27 January 2014

Tea Gallery: Tea & Sonnets by Michael Shane Neal

If I'm being honest (and I do try), this looks more like a coffee pot to me - it's too tall to be a proper teapot. Perhaps it's just the angle.  Otherwise, I have no criticism for this picture.  Tea pairs perfectly with poetry!  Both are timeless...as is this portrait!

17 January 2014

Sick Day Pairing

Nobody likes getting sick; certainly not me!  I had much to do at work, and plans that I would've loved to keep.  Still, I suppose a wicked head cold is tolerable, under the right circumstances.  Once you get past that gross first half hour of the morning, and the occasional sneeze-fests, the best thing to do on a day (or two) on the couch is to take advantage of the situation.  This I do by catching up on some reading, and on some tea drinking.

My favorite tea ritual on a sick day is to throw a few older loose teas together, maybe sweeten with some honey, and see how it goes.  I haven't lost my sense of taste, but it does diminish, so instead of wasting my new packets from Upton and David's Tea, I finished off a Darjeeling, combined with an ancient vanilla rooibos, tossed a bit of herb sin, and voila!  A mildly caffeinated, still tasty and comforting blend. I've had some failures in the past, but this is where the honey comes in.  Either way, it's a perfect soothing answer to my dulled senses - and a good use of teas I'd never serve to company.

With this extra time, once I'd grown tired of napping,  I finished something else off: a good book!  This was by no means stale, though I have to admit I was glad to see the end of it.  My selection was Elizabeth of York, by Alison Weir.  I loved Weir's biographies of Eleanor of Acquitaine and Elizabeth I, and some of her historical novels.  Some recent biographies I wasn't so crazy about, as they were too speculative, as is necessary perhaps when writing lives of women in Medieval/Renaissance times. Women weren't considered as worthy of note by their contemporary writers, and few kept writings of their own unless they were of the nobility, and even then it was usually formal letters and accounting records (as is evident in Elizabeth of York.)  Still, this was an intriguing time to read about.

In case you're not sure, Elizabeth of York is the daughter of Edward IV, the dashing Yorkist king who made an unpopular marriage to someone considered beneath him.  This same wife (Elizabeth Wydeville) did a good job providing him with heirs - two sons and an even more daughters, of whom Elizabeth was the eldest.  She did a really good job getting high positions for her relatives, which did not help matters.  When Edward IV died after a short sickness, his son, Edward V-ish, was taken into 'protective' custody by his uncle Richard, and his maternal relatives were either executed or exiled or in sanctuary.  Elizabeth spent many anxious months in sanctuary with her mother and sisters, though her other brother Richard joined Edward V in the Towe.  They disappeared, possibly killed at the order of their uncle, who was now Richard III.  Of course, that's a famous controversy, and Weir is firmly of the belief that he was responsible for their murders.  He was certainly guilty of claiming Elizabeth and her sisters were illegitimate, since Edward IV had been betrothed to another woman - doubtful, but it stuck for the moment.   So her future was uncertain until Henry Tudor made his way over to England, gained victory over Richard III at Bosworth, and became Henry VII.  His claim to the throne was a bit shaky, and his marriage to Elizabeth helped to solidify his new-founded dynasty - which was kind of a sticking point for him.  Even so, their marriage was actually the most successful of all the Tudors.  Weir's theme, it seems to me, is that Elizabeth wasn't tragically undermined by her husband or mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, as many writers have implied.  However, she must have been uneasy at times, what with all the young men coming forward pretending to be her brothers or someone else close to the throne.

It's not a bad subject.  So much has been written about Elizabeth's son and his wives (I'm sure you can figure out who I'm talking about - eight guesses!), and it's good to have a little light shed on this transitory period.  Being that I'm bleary-eyed (back to the head cold again), it helped that it was a large-print book.  I see just fine with my glasses, but I'd checked this book out from the library, not realizing which edition I'd selected.  My only real issue is that there were too many details that were unnecessary.  How many times do I need to know everybody's salary, and every bit of garment and wall hanging of the period?  Also, in her book, The Princes in the Tower, she made clear her belief was that Richard III was the guilty party, so in Elizabeth of York there's no room for argument.  Don't know why I want Richard to be innocent in this - he's not even the Richard that David Tennant's been playing, so what's my problem?

Pairing: if you're healthy, I'd recommend Tower of London tea by Harney and Sons (ha) or a Rose blend - for the York and Lancaster factions, of course.  Since Henry VII had a reputation for being a miser (and Alison Weir had points against that, too), my old-tea Sick Day blend is just the thing for those stuffy days.

03 January 2014

Looking Back...and Forward

I started keeping a diary when I was seven.  It was one of those books with a page for each day.  It didn't suit me; why face the pressure of having to write or face an eternally empty page?  In the years to follow I bought diaries that weren't so strict - I could start in May for all it mattered.  Of course, eventually I reached the end of the volume.  When I had only a few sheets of paper left, I'd do an end-of-book retrospective.  This was especially a big deal in my formative years.  Within the space of one book I'd grow an inch or two, or a bra size, and wrote through at least one painful crush that, come to think of it, might deserve a bit of redacting treatment.  Things got even more intense when we had one or two major family crises.  Shame I stopped this practice by 2001 as that would have been interesting, although the last page did mention taking Duforth and Moofer to the vet at the same time, so there's that bit of nostalgia.

In some ways looking from back to front appealed to the natural historian in me, and also my ever-present need for self-examination.  I wanted to know if I was a indeed better person than when I'd started, or if something about myself or my circumstances should be addressed.  Most blank books are less costly than therapy!

I don't do this on the blog, because, well, it seems to be infinite.  Sometimes I think I should put an end to it, since frankly I don't seem to have the readership of past times, but at this point I'm determined to make the ten year mark.  That'll be in 2015, by the way.  Still, I could combine the annual diary concept with the free journals and do a year end look-back.  It's already January, so I'd better get on with it.

As I've said before, I don't like to get too personal here.  It's not the place for it.  This'll cover my blogging activity for the most part.

In January I attempted to start a 'favorite book of the month' feature, but this fizzled out by the spring.  So I think from now on I'll stick to an occasional book review with its tea pairing.  I was also still covering my December 2012 trip to London, which was good because I hardly made it out of town for the rest of 2013.  I intend to change this, and certainly will, since I already have solid plans to visit San Antonio soon. I found out in the spring that my sister and her husband were moving there in October.  Though I never intended to see Texas, I've heard good things about San Antonio, and frankly, on this frigid snowy day, I could use some of that sunshine.

What disappoints me the most is the dearth of tearoom reviews.  PressTea is all well and good, but it doesn't make up for the lack of new spots.  As it is, I did manage a few visits to Tea and Sympathy as well as Alice's Tea Cup.  I went to a lovely outdoor garden tea party, but failed to give it proper coverage here.  Having a dying laptop was my excuse at the time, but now that I've got a perfectly functioning one, I have to get it going again!  Posting an occasional shot of a teapot on Instagram just doesn't do it for me.

Probably my most constant feature here was The Tea Gallery, and I plan to keep this coming.  Eventually I can open a Tea Museum.

The main distraction and tragedy for me in 2013 was the sickness and death of Moofer.  I spent a great amount of time trying to keep him in stable health, but renal failure is no joke.  I still miss him, but Zenobia and I are doing all right.  I have no immediate need for another cat, which is probably good for my allergies.  I guess I'm not a Crazy Cat Person after all.

So, not one of my best years, but not a total disaster.  See you again soon!  I hope,.