(It’s the most cliché thing, but re-reading Proust makes me feel like I should live in Paris. We should all live in Paris. It’s the only city, right?)
I think about dogs a lot; probably 30% of my waking life is thinking about dogs. And I have two extremely high-maintenance dogs who are constantly underfoot, and I write a dog blog, and YET, whenever I see photos of dogs in a news story or a live dog walking down the street, my first thought, every single time, is: I need MORE dogs in my life. I inherited this brokenness from my father. I asked him once why he thought we were both so obsessed with dogs, to an almost debilitating degree. And he answered quickly, without thinking: “It’s probably because our parents didn’t love us enough.”
Walt Whitman lived at peace with the fact that he contradicted himself. He said that he contained multitudes. Proust asks the next question. How much of one’s multitudinous self can a person reveal or embody at one time? The first answer is plain common sense; it all depends. It depends on many things, from chance and volition to memory and forgetting. The second answer is categorical. No matter how we go about it, we cannot be all of ourselves all at once. Narrow light beams of perception and of recollection illuminate the present and the past in vivid fragments. The clarity of those fragments is sometimes very great. They may even overlap and reinforce one another. However, to summon our entire self into simultaneous existence lies beyond our powers. We live by synecdoche, by cycles of being. More profoundly than any other novelist, Proust perceived this state of things and worked as an economist of the personality.
— Proust’s Way, Roger Shattuck
Discussing Swann’s Way with my book club next week, and I am doing an unnecessary amount of prep to lead the discussion, but I love it so much; I love being steeped in it.
I feel really happy and hopeful and distractible. I am trying to write more, and it is going mostly badly, but I feel free about it. And maybe that, that sense of liberty, has been the goal all along.
Apparently, I forgot to do a Paris recap. It is worth doing to me only because of my strong need for consistency in a series. Like comma usage or list styling. The week must be documented.
So, with all of our luggage in tow, we went to Paris for a week before we came home. And it was grand. It lived up to all of my (already extremely high) expectations. The thing I’ve been telling people, when they ask about my impressions of Paris, is that it felt simultaneously a lot dirtier/grittier and a lot more beautiful than London. Perhaps it is not fair to compare cities so directly, but this comparison kept rushing to mind as we strolled along the Seine and stepped in feces. It seems to always be both, in Paris: beauty and excrement.
A day trip to the utter madness that is Versailles:
Whew. What a magical city. Merci beaucoup, Paris; let’s meet again soon.
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.
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
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
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.
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)
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
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.
We had a lovely weekend with Guion’s parents and his grandfather, aka Granddad; they came up to celebrate my confirmation at Christ Church and Granddad’s birthday! We had such a great time squiring them around town, eating tons of amazing food, and exchanging stories and memories. Brother Win was greatly missed, of course. Wish they could only have stuck around longer!
Snax with roasted kale and butternut squash, because, believe me, this week’s Snax are super-delicious and good for your heart:
With Love from Chitwan. To my heart’s relief, Grace is alive and finally well in Chitwan, Nepal! Read about her adventures and go see how totally adorable she looks on a bicycle by a rice paddy. (Como Say What?)
Proust Questionnaire: Tina Fey. One of my all-time favorite women answers the classic questions from one of my all-time favorite authors. What do I have to do to become BFFs with this woman? (Vanity Fair)
Big Laughs, Cheap Grace. Thank you, Rob Hays, for finding the words for my dislike of “Modern Family.” Thanks for finding the words when I could not. It is entertaining, but perhaps that is all one can say. (The Curator)
Iceland Part 1: Roadside Horses and Geysir. Here is a Law of the Universe: If anyone on the Interwebs posts photos of Icelandic ponies, I shall immediately repost photos of said ponies. This law is immutable and shall remain unbroken for the duration of time. (Kris Atomic)
Origami Animals. Origanimals. My dad had a client who once made me an intricate Japanese beetle out of a $5 bill. He would have liked these paper animals. I like them, too; they look like they want to be friends. (Miss Moss)
The Desktop Wallpaper Project. I change my desktop image every Monday on my work computer, and my Mac desktop rotates every 15 minutes, so I guess you could say I’m a bit of a stickler for change. It makes me happy to have a new, pretty image on my computer. If you are like this, check out this site. A collection of beautiful, graphic designer-friendly desktop wallpapers! Artist Michael Cina’s work (around page 7) is my favorite. (The Fox Is Black)
Is Ulysses Overrated? Now I feel a little bit better about giving it only spot no. 7 in my top 10 books of 2010. This guy from Slate thinks it’s a crock and not worth all of the hype. He says there’s only one chapter worth reading. (Slate)
Happiest States According to Twitter. As far as useless and unreliable maps go, this one may rank quite high, but I like its findings. According to a mood map of Twitter, the top three happiest states are: 1) Tennessee, 2) Colorado, and 3) North Carolina. I like it! I can definitely attest to Colorado and NC making that cut. (Daily Intel)
I Am Only 6, But I Think I Can Do This Job. KIDS! Killing me again with cuteness! Application letter from 6-year-old Andrew Scott, who applied for the position of Director of the National Railway Museum. What is it with little boys and trains? It will never fail to make my heart melt. (Letters of Note)
My sisters are in Paris now. Grace is blogging from a little cafe, with a little cat, probably drinking a little latte. She’s reminiscing about her day at the Louvre, while Kelsey is probably scoping out her next round of insightful questions to Europe’s most influential policy-makers.