Even this early, Ha Noi is industrious. In front of me. Right in front of me. If I could freeze-frame, it would be this:
Curls of breath and curls of still-hot teapot smoke entangle copying the curls in her hair.
She has already been up to groom herself before making and drinking tea.
Effort and flinging.
Low morning light catches the arch of water emerging from a cloud of steam in the pot.
The thick-headed snake dissipates like icicles dripping from a bowing branch. Melting.
A giant insect wing complete with iridescence. A water wing.
Water almost to the ground but not until she turns the pot upside down for another shake and a thud.
With reflexes slowed by observation, I step in something squishy as the woman has already turned and returned.
I am connected to this woman by the tea leaves stuck to my foot. They will come all the way to the station with me, possibly to Sapa, while the rest remain steaming in the street for a feral dog to sniff.
We recently had the pleasure of having two houseguests, one from Japan and one from Seattle, Washington in the US. An amazing time was had by all as we waxed lyrical about the beautiful things in life and spent a lot of time laughing and imbibing in lovely food and New Zealand wine and tea and more tea!
So, last week when a parcel arrived from one of the guests, Carol, I was really excited. What a great surprise! How the hell am I going to wait until Mr. P gets home to open it? Or should I peek now? Nope, I waited (although it almost killed me!).
When we finally cracked into the package we found a beautiful tea cozy, handmade from batik fabric. Being avid tea-drinkers, a tea cozy is something we’ve really been needing since we drink the stuff by the potfull. How thoughtful of Carol to remember this little detail about us and to spend time making such a nice, personal gift.
But wait, there’s more! We couldn’t believe that when we looked inside it was lined with…can it be?… sock monkey fabric!
One of those things that just comes to you one day and you wonder why you’d never thought of it before.
Here’s what I did: In a pan over medium heat, I lightly roasted (about a minute or until getting fragrant but not burnt) a few spices. These included a couple of pieces of cinnamon bark, five cloves, two smashed green cardamon pods and about an eighth teaspoon of mixed spice because I was afraid that it wouldn’t be spicy enough. Just experiment.
Then I added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder and let it heat through with the spices in the dry pan. You’ll be tempted to add more cocoa as if you are making hot chocolate, but think of the cocoa as just another spice in the chai. You don’t want anything overpowering anything else and upsetting the balance.
Finally I added 2 mugs full of milk and three teabags or three teaspoons of loose tea. I used semi-skimmed (half fat) but if you use full fat it will be creamy and lovely. You might want to substitute a bit of water for some of the milk if you go the full fat route.
If you want to add sugar, add it at this point so that it melts in the tea. I waited until after it was made and served the sugar on the side s people could have as much or as little as they liked.
Be sure it doesn’t scald. When heated, strain and pour into cups to enjoy, MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
It started snowing at the beginning of this week. Now it’s gone to yucky rain, but it’s definitely filling up the higher areas as they are all covered in a dusting of snow, and the ski run we can see from our front window is white like two veins pumping down the side of the mountain. The mountains look so much more majestic when there is snow on them. The white against the black really defines them. Here is the view from our flat in which Mr. P is heading off to work on his dissertation someplace warmer than ours!
I’m still hoping for snow so we can go skiing, but I’m just remembering how freezing the flat gets. It’s still fleece weather, not down jacket weather or anything, but it’s always colder inside than out. For some reason they don’t believe in home insulation here, and so you can put the heater on, then the tiny rooms get to boiling point very quickly, and then you turn off the heater and the temperature drops within minutes. It’s all very exciting and I guess, keeps you moving if nothing else. You can go hang out in the mall (blah) where they put the heating on to a temperature where you can wear shorts, but you know you have to go home sometime. So, it’s pots of tea and hot water bottles all round!
And now for something a little different… I came across this while perusing the net, as you do, by a Mr. Fraser Lewry. I don’t know him from Jack, but I spent a bit of time looking at his blog, and I hope he doesn’t mind me linking to this page. This bloke is awesome for just thinking up a stunt like this. He’s made a giant Scotch egg from an ostrich egg. Check it out. http://www.blogjam.com/2005/05/15/scotch-ostrich-egg/ I once got recruited as omelette chef at an ostrich egg party, and didn’t sit down to eat my own portion of the meal until I had cooked up no less than 12 omelettes! “Sure, I’ll cook.”…stupid me! The egg cracker actually used a drill to get in. It was pretty fun, though.
The sunflowers are withering, the rice is halfway harvested. It seems to go from unbearably hot to coldest cold within a couple of weeks here. Now the temperature is just right for a good night’s sleep with a fluffy duvet, but the sun doesn’t rise early enough to wake you up. So, it’s easy to just snuggle in and sleep deeply until the alarmclock is no longer patient.
I love cups of tea at any time of year, but this is surely the beginning of deep mug o’ tea season. I’ve been scheming to buy just the right flask to take to work with me, even though we have a kettle there I can use. I just like tea and all its accoutrements, what can I say!