As we enter August and hit consistent temperatures in the 90s and 100s (Fahrenheit; this is the equivalent of 32 - 37 C) over here, one of my go-to teas that I keep in vast quantities in the refrigerator is an iced tea. I guess “cold tea” would be more accurate because I don’t like ice.
This is a very simple jasmine green tea. Start with 5 bags of Yamamotoyama Jasmine Green Tea (you could probably use any other kind—I like Yamamotoyama because it’s easy to find, often available for $3 or $4 a box at an Asian grocery store, and makes very consistently good iced tea. You can get it at Amazon in a 2-box pack here.)
Add tea bags to a pitcher or container of some kind. I use this Takeya Iced Tea Maker which fits perfectly in the refrigerator door. Fill about ½ full of hot water. After around 8-10 minutes or so, ditch the teabags, fill up the rest with cold water, and put in the fridge to chill.
The taste is delicate and floral, and I’m just a little caffeine sensitive, so the fact that it’s a green tea means I can have several glasses without worrying about what I’m doing to my system.
Ash by malindo lo
Ash is one of those books that I really wanted to read—so much so that I ordered it when it first came out in 2009. It turned out that this was also the same time I started a new job and also was told that I had to completely rewrite the book I had just handed in. By the time I was able to lift my head up, it was two years later. I never actually got around to reading this one.
I was reminded that I hadn’t read it yet when I realized that Ash had been caught up in the horrible craze of book bannings sweeping the country. I’m not going to repeat what I saw someone saying about the book—it makes me both sad and angry—but I will say that I’m glad it made me circle back to read this one. This is a gorgeous Cinderella retelling, one with fairies and where the prince at the ball is a relatively uninteresting side character, and the huntress in the forest is Ash’s true love.
When I went to get vendor links for Ash, I discovered that it’s on sale for $1.99 right now, which for a traditionally published YA book is an absolute steal. You can get it here:
It’s been a while since I mentioned my front yard project. When we first put everything in, we had a plan for water management that included burying downspouts to a drainage area about 13 feet from the house, and then making little berms to direct overflow while trying to passively capture rainwater.
At some point in the creation of these berms, my husband asked why we were doing it because we basically live somewhere extremely dry, and I said that if we didn’t tell rainwater where to go, it would do its own thing, and he was like, “what rainwater?” Well, the freak rainstorms we sometimes get.
Anyway, last week, we had a freak rainstorm, and I feel Extremely Vindicated. The water mostly behaved the way we wanted—there was one case where it jumped a berm, but this is very fixable. Here is a very bad nighttime photo that kind of shows what happened in the rain storm.
I have a tendency to be perfectionist about things, and I spent a truly absurd amount of time thinking about and executing water flow in the yard. I had to stop and tell myself that it’s okay that it mostly worked. I don’t need to be a water flow expert. I don’t need to get it completely right on the first try. I don’t even need to get it completely right on the seventh try.
I know all of this, but my first reaction to something not going right is usually still “oh no, I should have known I didn’t build up the berm properly around the red leaf rose.” It’s taken me a long time to realize that I’ve been beating myself up about not having a perfect reaction to imperfection, which is just a nice little snake eating its own tail of negative self-talk.
I’m trying to give myself permission to have imperfect first reactions as long as I remember to get the second reaction closer. And then, I’m trying to remember that my third reaction can be something even better. In this case, it meant going through my yard and finding all the places where the rain induced more blooms.
So here are some flowering things that give me joy. Captions are listed from left to right.
Apache Plumes, santa fe phlox, flowerkisseR salvia
orange globemallow, monkeyflower, blue blazes agastache
Coreopsis, Echinacea, whorled milkweed
Planter. Not that kind of planter.
When I was really young, my sisters and my little brother used to play “SuperKids” which was basically like SuperFriends, but we were the SuperKids, each of us with our own power.
I wasn’t very old when we started playing, so when they asked me for my pseudonym/power, I said that I was Planter and my superpower was plants. Plants, it turns out, wasn’t the most FUN superpower. I couldn’t zap people with lightning or control weather or any of that stuff. I could just make plants grow extremely fast, and that wasn’t always fun or useful when you were fighting bad guys.
Now that I’m an adult, I think that Planter would be an amazing super identity. Thinking about being able to have plants grow super-fast to stop erosion, or about putting gardens in food deserts, or about making it impossible for useless turf grass to flourish (it’s not all useless, but whew, some of it) in the Southwest of the United States as we enter a state of perpetual drought… That would really be something.
Also, as an adult, just like as a kid, I really like plants.
Nature walks and unclaimed
I made a visit to England before I started writing the Turner series so I would get a sense of the place where I was writing about, and my favorite place to visit was Shepton Mallet, largely because the vast majority of my research was just going on walks and looking at nature and getting rained on and discovering that if the path leads into stinging nettles, you should maybe not follow.
I have approximately zero sense of direction, and at the point when I went (2010) it wasn’t nearly as easy to get cellular data in another country as it was now, so basically I would go out with one of the guide books and read their description of where to go and say “uh, here I guess?” Two miles later I would realize that I couldn’t possibly be correct because no, I wasn’t coming up on a nice church yard. I was nowhere near a church. I was nowhere near a road. The closest road was maybe over a field covered in stinging nettles and PROBABLY I should try to get there because it was about to rain.
If you have no sense of direction, I highly suggest doing one of the following: (1) enjoying nature and getting rained on and tolerating going through stinging nettles, or (2) never going for a walk alone.*
In any event, I had a lot of fun identifying plants (nettles, but also other things) and getting completely lost and drenched for Unclaimed.
Which is actually not a book about plants or rain; it’s a book about a courtesan who is hired to seduce a man who wrote a book about chastity.
* One small thing I have noticed: I am much better able to tolerate getting lost on my own, when I have nobody to blame but myself, then with other people, when I start panicking because if they don’t know where we are I have to figure out how to get out on my own, and that’s not gonna be fun.
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