Quick & Easy Lemon Iced tea

August 27, 2013

Today's is a quick post. I have just returned home from Paris where there is a worrying lack of tea on offer, and the tea they do have is, to put it pleasantly, a little suspect. My recommendation is not to bother with tea when in Paris, or when in France for that matter. I give you this warning because 'thé au lait' is not the harmless and familiar drink that the direct translation might lead you to believe, but instead a cup full of frothy milky water which is accompanied by a teabag. This teabag, when added to the liquid, will do nothing but float about soggy and helpless and instead of transforming into the tea we all know and love, will leave you with a grey-ish cup of liquid, that is nothing short of a disappointment. What they can make though, is good iced tea, and today, sitting in the garden and reading my book, it's just what I needed. 

Yesterday I was at a café, having just returned to England, and I ordered the aforementioned drink, and what arrived on our table was this.
I had never seen this brand before. And it then occurred to me that it would be pretty simple to make... and, unsurprisingly, it turns out it was.

Several teabags
The juice of a lemon, and several slices
The juice of an orange
Mint sprigs
Sugar to sweeten, as desired
Ice cubes

Simply boil the kettle and, as if making a normal cup of tea, fill up the teapot with several teabags. Add a few sprigs of mint and leave to brew for 5mins.
Next, pour into a bowl or jug and add sugar, if desired. Add the juice of a lemon and leave to cool.Once cool, add some ice, and there you have it!
You can use many different combinations, from adding a little orange juice for less of an authentic tea flavour, to using chopped up fruits, flavoured teabags, or a little lime.

Now I'm off to enjoy mine, whilst reading all about Mary Seacole's adventures.

A sunny visit to Rye: antique shops, and flowering gardens

August 08, 2013

Today's post follows on from our visit to Henry James' house and garden and tells of our sunny day spent perusing the rest of Rye's delights. Rye is a lovely town with many quaint and unique boutiques. There were many antique shops filled with lots of bric or brac, and a few gems.

I made a mental note to return here when I need to decorate a house of my own because everywhere you look is another antique shop with some wonderful items hidden away, as well as a multitude of art galleries. When we weren't darting in and out of the antique shops, we had a wonderful time wandering the pebbled streets, admiring the pretty houses and all of the flowers in full bloom.

The witty residents that lived here made me smile with their original house name.

We weren't sure what we wanted for lunch and we indecisively walked around for a little while before finding the perfect place. We lunched in the garden of a cafe where we both had Mackerel Pate which was the perfect sustenance on such a summery day.

After lunch there was still a lot more to see with colourful flowers splattered everywhere one turned one's eyes. If it wasn't for the irritating visitors (me) taking photos of all the buildings, I could have loved to have lived in any one of them.

Just before we left we spotted this 'Tiny Book Store', which was certainly appropriately named; it barely had room enough for the two of us.

And that was almost the last stop of the day, having explored much of what Rye had to offer. We thought we had finished our trip and we were heading towards the car, but we were arrested by the ice cream parlour which detained us for long enough to gobble up an ice cream. We then headed back home having had an unprecedentedly, yet enjoyably, literary based day. 

I think we would have been hard-pushed to have spent this sunny Sunday in a much more enjoyable way! 

Literary Places: Lamb House & a Henry James book review

August 05, 2013

A few weekends ago we decided to enjoy the sun by having a day out in Rye. We jumped into Mum's car and drove through the tumbling hills along the winding roads with the intention of having a relaxing wander around the pretty town. The sun was shining as we walked up the cobble streets admiring the picturesque town. We then came across the fine Georgian house pictured below, and excitedly promised to return later on after lunch, to have a peruse of whose house, but Henry James'? 

To those that don't know,  Henry James was an American novelist born in New York in 1843. He moved to England, lived in London for 20yrs, before moving to Rye in 1896. He died in 1916, having assumed british nationality. He was considered a key-figure in the 19th century birth of literary realism and his novels concentrate on observations of the higher ranks of society with intimate detail. Often his novels offer a narrative romance set against a backdrop of social commentary regarding politics, and class. He is also interested in exploring personal freedom and individualism versus social obligation and morality, and this he does specifically in juxtaposing Europe and Britain, with America. He is commended for his narrative techniques that allow for this character insight, those which include: interior monologue, point of view, and unreliable narrators.
He is best known for his novels The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl, The Ambassadors, and The Portrait of a Lady, although he was also a playwright, and literary critic.

Having walked through the imposing door, which rose high in accordance with Georgian architectural symmetry and proportion, we made our way into the hallway. Along one of the walls were portraits of all of the literary figures that had visited Lamb's House, including portraits of Hugh Walpole, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Arnold Bennett, H.G Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf etc. I have a strange fondness for this kind of trivia, I love learning about the connections between authors, and how they were interlinked with certain places, or with different artistic movements.
This is particularly interesting since I subsequently learned how James' later work was seen to have influenced the modern movement, particularly regarding the stream of consciousness most famously attributed to Joyce or Woolf.

We wandered around the rooms, all of which  were beautiful- this one particularly, which looked onto the garden.

Having enjoyed the blooming gardens, and yearned to have a high tea in the garden - a garden that gave the impression of having being designed with that very purpose in mind, we went to explore the rest of Rye. I wasn't quite able to avert my attention from the stall of his books before leaving Lamb House. I couldn't help but pick up The Portrait of a Lady, which had been on my reading list for a long while. 

If you read my last book review, you might have found that I alluded to James' novel being slightly displeasing. In truth, it was mainly frustrating, slow and rather long so I can be forgiven for finding his comment about Collins' The Woman in White, a bit rich- thus demonstrating why I felt the need to stick up for Collins! 

A Portrait of a Lady is interesting in that it very different from anything I have ever read.  The commentary on both American and British character and their respective civilisations was new to me. Undeniably James has great skill in characterisation achieved largely through the observatory narrative which details the character's emotions and thoughts, creating a psychological novel that deeply explores the minds of its characters. Since James wrote whilst watching the Victorian era draw to a close, the insight into the underlying fissures in a society that had vehemently maintained an archaic social hierachy despite dissent, and huge changes technologically, informs his writing. The only problem I found was that despite my enjoyment of these two aspects, of his skilful writing, that was essentially all there was. A lot of convoluted language, but very little plot, very little movement, making for a very static novel. Now, bear in mind this is being said by a lover of 19th Century literature, not one who absolutely requires an abundance of action, nor simplistic language, but even for me the story itself was a little insubstantial. It was essentially disappointing.  I definitely appreciated James' skill, but the novel felt like it could have been condensed to half if not a third of the size! Anyway, that's my twopence on James; he's a little pretentious, and a little bit too disinterested in entertaining the reader.
H.G. Wells harshly portrayed James as a hippopotamus laboriously attempting to pick up a pea that has got into a corner of its cage- whether this is fair, and his language is clumsy or not, or whether the picking up of a pea is pretty banal and never climaxes into anything more complex or significant, is for you to decide. But despite all of this, I came across a little anecdote that told of James on his deathbed, having just had a stroke, searching a thesaurus for a word more appropriate than 'paralytic' for his present state. So evidently, it wasn't all show, which is at least something!

Have you ever visited any literary places? Have you read any Henry James?