28 December 2009

More happy calories

It's probably a good thing I joined a gym in the summer, even though I only recently starting going. There are too many amazing ways to put on pounds, and too few ways to drop them. It was uncomfortably convenient that last week's battle with my immune system left some casualties in the poundage arena, but I'm hoping there's no sequel for the rest of the winter. I love long walks in the City, but that's curtailed severely once the temperature drops below freezing. And now I really don't have to walk far to reach most of my tea time favorites.

Already Crumbs opened up near my office building, and Magnolia is threatening to any month now. Then there's Financier, which, as mentioned last time, has some inexcusably awesome pastries. I was already excited about their macarons, and now I have another, more strange source. Flipping Starbucks!

I walked past one of their ubiquitous branches during lunch, and the corner of my eye caught the colorful pictures of macarons on a box in one of their cases. I know: how on earth does a nearly blind woman who was preoccupied with thoughts of visiting a favorite pen store catch such a detail in her periphery? I'm not sure; I think I'm just drawn to tea and items related to tea drinking. It's teadar, to attempt to coin another corny tea word. Well, instantly I was in there shelling out $10 for a dozen macarons. At least my wallet's getting thinner!

I can say that so far I'm not disappointed. I've had the pistachio, which tasted almost like a nutty matcha scone, and the lemon, which is admittedly hard to mess up. The texture was done right, and it went well with Kusmi tea's 'Bouquet de Fleurs'. I cannot guarantee that these are necessarily better than Macaron Cafe's, but I am certainly saved the hike. Not sure that's a good thing, but it gave me a little bit of happiness on a Monday.

By the way, on the box it says the macarons are made in France by Chateau Blanc. Not super fresh, then, but not bad for Starbucks.

22 December 2009

Well, the tea tastings have been on hiatus...but...

When your eagerly anticipated final 4-day weekend of the year comes around, if you're a Tea Queen Book Lover and it's supposed to be not the best weather that particular weekend, your itinerary might include the following: catching up on reading, doing some much needed home organization, maybe some shopping, writing, baking, and of course, tea tasting. I really intended to get to a good portion of these things among others, and what better time to really concentrate on all the teas I've read to taste in earnest than a long, chilly weekend? The best intentions, sadly: my immune system had other plans.

I spent four days sleeping, blowing my nose, sipping Theraflu, sleeping some more, trying to read and being too tired to, and sleeping again. There was a bit of staring at the TV slack-jawed in the midst of all that. Good job I had that time off, but not too exciting. Not really cozy either, especially when my lungs turned into a 5-car pileup. Sure, I drank tea, but the taste buds have been a bit off, so I mostly stuck to whatever was getting stale, with some honey. I was too miserable to be miserable.

I returned to work today, feeling almost better - though I sound horrible. Kind of like a husky Big Bird. I'm not as tired as before, but I'm not quite up to distinguishing particular flavors in tea, so I really wanted something to cheer me up.

Here's what I got: the library had the new Jasper Fforde book, Shades of Grey, waiting for me. It was earlier than I'd expected: Amazon said it'd be out on the 29th. At the library I bought a green lion tote for $1, which will be useful (and adds to the Mad Cat Lady persona.) Then I found out that Financier opened up in Grand Central Terminal. It sounds kind of financial, but it's actually a patisserie that just happens to have macarons! Okay, they don't have quite the variety that Macaron Cafe has, but I am saved a good half mile walk on a freezing day. My chest thanks me. I tried one of the macarons already. It tastes of almonds, with a chocolate ganache. The consistency is slightly different than what I'm used to, but it's still Heaven. I'm going to have to figure out a good tea pairing with this one. At least I have my book pairing!

So I figure you can't have everything, but you can have a thing or two, and that's something.

16 December 2009

I can't help myself!

It's not like I need any new tea. Now, if I can find an excuse for buying some, it quickly seems like a need.

So, at work we have tea. The choices are Earl Grey, Green Tea (possibly a Sencha but Celestial Seasonings didn't specify), and Lipton. If I'm in need of a quick caffeine fix, this is fine, and I'm grateful for these provisions. But I'm a girl who likes variety, and during the winter months this becomes even more of a necessity. If I get bored in the flavor department, I'll be sorely tempted to rush out and get a cupcake or two...Crumbs and the Cupcake Truck are too close to the office building. This is a fun solution, of course, but if I keep going at this rate I'm gonna bust out of my clothes Incredible Hulk-style.

I have brought in my own tea often enough. I even have strainers, so I can actually have a proper tea setting at my desk. However, this isn't exactly possible on a daily basis. My job requires a bit of getting up and moving from place to place (one place more often than not being the copy room,) and it's just not practical to deal with the whole process of scooping out loose tea AND cleaning a teapot at some point in the day. I finally admitted to myself that teabags are a necessary evil in the office. So, I'd better get myself some good quality tea in some good quality, roomy teabags. Hence a great excuse for a shopping excursion.

There. I've convinced myself.

So off I went to Tea and Honey, which I wrote about exactly six months ago. I was there recently to buy tea for gifts, but for myself it's been awhile. Bianca made a bunch of good suggestions, and I settled on two boxes from Le Palais Des Thes: Saint-James and Big Ben (or should I say, Big Surprise.) Then a box from Kusmi caught my eye: their Essentials, which is two muslin sachets each of 12 different teas. Some are blends, and at least one is straight up Darjeeling. I've already tried one, Sweet Love, which I liked, though I probably wouldn't get a whole container as liquorice is not my thing really.

All of this cost enough, but at least now I have a great deal of sampling to look forward to in the cold months ahead. What can I say? It's my thing.

08 December 2009


I'm one of those people who actually sits through commercials during DVR'd programs. Not all the time, of course, but I do like to see what's going on in advertising. It is its own art form, after all.

There aren't too many tea commercials on television - at least, not in the US. Bottled iced tea companies, once in a while, but otherwise it's extremely rare. So it felt like a new experience when I happened to pass by Radiance today, and saw there were two TV screens outside, on the building wall itself but at eye level, playing what was essentially ads for the tea room. The one I watched in its entirety (I was pressed for time, but it wasn't very long) showed scenes from inside the tea room. A woman enters Radiance and is greeted by one of the staff. Eventually she is joined by another guest. There's a small group of people who seems to be having a business lunch. Shots of the tea merchandise are shown, and of course the tea fare. We are also shown some really studious looking people seated at library-type tables in the bookshop section, each enjoying a cup of tea as they are jotting down notes. Everything is bright and welcoming...well, radiant.

I was five seconds from being pulled in by this promotional tractor beam. What an excellent idea. It wasn't Times Square flashy - it was peaceful, just like the words on the screen say: "an oasis in the city". There was no volume, though, so I did wonder if the video had any actual dialogue or soundtrack.

I'm gonna keep a lookout for more tea advertising in the future. I love the old ads from companies like Lipton and Ty-phoo, and would collect them if I had any room left to do so. Well, there's always room on YouTube!

12 November 2009

Get Well Soon!

I just read that Teany, one of my favorite tea rooms and a fantastic place for vegetarian tea lovers, is closed temporarily due to a fire. It happened months ago, and I just found this out now. I need to get back in the loop! Anyway, here's hoping they reopen real soon. I'm due for a Teanyccino!

05 November 2009

Cafe Lalo

Among my goals, some of which are actually important and some of which are just for fun, finding every tea place in New York City, visiting them and reviewing them is one of my favorites. It's also kind of an impossible dream, as restaurants of all kinds are constantly in flux - the minute you hear of one, it closes. I never did get to The Harlem Tea Room, and it kills me that I have yet to see Lady Mendl's - there's no excuse for that. Still, the pursuit is part of the pleasure, and I have plenty of sources with which to continue the search. Certainly blogs from other tea lovers have been helpful, and listings such as Teamap are fantastic. Through Teamap I heard of Cafe Lalo, on West 83rd Street. I used to work around the corner from this place, but I obviously never noticed it. Others have; in fact, it was used in a scene from You've Got Mail. So it's obviously been around for a while.

Cafe Lalo is not actually an all-out tearoom, but I suppose it's listed because you can get tea in a real Yixing-type iron teapot. It's not loose tea, but the bags are from Mighty Leaf which is the pinnacle of good tea in a bag. Also, Lalo is known for its plethora of pastries and other desserts, which makes for a good teatime. If you are there in time for brunch, you can order the British Breakfast, which comes with a scone and some aria-inducing Devon cream. So yes, why not deem this a tea destination?

I paid two visits in the space of a week, because I missed brunch the first time. Because of this I found out that their grilled sandwiches are worth it - complete with roasted potatoes and a salad, which at $10 is a value nowadays. The lemon meringue tart is just a pit too tart for me, and too sweet for my teeth. That was just a matter of taste, though.

As for the brunches (always a favorite topic of mine,) the menu runs around the world. Obviously mine was the British, which was okay but really the scone was what made it. Bathy enjoyed the French one, but Daphne's Dutch Breakfast was good but not big enough (I'm not knocking the Dutch, it's just the name.) Though everyone's desserts were good, I still kind of wish the brunches would have offered a little more: what, no Mimosa? But I'm reminded that it was real estate we paid for as well. It's close to The Park, and an easy distance from plenty of movie theatres (what movie did we see? Let's just say "it" was better than I'd expected. I thought the Cafe itself was really cute, and had good window and people-watching views. So, all in all, I say give it a visit when you're in the area. And bring cash; no cards accepted.

Time to humiliate my cat again

She had it coming...

maybe next time she'll let me brush her...

at least there's no more tumbleweeds of fur.

12 October 2009


I visited Radiance Tea House and Books recently, and have nothing but pleasant things to say about the place. (Okay, it's not dirt cheap, but otherwise, very pleasant.) It's in Midtown, on the same block as the R train, so that's a plus for me.

I came during a busy time, where most of the tables were taken though there was enough space for me; and I didn't feel crowded at all. It didn't seem loud at all either. It was really peaceful. You need that at a tea establishment. Plus, the staff is friendly, helpful, but not overly fussy. The perfect combination. I sat not far from a window by the street, but the closest view to me was the painting to my left "Eight Prized Steeds" which depicted men bringing horses as a tribute to court. The painter was a Giuseppe Castiglione. Apparently he was from Milan, but visited China during the Qing Dynasty. But this isn't Art Appreciation Class. Not today, anyway.

There is an Afternoon Tea on offer, but I decided to have the dumplings, which came with a salad that had a dressing so good I nearly ate the tomato. It was slightly citrusy, which gave it that fresh feel. The dumplings($10) were pleasing as well. I had this soupy pork bun dumpling that gushes in your mouth when you bite in it, somehow without spilling any.

My tea of choice was the Rainflower (First Grade), which was a green tea that was ever so slightly smoky and buttery.

Radiance also sells books (I had quite a few of the tea books in my home library, surprise surprise), as well as Asian-inspired clothes, and of course tea and teapots. I managed to control myself, but it's a great idea to have these items right there for those who would tend to be in the mood for them after the tea.

The bathrooms were clean and well appointed. That scores points for me always.

I had a lovely conversation with a woman at the next table, who is also a blogger, but I must have written her information down incorrectly. My loss, I guess.

A top NY Tea Location in my book. Two pinkies up, and the pinkie toes as well (though I don't think I'd mess with mine as they've both been broken before.)

05 October 2009



Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase "antiquarian booksellers" scares me somewhat, as I equate "antique" with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions...

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean secondhand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?

This letter, written on October 5, 1949 in a Manhattan brownstone, began a twenty year relationship between book lover and bookseller. It also formed the beginning of the book 84. Charing Cross Road. And this happens to be one of my favorite books.

I'm writing about this today because, in case you didn't do the math, this letter was written 60 years ago today. Also noteworthy (to me, anyway) is that the writer, Helene Hanff, happened to be my age when she penned it (typed it, more likely.) This is hard to imagine when you watch the movie and see the quite middle-aged Anne Bancroft playing the part of the script reader/writer. It's hard to imagine Helene Hanff watching The Graduate, and thinking "she should play me when I was younger". Ha.

Anyway, though I share a few things in common with Hanff - loving all kinds of books, especially English Literature; no discernible romantic relationships; a fondness for Central Park; affinity for over sized shoulder bags - our lives aren't exactly parallel. It's kind of rare to develop friendships with booksellers in other countries nowadays. Amazon, and similar sites, are really impersonal, even if you can review your purchases. Then again, Helene Hanff did not have Library Thing. You take the good, you take the bad...

Either way, here's to the 60-year old beginning of a beautiful friendship.

21 September 2009

One addiction leads to another...

I'm already attached overmuch to LibraryThing, a site where you can catalog the books you own and/or have read. It's a lot more than that, of course, there's a whole community of book lovers in there, it's amazing. Well, through that site I just found out about a tea site called Steepster, where you can keep track of what teas you have at home or are drinking; and of course that's just the surface. The name is a bit of a mouthful for me, but I can live with it.

For every obsession, there's another one waiting around the corner, just ready to be clicked on. It's a miracle I get out of the house in the morning!

(Not even mentioning Facebook here; that's a whole 'nother can of worms!)

07 September 2009

And another one gone, and another one gone

New York is overrun with restaurants and cafes...not that I'm complaining. The problem is that just when you start to welcome some new favorites, you have to say goodbye to the old ones. Sometimes the old ones seemed like institutions, that you'd be taking your kids too eventually. It's not always to be, I guess.

Perhaps I'm part of the problem. It could have been years since I'd last paid such a place a visit, but I think they'll be welcoming back with open arms, the prodigal patron. It's not like I don't want to return, but like I said there's so many places to try and I'm not exactly going to file Chapter 11 just so I can go out every night.

So it should come as no surprise to me that when I show up at a place like Cafe Mozart, it might not have survived in my absence. Not that my particular business would have kept it afloat, but it couldn't have hurt. I wasn't overcome by grief, but I was a little sad. I had some nice memories there, and I remember the dessert was pretty nice there. Oh, and they used to have live piano music! I wonder if that McDonald's downtown still has the piano player...

So there's Mozart and there's also Payard, a French restaurant/patisserie that had a wonderful if somewhat snooty afternoon tea service. Just when I heard that they too had macarons...they're gone too.

Cathy and I settled for Alice's Tea Cup on Friday night - it was nearby and always a favorite. But I say settled because the service wasn't what it should be. Chapter I is usually the friendliest Alice's in my opinion. Our waitress wasn't very friendly, and it felt like she was rushing us out; and a bit abrupt at answering our reasonable requests. Believe me when I say that Cathy and I are not overly demanding. People should at least try to hang on to their jobs. They may end up at the unemployment line behind the staff at Cafe Mozart (I know, they file online, but it's a funny picture.)

20 August 2009

Macaron Cafe

I've mentioned before that I recently discovered the delights of the macaron. It seems they even hold up during obnoxious heatwave weeks.

We took away our macarons from the aptly named Macaron Cafe. Much as I love the place, it's really tiny. There's enough seating for one party (maximum three people), and that area was already occupied with some girls taking tea. Need I mention this place has tea from Mariage Freres? That alone makes it worth a visit.

Though they have plenty of other items to offer: sandwiches, salads, croissants, crepes (heaven), which I'm sure helps in a Midtown location, there's really one reason I'd take the walk to the Garment District in 90 degree weather. There are enough varieties of macarons to give anyone pause. They are set out in a clear display showing them in all their bright colors. I was reminded of the bath bombs at Lush, though the bath bombs only look good enough to eat. Anyway, just as in the case of Lush products, you want to try them all. Bonnie and I got three each this time (her treat - thanks again!). I chose the Violette, Orange, and Pistachio this time. My favorites tend to be the flowery flavors. Still, I haven't met a flavor I didn't like.

We took them to go, along with iced apple cinnamon green tea. The tea tasted just like apple sauce with cinnamon sprinkled in, which sounds autumnal but was still refreshing out in the swelter. On Broadway the City has seen fit to put outdoor seating where traffic used to be. As a non-driver, I have no complaints about this. It was the perfect place for an evening treat. It also goes to show there are infinite places to take tea in New York. Iced tea helps, when it's blazing out. I think I mentioned it's been hot out?

03 August 2009

Call me a penny pincher, but

I try to enjoy myself when I go out, and not worry unduly about the cost of things. For the most part I've succeeded. Like anyone with a healthy view of their personal finances, though, some things just stick out like a sore thumb, and put at least a slight damper on the good times.

Yesterday I had brunch at Brick Cafe in Astoria. Brunch is one of those luxuries I happen to love, and Brick does a good job of it. I had the french toast with strawberry syrup (there's real strawberries involved - that's a plus), and it was lovely. My friends had no complaints about their omelets and french toasts, and we spent a long, happy time sitting out the ubiquitous rain showers. I'm still glad I went, wouldn't change a moment of it, but -

Why, why do they have to charge 3 BUCKS for a cup of tea? It was a bag of Stash Earl Grey next to a small cup of hot water, and it did taste nice, but COME ON!!! A box of 20 might cost $4 tops, so the margin of profit was astronomical, and for what? I could have splurged for a pot at Himalayan right down the block.

It's just the principle of the thing, and it's certainly not a unique issue to Brick. So many of these cafes/lounges are charging way too much for such an item. Maybe if the tea bag got up and sang Swanee River for me I'd feel better about shelling out $3, and then I'd feel even more inclined to plunge it into hot water. People. Be reasonable. Don't make me cringe when I come into your establishment to relax and have a nice meal with friends. Bring it down to $2, at least, and I'll feel more inclined to visit regularly, and write something a little nicer. Thank you.

15 July 2009

I heart summer?

I can honestly say that I haven't been blogging that much because I've been busy with summer things. No, I don't have any travel plans (yet), but most of the things that I personally equate with summer has kept me reasonably occupied. I've even been to the beach - though it was at night, so I can't say the bathing suits have seen the light of day.

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that summer is usually the worst time of year for me. I don't just mean the weather, though it has a lot to do with it. I hate the heat. To me it's fitting that the two words are anagrams. Warmth is perfectly fine; it becomes heat when it's oppressive. I guess anything over 85 degrees, especially combined with humidity, is enough to send me cowering in front of an air conditioner. Oh, the electric bill! This year, though, it's been really mild. I've heard some complain that it's not hot enough, but I'm thrilled. I can take my long walks without sweating buckets, waiting for the subway train is not (as) suffocating, and my wardrobe options are plentiful. So I've been more of an outdoors person than usual.

Besides the actual temperature, in the past few years July and August have been nightmares for me. Some of the worst events took place under the summer sun. Obviously the biggest tragedy was losing my father in July (it'll be three years on Sunday). Also, I tend to be the most broke this time of year, and the most obnoxious roommate moments happened around the summer. Duforth died in early September (which is technically still summer), and let's not even go into September 11th. So, the fact that it's been so far, so good, is enough to keep me thankful. I'm trying to be as pleasant as possible, just to show my appreciation.

It's not a bad time for drinking tea, either. Hot or iced, I'm still sipping. But because the "broke" part of summer is still kind of there, I haven't really been hanging out at tea rooms. I did try one recently, though, and that was Podunk.

Podunk is on East 5th Street in Manhattan. It's been there awhile; I just never got around to visiting it. Technically, I didn't really spend enough time there to merit a full-on review. I had an iced tea to hold me over until I met up with a friend. As far as environment was concerned, it was quite cozy. In fact when I first stepped inside, my nose was rewarded with the smell of buttery baking. It's not a huge tearoom, but the seating isn't cramped either. It's called an American tearoom, and it does feel like Anytown, USA. I'd share pictures, but I had a recent streak where I kept forgetting to tote my camera (imagine my chagrin when I was able to see Johnny Depp in person! Cell phone camera just doesn't cut it!).

Anyway, I asked for an iced tea, and I got the green tea with apples and cucumber. It's served in a mason jar, which is really more than I can drink. The price was also more than I can swallow. The lady behind the counter, who was friendly and quaint, felt bad that I'd waited a while, so she discounted the tea - it was only $8, down from $10! Really? Really, Podunk? It was refreshing, but the aftertaste was kind of mealy. Perhaps if I'd hung out for a few hours I would feel like it was worth it, but for a quick tea break, no thanks. I will have to return one more time, and get food while I'm at it, in order to give a fair review. I'd better save my pennies.

16 June 2009

Another good reason to get up in the morning.

Ha! Not really. There's no good reason to get out of bed in the morning. There's just necessities of life which impel one to haul our carcasses out of the comforts of home and into our office/errands/school/whatever. Really, for me even the prospect of going somewhere I've been wanting to go to doesn't help - though it doesn't hurt, either.

Still, we do what we have to do, and it is helpful when something brings a smile to our faces on the way. That's what happened to me after another hectic commute to Grand Central Terminal. Greeting me in the Lexington Passive was the brand new shop, Tea & Honey.

I'd seen this place for a few weeks "Opening Spring 2009", but didn't want to get excited. What if it wasn't a tea shop? What if it was children's clothing? Or another card store? Nearby was another new store called Cursive, which is really cute with all sorts of gift items, but it's kind of pricey. They have a shop in ABC Carpet, so that made sense, but it doesn't help my wallet any.

Tea and Honey is a tea shop for real. It sells a decent variety of teas from companies like Tavalon and a Parisian company Le Palais des Teas. I saw Kusmi as well. The featured tea was a tisane called Crimson Punch from Tavalon, which is a fruit infusion. I happened to have bought this one at the Tea & Coffee Festival, and it's a hit. It went over well at a tea party I had at my apartment recently (it was supposed to be a picnic in the park but June 2009 is the rainiest month ever!) So I knew this shop had something going on.

The lady that worked in the shop (will I ever remember to get names?) was friendly and knew what she was talking about, which helps. She also said they'd be getting even more items soon...I have something to look forward to! At my first visit I picked up Rose de Chine from Le Palais des Teas. It's a rose flavored black tea and a definite favorite of mine.

True to its name, there's plenty of honey on offer, but I obviously didn't focus on that. Another time, perhaps. I'll also need more time to check out all the teapots and strainers and paraphernalia I already have too much of at home but never get enough of. The same applies to the tea books.

Thank goodness, something pleasant to focus on instead of the crush of people and my tendency to fall down subway stairs.

15 June 2009


I love tea. I love mojitos. Put them together...


Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter II, has a tea cocktail menu, which has something for everyone. There are Mar-tea-nis, of course, and Bathy, back from North Carolina, had a lovely rose tea and vodka mix that was really nice. But Alice's Tea-Jito is the ultimate poison for me. It's made mainly with Moroccan Mint Tea, rum and what tasted like honey. I've always said Moroccan Mint is the Mojito of the tea world, and it seems they have the same idea. Plus, this seems to be a generally healthy mix, which helps since cocktails tend to be high on calories.

I figure this is now a great place to recommend to ladies who'd like to go out for drinks but don't want to be hit on. There are always men in Alice's, but they're usually with their wives, their kids, or they're gay. This is just a generalization; I'm sure there's exceptions. Anyway, at $10 a drink it's not cheap, but not as crazy as some places in the City. In the evening there won't be a whole lot of families either, so they might have a little niche carved out in the girls' night out market.

However, there is something called 'the man's drink', which is made with lapsang souchong and black label. And haven't I always said lapsang souchong is the whiskey (especially Scotch) of the tea world? Yes, that's what I said.

05 June 2009


I try to come up with something new every time I post here, though at times I fall back on nostalgia. In recent weeks there have been a few decent changes, so I'll briefly run through them.

As most people who know me well know very well, I am not a fan of changes. I don't mind so much trying new things - especially when it comes to food. I had my first macaron recently, which was amazing. From what I've heard, New York's macaron offerings are not nearly as good as the ones in Paris. This blows my mind. I finally want to return to Paris. Anyone want to buy me a ticket?

But trying a new cookie-type treat (which go well with Earl Grey, by the way) is not really a change. Neither is visiting the new branch of the NY Public Library. That is a good thing as it's very close to my job, so it'll be easy to drop off due books. It's not a large branch, especially compared to the Mid-Manhattan Library. It's just a small branch which so far contains pristine, brand new library books. I almost took a book out that I own already, it was so new looking. The only problem I can see is that one of the women at the checkout is pretty rude. Both times I went there with my sister she was snappy with her for not stepping up to the table at lightning speed. It's not like the line is clearly marked, either. I just hope the woman is going through some stuff and will be pleasant in the future.

I have a new ipod nano as well. It was a Thank You gift. How do I thank the givers for the thank you gift? Well, thank you!

All these things are simply new, but not massive changes for me. I knew I needed something different in my life, but again, I don't do well with change. Surprisingly, the one I made this week was easier than I thought. I got my hair dyed red.

For a few years I've toyed with the idea. I tried on a red wig once, and thought it looked rather flattering. Still, I didn't like the idea of dyeing my hair. I've had a sort of pride thing going about keeping it natural. It's like Queen's albums in the 1970's. The liner notes made a point of saying "No Synthesizers!" on every album. Then the 80s rolled around, and suddenly not only were they using synthesizers, but detailing which ones. It's like they just decided "why not?", and Freddie grew a mustache on top of it all.

So my personal mantra had been "real hair color!", and I figured the only way I would dye my hair is if I went entirely grey. Well, that hasn't happened yet, aside from the occasional strand of horror. But recently I did let Marie color the underside of my hair auburn, which basically showed only as a little peek unless I put my hair up. Still, I couldn't stop holding up the darker bits to my face, and quite liking it. After over a month's deliberation, I made an appointment with a hair stylist, who Daphne recommended enthusiastically. I thought her hair always turned out great, so I wasn't afraid. When the time came, I was much calmer than I thought. Of course whenever someone touches my hair I get relaxed.

The results were stunning. It was the exact color I'd wanted, and I liked it better than my natural color. Ha, they say blondes can't stop looking in mirrors - you should have seen me this week!

The only thing that took getting used to was everyone's reaction. It was almost universally complimented, but I couldn't believe just how excited everyone was. Everyone, from coworkers to friends, to people I barely talk to normally on the street. Some people didn't recognize me, or thought I was my sister Pam. (I also kind of look like my mom when she was younger, but she was pretty enough back then so I'm okay with that.) I've also been compared to comic book heroines/villains and a sea dwelling Disney princess. Now I'm satiated with the attention, but I suppose it's better than a meh reaction or none at all.

My favorite thing about the hair? It kind of looks like tea. Black tea, I mean. As long as my skin doesn't resemble a scone.

So I guess change can be good. I won't be getting tattoos anytime soon, though. That was a JOKE, guys! I'm never gonna do it!


21 May 2009

04 May 2009

Spot on

You Are the Library

You are very intellectual and well read. You tend to be absorbed in your own interests.

You can seem a bit standoffish. To be honest, you're not that interested in other people.

You are comforted by the things you own. You tend to be a pack rat.

It's likely that you have many old possessions that you treasure. You rarely throw anything away.

I actually posted this already on Facebook, but I thought it worth a repeat mention. Never has a quiz been so correct about my personality. Sick!

I'm not cheap...

I just don't like to spend ridiculous amounts of money on items that aren't worth it!

I had off on Friday, so I decided I'd catch the Wolverine movie (Hugh Jackman, I mean, come on!) I decided to go to the 4:30 showing at my local theatre. The optimist in me hoped for matinee pricing. That was dashed upon arrival - apparently only the first showing is discounted, at least on Fridays. This is annoying. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't matinee as a word have its root in afternoon?

Okay, whatever. I wanted the full movie experience, as I rarely get to the theatres anymore, so I thought I'd get the popcorn and soda combo. I asked the concession stand lady what was the cheapest way to get this and she said the medium, which came out to $12. That was (marginally) more than the price of admission. Ouch.

I grumbled my way to my seat; it's not like I needed a soda of that size - after all, I was alone and couldn't very well get up during the movie. Never mind, I thought, I'm going to enjoy myself and Mr. Jackman (and the guy who played Gambit wasn't bad either). I don't see movies just for the eye candy - I'm actually a big fan of comic book movies (as evidenced by my Comic Con attendance), but it doesn't hurt.

Sometime during the first half of the movie, I shifted my legs and the popcorn went flying. There was a PILE of popcorn at my feet. So what is that - six bucks down the drain? At least I still had my high fructose corn soda!

It's May - this is the biggest time of year for me to be attending movies. I haven't been to a movie theatre since December, when I saw Australia in Florida (yes, I know who was in Australia). This is not because I don't like the movies. I love the whole experience - from the previews to the superior sound quality (my TV isn't fabulous, but I'm not complaining). I would go to the movies at least once a month - if I could AFFORD to. At these prices, who can? Between the admission and refreshments (or flooring, apparently), I could almost see a discounted Broadway show.

Why can't the theatres give us a break? Do they not want to fill up the seats beyond the opening weekend? Don't they want to make me happy? Guess not.

I'll just have to join Netflix.

Moofer/Oolong/Pride and Prejudice (requisite cat/tea/book references.)

21 April 2009

I almost forgot...

April is a big Anniversary month for me - in fact today is my sister's eight wedding anniversary. I nearly forgot to notice, though, that this blog turned 4 on Sunday. Thanks for reading, everyone!

19 April 2009

(Coffee) and Tea Festival 2009

So I made it to my second C&T F, and this time I was accompanied by Daphne. I have to say it was more enjoyable to share with someone. Daphne was an especially good companion, as she is really enthusiastic about new ideas, and asked some good questions.

I'll start with the disappointments, to get them out of the way. I'd read on the website and the program that Biscottea was going to be there, and since last year that was a highlight for me, I was looking all over for them. Perhaps they came on Sunday, but they were nowhere to be found on Saturday. The seating for the talks was a little wonky too. Tea Master Yong Hee Kim demonstrated a Korean Tea Ceremony. The only problem was that it was done on the floor, and everyone sitting behind the front row had to crane their necks or possess x-ray vision in order to see it.

What wasn't so much of a disappointment, more of an awkward moment, happened during the Afternoon Tea talk given by Ellen Easton. I'd heard this one last year; it's basically about the traditional method, though of course there are no hard and fast rules. Well, she decided to address certain protests called "tea parties" that happened last week. Her point seemed to be that she didn't like to hear tea and tea parties being used in this way, as it sends a different meaning behind what her career in tea parties is. Unfortunately she mentioned "right wing", and during the Q&A she got a heated response from one woman. Though she did apologize, the rest of that hour was thicker than clotted cream. Even the questions about when to add milk seemed hostile.

Moving on, it was a pleasure to hear speakers on chocolate tasting and coffee cupping. I am eager to have tasting of my own at home, and wouldn't mind consulting Dina Chaney's book. As far as coffee, I myself will never be that into it: how can you truly love what doesn't love you back? - but Marcela Zuchovicki did have a contagious enthusiasm.


Yoon Hee Kim from the Korean Tea Culture Foundation handled two parts of the day's main stage activities. Though I couldn't see the Korean Tea Ceremony as well as I'd like, what I did manage to see looked really splendid. The way her hands moved was so graceful and fluid. Years of training might help, but I'd still probably fumble with all those little cups. The part "From Garden to Cup" gave a little idea of what the tea you drink has been through since it was plucked from its bush/tree. I tend to forget the entire process, so it was nice to hear it explained.


Chris Cason from Tavalon demonstrated a number of tea cocktails. He made a type of tea toddy that we got to sample. It was very autumnal, and extremely flavorful and comforting. I need to experiment with my liquors and teas. Well, maybe in moderation. I'm not a teetotaler, but I have my limits! The Earl Grey infused vodka seemed easy to make, anyway.


There were enough vendors to make my cash flow quicker than the teapots, but I managed to reign in. Most of my purchasing was from Tay Tea (their "Better Than Sex" rooibos blend is amazing), and Tavalon. I sampled macarons from Georgia's Bake Shop, and they really melt in your mouth. I really have to stock up on those.

Requisite dorky picture:


He was a black tea leaf.

14 April 2009

Making a Spectacle of Yourself

I don't do enough ranting here nowadays...

All right, so over the weekend I was in Claire's Accessories (what? I like their...hair clips), and I noticed a whole section of eyeglasses, not sunglasses. I thought, well, this is nice, people who need reading glasses don't need to shell out a lot of money. Then I looked closer. They weren't reading glasses. They were Accessories.

I do not appreciate this. Unless you're working for a great metropolitan newspaper and you fly off to save the day regularly, wearing fake glasses is uncalled for. Think about it: why were eyeglasses invented? For vision correction. That's it. They've been perfected over the years, made a bit more attractive, so that those of us who have bad eyesight don't get beat up in gym class as much. I'm grateful for that.

I've been wearing glasses since 1984. I have contact lenses, but I can't wear them every day, and at my prescription they're pricey (on top of paying to have the lenses on my glasses look less Coke bottley). I'd rather not need them, but I know it's better than being actually blind, so I deal with it. And frankly, when I've had a restless night, it does cover up the puffiness a bit, so yes, there's a benefit.

But as an accessory? Wrong! Myopia isn't quite a disability, but it feels like one. Who would roll around in a wheelchair because it's suddenly hip? Who would wear a neck brace or a hearing aid, or a arm cast because it's a trend? No, if someone did that, it would be considered sick and cruel to the real sufferers. What makes vision correction different? Bad form!

That's it, I'm just cranky. I think I'll just retreat to my quiet apartment, and enjoy a nice cup of Theraflu. No, I'm not sick. What?

31 March 2009

Oh come on man!

I got the following message from a Whittard email :

Whittard Stores in US have closed
You may have heard that the Whittard tea store at Faneuil Hall in Boston, MA has closed. The parent company, Whittard of Chelsea, UK went through some restructuring and one of the things they did was to close all the Whittard US stores. Whittard UK is still in business and continues to market their products. If you want to buy more of their fine tea, hot chocolate, or ceramics, see below.

Okay, they never made it to New York, but it was nice just to be able to visit them when I went to Boston, and to know they were only a bus ride away. In fact, I was hoping that like Lush, they would eventually make it to NY, but no.....

I'm sad. Topshop coming to Soho really soon is not making me feel better. I also feel bad for the nice girls that worked in Feneuil Hall; they were really helpful and taught me the proper pronunciation for Whit-tard. I hope they found another job somewhere - is Lush hiring?

I'll get over this; give me time. At least I still have two of their teas left. Now I only have the myriads of online and nearby tea companies to get my teas and infusions from. Darn.

28 March 2009


It's not summer yet (thankfully), but this year I'll have another treat to add to my list...and this one's perfectly healthy. On a recent Whole Foods spree, while looking for an ice cream substitute, I saw a product called Frostea: ice pops made out of different kinds of tea. It's dairy free, gluten free, calorie reduced, and did I mention it was made from TEA?! All right, the one I selected was made from herbal tea, but that's fine too. Caffeine free! It was called "Cool your jets", which is perfect. It had chamomile, lemon, mint, and is sweetened with honey. It tasted really good, and refreshing. Actually, it reminded me of the smell that comes from opening a box of Celestial Seasoning's Sleepytime. How peacefully nostalgic.

Even better, I can finally have an ice pop, the ones you squeeze out of the plastic and try not to spill all over yourself, and not feel like I'm eating something completely worthless and childish. Of course, I might indulge in a scrape ice from time to time (I love scraping with the wooden spoon!), but I think I'll try Frostea's other flavors first.

14 March 2009

Hi Lily

I only have myself to blame.

I tell myself to lay off the chocolate; much as I love it, it doesn't love me back, and why should I live with that kind of rejection? But I keep relenting, keep letting a little more chocolate into my life. There's always an excuse. This time it was the opening of a new shop near Bryant Park (hence walking distance from my job), called Lily O'Briens.

It was the combination of it being a damp day out, and the intrepid feeling of trying a new place. Plus, once I can smell the chocolate I'm doomed. So I bought a cup of dark hot chocolate to accompany me on my way back to the office.

It was $4.25, which is crazy, but I suppose being near the site of a biannual fashion week they could get away with it. Plus it wasn't made from cocoa powder but rather melted down chocolate, so it was really rich - the way it should be, as I've said before.

I only looked around the shop really quick. It was pretty enough, and seeing as it's named after its Irish founder, I was grateful not to see the usual traps of shamrocks and green, green, green. I know it's my favorite color but it just wouldn't have been cool in this context. Besides, Wednesday will show enough of that theme all over the city. I also briefly noted that they use a Parisian tea company, Dammann Freres, which means I must return at least one more time.

The napkins are chocolate brown, which is awesome. Have you ever wiped your mouth after drinking hot chocolate, and been kind of grossed out? Well, I have, so this was good thinking and presentation on the part of whoever chose the napkins.

So back to the actual hot chocolate. Oh yeah, marvelous it is. On the drizzly day I tried it, the chocolate simply hugged my tongue like a blanket you pull over yourself while watching a DVD at home when the heat hasn't come up properly. Oh, and it tasted magnificent as well.

I did not escape the requisite "stomach" issues later on (sooner rather than later, actually), but I'm glad I was able to give it one try. If you're in the area, it's certainly worth a stop-in.

Out of two pinkies up, I'll give it 1 1/2 - not because I felt sick later, that's my fault, just because it could have been slightly cheaper.

12 March 2009

Teashop Girls

teashop girls

I haven't had such a good time reading a YA book in ages! Surprise, surprise, it's about tea. I really wish books like these were around when I was younger, but at least we had Anne of Green Gables.

Speaking of red-haired Annes, the main character in this story is Annie Green, a 13-year old girl living in Madison, Wisconsin who loves her grandmother's teashop, The Steeping Leaf. This in itself is endearing. She wants to work as a barrista there. When this particular dream comes true, she must work out her feelings for a fellow barrista, while trying to save The Leaf from closing for good. And she tries to keep her Teashop Girls together, she and her two close friends since they were little girls.

I rarely run across a book like this, and I wish young readers could get into this kind of reading. Some one's review I read of this book mentioned that it reminded them of the Babysitters Club, and I agree. There's a level of professional spirit in Annie that's coupled with respect for authority. Plus it has a degree of wholesomeness without the dullness, and without a supernatural being in sight, yet entertaining. You just don't see that too much in the YA section of the bookstore. Did I mention the tea?

Interspersed within the chapters are facts about tea, including history, brewing instructions and recipes. I did scratch my head when it was mentioned that Queen Elizabeth I drank tea every morning - because last time I checked people weren't drinking tea in England till the mid seventeenth century - I think the English were still imbibing ale on their misty mornings at that point. But I'll let that fly.

It's a quick read, and fun, and in a sense deeper than chick-lit, so this is definitely two pinkies up.

09 March 2009


After a long walk, one is in need of refreshment. And it was a long walk - from Astoria, Queens to the Upper West Side in Manhattan is no joke - approximately 6 miles, according to Map Quest. Now if you're slightly out of shape (and blaming the recent inclement weather), that's quite an accomplishment. I'm not complaining or looking for commendation; just observing. In fact, it was an enjoyable walk, with two good friends for conversation and a definitely scenic route - all on one of the most gorgeous weather days in ages.

At this point, though, we'd worked off our lunches and were looking forward to a nice dinner. What we needed to hold us off was a little break in a cafe - and the Upper West Side has enough of those. Daphne had heard there was one on 84th Street that was on a site Poe once lived at, so...why not?

I was relieved enough upon entering that it was only lightly influenced by all things Poe. There's always the frightening prospect that someone is going to try to pull a Jekyll and Hyde-type restaurant, which is fun if you're in the mood, but I didn't feel like seeing a menu full of ravens and pendulums and tell-tale hearts,and thankfully it was not like that. The ceiling looked a bit flamey, and the chandelier was kind of incongruous next to the very ordinary looking ceiling fans, but it was a pleasant environment.

As a Cheapy Mccheaperson, I was a little wary looking at the menu. Nearly everything was priced slightly above what I was comfortable with, but I was calm enough, knowing I was just going to get dessert and tea. I ordered carrot cake - which was a mistake. I love a good, moist carrot cake with its slightly risky (for me) cream cheese frosting and walnuts. This cake was kosher, though, which perhaps affected its carrot cakeiness. The cake portion was like carrot cake flavored wheat bread, and the frosting was more like low fat butter than cream cheese. Hopefully what was lacking in taste was also lacking in calories. Daphne had a berry rhubarb pie, I think, and she didn't mind it but didn't rhapsodize either. Jodi tried a split pea soup and said it tasted very fresh, so points scored there.

The tea, however, was not a disappointment. I've never heard of Paromi Tea before - but then again it seems there's more tea companies in existence nowadays than the total amount of lovely weather days in my entire life. It was a big plus that they use Paromi tea bags that are of the nice quality pyramid type. I ordered the Lemon Ginger Oolong, which was described as "intensely aromatic and smooth with a gentle lingering of lemon and ginger". That it was. It gave me just enough of a pick-me-up to get me through the rest of the evening (though we didn't actually walk back to Astoria.) And the taste was light and lingering. Beautiful.


I will forgive Edgar's for the dull cake, as I hear some of their desserts are to die for, and I'd like to give them a second chance - when I'm in the splurging mood, of course.

Bathroom report: Very clean and actually pretty; almost felt like I was in a tiny indoor garden/sitting room. These little things are important.


02 March 2009

Slightly Disappointed

I completely deserved a treat after yesterday's long hike. Daphne and I managed to get to Midtown Manhattan from Astoria within an hour's time, despite it being pre-snow chilly out. I need this kind of exercise more often, but since winter's a rough time to be out and about, and joining a gym would completely break the bank, I've been nearly hibernating for the past three months. So what are two thoroughly pleased-with-themselves but weary ladies to do but head down to Caffe Reggio for something nice and refreshing?

As I've mentioned before, Reggio is (by American standards), an ancient cafe that boasts NY's "Original Cappuccino". The food's okay (my favorite is the Pignoli Tart), and they even serve loose tea (great for a city that rarely serves loose tea with exception to actual tea rooms), but it's the ambience that draws me back. They really don't make 'em like this anymore, the dimly lit, dark Italian Renaissance paintings, kitschy statues, clocks, the original cappuccino urn - attempts to recreate this vibe elsewhere would likely seem contrived. It feels European without the exchange rate - and the increasing proliferation of conversations that end with a question mark? at every sentence and phrase? confirms that some of the young hipstery types have found their way here. Thankfully they're dispersed among other kinds of people? (oh no, I'm talking like that now!)

Every time I come I've looked longingly at the corner near the restroom that I call the "Nefertiti Suite", because it's ensconced in such a way that would make it cozy for couples, yet appealingly private for someone like me - oh and there's a Nefertiti bust on the wall above. This was the first time I arrived to find that corner empty, and I made a beeline for it. So far, so good. My time there chatting with Daphne was just lovely, and in that I was perfectly happy. But I made one mistake - I ordered the hot chocolate.

Here's a brief history of the Gata and chocolate. I, like most people, love chocolate, but like some people, does not get love in return. I have certain sometimes embarrassing digestive issues that leads me to cut down on food containing dairy, red meat, coffee, and chocolate. When I do have any of these things in a meal or drink, I make sure to make it worth my while. I truly savor it. (Recently I had a cheeseburger deluxe with a vanilla milk shake, and despite the discomfort the following morning, it was absolute heaven.) So I make sure to have only cheeses I really like, quality ice cream (no diet Breyers for me!) beef that doesn't take effort to chew (why waste my time on a tough steak?), and only the most fabulous chocolate. I shun most candy bars, and don't go near Swiss Miss. They're not horrible, but the ensuing results have to have made the investment worth it. A few weeks ago I allowed myself a small cup of Jacques Torres hot chocolate, and I was near tears from the sheer pleasure. Sometimes I'll allow myself a red velvet cupcake, but only from places known to make the best ones (Magnolia!)

Knowing this, ordering hot chocolate at Caffe Reggio was an informed decision. One news website claimed that the best hot chocolate in NY was here. I figured my socks would be knocked off, along with my boots and my growing blisters. And...meh. It was just ok. I know I didn't order whipped cream - I didn't think I'd have to. But it was kind of watery, not a large cup, and simply boring. Yes, I added sugar, and it helped (I already knew it wasn't gonna come sweet). I don't know, though. It wasn't terrible, but if I'm going to risk an outraged "stomach", I want PERFECT! THE BEST! And it wasn't that at all.

Thankfully it didn't quite ravage my gut, but I did have trouble sleeping last night - not the best way to start a snowy Monday.

To sum it up, I love Reggio, always will, and I know I'll return again and again. I hope they stay around for a long time. I'm just not gonna order the hot chocolate.

22 February 2009

There's a rainbow in my room

This has to be one of the corniest moments in a Marx Brothers movie (Big Store):

I don't know how this guy was allowed on a movie set. The humming and whistling were truly cringeworthy. And does he have a stunt piano player? Watch his arms dart about when they show him "playing".

I love the Marx Brothers movies, and I think these bits were thrown in for a different kind of laugh.

16 February 2009

Wow, this was a surprise!

You Are Tea

You are mellow and reflective. You don't allow yourself to feel in a rush and frenzied.

You're likely to appreciated the ideas or connections that come up over a warm cup of tea.

While you do enjoy the energy of a caffeine boost, you love that it allows you to take a break.

You're not in a rush to do anything. You're content with your life, and in no rush to change it.

Am I Coffee or Tea? I really didn't have to take this quiz to find out, but when can I ever resist a tea quiz?

What are you?

09 February 2009

Believe it or not...


The highlight of my visit to Comic Con NY 2009!

Considering I was under the weather, I was walking on air...okay, this can get really corny so I'd better rein it in. I couldn't find my camera on Saturday; thankfully Tiege had his uber-fantastic Nikon on hand, and also stepped in when I wanted to meet William Katt but turned seriously starstruck. I've gotten tongue-tied before, but this was serious! I suppose this is because 'The Greatest American Hero' was my favorite show as a child, and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Who would reduce you to a polite stammer?

It was all around fun, despite being propelled by sneezes and looking a bit wrecked. I'm home sick today - darn I thought I'd make it through the winter! Anyway, not everyone knows about the comic book nerd in me - actually I mostly watch the cartoon versions, I don't own any comic books, just a few graphic novels. It's just fun, and certainly a release between my thick classical novels and history books. If I could draw at all I'd totally make a Tea Queen comic, but don't expect to see it anytime soon.

I also saw quite a few Batmans, and Nurse Jokers, Ninja Turtles, and enough Storm Troopers to last a decade. Too fun - I'm sure I'll be back next year - hopefully sans Kleenex.

04 February 2009

Grabbing a spot of tea

I've seen Tea Spot on Macdougal Street before, but never had a chance to stop in until last week. Even then, I just had a moment, so I only saw the ground floor (apparently there's seating downstairs, will have to have a look at a more convenient time - from the pictures I saw online it actually looks worth a second visit.) I ordered an Oolong, with a name that escapes me as it was long and I was too occupied to jot it down. Anyway, it was a nice cup, and it warmed me right up on a harsh day (most days this winter have been obnoxiously trying).

While waiting on line, which wasn't long, I looked at the other items on offer. There were sandwiches and various kinds of pastry numbers that looked decent enough. The prices were a bit, well, pricey. The lowest price I found on the average cake was $4.50, and it went past $6 for many of them. I don't know. It seems they had Wi-Fi, and enough seating to pass the time. As mentioned before, the downstairs pics were pretty enticing, so I will have to make a return visit, but even so, the prices seemed kind of steep - especially since my personal Macdougal favorite, Caffe Reggio is right down the block. Reggio deserved a post of its own, but suffice it to say that it's the kind of place you can spend hours in without killing your budget, yet still have a nice cappuccino, Italian pastry, or even a good pot of tea amidst a heartbreakingly old school Villagey ambiance.

Still, I'm always happy to see a tea place nearby, and hope it continues to do well. I promise I'll give it one more try, but if anyone reads this and has been there, feel free to further convince me/talk me out of it. The wall of teas behind the counter is persistently nudging my subconscious.

25 January 2009

I read wrong...

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Who can guess what I thought when I first read this LOLcat?

Either way, I had to share this particular muffin head.

21 January 2009

The Grand Tour


Library, facing the window.


Extreme Close Up! -Fiction

Zenobia, Tent, Library

Courtesy of Ikea, the cats have their own tent in my library. So far Zenobia's claimed it.


Can't leave Moofer out! And his tissue.

There you have it. The books, the teapots, the cats. A lot like this blog.


I was staring at my lovely bookshelves at home, and watching (for the umpteenth time) "84 Charing Cross Road". I decided to add to this melange of activity by reorganizing my shelves properly.

So, tons of questions come up as I'm trying to makeover my shelves: Should I separate paperbacks from hardcover? (yes, especially with fiction) What about non-fiction? How many subdivisions should there be? (turns out quite a few: there's the tea section, the histories, biographies, travel, anthologies, cookbooks - though most of those live in the kitchen). Where does poetry fit in? (they're in a class by themselves. Some put them in fiction, but why? When I write poems, they're usually about my life. Is that fiction? No, for the most part.)

Okay, this task should never be commenced at night. Information overload is worse than caffeine when trying to get some shut-eye. I managed to complete the fictions and do the rest the next evening. I have to say, the non-fictions still need work. At some point I simply jumbled a few categories together, because they looked good that way.

All in all, the project turned out well. My library is my running pet project, and has been for the past 3 years. All that's truly missing is my dream chaise lounge, but otherwise it's a pretty complete literary refuge. Photos will follow soon.

16 January 2009

Coffee is keeping me up at night...

Not in the expected way. I rarely drink coffee, simply because I can't. I'm only wired for minimal amounts of caffeine, which makes me the ideal tea lover.

The past few days something coffee-related has kept me up well past midnight, despite never having entered my digestive system. Two nights ago I finished the book "The Coffee Trader", which is an historical novel based in Amsterdam during the 17th century. The main character, Miguel, is a Portuguese Jew who fled the Inquisition and has had recent reversals of fortune in the trading industry. He gets involved in the developing coffee trade, so this story is more about the selling of coffee as a commodity than by the cup. Nevertheless, coffee lovers will enjoy the descriptions of those new to the practice of drinking coffee and its effects on them. Normally nothing bores me more than something relating to stock market-type adventures, but there was enough intrigue and redoubtable characters running through the book to make me unable to rest until I'd finished it.

In a related story, I found out about an online game called "Coffee Shop", in which you are the owner of a coffee stand and must try to make as much money as possible and keep a good reputation for 14 days. I'm not a video game player per se, but anyone who knew me during the Tetris years knows that once in a while I get hung up on a game long enough to obsess over it for hours on end. I actually did make some progress, but wasted too much time in the process. I have to say, though, I had a few good laughs. If you make a bad cup of coffee and overcharge, the cartoon buyers will either pour the cup out in disgust or vomit on the sidewalk. The seller in the stand just sits there and holds a finger over the cash register like nothing happened.

I will try to do something tea related tonight; perhaps this will counteract the trivial vigils of this week.

15 January 2009

Ice Queen of Astoria

Yes, it's really cold this week. No, I don't like it. Still, it could be worse.

In the morning, when I'm walking to the subway, ears tearing, breathing labored, hat head forming, I try to think of something positive about the weather. It's hard when it's extreme cold. December's coat weather wasn't too bad, because it was possible to be fashionable wintry. Now it's just layer-so-I-don't-get-hypothermia-wear. Not cool, so to speak.

What winter does have over the summer is the tea perks. I baked a good deal in the past week. For the first time ever, I made crumpets - and they were nice! With jam they were pretty special, but with honey I was truly in love. The only drawback was that though they're made on the stove, between waiting 30 minutes for the yeast to take effect and having to cook it in cookie cutters (and I don't have too many of the proper size), it took longer than some baked items. I suppose it was worth the wait. I also found a recipe for lemon blueberry loaf. Next time I'll scale down on the sugar, but otherwise, I have to say it was a sensual experience.

There's nothing like to dead of winter for having the excuse to stay indoors with the furballs and curl up with one of my 81 books for the year. So far, 3 completed. I think we can remedy this...time to put the kettle on!

humorous pictures
more animals

09 January 2009

Starbucks is courting me...

Starbucks rarely beckons me nowadays, but I did slow down for a moment earlier this week. The sign "Tea Time" is enough to catch my attention, especially in winter.

Just recently Starbucks has offered Tazo tea lattes. I saw about three on offer, though I hesitated earlier this week because I simply don't NEED to buy tea during working hours. Yesterday, though, I thought "why not" and dropped by the one in my work building.

I've been a bit distracted this week, and I think it showed when I tried to make the simple transaction with the barrista. I asked about the new teas, and she said, "did you want London Fog?" Am I that readable? Then while picking up the tea (with 2% milk, I wanted the real thing), this young guy fell in the line of my dizzy fire. He politely said, "sorry if I skipped you?", which he hadn't, so I said, "what?" and then it sank in that he was being polite so I tried to explain my slowness by saying, "sorry, I'm uncaffeinated at the moment" and he said "what?" and I said "what?", and he gave me the "you are weird" look and left. I don't know, crowded places just get to me. Moving on...

So I sipped London Fog back at work, and was surprisingly pleased. It's a lavender Earl Grey, with vanilla and milk. It smells and tastes slightly perfumey, but with a nice creamy touch. It's sweetened just enough to not be overwhelming. It's a contradiction in my normal tea tastes, in that normally I cringe when I see someone adding milk to Earl Grey. Pulled together, though, it was more of a treat. It didn't actually remind me of London though: maybe an English garden, not the city. I would have named it Zenobia:

I'm sure I'll try the other flavors in the near future: a lady at work gave me a coupon for them that can be used every Tuesday.

Though I love true tea, without extra flavor or sweetener, there's always room in my heart for such concoctions.