Cold-brewed tea

In March I promised to write a little more about tea here and I was thinking of the cold-brewed tea I make year-round – too delicious to have only in the summertime.

This is one way, using loose green tea.

To make 1 liter (1 quart), measure one heaping tablespoon of tea leaves and place inside an empty teabag or tea ball, then cover with filtered water. Shake/stir. To maximize the taste, let sit at room temperature for 30-40 min but not longer, otherwise the tea’s bitterness will come out.

Above I used a Chinese “silver tip” tea but I’ve also used others, including this “bilochun”.

Then, overnight in the fridge and, voilà! Fresh, grassy and not a hint of bitterness.

P1060020 cropped lower res copyLovely with yoghurt (plain Greek blended with wild blueberries, a little bit of honey, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds), a banana and, naturally, mint. Santé!

Oral Story-Telling – John Pizzarelli

For a great example of oral story-telling, check out Radio Deluxe’s broadcast of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey’s concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of Cal Stamidnightmccartney300te Northridge in Los Angeles, recorded live April 9th, 2016. Download Show. After the first two songs, John tells the story of how he came to record Midnight McCartney.

I’d previously heard him tell the same story on the Radio Deluxe program taped at John and Jessica’s home in New York, but this live version is even more hilarious. John lays it on thick and hits all the right notes.

A shout out to Jazz FM 91 in Toronto for airing this program every Sunday morning at 9 am.


Quirky Characters

Quirky CharactersDSCN1779
Confession #1: I started writing a novel because I thought blogging was (a bit of) a waste of time. One blogger, looking back on a series she had just finished writing in her spare time, said that her word count added up to a staggering 70,000, novel length! That was 2007.
Well, if I was going to devote that kind of time, I vowed, it would have to have more permanence than a few dozen blog posts. Yet here I am blogging (occasionally). Authors must have a web presence, which means that instead of thinking about my fictitious characters mired in their ficThai Basiltitious situations, I have to carve out a little time to think of something to say to you, my esteemed blog readers.
Confession #2: I have quite a few quirky habits. Take food combinations: Asian pear and cabernet sauvignon? Honeydew melon and Thai basil flower buds? Fresh mint and banana? Ahhhh … I could write whole blog posts about each but I won’t. This ain’t a food blog.
In a writer’s life quirks exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to flesh out characters. Imagine a fussy man who “babysits” his bacon, or a woman who suffers from “banana anxiety.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s OK. Just make of it what you will. Go ahead and soak your cereals in milk overnight or squirt sriracha sauce on your cottage cheese. But don’t blog about it.
Use it.


Tea Philosophy

Tea time 2016

Here is a slightly edited excerpt from Journey in Search of Korea’s Beauty, by BAE Yong Joon, containing an uplifting view on drinking tea. I have rendered the last sentence as a poem, although it appears as prose in the book:

The Venerable Choui, the Korean “sage of tea,” wrote in Ode to the Tea of the East that drinking tea alone was godly, as it was in the realm of the divine and the profound. Two people drinking tea was victorious, as it was refined and tranquil. Three or four people were “pursuing,” as it was in the realm of mirth and enjoyment. Five or six people were “wide,” and more than that were “giving,” as it signified the sharing of food.

I prefer to drink tea with at least one other person, a like-minded companion if possible. When I do drink alone, I do not go to great effort but if I have at least one person with me, I am motivated to put more care into conveying the flavor and aroma of the tea. I think that:

One person drinking tea can achieve meditation;

Two people, communication;

Three, shared sympathy;

And four, harmony.

        — BAE Yong Joon

More on tea, this time from me, in the months to come.

Mad Dash


I have to get it done.

Someone’s waiting for it.

I promised.

I always do it.

Nobody else can do it.

Nobody else will do it.

It’s my job.

I’m good at it,

Heck, I’m brilliant at it.

But it’s teachable, OK?

It keeps piling on.

The more I do the more they want.

Just when I think it’s finished, there’s more.

I want to do lots of things.

Must squeeze those in:

Gotta rest,

Gotta exercise,

Gotta eat,

Gotta read,

Gotta be there for the boys.

Must do it well.


Must get their thanks.

What if I didn’t do it?

What if I didn’t do the laundry this weekend?

What if I let everyone fend for themselves?

No schlepping baskets down the stairs,

No shifting loads: washer to dryer,

Dryer to basket.

Actually it’s the other way around:

Gotta have method.

No folding in front of the TV,


Using my time well.

So what if we have dirty laundry?

Maybe I could do my own

But then they’d be small loads.

Waste of water.

But wouldn’t it be nice just one weekend without laundry?

Time to write,

Go out,

Take it slow.

Watch life unfold.

Do nothing.

Let the world flow by.

Now wouldn’t that be nice?


DSCN4532 copy

Handkerchief in the breeze

The station left behind

Lines of clothes in the sun

Backs of houses say goodbye

Water towers name the towns

Wild flowers everywhere

Clouds above, tracks below

Wind and dust and letting go


Rows of corn in a field

Herds of cows on a hill,

An owl perched up a tree

A deer still in the shade

Stream rushing under bridge

Children racing for a bus

Wheels chugging over steel

Down my face run the tears



The Whole of the Moon


“I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered I guessed and I tried
You just knew
I sighed
… but you swooned!
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon”[2]


Vincent Van Goth was in the lunatic asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence when he painted one of his most iconic oeuvres, Starry Night, in the pre-dawn swirl of a June 1889 morning. He caught the crescent moon rising. How do we know?



In the leftmost image, the waxing (growing toward full) crescent curls like a D, whereas the waning (decreasing toward the new moon) curls like a C.

Unlike the sun, which always rises in the morning and always sets at night, the moon rises at all hours of the day and night, approximately one hour later each day as it goes from new to full and full to new again. The phases we see on earth are caused by the relative positions of the moon and sun in our sky.

When the moon rises in the east just as the sun set in the west (or sets in west just as the sun rises in the east), they are in perfect opposition and we see a full moon.

When the moon rises in the east at the same time as the sun, we see no moon at all. It’s the new moon, the first day of the lunar month. By extension, the crescent moon we see in the western sky on the next few days is referred to as the new moon. It traveled through the daytime sky, unseen by us, until the sun set and lit a small section of the orb, leaving the rest in shadow from our terrestrial point-of-view.



As time passes and the moon rises progressively later in the day, we come closer and closer to the full moon. After that point and for the next two weeks, the moon will rise after the sun sets, again progressively later until it rises just before dawn and appears to us as a thin crescent curling like a C – Van Gogh’s moon in Starry Night.

Why should we, creative writers, care? Well, if our narratives include a crescent moon in an evening sky, it had better be setting, not rising.

If we include a crescent moon in a morning sky, it had better be rising, not setting.

And should our characters find themselves travelling at night, aided solely by moonlight, they had better use other means of seeing where they’re going for some substantial part of the month, even assuming an extended spell of clear weather.



As for the Full Moon in all its mysterious glory, may we all stop Wondering, Guessing and Trying.

Let’s Know, let’s Swoon and let’s Fly!

[1] Painting by Mike Schultz

[2] From The Whole Of The Moon, composed by Mike Scott (The Waterboys);  lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Complete lyrics here.

[3] Painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh,

[4] Source: Astropixel.

[5] By Sheree Canfield

[6] Moonlight Scene Near Leeds by Victorian-era artist, John Atkinson Grimshaw.