Pairing books with tea (Backwards in High Heels)

Backwards in High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female by Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine is a self-help book of sorts to help women navigate life. I bought it ages ago (10 years to be exact) and I’m happy to report it stands the test of time.

Each chapter is dedicated to a particular subject that plays a role in a woman’s life, such as love, food, career, health and men (and lots of other topics). What I love best is that the authors fiercely and unapologetically state that the woman must put herself first. I completely agree.

This book is not a guide to life, by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s a fun read with tips, thoughtful anecdotes and encouragement to live your best life.

Which tea shall we pair with it? As a feminist, I’ll just say that you can drink whatever you please while reading this book. My choice is a cup of milky tea.

xoxo, Jane

My reading life during the pandemic

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Enjoying a cup of tea while reading Square Haunting.

I no longer have a reading routine. It’s become quite erratic. I used to be able to sit down and devour a book in days. Now, almost nothing can hold my attention. I flitter from book to book, leaving unread novels collecting dust on the coffee table. With few exceptions, I don’t actually like not finishing books so I promised myself I’ll get back to these unfinished books someday soon.

Currently, I’m dividing my sporadic attention between two books: Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic and Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting.

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On the upside, the pandemic is forcing me to enjoy slow living.

Mary Stewart writes an excellent romantic suspense novel. She has the ability to transport the reader to the actual crime scene, almost as if we are embodying the heroine. This Rough Magic is set in Greece, where the heroine, Lucy, discovers a dead body on the beach. Normally, I’d feel invested in solving the crime, but I just want to finish the book to see who did it. What has happened to me? Also, I can’t tell who the male hero is supposed to be. There are several male characters in this book and all of them seem hero-ish to me. My only complaint with Mary Stewart books is that it takes her a long time to get to the romance portion of the plot. I suppose my complaint is not legitimate because she is the queen of romantic suspense so the romance aspect of the book will be secondary.

Square Haunting is set between the two world wars and focuses on five women (Hilda Doolittle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf) living and working in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. While it’s fascinating, and I look forward to reading a page or two every day, it’s taking me a long time to get through it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s very academic and at times dense or because of the uncertain times we live in. Maybe a little of both. It’s a fascinating read about these five inspiring women because it gives me an intimate glimpse into their lives and now I feel invested in them. I plan to write my thoughts in a future blog post when I finish the book.

I hope we will all see a light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, I hope you can get lost in, and concentrate on, good books.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Emma)

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Recently I finished reading Emma by Jane Austen. It wasn’t a reread, but a first read. I have to say, I’m not sure whether I’m a fan of Emma. She has a big heart and means well, but I wouldn’t be friends with someone in real life who is such a nosy busybody. Emma just can’t mind her own business. It’s possible she’ll grow on me in the years to come, I don’t know. For now, I must place her at the bottom of my Jane Austen heroine list.

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Now that I have my little rant out of the way, let’s pair a tea with this book. Since weddings seem to be the theme of this novel (as in every Jane Austen novel, of course), I thought it would be fitting if we paired it with Fortnum’s Wedding Breakfast Blend created on the occasion of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. I had it this morning and it was a delicious cup of tea.

I’d love to know your opinion of Emma.

Happy reading and tea drinking.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (The Other Bennet Sister)

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Normally I pair tea with books I’ve read. Today is an exception because I haven’t read The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow yet, but I will. I’m currently half-way through Square Haunting and am looking forward to picking up The Other Bennet Sister.

The Other Bennet Sister is about Mary Bennet, “an introvert in a family of extroverts.” Janice Hadlow gives Mary, the sister I’ve always found annoying, a voice in a story that’s over 600 pages long. So it’s definitely a tome to get lost in and forget the troubles around us. And boy do we have a lot of troubles right now. I’m looking forward to reading Mary’s story and getting to know her better.

I’m going to assume, this being a Jane Austen continuation, there is a wedding. If not Mary’s wedding, then at least someone else’s. Fortnum’s Wedding Breakfast Tea would pair well while reading this book. What do you think?

xoxo, Jane

PS. Speaking of tea, if you love tea as much as I do, then stop by my Instagram where I post about tea (and books and flowers).

What I’m enjoying during isolation

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Like most of us, I’m pretty stressed. I’m also extremely worried about my future. I can’t concentrate on writing because of the worries lingering over me. During this pandemic, I’m not going to become the next Shakespeare or Da Vinci, that’s for sure. However, there are a few things that I’m enjoying during isolation. (Many thanks to Sophril Reads for this idea.)

Podcasts

Even though I’m not commuting to the office, I’m still enjoying my podcasts. I listen to them (usually about women’s history) while I make breakfast and tea and throughout the day as I work. I think I’m enjoying listening to them much more than before because I don’t have the stress of the commute weighing me down. I don’t have to worry about balancing myself, plus all of my work stuff, while standing on an overcrowded, jerking metro.

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Tea

I can’t explain to you how nice it is to drink a cup of tea in the morning without worrying about hurrying up or not finishing it because I need to rush out the door. Plus, it’s such a treat to drink tea in my fine china during the workday.

Loungewear

I’m not going to lie. I wear my loungewear all day. It is glorious.

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Flowers

To cheer myself up, I keep an abundance of flowers around the house. I don’t leave the house often, but when I do it’s for the grocery store. I pick up at least two or three bouquets. This way I always have flowers in constant rotation.

Nature

Now that we have nicer weather, I keep the windows and patio door open while I work. Sometimes I glance out at the patio where I’m highly amused to see squirrels scouring about and the chirping birds dancing on the tree branches. Being so close to some type of nature during the workday is a stress reliever for sure.

I hope there are a few things that are cheering you up during isolation.

Take good care.

xoxo, Jane

 

 

 

Pairing books with tea (Persephone Biannually)

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During this anxious time we are living in, I wanted to soothe my spirit and the best way I do that is by organizing my bookshelves. Well, during the organization I re-discovered my old copies of the Persephone Biannually.

If you haven’t read this magazine by Persephone Books, then you are in for a treat. It’s a literary magazine written and published by Persephone Books, a publisher that focuses on republishing forgotten female (and a few male) authors.

The articles in the magazine focus on their authors, the story behind the books and interesting details about their famous endpapers. There is no charge for the magazine (at the time of this writing) and if you are interested in their books, then you can sign up to be added to their mailing list so they can ship the magazine to you.

Today, I’m pairing a tea with this wonderful literary magazine. Which tea shall we pair? How about Harney’s Citrus Blend? It’s a black tea with an orange flavor. Light and citrusy, perfect for an afternoon of magazine reading. Enjoy!

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (The Mistress of Spices)

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I read The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni many moons ago. I was a college student and reading literary novels and essays and the required literary criticism, like all good English majors do. But I was bored and found myself fighting to keep my eyes open after reading yet another western, white male writer. Not that there is anything wrong with reading white male writers. But my life seemed to be consumed by them and I could not relate to any of them or their stories. (Except for the part where they locked themselves away in their studies, you know, those studies that are filled with overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookcases, where they whiled away the hours writing, which I envied.)

I never stopped to think about why it was that I was only given male authors to study and I hope today it’s different at universities across the country. But when I read the first few lines of The Mistress of Spices I realized I was missing something in my life: women writers who wrote interesting stories about the nuances of life and provided a satisfactory happy ending.

The Mistress of Spices is one such book. The main character, Tilo, is trained from birth to understand the magic of the spices. When Tilo’s training is complete, she is ordained as a Mistress of Spices. Tilo is magically transported to Oakland, California where she practices her magic while running a spice shop. Although she is young and beautiful, she is placed inside the body of an elderly woman.

I am a Mistress of Spices. I can work the others too. Mineral, metal, earth and sand and stone. The gems with their cold clear light. The liquids that burn their hues into your eyes till you see nothing else. I learned them all on the island. But the spices are my love.

Through Tilo’s spices, and her new identity inhabiting the body of an elderly woman, she begins to live her destiny, which is to fix the lives of others.

Each chapter is named after a spice. For example, one of the chapters is titled “Fennel” because fennel is the “spice for Wednesdays, the day of averages, of middle-aged people.” Tilo orders a customer in an abusive marriage to take a pinch of fennel, promising her that it will give her mental strength for what she must do. Tilo doesn’t say anything else. After all, no one must know what or who she really is.

One day Tilo meets a man named Raven who looks into her eyes and sees exactly who she really is. Raven knows that she isn’t an old woman and slowly they begin to fall in love with each other.  However, this is against the rules for Tilo and falling in love causes a catastrophe. It’s a wonderful, magical story that has stayed with me all these years.

Which tea shall we pair with this book? I think a chai tea pairs best. Tilo would certainly approve of all the spices that go into this Chai tea by Fortnum & Mason (my favorite purveyor of teas).

xoxo, Jane

Small Moments of Happiness: March 2020

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March was awful (awful!!) and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why. Instead, I’m going to focus on a few small moments of happiness and I hope you will too.

I decided to treat myself to a book subscription to Persephone Books. The first book, Mariana, arrived in March. It’s good luck that I received the book before the bookshop closed due to the virus. I also bought a number of books to support booksellers, both local and in London. This cheered me up immensely.

Some other small moments of happiness were books and reading in general, my community banding together to see us through this pandemic and our talented, selfless health care workers.

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And tea. At least there is always tea.

Your turn! What were some of your small moments of happiness last month?

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Let’s Bring Back)

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Descriptions: The Huffington Post’s “Let’s Bring Back…” columnist, Lesley M. M. Blume, invites you to consider whatever happened to cuckoo clocks? Or bed curtains? Why do we have so many “friends” but have done away with the much more useful word “acquaintance”? All of these things, plus hot toddies, riddles, proverbs, corsets, calling cards, and many more, are due for a revival. Throughout this whimsical, beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of nostalgia, Blume breathes new life into the elegant, mysterious, and delightful trappings of bygone eras, honoring the timeless tradition of artful living along the way. Inspired by her much loved column of the same name and featuring entries from famous icons of style and culture, Let’s Bring Back leads readers to rediscover the things that entertained, awed, beautified, satiated, and fascinated in eras past.

Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By written by Lesley M. M. Blume is a charming encyclopedia of things that should come back in style. Such as bows and curtsies or town criers. I wholeheartedly agree!

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With 240+ pages and clever illustrations of forgotten things, this book is a fun, leisurely read. I recommend reading a few pages over breakfast every day. As such, the tea to pair with this book might be a breakfast tea. I recommend Tokyo Breakfast Tea by Mariage Frères.

Coincidently, one of the things that should come back in style is Tea Time. The author quotes Henry James, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Ms. Blume ends this entry with a thought, “And yet we’ve swapped it out for dreary Starbucks runs.”

I hope you’ve been well!

xoxo, Jane

 

 

Pairing books with tea (Writers as Readers: A Celebration of Virago Modern Classics)

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Writers as Readers: A Celebration of Virago Modern Classics is a book I’d categorize as slow reading. A book to be enjoyed with the seasons, not to be read in one sitting from beginning to end. It’s a lovely collection of wonderful writers writing about other writers.

Some of the writers writing about writers are Angela Carter writing on Charlotte Brontë, A.S. Byatt writing on Willa Cather and Penelope Lively writing on Edith Wharton. It’s a beautiful hardback. I love owning it and reading the entries.

I’d pair this lovely book with a good cup of Fortnum’s Countess Grey. Countess Grey is ideal because of its light and delicate flavor, which makes it perfect for slow reading.

Countess Grey goes with so many good books, doesn’t it?

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (All The Time In The World)

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All The Time In The World by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins is inspired by the medieval book of hours. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, a book of hours is a “devotional book widely popular in the later Middle Ages. The book of hours began to appear in the 13th century, containing prayers to be said at the canonical hours in honour of the Virgin Mary. The growing demand for smaller such books for family and individual use created a prayerbook style enormously popular among the wealthy. The demand for the books was crucial to the development of Gothic illumination. These lavishly decorated texts, of small dimensions, varied in content according to their patrons’ desires.

All The Time In The World, complete with whimsical drawings and filled with fascinating anecdotes and witty articles, is meant for reflection and leisurely enjoyment. The entries are to be read slowly, with the passing seasons.

The more than seventy-five articles are cleverly divided by the hour of the day. The first article (6:00 AM) is about the circus and the last article  (5:00 AM) is about the songbirds waking you up at dawn. Fitting.

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I’d pair an herbal tea with this book. Particularly Twinings Buttermint. Sipping a nice, steaming cup of herbal tea is perfect while leisurely reading the entries.

So let me ask you this, which drink would you pair with your current read?

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

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Who is the Scarlet Pimpernel? He is an English aristocrat who makes it his mission to rescue French aristocrats from Madame la Guillotine. He doesn’t do this alone. He has a secret league of 19 aristocratic young men assisting him in snatching French aristocrats from certain death and escorting them to England.  The league is so secret that even the Scarlet Pimpernel’s wife doesn’t initially know about her husband’s alter ego.

The first book in the series, The Scarlet Pimpernel, was written in 1901 and became a play in 1903.

“They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel”

Baroness Emmuska Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel

Which tea goes well with The Scarlet Pimpernel? I think a French tea would be perfect. The Scarlet Pimpernel is so good at evading the French authorities and saving the aristocrats from right under the noses of the French authorities, that I can imagine him drinking a cup of French tea while silently laughing to himself. Paris Earl Grey by Mariage Frères would be perfect. What do you think?

Happy reading and happy tea-drinking!

xoxo, Jane