Sunday Lifestyle

Books, coffee and milk tea


It’s been raining hard the whole day.
There is something about a rainy day that brings to my mind books, and hot drinks in pretty cups, and watching (again) classic love stories I have already seen. I do not know why it is so, it just is. I see/hear rain and I just want to spend the whole day in bed with my books and the sound of little feet padding around, knowing too that any other room in our home my husband would happen to be in, chances are, he would have before him good coffee or a pot of tea.

Other than home I would love to get stuck in a bookstore on a rainy day. If I do not find any title interesting enough (which I really doubt for I always find something) I know I will be just as happy getting lost in the maze of pens and crayons and crisp sheets of paper to use them on.

Yes, I would so love to have the luxury of curling up with just one good book after the other for days on end and especially on a rainy day, but like I said, that is a luxury. Life moves and so must I. The stories can wait; I must get on with my own. But still I buy books without ceasing; there is a section among the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that line one wall on the second floor of our home that I reserve solely for books that I have bought but have not read yet.

Why always books on a rainy day, I sometimes wonder. Why not cooking soup or baking fat pies… I don’t know, not that I should or that it matters. I just know there is no better time to start reading a book than when the rains come. There is something sedate about a pale day and the pitter-patter of drops, the rhythmic murmur of water hitting the roof and under that roof, me curled up on the couch or in bed with titles that I chose because in the bookstore where I found them they jumped off the shelves and spoke to me.

Personally, that is how I always find the ones I end up loving the most. That is how M.F.K. Fisher and Robert James Waller, Peter Mayle and Elizabeth Gilbert and Alexandra Stoddard ended up on my bookshelf. I hardly read book reviews and when I enter the bookstore I make it a point to choose only on the basis of what my heart tells me; knowing it sometimes in the simple tenderness and/or wit of the title, the play of words when I randomly open a page, the dreaminess or nostalgia that a photograph on the book cover stirs up in me (never mind if I am not familiar with the author, much less the story) and conversely, too, a liking for more work from an author that I already know. Buying a book does not always have to be an intelligent choice; it can very simply be a random act of pleasure — one that allows you to get lost in another person’s story, if only for one quiet afternoon or one very cold, rainy night.  

Let me share with you some titles that you can add to your own collection. If you are a romantic at heart and are a sucker for old-fashioned love letters like me then be sure to get a copy of I Love You, Ronnie (The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan). This book will make you fall in love with love, and allow you to journey through the mind of a man in love. Ronald Reagan had such a beautiful way with words and he wrote the first lady of his heart all these little notes and letters from the time their love was evergreen and all the way through their whole marriage, or at least for as long as he could before Alzheimer’s found its way into his life.

Here’s one dated March 4, 1963:

My Darling,

This is really just an ‘in between day’.  It is a day on which I love you three hundred and sixty five days more than I did a year ago and three hundred and sixty five less than I will a year from now.

But I wonder how I lived at all for all the three hundred and sixty fives before I met you.

All my love,

Your Husband

He had other sweeping lines such as “I live in a permanent Christmas because God gave me you” and yet another one: “Just waking up becomes a warm glow because you are there — just as the whole house is haunted when you aren’t… Thank you for loving me and seeing that I’m smart enough to stay very much in love with you.”

Aww... Sigh. Don’t you just love love letters? And that almost-faded era where handwritten letters were the norm?

Other titles worth checking out: Tender at the Bone, Comfort me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, all by Ruth Reichl. I read all three in just three days, and I cannot wait for more from her. Check out titles too from the authors I mentioned earlier. 

I am starting to sleep much earlier than usual because my little girl goes to school early and because I put her to sleep quite early at night and this somehow settles me in quite prematurely. I struggle with trying not to feel like a chunk of the night has been stolen away from me, because I am a night person, always have been. That is the only quiet time I can have to myself but now that I’m turning in earlier… I guess I will just have to get used to it.

Thankfully, I am one of those who can enjoy coffee at night and not have trouble sleeping at all so my indulging in cups of good coffee or tea need not have any of-the-moment limits. Speaking of coffee, there’s nothing wrong with instant coffee — I am a sucker for it — but I was just thinking that if you can have good coffee at home, why shouldn’t you? About two years ago my husband came home with a couple of coffee presses from Starbucks and a coffee grinder form S&R. We had one each of the former, to bring to tapings and shoots, but we have also used it at home almost every day since. It is convenient, user-friendly, and there’s really something magical, in an elementary sort of way, about the sight and scent of good coffee poured in a pretty cup paired with warm milk and a little teaspoon to stir it in. We just stock up on good coffee beans, from Starbucks usually, and occasionally bags of beans from Dean and Deluca when someone we know travels to New York and will not mind buying it for us.

As far as tea goes, although I am very happy with the many variants that Twinings and Lipton offer, I now dream of having my own little herb garden. Just a few days ago our friend Boyong dropped by and gave us fresh mint leaves from the lush garden he tends in his home and we all enjoyed the most refreshing tea. I also remember the home of Sean Bedi in Baguio, way back in 2004, when his wife served us fresh tarragon tea from leaves she picked in her front yard — and that after a sumptuous homemade mid-afternoon meal of freshly baked bread, pasta, roast chicken and flourless chocolate cake. I really wish I had a green thumb of sorts so I could at least grow my own herbs — nothing grand or impressive, just a few pots that will forever promise me fresh cups of mint and tarragon tea.

Always, I take my tea with milk and sugar, something I picked up as a young girl from an Englishman named Jack Goodwin who was our houseguest in Ormoc for many months. He has since passed but let me tell you that he was a good man, with gentle manners and I always remember the kindness of his heart and how he would always have bread with butter and orange marmalade, and how much he liked milk tea.

Worth trying also is the Chai Latte from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, but I always ask that they make it for me not too sweet. That is the only drink I order from that place. I know I should try their other drinks but each time I am tempted to try something else on their beverage list I think of how sad I will feel to pass up on that chance to enjoy their Chai Latte yet one more time, never mind if I have enjoyed countless cups of it countless times before…

It is raining again outside and the house is quiet with most everyone already asleep. I am going up to our room to watch the 1983 movie Falling in Love with Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro. And when that is done, maybe I will still have a little bit more time to get lost in the pages of some book until sleep finally comes. That’s just another note of happy, something stretched out before me that I serenely look forward to, as this rainy night hums along.   









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