Rose de Guzman

History ~ Books ~ Tea ~ Figure Skating

Menu Close

Month: February 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Tea Tuesday: Roasting Water

One of my friends told me a lot of good things about Roasting Water, a chain of boba places known for their adorable bottle shaped containers that come with all of their cold drinks.

Now, the first time I went there, I didn’t know that hot drinks didn’t come in the bottle.  They just come in a regular paper to-go cup, but you can buy a mug and have them put it in that for not all that much extra — I think it’s $5.  BUT, I didn’t know that, so my first drink there was a hot almond black milk tea in a paper cup.  At first I was disappointed — but then I took a sip.  It was the best almond milk tea I had EVER tasted, and that is my favorite thing to get at pretty much any tea place.

Of course, the next time I went, I had to try a cold drink to get my hands on one of those adorable bottles.  So I ordered the white chocolate and caramel frappe.  It was also simply amazing!

And the bottle is so cute — it says “You are boba-ly my type.”  I hear that they rotate the designs occasionally, and some people collect the different bottles.

I highly recommend Roasting Water to anyone who likes tea or boba.  Their prices are lower than other boba places, and the presentation is so cute.


Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna

Tatiana_Nikolaevna Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna, the second child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 29 May 1897.

The younger half of the so-called “Big Pair,” she shared a room with her older sister, Olga. The girls were very close, and adored each other.  When Olga was ill with Typhoid fever, Tatiana was inconsolable, terrified because she did not recognize that sick little girl in bed as her sister.

Tatiana was a leader among her siblings, and they called her “The Governess.”  While she lacked her older sister’s natural talent in the schoolroom, she was a harder worker, more likely to follow through until a project was completed.

In many ways, she was a lot like her her mother — both in looks and temperament.  She was also the daughter who was the most bonded to their mother.  While all of Empress Alexandra’s children loved her, Tatiana seemed to be her kindred spirit.  Of all the girls, Tatiana was also the most dedicated to their friend Rasputin, recording his sayings in a little notebook.  She was the most devout of the children, frequently reading The Bible and other religious books.

Tall, slender, and regal — many people considered Tatiana the most elegant of the Tsar’s daughters. She enjoyed dressing her mother’s hair and had a flair for style and fashion.  It would have been interesting to see what she would have done with the styles of the 1920’s and beyond.

tatiana child

Tatiana was devoted to her duties as a wartime nurse, and her only complaint about nursing was that she was not allowed, due to her age, to do even more.  She also appeared in public more than her sisters, chairing committees and attending events.  However, she was nervous about speaking in public and naturally shy, perhaps due to her sheltered upbringing.  Duty was paramount, though, and even nerves could not stop her from doing what she believed her country needed.

Her natural sense of responsibility was a comfort to her mother during their captivity.  When the Tsar was to be moved from Tobolsk, the Empress was willing to accompany her husband despite her son’s illness and inability to be moved only because Tatiana was able to stay behind and manage things.  However, the reduced circumstances of their imprisonment was hard on Tatiana, and she clung to her dignity via a haughty demeanor.  It is difficult to view her harshly for this, though, because she was a young woman adrift from all she was raised to expect from life.  The very position she was born and raised to hold was gone, and with it the very world she was meant to inhabit.

On 17 July 1918, Tatiana was shot along with the rest of her immediate family.

tatiana2Nota Bene: This is the second in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.


Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

In Which I Eat Crow…


It was brought to my attention that the photograph (left), which I originally included in my post about Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna was actually altered in Photoshop.  In my haste to get the post completed, I didn’t notice that the picture, which I’d seen before in print and online, had been cropped and that Olga’s face had been replaced with her sister, Maria’s, face.

I am sorry for any inconvenience and I am sorry if anyone feels misled.  It was an honest, though silly, mistake.  Unfortunately, in today’s world of faked photos and made-up facts on the internet, I should have been more careful.

I located the original photograph and fixed it in my post — here you can see the two side-by-side.

Silly Saturday: Horrible Histories – WWI Cousins

While not in the best of taste, this sure is worth a laugh!

Figure Skating Friday: Mabel Fairbanks


In honor of Black History Month, today’s Figure Skating Friday is dedicated to Mabel Fairbanks.

Although she was barred from joining a figure skating club, and, therefore, barred from competition, Mabel was taught by the legendary Maribel Vinson and became quite a skilled skater.

Mabel had a lasting effect on the sport of figure skating, especially as a coach.  After a career as a show skater, she settled in Los Angeles, where she coached skaters from all backgrounds.  In fact, she was the one who paired up Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.

In addition to Tai and Randy, Mabel’s students included Kristi Yamaguchi, Rudy Galindo, Scott Hamilton, and Tiffany Chin, among others.  She passed away in Los Angeles in 2001, at the age of 85.


Weekly Wednesday: Episode 2


Reading: I’m finishing up Unrivaled by Alison Noel.  I usually associate her with paranormal fiction, but this is a contemporary YA about intrigue, fame, and danger set in Hollywood.  The multiple points-of-view are well balanced and make for non-stop interest.  I can’t wait for the next book to come out!

Watching: The Walking Dead, even though the last few episodes haven’t been as exciting as usual.  Oh well, when TWD gets exciting, that means that beloved characters die, so I think I can live with a little bit of a lull.  The Four Continents Championships were also on over the weekend, and it was great to see Nathan Chen do so well.  Here’s hoping he quad Lutzes his way to the top of the Olympic podium next year.

Listening: I’m really enjoying the exclusive versions of various songs on XM radio lately.  It’s nice to get to hear a different take on a song.  The acoustic stuff on The Coffee House channel is really nice stuff to write to.  One of my favorites is the Elle King version of  “The Weight.”  She really has a cool voice for acoustic stuff and I would love to hear her do more of it.  I love her country songs, too, though — really, I’m just obsessing over her voice lately.  She kind of reminds me of Eva Cassidy in terms of being hard to categorize.

Doing: Signing up for social media as an author.  I’m still adding things to my Facebook page and figuring out how to use Twitter.

Planning:  Speaking of Twitter, I am learning all about pitch parties.  It’s an unconventional way to find an agent, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Writing: A query letter, for when the manuscript is totally ready.  Also making some changes here and there based on the feedback I’ve gotten so far from the beta process — but I’m still waiting for some people’s feedback.

Obsessing Over: The awesome dinner the hubby and I are going to have at The Hobbit in Orange.  It’s our belated Valentine’s dinner.  And no, it has nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings — it’s a French place.

Tea Tuesday: Lit Up

20170221_185655Today’s Tea Tuesday took me and my friend Belle (also a writer) to a local literary event called Lit Up in a local coffee house.

The basic format of the event is readings followed by questions asked of the audience and then questions asked of the writers.  It’s a neat way to get feedback and see what does well with the crowd.  I read at their very first reading and it’s definitely something I would love to do again.

Tonight, the three writers were all very different but also very interesting.

The first reader, Annie Moose, read a selection from her novel, Arkansas Summer, about a California girl who goes to Arkansas for a summer in 1955 and falls in love with a black boy and the challenges they face.  She writes beautifully, with great descriptions and a vivid sense of setting.

Next up was my friend D.M. Roberts, and her comedic novel Running with Hounds…And an English Degree.  It is the story of a young college graduate who ends up dog sitting for a wealthy couple.  Donna’s work is always good for a laugh.


The final author was David Putnam, a former law enforcement officer turned thriller writer, reading his new book The Vanquished.  His life experience and expertise made the story very credible and detailed, and it all felt very real.

In fact, that was the thing that tied all three readings together — all three writers were incorporating aspects of their real life experiences or professions into their writing.

Belle and I both enjoyed tea — she got Earl Grey and I got the rose-petal black tea.  Even though Kean Coffee is known as a coffee shop, their tea is probably the best thing there — all loose leaf and, when you order it “for here,” it comes in a cute little white tea pot.  They will also refill the tea with hot water, and it’s just as good the second time around because it is such high quality tea.


Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna


Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, the eldest child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 3 November 1895.

Olga was sensitive and studious, often having an understanding of events that defied her years.  The imperial tutor, Pierre Gilliard, praised her “quick brain” and spoke of her natural abilities as a student.

However, like many eldest children, she could be bossy or pushy with her siblings, and her mother often reminded her to be kind and patient.

She was indeed kind, giving her own allowance to help others, including crutches and other medical expenses for a sick boy once she reached the age of twenty and had control over some of her own money.

Almost from the moment of her birth, speculation as to Olga’s marriage prospects was rampant.  When she was just an infant, newspapers suggested that she might marry her distant cousin, Prince Edward of York, who would eventually become Britain’s King Edward VIII.  However, this was not seriously considered.  Olga came closer to marrying Prince Carol of Romania, but the negotiations came to nothing because Olga was not interested in pursuing the match.  War, and, eventually, revolution, put an end to the possibility of Olga marrying.

During the Great War, she served her country as a trained nurse.  However, this was very difficult for her — nothing could prepare her for the sights, sounds, and smells she would encounter in the hospital.  Despite the difficulty, Olga continued to carry out her duties with her mother and her sister, Tatiana.

Similarly, captivity was difficult for the sensitive Olga.  The stress weighed on her, and she grew thin and drawn, her face aged rapidly during her imprisonment.  Some believe that the young grand duchess had more of a sense of what was coming than even her parents, and, truthfully, that wouldn’t surprise me.

Olga was shot alongside her parents and siblings in July, 1918.  She was later canonized in the Russian Orthodox Church as a passion bearer.

olga child

Nota Bene: This is the first in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

When this post was originally published, it featured a Photoshopped version of the photograph of Grand Duchess Olga in her nurse’s uniform, in which her face was replaced with that of her sister, Maria.  My apologies for this mistake, which is discussed in more detail here.


Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

The Diary of Olga Romanov translated by Helen Azar

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Silly Saturday: Sushi Candy


My husband’s colleague gave us this sushi candy kit from Japan.  I’d seen these on YouTube a long time ago, and I’d always wanted to try making one.  The basic concept is that the included tray does all the measuring for you and all of the components are made by filling a certain compartment up to the line with water and then mixing in a specific packet full of powder.


I don’t read Japanese, so I had to watch a YouTube video to find out what packet to put where.  Literally, everything is included, right down to the background with plates and garnish printed on it (that was actually the inner bag, but you cut off the ends and back where the bag is sealed and it makes the place-mat thing).

The first part that you actually make is the rice.  It is made using the largest packet (light blue).  There isn’t much to see in a picture because of course the candy rice is white and so is the tray, so I didn’t photograph this step, but basically you fill the water up to fill in the oval section of the tray and then mix in all the powder until it is fully combined and the mixture starts to look a bit like rice.  You can see a bit of the rice in the next few pictures.


The next step is making the egg and the salmon.  The egg goes into the long section on the left and is made using the yellow-orange colored packet.  Using the dropper, fill the compartment up to the line with water, mix in the powder and then smooth out the mixture with the spatula.  That will allow it to firm up while you finish the rest of the sushi.  20170212_200544(0)

To make the salmon, do the same thing with the compartment on the right, using the hot pink packet.  The embossed designs on the tray will make the egg and the salmon have the right texture and look.  It really looks realistic when it’s all done.


The next part is my personal favorite and definitely was the most exciting thing for my kids.  The fish eggs/caviar.

First you fill section A with water up to the line and stir in the contents of the teal packet.  Then you fill section B to the line and add the darker orange packet and stir.  Next, you fill the dropper up with the stuff in B and slowly, carefully add it to A.  The little droplets will form fish eggs that taste and feel a lot like popping boba, if you have ever had that at your local bubble tea joint.

Check out the video below to see just how mesmerizing, addicting, and downright cool this part is.

Next, it is time to assemble the little bits of sushi candy.


The egg and salmon need to be cut in half in order to make the right size pieces.  You also want to cut off a little extra in order to chop it up and make the final piece, which is made with a little chopped salmon, a little chopped egg, and some caviar.

Over on the side of the placemat, there are a few guidelines.  One shows how to stretch out the sushi seaweed clay candy stuff — that will make the one with the fish eggs.  The other shows how large to make the rice for everything.  That guideline size is good for the inside of the caviar/ikura sushi, but a little small for everything else.

The kit makes caviar wrapped sushi with the fake sea week, two egg sushi, two salmon sushi, and one that looks like a pile of rice with chopped fish and egg on top.

20170212_201448Once you have assembled everything it is time to make the soy sauce.  Fill the upper compartment in the center (the only one we haven’t used yet) with the stuff in the brown packet.  This mixture will be more runny than the rest, but you can use the eye dropper to add just a little bit on top of each of the pieces of sushi to add a little color. The pictures above are without the soy sauce and the picture below shows what the candy sushi looks like with it.

The final question — how does the sushi taste?  Well, it doesn’t taste like sushi.  (That would be weird.)  The rice actually tastes a lot like Japanese ramune candy (so, basically, it tastes like Sprite or 7-up in the US).  The gummy parts just taste like sweet gummy candy.  It tastes good, even if it doesn’t have tons of flavor.  Basically, it is more about how it looks than how it tastes, though it is definitely a lot of fun and I would make it again.


Figure Skating Friday: The Heart-Break Kids

In the backstory of my novel, On Thin Ice, Natalie’s parents were the first American pair to win the World Championships.  However, in real life, that distinction is often credited to Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardener, who, like Natalie’s parents, did not go on to become the first American pair to win the Olympics. (In reality, Karol and Peter Kennedy won Worlds in 1950, and Tai and Randy were the second, and most recent, to achieve that title.)

In 1979, when Tai and Randy won Worlds, this “first” was quite celebrated, and they became favorites for the upcoming 1980 Olympics, to be held in Lake Placid, New York.  But it wasn’t meant to be.

Randy was injured, and though he tried to push through the pain, he ended up needing a shot to relieve the pain.  Unfortunately, the shot left him with a numb leg.  After a disastrous warm-up, they made the difficult choice to withdraw.

After the Olympics, Tai and Randy, known in the press as the “Heart-Break Kids,” went on to have a successful professional career — touring with the Ice Capades, competing in professional events, and participating in the reality TV show Skating with Celebrities.  Tai battled alcoholism and is now sober.

To this day, no American pair has brought home gold from the Olympics.  And that is unlikely to change next year — no US team has medaled at Worlds since 2002 and no US pair has won an Olympic medal since 1988.