31 December 2008

Books!Books!Books! End of 2008

I have quite a reading year ahead of me. I joined the 999 Challenge, which means attempting to read 9 books in 9 characters in 2009. I started already, reasoning that as long as I FINISH the book in 09 it counts. Besides, I've barely cracked 60 this year, so I need all the help I can get. By the way, that doesn't mean I read less. Between Middlemarch, Bleak House and a number of other mammoth-sized books, I've held my own. Joining the challenge, though, is more fun than work for me. It's a great way to keep organized, and to finally tackle all the TBRs piling up at home. I'm rubbing my hands with excitement! I can totally face a cold, bleak NY for the next few months - and it's a relatively cheap undertaking, since I don't have to further pay for these books. I'm stocked.

Without going nuts, here's a summary of a few books that have kept good company with me through this rather tumultuous part of 2008:

Devil's Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman

I waited years for this one. It's been some time since its predecessor Time and Chance came out - was I even blogging yet? I don't know. Anyway, it's the long saga of Henry II of England, his wife the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine, and all their sons. If Henry VIII had issues due to lack of sons, Henry II had his troubles resulting from a surfeit of strapping young men, all eager to take on their inheritance while resenting the control of their capable but clueless father. It's hard to side with anyone. Penman manages to make nearly everyone sympathetic, in a less sappy way than Jean Plaidy did in her many historical novels (though I still love her). DB went on forever, but I still felt reluctant to leave the early Plantagenets at that point. What happens next? Well, I know what happens, but I want to hear it, or read it, from Penman's mouth, or, well...pen.

John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman

Another massive, massive chunky book. Backache Backache! Also, another subject I'm well versed in but don't mind reading about once again. Thankfully it was well researched and neither gushy nor nasty. There's only two things I wasn't crazy about: the author seemed to enjoy stomping on George Harrison's legacy, claiming all his inspiration was derived from Lennon. Now I wasn't there, but even if it was, it's just not nice. Also, delving into John's Aunt Mimi's love life was a little uncalled for. TMI!!! I did NOT need to know that. I'm sure some people love that kind of in-depth analysis, so they can have it. I'd leave it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I'd heard that if you liked 84 Charing Cross Road then I had to read this one. Yeah, sort of. This book, of course, is fictional and isn't just about books. Basically a writer develops a correspondence with a group of people on the Channel Islands, who experienced Nazi occupation during World War II. She becomes really intrigued by their story, and the nature of their forming a literary group, and the story goes from there. It was the book I read while in Florida, so I guess this counts as my beach read of the year.

I could go on, but I kinda feel like diving into the 2009 books.

18 December 2008

Tea for T, M & I




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It's rare to stick TMI into a discussion about tea, but corny lady as I am, I found the opportunity. Actually, taking tea with Gata usually includes a bit of TMI (too much information) no matter what, so long as I'm drinking something with the slightest hint of caffeine. Motormouth resumes - though that's preferable to my alcohol-fueled litanies.

Anyway, Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach is a cozy place to take Afternoon Tea - especially for a hotel. They had me at "seating in the library". There, Teresa, Melinda and I were ensconced in couches, books, and finger sandwiches. We had an older gentleman pour the tea for us, and share some information about the hotel's sister properties in London. Moments like that make me wish I had a butler.

The sandwiches were typical (not much for a vegetarian, which I'm not really) but quite nice. There were a bunch of tiny sweet pastries on top. The tea selection wasn't vast - no Darjeeling! - but I find most hotel teas don't have scores of teas to choose from, so no surprise there. We all had Earl Grey. What made the tea were the scones. They were what scones should be, warm from the oven and fluffy yet substantial, and a bit of powdered sugar on top. We had strawberry jam, marmalade and clotted cream to choose from. My only (slight) disappointment was the one scone per person offering. Personally I like to be satiated with scones, and to roll out the doors afterwards, but otherwise it was a wonderful tea.

The whole experience reminded me of why I devote a whole room in my apartment to being a library in the first place. There's nothing like a cheery inner sanctum, surrounded by books, to sip a favorite cup of tea in. I enjoy that even more than travel. My thoughts are similar to Anna Quindlen's in "How Reading Changed My Life":

"I travel today in the way I once dreamed of traveling as a child. And the irony is that I don't care for it very much. I am the sort of person who prefers to stay at home, surrounded by family, friends, familiarity, books. This is what I like about traveling: the time on airplanes spent reading, solitary, happy. It turns out that when my younger self thought of taking wing, she wanted only to let her spirit soar. Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."

Of course, in my case you'd have to insert tea in there somewhere. And I do like traveling: I'd like to get out of town more frequently. In the absence of funds, though, I'm happy in my library, and take afternoon tea with good friends whenever possible, whether in NY or South Florida.

11 December 2008

Love Dem Kitties!




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In case you didn't believe I was a crazy cat lady before, I thought I'd present more evidence.

09 December 2008






My favorite duck of Thousand Oaks pond. He doesn't seem to mind the rather tasteless yeast-free rice bread I shared with him/her. I went back and forth calling it Aflac and Jemima, and wasn't about to check and see which was more correct.

Did I mention the weather is gorgeous here? (Florida, in case I hadn't told you personally). It seems slightly cloudier today, but it's still the perfect kind of warm. More pics to come.
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26 November 2008

I Can Has Shepherd's Pie!

It's been a bit rough going, trying to keep away from red meat. Sometimes I want a cheeseburger, and the turkey version doesn't always cut it. I'm especially wary of Shepherd's Pie, as I had a violent reaction to it once, resulting in a dreadfully unpleasant subway ride home (which reminds me, even on a decent day the subway and its riders are getting nastier than ever.)

I was curious, then, about Teany's Shepherd's Pie. Would the vegetarian version make a decent substitute? Why yes, it would! It was really all I needed, though I also had the lentil soup, which was good but a bit rough on the system later on. Yes, on a November day, it was more than acceptable, and cozy. That's good, because after a traumatically crowded visit to Whole Foods, I needed comfort food (yes, I earn the Moron of the Day Award for going to a normally overcrowded grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.) Bathy thought the SP was rather nice too.

I hope I've made the point that not every tea room is all about pretty china and frilly tablecloths (not that I mind those things, but you have to want variety here and there if you live in NY). On the subject of tea rooms, I must add that the Teanychino is one of the best ways to drink Mate. Normally, I'm not a fan of Mate as a drink, but this is a subtle way to enjoy it. It's got almond and vanilla and some flowery bits, which covers up the "swill" factor I find in most Mate. By the way, it's not pronounced to rhyme with gate, more like mah-tay.

I'd still like a cheeseburger, though. At least I was able to hold off this craving for yet another day.

23 November 2008

The Kitty Quiz

You Are a Persian Cat

You are very high-maintenance, at least as far as keeping up your appearance goes.

But you're surprisingly low-maintenance in every other aspect of your life.

You are peaceful and sweet tempered. People enjoy your company.

You are loving and a good companion, but it takes you a while to trust people.

I've spent too much time with the Zeno!

16 November 2008

Paper: My Best/Worst Friend

I really have an interesting relationship with paper. Yes, paper, the stuff made from trees and sometimes recycled. I realized this as I was doing some intense housecleaning this weekend.

The Hate: I can't seem to get it in control! I know we have online bill paying nowadays, but there's still loads of important and semi-important paperwork coming into my home and, of course, at work. At least at work we're expected and paid to have paper all over the place. At home, though, it's preferable to keep things tidy; and envelopes, magazines, catalogs, printouts...where can it go? I've never been able to have a proper filing system. I think it's one of the reasons I haven't gotten into any creative paper projects recently (I have some lovely scrapbooking and card making books and supplies, but the thought of pulling it all out and then having to face THAT...now I know why people are organizing their photos digitally.) Having a shredder is excellent, but it almost makes a dent in my war against paperjunk.

The Love: I'm absolutely mad for books. I detest reading books online, and I haven't warmed up to the idea of Kindle or those forms of readers. Holding a book in my hand and escaping for a while, and learning something new while I'm at it: I can't ask for a greater pleasure, and such a nice tactile experience. The same goes for journaling. As mentioned in previous posts, I never gave up writing in bound blank books, and I doubt I ever will. To me, this blog is simply a complement of my written records. The smell of paper items doesn't hurt. A magazine could cover the subject of grouting, but if it smells good (the magazine not the grout), just crack it open and it's budget aromatherapy. Oh, and let's not forget brown paper packages tied up with strings! The sound of someone wrapping a package is powerfully calming. I suppose I get this from my Dad. He would fall asleep to the sound of papers being turned, and had a special cassette from a Mr. Rogers episode when they did origami in his neighborhood.

It seems to me I love paper more than I hate it. I just wish I could conquer Mt. Paperpile.

12 November 2008

Appetite Suppressant? Ha!

I love tea and will always recommend it for whatever health complaints I hear of. I don't think it's a cure-all, but I've seen its benefits. Green tea, for example, is what I run to when my actual stomach is bothering me. I also find that when I'm coming down with something it coincides with a streak of limited green tea drinking. So yes, it's good for you. Drink it, by all means (not at night, insomniacs!)

I do beg to differ when it comes to one benefit: I keep reading that green tea helps you lose weight, as it's an appetite suppressant. Really? Why is it that every afternoon I decide to have a nice cup of Sencha or Lung Ching or whatever variety floats my boat, I am suddenly ravaged by hunger? It doesn't matter what I've had for lunch, as soon as I'm done with that cup I'm running for chips, cookies, cake, anything that will hold me off till dinner. Maybe it's just me, being my contrary self.

Am I the only one? I just don't think it's right to hail green tea as a weight loss drink, if this is the side effect.

I just had a flippin' cupcake.

05 November 2008

Lady Smartypants

Maybe I read too much, but it's nice to know that whatever else is going on in my head, lack of knowledge is not it:

There Are 0 Gaps in Your Knowledge

Where you have gaps in your knowledge:

No Gaps!

Where you don't have gaps in your knowledge:








27 October 2008

My eyes are burning...Book Review

I've said it before: I am NOT a crier. Unless there is a serious death in the family, including the cats, I rarely shed a tear. If I watch one of those sad chick-flicks, I might tear up a little, but it doesn't get further than that. So imagine my surprise when I found myself weeping at the end of Dewey. I was hysterical. That's really unlike me. So now I can't say whether I'm about to recommend this book or scare people away.

Quite a few cat lovers have heard of Dewey, the fluffy orange cat that was found as a kitten in a book slot and kept on as the library's full time representative. Vicki Myron's story, about his life in the library, as well as hers both as a library director, a cancer survivor, as well as victim of various other tragedies, really does tug at the heart, even my normally lukewarm one. On top of these two life stories with their ups and downs, it's also the story of Spencer, a small town in Iowa. I know nothing about Iowa, and I only know a little more now. Still, Spencer sounds like a nice place, where people work together during hard times to get through. Plus they grow a lot of corn, and I love corn. I don't care how simple that sounds, corn is great!

Anyway, it was just fine reading about the amazing Dewey, and all the love he showed the library's visitors, and how much he was loved. It was something how his fame spread wide during his lifetime, as far as Japan. I guess if you can't handle the sadness of a cat dying, skip the last two chapters, and you'll be fine. Personally, I thought I'd be fine, and next thing I knew I was gasping like a little kid after a tantrum. Sheesh. (Sniff!)

What got me was probably thinking about my own lovely orange cat, Cinnamon, who died the same year as Dewey. He may not have befriended a whole town, but he did breathe new life into our home after a really bad year. Though I'd known other decent cats before, it was he that turned me into the cat person I am now, for better or worse. So by the time I got to the part in the book where Dewey had to be put down, it was too close to home.

I may need to stay away from the animal books for a while. I have to finish The Labrador Pact first. Uh oh.

25 October 2008

Long Lost Footage!

My two favorites in one room! Miracles!

Actually, this looks like a video I'd have made when I used to make all those silly videos. Maybe it's a good thing I stopped...

19 October 2008

Frolicking in the Foliage





I've said it before, but I live for the autumn. The colors are one of the major attractions. I wish my camera caught it a little better, but this will have to do.
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I really need to catch up on my picture posting from last weekend. I have some time now, especially as I'm laid up with a raging cold, or whatever it is. Vexing as it is, I'm relieved I didn't suffer from this last week.

Why didn't I bring my shredding upstate? It would have taken five seconds to dispatch us in this lovely bonfire. There's nothing like a warm fire on a rather cold night, and a night well populated with stars. You don't see that everyday (well, I don't, anyway)
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15 October 2008

We start with the kitty...





I figured a good way to begin showing my weekend upstate would be a showcase of my Mad Cat-Lady skills. This is Goober, the outside cat. She's friendly and quite up there in years (about 16). It was like having Kira with a personality adjustment. (Kira is the cat Marie got the same year we got Cinnamon, and she's managed to outlive him yet.)
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13 October 2008


I got the following message from an eBay seller regarding an item I received about a month ago:

"I don't understand why you won't take the short time it takes to go to your feedback profile and leave me some positive feedback as I and others have done for you. Please take a moment to leave me a kind word, as I did my very best to make you a happy eBayer."

Here's the thing. The item was sent in a timely manner, the transaction was smooth, and I tend to leave feedback in these instances. Sometimes, though, I let one or two slip past me. The usual reason is that I just got off an eBay buying spree, which though much tamer than the ones in previous years still frightened me. I'm a recovering shopaholic, and I've done so well that even a slight lapse of control is disappointing. So I try to leave feedback as often as possible, but when I get off one of my binges I attempt to keep off the eBay site altogether for as long as I can.

Does this guy deserve positive feedback? Perhaps, but I don't like being hounded for my input. I don't do that to my buyers. So, as Kip would say, "I'm a little T.O.'d" (Napoleon Dynamite reference.)

Now I'd like your opinion on this matter, but don't worry, I won't hound you for it.

03 October 2008

3 at 3...til 3




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It's rare to get the three sisters together for tea: not impossible, just rare. We all had off on Tuesday, so we met up for my favorite ritual: Afternoon Tea.

It was hard to settle on which venue, but as Bonnie had only been to Alice's Tea Cup once, and Pam had just been to Chapter II, we went to Chapter III. We all ordered The Mad Hatter (big surprise), and my tea of choice was Trafalgar Square. If I can't be there, I'm gonna drink it instead!

The only complication is that I'm on a strict no dairy, no red meat, no fun, diet. Well, I cheated for a day. You got a problem with that? Well, my digestive system did, but I let's not get into that.

I was particularly taken with the pear walnut scone. Such a nice and substantial flavor combination, like the perfect autumn day (which it was). The sandwiches were nice, too: I can never get enough of the Lapsang Souchong-smoked chicken with apple slices. Superb. One of these days I'm going to try to make this at home. It can be done!

Times being as they are, going out for tea is a luxury, so it needs to be appreciated. I certainly do, and I never tire of spending time with my sisters. (Awwwwhh.)

(there was also a bit of good news when I came home that day, but I won't go into it here. Suffice it to say if I did have a blood pressure problem, which I don't, I won't. Huh? We're all mad here.)

As for milestones, well, I actually finished Bleak House, which is amazing. Two Dickens in one year? For me, this is significant. Put Middlemarch and various other hefty bits of literature on top of that, and it's been a seriously well-done reading year for me.

26 September 2008

I feel...okay

While not catching anything amidst swirling masses of strep throat and bronchitis sufferers, I haven't been really well this week. Between the allergies, the migraine and the subsequent migraine meds digestive system backlash, I feel a bit like one of those invalid women in the Jane Austen novels (Anne Elliot's sister, Mrs. Bertram, what was really wrong with them?) So I'm trying to bring myself at least to a 90% level of well.

It's autumn; everyone that knows me or has read this blog knows that this is MY time of year. I really need to step up and take advantage of this season. I have started getting culinary again and plan to do some form of baking this weekend. I've worn velvet recently, and broke out the boots. It could be worse.

So I'm hoping to be pleasantly well by next week. My tea senses are telling me to begin my former regimen of healing herbal infusions in the evening. Mmm...chamomile! Actually, chamomile lavender.

16 September 2008

What to drink with a heart attack on a plate

I found this article in The Scotsman. Now I know people get worked up over the sheer cholesterol of the English Breakfast, but it really brings back pleasant memories of late jet-lagged breakfasts that managed to take away my need for lunch. Though not the healthiest meal, it's certainly economical. What I love is the teaness of the article, and the quotes from Giles Hilton from Whittard of Chelsea.

It's bacon!

25 August 2008

Books! 2008 (so far)

I know I haven't done a book review post in ages. Does that mean I'm not reading? Hardly! I simply relegated my reviews to Library Thing, the site where I keep record of all the books I've owned. So, through the miracle of cut & paste technology, here are some of the reviews I've posted there:

Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners… by Laura Claridge

My idea of Emily Post had in the past been of a stiff, exacting, grey woman, who shouts "elbows off the table!" when you thought you could relax. (I guess it's been a while since I actually peered into her books). Laura Claridge's biography of the etiquette expert set me straight.

Through this book I was taken through the charmed life of the daughter of a hard-working architect (and throughout the telling of his story I found myself saying out loud: he designed THAT? wow), and into a world where breeding was everything, and new money was tolerated condescendingly. I wondered how a girl surrounded by calling cards and debutante balls would become the "mistress of manners" for the everyday reader.

Though it is true that Emily Post never had to experience poverty first hand, her life certainly did go through changes that took massive adjustments in her life, all of which she faced with grace. A public and embarrassing divorce was the turning point. Emily Post started to focus on writing, thus becoming a career woman of sorts. Though her novels were only moderately successful, she showed an ability to adapt to a modernizing society, with its breakdown of class and rigid Victorian structures. With an industriousness learned from her father, along with a combination of a Southern and New York upbringing, she eventually reinvented herself as the most well-known etiquette writer to this day; an architect of manners.

Claridge's writing was well paced and enjoyable. She seemed to be pleased with her subject, while neither gushing about her abilities or harping on her faults. Altogether, it's well balanced. I also found it pleasantly informative about one of the most intriguing time periods in American history. A welcome subject for a life story, I am both glad it was written and surprised at the dearth of biographies about such an important woman of the past century.

Cassandra and Jane: A Jane Austen Novel (Jane Austen)… by Jill Pitkeathley

I tend to be wary of Jane Austen fiction not actually written by Jane Austen. Fan fiction is usually outright disappointing, and I'd prefer to reread Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion instead. Still, when I found Cassandra and Jane, I decided to give it a go, as I'm a big fan of sister relationships.

I enjoyed it, in a sort of historical novel way. Thankfully Pitkeathley does not overdramatize the romantic relationship both sisters were involved in, though I believe she did imagine one courtship of Jane's that I am not familar with. Though at times Jane's sharp wit and slight bitterness are underscored more than I'd like, it's not really out of harmony with what small information we do have about Jane Austen.

Though obviously the main character of the story is Jane Austen, it is narrated from Cassandra's point of view (who history knows even less about though she outlived Jane by decades). Cassandra seems to hold Jane in awe, though tempering this with some jealousy from time to time. This makes her seem more human, I think,than the docile patient sister whose only known life drama of her own was the death of a fiancee.

As a massive Jane Austen fan and (almost) scholar of her life and work, I'd put this work higher up than the fan fiction and "sequels" and almost on a par with my favorite biographies of her. I loved feeling like I was sitting in the room with the Austen family as Jane read scenes of her latest writings to the happy audience, and felt the pain of an intelligent woman frustrated at the lack of financial independence in the late 18th, early 19th century England. The sister's conversations seem realistic enough to me (I have two close sisters of my own) while corresponding to the time period as Jane Austen described it, which is no mean feat considering the author owns to not having sisters.

Sea of Poppies: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh

Sea of Poppies has a vibrant cast of characters, placed in India and the Indian Ocean during the time preceding the Opium Wars. The main character it seems is the ship, the Ibis, where almost everyone ends up by the end of the novel. Then there's a mulatto son of an American slave woman who comes up in the world a bit, a Raj who falls down in the world quite a lot, a wife of an opium addict, a French orphan, and perhaps some pirates.

I was able to keep track of the cast without getting overwhelmed - it was slightly more difficult to understand the local words peppered throughout the dialogue and description. Although there is a glossary in the back of the book, at times I had to ask my (fortunately) Hindi-speaking sisters for an explanation after a line or two threw me. Still, it was infinitely less annoying than say, Wuthering Heights, where certain choppy lines made me want to hurl the novel off a cliff.

Otherwise, it's certainly a page-turner, though without giving anything away, the ending was abrupt. It left me wanting to know how things would turn out for some of the sea travellers. Perhaps the author wanted us to use our imagination along with his hints interspersed throughout the story.

Certainly this is one I'd recommend for anyone interested in historical novels, especially those centered around India in British colonial times.

The Other Queen: A Novel by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen covers the early years of Mary, Queen of Scots' time in England. The story is told from the points of view of Bess (known as Bess of Hardwick in history books), her husband George, Earl of Shrewsbury, and Mary. At times this varied first person reminded me of those reality shows, when the participants tell the camera how they really feel about their situation.

I had fun with this book. These particular years of Tudor history are not the ones most familiar to me, so I didn't see much in historical inaccuracy. Sometimes I felt too many pages were put into the difficulties of keeping Mary in the care of the Shrewsburys, which ending up translating into Bess grumbling over finances in every chapter, Mary whining about her rights as a queen, and George being daft and insisting on honor. Perhaps this was the point of the book, though. The tension of the married couple when Mary proves to be too charming to resist was covered, though not in any lurid details.

It was interesting to see how tense things got between the North of England and the Elizabethan government run by Cecil and his spy network. If anything, The Other Queen made me want to delve in the 1570's a little more. It also makes me wonder just how beautiful Mary was, because the artwork of the time didn't quite show this to me.

Occasionally I rolled my eyes over the little insights into the future (not counting the massive one via George in the end). Bess seems to see a future for women that would have been quite blurry in the 16th century. Having a very young Anthony Babington promise Mary that he'd help her to the point of calling his own future efforts "The Babington Plot" was the one moment where I groaned out loud.

In terms of Philippa Gregory books, I didn't feel like as many liberties were taken as in "The Other Boleyn Girl", though I think I liked The Boleyn Inheritence marginally more than The Other Queen.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

This story takes us into late 19th Century New York, where the upper class families are set in their ways and quite protective of them. Newland Archer is a young man among this group, all ready to marry, when the arrival of his fiancee's cousin throws his perspectives into disarray. Ellen Olenska thinks she is escaping from her past and her unhappy marriage into an understanding family and forward-thinking society, but she finds this is far from reality. The story centers on these two, though from the (changing) point of view of Archer.

Wharton's descriptions are well done; I had an easy time visualizing each situation, and I could even hear the conversations - even the stifled ones. Certain characterizations were really funny - Catherine Mingott cut a really legendary figure. Newland is almost an idealist, but comes out like a deflated balloon after a while. The story is romantic without really being passionate. I ended up enjoying the story as well as how it turned out, though not feeling at the edge of the seat as I'd thought I'd be by the end. I could see rereading this one, as it's fun to be taken into the glamorous yet constipated society that I could never be a part of.

The Book of Absinthe: A Cultural History by Phil Baker

The Book of Absinthe was written just a few years before its "return" to the US, but it felt up to date. Neither a cautionary tale nor an ode, it is simply a history of the consumption and making of absinthe. Laced with character studies not limited to Wilde and Van Gogh, but especially centered on the "Decadents" of the 1890's, it's quite colorful. Included are excerpts from various writings, from poetry to fiction, and even criminal studies. There is also a review of various brands of absinthe currently out there. What I found most intriguing is the "cultural history"; basically how absinthe is viewed depending on time period and geographic location. For instance, its goth associations in modern US never quite took in the UK. Not a book that put me at the edge of my seat, but good enough. The jury's out on whether I'll actually try absinthe or not.

The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II… by Susan Higginbotham

This is just what a historical novel should be. There are strong characters (even the weak ones, like Edward II, have a presence), descriptive writing, a thorough knowledge of the times - it's all here. Personally, I appreciated that the dialogue was readable - though you know this was centuries ago, there's a comfortable familiarity with the characters so that you don't feel like you're at one a Ren fair watching a joust (some historical novels do this to me.)

I almost felt a sympathy for the most infamous persons of their time - with the exception of Mortimer, who is simply too thick for his own good. (How could you have front row viewing and participation in the fall of Despenser and just keep repeating the same mistakes?) Since the book centers on the life of Eleanor, wife of Hugh le Despenser, there is a more intimate view of one of the most hated famiies of 14th century England. She's also the niece of Edward II, and she is loyal both to her uncle and her husband. This gets her into some difficulty when Queen Isabella and Mortimer take over, but though she does some thing she is ashamed of, her love of family and fierce protectiveness of those she loves even at some cost to her makes her a worthy heroine.

I still can't believe this is one of the first publications of this author, and I look forward to reading the next one.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

A fantastic look of life in 1950's London. Mildred Lathbury is a capable woman in her early 30's who is slightly self-deprecating, but certainly not self-loathing. She gets involved (sometimes willingly, sometimes dragged into it) with the lives of her neighbors and fellow church-goers. Written in first person, there is a mix of genuine concern and sarcasm. Though perfectly fine with her own situation as the kind of woman everyone praises but no one marries, she is slightly daunted by the lifestyles of others she comes into contact with and maybe a little resentful of certain other women, like Helena Napier and Allegra Gray.

I in particular was taken by the tea references, for instance Mildred's making tea for everyone as a comfort for others despite not wanting to be known as that kind of person, and the strength of tea varying depending on the situation.

I certainly recommend this one to Anglophiles and satire fans alike, and look forward to reading more of Pym's novels.

Some of these books aren't released yet, they're ARCs (Advance Reviewer's Copy), which I loved because it helped me live up to my dream of being a book reviewer. I noticed there's no tea book reviews here. Looks like I'll have to get busy!

These aren't all the books I've read, just the ones I own and reviewed on LT.

20 August 2008

Tea Quiz!

You Are White Tea

You are quite delicate and very sensitive. You are easily overwhelmed.

Peace and serenity are important to you. You shy away from intensity of any sort.

You appreciate a simple quiet moment. You can relax easily without feeling bored.

You take the time to enjoy life. Even when things are busy, you make the time.

It seems I'm white no matter what I do!

15 August 2008

Last pic from Boston, really

Bonnie sent me pictures from our now two-month-old day trip to Boston/Cambridge, and I had to include this one. I called it "my one and only attempt to get into Harvard". Well, I didn't get in...I did seem to get some iced tea, though.

MIght be true!

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I saw this picture on the failblog, which cracks me up even more than the lol cats. I have to admit, my early scrapbooking ventures should be called that! Well, craptice makes perfect, I guess.

(Maxie and Peach Flavored Black Tea)

14 August 2008

You never know what you'll see

On my lunch break on Monday, I was walking past Madison Avenue, and saw a group of people watching something, along with a camera crew. Well, well, I thought, there must be a celebrity nearby, so I looked toward the direction everyone else was looking, and let out an audible gasp. Right across the street was The Burger King! I suppose they were filming a commercial.

I've been vocal enough about how those commercials freak me out. It's the same kind of aversion I have for clowns. Why, of all "celebrities" did I have to see him/it? At first I regretted not having my camera with me that day, but then it occurred to me that I don't need to share what I saw with everyone, they've already been awakened by the king via those nightmarish ads.

Well, it's not the first and it's probably not the last time I'll see a TV or movie personality. I don't really get as excited as I used to about this sort of thing. When I was younger, I reacted like Lucy whenever a famous person was nearby. Now I put it all in perspective. It's a novelty, but my day isn't better or worse from such an encounter.

I did consider making my own commercial, with me serving tea, titled: Wake Up With the Queen. I'm not quite as creepy as the King; well, not usually.

05 August 2008


I've got teas...they're multiplying. (Okay even I groaned when I read that over.)

I don't know if you readers know this, but I love tea. No, really, I do. I love drinking (good) tea, whether it's a "true" tea, like Darjeeling and Sencha, or a flavored one like Earl Grey and Mango Indica. I enjoy collecting tea paraphernalia as well, from china to teapots to strainers and other tea implements. I don't tire of books about tea, and hope to finish writing my own tea book (it's even slower going than the gathering together of my poems, and almost as slow as my scrap booking.)

This interest has caught on, and when a well-wisher feels like buying me a gift, it tends to be tea-related. I've mentioned this before, and gasp! Has it been over a year since that post? Well, that was fast!

Within two days of each other, I got a treasure trove of tea gifts. My aunt gave me some beautiful pieces from her china collection, and I must say I can't stop staring at them. It took me a week to put them away, and they won't stay behind cabinet doors for long. I used one of the cup and saucer sets and I felt so elegant that I came quite close to repeating lines from my favorite English classics. I don't think I actually went through with it, though. The next day a friend of mine gave me five different loose teas from the tea room she used to work with, along with a tea tumbler (one of those long cups with the strainer and two different tops so you can brew while you're on the go).

As you can imagine, I'm excited about these new acquisitions, and I am compelled to start having more tea parties. The planning has begun! (The weather must cool down a little, though, as I hate baking in the summer swelter.) But for a while, at least a few months, I really don't need anymore tea things. So if you all are feeling generous toward the Gata...well, you can take me out to a tea room if you'd like, but otherwise, please give me some time to use the fabulous stuff I have first. Thanks!

Really, thanks for all the tea gifts - this goes to nearly everyone I know. I'll do my best to give back, in the only way I know how...tea party!

21 July 2008


I haven't had much to write about recently, and frankly my brain's been a bit muddled between an inordinate amount of book reading and the dreaded July heat wave. I plan to do one of my book review posts soon, and maybe I'll get myself to a tea room and have something to say about that. Actually, I can say I may a lovely iced tea from my recent Whit-tard purchase: "Blueberry Yoghurt". It didn't even require sweetener. Bubuck's gone over to Bon's for mouse patrol. And I've been to the beach once this summer. That beats last year!

There. I've posted in July.
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