Monday, June 22, 2009


"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea."
~ Bernard-Paul Heroux

As I thought up and prepared to write this entry, I had the opportunity to put the above adage to the test. I heard some distressing news, of the sort that looks at first to be completely out of hand, and which at the point of my writing this, may as yet be unfixable. We'll see. In any case, I was drinking a cup of tea at work (Earl Grey that I'd brought with me from home...the ever-present Lipton lemon [DECAF no less] is an abomination to me), and I found that it not only helped diminish the shock and anger at this news, but enabled me to laugh at it. (Indeed, I may continue to laugh at it, forever, and never stop. In that case, straitjackets may be the answer, not tea.)

My experience with tea has not been long. I did not grow up drinking it, since coffee, which I still despise, was the drink of choice in my home. Spanish coffee, which most people know as espresso, was normal (my dad always did and still does drink it before bed). I recall once having spearmint tea--I found it nausea-inducing. Sometimes when I was sick my mom made me try to drink Lipton tea with honey. This all led to my associating tea with illness and I avoided it as much as possible.

I discovered proper tea-taking in Europe when I was 21. This isn't as cool as it sounds. My friends were all taking advantage of the beer-cheaper-than-water policy of the Czech Republic (with the result that I was always thirsty) as well as that country's lenient attitude toward the "Green Fairy"--absinthe. (This stuff makes some artists feel more like, well...artists. I just thought it tasted like Listerine.) Basically they went and hung out in pubs every night, which is pretty boring unless you intend to get wasted. I didn't, so I stayed in at the hotel, reading Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five (did not like) and drinking the only free beverage available in the room--Earl Grey tea with bathroom faucet-water boiled in one of those automatic teakettles. I put sugar and powdered milk and found it tasted like flowers. Thus my love affair with Earl Grey tea began. It still makes me think of Europe, along with cobblestones, crepes and the smell of expensive cigarettes. I found that I like taking tea the English way, very sweet with real sugar and milk (no honey).

In Victorian times it was considered bad luck to give an unmarried girl tea-ware as a present. The reasoning behind this was that one of the few consolations of spinsterhood was a good cup of tea. Not sure where this came from. I'm pretty sure married ladies can enjoy tea as much as the next girl. Maybe husbands are averse to tea-taking, and take great pains to upset the cup every time the missus prepares to take a sip. "Hey! Pay attention to ME, not your tea!" I've never noticed this phenomenon among my good married friends Mr. and Mrs. Byrd. Mr. Byrd even drinks tea himself. Perhaps this is due to his mother's being a great tea aficionado, or his British ancestry. The point is, the Byrd couple takes their tea together, and nothing seems to be amiss. But in a way I do get the Victorian idea of tea being a remedy for low spirits. I drink it when I'm sad, cold, tired, excited, relaxed, happy, awake, writer's-blocked, artist's-blocked, prolific, early, or late. Earl Grey is the best for all situations, but chai works well, as does vanilla and other flowery flavors. I'm not a big fan of herbal, but I hail it as a worthy tea.

For Tea the Way I Like It:

A china or glass teacup is best. Styrofoam really ruins the taste! :P

That sage of wisdom, Anonymous, has said, "The perfect temperature for tea is two degrees hotter than just right." This is exactly true. If your tea is just perfectly hot, it will be disgustingly lukewarm in all too short a time. Heat the water in a teakettle or pot. A microwave on high for 2 minutes is fine for a single serving, but be sure to use a microwave-safe cup. My brother once made the mistake of using an aluminum mug in the microwave.

Make sure you mix the sugar in while the tea is too hot to drink. First sugar, then milk. Please do not use Equal, or anything with ingredients you don't recognize. Mrs. Byrd enjoys Splenda, as it is a sugar derivative. I like white sugar. My sister likes soy milk or coffee creamer in strange and exotic flavors, and GOBS of sugar--I find her tea methods a bit barbaric, but I keep an open mind when it comes to personal tea preference.

Tea is best with French madeleines, better than anything else. (Scones with clotted cream--oh joy--make a very good rival. My sister and I once took tea at a Manhattan teahouse with our friend Miss Murphy, and it was there that I first tasted clotted cream. I have yearned for it ever since....) If you take your tea sweet, any really sweet thing like doughnuts or Entenmann's crullers clash with the taste. If you take tea unsweetened, I imagine anything could be paired with it. Except, you know, French fries. Tea is one of the only things in the world that you cannot take with French fries.

And If It's Too Hot for Tea:

"Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths." I don't know who John Egerton is, and this post is too quote-heavy already, but I heartily agree.

Don't try to mix sugar into already cold tea. Many restaurants will give you unsweetened tea under the guise of normal iced tea, so always ask first! Unless, of course, you like it unsweetened. More power to you. But for the rest of us, sugar in cold tea is just grainy and nasty.

Olive Garden once gave me a raspberry iced tea with slices of peaches in it. I approved of this, especially since I could suck up peaches and have them stick to the end of my straw. Fruit can give such endless amusement when eating out.

Favorite iced tea recipes, anyone? Or further thoughts on tea?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Diamond (Capers) Are a Girl's Best Friend

"But square-cut, or pear-shaped, these rocks don't lose
Their shape,
Diamonds are a girl's best friend."
~ Nicole Kidman as Satine, "Sparkling Diamonds", Moulin Rouge!

I simply had to register at, just so I could vote for my favorite ballet performance ever, "Diamond Caper" by Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn (CBTB). This dance happens to be one of my 20 Most Beautiful Things (in post #1), and I had no idea there was a video recording online! If you've never had the privilege of seeing this performed live, then check out the following link:

Now this dance was choreographed by the director of CBTB, Marla Hirokawa, who is one of the most amazing and beautiful Christian women you will ever meet--ever. It tells the story of the Hope Diamond, which is a pretty huge, gorgeous (and some say cursed) diamond, which was stolen back and forth by various people and then went missing, and then was's a pretty crazy story. And who would have ever thought to create a BALLET based on a diamond heist?? The answer is, the same person who manages to create awesome ballets out of the story of Japanese-American nisei soldiers in World War II (not to mention tour Hawaii putting said ballet on!), or of orphaned New York children and the "orphan train" that brought them to new lives and homes in the early 20th century midwest, or...well, she's made a LOT of amazing ballets.

And no...I'm not just advertising CBTB because its director is a family friend of 15 years...or that my little sister is a dancer in the company's Brooklyn studio...not to mention many of my good friends...or that I go to every show and every event involving the studio, because I love it to death. This is GOOD ART. Can't say that about too many things, can you? I mean, really. About contemporary stuff. Not too often! This company is a force of nature that God is using/will continue to use to blaze a path for His work into the (mostly) dead landscape of contemporary art, particularly in the New York area. I've been dragged (kicking and screaming against my will) through what passes for art in this city and believe me, it's hard to come by. Like a diamond, if you will....

Please visit for more information about this studio, and if you live in the NY area, don't hesitate to stop by and maybe sign up for a flamenco class starting in September. (That's one of the few CBTB classes I've not tried and failed at. I'm not a dancer....)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perseverance Is a Beautiful Thing Too.

I have just won an internal debate with myself over whether to update this. But since I do not want this blog to die a horrific death (as per all other blogs I've attempted), I will make myself talk. Granted, on a personal level these past 2 weeks or so have not been the most lovely for me--unemployment and a nasty cold--but! There have been several bright spots that I must share:

1. The Inheritance Christian Academy children's end-of-year performance. Who wouldn't be moved by a bunch of kindergarteners and first-graders doing some really intelligent and wonderful things? This wasn't the usual awful, boring school show where bratty children show off their mediocre skills for parents who are ready to kill each other for the role of "Parent of the Smartest Child". No, I'm pretty sure that type of performance is only found from TV and movie children.
This show was great. The kids sang Judy Rogers songs, which rule the planet (if you don't know who she is, look her up on iTunes or something). And, which was particularly relevant, recited the days of Creation. YUS. SO refreshing. A kid can say without blinking that God created a chicken in ONE day. 24 hours, believe it or not!...and not see any 'inconsistences' or scientific issues or what-not because for them, there is no difference between believing that and believing that a God-Man rose from the dead. Or that a virgin had a child. I don't suppose I can ever have a purer faith than that, and I'm not going to attempt it.

2. My friends' David and Rebecca's wedding. Great event. Pastor Paul Murphy (of Messiah's Reformed Fellowship, or MeRF, in Manhattan...known the family for many years) gave one of the best wedding homilys I've heard in my life. I mean, he laid it all out on the table. One would think that, for a couple perhaps less aware than Dave and Rebecca, that sermon would have been pretty scary. I mean, no one's supposed to talk about 'duty' and 'responsibility' and 'vows' at a wedding, right? It's supposed to be all hearts and clouds and kissy-faces, right? Pastor Murphy knocked that idea right down, and although I'm sure he was preaching to the choir (Dave and Rebecca are both very mature and Godly), it was still a great thing to hear.
The food, the friends, the DANCING--all was incredible. Best wedding band ever! Crepes for dessert!
I was even asked to dance once or twice. And I loved the dress I had on. And all the songs were great.

I want to go on about other things, but this will have to do for now, as I need to get up early tomorrow. Next time I might talk about some other random stuff, like cute and gorgeous webcomics, and some movies maybe? We'll see.