Current Reading

{The Paris Review + Chai Green Tea}

The interview with Hilary Mantel in the new Paris Review is amazing.  And it’s such ridiculously good timing as I work on this book of historical fiction and wrestle through its myriad attendant challenges.

Mantel talks pretty frankly about this writing process:

When I come to write what I call a big scene, especially in… any historical material, I prepare for it.  Whatever I’ve done on that scene, I put aside.  I read all my notes, all my drafts, and all the source material it’s derived from, then I take a deep breath, and I do it.  It’s like walking on stage — with the accompanying stage fright.

And, she continues:

When I’m writing a novel about historical figures, I have to be everybody.  It’s strenuous…. When people are real, though dead,… I consider them my responsibility.

It is a heady business, this writing fiction set in the past.  So happy to have come across this new interview.

Plus, perennially grateful for the stash of green tea my mother sent to Virginia for my residency.  The chai in this blend cuts any bitterness when, writing along mid-scene, I invariably forget and leave it over-steeping.


Kitchen, Annotated


1. I first saw this camel teapot when I visited Celestial Seasonings last June.  I didn’t have room to transport it safely home in my suitcase, but I tracked one down online afterwards.

2. My grandfather, the ultimate gift-giver, gave me these Pendleton coasters years ago.  Their daily presence in my kitchen makes me feel so connected to him.

3. Spring flowers still haven’t come to my yard in Maryland, so I’m coaxing them out with fresh, cut flowers inside.  (These are to celebrate some recent good news.)

Upstairs Tea

When my husband received a new coffee maker for Christmas, we decided to move our old coffee pot up to our bedroom.  It’s a fairly pretty silver percolator that we put on a tray on our dresser.  We now use it exclusively for heating water for what we’ve dubbed “upstairs tea.”  Before, one of us would trudge downstairs at night to put the kettle on the stove and again ten minutes later when the kettle whistled.  Now that we have upstairs tea, we’ve noticed ourselves going upstairs to read earlier in the evenings, and lingering in bed on weekend mornings, which our cat LOVES.  It’s basically turned our room into a hotel.  But better.

Dushanbe Teahouse Details

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist sharing a few more details of its ornate decor.


Shelves of loose-leaf teas above the counter.  We bought several small containers of tea to bring home with us, which I still can’t wait to try.

The gorgeous ceiling.

Hand-carved columns.

The central fountain.

This place was so serene and peaceful.  It was such heaven to slip inside for a couple of hours.

Breakfast at Dushanbe Tea House

As awesome as the Celestial Seasonings tour was, the true tea highlight of our trip to Colorado was the Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder.  The teahouse — and all its incredible interior decor — was created by craftsman and artisans in Dushanbe and shipped, piece by piece, to Boulder.

The Dushanbe Tea House would be worth a visit just for the stunning detail of the building itself.  But it has the added benefit of having the most extensive tea menu I’ve ever seen and fantastic brunch options to boot.  It was so good we went back a second time.

Mandarin Puerh steeping

The Mandarin Puerh was outstanding, and the house Chai was the best  I’ve ever tasted.

Orange Foccacia French Toast

The Orange Foccacia French Toast came highly recommended by my cousin-in-law C., and it completely lived up to its family reputation.  For our second dish, we went with a wildcard, the Indian Curry Omelet.  Both were delicious!  I wish I was back in Boulder, even if just for breakfast.

Indian Curry Omelet

Peppermint Punch

I’ve talked before about my love of tea.  Celestial Seasonings Peppermint tea is another one of my summer favorites.  I like that it’s light and refreshing enough to sound appealing on a warm day — even when I drink it hot.  And I enjoy it with equal happiness whether it’s hot or room temperature.

So you can imagine my excitement about visiting the Celestial Seasonings tea factory on our trip to Colorado.  I’ve been hearing legends about that tea factory for years now, and it was one of the few things I was determined to see while we were in town.

The factory offers free tours and tea tastings, and the building features large-scale replicas of the company’s tea box illustrations (many of them imaginative and captivating).

Unfortunately, they don’t allow photos on the tour itself.  But photographs couldn’t capture the most memorable feature of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory.  The famous peppermint room.  It’s hard to describe the powerful olfactory impact of this room until you stand in it.  People either like it or reel under the potent punch of peppermint.  Me?  I never wanted to leave.

Tea Time

I’m an avid tea drinker.  Come summertime, I always find myself reaching for different teas than I do at other times of the year, probably as a result of the warm weather.

This week I’ve been loving Good Earth’s White Tea Vanilla Blend.  It’s incredibly flavorful, and the vanilla lends it sweetness and warmth.  But it still has the lightness and subtly of an excellent white tea.  Perfect for summer evenings.