Posts Tagged ‘cats tea and books are all I need in life’

As I have mentioned in the past, my husband’s family are Gift Listers. Each year, we send around a list of gifts that we would be happy to receive. There is an understanding that we may deviate from the list, but it’s helpful to have ideas. Sometimes we’ll say something more general like “nail polish” or “fancy hand cream,” (two items which are often on my list) and in those cases, we might include a sample link, even if we don’t necessarily want/expect the exact item we linked to.

Here’s what was on my list this year. 

Subscription to NYT online and/or NYT games: I play Wordle and the free version of Spelling Bee every morning before I drag my tired rear out of bed, and I also do the mini crossword. Just think how much longer I could delay getting up if I had access to the full Spelling Bee game and the big crossword!

Tea Infuser Cup Insert: On my recent post about loving teaNicole (HI NICOLE!) mentioned that she has something like this, and I want one too now. Then I can stop buying individually wrapped tea bags! 

Uncle Gray Loose-Leaf Tea from Tea Squared: My favorite tea of all time.

Lightweight Bathrobe: I have had my current bathrobe since before I got married. It came with me into the delivery room when I had Carla. It has seen some things, is what I’m saying. It is pale pink and fuzzy and warm. Way too warm. I need a lightweight robe so that I don’t turn into a puddle of sweat immediately after I get clean. Also, I am not really a pale pink sort of gal, so I would prefer one in black.

Fun Dish Towels: You knowlove a good dish towel

Vegetable Chopper: This is such a boring gift, but it would be So Useful. 

A Bookmark: I specifically requested one with photo/s of Carla or our family.

A Dishwasher-Safe Smoothie Cup with a Non-Plastic Straw: Yes, I know this is very specific. But the heart wants what it wants, and my heart cannot stand hand washing things or a plastic straw.

Fun Necklace: I don’t have my ears pierced, to my mother-in-law’s eternal consternation, but I do love a pretty necklace.

Pom-Pom Beanie: I just really want a hat like this. 

Wild Aloof Rebel Shirt: I saw this on David in a rerun of Schitt’s Creek and covet it quite badly.

Anorak: I have been envisioning myself in an olive green anorak for awhile (not that I can wear it for several months in my region, but a girl can dream), and this one is cute and looks like it might even have some coverage in the buttular region.

Books: Books are always on my list. Get me nothing but books and I would be delighted. Here are a few I am specifically looking forward to owning:

The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz: I have the other books in this series and I cannot wait to read this one.

The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah: Sophie Hannah is one of my auto-buy authors and I am really eager to read her latest novel. My husband and I passed it in a bookstore the other day and it took ALL my willpower not to grab it off the shelf. 

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro: This is a new-to-me author and I can’t remember why this book is on my list or anything about it, but I must have heard great things!

What’s on your holiday wishlist this year?

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I’m a reformed coffee drinker. Otherwise known as a tea fan.

Ally posted recently about her assortment of tea flavors, and it reminded me that I have… a lot of tea in my house. 

Since I cannot remember my origin story as a tea drinker, I will instead give you a tour of my tea. 

I have so much tea, it has to live in two places. This is the tea drawer in the red cabinet in the dining room.

It was so fun to read about how many of you have strong thoughts on herbal vs. black tea, and I will say that I have equally strong feelings about tea. The first feeling is that I don’t really understand what herbal tea is! Which is probably pretty understandable, considering that I drink black tea 95% of the time. 

My favorite is Earl Grey, and its variations. I love me some bergamot. The very best Earl Grey tea I have ever had was at a little brunch place in Montreal. I ordered a pot of Earl Grey and it was so floral and delicious that I wrote down the name of the tea they served and have asked for it for Christmas every year since. (It’s called Uncle Grey and its made by Tea Squared in Canada.) 

Extreme close up of my tea drawer! I have a bunch of Double Bergamot and then some regular Earl Grey as a backup. There’s also a lovely, fragrant lavender rooibos in here… but it makes my tongue feel funny when I drink it, so I stopped drinking it.

Because Uncle Grey is pricey, it’s not really reasonable to drink every single day. (That’s why it makes a great gift.) So I’ve had to come up with some acceptable alternatives. There is a lot of bad tea out there, folks. My favorite is Double Bergamot Earl Grey by Stash. I can often get it at a local grocery store, and if not I can order it by the 100-bags from amazon. 

My mugs are there on the right. The ones with cats. Also the one about being a writer; I will write about that later. I have a third giant mug, but it’s in the dishwasher.

I drink an enormous cup of tea every morning, and I use two tea bags to make it strong enough. I read somewhere that you do not strengthen tea by steeping it longer, you strengthen it by using more tea bags. (Steeping it longer can make it bitter.) If memory serves, I read this years ago in the first Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling, so I’m not sure if you should take it as gospel; it is advice that has served me well, however. 

This hastily snapped photo does not quite adequately capture how enormous my mug is. I think the mug on the left holds 8 ounces; mine holds TWENTY.

Despite liking my tea strong, I don’t like it black. When I make Earl Grey or Chai, I always add sweetener and half-and-half. I use about two tablespoons of half-and-half, so my tea is a lovely tan.

My second-favorite tea is matcha. But the way to make matcha good, in my opinion, is to make it with milk rather than with water, and that is sometimes usually more of an effort than I care to make. You will note that my matcha is encased in a resealable bag inside a Zip-loc bag, because I have learned from bitter experience that it is a bitch to clean up matcha powder that has spilled all over my pantry. 

My third-place tea drink of choice is probably a tie between Chai and green tea. If I order tea from Starbucks, for instance, I almost always order a Chai latte. But if I am having a second cup of tea during the day, I will make green tea. I like the grassy taste, although I sometimes add a little plop of honey. I enjoy jasmine green tea quite a bit; I guess I like flowery tea in general.

My tea collection includes a wide variety of teas other than Earl Grey, matcha, chai, and green tea. Sometimes I browse the shelves and shelves of teas at the store and think, “Hmm, perhaps I am a rooibos person!” (I am not.) or “What I need is a tea with winter spices!” (I do not.) Then I buy them and try a cup and hate it and go back to drinking my same old, same old. 

My husband enjoys some of the winter-spice teas, but contrary to my original assumption, which was that the winter-spiced teas I am posting here are his, he actually has all “his” tea in the same drawer where he keeps his coffee. So this is all tea I have purchased in hopes that I will magically become a different person.

I requested these for Christmas one year, and got them. They were fun to try, but I did not enjoy them. I think I got them two, maybe even three years ago and I only had two of them before deciding they weren’t worth it. I threw them out after taking this photo. The little box is cute though. Carla rescued it from the trash and has Big Plans for transforming it into something.

The chamomile is a different thing, though: I have chamomile because my mom used to make it when we weren’t feeling well. It was part of the Sore Throat Regimen (which also involved gargling with hot salt water). Even though I’m not a huge fan of the taste, it is comforting because it reminds me of my mother, and how tenderly she took care of me when I was sick. 

I much prefer a tea bag to a loose-leaf tea. This is something I continually try to revisit with myself, because the tea bags produce a lot of waste. I have the matcha, I have some micro ground tea, I have some loose leaf tea. I have a little tea brewer apparatus, into which you can pour your tea leaves and your hot water; once the tea is done steeping, you balance the little apparatus on top of your mug and it drains the brewed tea into your mug, leaving the leaves inside. It’s ingenious, really. But it’s difficult to clean (and you aren’t supposed to put tea leaves down your drain) and it doesn’t fit on my mug because it’s too giant. I will continue trying to train myself away from the tea bags though; it’s a terrible, wasteful habit.

Once, I went to a friend’s house for dinner. After dinner, she brought out this beautiful teak box with a hinged lid, inside of which were a dozen different teas I could choose from. It struck me as so fancy, and so hospitable. I, on the other hand, have a plastic bin filled with teas of all sorts that sits in my panty next to boxes and boxes of other tea. If I ever become a fancy person who enjoys having people in my house, I will certainly be getting myself a lidded box in which to offer my guests tea. (In the meantime, maybe it would make a good hostess gift?)

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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Today is the last week day of Spring Break. (Our spring break was two weeks long; we went out of town for one of those weeks.) (The first week went by MUCH more quickly than the second week has.)

Since my husband is on call, I have two remaining days of entertaining Carla, and then she is back to school on Monday. It has been a long week, through no fault of Carla’s. But I am not cut out for two weeks of spring break. Nor for being solely responsible for entertaining my child. Why yes, I am one of those people who says I need a vacation from my vacation.

  • It is no secret that I am an introvert. And being a parent has only heightened my need for alone time, I think. Not because I don’t enjoy being with Carla. On the contrary: I love spending time with her, and I especially love it when I have enough energy to plan and do fun things with her. But I need time to myself. It is essential for my mental well-being. Normally, after spending a lovely, fun-filled week with my husband and child, in-laws, sister, and niece (as we did last week), I would prefer to close myself in my office with my computer, some tea, and maybe some Reese’s peanut butter eggs and not talk to ANYONE for a good three days. This is not hyperbole. I am 100% serious. Instead, this week, I had my lovely energetic and talkative child at home with me all day every day. I also had multiple appointments scheduled, because I figured they would help break up the time. Instead, I ended up compounding the problem by needing to interact with additional people. By today, I am DONE. I have a friend who is returning from spring break tomorrow who wants to get our kids together and I cannot FATHOM such an idea. I cannot wait until Monday when I am going to drop Carla off at school, come home, and sit in my office silently All. Day. Long. I am even dreading the social interaction that will come with drop off. Since it was a long break, Carla’s teachers sent the kids home with everything in their cubbies so the classroom could undergo a good thorough cleaning. So Carla has a bunch of stuff to take with her, which means I will need to walk with her to her classroom. And that means running into parents – parents I like! and am friendly with! and want to talk to! – who will want to chat about spring break. I don’t think I can do it, Internet.

Matcha latte

Reese’s peanut butter egg not pictured because I am brashly using an old photo from a previous post.

  • I’m afraid Carla has had a pretty boring spring break. I am trying really hard not to feel too guilty about it. We have been spending time together and playing together every day. And she did have a WHOLE WEEK of sunshine and grandparents and swimming pool and cousin. But I do worry that she’ll grow up and remember how I kept her closed up in the house for spring break and all she did was watch TV. (That is NOT all we’ve done! We’ve gone bike riding! And for walks! And to the grocery store twice! And we went out for donuts one morning! And to the library! And to Tuesday Morning and Kohl’s! Okay, okay, so it’s not the most exciting roundup of things, and, yes, there was definitely some TV in there, but we Did Things.)


This was Carla’s donut. I ate mine too fast to photograph it.

  • Playdates are not the solution. Perhaps you are giving me the side-eye, because this half of the break would have been much better and more enjoyable for Carla if I had managed to set up some playdates. This was my husband’s feeling, in fact. However, the execution is not quite so simple. First of all, the vast majority of our friends are also on spring break, in exotic locations like Australia and Bermuda. By “our friends” I mean families that have a kid that Carla knows and likes and a parent that I know and like. Second of all, of the families that are or may be in town, they all have multiple kids. And I really still don’t “get” how to do playdates with those families. If you invite one kid, are you automatically inviting ALL of the kids in the family? Seems like that’s only fair. But that means a playdate at my house isn’t a great idea; our house is small and we don’t really have toys for non-five-year-olds. Plus I am not of a mental state to have a bunch of people in my house (see above re: introvert). Which means that out-of-the-house playdates would be the best solution, but… that requires planning. And THAT’s exhausting. What can we do? Where can we go? Can I really handle chasing my kid and her friend and possible siblings through the natural history museum? Do I really want to drive 30 minutes to the indoor playground? It’s been rainy the past couple of days, so outdoor playgrounds are out. And most of these families are people I’m not super familiar with. There’s one friend Carla would love to play with, but I have never met either of her parents. It is so hard to gear myself up for meeting a brand-new person on a regular basis, and I am definitely not up for it this week, when I have already exhausted my small-talk stores on conversations with my in-laws. I don’t think sitting across from another parent, staring blankly and fretfully into the ether as I try to think of something halfway interesting to say, would make such a great impression. So! Nothing it is!


  • Plus, as I mentioned, I have already shot myself in the foot by scheduling additional adult interactions this week. The window madness continues, for instance. A friend had recommended someone she’d worked with, and he – no longer at the window company – had passed my name on to someone else who still works there. Apparently my friend had told him how frustrated I’ve been with the Hard Sales tactics, so they sent me their lowest pressure person very best salesman. And truly, he was excellent. I know that he was using tried and true sales tactics, just as the other salesmen had done. But his were invisible. By the time he left – THREE HOURS LATER OMG – I was completely sold on the idea of fiberglass windows, when before I had only wanted to consider vinyl. And I was willing to strongly entertain his bid, which was three times as high as several of the other window people I’d met with. He was that good. And he was very nice, as have been all the other window salespeople I’ve talked to. But THREE HOURS is much too long to be talking to a stranger, feigning interest in Window Facts that you’ve heard several times already, wondering how many times you need to offer someone water/soda/a sandwich over the course of three hours, and deflecting bored-child questions. When it was over, I felt mentally drained. And of course, my poor aforementioned bored child had to watch TV the entire time because when it was off, she kept interrupting. And this guy wasn’t really a Kid Person, so he had no idea how to interact with/deflect her, and kept getting flustered when she’d do something totally normal, like ask why the window he brought was so small or volunteer that we’d had donuts for breakfast or complain, “WHEN is he going to LEAVE?” After I discussed things with my husband, I remembered that our house is not a three-times-as-high-as-other-window-bids kind of place, and I have one more  window sales call to endure before we either make a decision or I run screaming into the sea.
  • As our one non-shopping excursion this week, we went to a Cat Café. If you are wondering what a Cat Café is, it is an establishment that has a tiny coffee-shop space on one side, and then a much larger Cat Habitat on the other, and people can pay to spend time with the cats. It recently opened in a nearby town, and I knew Carla would be over the moon to go. And the weather was obligingly dreadful, so there would be no bike riding or playing on the backyard playset. We had to make a reservation, and when we arrived there was a long line of other cat fans so I’m glad we didn’t try to wing it. The café part was truly minuscule. You could order coffee or tea and the staff would bring it to you in the cat habitat; we didn’t order anything; I would be terrified that I’d spill tea on a cat. The cat habitat was like an enormous living room, with lots of human seating and bookcases and tons of cat-friendly apparati to climb on and play with.

Cat cafe1

That orange cat didn’t budge from his perch the entire time, even when a tween-age boy started throwing cat toys at him to “get his attention.” And this may be the closest you’ll ever get to seeing a picture of me on this blog, so savor it, Internet.

Carla was the youngest person there that day, and I discovered that she doesn’t really GET cats. She loves them, that’s clear. And I don’t know why I’d expect her to GET cats, when she hasn’t spent any time around them outside of Pet Smart.  But she thought they would be snuggly and friendly in the way that dogs are. Oh, Carla. Cats are SO not dogs. She immediately went up to a cat that was playing with one of the café staff members (who was in the habitat with us the whole time, introducing the cats, telling us about their personalities and backgrounds, trying to get them to be playful) and tried to pet it, and the cat, who was in the middle of playing, bit her on the arm. She was FINE, it didn’t break the skin. But of course she was surprised and betrayed and it probably hurt a bit and so she cried for quite a while. I took her to the bathroom to wash her arm and tried to talk to her about how cats are. Independent. Feisty. Unpredictable. Claws and teeth. I’d done a little of that before, but it’s one thing for your mom to drone on and on about cats in the car and another to be confronted, face to face, with a cat-being-a-cat. She calmed down and we went back in and eventually she got some cats to chase balls and attack little cloth fish and she even got to pet some of them. She was much more interested in playing with the cats; I would have preferred to have a big purring cat on my lap, but they were (understandably) a little wary of all these new humans milling about and seemed more interested in playing, hissing at each other, or sleeping in nooks that humans couldn’t reach.

Cat cafe 3

This cat was very amenable to receiving scritches and pats.

I wasn’t sure that it was a successful visit. There was the rocky beginning. And not a single cat snuggled with us. We were there for an hour, though, which was enough time for the shock of being bitten to wear off. By the end of our appointment, Carla was begging me to take her back. We’ll see. I think it would be much more satisfying if it were just you (and your kid) and the cats, rather than being one of twelve additional people. But it was still a fun, novel experience.

Cat cafe2

All the books were cat themed, as was the decor.

  • One of the other ways I tried to Make Things Fun this week was by throwing a couple of Movie Nights into the spring break mix. Movie Night, Movie Afternoon, whatever. We’d make popcorn and snuggle up and Carla was pretty delighted by that. I think we may make Movie Nights a weekly event, she seems to get such a kick out of them. One of the movies we watched was the live action 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close and Joley Richardson and… Jeff… Not Bridges… Jeff… Daniels. Jeff Daniels. I don’t know why I get them mixed up. Oh! And Hugh Laurie is in there as well, pre-House days, I guess. This movie is from 2000, but it holds up pretty well. There are some mildly violent acts – Home Alone style. And some salty language (you, know, like “butt” and “shut up” – nothing too outlandish). Glenn Close is fantastic as Cruella De Vil. Her outfits alone make the movie worth watching; she wears press-on nails on the OUTSIDE of her gloves! And the whole time I was watching it, I was marveling at a) the sheer number of animals featured in the film and b) the dogs’ (in particular) stellar acting ability. Pongo is one well-trained pupper, that’s for sure. It was an entertaining movie, but the part that I found most scoff-worthy is that the Joley Richardson and Jeff Not-Bridges characters meet and then immediately, on their first “date,” decide to get married. I mean. What?! I get the whole love-at-first-sight thing. And falling in reckless, lifelong love seems perfectly acceptable for DALMATIANS, or, like, animated characters like Anna and Hans (although at least in that movie, Elsa and Kristof both object strenuously to getting engaged to a stranger) but… come on. Seems like a lazy way to move the plot forward. Couldn’t they have already been married… and then Pongo spots Perdita out at some adopt-a-thon event, and that’s how the dogs get together? Or maybe both dogs live at Joley Richardson’s house and Jeff Not-Bridges visits them as he’s getting to know Joley? Well. Aside from that ridiculously unbelievable plot point (yes, more unbelievable than animals talking to each other), it was a very enjoyable flick.


photo from amazon.com

  • Did you know that there are no Os in the word “Dalmatians”? I did not, until I just wrote the bullet above.


  • I am really looking forward to getting back to my writing next week. Two weeks away from my work in progress is a LONG time. I did work on a story while I was out of town – a continuation of a story I started writing last year over spring break. But it feels like a distraction from the main project rather than anything meaningful.


  • And now, I must go start on The Folding of the Spring Break Laundry. I have been very successful in washing the clothing. Where I have been less successful is in the folding, which is really the ABSOLUTE WORST.


My personal shame.

Did you have spring break this year? If so, did you do anything fun?

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Let us try to drag ourselves out of this funk, shall we?

(My husband’s theory is that I am down in the dumps because I am procrastinating a task and that once I complete the task the scowling clouds will suddenly lift from around my ears and the sun will shine. He’s probably right. But let’s write a blog post instead, shall we?)

  1. Daffodils. On Swistle’s recommendation, I bought some daffodils. $1.49 for ten stems from Trader Joe’s. (Versus the $3.99 my local grocery store was asking for theirs. Seriously? $3.99? That seems… egregious.) My pink Valentine’s Day carnations were starting to look a little peaked (and no wonder – when I threw them out, there was not a SINGLE DROP of water in the vase… whoops!) so it was nice to swap them out for some fresh flowers. And the bright yellow injects some much needed cheer into my dreary grey kitchen.


  1. Cat mug. My husband got me this mug for Christmas and I love it. It is a replacement for my old favorite mug (which was, if you’ll remember, my husband’s, and had grown so faded from near-daily use that my husband had to gently reclaim it as college memorabilia) and it’s HUGE and has cats on it. I smile every time I use it.


Cat mug

I can’t find the exact cat mug he bought, so we can’t be mug twinsies, but Amazon has a lot of good options, if you too are in the market for a cat-related beverage receptacle.

1. Meow Cat Lover Mug 2. Smiley Cats Ceramic Coffee Mug
3. Grammar Correcting Cat Mug 4. Preferring Cats to People Mug


Ooooh Etsy has some cute cat mugs, too.

1. Cats in Boxes Mug 2. You’re Stressing Meowt Mug 3. Cat Silhouette Mug 4. Yoga Cat Mug

Somehow I have gotten off track. What can I say? I drink tea every day and having a mug that I love is critically important to my happiness.

  1. Cat Slippers.I got these as a birthday gift from my daughter. Carla came up with this idea all by herself and my husband helped her order them. They are cozy and soft.

Cat slippers

Egads you’d think after nine years of blogging I’d be a better photographer.


  1. Dreyer’s English. My dear friend and mentor sent me this book as a surprise. I love books about grammar and usage and I have only just cracked the cover on this one but am already enjoying it.

    Dreyers English

    The cover of this book is made out of a material that makes my skin crawl. I can’t stand touching it. Normally the cover is on my floor. But I braved the awful texture just to recover it for you, Internet. Otherwise, the book is just… black. Much clearer which book it IS, with the cover on.








  1. Artichokes. I don’t really know when “artichoke season” is, but it seems to be happening right now. My local grocery store has piles of beautiful, enormous artichokes for $3 apiece, and they make for a delicious lunch. Plus, it seems to me that someone (the grocer?) has gone through and snipped off the sharp part of each leaf, which makes preparing them (and eating them) much more pleasant. I’ve been going through one or two of these bad babies a week.



There now. Let’s sit back and bask in our newfound good mood. (And do share what’s bringing a smile to your face today, too, won’t you?)

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