Posted in miscellaneous

tea is a happy little thing

When it comes to cooking, baking, drinking, writing, teaching, gardening – well, basically anything – I like to have a rhythm and structure within which I can imagine and create. Boundaries give me the freedom to explore without feeling overwhelmed by too many new things at once, I think, but avoiding strict rules and routines keeps me from burning out or losing interest altogether. So I have my four garden beds and their two trellises, and I rotate through some of the same crops each year, but I always add something new that I’ve never planted before. I write down favorite recipes, but I never make them the same way more than twice, and I drift through categories of favorites depending on season and mood.

And I drink tea every day (two teaspoons steeped in the huge mug Rondel got me for Christmas, and at least three brews throughout the day with the same leaves), but I mix and match the varieties I have with different fruits, spices, and herbs. I really enjoy this, to be honest – maybe it’s because the pandemic has rather limited my opportunity to have novel experiences, or maybe I’m just the kind of person who delights in simple pleasures, but trying out new flavor combinations in my tea is something I like forward to each morning.

This time of year, when the weather is cold, I drink most of my tea with cream, and lean on the strong teas whose nutty depths can support it. I also love Assam tea with or without cream, so I find that I prefer cut all of my flavored teas (which have a Ceylon base) 1:1 with the unflavored Assam. Some of my favorites?

  • Almond with a sprinkle of cinnamon – with cream, this is reminiscent of rice pudding
  • Almond with diced candied lemon peel is also good, and reminds me of Christmas cookies – both of these almond mixes have a very dessert-like feel
  • Vanilla with dried lavender (from my poor bush that perished in the record-breaking heat this summer) – this is the most calming of my teas, and particularly good for stressful days
  • Chestnut and caramel with a dusting of cardamom (this is good if you want something almost coffee-like; the chestnut on its own has an aftertaste I’m not especially fond of)
  • Rose, also with cardamom – I wasn’t sure if the rose tea could hold up to the cream, but I really enjoyed the light floral notes dancing over the earthy base.
  • Maple with candied orange peel, whole cloves, and cinnamon (this is so amazing. I have to make it at my mom’s house because the maple tea is one I gave her for Christmas, and while she doesn’t keep cream or Assam on hand, this is quite excellent without either.
  • Plain Assam with saffron and cardamom – this is like a mild chai, and really lets the saffron flavor shine, with a bit of sweetness from the cardamom.

Soon I’ll stop using the cream, as the weather gets warmer, and eventually I’ll tend towards iced tea instead of warm tea, and I’m looking forward to seeing what flavors will blend together well for those seasons – but for now, these are my favorites.

What areas of life do you enjoy experimenting and creating in? What are some of the small and simple things that bring you joy? And if any of you also love tea, what are some of your favorites?

Posted in musings

biking through everyday life

I bike home in the evening, as the sun is getting low and the heat of the day has past, and the last half mile of my ride takes me down a residential street. This time of day, when work and school are done but the day still lingers to hold off the nightly routines, the neighborhood is filled with the soft sounds of people simply living.

A white girl in loose outdoorsy clothes stands close to a black man in the street, both of them touching each other and a bike (his bike, I think), looking into each other’s eyes as they talk.

Three boys around ten years old, two Hispanic and one white, wrestle on the front lawn, laughing and shrieking and trash-talking and acknowledging defeat, alternately.

A little Mexican girl of no more than two bounces up and down on a little wheeled horse contraption that moves forward every time she bounces, her mother patiently walking beside her.

An old man sits in his driveway on his scooter, accompanied by his faithful mannikin, perched upon a second scooter (I’ve seen them driving those scooters together, the old man towing his mannikin behind him, as it somewhat creepily nods and grins along).

A mother stands on her front porch and swings her arms forward into a startlingly loud clap, to the cooing and burbling delight of the baby sitting in its little chair in front of her.

I love this part of my commute. This neighborhood may be poor materially, but it is rich in the simple joys of family and community life; I contrast it to the wealthy neighborhoods I know where the residents don’t even speak to each other except to complain and regulate each other’s activities through their HOAs, and I know which option I’d choose if it had to be one or the other. I crave that freedom to simply be, to savor with gratitude the warm night air and the sounds of people living together and letting each other live in their own way, and I am encouraged every time I bike through it.

Posted in family life

being cute

Most of our park outings involve a snack; I’m not sure if it’s actually needed, but it’s become a habit and I don’t feel like poking the bear by trying to change it!

Anyway, the boys were being pretty adorable the other day during their snack:

I’m not sure why, but they couldn’t stop laughing about something! It was one of those moments that makes all the hard days worth it, when we are all just enjoying being with each other without anything special going on at all.

Posted in musings


When I was in elementary school, I loved peanuts. Especially the kind roasted still in the shell, papery and crumbly at first, then rich and buttery on the inside.

My grandma used to love peanuts too, and every time she came to town we would buy a bag or two to set out on the kitchen counter. I remember what a treat it was to stand around the counter with her and whoever else was around (my mom working in the kitchen, perhaps, or my dad sharing in the snack), crushing the shells and slipping out the brown nuts, accumulating a pile of dusty debris, the slow process of unshelling the perfect companion to conversation.

She must have held those moments dear as well, because every summer when I would go away for summer camp she would send me a care package with a bag of peanuts. Every summer, every time, without fail. To get a care package to a week-long summer camp on the other side of the country reasonably early in the camp requires much forethought, but she never let me down: I could always count on her peanuts and Maria cookies.

We don’t eat peanuts much together anymore, and haven’t for years. I had forgotten all about it until Rondel discovered roasted peanuts this week, actually. Her diverticulitis makes it much less enjoyable for her! But I’m glad I thought of it again, that I have those simple rituals of our relationship to remember. Because things don’t have to be complicated or extravagant to be important, and love colors even the most mundane things with beauty and value.