Books & Brews at the Bakery (brewed tea, that is)

When I was a kid one of my favorite books for the sheer fantasy and magic was Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian. It seems to be somewhere between picture book and first reader, not quite either, with wonderful line drawings shaded with one or two muted colors.  It’s about a little girl who plays dress up all day. With her pointy hat and stripy socks, she’s a witch who casts spells and has a cat named Fred who follows her about, mostly looking perplexed or playing with things.  I loved it because it was the magic I longed to find in everyday life, the “walk around the corner and the world has changed” type things, the “open this door and behind it is stardust and wonder.”

Similarly, I fell in love with every scrap of magic I found in books, like The Blue-Nosed Witch by Margaret Embry, and The Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett, not to mention The Peculiar Miss Pickett by Nancy Julian and April’s Witches by Beverly Crook.  And of course Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There and The Phantom Toll Booth.


This is my Grandmother’s 1916 Rand McNally & Co. copy, with illustrations by Milo Winter.


As an adult, I’ve just added another book to that list of magical getaways.  Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, basis of the SyFy channel’s series (which seems to be following along pretty closely, though we’ve only watched season 1 so far).

What I love is the time the author is taking to create a big fat real magical world with all the trappings and true-to-life characters so real that today I found myself thinking “No! Leave her behind! Don’t endanger yourselves for her!  I hate her!” about one of the characters (who you’re not supposed to like.)

I also love the magic that creeps into ordinary pages and the author either has wonderful and understanding editors or is never challenged to take it out.  I find when I say something flighty in a contemporary story or too flighty in fantasy that I’m usually asked to change it.  I love when magic like this is breathed into a book (and it reminds me to stick to my guns where my own fiction is concerned: no one knows what the next new and unique thing will be until someone writes it; if I’m lucky, I will be that someone).


I’m an impatient reader.  There are an endless number of books I want to read, many of them lining the bookcases and walls of my office.  I’ll never catch up and I’m not sure I want to

But I’ve been reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman since early April.  It’s not the only book – not even close – but I keep it on the cluttered kitchen table and read it when I’m waiting for something to bake or cook or steep.  I’m reading anything from zero to 20 pages a day, because I absolutely don’t want to take any chances that I’ll rush it.

So deep summer at High Desert Bakery, I pulled out one of my Yixing clay teapots and headed to Safeway for loose tea because I noticed they had bins of it last time I was there.


I love this Safeway – it’s in what strangely is a pretty strip mall in Sparks, off Vista Boulevard.  I may be prejudiced, because years ago my husband was foreman on the construction crew that did a lot of the remodel.  They put up the awnings, which still look good, and I remember they had endless trouble with the clock – it kept slipping sideways.  Time’s like that.




The grocery store itself is pretty, with what looks like old-timey hardwood floors in the produce section and these lovely bins of dried fruit and teas.  To celebrate midmonth and summer and mourn it running out too fast, I picked up a couple teas and tried some dried kiwi, which I’ve never seen before.



The kiwi is much better if gently reanimated with a little water – it’s also a gorgeous translucent green then.

This is the first of the teas I’m trying, raspberry passion black pekoe, with high caffeine and a wonderful taste.  I think I gave it a 5 minute steep, before joining it with the kiwi and The Magicians.  For another few carefully unrushed pages.

What are you reading?  And what are you eating with it if you eat while reading?  Any books you reread on a consistent basis and if so, what keeps them magical time and again for you?




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