Meditations on Warmer Weather

can you believe i took this photo with my iphone?

Spring is finally here, hooray! The flower pictured above was a magical flower and the first true sign that warmer weather was here to stay. The flower was magical because I’d never seen anything grow quite like it. I was walking Stella one morning when we stumbled upon a large scattering of these flowers, both purple and bright orange ones, sprouting straight up out of the grass in the shade of a towering tree. The flowers were very tiny, unattached to any larger growth, and seemed to be appearing out of nowhere. It was the first time Stella had seen anything grow like that too. We both stopped to admire the bright little flowers, Stella gave some sniffs (no licks this time), and I couldn’t stop myself from plucking a sprig of beauty to take home with us. They were just beautiful.

bambi stella

All of the beauties of spring don’t come without downsides. The biggest downside for me has been the birds. The first mean bird I encountered this season pooped on me twice within two minutes as I was leisurely sitting on a park bench, eating some french fries, and talking on the phone. Not only did the second poop splatter into my fries, but I also had to sit through three hours of class with yucky poo rubbed into my clothes. If it got my hair, I would have gone home (I’m not totally gross).

Stella and I encountered the second mean bird of the season on another one of our leisurely walks. This bird swooped down from its tree-top perch as we passed underneath and pecked Stella on the back! Then the cowardly bird flew right back to its tree and squawked away at us. You should have seen the look on poor Stella’s face. She was crouched real low to the ground and was so confused about what just happened! While I’m sure the bird was being a good mommy and defending its nest, we make sure to speed past that tree every day as it hops from branch to branch, following us down the sidewalk, and screaming at us all the way.

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Tea Time

Everything about tea is good for the soul. Brewing a cup of tea becomes therapeutic when you watch the fresh-smelling leaves and flowers unfurl their wisps of color into the hot water that envelops them. And all the care you put into brewing is repaid many times over as soon as your cup cools enough for the first sip to moisten your throat and warm you from the inside out. Exhale… now excuse me, I think my tea kettle is calling.

mariage frères' sweet shanghaï

I love buying loose leaf teas because there are typically more unique varieties available than what comes in pre-packaged tea bags, and they’re usually less expensive. My absolute favorite teas are from Mariage Frères, a French company that I can’t get enough of. They have endless types of tea, and their boutiques and salons are heavenly. If you don’t have a trip to Paris planned in the near future (but if you do, I’d like to join you!), you can find these teas in Williams-Sonoma and Dean and Deluca, but the stores don’t carry the full line. And seeing the price in dollars, post import, makes me cringe.

My next favorite source for loose leaf tea is Ching Ching Cha, a tranquil Chinese tea house in Georgetown. I wasn’t sure whether I should mention this urban oasis out of fear that you’d all rush there and make me wait for a table. But it would be plain mean to keep such a good secret.

mariage frères' thé sur le nil

I’ve tried many, many tea-brewing methods over the years. Some have been successful, others have been disastrous! I’ll start with the disastrous methods first.

The ceramic tea cup-brewer combo: I can’t include a picture of it here because I broke it into, realistically, 9 pieces. It was a mug with a perforated ceramic insert and a lid. I would put my leaves in the ceramic insert, submerge it in hot water, and pull it out once the tea was brewed. Unfortunately, the perforations in the insert were much too large, and I ended up drinking a lot of leaves. And if I pulled the insert out too quickly, it would drain water everywhere but in my cup. Not fun, don’t recommend.

the venus fly trap

The metal spoon infuser: My boyfriend, David, refers to this contraption as “the venus fly trap.” The name is very appropriate because when you squeeze the infuser’s handle to open each side of the spoon, it looks like a menacing, gaping mouth. You’re supposed to fill the fly trap’s mouth with tea leaves and dunk it in your hot water. I know many people who are fans of the venus fly trap, but I am not one of them. Because tea leaves expand so much, I find the fly trap to be rather restrictive. It gets filled up quickly, and the hot water has trouble getting inside to mix and mingle with the leaves. Inevitably, my vigorous stirring to speed the brewing process always leaves me drinking leaves. Ha. And it only makes one cup at a time.

fill-at-home tea bags

Fill-at-home tea bags: I can’t tell you much about these tea bags because their packaging is in Chinese. I can tell you, however, that they’re absolutely fantastic and I use them on an almost-daily basis. These bags are more than twice the size of the average supermarket tea bag, so they let your tea leaves expand to their hearts’ content. Just add a tablespoon or so of tea leaves, fold over the top of the bag (they work a lot like plastic sandwich bags), throw it in your mug, and add water. They’re also disposable- extra convenient (maybe green too, but I don’t know what they’re made of). If I know I’ll be making tea on the road, I’ll pre-fill a few bags to keep on me for whenever a tea craving strikes. They’re also really great for making iced tea. Just drop three bags in a pitcher of water, keep it in the fridge overnight, and enjoy your delicious cold-brewed iced tea in the morning.

tea pot with mesh infuser

Tea pot with mesh infuser: These tea pots are perfect for making more than one cup of tea at a time. Just fill the removable mesh infuser with your leaves, pour over hot water, and cover with the lid. When the tea is done brewing, remove the infuser. Other tea pots have a mesh strainer attached to the inside base of the spout so you can pour the tea without getting leaves in your cup. With those pots, however, you can’t remove the tea leaves to stop the brewing process (the leaves are loose in the pot). All you can do to avoid drinking dark bitterness is to empty all of the tea from the pot. This method might work if you’re brewing for a group, but if you’re drinking alone, you’ll end up with cold tea. They’re also harder to clean because tea leaves get stuck inside. A tea pot with a removable mesh infuser is a must-have for any tea lover. The one pictured above is cast iron, so it can be warmed directly over a flame.

I’ll drink to that, cheers!

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Sour Babies

Note: You can watch these videos without the sound if you’re reading in public– they lose none of their comedic effect.

On very rare occasions, when I’m really bored, I’ll blissfully tumble into YouTube’s black hole of video curiosities. I’ve watched hours and hours of kittens swimming, eyeshadow tutorials, talking dogs, and Maru. One of my most successful ventures into the videosphere, however, occurred when I discovered the surprisingly abundant supply of babies making sour pusses.

It is 100% impossible to watch these videos without smiling and puckering! Even though the lemons are sour, the babies can’t stop themselves from going back for more. Recently, I was cutting up a lemon and Stella came over to investigate. I wondered whether she would have a similar reaction to the babies, so I let her lick a slice. Either dogs can’t pucker their faces or they can’t taste sour because she acted like nothing was new and kept on licking.  She can’t control her licker, you know.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to searching for babies making funny faces. You will inevitably stumble upon the pure evil known as “Baby’s First Wasabi.”

Will someone please call Child Protective Services?!

Instead of ending on a downer, I’ll leave you with Stella’s pre-diabetic, inter-species soulmate: a cat that can’t control its licker.

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