06 November 2015

The winner is...

I like tea.

Nope -


I don't like playing favorites, as was recently covered, if not ad nauseum, ad feeling slightly off-eum.  Even so, sometimes one has to make a choice.  

Much as I would love to keep a wealth of tea varieties in my office at work, I'm already inundated with stuff - particularly file folders, which I cannot seem to conquer.  Also, though I have tea strainers/filters at work, it's not always time-effective to go through the preferred process, so I save it for special occasions (like a particularly quiet day, which is rare.)  In the long run, I decided to settle on picking a good, sturdy, easy-to-prepare, yet tasty teabag.

This tea would have to be a breakfast tea, as it needs to have that workaday quality to combat my stupid craving for coffee that creeps up on me - especially when I smell it brewing (even from a k cup).  A hearty black tea that could handle a bit of milk is just the thing, though I should be able to leave the milk out without hating it.

I've tried PG Tips, Typhoo, Twinings, Yorkshire Gold, and let's not get into the brief flirtation with Lipton.  Besides the latter mistake, all of these teas were good .  Obviously I prefer British brands.  (By the way, Yorkshire Gold is the runner up.  I have not problem with it; it's just mildly pricier over here.) Then on my last trip to London - the place I start to crave as the warm weather wanes - I noticed which tea gave me the most pleasure in the mornings.  Even more than Afternoon Teas and Cream Teas, on this visit I had a bunch of Full English Breakfasts, or Nearly Full, because no 'puddings' or tomatoes for me.  Anyway, whether I was having buttered toast or a fryup, it was Tetley that made me feel both cozy and ready to go on with my day the most.  Rainy days were made better by that mugful of love.

Normally I pick up tea from Whittard or somewhere similarly fun, and I'll probably do that next time.  In London 2014, however, I went to the local Sainsbury's and bought a delightfully inexpensive package of Tetley, containing 80 bags - and a decaf one for those days when I shouldn't be further pepped up.  These teas gave me comfort through the winter, and I managed to have a few left by the end of summer.  Suddenly I was out of them altogether, and there was no time to get back to the UK to restock, so I did the next best thing: I bought a package of 240 bags on Amazon.  It came much quicker than its expected delivery date, and just in time for the chilly autumn days.

Now, about that autumn: where did it go?  Not that I'm complaining, but I just swapped out my closet with sweaters and now I'm frantically searching for lighter layers.  Either way, I have my daily cuppa, and Tetley is it.

What's your daily tea?

08 September 2015

Liebster Awards

I'd like to thank My Thoughts Are Like Butterflies for nominating me for a Liebster Award.  Pretty much everyone who's been nominated has never heard of this award before, but I'll bite because it never hurts to recognize my fellow bloggers!  Also, because it's like a chain letter but without the "someone will die" threat that's all too common.

Here's the rules, as copied and pasted from other Liebster-nominated sites:
  1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator.
  3. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers.
  4. Create 11 questions for the nominees.
  5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.
My answers:

1. What flavor note in tea just drives you happy crazy, you know is so good you kinda fall over in happiness?
If it's 'chocolatey', it's probably gonna make me happy.

2. Most wonderful tea themed memory?
Hard to choose one, but : having cream tea at Tea and Sympathy for the first time.  Eye-opening.

3. What is your favorite game (it can be board, video, RPG, any game at all) and why?
I'm not much for games, though a trivia-based game, whether board or video usually works for me!

4. What is the strangest dream you ever had?
The one where I had to look for Mary I of England in the Lower East Side is up there.

5. What inspires you the most?
Coming across a well-written poem or novel, or a particularly moving painting at a museum moves me to do better.

6. Favorite place you have ever visited?
London.  No surprise there.

7. Favorite snack and why?
Cereal - because it's fun!

8. Most disgusting thing you ever ate (on purpose)?
Grasshopper from a taco.  I can still feel that leg stuck in my throat.

9. Favorite post-apocalyptic setting? Why?
Not big on post-apocalyptic settings, but I like Doctor Who, so any episode that falls in that category would be it, I suppose.

10. What is your favorite classic monster? Why?
On the same theme, the Daleks.  They're evil, but they are also pretty snarky - watch them face off with the Cybermen.

11. Favorite One Hit Wonder?
Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners makes me happy for no particular reason.

So I'm nominating the following bloggers - some of whom I know in person, and some I may never meet (sad).  What they have in common is that I've read their blogs at some point in the past few months:

Tea For Me Please
The Kettle Meddler
Stop Me If You've Heard This One
Roses and Vellum
Cynthia Holt Events

Here's my questions - have fun!:  

  1. What's a project you're currently working on?
  2. Name a book you're really into right now.
  3. You can automatically speak and read another language besides your mother tongue fluently - which language would you choose?
  4. What grammatical or spelling error really grinds your gears? (I apologize if I've used any in this post.)
  5. You're planning a family/friend/fellow blogger/League of Evil gathering, and money is no object.  In what location would this gathering take place, and why?
  6. Has your writing been published elsewhere?
  7. What's your shower song?
  8. What is something that you view as a waste of time (not counting these questions)?
  9. Which sense leads you the most?
  10. First concert?
  11. Who sees you without makeup?

07 September 2015

What's up?

I thought I'd use my Labor Day off to catch up on a number of my indoor projects - spent enough of the weekend outdoors.  Sadly, I woke up with a tragically common sore throat, and I woke up really late at that.  I did take a tremendous amount of tea, anyway, and I published a bit on my other blogs.

Here's a rare update on my NY photo blog:


20 August 2015

Random Tea Memories by Catherine,,with ellipses...

I remember when Barnes and Noble had Republic of Tea at their cafes.  It was a highlight of working across the street from a B&N that one winter...

Now I think there's Tazo teas.  It's been awhile since I've been to a B&N cafe - it's not as fun without Bonnie, and there are fewer bookshops around to begin with...
...Guess I can always have whatever tea I want in my home library!

19 August 2015


Two of the colors I most enjoy, but it doesn't end there!

I'm not an intensely private person - there's a few things I keep to myself, and I love my alone time, but generally I'm not even close to an enigma.  I wouldn't have a blog if I minded sharing details about what I'm interested in, and preferences.  Though I rarely post my quiz results here anymore (leave that for Facebook), online quizzes are a delightful time waster.

There's one problem with quizzes - and interviews, or conversations in general.  The dreaded question...

"What is your favorite ______________"?

This could be anything from color, to book, to scent, TV episode, even animal.  When I see this question, I blink first and then say, "Oh come on...."

Do people like to narrow down their lives this way?  Why must there always be a Number One?

It's particularly frustrating when it comes to the things I'm passionate about.  For instance, if I'm introduced to someone as a Book Person, I'm often asked either "What is your favorite book of all time?" or "Who is your favorite author?" How do I answer this?  This love can't be expressed in one or two sentences.  By pigeonholing this pursuit into such a narrow response, one is likely to receive a bumbling answer from me, or something some rambling they will want to move away, quickly...

I believe, and don't stone me for saying this, that someone with an easy answer to such questions is not really a Book Person.  Now, if I'm asked about a favorite genre, I'd likely say History, or Historical Fiction, though I'm not limited to these in my reading life.

Color is another problematic one.  Questions arise: favorite color to wear, to paint my walls in...what?  I have said before that my favorite color flower is yellow, and this continues to be true, but yellow is not my favorite color.  That would be green. Or purple.  Or sky blue.  See what I mean?  

Food?  Okay, I'm a lover of dairy products (not always a healthy thing).  But how do I pick between pizza and ice cream?  And chicken, the reason I've failed at being a vegetarian?

Scent?  I could go on and on.  Fresh cut grass, citrus fruits, lavender, fresh baked bread - and cats that smell like fresh baked bread...

Of course, tea.  A staple in my tea diet is English Breakfast, but I'd be bereft without Jasmine Green and Earl Grey.  Darjeeling, Rooibos Chai, I'm mean, it's all about mood baby!

This is also why I don't like the term 'best friend'.  I have friends that I absolutely love, and the ones that move far away break my heart.  How can I call any of them 'best'?  Doesn't that pull up a wall to anyone else?  

I'm rambling again, but my solution is to dispense with Favorite.  If I volunteer that something is my favorite - for instance, ducks are my favorite birds, then okay, but don't make me choose the top when there's so much room for variety up there.  How about "What are some of your favorite teas?  Which writer are you most in the mood for reading?  What kind of food are you craving at the moment?"

In then end, there can only be (more than) one.

13 August 2015

Haven't Been There, Haven't Done That

There used to be only a handful of tea-related places to visit in New York, and a to-do list could possibly be fulfilled within a short amount of time.  Over the years I have missed a few spots, some of which I really missed as they are gone now.  Here are some places I intend to take tea at, though whether I will or not is left to Future Catherine:

Cha'an - I don't get down to the East Village as often as I'd like, and when I do it tends not to be when I'm in a tea mood.  I know that sounds odd coming from me, but it does happen.

Harney & Sons (upstate) - I've been to their shop in Soho once, and even that was about four years ago.  It's not open late into the evening last I checked, and I have little cause to be in Soho during midday hours.  There's a Harney Fest in their Millerton, NY location, but I can't make it this time around.  Such is life.

Palm Court Plaza Hotel - I have had tea in the Plaza Hotel, but only a quick chamomile in the Food Hall.  I recommend it, but someday I need to take it upstairs.

Lady Mendl's - For years, and years, and years I've failed to make it here.  Sadly, recent reviews have hinted at a downturn in service quality, and I hope I can pay a visit before it goes concave.

The Russian Tea Room - Honestly, I'm not dying to go here.  But it's there.  So maybe.  

Rose House (Flushing) - It would've been better to try when Bonnie still lived in Flushing.  Also, this has mixed reviews online.  The thing about Queens, though, is that we don't get too many full-on tea rooms that aren't bubble tea.  I love bubble tea, and FYI visit Tea and Milk on 34th Avenue if you get a chance, but until something more formal opens in Astoria, this is what we have.

The Lowell/Pembroke Room - I prefer dedicated tea shops to hotel tea rooms, mainly because it's easier on the wallet most of the time, but more than one person has recommended this place to me.  It's also not too far from where I work, and super close to an Alice's Tea Cup and a David's Tea.  I need to complete the Tea Strip!

11 June 2015


Just over a year ago I was able to visit Beacon, New York for presumably the first time.  It's one of those smallish towns along the Hudson that I absolutely adore, and might choose to live in if I had to leave the City.  The mountain views alone are nearly enough for me!  

Anyway, we were really hungry after a day of walking around the Hyde Park area (not the one in London, but pretty) and we ended up eating at a wonderful Soul Food restaurant on Main Street.  We did pass a Cup and Saucer Tea Room, which I had to pass wistfully.  

A few months later, I received word that the tea room was now a Doctor Who-themed restaurant called Pandorica.  Fantastic, 
right?  Well, yes and no...

Newly opened restaurants always have stuff to work out, and Pandorica was no different.  I'd read mixed reviews, and decided to wait until kinks were sorted.  Additionally, Pandorica's Facebook page urged locals to hold off visiting in its early stages.  I'm not sure if I'm really a local, as it's still and hour and a half drive away from Astoria (and longer on the Metro North I'm sure), but I didn't mind - I had a whole new series (season) of Doctor Who to enjoy, as well as the visit to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff.

After the long winter, and while it was still the lovely moderate weather of May, my friend Sarah and I were talking, and we decided we needed to stop talking and just go.  A day later, with her son and another younger friend, we were in Beacon!

It was a little warmer out than I'd have liked, but that wouldn't stop me from trying the Afternoon Tea.  Just off the bat, it was a Catherine-approved Afternoon Tea - tasty sandwiches, a variety of sweets, and scones with excellent clotted cream.  Pandorica definitely has that down.  

The menu has Whovian-inspired items like Madame Vastra Po boys, K-9's (corn dogs, fitting), and a faux Fish Fingers and Custard. The tea was enough, so I couldn't try any of these, but I'm sure they were fine.  The menu wasn't necessarily inexpensive, but it's wasn't maddeningly pricey either.  The service could use some sprucing up - the staff wasn't nasty or anything, but they were kind of slow.

Here are some highlights of the restaurant's decor:

The crack in time!

Fun, isn't it?  Plus, they have episodes of Doctor Who constantly streaming.  It was in early Amy Pond times when we were there.

I did think it was a well-done combination of tea and one of my favorite subjects, so a pairing.  My thoughts to improvement:  staff should dress in cosplay, or at the very least have TARDIS aprons.  I want to be transported.  Also, there was precious little Classic Who involved.  I know Pandorica springs from NuWho, and that's okay, but what of those of us who'd like to see art and knick knacks from the 70s, for instance?  The show has so much history, it's a shame to leave that out.  

Know that Pandorica has events such as Trivia Wednesdays, and I'm sure it's great for locals, but I doubt I'd trudge up there myself for that reason.  Still, I'm glad I made it at last.  If I need to get my kicks in my area, I'll probably stick to the Way Station.

22 April 2015

Tea Gallery: Alice Reading Beside a Cup of Tea by Roger de la Fresnaye

Tea and Books, Books and Tea!  Always an ideal pairing.  Also, Alice's Tea Cup.  I'm done here.

Still Here!

I began my first blog entry on the 19th of April, 2005 with a simple "Here I Am"!  

At the time, posting anything on the Internet was an unusual thrill for me.  It was my first attempt at social networking online, and I would write about anything and everything.  Now, though I don't post nearly as frequently, it's centered along the subject of tea and its periphery.  

I was limited in some ways.  My first laptop was a year away, and my home computer was ancient.  Most of my writing was done on breaks at work.  I didn't even know how to post pictures at first, and needed my friend Marie, who had also just started blogging, to help me put up a profile pic.  Eventually I figured things out - just in time for the arrival of Zenobia.  I also retroactively shared pics from my trip to London/France, which I'd embarked on right after my first post.  It was my pretend version of being a travel writer, and it was enough.

Then it became a community thing.  A bunch of my friends started keeping blogs, and we'd all comment on each others' posts, and I got to see people I was close to personally in a different light.  Some of these people ended up leaving New York, and now it was like a newsletter from (slightly) far away.  Yes, we could've just emailed each other, but this had a shinier format.

When everyone started to join Facebook in earnest, and later Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (which is a form of blogging but feels different), Pinterest, etc. - and I joined many of these as well - things changed once again.  I posted less frequently on my blog, because I had other outlets.  I received fewer comments on the blogs - and now I'd extended to other blogs, in an attempt to be organized - and my friends were accessible in other ways.  

So, after ten years, why do I still have this blog?  Why bother?

Why not?

Some things never change

23 March 2015

A Tale of Two Cat Cafes

I've had the inestimable opportunity to visit two cat cafes in the space of three months.  Imagine being able to combine a love of cats and tea, and even books - and not even paying that much for the privilege!  I mean, unless you count the airfare to London.  

London and New York have a great deal in common, not least of all the problem of living space.  Unless you're loaded, being able to have even a decent sized apartment is a challenge, never mind a house with a garden.  Many people sacrifice a fairly proportioned kitchen, in-house laundry facilities, and other things most non-urban folk take for granted because location, location, location!  One of the greatest sacrifices, in my opinion, is being able to keep pets.  I'm a cat person, yes, but I'd love to have dogs (not to mention ducks), and the only reason I don't, besides the veterinary bills, is because I'd have to walk them in soggy weather.  I'd have more cats, but I stay balanced with one or two, because of cleanliness - and allergies. 

Many have had to forgo even one cat because it's not allowed in their building - which is ridiculous because it's not like the cat is going to scratch the walls off - or because they split rent with someone who's allergic.  These cat cafes are perfect, then, because it possibly fills a gap in their life for a space of time.  Or like me, you just like to go and see more kitties because there's not enough of them on the Internet...

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

As you know by now, I had and always do have a good time in London.  The past two trips I was a solitary traveler, which isn't too bad, though this time I was happy to reconnect with a friend from visits past, and meet some new friends. At my Sunday meeting I found a lovely family who asked me to their home for a tea break.  Besides their hospitality, and the excellent cuppa you only find in a British home (can nearly replicate it in my apartment), I met the family's Jack Russell terrier and two hilariously adorable Singapura cats.  It was my second day, and already I missed Zenobia, so this was a welcome encounter!  Instead of being satiated, though, it made me look forward to Monday's reservation even more.

On Monday, I did something I rarely do:  I gave myself plenty of time.  One thing I know about London is that I still get lost far too easily, and hitting an area like Shoreditch was bound to be a challenge.  And it was.  I took a wrong turn, ended up on the opposite side of Brick Lane, and took an unnecessary train or two, but at least it was a nice day for it.  

Got to Lady Dinah's a few minutes early, and those of us who had the 1 PM (aka 13:00) reservations were led into an anteroom where we washed our hands and were given brief instructions as to behavioral policies. Then we were in a cat Wonderland!

Normally, when I venture into a cafe alone, I want to be left alone, with my food, my drink, and my book(s).  Like a cat.  A cat who reads.  But this is a place where even cats aren't left alone (though you mustn't pick them up or wake them if they'll sleeping, them's the rules), so I attempted to tap into my social side for a few moments here and there.  

This is Donnie, the one that reminded me of Cinnamon, so probably my favourite.  The lady on the left worked at the cafe, and she was good at keeping the playful cats interactive, and answering our questions (mainly, 'What's his name?')

I was seated at a cozy couch, facing two sisters on a couch, and we shared the coffee table between us.  We shared photos of our own fur babies, as you do.  I'd already had a Full English Breakfast, so I couldn't go to town, but I think I got the gist of the place's menu.  Anyway, I was more of a Cream Tea girl on this trip than Afternoon Tea - the reservation is listed as Afternoon Tea, but ordering is a la carte.  So I had a cup of  perfect Darjeeling, excellent scone with clotted cream and jam, and a slice of cake - the Chocolate Mandarin Loaf, which is listed as Gluten and Dairy Free, and so tasty.  The cake would also pair nicely with an Earl Grey.

I was able to wander around the rooms too.  In most restaurants, even tearooms, that seems a bit forward, to say the least, but when there's kitties in every nook and cranny - well, you have to go exploring!  Plus, there's a fair amount of bookshelves, which is always fun for browsers.  

An altogether fine experience, with my fill of felines for the week, until I got home and received a full dressing down by the lonely Zenobia.

Fast forward two months, and we're in the dead of winter in New York.  The snow is no longer fun, and the cold is biting worse than a mean kitty.  It wasn't the kind of day I prefer to venture into the Lower East Side - a place I get nearly as lost in as I do Shoreditch, but I had a reservation and was meeting a friend.  I'm glad I didn't flake out.

Meow Parlour is a different kind of cat cafe.  There are rules to observe, and of course cats everywhere, but after that the similarities end.  

You need to take your shoes off straightaway.  I'm not a fan of this, especially in snow boot weather, but I knew I needed to do this in advance, so I wore decent socks.  The Macaron Parlour around the corner provides the food, and though you can (I think) order from the cat cafe, we personally went to select our macarons.  How cute are these?

The tea was Harney and Sons, and I picked an herbal, which was good. I was recovering from an incident where I'd smacked my face into a wall in the middle of the night, and it took a bandaid and much more makeup than usual to look presentable, so I didn't need much in the way of caffeination.   There weren't as many food items to choose from, but then again, the reservation is for half hour increments, so you don't really need much.

Copy Cat...get it?

  This was a one-room deal, but it was airy and the tables were more of a communal setting.  I mean, I shared a couch at Lady Dinah's, but that felt more plushy I think.

The other main difference I could see was that all the cats in Meow Parlour are up for adoption.  There's a process to it; you don't just point and say "I want this one", but either way, you know that though these cats are wonderful, and sweet and well-behaved, you might not want to get too attached, 'cause they may not be here next time!

Talk to the toe beans!

Both cat cafes fill a void, and I'm glad for their existence.  They seemed to fit their respective cities, and the cat/tea/book trifecta is fulfilled in each.

25 January 2015


I have a problem.  The most beautiful of problems.  I have too many choices!

In my earlier visits to London, my Kensington day wouldn't be complete without a stop to The Muffin Man.  Still, I wanted to visit The Orangery at some point, so Bonnie and I managed to get to that our last time together, while at the same time doing The Muffin Man on another day.  Obviously I have enough tea spots in that area.  Of course I had to find out about Candella!  

Yumchaa was discovered through Yelp, but Candella was a find via Instagram.  Yes, businesses, it works!

Kensington Church Street is one of my favorite streets to walk, and one that I only discovered in my past few visits.  It connects Kensington Hill Street with Notting Hill Gate, and it's a charming walk.  Of course, most of the shops are out of my league - antiques mostly - but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the view.  Also, the High Street isn't Oxford Street crazy, but it can be busy, and Church Street is always quieter without being deserted.  A perfect street to place a tea room!

My conundrum upon hearing about it, though, was when to visit.  Even I can have too much tea in one day, but I knew I had to fit it in.  So I made it a breakfast/nearly brunch destination on a Thursday - the same Thursday I went to Yumchaa - and this worked out well.

Piano Piano Piano!

Anyplace with this much cake is a PLACE TO BE!

It's not a large place, but some of the best places aren't.  However, when I sat down, I was a table over from a woman who seemed to be a regular, and being in close proximity to people makes me want to be extra careful with my table manners.  This doesn't just apply in London, but it certainly makes the pressure even stronger.  I mean, the Tea Queen of London is the Queen, and we were just blocks from a palace (like anyone cares what I do, but this is how my head works so deal with it.)  

You'd think the aforementioned conscientiousness would induce me to order a dainty finger food, especially considering the fact that of course I'd be reading a book whilst partaking.  Nope. I ordered the Eggs Benedict.  Hey, it seemed filling enough for the upcoming park stroll AND I believe it was the first time I'd actually had an English muffin in England (it was good.)

I can deal with this.

Of course, I was in for an awkward treat!  Everything tasted wonderful, and my appley black tea was perfect...and I should have tried some of that cake!  However, it's me, and attempting to eat with a fork and knife and basically one and a half hands would inevitably lead to disaster.  Okay, maybe not disaster, but anyway.  First of all, I was struggling with the background music.  It was the solo featured on Seinfeld when Elaine had the Pez dispenser on her lap and busted out.  I'm trying to eat gracefully and I keep visualizing Tweety Bird.  At long last my knife did a little flip and landed on the floor.  The lady next to me saw this and said something like , "No worries."  I need to adopt that attitude to life, I think.

Once my issues were fully dealt with, I realized this was a real winner of a tea shop.  Perhaps that's premature, as I didn't have my usual accompaniments, but this rough estimate came from the all-important ambience, and the fact that they served loose tea.  Nothing wrong with a good bagged tea, but in a place like this, you want to see the effort.  I'm spoiled for choice AND picky!

4 out of 4 teacups - Tube: High Street Kensington or Notting Hill Gate, both on the District/Circle lines.

13 January 2015

Tea Gallery: Sunday Morning, Woman Reading by Isabel Codrington

To me, the only thing better than a tea gallery is a bookish gallery.  Here's a bit of both.

Now that teapot is huge!  I'm hoping my eyesight is overlooking a samovar aspect to it, otherwise I predict a messy table.  No wonder she's holding up her book.  Also, if I were painted reading on a Sunday morning, the surroundings would be far less elegant.  Still, it'd be a fun picture to do a modern interpretation of - doubt I could find that particular floral arrangement.