Tag Archives: tea

Afternoon Tea, Bookmarks, and the WIP…

I don’t drink tea the way I used to; part of it is directly related to recently finding I’m fairly lactose intolerant.  Part of it stems from the beginning of the year, when I gave up caffeine.  But since 1997, tea has been such an ingrained part of who I am that to suddenly note to family and friends that I just don’t imbibe as previously is hard to explain.  It’s hard for me to wrap my head around!  And I do miss those endless cups of black tea, with generous splashes of milk; nothing is as calming to this writing quilter as a hot milky cuppa.

My teapot, decaf Ceylon, with a little pitcher of almond milk right behind my cup.

My teapot, decaf Ceylon, with a little pitcher of almond milk right behind my cup.

Or was as calming; lately jasmine tea has become my substitute, for I still need a cup of something warm to get myself going each day.  But on Mother’s Day I was sent back to the past, my British tenure to be precise.  My eldest daughter had arranged a special treat for us, a surprise booked way back in February, when my caffeinated-less life was just becoming cemented, but before the dairy issue raised its head.  Over the last month, since excising milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream from my diet, it’s become a slightly stressful curiosity, for I know my daughter, and she certainly knows me.

And as Mother’s Day approached, her enthusiasm bubbled while my thoughts swirled; just what was in store for us on Sunday, 11 May?

In the meantime, I cut fabrics, birthday fabrics to be precise.  Sometimes I save the selvages, for a writerly purpose.  On Saturday, the tenth, I collected my fave selvages, putting them on the Janome, which still needed to be cleaned out after the Whale Quilt.  I was expecting a lot of blue fuzz, and believe me, I wasn’t disappointed.

Waiting for me to clean out all the blue micro fleece fuzz...

Waiting for me to clean out all the blue micro fleece fuzz…

Mother’s Day 2014 will be one of those dates I’ll not forget; part was taking Bart with my daughter, not a usual occurrence.  She came down our way, and I met her in Fremont, currently the most southerly Bart station.  She doesn’t drive, and I don’t like driving in San Francisco, our destination.  That was all I knew for certain; we were spending the afternoon in the city.

My daughter's teapot; Yorkshire Gold for her, hehehe...

My daughter’s teapot; Yorkshire Gold for her, hehehe…

It’s different, being feted as a mum by grown children.  The hands-on mothering has (mostly) ended, but advice and admonitions are plentiful, from both sides.  That eldest daughter was the quilting instigator (she also twisted my arm about the writing).  And now, even though public transport was our mode of heading north, I was being taken out by this girl, who really isn’t a girl anymore.  Married for nearly two years, a masters degree in tow, plus Buttercup to sort, keeps my daughter on her toes, as well as a job in Oakland that requires her on Bart every weekday.  She said it was nice traveling with someone on the train, and I was most appreciative of her knowledge, and her Bart app, keeping us abreast of the next stop before it was called out by the driver.

She had warned that once we exited the train, our steps would need to be fast; we had to be at our destination at eleven.  What she didn’t know was a hill awaited, testing my mettle.  I walk every day (thereabouts), but on the flat sidewalks of our neighborhood.  However, we trudged as quickly as possible up the hill, turned left onto Church Street, finding ourselves in a charming residential area of SF.  My daughter checked her phone, then smiled, noting we were very close.  And within eyeshot, I smiled; Lovejoy’s Tea Room loomed ahead.

I didn't think to snap it before we dug into it, but it still looks pretty intact.

I didn’t think to snap it before we dug into it, but it still looks pretty intact.

It’s been over seven years since I’ve had afternoon tea.  Not that we were that extravagant often in the UK; most of the time I was happy with a pot of tea and a Fat Rascal at Bettys’ cafes scattered throughout North Yorkshire.  But there is something elegant about afternoon tea, tiny sandwiches and dainty cups which lead to sip after delicious sip of hot, perfect, healing tea.  However, now there was a caveat; no dairy for me.

I’ve been having almond milk every morning, in my cereal.  I have even tried it in tea, but it wasn’t the same, so since mid-April, I had basically given up black tea, decaf of course.  But I wasn’t in the frame of mind to drink something jasmine-like.  Maybe tea with soy milk would be okay, or maybe…

Maybe I would give tea with almond milk another go.  Perhaps it was all in the teacup employed.

I have to say I had two pots of tea, almond milk just fine.  I also had one of the most enjoyable afternoons of recent days, my daughter and I at what was as close to an English tea experience as the West Coast could proffer.  The food was delicious, the tea plentiful, and the scones were… Supreme!  I let my daughter have the Devon cream, while I tasted the lemon curd, then smeared a healthy dollop of raspberry jam on mine.   We weren’t rushed, and we chatted about years past, and how different it was sharing afternoon tea what with her no longer a teen and me, well, not in my thirties.

Nothing beats scones and jam, and cream for those able.  Oh my goodness, these were le bombs!

Nothing beats scones and jam, and cream for those able. Oh my goodness, these were le bombs!

Yes, things change.  Now I sew, while she’s a working gal, paired with her better half, oh, and Buttercup.  Yet, in drinking cup after cup of tea, I could have closed my eyes and been back in Yorkshire, it was that spot-on.

Blocks are sewn, awaiting me to start the sashes...

Blocks are sewn, awaiting me to start the sashes…

She came back to our abode, where I shared with her the quilt WIP.  Barbecue was partaken, as the SF Giants won a thrilling game, sealing the Mother’s Day joy.  Then my husband and I ran her home.  Her hubby had spent the day with his folks, and it was in her backyard I took the cover shots for A Quilt For Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It couldn’t have been a more spectacular Mum’s Day, which morphed into a week of sewing the quilt WIP, reading over the novelistic WIP, and making bookmarks.

I'm so glad my daughter likes paperbacks; I can only use so many of these.

I’m so glad my daughter likes paperbacks; I can only use so many of these.

I need to send my daughter one of those bookmarks, as a thanks for such a beautiful afternoon, and because she prefers print books over digital files.  She’s a child of her generation when it comes to her finesse with smart phones, but her heart is drawn back to ancient days when a cuppa soothed the world’s ills, complimented by a quilt to keep out the chill.

The perfect balance, methinks, as I peruse fabric and prose WIPs, feeling a little torn in two.  (More on that soon…)

This author’s fuel…

The stash waiting to be packed for our return back in  2007; it probably lasted half the year.

The stash waiting to be packed for our return back in 2007; it probably lasted half the year.

A couple of days ago Jill Weatherholt inquired as to just exactly what gets me going; coffee, tea…  It’s tea, without question or even a moment’s hesitation   I’ve been drinking English tea since 1997.  I will never stop.

But of course, it’s not that simple.  Without English tea, I don’t know how I would manage writing, or much else.  Tea is the lifeblood, the Mother Country, what gets my brain in gear, one of the reasons for getting out of bed too.  I literally cannot fathom my morning without a milky cuppa, ahem, or more, at my left hand.

Tea represents the link to my Mr. Coffee childhood, a ten-cup pot brewing every morning for my parents.  I tried coffee as a kid, had to add so much milk and sugar, what was the point?  (My weekly latte in Los Gatos must have one sugar.)  As a teen, I didn’t like iced tea, never chased a caffeine rush with Mountain Dew.  Not until I was in my early thirties did I realize (and become slave to) a molecule that indeed stirs the blood, hastens the heartbeat.  But it arrived in the gentle, calming guise of a cuppa.

Have a cuppa tea, as Ray Davies sings; it does cure a multitude of ailments.  I first tried tea at a little cafe, sugar added.  But soon I weaned myself to just a splash of milk, and I have never gone back.  It needs to be HOT, or at least very warm.  I can swig a cool latte, but that’s due to the sugar.  Luke-warm tea, ick.  Thank goodness for microwaves.

And it has to be English tea.  Yes, I’m a snob; I prefer Taylor’s of Harrogate loose leaf teas, Yorkshire Gold as well.  For bagged tea, Typhoo is lovely.  Barry’s Gold, an Irish brand, is great too.  I’m not fond of PG Tips, but it will do in a pinch.  Recently we found the delicious Punjana, at Big Lots of all places!  The best place in Silicon Valley to buy English tea is Cross Winds Grocery, along the Palo Alto/Mountain View border, but Cost Plus import stores are handy too.  Living in Yorkshire, we had easy access to Bettys Cafes; I used to buy my teas from their shop, as loose leaf is really the best way to brew tea.

2006; having our own afternoon tea, courtesy of Betty's cake and jam, Morrison's clotted cream, Emma Bridgewater pottery, and of course, tea!

2006; having our own afternoon tea, courtesy of Betty’s cake and jam, Morrison’s clotted cream, Emma Bridgewater pottery, and of course, tea!

One of the things I miss most about Britain is buying tea.  Marks & Spencers always had lovely blends, their St. Michaels brand another top choice.  I was spoiled, oh my goodness, so very spoiled.

The real Betty's experience, summer 2006.  Betty's cafes were my second home in those days.

The real Betty’s experience, summer 2006. Betty’s cafes were my second home in those days.

But life in California continues, as does the writing, as long as I have the morning cuppa.  I drink decaf after lunchtime, and sometimes a cup of Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger is nice too.  But the real deal is Yorkshire Gold, South African Kwazulu, English Breakfast, Blue Sapphire, Assam, Ceylon.  But no Earl Gray.

Friends brought me some Yorkshire Decaf, which I cannot find in California.  Behind it is my collection of tins, all with some sort of tea in them.

Friends brought me some Yorkshire Decaf, which I cannot find in California. Behind it is my collection of tins, all with some sort of tea in them.

My husband and Jean-Luc Picard might love Bergamot, but not me.

It’s 5.41 a.m. and time for tea

I have a not-so-small addiction to English tea, served with a splash of milk.  This habit began not long after we moved to Britain, which was sixteen years ago.  So let’s say for the last fifteen years, I’ve been drinking copious amounts of tea on a daily basis.

It helps to get the day started, especially one this early.  But it’s a comforting way to get my brain in gear.  I grew up in a ten-cup Mr. Coffee household, and I still adore the scent of java.  But I could never get my taste buds around black coffee, still can’t.  The weekly latte with one sugar at the Los Gatos Cafe is my treat; lattes don’t have to be hot, the sugar helps.  Tea must be more than warm, otherwise it lands in the microwave.  And yes, a few times I have forgotten my tea in that device, wondering where in the world I’d put it!

As a creature of habit, tea starts my day in a soothing, liquidy manner, not biting but certainly stirring.  A few days back my husband mentioned that I go off caffeine occasionally, to which I cleared my throat, then looked to the ground.  Not lately was my mumbled reply.  Lately it’s been leaded all the way, maybe due to these early mornings.  I need that kick more than I realize.

My next novel for publication is in the final stages; hyperlinks and linked table of contents today, and I really should write up those synopses.  But first I need to get my head clear, a little Bill Evans piping through speakers, a little blogging, a little tea.  Or maybe not so little.  I drink a pot every morning; my daughter usually has a cup when she wakes, otherwise that teapot belongs solely to me.  Today it’s a Royal Doulton Blueberry pot without a lid; the tea cools much faster, but I just don’t have the heart to throw away that pot, what the microwave is for.   At other times it’s a clear glass loose leaf pot my son got me last Christmas.  I swap between bags and loose tea, keeping it fresh.  Keeping myself caffeinated is more to the truth.  I haven’t gone off caffeine in years.

My husband was surprised when I admitted that small fact.  But I need that morning brew, can’t function without it.  Life is too short not to enjoy adequate tea.  (And still manage to get things done this early in the morning!)

Now it’s late

This has been a long day; I rose at five a.m., am still conscious at eight fifty-four p.m.  In the meantime, I’ve written the second chapter of Splitting the Sky, edited a couple of chapters of the last Alvin’s Farm novel, um…  What else did I do today?  Chatted with my kids, sat in the sun while eating a bagel, watered plants, savored a crit partner’s astute comments, oh I know!  I imported my year of publishing blog to WordPress.  That’s how comfortable I’ve become with this site, that in the space of less than a week, I’ve sorted this website and blog, and imported two others.  One is about Splitting the Sky.  The other was started last December tracking one year in indie publishing.  I think it looks okay, or maybe it’s just so late that my brain’s fried and tomorrow is another day.

Good thing I had a leaded cuppa at two this afternoon.  I was gonna need it…

The morning cuppa

If nothing else, other than my faith and husband, I cannot survive without tea.  British tea.  With milk.  No sugar.

I can sacrifice a lot.  A lot.  But not tea.

The electric kettle is on again, as the pot is brewing, but will need a top-up.  Eleven years in Yorkshire still dwells deep within me, within all my family.  The need for a cuppa remains, as does a shout-out for Team GB!

(Photo is from 2006, when we still lived in Yorkshire, the full compliment of afternoon tea courtesy Emma Bridgewater pottery made for Betty’s cafe, Morrison’s scones and clotted cream, Betty’s jam and cake.)