Tea stories

Aggggghhhhhh! I did not know that the re-design would kick in today! So bear with me while I clean up the usual minor glitches, including a very awkward Comment button (click onto the READ MORE box at the very end of this post) And now, back to our regularly scheduled chat:

Usually this space is reserved for garden-y painting time, like this:


But today I have two important non-garden-y questions on my mind. The first one is, in regards to the illustration below,

Too Twee?


Twee: excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental. And oh yeah, that (above) is twee, and I should know because I did it, by collage, by piecing together bits of a rose garden and bits of tea table for an illustration that, in the end, didn’t work because it was too damn twee. But I like the way I did the spoons. And the cranberry muffin isn’t half bad. But I digress.

Now here’s something that I think is

Not twee:


That (above) is my Tea Cup Triscuit Quartet (pictured with an actual Triscuit, the delicious whole wheat snack cracker from Nabisco which I mention because I call  my teeny tiny paintings Triscuits and I don’t want to be sued for trademark infringement so I give credit where credit is due).

Twee is bad for illustration because it’s lazy. Twee depends on cliche for its effect, and cliches (whether spoken, written, or painted) are way dull — cliches are the easy way out, something for the shallow or cynical-minded to fall back on when they don’t want to put in the hard work of having an original thought. Don’t be fooled by the prettiness: “pretty” (as we all know) can be dead boring. Which, now that I’ve explained it, I’m sure you can now clearly see the twee in this picture:


I had planned to use this illustration in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly, and I was going to drop text into the blank area in the left-center of the picture but, when I took a third look at it, I saw that it was way too cute and dopey and I in the end I saved all you Dear Readers from this eruption of sickly sweet and removed it from consideration. But hey, that’s life — sometime twee happens to the best of us.

My Tea Cup Triscuit Quartet is not guilty of twee because there’s no hot cross bun in the picture. In other words, I don’t exactly know why it isn’t twee, it just isn’t.

You might remember that one-quarter of this quartet began life as this:

P1070572 (1)

But those two cups were boring and ill-composed (even for a Triscuit) so I re-drew it:


And re-painted it to be less boring:


And now, because Dear Reader Nancy S. asked me to, I am giving you all the drawings that made my non- twee Tea Cup Triscuit Quartet possible:





And then we come to this baby:


I know you’ll want to put your own design here!

Side view: Lord lordy lordy, it is sooooo much easier to paint stuff if you don’t have to deal with perspective, which turns round things like tea cups and saucers into ovals which are very tricky.


And so, while you watch me paint a tea cup the painless way . . .


. . . I want to discuss the second question of the day, inspired by The New York Times’ Social Qs column.


Social Qs is a very popular feature in the NYT Sunday paper in which Philip Galanes gives “lighthearted advice about awkward social situations“.


Recently I read this question in Social Qs:

I am a woman in my 20s and work in a small, friendly office of 20 people. My given name is Andie. I have a male colleague, who goes by the nickname Andy. To cut down on confusion, my colleagues started calling me Andie Girl or Miss Andie, and him Andy Boy or Mr. Andy. I hate it! It’s infantilizing and condescending. But I didn’t nip it in the bud, and now everyone in the company uses these nicknames, including Human Resources and our C.E.O. Is there a way to address this that doesn’t seem as if I’m suddenly overreacting?


This query was signed, ANDIE, PORTLAND, ORE.


As I hope tens of thousands of you know, I will be in Portland, Ore. on May 5 and 7, and I would like to meet ANDIE, PORTLAND, ORE. to tell her that I think “Andie Girl” is an ADORABLE nick-name, but I won’t because I totally agree with Mr. Galanes’ answer which is (short version) (long version here), that heck yeah, Andie should go have a talk with HR about putting a stop to this “Andy Girl” business because:

We should all be called what we like.


I love this answer because I happened to have had a recent falling out with someone — a relative, in fact — over this exact same issue! In my case, it’s not about a nickname, it’s about the fact that I’m an identical twin.


I’ve been an identical twin all my life, so it’s no big deal to me. Being an identical twin — believe me — is about the least interesting thing about me, so I hardly ever mention it.

However, when I was growing up, being an identical twin was a huge pain in the ass. I’m talking from an 8-year old’s point of view when I say that I hated being a twin on my birthday and Christmas, when me and my sister were treated as one unit, meaning that we got one birthday gift to share, one birthday cake to share, one Xmas gift to share. . . you get the  picture. Now, as a grown up, I have a more mature understanding of the gift-giving situation and I understand that my relatives were simply being cheap bastards so, for the most part, I have disowned them.


But the one thing that still chaps my butt (as they say in Texas) is when me and my sister are still referred to as “the twins“. If I were a singleton, I’d always be called by my own name — a common courtesy that many of you non-twins take for granted, right? But because I’m a twin, I don’t get a name, I get a unit designation, a stupid catch-all, a de-humanizing label, etc etc etc. — I think you get my point, that for whatever reason,  I  hate it when me and my sister are called “the twins”.


So when a relative recently wrote an email in which me and my sister were referred to as “the twins”, I emailed back, and I said please, don’t call me “the twins”. Thank you.


In reply, not only did this relative answer “No”, she responded “Absolutely No” with a long, angry note about how it’s ridiculous of me to object to being called “the twins”, how it’s the truth that I’m a twin, that she likes it that I’m a twin, she can’t fathom why I don’t like being called a twin,  etc etc.


So I gave her the old FU and we are no longer on speaking terms.


The point is that I don’t have to justify it, I don’t have to explain it, I don’t have to come up with a good enough excuse to you; you don’t have to agree, you don’t even have to like it. All you have to know is that I don’t like I don’t like being called “the twins” and say, as any kind-hearted or civilized person would, Oh, I didn’t know that but now that I do, I will not call you “the twins” because

We should all be called what we like.


So the second question of the day is:



The thing I like about this tea cup is the way it sits on the paper, like it’s an ideal tea cup, or the idea of a tea cup, or a design for a tea cup, a pattern for a tea cup. I think this form would look nice in a trio (suitable for framing), like this:


Each tea cup would be painted with a different pattern, maybe even modified in homage to some memorable cups of tea you’ve had in your travels, like, say, that tea cup with the square handle in that Paris cafe near the Louvre:

Paris cafe, paris croissant

Or that delicious cup of Assam with the tea bag hanging out of it, at the boulangerie in the Opera metro station:


Or that nice hot cuppa with a sugar cube and spoon the cafe facing Sacre Coeur:


Paris cafe near Sacre Coeur

The possibilities are endless, and not at all twee.

Before I go, I must thank all you Amazon Commenters for your lovely 5-star reviews. No, wait — I can do better than “thanks”! Remember, I did this:



And this:


The Super Duper Triscuit Quartet Give Away is destined for one of you lucky Amazon reviewers to win (you don’t have to buy the book on Amazon, you just have to review it there, such is the reality of the modern day book biz).

But wait there’s more — WE HAVE A WINNER!


We have a winner of my Monet’s Boats Triscuit and that winner is the Commentor who goes by the name of:


Top Cat chose #72 as the wining number for this contest, and Snap had the guess that came closest to that number without going over it — and Happy Birthday too! Snap, please email me at vivianswift at yahoo dot com so I can send this miniature masterpiece your way.

Another big huge Thank You goes out to everyone who tuned in to GardenChat with Bren last Wednesday to watch me LIVE on internet TV  and joined me in my little fake talk-show set and saw how smoooooth I am in front of a camera:

Photo on 4-27-16 at 1.24 PM #3

One last thing: If you have a story about how you got rid of an odious nick name, or if  you’ve chosen to be known by a name other than the one you were given at birth, please please please let me know in a Comment below. To me, it’s a wonder that so many of us hang on to the randomly assigned name we were given by people [parents] who , let’s face it, have their own agendas when it comes to naming their offspring. Right?

Have a great weekend, my Wonder Ones.

See you in Seattle on May 3! And Portland (Oregon) on May 5! Check me out on the EVENTS page!

And next week, as I have promised Commentor Lynn from NOLA, we will do this:



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This is, so far, my No. 1 Favorite Flower Thing of 2016:


This big-ass bouquet of my favorite flowers (Roses and Hydrangeas!!) was deposited on my doorstep on my b-day eve ALL FOR ME!!!

The card said only “From your fans everywhere” and Top Cat swears it wasn’t him which I believe because this came from a fancy florist  and Top Cat wraps my birthday presents in the weekly grocery store circular (so very colorful) so, to my Dear Readers and Fellow Flower Lovers, I thank you for this, and all your birthday wishes in the Comments last week — you are all my favorite part of turning 30 x 2. THANK YOU.

But you know what they say, even birthday girls have to clean cat boxes, so I was putting clean newspaper liners in the downstairs cat boxes last weekend when I came across this:


It’s the December 25 edition of the New York Times. I don’t usually read The Arts section (like any sane American I have no interest in dance, theater, jazz, or the art world in general) so I missed this but Lo! I never thought I’d ever see The Crown of the Andes again!


It is news to me that this crown is now on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan ( you can read all about it here). The last I heard of this South American knick-knack was in 1995, when I was a  VP at Christies in charge of Faberge and every other ridiculously expensive jeweled object that wasn’t actually jewelry. Due to professional ethics, I can’t tell you the details about the consignor and the sales terms, but I can tell you that The Crown of the Andes came to Christie’s in a very old, very tattered cardboard box after having been in storage — and not fancy storage — for decades. The lore around it was, to put it mildly, dubious.

So, since I was in charge of cataloguing the thing, I had to research both its provenance and its intrinsic value, that is, I had to ferret out its true backstory and I had to determine the material value of the gold work and the emeralds. I brought in a consultant gemologist to count and measure the 450-ish emeralds on this crown and the first thing he discovered was that the big center emerald was not the 50-carat monster that its consignor claimed; if memory serves, it was 19 carats, which is still huge for an emerald, but if you think you can tell someone that their 50-carat emerald in less than half that size and not have that person scream and yell and accuse you of being either incompetent or a swindler, you are sadly mistaken, my friends.

I see that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has catalogued that center emerald as 24-carats…well, maybe, maybe not. We auction house people tend to have  low opinions of the expertise of museum people. We had to deliver certifiable information to our customers or else we’d be sued; museum people only had to footnote their hypothesizes. However, in this case, as the emerald is mounted, taking its measurements requires some careful hypothesizing so I can concede that there is wiggle room when it comes to fixing a definitive carat weight. But 24 carats is at the top of what I would call an educated guess.

Anyhow. Christie’s made a huge PR campaign to get this crown sold, making a spiffy catalogue and inviting all kinds of international dignitaries, rich people, and media to come and get up close and personal with this object. This is the press conference we held at Christie’s old home on Park Avenue (they moved to Rockefeller Center in the later 1990s):


Yes! There were TV crews there! The spokesman for Christie’s, who was my boss at the time, was a debonair Englishman who headed the Silver Dept. :


His name is Christopher Hardtop and you can still see him from time to time on old re-runs of Antiques Roadshow. What an excellent person he was.

And this is me, standing next to him, looking more ghostly than the fair haired Englishman:


It was my idea to put the crown on a circle mirror atop a plinth draped in black velvet.


I remember my outfit clearly: I am 39 years old, the Faberge expert at a world renown auction house, wearing a thrift store skirt that was a little too big, a thrift store over-sized turtle neck sweater, and an old crochet bureau runner as a scarf because I’d seen a girl wear something like it in France in the 1970s and could never find the exact right old gossamer crochet thing so I substituted this bureau scarf because I thought it would still look OK.  I miss my auburn hair.


Look at I, I’m Lady Di.

Note the fierce looking chap in the background, below (the one in the drawing):


That’s the last Incan emperor, Atahualpa. He’s there because this crown came to us with the provenance that it had been the property of this fabled warrior, which I proved was nonsense once I researched the gold work, which was clearly a marriage of 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial goldsmithing, which we clearly stated in the catalogue. Remember: we’re legally liable for our assessments. But we kept the Atahualpa legend in the PR, because, you know, Inca.

The consignment material attached to this crown also claimed that it was displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair (the most famous of the World’s Fairs) but I researched archives and found that although the then-owners of the crown begged the Fair organizers to put it on display (I suspect to drum up interest in it, as they were trying to sell the damn thing), the crown never made the cut. And yeah, the consignor was pretty pissed about that, too, which is usually the case when you tell people an inconvenient truth, isn’t it?

This whole faux-World’s Fair provenance is why I read this sentence in the New York Times article (see the link) with interest: It was taken out of storage only for momentous occasions like [sic] the introduction of new Chevrolets in 1937 and the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

I think this is outstanding writing. This sentence is written in such a way that the reader is left with the gleaming impression  that the crown was at the spiffy  1939 World’s Fair, but close inspection reveals that the writer is only liable for the claim  that it was simply “brought out of storage”, which I can assure you, it was. Nicely done, Kathryn Shattuck.

BTW, I regretted that hair cut of 1995. I grew it out and by my 40th birthday I had a shoulder-length blonde do, which was a whole other regrettable set of circumstances.

This is a more representative picture of me as an auction house executive, in 1992, taken while I was doing an appraisal of an estate in New Orleans (the guy was a hoarder of expensive clocks, and this is how he lived):


Yeah, my hair was that long, and yeah, I’m wearing my ex-boyfriend’s unlined khaki sports jacket, leggings, knee high boots, and a thrift shop cashmere sweater. It was November and that mansion had no heat.

I can’t tell you the value that Christie’s contracted to sell the Crown of the Andes for, but if you google Christie’s sale Crown of the Andes, you can watch the old tape on YouTube of the crown being hammered down for 2.2 million dollars and if you listen closely, you can hear the auctioneer mumble “Pass” at the end. The crown did not meet its reserve and we did not sell it. I wonder if the Met had to pony up the full asking price.

Oh well. Here is where I transition from this lengthy digression on my hair c. 1992-5 to something more relevant to today’s VivianWorld, which is indeed quite flowery. If you recall from last week’s post, I promised to paint this Squint view:


This is the little brook called the Ru, which runs into Monet’s water garden and fills the famous lily pond there. Monet painted 250 pictures of the reflections of his flowers and the Normandy sky in the Ru, which is why I chose to isolate this particular view. I began by painting the clouds and the far shore, and putting masking fluid over the tree trunk:


And then I painted the rest of the picture:



I put more masking fluid over the painted surface here:




And then I picked up the masking:






OK, now I’m ready to pick up the masking on the tree trunk:




With a small paint brush loaded only with clear water, I can go back over a painted area and “pick up” some dry paint — this is how I make “ripples” on what is supposed to be a watery surface:


See the ripples in the upper edge?


Even though I think that this is not the best Squint I’ve ever painted, I can say that painting in this small scale is very relaxing for me. This is my comfort zone — my instincts as a painter are perfectly suited for this tiny format.

But what I learned in illustrating my Damn Garden Book (Gardens of Awe and Folly) is that gardens often can not be Squinted at…they need to be stared at, perused, and contemplated. This means that I have to paint a wide-eyed landscape when I paint something like this:


Oh, lordy, it is a struggle to put so much information in such a large space.


But you know I’ll try and try and try again until I get it right, and I’ll show you all my trials and errors in detail. Also, according to the best predictions it looks like I’ll be breaking out the 2016 Champagne-O-Meter tomorrow, and I haven’t made my annual blue birthday cake yet, so I’m inviting you to my Blizzard Party when we all get together next week. See you here!












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This is a special LOVE edition of VivianSwiftBlog today because it was NINE YEARS ago today that Top Cat and I said I DO.


It was midnight in Las Vegas and Blue Suede Jumpsuit Elvis married us husband and wife. If I had known then what I know now, I would have asked Top Cat to marry me on our second date.

Little did I know, nine years ago, that on my ninth wedding anniversary I’d be blogging about my trip to Tameslouht, Morocco…life is strange.

Tameslouht, according to people who have luxury villas to rent, is a village of extraordinary serenity  just 20km from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.


Professional PR photo.

With views of the majestic Atlas mountains, Tameslouht is a place to refresh the soul and contemplate life’s magnificence whilst gazing upon a killer sunset.


Another professional PR photo.

Blah blah blah…


Yet another professional PR photo.

…and more blah blah blah plus Rin Tin Tin:


This is the weirdest professional PR photo of them all.

Tameslouht just might be all that and a box of Cracker Jack, but the day I went there (May 16, 2013) there was nary a ray of golden sunshine in sight:


It was cool and rainy and the village looked to be deserted:


This is my perfect May 16 place to be because May 16 is the day on which I, every year since 1975, throw myself a Pity Party.  Everybody should have one day a year  that they devote to a bout of constructive self-loathing and mine is May 16. May 16, 1975 is the day that I left America for my first solo hitch hiking journey in France; I was gone for four months and I was the happiest I’d ever been in all my previous 19 years of life. And every May 16 since then, if I am not on some wonderful, strange, life-altering journey on that day, then I throw myself a Pity Party and wonder why the hell aren’t I on some wonderful, strange, life-altering journey for chrissake.

This year on May 16 I was in Tameslouht. Tameslouht, dear readers, is not a beautiful village. But it beats the crap out of being on Long Island (on May 16) so I was only half-pitiful this year.


Let’s go look at some doors in Tameslouht seeing as how there is not a whole lot else to do in Tameslouht…


…whose name I wish I knew the meaning of because that would be the perfect thing to put here right now.


By the way, “Tameslouht” is pronounced exactly how it’s spelled.


Having seen a fair amount of Tameslouht, I would say that Tameslouht looks very much like itself:


And I say that because this (see below)  is the part of Tameslouht…


…that reminds some people of Persia…


…namely the good people at Disney who made the 2010 movie Prince of Persia:


The movie was based on a video game of the same name.


That’s Tameslouht in the background!

No wonder it flopped. I mean, come on: a video game?? It only made $90 million world wide and these days, that’s a flop. If a book makes one-ten-thousdandths of $90 million it is a New York Times No. 1 bestseller. Not for the first time do I realize I am in the wrong line of  business.

Everything I know about Tameslouht I owe to the delightful Sara Quinn…

P1180170 2

…Peace Corps volunteer extraordinaire who guided me thru the rues of her adopted hometown. In addition to her duties as a teacher of English, Sara and her fiancé, Tameslouht-native Mustafa Ezzarghani put together a marvelous meeting between leaders and members of the Moslem, Christian, and Jewish communities in Morocco:


You can read the article that Mustafa wrote about the conference for the Morocco World News website here and you can read all about life as a Peace Corps Volunteer/Morroco in Sara’s blog here. Sara and Mustafa went to the Majorelle Garden too!! Read all about their visit here.


I love reading Sara’s blog because it reminds me of my own Peace Corps Volunteer days, except for the bits where she actually goes out and accomplishes things, and is beloved by her community, and makes important contributions to the cultural and economic advancement of her adopted country…other than that yeah, my Peace Corps experience was exactly like Sara’s.

Because this is a special LOVE edition of VivianSwiftBlog I have to show you this photo from Sara’s blog of April 5, 2013:


Because this is Mustafa proposing to Sara in a cafe overlooking the Jemaa El Fan in Marrakech:


Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.  I hope Sara and Mustafa will be as happy as Top Cat and I, nine times nine years.

This is Sara and Mustafa when I met them in Tameslouht:

P1180052 2

With TEA!

I am in the salon of Madame the President of the Tameslouht women’s crafts cooperative, called Creation Tameslouht.


 Creation Tameslouht has a  Facebook page:


Madame the President…


…kindly arranged to give me a private showing in her own home:


The beautiful hand-embroidered duvet covers…


…are immaculately sewn with traditional motifs:

P1180054 2

The machine embroidery is very fanciful:



And I loved the pockets on this traditional robe:


Which as you can see from these street photos (from Marrakech) are totally authentically Moroccan:



And the hats!!!  The ones with the large sequins are heavy, but the one with the crazy cute tassels was feather light:


This cute clutch is only 70 dirham ($9.00), all made my hand:


And this spiffy beach bag is only 80 dirham and is sooooooo cooooool:


This is the gorgeous drape/curtain  tie-back that I bought for 100 dirham:


And then there are the scarves:


I’ve never seen scarves like this, all woven by hand, that shimmer:


Or, you can design your own scarf and have it embroidered:


I bought a scarf with colors that reminded me of blue jays and peacocks and when I went back to Paris I wore it with my Seattle fleece and I was ever so a la mode :


There’s nothing like going back to Paris after a 48-hour adventure in Morocco…


…I doubt I would have even noticed, if not for having just been there,  this billboard the Paris metro, shouting Become a LANDOWNER in MOROCCO!! Apartments from 24,000 euros, villas from 100,000 Euros. I guess that Morocco is to Parisians as Santa Fe, NM is to us Long Islanders.

After Morocco, all there was left to do in Paris except to make the long good-bye …


…to a style of living that you can only find in Paris…


I knew I was going to miss it terribly….


…but every lighted window of Paris…


…just made me feel too far away from home…


Happy Bastille Day, everyone! I hope nobody’s having a Pity Party on July 14 — go get a bottle of champagne and toast your favorite memories of Paris! And if you don’t have a memory of Paris, feel free to borrow any of mine.

And of course we cannot call our visit to Morocco complete without announcing the winner of the Majorelle Triscuit:


 Top Cat has chosen his random winner and it is:


Congratulations, Bev, and please email me your snail mail digits at vivianswift at yahoo, before our next get-together next Friday.



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This is how I started almost every day that I was in Paris these past two weeks:

I would go to my local cafe and have a nice little pot of tea with tartine (buttered baguette with jam) and plan my day’s outings with the aid of my outstanding booklet of detailed maps of Paris’ 20 arrondissements, while trying my best to eavesdrop on the colorful regulars. On only my third morning here…


…at Le Nesle brasserie on the tiny dead-end Rue de Nesle in the 6th arrondissement…


…(I never had an evening snack here, only breakfast) the sweet bartender knew that I liked my tea sweet and he automatically put six extra sugar cubes on my saucer.  I really enjoyed the crowd at the Nesle (pronounced “Nell” when you’re talking to French people, but pronounced “Nestle” when you’re talking to yourself).


One day the boys were trying to remember the name of the actor who played Columbo on TV. Another day they were talking about how few French people went to the Champs Elysees to watch the President lay a wreath under the Arc de Triomph in honor of VE Day this year:


I like it that street cleaners pop in at Le Nesle for a cup of espresso between rues:


And I really like it when Bobo shows up:


Bobo runs into Le Nesle as if the Le Nesle is THE BEST PLACE EVER FOR A DOG TO BE!!!!!!!! and he sniffs everyone at the bar, accepting Good Morning pats from his fans, and then he follows his owner outside to a table on the sidewalk:


That’s a good place to say Bonjour to friends and neighbors passing by:


It is against the law to smoke inside a cafe in Paris, so smokers have to sit out on the sidewalk…


…which is why I did not sit outside, ever, at any cafe in Paris even thought that meant I missed sitting with Bobo and his human. Also, it was mostly cold and drizzly while I was in Paris and I like to be warm and dry.


Away from Le Nesle, my very top highest Tea Priority was to make a visit to Mariage Freres, the Brothers Mariage, known as the Princes of French Tea, in the 4th arrondissement:


The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervade each cup of tea, worte Henri Mariage, one of the brothers who founded Marriage Freres in 1854.


This shop, at 30-32 Rue de Bourg-Tibourg, is deliberately old-fashioned in its operations as both a tea retailer and as a Salon de The.


The staff, which is young, male, and dressed in white linen suits, gives you a tea-buying experience straight out of the 19th century.


Upstairs, there’s even a little Tea Museum.


The decor of the Marriage Salon de The is totally J. Peterman Colonial…


…with lots of wicker and rattan and palms…



…with the Art Deco clock that says it’s always Tea Time:


The tea menu is eight pages long…


…but I already knew what I wanted:


My pot of Vanille des Isles came with a book about L’Art Francois du The in case I wanted to cram on The French Art of Tea while my Vanilla of the Islands steeped. I got a kick out of the little shovel in the sugar bowl, and the sugar that looked like teeny bits of rock candy. What can I say? I was born in Montana, so some part of me will always be a hick.


The service was very professional, not warm but not condescending either, and nobody reprimanded me with their typically French horror of being photographed in a public place  until after I’d already got all the photos I wanted anyway. There are actual laws in France forbidding people to take photos of people in public places without their permission, and I hardly ever ask permission — especially if I think they will say Non. This attitude of mine irritates some French people’s last nerve, which I soothe by  apologizing in fluent French while giving them a big dumb American smile. Now, you might be surprised to learn this, but there are some French people who do not give photo-happy American tourists a break because they are just out-and-out snots and I know this for a fact because I had to travel all the way out to the “seedy” 19th arrondissement to bring you this tea story:


This is the boulangerie at 83 Rue de Crimee of award-winning female baker Veronique Mauclerc:


From a review in Elle magazine: This neighborhood boulangerie is killer [awesome]! In particular, their caramel pastry is worth the trek [to the “seedy 19th arrondissement]. It’s my Proustian experience. I’d go back on a scooter just for those caramels. Or something close to that.

In her so-called Salon de The, Veronique Mauclerc offers a degustation (tasting menu) of her breads (it’s spelled out right there, on her ardois/blackboard) for about $15:


When I arrived at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, there wasn’t a single customer in the shop but the middle-aged sales person, standing with her hands clasped behind her back, still seemed overworked as she wearily answered my inquiry as to the possibility of partaking of a degustation. After some pointed questioning on my part I got her to admit that yes, they do serve tea and bread in the salon, which she indicated by a flip of her shoulder was in the back of the shop.


The Salon de The is a single  wooden table in a hallway between the shop and the oven — one of only four remaining traditional wood-burning bread-baking ovens left in Paris. The couple shown here were just finishing their coffee and rolls and were very gracious about making room for me while they gathered their things to leave. The place was now empty except for me, the customer, and the passive-agressive shop assistant.


It was while I was photographing this famous wood-burning bread-baking oven that I heard the shop assistant mumble something about “photographie”. That’s right: she literally said it behind my back. So I put the camera away and settled into a chair, awaiting my own Proustain experience with France’s most famous female bread maker. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And it dawns on me that I’m being iced. I have transgressed the unwritten law of Paris snots, Thou Shalt Not Be American, and I’m never getting service, no matter how long I wait, or if I do I can’t be sure there won’t be spit in my tea.

So I gather my things and walk to the front of the shop and I say to the shop lady, in English “I guess it’s too inconvenient for you to do your job, bitch,” and I leave. I head to the metro station and as I turn the corner I see this:


It’s busy and noisy and fast-paced…


…the shop assistants are very helpful in answering customer questions about the types of bread they make on the premises and as I wait to pay for my pain chocolate I see that the ovens are behind the glass wall and they are just about to roll in a tray of baguettes. I say OH! Les baguettes! And I raise my camera…


…and the shop assistant yells to the baker: “Yannick! the lady wants to take your picture!” And Yannick goes:


I take the photo and I holler to Yannick, in English, “Thank you!” And Yannick waves back and calls out: “Sank you!”

Artisan Boulanger Bio, 62 Rue d’Hautpoul. Yo, Veronique Maclerc: This is how you run a bakery, bitch.

When I went for tea at the famous Cafe Le Select on the Boulevard Montparnasse that forms the border between the 6th and the 14th arrondissements…


…the head waiter showed me where I could find Rick, the American artist who sketches in the cafe every day…


…and the banquette where I can find Mickey, the 20-year old house cat who rules the roost at Cafe Le Select:


The tea is always good in Paris cafes because they have  machines that get the water really hot hot hot. I like that.


I can not look at the crowd at Cafe Le Select


…without thinking of the wonderful book that Rick Tulka drew about  Cafe Le Select

6 Paris Cafe



…called Paris Cafe: The Select Crowd:


You can read about Rick and see his art by clicking on this link


…or you can meet him at Cafe Le Select (with fellow blogger and Friend of Rick, Carol Gillott of Paris Breakfasts:


Meanwhile, back in the corner banquette, look who else has also showed up for work — ordered his coffee, opened his lap top, spread a towel next to him so that Mickey will sit within purring distance…


(He was French and not a big talker or else I’d have more info to give you about this Monsieur, but he’s clearly One Of Us, seeing as how he brings a towel and all.)

And then it was off to Giverny…


…where my sweet room at the B&B (Coin des Artists, which used to be the village grocery store in Monet’s day ) came with a tea service at my disposal…


…but I didn’t make tea in my room, preferring the great stuff that came with breakfast…


…(note that those chairs are copies of the chairs in Monet’s diningroom) and the Happy Hour that came with a happy friend named Toddy…


…whose ears you see in the center of this photo of my other favorite beverage:


On one of the three days that I spent in Giverny I walked 4 kilometers to the neighboring town of Vernon…



…to research Monet’s life in Normandy, and to reward myself with afternoon tea at Cafe Globe:


Cafe Globe was filled with lots of local French people such as these two gentlemen:


Even though the couple sitting next to me were Americans with their Rick Steves’ Guide to France I really enjoyed my tea time at the Globe and here’s why: When the old guy in the background of the preceding photo shuffled up to the bar to pay for his lunch I asked him if it would bother him if I took a photo of his jacket:


Mais non, he said: I wear this because les Americans were the heros of my childhood. Then, because he was so proud of his system for the portage of cash,  he made a lengthy exhibition to the barman about how he keeps his money in his hat, which looks as if it’s from The French Foreign Legion, and I didn’t get to ask him for more info about how he got his jacket because I was laughing too hard about his hat.


Normans. They are a separate breed of French. I was reminded of this on my last day in Giverny, when I stopped in at the famous Hotel Baudy, the old hangout when Monet was still alive and this village was crawling with young artists who wanted to be Impressionists when they grew up:


This is a very lively place with a huge lunch crowd and an enormous dinner crowd made up of the tourists who day trip to Monet’s garden. I had my 2:30 tea in the front room, where the bar is, which is in effect a front row seat to the three ring circus that is Hotel Baudy…


…where I could keep my eye on everyone who came for lunch…



…or came in for a quick cup of coffee, like these honeymooners from Spain:


This American lady took their place and I watched as she sounded out the menu, and then adjusted her scarf so the Hermes logo was visible:


I didn’t like her at all. Then a village regular came in for his kind of amber-colored eau de vie, which was served in a wine glass:


He had  ripped trousers, scuffed shoes, and was in need of a haircut — he looked just like Monet before the world fell in love with his haystacks (when he was poor and undiscovered)!!!!

Giverny bar

And here is where I bagged that rarest of photographic feats when stalking the Frenchman on his native turf:


I caught him doing the Gallic Shrug!!

And now, in order to keep up with this thrilling saga one tea cup at a time, we must whisk ourselves to Marrakech, Specifically, to the Casbah :



On a rue called Tadla (which looks exactly like all the other rues in the casbah which is why I always got lost whenever I went out and could only found my way back by accident and slow process of trial and error):


The Riad (Morrocan home with interior courtyard garden) Orangers d’Alilia was my home base in Marrakech — that’s the French woman, Madame Joelle, who runs it, dressed in white:


It was under the orange trees in the small inner courtyard….


…where Fatima welcomed me to Morocco with a much-needed cup of tea. I’d had a busy morning in Paris, then schlepped to the airport and been  stuffed on a full plane (Easy Jet) that was the most claustrophobic experience I’d ever had,  and now it was almost seven o’clock at night and I was nervous about traveling in Marrakech on my own. It was good to calm my nerves with a cup of mint tea.


There were little russet-colored birdies who flew into the riad to sit in the orange trees and sing. I gave crumbs of my biscotti to them. Now I know why old ladies feed the birds. It’s because they are lonely.


I would highly recommend this riad to any traveler.


I did not expect such understated luxury in Marrakech, or rose petals on the bed…


Mint tea is OK for certain social situations any time after high noon or for calming nerves in the early evening , but I need a real tea when it really counts — at breakfast. For those times, Carol Gillot had given me a stash of India tea lightly flavored with vanilla which I brewed in a little silver pot of just-boiled water:


To make the most of my 48 hours in Morocco I had arranged on Day One to spend the morning at the Majorelle Garden and then travel 20 kilometers to the west of Marrakech to meet a Peace Corps volunteer in a village called Tameslouht:


When I got off the bus I realized that we had not arranged any specific meeting point in Tameslouht, but it was very easy to locate Sara by asking around the village for “The American”. A young womb working at the new community center knew exactly who “The American” was and she graciously made a telephone call to Sara, and while I waited for her I was given a tour of the center’s facilities, which included classrooms for adult education in literacy, sewing, and weaving — as well as two rooms of little kids in day care:


They were told to Say Bonjour to the lady — which they did, in unison, while staring at me like I was a unicorn. CUUUUUUUUTE. Then I singed their VIP Visitor’s Book and Sara came to collect me.


Sara Quinn has a blog about her Peace Corps experience — you can read it by clicking here — and she took me to the home of the President of the Women’s Craft Association of Tameslouht  to inspect the many things they create (subject of a future post). German travelers Wilhelm and Ursula were also checking out the array of clothing and accessories and we all drank tea with Sara and Zenib and Sara’s darling Moroccan fiance, Mustafa:


Then Sara took us on a tour of her town.




The next day, Sara traveled to meet me in Marrakech to guide me around the souk (market) and the Djemma El Fna (main square, where the snake charmers and the storytellers convene) and other insider points of interest but we did not have tea so those stories don’t belong here, except for the part where I tell you that Sara is the cutest damn Peace Corps Volunteer ever:

P1180170 2

I flew out of Marrakech that evening, arriving in Paris IN A REALLY BAD MOOD at midnight. I was so pissed off that I didn’t even photograph the “tea” that was served at breakfast at the hotel I stayed at in Orly Airport.

The next decent cup of tea I had was back at Carol Gillott’s apartment in the 15th arrondissement — I had searched high and low all over Paris for my favorite patisserie — Pithivier! — and found it right across the street . I’d caught Carol in the act of painting a chocolate  Religieuse there, in the background, so this is a tea cup still life that I call  One Paints and The Other Doesn’t:


I’d got an email from a dear blog reader, Laura, about the cafe in the 6th arrondissement that I’d photographed for you two weeks ago — Le Conti. Laura had always thought this cafe was a figment of the imagination but non, it’s real — so for her I made this one of my last cups of tea:


I was instructed, by Laura, to ask about a resident terrier named Orson. Ah, Orson!, the handsome young barman said, “Orson n’est plus d’ici — his owner took him to live on his parents’ farm. Hmmmmm….


I wonder if “sent to live on a farm” means in France what it means in America?


My time in Paris was coming to an end now, and to understand this next cup of tea you must know that my days in Paris had a purpose that I have not discussed with you, dear readers. I had set myself the task of visiting every arrondissement — 20 in all — to fulfill a Wish List (of unusual sights, experiences, personalities) that has taken me five years to put together. It was much, much more physically challenging and mentally exhausting than I’d anticipated. But I’d always planned to end the quest with a big splurge cup of tea in the ultra ritzy 8th arrondissement, as a reward for accomplishing a difficult task.

It was a cold, rainy day and I didn’t bother to wear the dress shoes that I’d packed or this occasion and I don’t have to tell you that after two weeks on the road my hair was a fright — I was a total mess. Still, when I went to both Le Bristol hotel (room rates start at $800 at night) and the Georges V (as I walked in Robin Thicke was strutting out) I was met with extraordinary courtesy. I inspected their tea rooms and menus (both charge 48 euro for Afternoon Tea — that’s about $60) and found them both lacking: the teas at Le Bristol were all very perfumy and came with a rack of pastries that I didn’t have any interest in; the teas at the Georges V were better and the pastries were not as froofy, but there was a piano player banging away in the salon which I found extremely annoying.

I was feeling depressed. Did I mention the cold, and the rain? And that I was fatigued with travel, Paris, myself, and my loneliness? I had wanted this quest to end with a nice big India tea bang and it wasn’t happening.

Then I noticed that right next door to the Georges V was the Prince of Wales hotel. Just as luxe, only open for five days after a two-year long renovation. The hospitality was exquisitely warm and professional, and the tea menu was outstanding. I sank into a leather sofa and ordered Tuareg Tea.


Well, I did ask beforehand if Tuareg Tea was the same kind of tea that I remembered drinking with Tuaregs when I was in the Peace Corps in Niger. Yes, I was told — it’s a black tea served tres sucre (very sugary). It wasn’t. It was a hay-tasting mild tea (did I mention that they’d only been opened for five days? Still working out the bugs)…but I was so grateful for the comfort and quality of the service, and so happy that I wasn’t forced to buy pastries I wouldn’t eat, that I did not go into my usual high dudgeon. I sat contentedly and sang to myself along with the soothing background music, Frank and Nancy Sinatra (Something Stupid) and Dusty Springfield (The Look of Love)…


…and watched people drink champagne cocktails…


…and chatted with the young hostess (that’s her, in the while collar and cuffs) about her childhood in Senegal…


…and wished I had those lighting fixtures in the form of the three feathers of the Prince of Wales….


They would totally work in my dining room.


No, it’s not over yet. There’s one more cup of tea, the one I had after a lunch of pate and baguette and classic onion soup on my last day in Paris, in a hot trendy bistro in the Marais called Les Philosophes.


They had the grace to serve Mariage Freres tea, a perfect way to redeem a trip that was feeling, at this point, like it was two or three days too long. It was still raining and cold and I was tired of Paris but I was GOING HOME!

As I type this, I’ve been home for about 46 hours. I have bought new curtains for the dining room and went on a shopping quest to re-accessorize the kitchen in shades of lime and apple green with a few gun metal and bamboo accents. I’ve ordered French cafe curtains from Williams Sonoma. I’ve been busy. Jet lag gives me a lot of nervous energy but also, I’ve become used to a frantic pace of life (that 20 Arrondissement TO DO List was a massive project that required ten hour days of TO DO-ing) . That’s my excuse for the length of this post — hope you enjoyed your trip in my Tea World!


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One thing I liked about Seattle is that it shares my feelings about the magnitude of a good cup of tea (left) in relation to a cup of coffee (right). Here’s what  tea-drinking heaven looks like:

You never know, in Seattle, where the perfect gustatory experience will reveal itself. Top Cat and I walked all over our University Park area on our first morning of the Great Pacific Great Northwest Tour and we could not find one single cute quaint achingly chic hipster-Seattle breakfast experience. Hunger got the better of us so we stopped in at (what I thought was) a one-off neighborhood establishment called Burger Master. (Turns out it’s a local chain.)

The place was clean, well-lighted, and full of regulars that looked like truck driving college professors. And the best thing was that if you order tea, they give you a choice of half a dozen black, green, and herbal teas. AND THEN THEY GIVE YOU A BACK UP TEA BAG.

Burger Master is the ONLY PLACE ON EARTH where that happens.

“We’re coming here every morning,” I told Top Cat.

And we did.

Here’s what the best breakfast place in all of Seattle looks like.

Although Burger Master is totally 100% my kind of place, you know that Top Cat, like most grown-ups, is much more demanding when it comes to cuisine. So he dragged me to a couple of fine dining experiences.

First, there was Elliot’s on the warf there, underneath the Pike Place Market.

The Copper River salmon had just that morning arrived from Alaska, an event that is as ballyhoo’d in Seattle as the Nouveau Beaujolais is in France.

This (above)  is what a $35 piece of fish looks like at Elliot’s. Top Cat said it was worth every farthing. ( had a $6 Caesar salad and couldn’t wait until it would be time for breakfast again.

The next night we drove across the West Seattle Bridge across the Puget Sound to go to Alkai Beach, to Salty’s restaurant, where we could dine while gazing at the Seattle skyline. Also, out in the middle of the bay there’s a float on which huge fat sea lions pile and bark their constant complaints that there are too many huge fat sea lion asses on this damn float.

This (above) is what a $50 piece of Copper River salmon looks like at Salty’s. Top Cat said it was worth every half-farthing.

My fish-n-chips were pretty good too.

The next day we headed to Edmunds.

Edmonds is a lovely town, as we walked around and poked into a few other book shops and Top Cat discovered that the wine shop there stocks a little-known Bordeaux that we discovered in the Cotes de Castillon— Chateau Robin — and he also found out that the wine we paid $40 for at Salty’s costs $14 out in the real world. It’s called 14 Hands and you will not regret spending $40 on it if you have to.

So we got a bottle of 14 Hands and drove to have a look at the coastal town of Mukilteo.

We had heard that Mulkiteo is a fine place to watch the sunset.

It was a tiny bit chilly, slightly colder than usual for May, and windy, and we had an open bottle of wine, so we sat in the car and opened a small bag of pretzels that Top Cat had been carrying in his jacket pocket for four days, and I opened the doggy-bag (Styrofoam box) that I’d got for the half sandwich I couldn’t finish at lunch, and we hunkered down for the view.

The light got dimmer, the wind got colder, it began to rain, the seagulls called one another, and we kept toasting our luck in being together in a rented car with left overs on the edge of the beautiful Puget Sound.

Here’s what a priceless dining experience in the Great Pacific Northwest looks like.

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Overheard at the Commerce Bank

the scene:  A mother and her teenage daughter were on their way out.

The daughter , wearing very short cut off jeans,  had long glossy hair like you only get with an expensive hair salon blow out.

She was scowling at what looked like a deposit, or a withdrawal slip.

The mother looked exasperated, and as they passed me I heard the mother say to the girl (in a half-lecturing, half-annoyed tone of voice, clearly rebutting something the daughter had said shortly before):

“We are not poor.”

I let my eyes follow them out to the parking lot,  to see what kind of ride the “poor” kid had.

It was a white Mercedes SUV.

Then I went home and called to  order the Long Island Iced Tea Appreciation Society.

Although I was not drinking iced tea. It was just  a gin and tonic — but it was in a tea cup.


When I was a kid, it took me a long time  to figure out whether I was born rich, or not. Doesn’t every kid, at one point, ask their parents, “Are we rich?”

I know what answer I got. It was something along the lines, “We’re not rich and we’re not poor. Son’t worry about it.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my parents were smoothing over the fact that we were well on the poor side of a Mercedes SUV.

But I can honestly say that today, I am awfully rich. This is a picture of me, proof of how very rich I am these days.

And that’s only the 25% of it.

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The book is better than the movie (isn’t that always true?) but the movie is pretty good. I’m talking of course about Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts. The only way that the movie beats the book is that the movie has Javier Bardem in it. And the movie made me hungry in a way that the book never did: as soon as I got home I ordered a pizza, opened a bottle of wine, and listened to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon over and over.

And it got me thinking about eating, praying, and loving in August.

Eat:  My favorite tea time treat is…a home made angel food cake, all to myself.

Love:  I love my August garden:

I don’t want you to miss the BIRD in this picture. I think it’s a Black-eyed Susan Bird.

Pray:  I don’t pray…but I do give thanks for  the Great Spirit :

Today I sent my message to the Great Spirit: Please let me see what you are showing me.

(I say “Please” because when one is talking to the Great Spirit, I believe in being very polite.)  And BINGO, I found a fabulous Blue Jay feather in my yard. What I think The Great Spirit is saying, I’m showing you that you live in a wondrous world, yo.

It works every time. Asking for awareness works every time.

For instance, last evening I went for a walk to the local library . But,before I set out, I asked the Great Spirit : Please let me see something I haven’t seen before on this walk to the library which I’ve done about 500 times already.

This is what I saw, that I’d ever seen before:

Wouldn’t this look ADORABLE if there was a tiny mail box on the left?

So this is what the last hydrangea of 1020 looks like!


A family of cats, from the Other Side of Town.


Yep. A Bunny. Leading the Way.

Of course, there are many other ways to bring your measly little, sniveling busy busy whiner self closer to the Great Spirit than by taking a walk to the library. You can take a drive to the grocery store, or do a load of laundry.

I asked for names for my own tea, and the Great Spirit lent itself to all you clever people and gave me conniptions when it came time to pick a winner. So many great teas: Vanilla Purr (no, nothing is too twee for me) and Pathways Tea, Wanderer’s Reward(apostrophes don’t bother me at all!), Madagascar Sun Set Tea(surprisingly butterfly-like), Wander The World Tea, Done Roaming Tea, Zanzibar Fantasy (me, the sunrise, and Javier Bardem holding a tray of croissants), That Damn Tea, Oolong Island Iced Tea (which, by the way, I like so much I’d drink it hot, too), Bonnes Temps Tea…I want them all. But, there has to be only one winner…

…and the winner is :

Shelley. And her two teas: Restful Roamer and Tranquil Traveler.

Shelly, you are a visionary. I thank the Great Spirit that has brought you to my blog and given me these delightful teas.

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My friend Melinda came to visit the Long Island Sound this week, an escapee to our northern climate from the swelter of the Carolinas.  “Is August really your favorite month?” she asked me, and I could detect a tone of skepticism in her voice.

“Yeah,” I said. “I really like August.” this was while we were walking along the shore of the Long Island Sound, and as soon as the words were out of my mouth I spied a treasure on the ground, right there at my feet.

Good timing, August. It was a bright yellow flight feather (see above) : My trophy of the day. (This is me, from the future, in 2012: The feather is from a bird called a Flicker — which I only found out two years later.)

Yes, I really, really like August.

When I found that yellow feather I already had my hands full with my other treasures (see above): an owl’s feather and a bird’s nest — all from simply keeping August on my mind, and eyes on the ground.

Yes, it was the strangest thing, finding that bird’s nest upside down on the grass. I guessed it had fallen out of the plane tree above, which gave me the idea to start hunting underneath any one of the hundreds of ancient hard wood trees on this property. I only had to search one other tree to find my feathers — now I ask you: What else do you need to make you love August?

(Besides not living in Texas or North Carolina, or Georgia, or any of those places you tell me about where August bores into your skull like a thousand hot pokers and wears you down like a thousand wrap-around wool blankets infested with chiggers and bad news, that is.)

Not to brag or anything, but today it’s 74 degrees, cloudy, with signs of rain. This, even on the Long Island Sound, is a gift in August: a day when I just might have to put on a sweater. It’s as good a tea day as it gets (in August): and that’s what I’ll be doing today.

I’ve picked out two kinds of tea (Brodie’s Edinburgh Blend and Tealuxe Copely Place Vanilla) for my long afternoon of lounging and extended mental waywardness. I will be in the exact right frame of mind to consider each and every delicious kind of tea you all  have invented this past week, and doing my best to pick a winner. It won’t be easy, but I can always resort to numerology, spells, a throw of the  I Ching, or reading tea leaves if I have to.


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This is the morning light on a dewy a spider web in my front yard.

August: I wish we could borrow a few days from July, a few from September, and make August 40 days long. That would give me 40 of the best early mornings of the year.

Every morning, for 40 days, I’d wake  up before sunrise, and lie in bed listening to the birds try to out-sing the cicadas (a warning that the coming day will be hot, very very hot).

I’d remember to do that quantum-field morning meditation where I create my day by telling myself that I’m going to live today in peace, productivity, and perseverance.

Then I’d get out of bed, put on a  Summer dress, step into my sneakers, go downstairs and put the tea kettle on the stove. then I’d feed the cats, while the water  boils.

I’d put a drop of vanilla extract into my tea, with a big dollop of honey, and I’d head out doors to breathe the freshest air of the day . I’d  watch the sun rise, lighting up a flower bed here and there, illuminating the woods behind my house. I’d  put off thinking about my To Do List until all the night shadows still hanging around the corners of the yard had vanishished into thin air.

Your Comments last week were fantastic! Thank you for so many great tea names! All of them sound exactly like the kind of tea I would be glad to take with me in a Go Cup on every August morning.

I love the suggestion of having a Four Season choice of tea — after all, does anyone in her right mind drink a big duskyLapsang Suchong in the Summer? A dainty little Earl Grey in February?

So many good tea ideas to consider! Thank you so much for giving me so much to ponder (I need a cup of tea).

P. S. And yes, Barbara, I did sew that embroidered picture of me and my cats: the original is hanging in my downstairs powder room:

You know, in Winter, this powder room gets the most beautiful afternoon light. A flood of sunshine comes in through the window just out of view (to the side of the sink) like it’s the portal to some kind Bathroom Henge. And, as I live in a drafty, 100-year old house, this specially solar-powered powder room becomes the most snug room in the house around 3 o’clock every Winter afternoon. There are times when I’ve sat in here, with my afternoon cup of tea and a good book, soaking up some rare sun beams on a cold Winter day.

Good thing I haven’t asked you to come up with names for Drinking in the Downstairs Bathroom Tea. I’d hate to think what you’d come up with.

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I don’t mind that Elizabeth Gilbert is a better writer than I am. I don’t mind that’s she’s blonder, cuter, smarter, and has Julia Roberts playing her in the movie that has been made from her mega-bestseller memoir. Really, I don’t.

But when  The Republic of Tea came out with an Eat, Pray, Love tea, that’s when I said to myself, Now wait just a damn minute.

If you’ve read my book, then  you might have noticed that

1. There’s a lot of cats in it.

2. There’s also a lot of tea in it.

3. There’s even cats and tea in it.

4. See: August chapter, page 126:

I love tea. I love its place in my life, the thoughtful, calm, creative, alone, place where I sit with myself and a good book, a fat cat, a comfy chair, and my favorite cup. I love its place in all other tea drinkers’ lives, which is also its place in literature, culture, and friendship. And I want my own brand of tea, damn it.

And I really really really want to design the box that it will come in. Six sides, all illustrated with a scene of tea heaven — that  clean, well-lit place that soothes the soul. I have it all planned out in my head, and it’s gorgeous: it will be the best box of tea the Earth has ever seen.

But, if any writer had to beat me at my own tea dreams, I’m glad it’s Elizabeth Gilbert, so I got on line and ordered two tins of Eat, Pray, Love tea (available only on line for a limited time, at www.republicoftea.com).

I got my tins yesterday and I had a cup: it’s a Blood Orange Cinnamon Black Tea, very aromatic and spicy, full of familiar and foreign flavors that are elusive yet comforting. It’s a perfect tea for an afternoon voyage to a new mental landscape. And I want to offer my lovely readers the chance to win a tin!

But there’s a catch: I need your help. I don’t have a name for my tea. And I know that a lot of you are pretty spiffy tea drinkers yourselves and much more clever than I am, so here’s the deal: send me your dream tea name, in the Comments section below, and the winning name’s author will receive a tin of Eat,Pray,Love tea (50 tea bags) from me, with a specially-hand made card of thanks (and your name on my tea box). Because mark my words, if the universe works the way Oprah says it does, then I will get my own tea one day.

(My souvenir Buckingham Palace 1994 tea mug not included in contest prize)

Keep in mind that my tea will be:

Black. That means Indian and/or African tea. I do not care for green tea, not that I judge people who like green tea or that I’m judging green tea (which I really am) but I prefer the color, body, taste, and ooomph of black tea.

I want some Madagascar vanilla flavor in my tea. Vanilla is my favorite flavor in the world, and Madagascar is my favorite country name in the world. And I’m very fond of the Madagascar Sun Set Moth.

I am against putting milk in tea.

I like the way tea tastes in a paper cup.

NO PUNS. God, I hate puns.

Deadline for your tea suggestions will be next Friday, August 13, when coincidently, the movie Eat, Pray, Love opens.

Drink. Think. Write to me.

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