraphernalia. I bought a tin of tea (Rosie Lee, if you're Cockney) and 2 little boxes of Ribena. Besides tea, Ribena is my favorite thing to drink when I'm in England, followed closely by the Cadbury Hot Cocoa.

Afterwards, we took a peaceful walk to Trader Joe's. I love that whole Chelsea/Union Square area. It's not as crazy as Midtown and not as snotty as Uptown. Plus, there is a plethora of tea shops. GATA love it!

Return of Sherlock Holmes

Here it is...
had trouble posting pic last week.

08 June 2006

Tea and Sherlock

One of the most famous fictional characters in history would have to be Sherlock Holmes. Invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes' deductive reasoning and amazing powers of observation have never been duplicated. The most recent character bearing a resemblance to him, in my opinion, is Dr. House, played by Hugh Laurie. The ability to solve problems by paying attention to small details, the attitude problems, the chemical dependencies...do I detect a pattern here? Sherlock Holmes' name has been linked to sarcastic reactions to stupid questions much in the same way Einstein's name is used.

As many books as I've devoured throughout the years, I have yet to complete a volume of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I got through much of "A Study in Scarlet" but got bored when the subject matter turned to Mormon history. Perhaps I'll return to it in the future, I don't know. I know the bulk of the stories from the wonderful series presented in the US on PBS's Mystery! program.

It was a teatime tradtion in my house for a while. On Saturday nights, my sisters and I joined my mom at the table for tea and Clue (the board game.) After this, we'd watch Mystery with my Dad. Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, all good. Sherlock Holmes, played by Jeremy Brett, accompanied by two different Dr. Watsons, was my favorite.

In my preteen years it was all I could do to understand the plot, but my burgeoning anglophilia kept me fascinated. I loved Jeremy Brett's portrayal. With his acquiline nose, rolling r's, brief smile twitchings and maniacal outbursts, I had one of my early crushes on a much older man. (At one point I felt that way for Reagan and the president of Astoria Federal Savings Bank, but I was only like six and didn't really have a clear perspective.) I loved the cobblestone streets, the room at 221B Baker Street, the Victorian/Edwardian clothes, though the women's clothing left something to be desired. The violin opening of the show - I should have that as a ringtone.

On our first trip to London my sister Pam and I went to 221B Baker Street, and like many other tourists were dismayed to see an Abbey National Bank. I never met their president, but I'm sure he was fine... still we sent a Sherlock Holmes postcard home, purchased from the requisite museum across the street.

In the summer of 1995 my Dad had back surgery, and was in the hospital for the weekend. Bon was away and Pam wasn't living at home, so I had the place to myself. So I had my friend Cindy over for a night. I made herbal tea, and we watched Sherlock Holmes videos late into the night. Someone else was hooked.

That September Cindy came up to me and said she heard that the guy who played Sherlock Holmes was dead. I couldn't believe it. Can't I be into anything involving living persons? I was sad, and hardly watched the videos for years. (Jeremy Brett died of a heart attack. He'd been sick before that, notably suffering from bipolar disorder, especially after the death of his second wife.)

Recently my Dad and I have had a Sherlock Holmes marathon going on. Last night I watched "The Hound of the Baskervilles." I still love him, I say him because to me Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes. I've never been into Brett's character on "My Fair Lady" because it's too different. Well, I guess he was a good actor, if much underrated.

And I still love curling up with a cup of (usually herbal) tea while watching him (I mean, the show, I think.)

07 June 2006

Bye to Billy Preston

One of the "Fifth Beatles", he performed on the Let It Be album. He just died this week at only 59.