Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sampling teas from Plum Deluxe

Recently, I got an e-mail from Plum Deluxe offering to let me sample some of their teas, and I was so impressed by founder Andy Hayes' website, which features a tribute to his mother, who passed away following a battle with breast cancer. Since I lost my own mother to cancer just about this time two years ago, that naturally spoke to me, and I was pleased to see that his tribute is no weepy thing but rather an encouraging, uplifting account of some of the wonderful lessons his mother taught him. (What mother wouldn't be proud of that!) Now usually, I tell any tea company that offers to send me tea samples to please just send whatever they like, not wanting to appear greedy, but this time, I saw a tea I truly coveted and let greed lead the way, saying, "May I please, please, please have some of your Reading Nook blend?"  Since my day job now includes editing novels, that tea seemed right up my alley. Happily, Andy wrote back and said sure, he'd be glad to send me that one and a sample of a few others as well. Oh happy day!

This Reading Nook blend lived up to my every expectation, and I think it's so pretty that I'd like to have bowls of it to sit around as potpourri. The scent is lightly floral, and I can truly see myself savoring this delicious and delicate tea as I'm reading for pleasure. It wasn't by any means an overpowering floral taste I got, just a little extra something in the tea, and I loved it. I got a kick out of reading the list of ingredients, too: "Black Tea, Rosebuds, Lavender, Chamomile, Love, Gratitude, Natural Flavor." I tasted the love!

This Oregon Breakfast black tea was a lovely surprise! I didn't read the ingredients first, I just made the tea and tried to figure out what was in it. Once I prepared the tea, I detected a distinctly nutty scent. When I sipped, I got a wonderful nutty flavor. The ingredients? "Black Tea, Honeybush Tea, Orange Peels, Hazelnut Essence, Love, Gratitude." So it was the hazelnut I was tasting. Ahhh. And yum!

Finally, I can't get enough spice teas right now, so this Deluxe Pumpkin Spice Tea was a treat because it's a little more spicy and peppery than the usual pumpkin teas I drink. It contains "Honeybush Tea, Black Tea, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Ginger, Cloves, Calendula, Safflower, and Natural Pumpkin Flavor." Plum Deluxe also has a Tea Club and newsletter (which I've just signed up for), and if you'd like to visit their website and learn more about these terrific teas, just click here!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall 2015 Bake From Scratch magazine

I have been a magazine junkie for as long as I can remember. I started with Tiger Beat and Teen (Teen published my first letter to the editor when I was still in junior high) and worked my way up to Seventeen, Glamour, and then Newsweek and Time when I decided to become a journalist. Years later, when I became editor of a local magazine, I bought even more magazines because I wanted to see what "the big guys" were doing, and I have always been eager to check out new magazines I hear about. I hadn't heard a thing about Bake From Scratch magazine, but I saw it on the newsstand  recently and decided to flip through it. I have this rule: if I open to three pages and don't see anything I care about, I'm done. Through. You've got three chances to get my attention, and that's it. Lately, I've noticed how very similar magazines have become. Christmas magazines? I've seen those pretty wreaths and candy-cane-covered trees a million times before. Fall cooking magazines? Oh, who doesn't need one more article on how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. The anything-with-Vintage-in-the-title magazines? If I see one more article on chalk paint, someone is going to get hurt. (My, that sounds snarky for a Monday morning, doesn't it? Sorry!) But I've said all that to say this: I reached for Bake From Scratch magazine and loved everything I saw. That Apple Spice Cake on the cover? What a great and yet somehow moody photo.

Inside the magazine, I found a Vanilla Buying Guide, and I needed that. You know how the Barefoot Contessa always tells everyone to use "the good vanilla"? I've always assumed she means expensive, only-available-in-the-Hamptons vanilla, so it was lovely to read about the history of vanilla as well as the difference between the various pure vanillas and extracts.

As I flipped through the magazine, I already knew I was going to buy it, and then I saw this feature on scones. And aren't they beautiful scones?

And here are some more beautiful scones, and guess what? The magazine has 12 whole pages of beautifully photographed scones and recipes! Sweet Potato Sage Scones? Pear Chai Spiced Scones? Vanilla Bean and Cardamom Scones? I think I'm in love. The magazine costs $12.99, and I wonder if that's a sustainable price level for such a publication, but it turns out the publisher is Hoffman Media, which has a long history of making successful business decisions and so far has done just fine without my input. Hoffman is also publisher of our beloved Tea Time, and as I flipped past the page from the editor (some guy named Brian), I flipped back and realized the editor is one of Phyllis Hoffman's sons, Brian Hoffman. So if you're a passionate baker, scone maker, and/or magazine junkie, be sure to check out this magazine. My husband and I call it the Garden & Gun of baking, and I'm so impressed with this first issue and wish them all the best.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Teatime Tale #41 — The Blossom

The Blossom

            After washing the breakfast dishes, Miriam finished sipping her second cup of English Breakfast tea and headed outside to her garden with an anxious heart. After working so hard to create a magnificent display of fall annuals early last week, she had been dismayed when the Atlanta weather forecast had turned to rain, rain, and more rain. Added to all that rain, the area had suffered a sudden and violent storm the night before that was so powerful, it caused trees to fall on houses and damage power lines. Quite a few of her neighbors had flood damage in their basements, at least according to the e-mail circulated by her Sunday School class.
            So while she knew she had much to be thankful for since she and Richard had suffered none of those calamities, she was still worried about her flowers and plants. Her Camellia sinensis bush had been struggling for weeks now, and she feared the storms might have finished it off for good. She hoped not.

            Miriam slipped on her Crocs, the old blue gardening clogs she loved but that Richard had always said were “as ugly as homemade sin.” She stepped outside and onto the back patio, trash bag in hand, fully prepared to find a hot mess awaiting her in the patio garden.
            Instead, she was surprised to find that her annuals had fared pretty well. One of the new container gardens she’d planted had gotten knocked over in the storm, and the clay pot broke, but the plants themselves had landed right side up and still looked sturdy. Miriam smiled as she realized that a broken pot didn’t bother her nearly as much as a broken plant. In the raised flower beds near the patio, she had planted masses of mums in gold and yellow hues. She actually preferred the pink and mauve ones, yet she somehow believed that fall mums should echo the fall colors. This year, she’d also included a few bright orange marigolds in her garden plan. The marigolds wouldn’t make it past the first freeze, but in the South, that could be a while.
            Her one concession to a non-gold color was the purple asters. They were just as hardy as the mums, but Miriam knew they didn’t like to be wet. She’d have to watch them to see whether they recovered from all the rain.
            Miriam started to scoop up the broken pieces of the clay pot. She would break them into smaller pieces and recycle them, using them next spring to help with drainage in the bottom of new pots. She was halfway through cleaning up the broken pot when she glanced several yards away and saw something white bobbing in the wind near that Camellia sinensis bush she’d probably lost. Who knew what might have blown over into the yard in last night’s storm.

            Curious, Miriam stopped what she was doing and walked over to her beloved tea plant. To her astonishment, one perfect white blossom was there, so obviously, the plant wasn’t dead after all. 
            Miriam stopped to finger the soft petals. The small white blossom reminded her of the Cherokee Rose, Georgia’s state flower. Why on earth had her Camellia sinensis decided to blossom in such awful weather? But then Miriam remembered that she’d been out of town on a girlfriend getaway when the rain started, so the plant could have blossomed while she was still gone. And the last few times she’d been working in the garden, she was focused on the patio area and probably hadn’t even looked at the tea plant. At any rate, that single blossom was quite lovely, she thought.
            Back at the patio, Miriam finished cleaning up the spills from the storm and repotted the fallen plants. She kept an extra bag of potting soil on hand, and she always had a spare clay pot for container gardening, too. She’d received so many passalong plants from friends over the years, Miriam knew it was wise to keep pots and soil on hand for those unexpected garden treasures that came her way.
            Her Camellia sinensis, in fact, was a gift from a friend who bought it for her on a trip to North Carolina. A garden center there had the plants for sale, and Lynn had told Miriam that she had no idea whether the plant would thrive in Georgia, but since Miriam was such a tea lover, it seemed appropriate that she grow her own tea plant.
            With a fine film of mist and dirt covering her hands and feet, Miriam went inside and took a quick shower. Her afternoon included, of all things, a planning meeting for her church’s Christmas Tea. Christmas planning, already? Miriam sighed. She knew it wasn’t too soon to start, although she would never be one of those women who had all her Christmas gifts purchased by July and wrapped by August.
            Before she got busy with the rest of her day, Miriam decided to have a cup of Darjeeling, another of her favorite teas. She looked at the package and saw that it said, “Garden-fresh tea, straight from our tea gardens in Darjeeling.”
            Garden-fresh? No. Those tea leaves growing in her backyard, they were garden fresh. And to her great delight, despite the storm, they stood.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Teatime Holidays magazine winner is …

M. Rothfus! I've sent you an e-mail, so as soon as I hear back with your snail mail address, I'll get this packaged up and headed your way. Congrats!

A new website to visit for tea history!

Actually, it's not a "new" website but a "new to me" website. I was looking up some history on tea one night when I was directed to the website of the National Archives. I can't believe I hadn't thought of visiting that website before, because a dear friend of mine used to work for the National Archives in Morrow. Of course they would have resources online!

The image above is from a 2012 exhibit titled "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" The exhibit was about the government's effect on the American diet, and you can click here if you'd like to visit the slide show for yourself. This particular image reminded me that we used to have a national board of tea tasters in this country. Are you curious why it ended? Then click here. (I find myself in agreement with Senator Harry Reid on this one!)

And if you're a history nut as I am, be sure to bookmark the National Archives website, where you can look up all kinds of fun stories and photos—on tea and lots of other topics as well!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My October column in The Coweta Shopper

For those of you who like to keep up with my Coweta Shopper columns, here is the October edition, which started going out to local readers yesterday. I figure everyone needs a reminder that tea is not only a beverage but also can be used as a cooking ingredient!

Here's the link to this month's column for those of you who aren't local and don't get The Coweta Shopper. I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The "Bless Your Heart" spoon bracelet

Last week, I decided to visit the Marietta Antique Mall, where I ran across this wonderful booth of jewelry that included a style of spoon bracelet I had never seen before. I've had a fancier silverplate spoon bracelet made out of a teaspoon and adorned with pearls, but I like this one even better—and yes, I would proudly wear it to tea!

The "Bless Your Heart" bracelet greatly  appealed to me, although I must admit I *almost* got one like it that said "Sweet as Tea," but I liked the color of the band on this one better. And if you look at that flat edge at left, you can tell the silver part was once a spoon! When I got home, I checked out the Facebook page of the designer, and the page is at Kristian Noel Creates if you're interested. I love that she upcycles materials for her jewelry, and her display was absolutely charming! Next time, I want some of her pretty earrings that are packaged in small cork-topped glass bottles. For some reason, it fuels my writing creativity to see other kinds of artistic creativity, and of course I love knowing that a spoon is part of my bracelet's design.

Funny enough, the evening before, I was at an event where a friend and I had a fun discussion about the phrase "Bless Your Heart." That phrase is often thought to be something southern women say only when we're being catty (and yes, we do that sometimes), but to be honest with you, I think we say it and mean it in a positive sense the vast majority of the time. I've never forgotten the day we buried my maternal grandmother and returned from the funeral only for me to get a phone call letting me know that my pastor, whose family I was very close to, had just died unexpectedly of a heart attack. It was almost too much grief to bear, and when I told my mom, who had just buried her own mother, she gave me a big hug and said, "Oh, bless your heart." I've never forgotten that in her own grief, my mother still had room for mine. But that's what mothers do, don't they? And if I find out someone is sick or has had something bad happen to them, I am very likely to say and mean, "Well, bless your heart." So I hope this brief lesson in the usage of "Bless your Heart" has blessed your heart—really!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The People's Full-Leaf Brew Basket

For steeping fine teas like rooibos, I had been using a plastic infuser basket that I received as a gift. And then one day, it disappeared! I don't know if I stuck it away in some tea mug in the cabinet where I can't find it or whether I accidentally threw it away. All I know is that I am missing that mesh infuser basket. So I was at Harry's Farmer's Market in Marietta last week when I spotted a Republic of Tea stainless steel mesh infuser basket that I thought might do the trick. At $4.99, it was a good price for experimenting with!

My test tea for the finest of infusers is always a rooibos tea, because that tea has the tiniest particles. And while this basket didn't strain out quite all of the tea that an infuser tea bag would, I thought it did a great job, and I have been using it when steeping rooibos teas over the past few days. I do have an almost brand new box of infuser bags, but I feel wasteful if I use one when I have a reusable infuser sitting around. What about you? What do you prefer to use to strain and/or filter your tea?

Monday, October 5, 2015

October Giveaway: Teatime Holidays magazine!

You know I like to get started on Christmas early, so I thought for the October giveaway, I'd offer this Special Collector's Issue from Tea Time magazine called Teatime Holidays!

Inside, you'll find lots of holiday celebration ideas just as we've come to expect from Tea Time, including sweet treats …

Festive teawares …

And pretty serving and packaging ideas for Christmas foods! If you'd like to be entered in the giveaway, just leave an "Enter me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST this Friday, Oct. 9, and you'll be entered to win. (US and Canada only, please.) Good luck!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Teatime Tale #40 — A Cup of Hope

A Cup of Hope

           It was the lump that every woman dreads finding. Gail was doing her monthly breast self-exam one morning when she felt the small, hard spot, something so small she was convinced it couldn’t possibly be cancer. Still, all her friends who’d had breast cancer insisted that early detection saved lives, and Gail knew better than to let the spot go unchecked. She was sure it would be nothing, so she called her doctor and scheduled an appointment.
            It wasn’t nothing. It was something. Along with the shock of learning she had cancer came the shock of learning she would need to have a lumpectomy followed by radiation. Gail loved to quote the popular saying “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” but she quickly saw that she would have to make time for that. Because she hadn’t worked outside the home since her children, now in their late twenties, were little, she knew she had it much easier than those women who worked full-time outside the home. And single women. And poor women.
            But Gail loved being a volunteer in her community—with Friends of the Library, with Meals on Wheels—and it bothered her that those activities would have to be put on hold for a while.
            Her friend Bonnie, a breast cancer survivor herself, said, “Gail, aren’t you mad that you got cancer?”
            Gail told her that, in all honesty, she was not. Annoyed? Yes. Frightened? She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t. But mad? What would be the point? Lots of people got cancer, Gail told Bonnie, and until they found a cure for the horrible disease, she knew people were going to get it. She considered herself fortunate that her cancer was spotted early, and the doctor had given her the reassuring news that her chance of a full recovery was excellent.
            Week two of radiation was going pretty well. Gail had even written about her treatment on Facebook, asking all her friends—the real ones and the ones she hadn’t laid eyes on in thirty years—to keep her in their thoughts and prayers.

            Her neighbor Pam had been a big help, even preparing dinner for Gail and her husband, Wayne, one night. Wayne was no cook, but he would have happily picked up dinner every night of the week if Gail had asked him to. She enjoyed cooking, but the daily trips for radiation seemed to suck the life out of her.
            So Gail was especially happy when she got home from a round of radiation late one afternoon and had a text from Pam: “Call me when you get home. Got a drop-off.”
            The “drop-off” was a freshly made salad, a pan of Pam’s famous mac ’n cheese, a roasted chicken, and some of her fresh-from-the-garden green beans. For dessert, she included a half-dozen red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing and raspberries on top.
            Gail never realized a gift of food could make her so happy.
            It had rained almost every day for two weeks, and today, after Wayne drove her home from radiation, she took a nap. When she woke up, she decided to have the last of those red velvet cupcakes with her afternoon cup of Earl Grey. Instead of using her customary brown pottery mug, though, Gail chose to have tea using one of her aunt’s Royal Winton Welbeck teacups. Her aunt had always loved that cheerful yellow pattern, and truthfully, Gail did, too. It made her happy just to look at the pretty yellow colors.
            Once her tea steeped, she inhaled the strong, fragrant aroma. Earl Grey always perked her up, and today, the tea was quite a needed pick-me-up.

            Gail was genuinely trying to eat the healthiest food she could get her hands on—organic juices and fruits and vegetables, for starters—but she wasn’t about to let one of Pam’s red velvet cupcakes go to waste. After grabbing a napkin from the kitchen, she headed to the living room with her cupcake and her sunny yellow teacup and settled in.
            Just three more weeks and Gail would be finished with radiation. Wayne had offered to take her to Las Vegas to celebrate after it was all over, but she simply wanted life to get back to normal. She wanted to help coordinate the fall book sale at the library, and she especially wanted to see that all the local shut-ins were equipped with a turkey and trimmings in time for Thanksgiving.
            Gail turned on the TV in the living room just in time to see a commercial for the Promise of Pink, a benefit luncheon raising funds for breast cancer research. The luncheon was being held at the community center later in October. Maybe she would go this year.
            Pink wasn’t Gail’s favorite color, but it represented what was fast becoming a new favorite cause. She raised her teacup in a silent toast to all those along the way who’d helped make it possible for her to have such a good prognosis. Then, she offered a prayer for all those facing a similar challenge and all those who would come behind her.
            And then, just as any hope-filled woman would do, she ate her cupcake.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A "Tea and Honey" teapot from T.J. Maxx

When I was in a T.J. Maxx this week, I was looking through the clearance items when I came across a teapot with a familiar-looking flower. I thought wow, that looks like a Camellia sinensis blossom, and that's exactly what it was! Turns out, this was the six-cup "Tea and Honey" teapot from Cardew, and it was on the clearance shelf for $5 because it was missing its lid. Hmm. Surely I could find a white lid to match, eh?

I loved the saying that runs from front to back on this teapot. It says, "Busy bees …

… for our tea …

… Bring home honey." Love it!

And it even has the tea plant's name at the bottom. After I photographed the teapot, I realized the lid to my white tea-tasting mug actually fits this teapot perfectly, so that made me feel even better about my $5 find. But what did the original lid look like? I was surprised, and you may be as well (click here for a photo), but I'm still quite happy with my bargain "Tea and Honey" teapot!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Traveling home with Argo Tea's Green Tea Ginger Twist

While I've enjoyed several of Argo Tea's bottled teas before, I was not aware this company sold loose leaf tea until I saw their small stand at O'Hare in Chicago on Monday as we were about to fly back home to Georgia. My purse-slash-tote bag was packed full (books, notebooks, camera, iPad, iPhone, chargers, etc.), but I knew I had enough room left in my suitcase to tuck a tin of tea.

And I'm so glad I did, because this Green Tea Ginger Twist was wonderful! I pretty much like any ginger tea, but the addition of the lemon in this one was a pleasant change. I enjoyed knowing I'm getting the healthy benefits of green tea, and the ginger and lemon combo made it deliciously different.

And finally, I thought you might enjoy seeing the reason we made the trip up north to begin with, sweet Andrew and Michael! My stepdaughter and her husband know that as much as we enjoy visiting with them, it's these precious boys we also love to see, and it was also fun that they donned their Halloween costumes early so we could see how they'll be trick-or-treating this year. All in all, a most successful trip, I'd say!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Visiting the site of some beloved old department stores

While briefly in Chicago last week, I made a point of visiting a place I actually shopped at years ago and ended up writing about in my book "Dainty Dining," the former Marshall Field and Company department store on State Street. I love this old store's history for many reasons, chief among them the fact that the founder is the one who famously said, "Give the lady what she wants." Oh, that such customer service were still around today!

The store is a Macy's now, but I was pleased to see the old Marshall Field clocks are still on display. I like to imagine the ladies who strolled beneath them on their way inside for lunch at the store's tea room years ago. Perhaps one of them sipped from the little Marshall Field Tea Room cup and saucer I found on Etsy a while back. (Click here to see the set if you're interested.)

The other old store on State Street that I wanted to visit was the Carson Pirie Scott store, which I never visited in its heyday but whose old restaurant I have seen in postcard form. (Click here to see it.) I hadn't done any research online, so I wasn't even sure there was a tenant in the old Carson Pirie Scott building, known for its beautiful cast-iron ornamental work. But I got there and saw lots of people going in and out, and I wondered what it could be …

… and it's now a Target, for Pete's sake. I sort of died a little inside when I realized a fine old department store is now a Target, but I suppose I should be pleased that at least the building is still there!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A visit to David's Tea

My tea radar must have had dead batteries last week, because my husband actually spotted this tea shop in Chicago, David's Tea, before I did. "You ever heard of David's Tea?" he said. I told him that thanks to my Canadian tea friends, I am very much aware of David's Tea but had not had the privilege of stepping foot in a store before!

They sell some great little travel size tins of tea (two for $15) that were perfect for stowing in a suitcase. They had several varieties of these, and the ones I purchased were the Pumpkin Chai and the Peanut Butter Cup.

I was sold on the Pumpkin Chai because of the cute little orange pumpkins in this blend! This black tea is flavored with cinnamon, cloves, caramel, and the pumpkin candies. I believe it was the cloves I detected in this tea that gave it a different (but enjoyable) taste. Definitely a fun tea to try for fall!

And I was most eager to try this Peanut Butter Cup tea, as I had been wondering if anyone made a tea with peanut butter flavor. Could that possibly work? First, let me just tell you this: imagine drinking a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Uh-huh. Quite appealing, isn't it? Interestingly, this tea is actually peanut-free, according to the David's Tea website, and it's flavored mainly with almonds, cocoa beans and chocolate chips. I wish there were a David's Tea close to me, but since they charge just $5 shipping to the US for orders under $50, I think I'm going to be a regular here!

Monday, September 28, 2015

A tea room sighting in Chicago …

Last week, my husband and I spent a night in Chicago while on the way to visit our family in Wisconsin. After we settled into the hotel, we decided to take a stroll from the Grant Park area up to some of the old Chicago department stores I have researched over the years. On our way back, Alex actually spotted this place before I did, and I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it, Russian Tea Time, right there by the Art Institute of Chicago!

Did they serve tea every day? Why yes, yes they did. But it was long after 4:30 by the time we popped by, alas!

Apparently, Russian Tea Time is a legendary restaurant there in Chicago, and I still can't believe I haven't read about this somewhere before. I certainly wish I could have enjoyed afternoon tea there since it was just a short walk from our hotel. If any of you have ever had tea at this tea room, I would dearly love to hear about it before I pass through Chicago the next time!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Teatime Tale #39 - A Prize-Winning Quilt

A Prize-Winning Quilt

             Myrtle Mae McDaniel was determined to win a blue ribbon at the county fair that fall. She'd placed with every quilt she'd ever entered in the fair, but she was tired of red ribbons and white ribbons and honorable mention ribbons. It was high time she won the blue.
            With the war going on, she was surprised there were enough men left in town to even get the fair up and running, but thanks to the persistence of the Taylorsville Women's Club, the fair would go on as usual. The amusement company would arrive at the last of September, just as it always did, but instead of every men's club in town running all the booths and exhibits, the women would be in charge. Before Charles had gone off to war, she usually ended up helping with many of his county fair duties anyway, so she felt very comfortable in that regard. She sure did miss Charles. She missed her brothers, Lou and Lee, too, but in a different kind of way.

            "So Myrtle Mae, which quilt are you going to enter this year?" Charlotte Perkins had asked a few weeks ago. Charlotte was one of Myrtle Mae's neighbors—and some of her prime competition in the quilt contest at the county fair. In fact, Charlotte had won blue ribbons the past three years, a fact she did not hesitate to mention if the topic of quilting came up in conversation. And when Charlotte was around, somehow, it often did.
            "I haven't decided yet," Myrtle Mae said. "I've finished a half dozen new ones this past year, so I imagine it'll be one of those."
            "The judges seemed to like star design quilts last year," Charlotte said. "In fact, now that I think about it, I believe I got a blue ribbon for my Feathered Star quilt at last year's fair."
            "That was truly a gorgeous quilt," Myrtle Mae said. She didn't deny that Charlotte was a fine quilter; she just wished Charlotte weren't so inclined to toot her own horn.
            Myrtle Mae didn't see any need to tell Charlotte, but she was pretty sure she was going to finish her new appliqued teapot quilt made from flour sacks, and that would be the one she entered in the fair. Like a lot of women who sewed during the war, Myrtle Mae used flour sacks to conserve the "good" material for other uses, and the challenge was to use the colorful, cheerful flour sack prints in new and interesting ways. Myrtle Mae had seen flour sack appliques of baskets, flowers, and stars, but she'd never seen one made with teapots.
            She'd looked through her quilt books for a teapot pattern but couldn't find one. Finally, one night after she put Raymond, Harold, and Gloria to bed, she looked at the small cream-colored teapot on her kitchen counter and drew a freehand version of the pot onto a paper grocery sack. When she cut out the template and transferred the design to fabric with a pencil, she was fairly certain she'd discovered a new quilt pattern she would enjoy stitching.
            Like her mother, who was from England, Myrtle Mae had grown up drinking brisk black tea rather than coffee. Some of the women in her coffee klatch thought that was just plain odd. Too bad for them and more tea for her, that was Myrtle Mae's philosophy.
            Most evenings, she prepared herself a nice hot cup of tea while she worked on the teapot quilt. Myrtle Mae enjoyed selecting the most colorful of the flour sack fabrics to add to her quilt. As she stitched each teapot into place, she whiled away the hours thinking and praying. She thought about her young family, and she prayed for her husband, brothers, and all of those serving overseas, praying the war would soon come to an end so they could all be together again.
            As the teapot quilt came to life, Myrtle Mae found her worries and cares slowly slipping away, just as if they had been absorbed by the pretty cotton prints at her fingertips. Before she knew it, she'd created one hundred of those blocks and began stitching them into ten rows of ten each. The effect, she had to admit, was rather striking. She hoped the quilt judges at the county fair would agree with her.

            When the fair opened and all the quilts were judged, Myrtle Mae eagerly entered the quilt exhibit building and was thrilled to see that her teapot quilt had earned the coveted blue ribbon. To her astonishment, the quilt had also received the Best in Show Award, and the judges' comments made her beam with pride: "To Myrtle Mae McDaniel, in recognition of beauty, creativity, and workmanship, and also for patriotism in the creative use of flour sack fabrics, wisely conserving material at this important time in our nation's history."
            The other quilters had flocked around Myrtle Mae and congratulated her on the award. Even Charlotte offered congratulations, although she had added, "You know, I almost entered an applique quilt this year, but I went with another star quilt instead. You just never can tell what will strike the judges' fancy each year, can you?”
            Before leaving the exhibit building and going in search of her children—who were no doubt riding something that would make them dizzy and eating something that would give them a stomachache—Myrtle Mae looked at the teapot quilt, remembered the thoughts and prayers that had gone into all those stitches, and wondered when Charles and her brothers would get to come home.
            A blue ribbon was nice to have, but seeing all her family safely home again? That was the best prize she could ever imagine.