Tea and Toast: Stories at Breakfast

Writing prompts have never appealed to me for a couple of reasons. There is the Rule of Obstinacy that guides most of my life. Suggest something to me? You’re not the boss of me. Join a group, a trend, a club? To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would take me. Recommend something to me? What are your supporting sources? I need to do the research.

canstockphoto17725260The second reason that writing prompts don’t appeal, is that I cannot eat a simple breakfast without my mind falling over itself with ideas and thoughts. I so often start conversations with people, “I was just thinking about…”, which is to say, I spend a lot of time inside my head. I get up at 4am every morning, so that I can sit in solitude and silence for a few hours. I read or write, eat breakfast or have some weird-ass epiphany.

This morning was no different. I woke up at 3:42am with a cat sitting on my chest, purring its sycophantic feed-me purr. I had a post ready to put up on this blog, but I didn’t like where I ended it, so it stays in the draft pile. I wonder if I’ll post anything at all. No worries, time for breakfast.

The first order of any day is to put on the kettle. We have a lovely ceramic electric kettle. Tea has been a part of my life since I was born. It was the cure-all for whatever ails thee and the only proper way to begin, well, anything. Nothing happened until the tea was made. Visitors could not talk, Christmas presents could not be opened, phone calls could not commence.

My family came to the United States from England in 1953 on the last White Star liner built, the MV Georgic. They arrived rumpled and tired at Ellis Island, and made their way to Savannah, Georgia. They lived there for a year with a disagreeable relative before taking a train to San Francisco. Eventually, my mother, reluctant father, and I moved to the midwest, where I have lived most of my life. This is all to say, that much of what was British was left in a trail all over the country, with the exception of tea and accents and a certain reticence about…everything.

The tea is not a fancy one. In my cupboard, there is almond, chai, green, white, jasmine and a lot of made up flavored teas. I’ve tried them all, but my regular cup is black pekoe with sugar and soy milk. The soy milk is a nod to my newly acquired veganism, but I expect with all the soy I’ve been consuming, that I’ll be growing a third breast any day now. Moo.

The mention of veganism is an awkward segue to the other part of my breakfast, toast. I baked the bread yesterday, after making vegan adaptations to the recipe. I use the oven, don’t have a dough mixer and the recipe has no weird ingredients. This means I’ll be finding flour in the kitchen for weeks to come. It takes 3-4 hours to make this bread, which allows several hours of proofing the dough, pounding it down again and letting it rise. And if you can’t see the analogy to writing in that, there’s no helping you.

canstockphoto18405495I once worked in a bakery at a grocery store. I’d arrive at 5am, mix dough for doughnuts and plop those little rings into the fryer. I didn’t last in that job long. I was still wearing the Hi My Name is Michelle. I’m New, but I’m Exceptional nametag when I quit. I now have a lifelong doughnut and nametag revulsion. The doughnut’s history is disputed, but it is thought that olykoeks, meaning oily cakes, were brought over by the Dutch settlers. I went to Amsterdam once and got food poisoning (not from doughnuts), but no pot. It was a disappointing trip. Except for the tulips. They were pretty.

canstockphoto6826957Which reminds me that I have to get some fencing up around the still dormant flower beds. The rabbits go to town on the tulips, spitefully biting off full blooms mid-stem and leaving them on the ground. They don’t even like to eat them, the little nobs. Still, every year, I plant in excess to make sure that after all the animals get done with our open buffet, we get a damned salad out of it. This year, our full ecosystem is in swing. The rabbits, mice, voles and chipmunks have brought in owls, hawks and last year, a red fox. Population control is cruel, but innate.

Well, breakfast is done. Now I have to do some offline laundry. Which reminds me of a story…

Look at what this artist did with a simple idea. Have a lovely Sunday!

36 Comments on “Tea and Toast: Stories at Breakfast

  1. Tea is an important ritual in my house too. I wrote a post recently about tea and my kids. I give them caffeinated tea in the morning with their breakfast. Not EVERY morning, but when it does happen it’s an opportunity to create lovely moments with my children. Hopefully when they’re older and they have tea or make tea for their kids, they’ll think about me.

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  2. I’m with you on writing prompts. They bring out the you-and-whose-army in me. But when I taught fiction writing, I offered a whole series of them to my students on the theory that (a) some people want them, (b) other people need them, and (c) those who are left will take pleasure in ignoring them.

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    • I think they serve a useful purpose for some writers. For me, it’s just more noise in an already crowded room. I always think “why would I want to write about that, when there’s this and this and this…”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I spent a lot of time working on our family tree. Our family is small and spread out everywhere, so I was worried about losing our history. Years ago, I took a trip to the National Archives in Washington DC, where I looked up the ship’s manifest with my family’s names on it. Of course now, everything is online.

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  3. I can take or leave writing prompts. If the purpose of the prompt is to exercise the discipline of writing fiction on a topic, I will take it. If it is merely to inspire creativity, I’ll leave it.

    As one can see by my writing, I don’t require inspiration but one can also see that I, and plenty of others, sometimes lack coherence. This may come with time and practice – but it is the sort of thing that could be achieved faster by the discipline of creating and writing on topic.

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    • I laughed when I read the phrase “lack coherence”. I’m going through a free fall writing phase and many of my posts lately have been these rambling stream-of-consciousness messes. I am often too focused and structured, which really cuts into creativity. I haven’t found the balance, but never lack for ideas.

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        • Especially if your writing session was in full swing at 3:15 am. I tend to be more of a night person, I guess.
          I prefer green to black tea, but will enjoy any and every opportunity. And my kettle is plastic but gets daily (or rather nightly) use.
          Keep up the work.
          Phred

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Phred. We had a wonderful $20 plastic kettle that lasted nearly 12 years, but it finally stopped working and so I splurged a bit on a fancier one. It probably won’t last as long!

          I’ve always been a morning person in that I’m awake and I like being awake, but if I have to interact with other humans, I’m rather surly.

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  4. And here I had come up with all these complicated reasons for not participating in writing or photo prompts when it really was obstinacy. Thanks for that.

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    • I can rationalize with the best of them, but I’ve realized that much of my reaction to the world correlates with my 4-year-old self. You can’t make me. And the older I get, the more obstinate I seem to be. I’m going to be a delightful old lady.

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  5. Never done writing prompts. I’m not even sure where people find these prompts. My family came to the US from Australia in 1968, we sailed to San Francisco from Sydney – 3 weeks. It was great fun as a kid. We all still drink tea, PG tips with cream and sugar. My Dad tells a story of when we travelled by train from California to the Midwest and the lady in the dining car asked how he wanted his fried eggs cooked – He said, in a fry pan, with a little butter (We didn’t know about sunny-side up, easy over).

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    • Writing prompts are a pretty common tool, especially in writing workshops or groups. Online, there are a lot of blogs (including WordPress itself) that sponsor writing prompts as a way of connecting bloggers. I don’t think they’re a bad thing, but the hamsters in my head never seem to get off their wheels, so a prompt would be overkill.

      Thanks for sharing your funny story – there are so many phrases peculiar to each culture, even those where English is a first language. And kids are so much more likely to enjoy travel! I can’t imagine 3 weeks on a ship.

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  6. I agree wholeheartedly with the prompts and the tea. I have used them personally as writing exercises, but the idea of posting something because of a prompt bores me — especially when there are multiple people writing the same thing. Ho hum.

    Black tea is a wonderful thing. Nothing makes me feel quite so warm inside. I began drinking coffee many years ago when my now husband would bring it to me in bed, but I still love my tea. And I have reverted to it as I get older.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love black tea in the morning before eating anything. Later in the day, I love a good cup of coffee. I’m pretty sure that without caffeine, I would just crumble into a pile and drool on myself. And I’ve cut back considerably, but those are such small, simple pleasures, I doubt I’ll ever give them up.

      As for the prompts, I do think they can be used for warmup exercises and sometimes a little nudge can get rusty gears turning. So far, I just can’t seem to shut up, so giving me something else to write about is unnecessary!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! How do you manage getting up so early every day?! If I don’t get a full 8 or 9 hours sleep, I’m a horror to be around. On the tea front, have you tried Lapsang Souchong ?

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    • I’m a bit of a freak, but I do get to bed before 10 and haven’t seen a New Year’s Eve since 1991. It turns out, I really need that alone time before initiating human contact. I haven’t tried that tea, but now feel compelled to Google it, if only to learn the pronunciation!

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        • That sounds less than appealing, but it can’t be any worse than all those teas with odd fruit flavors in them, like peach. I’m definitely not a fruit-in-tea person. I once had tea that was described as “smoky Russian pine” – also an acquired taste…for someone else!

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  8. I agree with your take on writing prompts. This blogging stuff ain’t no exercise for me. Hope all is well with you and yours. Peace, John P. S. For some dumb reason some of my “likes” are showing as anonymous. Ah, WordPress.

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    • Thanks, John. I think of this blog as practice writing out loud, but it takes a lot of effort to write and edit. Life is a writing prompt. There’s my bumper sticker bon mot for the day.

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  9. My wife guzzles green tea multiple times every day. I’m a coffee guy. Black please, none of those silly flavors or creamers, thanks.

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  10. I LOVE this ADHD post! Between the donuts and the tulips (mine are thriving, BTW) and the rabbits, I was howling. Then the video. Laughing while crying makes me burp.

    I used to love tea. Psychotropics did weird things to my mouth, so now tea burns acrid, and I’m puckery for hours after drinking any. I hate that. How can I possibly be welcomed back to England? It’s a quandary.

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    • Glad I could make you laugh – that video makes me cry every single time. That’s a bummer about the tea – coffee burns a whole in my stomach if I haven’t eaten properly, but everything in moderation I suppose. I thought this post had a slight mania about it, but I settled down a bit after writing it and slogged through another thousand words in the novel. Another commenter mentioned that blogging is not an exercise for him, but I suspect it’s very much about clearing out the pipes for me. Sorry, readers.

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  11. Thoroughly enjoyable post, totally without a prompt. I have never even considered using a writing prompt…too many of those in my head too. And pretty much similar reactions to anything “bossy”.

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    • Thanks, Helen. I’ve used writing prompts in a workshop setting, which is usually not an enjoyable experience for me. As this post illustrates, once I start writing, it’s usually on a ramble with a lot of tangents – any of which work as a prompt!

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