Monday, January 21, 2019

Some fun finds from Tuesday Morning

A recent trip to Tuesday Morning proved fruitful, you might say. I ran across a new bone china tea mug I *needed* because it had type on it, and I also found some of those yummy fruit-flavored teas from Basilur. The mug caught my eye because of the pretty aqua color and the bird design.

Of course, I am a sucker for any tea ware that has type on it, so this qualified. And look at the date—200 years ago!

When I turned the mug over, I realized it may be the only tea mug I've ever seen that says Royal Horticultural Society. Cool!

Now, the Basilur brand of tea first came to my attention when a kind blog reader shared some with me.

The flavors are all quite tasty, and the packaging is lovely. So what teas are you all drinking here in late January? I'd love to hear!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Need a source for teatime graphics?

Thanks to a reader, Diane M., I found a great source for teatime images, and it's the Graphics Fairy's collection of teapot clip art. I quickly made the above graphic using, a graphic design site, and it took only seconds to make.

There are lots of pros and cons regarding our use of social media these days, but one thing I do believe is a benefit is that many of us have become much more comfortable creating our own graphics. I chuckle now when I look at old church program flyers where we had a rose and a "calligraphy" font and thought we were so fancy. And at the time, we were!

The next thing I'll be creating a graphic for, however, is a surprise party invitation for my Daddy's 80th birthday celebration next month, and since I'm planning to go with a golf theme, that will involve images of a very different sort of tee time!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Seeing Rock City … in a teacup!

I'm trying to be good and not acquire too many more teawares, but when my friend Brad sent word that he had some teacups to pass along, how could I resist? I love the retro style of this Rock City teacup and saucer, even though I haven't, to my recollection, ever actually been to "See Rock City," as the famous slogan goes. Located in Lookout Mountain, Rock City is just 2-1/2 hours away. Maybe that would make a nice spring getaway this year!

I also love that my friend, who is obviously a fan of Chick-fil-A, packaged this teacup creatively and turned their slogan on its head by saying "Drink more tea!" instead of "Eat more chicken!" I'm so touched that he thought I would enjoy this retro teacup—and I do!

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Herbery's Peach Mango Tea

After finishing up some Christmas teas and then switching to oolongs for a few days, I decided I'd have a fruity tea one afternoon and then discovered that I didn't have any. So when I saw a new variety of Peach Mango tea at T.J. Maxx over the weekend, I had to give it a try.

"The Herbery, Teas for Well-Being" is a new name in tea to me.

The box design is one of the loveliest I've seen (and contains ordinary white tea bags that are stringless, by the way). But while the box is a nice plus, it's the tea's taste that matters most, and I was delighted with the sweetness of the mango taste of this tea. It was the fruity switch-up I was hoping for, and the $3.99 price was quite reasonable.

This is also a great time of year to check out the after-Christmas clearance items, and I was looking for a small tube of hand cream that I can keep in my purse to combat dry skin this winter. This Crabtree & Evelyn set of three for $3 was just perfect, especially when I saw that one of the scents was "Spiced Earl Grey." It smells floral, not like Earl Grey tea, but I love the packaging and scent, and the hand cream provided just the moisture I was hoping for. If you need some hand cream too, you may want to check your T.J. Maxx clearance aisle for this attractively priced set.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The new Upton Tea Quarterly

Remember that old saying, "The best things in life are free"? I often find that to be the case, and in the world of tea and tea resources, I continue to be impressed that the Upton Tea Quarterly remains a free publication. The newest one is available online here, but I recently received a print copy in the mail and absolutely love the cover photo of tea gardens in Sri Lanka.

The cover feature is written by "Nicole P." and is titled "From Garden to Cup."

"My name is Nicole and tea is my life's passion," she says. "I have been in the tea business for over ten years and have spent the past three years at Upton Tea Imports. Working with my colleagues to source premium teas from all over the world is a dream come true for me." Her love for tea is obvious in the article, and I so enjoyed reading about her trip, particularly how:

• They watched as freshly plucked tea leaves were being weighed.

• At the Somerset Estate, her team got to "cup" tea with Sri Lanka's #1 award-winning tea cupper.

• She got to practice plucking two leaves and a bud, and it took her a couple of tries to get it right.

If you don't yet subscribe to the Upton Tea Quarterly, you're missing a great free resource!

Now, a show of hands, please. How many of us who have not yet been to India would love to go one day and see some of her famous tea gardens? I sure would!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Learning from Tea Time

I've gotten serious about curtailing the number of new books and magazines I bring into my house, so I have instituted a new rule for magazines: if they don't teach me at least three new things of interest, I'm not reading them anymore. Fortunately, Tea Time passed the test and probably will for quite a few issues to come.

In this January/February 2019 issue, there were several pieces I particularly enjoyed, including this column on teatime etiquette by Bruce Richardson. While I knew that he was from Kentucky, I did not know that Mr. Teatime was originally a farm boy!

This Ralph Lauren "Patchwork" teapot in a new-to-me pattern definitely caught my eye, and I can just see it being used at a tea for friends who enjoy quilting or other needlework. And how clever to serve sweets that look like quilt blocks! I've never made a Battenberg cake like the Lemon-Orange one shown here, but boy, am I tempted to try. (Have any of you ever made a Battenberg cake? Is it as hard as it looks?)

"Taking Tea in Central Tennessee" was also of interest since a) these cities are within driving distance and b) I might be going right past some of these tea spots on some travels this year.

So Tea Time seems to have a secure spot on my bookshelves, but since there are always more than three new recipes I want to try as well, I figured this particular magazine was pretty safe!

Monday, January 7, 2019

On winter whites, white tea, and blank slates

With all the Christmas decor put away, I did my usual thing and pulled out winter whites for the January tea trolley. I do like to leave out a few snowy-looking items in hopes we'll get a snow day or two in January.

This is a detail from my white-on-white floral tea set, which was used on the table with the guest book at my wedding. A favorite memory!

Now I'm not one to select just one word to focus on all year (I've tried, and I simply cannot limit myself to only one). But if I were going to, "Believe" is a good contender, isn't it?

The other word I've considered is "Attention," as in, "Pay attention to what you pay attention to." And you know what I paid attention to here? The fact that this creamy winter white lacy tray has been with me for so many years now, and I'm still not tired of it. I've used it as a dresser tray in the bathroom, on the dining table, on the tea trolley, and I envision it one day being used in the garden cottage/writing cottage I don't yet have. Have you ever acquired a simple piece like this that became a personal favorite that you kept for many years? I think the color and curves on this piece are why I like it so much.

As I played with my winter whites over the weekend, I even enjoyed a cup of some white tea from TeaVivre. The first Monday of a new year is such a blank slate that I think a white palette—whether in tea or in home decor—is the way to go. Are you excited about the start of a new year? I am! I've got so many new projects I want to tackle, along with new places to go and new experiences I hope to have. What about you?

Friday, January 4, 2019

The "Steeped in History" winner is …

The winner of Steeped in History—The Art of Tea by Beatrice Hohenegger is Janet P. in Texas. Congrats, Janet, and I'll have this book on its way to you shortly!

A tea cartoon for the new year

Have you heard of the cartoonist Rea Irvin? I had not, but he lived from 1881-1972, and according to the Library of Congress website, this cartoon of his was published in 1916. It's titled "A happy New Year 1867 - a happy New Year 1917."

And here's the summary of the cartoon: "The 1867 panel shows a proper Victorian family -- father, mother, and little girl -- in their parlor, taking tea. The 1917 panel shows a riotous party in a restaurant with champagne corks popping, a man dancing on the table, two men playing leapfrog, and a heavy lady in a strapless dress drinking champagne. Irvin was a popular contributor of cartoons to Life (the humor magazine) before being named art editor of the New Yorker in 1925."

I probably don't have to tell you all that my New Year's celebration looked much more like the first panel than the second one!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A giveaway in support of a goal!

In my reading and reviewing of books over the years, I have accumulated way too many books, and I've decided it's time to send some of them on to new homes, including a few duplicates and brand-new tea books that I think someone else might enjoy. So to help me with my goal of reducing the number of books I keep (and to make room for new ones), would one of you like to win a new copy of Steeped in History—The Art of Tea by Beatrice Hohenegger? It's a beautiful large-format paperback book with thick, glossy pages and gorgeous photos, and I imagine someone here would enjoy it.

If you'd like to win this book, you can enter simply by telling me what was the first tea you had in 2019! Mine was the Reading Nook Tea Blend from Plum Deluxe, which calls this delicious tea "an ingenious blend of black tea, lavender, rose, and chamomile. Calm caffeination perfect for reading, writing, & lively conversations." I chose this tea just because it was something different, but it ended up being the perfect tea for my January 1 since I spent several hours reading, writing, and planning for the year ahead.

So just leave a comment listing your first tea tasted in 2019 by 7 a.m. EST Friday, January 4, and you'll be entered to win. (US only, please.) Good luck!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

So I pulled out one of my old postcards to wish you all a Happy New Year, and I noticed for the first time that the little girl … well, is it just me or is she rocking a bit of a crazed look? No wonder the little boy is glancing to the side and looks like he's ready to take his teacup and run! Ha! Here's hoping your year is void of crazy people and that folks leave your tea alone. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Tea-themed Christmas gifts of 2018

This year, when my family asked what I wanted for Christmas, I asked for practical gifts—new mixing bowls, a new soup pot—so I was very surprised when I received quite a few tea-themed gifts as well. My sister did get me a nice new set of mixing bowls, but she also gave me these cute kitchen towels. (She believes she found them at Ross.)

My husband gave a nod to my upcoming novel by giving me the perfect thing to sip: "Novelteas." Ha!

He also got me a hard-to-find issue of Daphne's Diary, which I love even more than usual because of the Christmasy tea wares on the cover.

When a package arrived from my stepdaughter's family in Wisconsin a few days before Christmas, it included this Old World Christmas glass ornament. I did not have one like this, so … yay! (And I don't mind repeats of tea-themed ornaments, anyway.)

I shared last month how I'd purchased this very "Oh Christmas Tea" teacup design for a friend, and I had wanted to get one for myself but had held off since I had lots of gifts to buy. So I was delighted when a girlfriend gave me one. So glad I didn't purchase it for myself.

And last but certainly not least, my Stampin' Up demonstrator friend Kathy made my day when she gave me this new set of tea-themed stamps and dies that aren't even out yet (they come out this week, I believe). I went home and started using them immediately, and when I get some new ink pads, I'll be trying even more designs.

Did you receive any tea-themed Christmas gifts this year? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, December 28, 2018

"In Peppermint Peril" by Joy Avon

"Callie was glad Leadenby had come in at that moment with the box containing the table runner. She spread it across the table's shiny surface and smoothed its lacy edges. It was a real vintage piece, like the china and the cutlery. The tea party would have an Agatha Christie vibe …"

— In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon

Tea lovers have a new tea-themed cozy mystery series to enjoy thanks to Joy Avon, who kicks off her Book Tea Shop Mystery series with a delightful Christmas-themed book, In Peppermint Peril.

Callie Aspen has a great career as a tour guide who leads trips to historic venues all over the world. She returns home to Heart's Harbor, Maine, intending merely to celebrate the holidays with her great-aunt, Iphigeneia, who runs Book Tea, a tea business offering book-themed teas. Callie is quickly enlisted to help her aunt set up for a pre-Christmas tea party at Haywood Hall, a historic home whose elderly resident is expected to make an important announcement about her will.

At the same event, Callie's old friend Sheila hijacks the tea and uses it as an opportunity to have her daughter's engagement announced, and the carefully laid plans for the tea soon go off the rails. When the engagement ring goes missing—and missing from a hiding place readers will particularly enjoy—it complicates the event, and so does the dead body found in the home's conservatory.

While the many tea elements of the story will immediately appeal to tea lovers, the mystery itself is fun to solve, as there are so many terrific suspects who might have had it in for the deceased. And Callie Aspen is a character it's easy to root for, so readers will hope to see Callie and her sweet Boston terrier, Daisy, making a permanent home in Heart's Harbor. This book was a well-written, holiday-perfect launch to the series, and I look forward to reading the next installment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"Christmas at the Lakeside Resort" by Susan Schild

"The rest of the day, Jenny felt strangely languid, like she was swimming underwater. She drank peppermint tea, nibbled chocolates and took the boys on meandering walks. Though the day was as gorgeous as fall got in North Carolina, with red and magenta leaves on the trees and the sky a blue only seen in Monet paintings, Jenny barely noticed …"

Christmas at the Lakeside Resort

This book is actually one chosen as this month's selection for a book club I'm in with some local friends. I immediately loved the cover since I have a real hankering for a vintage camper of my own, and I was also intrigued to learn that author Susan Schild "writes heartwarming, feel-good Southern novels of love and family featuring women over forty bouncing back from trouble, having adventures, and finding their happily ever afters." A great idea!

This book was a romance and not my usual cozy mystery, but if there is such a thing as a cozy romance, this would be it. Jenny Beckett is a down-on-her-luck forty-two-year-old tutor whose fiancé fell in love with his physical therapist and canceled his and Jenny's plans for a Christmas wedding. As a result, Jenny is not in much of a fa-la-la mindset. To add insult to injury, she learns the property where she rents a small cottage is being sold and so she needs to move, pronto. Then Jenny gets a phone call from a law firm, the caller saying he has some news regarding Jenny's no-account father, whom she hasn't heard from in ages.

It turns out that Jenny's father, Jax, has died of a heart attack, and despite her assumption that he died penniless and she's being called about his debts, he actually owned a house as well as some unfinished cabins on valuable lakefront property there in North Carolina. With hope on the horizon, Jenny leaves her tutoring job, moves into one of her father's cabins—where she begins to reconsider her assumptions about her late father—and begins to build a new life for herself.

Through a chance encounter at her neighborhood hardware store, Jenny meets a local man, Luke, who agrees to serve as her contractor and help her finish the cabins, and his sister, Alice, helps as well. Jenny succeeds in getting a loan for the new construction on the cabins, but she's quickly burning through the money as the cabins take shape. Even Luke refuses to promise her they'll be completed by the middle of December, when she needs to see some money rolling in from reservations. And although Jenny has sworn off men and vows not to get involved with another one, she can't seem to help falling for Luke. As the cabins near completion, she realizes she's going to miss this kind, handsome man she's gotten to know so well.

Schild has crafted a lovely and hope-filled holiday romance, and her well-drawn characters in a sparkling setting will make readers want to plan a follow-up visit to the Lakeside Resort.

Monday, December 24, 2018

"'Twas the Knife Before Christmas" by Jacqueline Frost

"Business at the Hearth was out of control all afternoon. I spun through the tables like a lunatic delivering Santa's cinnamon tea, every kind of cocoa under the sun, and a rainbow of cookies in every shape and size."
— 'Twas the Knife Before Christmas

Since it's Christmas week, I thought I would do something different and share some of the Christmas-themed novels I have been reading in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

While 'Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost may sound sinister, it's actually among the coziest of cozy mysteries, and when you finish this book, you'll be ready to book a trip to Mistletoe, Maine. That's the home of Holly White, whose family owns and operates a Christmas tree farm known as Reindeer Games. Holly's best friend, Caroline, has just opened a new cupcake shop in town, and Caroline is still hopping mad after a bad date with a guy named Derek, whose less-than-gentlemanly ways caused her to tell him off and leave. The date occurred at a local benefit dinner, and to Caroline's dismay, their fight was recorded and broadcast on the news.

Caroline tries to put the unfortunate evening behind her, but that's hard to do when she and Holly show up for the town's tree-lighting ceremony and a giant candy dish full of peppermints is revealed—with Derek's lifeless body inside. Caroline is arrested for the murder, and Holly and her friends pester Evan, the sheriff—who also happens to be Holly's love interest—about getting Caroline out of jail.

In addition to worrying about her imprisoned girlfriend, Holly is concerned that Evan has become standoffish and refuses to tell her why he's been going on so many out-of-town trips. To make matters worse, Holly is checking out his house one night while he's away and spots an attractive female inside. As if all that isn't enough to keep her busy, Holly is also helping her parents as work nears completion on the new inn at Reindeer Games, where Holly is about to become the innkeeper.

This murder mystery is a good whodunit, but the star of this show is the setting of Mistletoe and particularly the delightful Reindeer Games. Whether it's sleigh rides through the snow or the cleverly named "Bling that Gingerbread" contest, Reindeer Games has got it going on during Christmas, and Santas galore are popping up all over town. There are so many cute references to Christmas in this book—from Holly and the town of Mistletoe to an almost magical contractor named Christopher—that only the most Scrooge-like of readers won't find something to love in this charming, exceptionally well-written holiday tale.

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Talbots Teacup Socks winner is …

Erin S.! And I've just sent Erin an email, so hopefully I'll hear from her shortly and can get these headed her way in time for Christmas.

Thanks to all who entered!

Tea Time Jazz on YouTube

So a friend of mine has gotten me hooked on some of her crafting videos on YouTube, and in the course of exploring more videos on YouTube, I found this Tea Time Jazz station that is quite lovely!

Yesterday, as I was wrapping gifts and taking care of a few more last-minute things on my Christmas list, I kept stopping to look up videos to play in the background while I worked in the dining room, but I'm going to check out more of this Tea Time Jazz and add it to my rotation as well.

If you need some relaxing music (in addition to all the Christmas music), you too may want to check this out!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Cooking and baking and holiday making!

Have you noticed all the white cakes on magazine covers this month? Southern Living always has what they jokingly refer to as the Big White Cake on the cover of their Christmas issue, but Taste of Home and Tea Time have followed suit this year with their own white cakes.

Southern Living's cake comes with a bit of a twist this year. The recipe for the cover cake is included in the magazine, but so is a variation on the cake from Publix.

And Publix has an ad in the new Southern Living that is simply one of the prettiest teatime images I've seen all year. Isn't this gorgeous? It caught my eye immediately as I flipped through the magazine. I note with interest that the ad says, "For tasting tips and ideas, visit tea." Click there now if you want to see another version of this lovely photo.

So this year, Publix has partnered with Southern Living and included in the December issue this little foldout leaflet, which has the recipe for a variation on the Big White Cake, an organic option with cranberry filling. There's also a gluten-free option, which is available online here along with the organic cake recipe.

And lest you think I'm only promoting Southern Living, I'm stepping outside the South to let you know that the December issue of Food Network Magazine hasn't forgotten tea lovers either.

Matcha Palmiers, anyone? 

Or Chai Meringue Drops, perhaps? I'm going to be doing plenty of Christmas baking in the days ahead, and it's so nice to have so many great new recipes to try. Have you tried any of these yet?