The way of tea

If there is anything I have learned in my 23 years of life, it is this: Once you start drinking high-quality tea, you will never go back.

to do
The best way to begin the day; a cup of tea in my college dorm room, circa 2009.

I love tea. I have at least one cup a day, and in the fall and winter, at least two or three. I think my love affair with tea was started by my friendship with Emily, who lived in Ireland and drank strong tea on a daily basis. She introduced me to the joy of a daily cup of black tea and the incomparable usefulness of an electric kettle. There were many days during which we would console each other in our dorm room with our cups of tea.

Living in Japan for a summer also reinforced my love of good tea. As you probably already know, tea is a way of life in Japan. Knowing how to perform a proper tea ceremony is a serious art (in Japanese, the ceremony is called “the way of tea,” which is awesome). I lived in Japan during the hottest and muggiest months of the summer, but after my sweaty hour-long commute home from school, my host mom would have a piping hot cup of matcha waiting for me. It sounds really unappealing to drink hot tea on a 102-degree day in a house without air conditioning, but I came to enjoy that daily habit of unwinding with a perfect cup of matcha.

I think that’s one of the things that I love most about tea. To me, tea has always been associated with peace, calmness, and winding down. In my mind, coffee is commonly associated with busyness, the Starbucks empire, caffeine addiction, and drinking enough to stay awake. Tea can also serve these purposes, but I do believe that it has a very different gravitas than coffee. Tea is calming, centering. It always reminds me to slow down.

I used to drink whatever tea was cheapest at the grocery store, but those days are long gone. I don’t drink any coffee and so I have learned to justify my expensive tea habits. I’m not a tea expert at all, and true tea aficionados would look down their noses at me, but here’s what I really like lately:

The Republic of Tea, Earl Grey

Republic of Tea, Earl Greyer

Earl Grey makes my heart happy, and I’ve finally found a relatively inexpensive brand that I really like. I drink it almost daily. I found it at our local World Market, but I think it’s also available at higher-end grocery stores like Whole Foods or Fresh Market. $10.50 for 50 bags.

Harney & Sons, Paris

Harney & Sons, Paris tea

We finally got our Whole Foods back in Charlottesville and I was primarily excited about it so I could buy some Harney & Sons Paris tea. I was first introduced to this tea when someone gave it to our family as a gift and I fell in love. I don’t like fruity or herbal teas, but this a delicate black tea with a distinct fruity and vanilla aroma, with some lemon in there too. I feel like I’m on vacation when I drink it. Our Whole Foods doesn’t carry this tea, but Guion was a dear and ordered me their new boxed Paris set, which is $10 for 50 bags (and apparently just sold out!). You can also buy it in fancy silk sachets, $8 for 20 sachets in a beautiful tin.

PG Tips

PG Tips

I’m told this tea is standard fare in the United Kingdom. Once you try PG Tips, all other black teas will taste like water. This is the real deal. Tastes great with milk or cream. Grocery stores in the southeast like Harris Teeter and Kroger will carry it. Usually sold for something like $6 for 40 bags.

Loose leaf or powdered green tea (Chinese or Japanese)

Harney & Sons, Matcha iri genmaicha

Since I can’t go to Japan to get my green tea anymore, I now rely on the local Asian markets and Angela. (Angela sent me home with a delightful tin of loose leaf Chinese green tea after my visit to D.C.) We have several varieties of loose leaf green tea in our pantry and need to remember to drink them more frequently. The tea pictured above is from Harney & Sons and sold for $9 for a tin.

Darjeeling loose leaf tea

Harney & Sons, Darjeeling loose leaf tea

Grace brought back many wonderful presents for all of us from her half-year abroad, including genuine loose-leaf darjeeling tea from the Darjeeling, India, region itself. It would be an understatement to say that I was very excited. Darjeeling is a black tea, but very different from your standard European black teas. Brisk and refreshing. If you’re not as fortunate as I am to have someone bring you back some legit tea from India, Harney & Sons has several varieties of loose leaf darjeeling for sale. The tin shown above sells for $7.25.

I am very lucky to have a husband who is also very fond of tea and also does not drink coffee. We agree on most teas–except for lapsang souchong, which he loves and I can’t stand (it tastes like the smoke of a bonfire in your mouth). Last week, we went to a laidback Chinese tea ceremony at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, one of our favorite places downtown. We walked away with an expensive but unbelievably wonderful bag of oolong (picked in some remote mountain region of China).

Do you drink tea? If so, what are some of your favorites? And if any of you are more seasoned tea experts, how can you tell when a loose leaf tea has “gone bad” (or when it’s no longer worth drinking)? I don’t know this and I think I should.

Here’s to many happy and peaceful cups of tea!

Week 12: Daily walks

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Welcome to Charlottesville
Walking around town.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve completed twelve weeks of challenges. They’ve ranged from serious to silly, but they have all been fun and often enlightening. I’ve learned a lot of little facts about myself and about my process of making and following ritual. Some of the challenges have been incorporated into my daily life and I hope I’ll continue some of them in the future.

For this final week, I wanted to take a stroll. Now that we’ve skipped spring and gone straight into summer, a week of daily walks has been really enjoyable, if occasionally sweaty.

If I was a good blogger, I would have taken pictures from all of these walks, but I’m not, so you’ll just have to deal.

DAY 1.
Guion and I walked downtown to meet our Bible study friends Mark and Christina for Chap’s ice cream on the Downtown Mall. It was a hot and breezy afternoon and a little cup of Chap’s made it feel like heaven. I love strolling around the Mall and we walk there often. It’s less than a 10-minute walk from our apartment and it’s always packed with dogs. What’s not to love?

DAY 2.
I had to do some research for my boss at SNL Financial, which is also downtown. I parked the Jeep at our place and then walked over. Got there a bit early, so I strolled around the blocks behind the building and looked at all of the historic houses that now feature the offices of real estate agents or lawyers.

DAY 3.

Watching "Gosford Park" with my bestie.

My weekly walk with Bo turned out to be something of an exhilarating misadventure. I head over to Liz’s to pick him up and we chat about how silly it is that her team’s soccer game was canceled because of a thunderstorm/tornado warning. Yeah, absurd. I walk Bo downtown and we’re having a fine time until I feel a spattering of rain. Then I look at the sky. It is not gray. Or dark blue. It is black. Slate. Full of doom. Bo and I then run–sprint!–across the Belmont Bridge and make it back to my front porch right before the sky bursts open. We had amazingly good timing, because a second after we got inside… thunder, lightning, torrential rain, minor flooding, wind howling, the whole deal. Thankfully, Bo isn’t thunderstorm-phobic (like Emma was) and so he chilled with me in our apartment. He helped me do the dishes and then started watching “Gosford Park” with me until it cleared up enough to take him home. I think he’s the perfect dog. I confessed to Guion and Liz that I am now worried about getting a dog because he or she may not be as amazing as Bo is. I love him.

DAY 4.
Despite starting out rather rough, it turned out to be a very beautiful evening and so I took Bo for another walk. Guion joined me this time and we went wandering through the charming and eclectic Belmont neighborhood. We daydreamed about houses we’d buy and dubious ways we’d coerce current residents to move out and give us their gorgeous homes with manicured lawns and sprawling gardens.

DAY 5.
Guion joined me on a walk to the Downtown Mall to buy cupcakes from Cappellino’s for Cate’s royal wedding princess party. He was a bit astonished at the price of gourmet cupcakes. Aren’t we all.

DAY 6.
Our lovely housemate Hannah joined us on a late morning walk to the Charlottesville farmers’ market. We ended up buying delicious mint tea, baklava, and a babe in the wood, and therefore nothing really healthy or valuable for the rest of the week. Oh well! From there, we wandered over to The Garage, where Stephanie and Emily were hosting a tag sale. Guion went off to brew day for the rest of the afternoon; I went to Mecca, aka Target. When Guion got home, we walked downtown again to eat at Miyako for dinner. Quite excellent, if I do say so.

DAY 7.
Win came! We walked downtown with him and went to church and it was awesome. We’re crossing our fingers that he moves here…

That’s all, folks! It’s been a fun way to welcome spring. To be honest, it will be kind of nice to not worry about weekly goals, but I think I will try to keep some of these habits on regular rotation. Thanks for reading; talk to you soon.

Week 6: Writing and editing a short story

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Week 6: Writing and Editing Stories

Deep down, every journalism and English major just wants to be the next great American novelist. Journalism is a particularly helpful disguise for this rosy ambition, because it at least carries with it some tinge of respectability (although perhaps not anymore). You get a job as some underpaid slave to the newspaper industry, staying up till ungodly hours just to finish that paragraph-long story about city council that won’t even have your byline on it, and for what? For fulfilling the dream of someday writing your masterpiece and making it big.

I walked away from my university with a degree in journalism and English, so I guess I’m guilty as charged. I’ve loved words since I was practically a baby; according to my mother, I apparently taught myself to read when I was 3 (although I might have just been memorizing those Lady and the Tramp books). I remember my grandmother asking me when I was 6 what I was going to be when I grew up. I stood at the top of the staircase and shouted, “A WRITER!”

Today, however, I don’t think I’d call myself a writer. I am a zealous reader and work currently as a copy editor/publications assistant, but I’m not really a writer. I don’t believe that I ever could be a novelist, much less a great one, and so I half-heartedly start dozens of these short stories and then abandon them after I get discouraged. I squirrel them away on my laptop and don’t show anyone, ever. (Especially not my brilliant husband, who IS a professional writer and a very gifted one at that.) These stories that litter my hard drive feel like my shameful indulgences.

However. Thanks to encouragement from a few blind, loving souls (Guion, Angela, and Emily), I decided that my challenge for this week would be to give those stories some much-needed attention. I have no starry expectations for them. I still don’t plan on sharing them with anyone. But, for me, a large part of the joy of writing is finishing. I haven’t finished a story in forever. So, I think it’s about time.

A Fake Writer’s Diary

DAY 1. As we were cleaning up dinner, I asked Guion what he did when he hit a wall. He shared some advice from his sage professor, short story writer and affirmed genius, Deborah Eisenberg. Eisenberg says that when she’s trying to get to know a character better, she will write little adjacent stories that describe something that happened to that character. The little story never makes it into the larger work, but it is an important effort in getting to know the people that live in her pages. Tonight, I tried to do this with my stubborn characters. It felt a little bit like cheating, but I think it helped.

DAY 2. Today my lesson to myself was to write focus on dialogue, even if I was producing terrible dialogue. I was thinking particularly of Franzen, who I most recently read, and his impeccable grasp of dialogue. His characters’ conversations seem effortless and believable and yet essential to the movement of the story. I don’t know how he does it. One of the realizations I’ve come to today is that fictional dialogue does not necessarily have to be a verbatim replica of how people actually talk. Characters are, after all, naturally hyperbolic and we need them to accomplish things with their speech that we may not otherwise accomplish in real life. Today I’ve decided that I am going to be OK with that.

DAY 3. I wonder if it’s a problem if my protagonist is totally unlikable. Do all protagonists need to be sympathetic?

DAY 4. It’s really dreary to hear writers talk about their writing. I don’t think I call myself a “writer,” though, so maybe this won’t count?

DAY 5. Today I taught myself the lesson that there is nothing sacred about the beginning of the story. Even though this was the first thing I wrote for this piece, it does not necessarily mean that it must stay. Especially if it’s bad. Beginnings can change. So can endings.

DAY 6. Writing by hand is difficult, but I like it. I think I write better on paper and edit better on a computer. I didn’t bring my laptop on our Triangle trip and so I am happily relegated to the good old-fashioned notebook and pen.

DAY 7. OK, so I didn’t write today. Too busy. I will forgive myself.

Despite my somewhat sporadic attention to this task, I made more progress with this shabby little story this week than I have in months. I will count that as a successful weekly challenge.

Next week, I will undergo what is by far the easiest challenge of them all: To wear the same necklace every day for a week. This is largely inspired by Catherine, who would wear an accent piece with everything for a month. Except that she always looked great and I might not.

Week 5: A letter a day

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ve been writing letters since I could scribble and I’ve had pen-pals (from Japan to Peru to all over the U.S.) since I was probably 8 or 9. As you probably know if you’ve spent any amount of time with me, I have a lot of love for the handwritten word. I think it’s a deep shame that its value is vanishing in the 21st century. I still write a lot of letters today and I am thankful for a great cadre of women who are willing to write me back! In tribute to them, I set out this week to write a letter a day.

(You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Day 1: To Windy

I’m always a little bit intimidated when I write my mother-in-law, because she is a legitimate calligrapher; she’s the real deal. But she’s always been 110% supportive of my calligraphic endeavors and I am so thankful to have her as a resource! I think it’s such crazy fate, that I would end up with an amazing mother-in-law who also practices calligraphy. Windy is one of the most optimistic and open-hearted people I’ve ever met. She’s also a lot of fun. I’m very thankful for her and for the ways she has welcomed me into her family.

Day 2: To Ma-Maw

My grandmother is probably my most faithful correspondent. I get her little letters and notes almost once a week and I always look forward to them. She fills me in on her busy schedule and other family happenings; I tend to get most of my family news through her. She’s spunky and sweet and I love her to death.

Day 3: To Mom

I don’t often write my mom letters–we tend to stick to e-mails–but I felt like she deserved a note, because everyone deserves a handwritten note in the mail! Mom also has excellent handwriting, even though she pretends like she doesn’t. She also possesses a great collection of stationery that’s constantly making me envious (and anxious to snatch some whenever I come home!). Writing her is always very smooth and comfortable, because I don’t ever have to justify or explain myself to her. She already knows. Moms are omniscient like that.

Day 4: To Kathryn

Kathryn was one of my first friends at UNC and most recently served as one of my bridesmaids. As our friendship has progressed, Kathryn has remained my rock when I struggle with life’s big questions or with doubts about my faith. She’s always been there for me. K.B. is now in law school in Raleigh and I’m confident she’s making a big splash there. We’ve exchanged a few letters since we swapped states and I always love hearing from her; I really want to make her handwriting into a font, too.

Day 5: To Emily

Emily overwhelms me with her sincerity, imagination, and laudable skill in self-expression. Her letters are gems. Somehow she always knows what to say and exactly how to say it. I’ve missed her more than I can say and my letters to her are mostly messy, rambling things about our lives and artistic ambitions. She’s always been so encouraging to me and I couldn’t do without her. I’m going to stay with her next weekend in Durham and I am absolutely thrilled about it. Can’t wait!

Day 6: To Catherine

Catherine is the classiest woman I know. She is not only a curator of finer things, but she is also experienced in the practice of finer things (e.g., she is an impeccable dresser, a gifted ballerina, and an accomplished violinist). She also has a heart of gold and seemingly endless reservoirs of sympathy. Catherine is also deeply hilarious and I love nothing better than a whole day with her.

Day 7: To Angela

Angela is my loyal, endlessly entertaining, and honest friend who is also a brilliant writer, programmer, MFA graduate student, Slate journalist, and Mary-Kate Olsen enthusiast. She can literally do everything. I love her so much and earnestly believe that my life would be comparatively dull without her. Her letters are bursts of energy and joy and always very creatively packaged.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Sometimes, starting a letter without the standard pleasantries (“How have you been? How’s the weather?”) is easier. Now, I prefer to jump right into a subject. My English correspondent Diane has always been very good about this.
  • Having pretty stamps makes me a whole lot happier about sending letters. I am loving these Chinese New Years stamps that G. picked up for me.
  • I think I’ve always inherently known this, but writing letters is a therapeutic experience for me. It is very calming to sit down and write a letter at the end of a long, hectic day. Thankfully, I have sympathetic listeners!

Next week, I will be attempting to write and edit those pesky short stories that have been lingering on my laptop for weeks…

Week 1: Morning Pages

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

WEEK 1: MORNING PAGES

I’m married to a full-time poet and musician and most of my closest friends are legitimate artists: painters, writers, dancers, and so forth. This means that I’m often very intimidated when I attempt to exhibit creativity of any kind. I can work on my calligraphy or take fuzzy photographs or scribble halfhearted stories into a notebook, but I dare not call myself an “artist” or even a creative person. I’m surrounded by so many serious–and seriously talented–artists that I wouldn’t dare join their throng in any tangible way.

I talk to Emily a lot about this. Emily is an artist–a dancer, a poet, a costume designer, and a basket-weaver–and she is equally intimidating in her talents. But she’s always encouraged me to artistic pursuits, despite my protestations. A few weeks ago, she sent me a copy of Julia Cameron’s workbook for stifled creative people, called The Artist’s Way. It’s a program designed to help frustrated artists or people like myself, who want to be creative but can’t get over their self-consciousness, to start making art. Some of the chapters are pretty hokey, but some are really encouraging.

One of the tasks that Cameron forces her students to do is write “morning pages.” Morning pages are essentially a brain dump of three handwritten pages right after you wake up. The goal is to get yourself in the habit of expressing thought in an uninhibited manner. This, supposedly, will allow you to loosen your self-conscious chains. For my first week of challenges, I wanted to try to write morning pages every day.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Coming up with stuff to write when you wake up is difficult. But maybe that’s the point?
  • At first, I wrote a lot about weather, mostly complaints about how cold it was still. But as I kept writing each morning, my thoughts seemed to diverge and I was actually able to write about the things I was thinking. Like, can you call a graphic novel a novel? Or, why is grapefruit so delicious in the winter?
  • I have a very well-documented and boring life.
  • I might try to keep doing it.

Next week’s challenge: Daily yoga. Grace, this is all your fault…

Five alternate lives

I got to talk to Emily for over an hour on Thursday night and it was SO good to catch up with her; I’ve missed her company a lot. She was telling me about this book she’s been working through, The Artist’s Way. It’s a book created to help artists work through blocks.

One of the exercises she described asked you to write down the five alternate lives you would have liked to have lived (e.g., the careers/vocations you might have pursued that deviate from the path you’re on now). I was thinking about it today, and this is the list I came up with:

1. Australian Shepherd breeder

Australian Shepherd puppies

As totally weird as dog lovers can be, I’ve always been one. I got mocked mercilessly in middle school–by my FATHER–because all I wanted for one birthday was a subscription to the magazine Dog Fancy. (He kept referencing the movie “Best in Show” whenever I got the magazine in the mail, which I hadn’t seen at the time. Now I have and I admit, yeah, those people are weird.) But I wouldn’t breed these dogs to show. I’d breed them because I LOVE these dogs and because I’d love to train them in agility competitions. Or even sheep herding ones. I just think they’re the best dogs around, still.

2. Farmer

 

Guion and me in a few years.

Specifically, I’d like to live somewhere either in North Carolina or even around here in the Shenandoah Valley. Prettiest country around. And I would specialize in either berries or horses. Because I love berries and horses.

3. Graphic designer

Letterpress cards from Seesaw.

This is a skill I’d love to have. I’d love to have a business creating beautiful stationery (and then another one to teach all of the Cool Lady Bloggers how to properly spell “stationery”). Branding companies would also be fun. And I’d definitely want to make my own fonts, too. I’ve always loved fonts.

4. English professor

This is actually my thesis advisor. Hi, Dr. Carlston!

I know it’s hard work and you have to labor six to eight years to do it, but I think I’d really love the life of an English professor. To have a job that’s essentially defined by your love of literature? What more could you ask for? (Cooperative students, better pay, and less academic politics maybe…)

5. Editor at a large, successful publishing house

Streep as Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada." Yes, I know she's not a book editor. But still. She's badass.

This one is simultaneously the most ridiculous and the most realistic. Ridiculous because who knows if publishing houses will even EXIST in 10 years; realistic because editing is the path I’ve more or less taken so far. I know editors are somewhat glamorized in film and stories and such, but from what little I’ve seen of it in my internships and work, I think it’s a place I’d like to be. Particularly with fiction. Sorry, Financial Analysts Journal, but you don’t pluck my heart strings.

Common theme in my five answers? All things that people don’t have much use for anymore! The world doesn’t really need more Australian Shepherds, as brilliant as they are. Farmers barely make enough money to survive, much less food. People don’t write handwritten notes anymore, so there’s not a huge demand for expensive letterpress cards. There are probably more wannabe English professors than wannabe English students; grad schools are brimming with them. And, as mentioned above, editors will soon have nothing to edit. Thanks, Interwebs.

But. Even with my semi-dashed dreams, now I’m curious. What about you? What five alternate lives might you have chosen for yourself?

Wednesday Snax

Barely-there mountains

Because sometimes that’s just how it goes. It’s finally starting to feel like fall around here! Gigi and I had to scrape ice off the windshield yesterday morning. Our giant, unsightly gas furnace has also been roaring to life: literally. It wakes me up every morning, it’s so loud. I think it will preclude us from having any house guests for the winter. I don’t think you could get any sleep in the living room with that beast.

Belated snax, with a sprig of parsley:

Why Sisterly Chats Make People Happier. Apparently, all people who have sisters are happier than those who do not have them! Loves it. I’ve got two great ones, and I’m plenty happy, so I guess that proves it. (NY Times)

The Ballerina Project. Emily and Catherine, this is for you. A photographer takes gorgeous shots of ballerinas around New York City. I’m enamored. (The Ballerina Project)

A Week of Dresses. She’s just too fabulous. Grace, watch out, because when I come home for Thanksgiving, I am going to outright steal stuff from your enormous, inspiring wardrobe. (Como Say What?)

Cassie, the Silken Windhound, as Virginia Woolf. The New Yorker featured people who dressed their dogs up as authors/literary characters. This dog actually LOOKS like Woolf; it’s eerie. (Also, I know more information about dog breeds than anyone should ever know, but I’d never heard of a Silken Windhound before. That’s because some crazy lady invented them! It’s probably the most dramatic breed name ever.)

Sad and Sadder Clown. I’m very impressed with this childhood photograph reenactment. Even the T-shirts are perfect! (Young Me Now Me)

High Five. (J.Hecht, if you’re reading this, now is the time to look away. There may or may not be a whale here.) THE COOLEST. Looking at this picture, I realize that I’ve always wanted to do this. (Cute Overload)

Help I’m Bored. Guion and I probably looked at these little problem-solvers for about half an hour the other day. Wildly entertaining. “Help I Hate My Roommate” is especially pointed. (Help I’m Bored)

You & I. What sweet pictures of life with his kids. I want to take photos like this one day. I also like his description: “No words are needed.” Indeed! (Cristian Ordonez)

Square. I don’t know how he does it, but I love every single photograph that comes out of Brian Ferry’s camera. (Brian Ferry)

The One Commandment. I mean, I’m going to keep posting Kate Beaton’s comics until someone tells me to stop. And even then I probably won’t. (Hark, A Vagrant!)

Dracula. See? I told you. (Hark, A Vagrant!)

Van Gogh tilt-shift. I have no idea how this works, but it’s absolutely mesmerizing: somehow taking photographs of famous paintings to make them look 3D?? (A Cup of Jo)

Sumimasen. The Japanese do pretty much rule the world in the realm of adorable packaging. This little blog demonstrates this. (Sumimasen Doozo)

A Carrying Case for Doughnuts and a Lollipop. This is absolutely something Liz Lemon would want and use. (Tokyo Mango)

Monday Snax

We had another fabulous weekend with guests: Emily and Jonathan came to stay, eat lemon fusilli, wander in Mallory’s giant and beautiful house, and watch animal videos on YouTube. Mostly of giant snakes. I was sad to see them both leave, but heartened by the fact that we’ll all be together again in Mom’s Dream Keeper for Rose and Kemp’s wedding. Yay!

I woke up this morning with one very distinct thought in my head, as if someone was repeating it over and over: “Geisha do not have spiritual weight.” Somehow it made a lot of sense to me when I woke up.

So, my 365 Project is now over, but I won’t be abandoning Flickr entirely. I’ll still post intermittently, so long as my laptop keeps working… which may not be very long at all, unfortunately.

Monday snax are here!

What Advice Do Financial Planners Have for Members of Gen Y? This is really great. I do think that my generation–myself included!–has a staggering lack of knowledge about managing money. These sage tips are a great place to start. (Gen Y Wealth)

A Book By Any Other Name. What if popular books were re-titled with the plot summary? Of course, Mrs. Dalloway‘s new moniker is my favorite. (The New Yorker)

Simple Invites. I will always love her work. It’s so lovely and unfettered. (Betsy Dunlap)

So, It’s Not the Phone? One of my new favorite humor blogs. Correspondence with your mom. (Postcards from Yo Momma)

Predominately vs. Predominantly. I’ve never really understood the difference either… until now. (Mighty Red Pen)

50 Best Websites of 2010. Time releases its list; makes Monday Snax feel somewhat small and obsolete. (Time)

Obento book. It’s so lovely; I wish I could find it somewhere. Watching my host mom create obento each morning for her kids was one of the more interesting aspects of daily life in Tokyo. I think the title of this book is literally translated to, “It’s Obento Time!” Cutesies. (Anna Gleeson)

I Will Never Be the Next Renee Zellweger. A letter from Zach Galifianakis. (Letters of Note)

Hungover Owls. This site is blocked by my work computer for containing “adult material”–e.g., photos of owls with snarky/drunk captions. (Hungover Owls)

The Barkvies. Stock photography of dogs. Yeah, I could look at it all day. So what’s the big deal? (The Barkvies)

Ame ni mo makezu. My host mother once ended a letter to me with the injunction from this famous Japanese poem. It has such a simple and beautiful message. I think I’d like to try to memorize it. (Wikipedia)

Monday Snax inauguration

Monday Snax with Emily and Catherine

During my junior year, every Monday afternoon, Catherine, Emily, and I would meet in our dorm room and share food and stories. Catherine promptly coined our meeting “Monday Snax,” with the proper spelling. It was arguably one of the better parts of my week, and even became a tag on my Flickr.

In honor of that, I’m creating my own Monday Snax here. While certainly less fun, I’m going to provide a list of interesting things found on the Interwebs throughout the week. Just because.

So, here it goes for today:

MONDAY SNAX, 7.19.10

I Write Like. If you circulate the Blogosphere at all, you’ve probably already stumbled on this link. It’s received quite a bit of attention, and although it’s probably not very accurate, it’s at least very fun. The meme told me that I write like Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace, both of whom I have never read. Still interesting!

Pantry, Counter, Fridge? Where to store produce for maximum shelf life. (Mint Life Blog) A fabulous and comprehensive list of where you should keep produce to keep it lasting longer. I printed off a copy and stuck it to our fridge, and Guion and I have already been using its tips. Who knew you were supposed to keep asparagus upright with a damp paper towel, as if they were a bouquet of flowers? I didn’t.

Taking a Stand. (Awkward Family Photos) Mainly I love this, because that kid looks like Grace did at that age. And this is a pose she probably would have assumed, too.

Little Known Uses for Fruit Peels, Shells, and Seeds. (Tip Hero) For people trying to live frugally in the kitchen, like us!

Organic groceries on a budget. (Wise Bread)

Hark, a Vagrant! Ben Franklin, Dickens, etc. I’ve found my new favorite source of Interwebs humor. Love this.

The Future of Print. (Booksquare) A really intelligent and thoughtful piece about what will happen to print media, by Kassia Krozser.

Free printable recipe cards. (How About Orange) These are really adorable. If I had a color printer, I’d make dozens of them.

P.S. Unrelated: This is not good. My husband is sending me photos of babies. BABIES. I just want a little bunny. He thinks a baby is a better option. How many ways can I say NO NOT NOW NO NO BUT IT’S ADORABLE THAT YOU LOVE BABIES SO MUCH.

Small things

Keisei Makuhari station, where I caught the train home every day. Tokyo, June 2009

1. Betsy Dunlap is one of my favorite calligraphers. Her work is so distinctive and beautiful in a funky way. You can scroll around her blog to get some ideas of what she does. She’s kind of like a superstar in the wedding blogosphere.

2. We had a minor flood in the kitchen last night. Guion went to answer his phone and forgot that he left the sink running. I was talking to Emily on the phone (which was unbelievably lovely; I miss her so much) and wasn’t paying attention. Our neighbor Hannah comes upstairs and is all, “Um, do you have water running? Because our ceiling is leaking.” Yeah. Not fun. But we got it under control. I’m glad we have a mop and at least four towels we don’t care about.

3. I can’t wait for my new Japanese pens to get here so I can start on Rose and Kemp‘s wedding invitations! I’m hoping they will come today.

4. I also can’t wait for Cristina and Eric’s wedding! And even though we can’t be there, Megan and Charles’s! Just a few more weeks!

5. I suppose I forgot how utterly dark and depraved Mishima’s fiction can be. “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” is certainly interesting, but it’s hard to handle sometimes. Mishima, likely drawing from experience, preferred to focus on society’s rejects. But instead of giving them touching qualities (so as to creep into your latent store of compassion), he makes them extra-sad and dark. Still, reading this novel rushes me back to Tokyo in an instant. I read 12 novels by Japanese authors that summer, mostly in transit. Sometimes, when I get absorbed in this book, I feel like I’m back on the train, reading intently as I sway back and forth and listen to the announcer’s high voice calling out the stations…