Monday, May 31, 2010


It's a glorious morning, and the windows in the house are wide open. Electric Ladyland reaches me in the kitchen where I'm dropping batter onto a skillet to make pancakes. Through the sizzle on the stovetop, the guitar notes come through clearly, achingly sweet.

I watch the pancakes as they cook. Little bubbles form in the center, the edges brown like jagged little fingers; both, cues for me to flip them. I set the pancakes on a plate, their heft, in part, from the white whole wheat flour I use instead of all-purpose flour, their amoeboid asymmetry due purely to my technique.

I'm on a quest to make wholesome, pretty pancakes. I am succeeding with the first part; the second is more elusive and may not happen for awhile.

It's an interesting marriage of qualities: something that's good for you and aesthetically pleasing as well. Our human nature rebels against this notion: it's just too good to be true.

The mythical Sirens tempted men with their heavenly music, luring those who listened to their death. Odysseus escaped this fate only by clamping his ears shut as he sailed past the singing temptresses.

A more contemporary example lies in the seemingly timeless Twinkie bar. A yellow spongy casing invariably symmetric in its dome-like configuration, ivory creamy filling inside. Perfection incarnate - in form if not in taste - but, not so good for you.

Songstresses of antiquity and synthetic foods aside, these pancakes do taste good; they're nutritious, high in fiber content from the white whole wheat flour. As an unrepentant carbohydrate junkie, I sometimes run afoul of my alter-ego, the nutrition abiding physician. Here, in these pancakes, my two selves can now exult.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


It's my favorite time of the day when the sun hasn't yet set. There's perhaps another hour of daylight left. The cloudless sky mutes itself, drawing back its rays of light so that you can really see the leaves, rich in their greenness. The pinks of faded cherry blossoms, the auburn of seedlings scattered on sidewalks, their colors pop in the approaching dusk.

It's the liminal part of the day, the threshold between activity and rest. The work day ends, ushering in the evening, and the pace slackens.

The mind unfetters, letting daytime's clear-eyed logic fall away. Its surface, no longer ruffled by the predictable waves of logic, now lies calm. It is open - expectant. Perhaps, it is the light, luminous and soft, that imbues the mind with this openness. I wait, my breath is bated.

The house is quiet; today, it is enshrouded in fog. A bit of yellowed light filters in through the kitchen window as I stand there making matcha.

I carry the bowl of the steaming liquid to my well-favored spot in the house. The cats follow, arranging themselves near me. My mind lies open, ready to receive. Seen through an impressionistic lens, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where I'm Going

I woke up this morning with a strange kind of energy. It wasn't the kind that had me wanting a run or even a brisk walk around the block. This was a different kind of feeling, one that I have had frequently for awhile. A desire to be creative, at that moment, or at least that day. The feeling takes hold of me, upon awakening in the morning. At work, I would forget about it, caught up in the welter of patient care. When I get home, it's there again. I search for an outlet. Often, I find my notebook and pen and sit on the couch - if I haven't managed to become brain-dead by the end of the work day. Perhaps a recent conversation with E, an image of a patient, or an idea during my morning walk comes to me, and this becomes a springboard for my writing. I put my pen to paper, and many times I don't know where I'm going with the trajectory of my thoughts, my words. I drink my tea, my bowl of matcha, and ideas flow a little more briskly. I am quickened and calmed at the same time.

At other times, the urge to be creative is only mildly insistent, not sending me to my notebook. I turn to the kitchen, to thoughts of baking a cake, to cooking; it could be as elemental as stirring a pot of rice on the stove. My fingers itch to do, to create.

A spray of flowers sits in a vase on the window ledge in the kitchen, and the sunlight dances in shifting patterns. I want to capture the scene. Yet, another photo of this still-life, but this time the light is more muted. I wield the camera this way and that. Sometimes, I see the desired effect in the photo. Other times, the result is something else entirely.

This morning, I made granola, missing this ritual, not having done it for two whole weeks. I missed the well-trodden steps of mixing the oats, pounding the cardamon seeds to a fine dust. Today, though, I would use maple syrup in lieu of honey, add a touch of nutmeg to the mix as well. And I would try to get that yet-to-be attained golden luster that you always see in store-bought granola (it's hard to achieve this look when you try to limit the amount of oil used as I do). So I baked the granola a little longer, at a lower temperature than usual, peering into the oven often, hoping to see that professional sheen of toastedness.

Well, my batch was more toasted looking on the fringes than usual, but it still bore the artisanal look of a home cook's handiwork - so much for my jab at culinary creativity.

The blog has been a creative outlet for me as well in the last year and a half. It has become less tea-centric over time - althought tea continues to permeate my life. My need to write is strong, and Tea Musings has fulfilled that to a degree. But I'm feeling restive, a little constrained by the blog medium. My writing efforts may take me away from this site more. For now, I would like to come by this corner now and then, continue to scribble my thoughts, and maybe break rank with my previous writings. I do not know how the site will evolve. Perhaps, you will stay with me as Tea Musings marches forward into the unknown.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I'm no Martha Stewart, nor do I aspire to become the next doyenne of domesticity. But I relish my domestic space. I look to it for tranquility, sometimes inspiration, finding pleasure in the familiar sights around me. The cats entwined while napping on E's favorite armchair; the book-lined shelves , their contents arranged in a semi-logical schema; our teapot, nestled in a too-busy area on the kitchen counter. I looked on these fondly as I boil water for tea after a late breakfast.

Our home is sparely furnished, in keeping with our aesthetic. It is well-worn in places: a bit of stuffing peers through the armchair cushion, a result of the cats' robust paws.

I sat with my tea, my back propped on the still plump pillows, their floral designs, though, a little blurred over the years. I lingered over the cup of Lung Ching, a recent rediscovered delight, and I listened to the cats' even breathing as they slumbered.

Soon, I roused myself, my second cup of Lung Ching putting me into a languid state. Our friend, A, would be coming to join us for afternoon tea, and I wanted to bake us a cake. I looked forward to the house permeated with the sweetness of grapefruit and rosewater as we have our tea later.

While the cake baked in the oven, E gathered flowers from our garden. He brought them into the house, arranged a lone sprig into a bottle that once held olive oil; into another vase, he placed a larger bouquet, the stems artfully held in place with a bunch of pebbles.

We laid the table together: E arranged the cups and plates; I brought out the cake and a platter of almond cookies. The cats, forthwith, jumped onto the table, a ritual they never tired of doing when sensing potential grub. Perhaps they were rebuffed by the scent of flowers, but they, one by one, left the scene to my relief.

I set out the tea: we would have a pot of Silver Needles, followed by a yellow tea, then finish with Lung Ching. This "flight" of tea would progress from the light and nuanced of white and yellow teas to the more robust of the Lung Ching. The sweets would hopefully complement without being too sugary.

Leaving the table under the watchful eyes of our cats - with the edibles covered up just in case- we went out for a brief stroll, heading eastward to the lake. The air was crisp, the light luminous under a sky sparing with its sunlight.

We arrived home to greet our friend and sat down together for our afternoon tea.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In the Garden

I arrived in Detroit at dusk, under overcast skies. The skies glowered, brimming with raindrops. That night, in my old bedroom, the rain came, pounding the screen of the open window. I lay under the warmth of my blankets, listened to the wind and water, and tried to fall asleep. The next morning would be an early one; I was here at my parents' to attend my nephew's First Communion, in my role as his godmother.

I woke up to muted sunlight which had crept in through the thin, white curtains. The oak tree, grown massive over the years, was just outside my window, its many branches as if in supplication, bowed towards the house. A festoon of greenery, the branches shimmered with last night's rainfall.

I readied myself for breakfast and my first cup of tea. I took out the now broken-in travel tea kit - replete with morning and afternoon tea selections for the days I would be here. My morning tea was Lung Ching (from the cache I had bought at the Ten Ren teashop in Toronto recently).

I sat at the familiar kitchen table, watching my tea brew in the dim morning light. From where I was, I could see the backyard garden - its lushness lured me. With my cup of tea (and along with one or two madeleines to nibble on), I walked outside into the garden.

I wended between the well-tended plots, my mom's handiwork already apparent this early in the gardening season. Her lilies of the valley grew in wild profusion, their delicate blooms just now unclasped from dormancy. My own at home, in a much humbler patch in our garden, had only put out green shoots, gawky in their immaturity.

The grass was wet, the walkways between plots lined with bricks, winding neatly between different plantings.

I sipped the Lung Ching, at once sweet and briny in my mouth. The air was humid and warm, the kind you often see after a rainfall, especially in a tropical climate. Heavy with moisture, it induces a languor so that you want to go and lie in your hammock, a book in your lap, a pot of tea nearby, and doze off for an hour or two.

When you wake up (feeling slightly guilty for the indulgent interlude), your skin would be prickly from lying in the heat, your mind pleasantly muddled by sleep. It would take several minutes for you to then shake off that foggy feeling.
But there would be no lying around in hammocks for me today. There was a communion to attend, at a church by the lake; a brunch, later, with little ones - and watching them eat one too many French toasts.
Later, there was afternoon tea at the Sweet Afton with my mom and aunt, mulling over a pot of hot chai, nibbling on scones with clotted cream.
When we emerged from the tea house, the sun had come out, the daubs of sunlight blinding me a bit as I looked up at clearing skies.