Greatness in small things

A charming display of teapots greeted us at a Pennsylvania bed & breakfast inn, Jun 2015

A charming display of teapots greeted us at a Pennsylvania bed & breakfast inn, June 2015

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.” Muriel Barbery

Okay, so it’s now definitely winter– if you’re very far north of the tropics, that is.  Despite the deceptively warm days of this past December, cold weather will be our frequent companion for weeks to come.  Time for bundling up– or perhaps I should say settling down? for some cozy comforts to chase away the chill.  Whether your day will take you indoors or out, be sure to make time for tea.

Note that I said “make time for tea,” not “have some tea” or “drink tea.”  One of the great transforming qualities of becoming a tea lover is the inevitability that it will become a centering ritual, calming our nerves even before we take that first taste.  Coffee drinkers also understand this, though that beverage is more often associated with busy days and drinking “on the run” — a shame, really, given the salutary benefits of serene sipping.

This winter morning, I invite you to sit down with me for a few minutes of reflective enjoyment. The kettle is on, and there has never been a better time to appreciate the greatness of small things.  What are some of the everyday joys you look forward to this week?

39 Comments

  1. Ann

    This photo reminds me of the children’s song, “I’m a little teapot short and stout, here is my handle, here is my spout…”always accompanied by elaborate arm movements showing the handle and spout. My sister and I would perform this with great seriousness and then burst into giggles. Happy memories.

    • Hey, we did that too, but I don’t remember thinking of that when I wrote this post. I also remember some of the sillier versions of that song I used to hear. My mother never actually used a teapot. She had a Revere-Ware kettle that she would keep on the stove for boiling water, but mostly it was coffee for her. So the teapot was always a quaint object for me, and still is. An elderly woman who was a dear friend of mine gave me her antique Brown Betty as a wedding gift, and the tiny lid was broken in one of our moves. 😦

  2. Carolyn

    Good morning and a cup of tea sounds great, wish we could have one together. You are right when you said winter is here. This morning it is 22. I get to stay in doors so I will be having tea and some coffee . I hope you have a good morning. My 6 month check up is in the morning. Will give you an up date Thursday. Love and hugs to all.

    • Carolyn, I’m just now starting on my 3rd cup so you are right on time. Yorkshire Gold for me this morning (a gift from Alys) and for later, I have already laid out the David’s Electric Lemonade Mate that Jena sent me from Alaska, which I was hoarding for just such a morning as this! So we can settle in for a nice long virtual chat. Hope you get some great news tomorrow – do let us know. Love and hugs to you too — thanks so much for staying in touch!

  3. Truth is, I love teapots and teacups a lot more than I, ‘take time for tea’. I’m attracted to the artwork on them, each a little masterpiece of it’s own. I’ve picked them up at garage sales and antique malls for a song. Garage sale finds are particularly fun. Their once dust collecting cups become stars in my little glass curio. Since getting a Nespresso from my boss at work, I’ve become a morning Barrista. I make myself an ‘Americano Misto’. Thats 2 shots of espresso, warm frothed whole milk, a splash of boiling water from my goose necked kettle and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You’re right, it is a ritual to make a cup.

    My little everyday joy is filling my bird feeder and adding water to my new ‘heated bird bath’. Jim got me it for Christmas. They are both within reach from the front porch, so I don’t even need to get out of my PJ’s. On the coldest days, I move faster, HA! The bird bath steams away out there and apparently is good to -25C. It looks like a hot-tub at a fine resort in the Rockies. I then open the blinds in the library (currently a completely empty room, ha), and the kitties bounce into the window waiting for the show. A substantial flock of sparrows have been visiting daily and they chirp and tweet the whole time. We (Petals, Blossum and I) just love it. It’s my little bit of winter fun. xox k

    • K, if I was lounging around your place, I’d be a coffee hound in no time! That Americano Misto sounds SOOOO fabulous!! The cinnamon just makes it. How totally cool to have a hot tub for birds! I’d never heard of such, but it surely makes sense in a cold climate – no worries about freezing water, and a rare winter treat for the birds. I wonder if the word will spread in the bird kingdom — “Chez Boomdee Hot Springs Bird Resort” — and you will be getting more and more feathered visitors. You may need to post a sign “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE KITTIES BEHIND THE WINDOW” 🙂 I can just see P & B watching that window as if it’s a big screen TV. True reality, totally unscripted and never the same twice!! Thanks for sharing these details; they start my day with a smile!!

      • Chez Boomdee has a cozy guest room for ‘Bird Lovers’ too. I hope I can host you sometime in the future my dear. The birds seem pretty oblivious to Petals and Blossum. They’ll often land on a branch very near the window. It sends Blossum into a tizzy. Her tails whips back and forth and she starts to chirp too. I’m hope to get a kitty leash this summer and take her out for walks, she pines to be outside. I talked Jim into taking her onto the lawn last summer. After saying, “please daddy” about 20 times, he gave in. Probably to shut me up. Then what did Blossum do? Immediately ran under the gate and we had to go fetch her. Silly girl, she messed up her one chance. So we just can’t let her out.

        • Blossum sounds as if she’s distantly related to Pasha. We could never, ever let him outside (even in a fenced yard) without a leash, as he was a formidable escape artist. Many stories about that…but Pasha used to act just the way you describe Blossum, when he would see squirrels out the window. He would make this pitiful desperate sound in his throat that said “Oh no, I can’t stand it, PLEASE let me go chase those squirrels!!” Blossum will be overjoyed to be outside if you can find a kitty leash for her. I guess Petals is more sedate. That cozy room for bird lovers sounds fabulous; I’m sure I’ll be planning to check into it (pun intended) someday!

          • I cringe at the thought of Blossum catching a bird, so a leash will help with that too. I bet that squirrel we met in DC would have been easy prey for Pasha, eeeek! We can’t fault them, it’s in their DNA.
            Petals is anything but sedate and does a nightly ritual of howling when we go to bed. She’d be the one to always be at the door howling for a walk. She’s very bossy for a little thing. ha

            • Pasha never did catch a squirrel — though he was quick, the squirrels were quicker and could climb trees! 😀 It was fun to watch, though, and got him some good exercise. Yep, they are hard-wired to go after little furry guys. Wow, Petals bossy? That’s a fun fact. 🙂

    • I love your morning rituals, Boomdee. What a lovely gift from your boss.

      • Thank Alys. The turn out pretty delish. We shall partake if you can forgo a tea one morning. Yes, Lori is really good to us, I adore her. x

  4. blseibel

    Hmmm, everyday joys… Good question. I found myself struggling to answer this. I hadn’t planned any time with my little 4 year old buddy this week but I might just have to do that, he gives me such joy. And yes, making time for tea is always good, especially since it is 2 degrees today.

    • WHOA, two degrees?! Definitely tea time! And time with a 4 year old is a great Monday mood-lifter. Have fun!

  5. I love nothing more than steeping a nice, dark Oolong in my best porcelain Chinese gaiwan (lidded tea-bowl) , which is perhaps the most perfect fusion of form and function I’ve ever come across. It’s so beautiful to look at, and yet so well designed it would be a crime to even suggest an improvement.

    Gazing out to sea, enjoying the subtle changes in taste that come with each infusion, and watching the leaves stretch and awaken, it’s hard not to slip into a Zen-like, meditative state.

    And then the cat starts screaming for his dinner…. 🙂

    • I too love Oolong; it might be my favorite. But I’m still fairly ignorant about tea– for example, I had never even heard of a gaiwan until I visited your blog. I will have to read more there and find out more secrets that will make this hobby even more enjoyable. Thanks for sharing these ideas with us, and welcome to our world!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, don’t you just love trying the many different varieties of tea? I feel like you introduced me to the real world of “sipping tea”, since I was rather satisfied with sweet iced tea with lemon, a southern thing! Today, I found much joy in baking a “made from scratch” pound cake. It’s in the oven, starting to send out that yummy aroma! 🍰 I’m so glad your belated package arrived and was waiting for you! Love crosses the miles, Sheila 💛

    • Sheila, yes I LOVE the endless varieties of tea, so much more available now that tea is becoming more and more a focus of media attention (I won’t say “more popular” because tea has ALWAYS been popular, especially in the south!) Nothing wrong with being satisfied with sweet iced tea and lemon; one can’t argue with perfection. But it is nice to have other flavors to play with, especially during the colder months. Yum, I can smell that pound cake now! You and Raynard keep those virtual treats coming — no calories!! 😀

      Matt was so cute yesterday. As soon as he got home he reminded me I had told him he could open a gift today. I told him to wait until 4:45 (I was busy). At 4:35 he started telling me what time it was every 2-3 minutes! I let him choose, and he chose the race car, which he liked a lot. That leaves just the tall green bag for today. One great thing about being with Matt is that he knows how to squeeze maximum enjoyment out of whatever sunshine comes his way. Thanks so much for thinking of him! (P.S. he got a big kick out of the tag saying “Not Christmas” – calling it his “Not Christmas present.” 😀

  7. My 2PM coffee break. And I do mean a break from everything.
    -Alan

  8. What a lovely collection if teapots. I really enjoyed reading this post and it’s given me to put the kettle on have a nice cup of tea and have a little reflection time.
    http://pinkiebag.com/

    • Thanks so much for visiting, pinkiebag! You have a charming blog, and I hope to visit often whenever I can get my blog time back near the top of my priority list. I’m hoping Jeff and I can ease into some low-stress, low-crisis months this year. We thought 2015 would be that year for us, but it turned out to be anything but…I guess life really is what happens while we’re making other plans! BTW I loved your photo of the pretty teacup at this post. I could talk (or read) about tea all day and never get tired of it — especially if I was sipping along as I read! But lots of folks who are gluten-free would also enjoy your other tasty treats. Thanks again for coming by – and welcome to our world!

      • Hi Julia, thanks for your kind comments. I am very lucky to have the teacup. It is used now most days. I could also talk about tea all day. I look forward to reading your future posts 😊☕️.

        • Thank you! When I go into stores to look at teacups, I really have to exercise discipline and remind myself to enjoy them in the store rather than wanting to buy them all. They are so pretty. Just another thing to love about sipping…Thanks for being here!!

  9. I love tea time. there is nothing like tea and a good book in my favorite chair. However when showing down south friends I prefer the quaint tea house called Montigues. Great food and lovely tea cups and pots. 🙂

    • Well, I guess that means I need to get back out there for another fun visit! What kind of surprises can we pull this time? I have told so many people about posing as a waitress and surprising Amy (in fact, I think I’ve told that story here on this blog someplace…) Montigues it is. Any excuse to come to Colorado works for me! I can always use more photos of tea cups and pots! Hope you guys are all well & happy.

      • What great memories of your visit! Please come and bring Amy with you! Miss you two crazy ladies. I saw my post needed some editing. Meant to say ‘when I share tea with friends’, not down south. Not sure what happened there. 🙂 Enjoy your day! Headed to TX to help Whitney with her 3 little ones. Landon, her husband is having shoulder surgery at this very moment. She needs back up with a 3, 4, and 5 year old in the house. I have many adventures planned for us. 🙂 and a cup of tea for MomMom when they are sleeping. Love you lady!

        • Hi Franny, no wonder you miss Amy and me, we miss each other…and even ourselves lately, things are spinning along so fast. Even though we live so close to each other, we can never seem to make enough time just to get together for fun. WOW, hard to imagine Whit with 3 little ones, but I bet she is a fabulous Mommy. How long are you going to be staying? It’s a great time to go to Texas, since it’s almost certain to be warmer down there than in Colorado. Maybe not as pretty, though…I’ll try to talk Amy into joining me for a trip back to the Springs, and maybe we can go back to the Glen Eyrie tea room! And speaking of crazy memories…guess what I found in some old photos recently? Do the words “kidnap” and “birthday” ring any bells? I had forgotten all about that until I found it. We had so much fun during those magical Central Coast years…Love you!!

  10. Michael

    This reminds me that Verie is almost out of “Big train” chai tea. Have you had it? Have to get some more soon.
    Yes cold weather is- here to stay for a spell.
    Missing Hawaii.

    • Michael, I had never even heard of “Big Train” tea, but when I got your comment, I zipped right on over there and saw some very appealing items! I learn so many fun things from these comments. Now I have another tea brand to try “someday.” We have a very cold day today, so it’s a great time to dream of Hawaii. Aloha kakahiaka! E pili mau na pomaika`i ia `oe!

  11. Michael

    You lost me on that last one. I think it is actually Oregon Big train chai.
    Yes prayers for the marines lost off Oahu and I assume from Kaneohe Marine base where we lived across from at the Bay view apartments.

    • “E pili mau na Pomaika’i ia ‘oe” means “May blessings ever be with you.” I think Kaneohe may be the most beautiful spot on Oahu.

  12. Michael

    Yes and the Koa pancake restaurant in Kaneohe was a favorite with an interior entirely made of Koa wood and great breakfasts. They say if they ever demolish the restaurant the wood will be recycled and a fortune made. Our apartment lanai had a beautiful view of the bay and its aquamarine, many shades of blue and green water. On the backside, were the Ko’olau mountains as seen in the most recent-over the top- Jurassic park movie.
    I think I mentioned our famous “Pike place market spice tea.” You can get free samples at the tea shop when you visit.

    • WOW, that pancake house must have been built ages ago to be able to afford an all-Koa interior. We have some framed Koa prints from Hawaii and I’ve been surprised over the years how many people have never heard of Koa wood, but then again, I never had heard of it until we lived there. It holds its rich color long after the prints have faded. Those mountains are some of the most gorgeous anywhere, I think.

      If I were forced to name a favorite tea flavor, it would be a close match between strawberry and spice tea. Strawberry has the edge in spring and summer, but spice wins the day in fall and winter. I don’t think I’ve ever had any Pike Place market spice tea (I was last there way back in 2000 before my addiction took hold in earnest) but maybe I can buy it on Amazon or if not, I’ll be sure to try some whenever we are back in Seattle again. (That makes me think someone should do a parody of the Aerosmith song “Back in the Saddle” and substitute “back in Seattle” – Weird Al, are you reading this?)

  13. Michael

    Showing down my friends is not a southern term? Shows what I know. Nice Hawaiian accent you have.

    • Franny doesn’t speak southern. I think she is from Pennsylvania originally, but we knew her only “out West.” I don’t speak Hawaiian, either. I cheat and use online translation. I can’t even read my UH diploma, but fortunately they gave us one in English to go with the one written in the Hawaiian language. In any case, “showing down” is not a southern phrase as far as I know. The only place I know of where anyone was show-downed was at the OK Corral.

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