Monday, July 16, 2018

Bath & Body Works Shower Steamers with Tea

I must say that the coupons I've received in the mail from Bath & Body Works this year have indeed been successful in getting me into their stores. The other day, I was at the mall in Douglasville and had a coupon for a free full-size bath product, so I marched into the store, nabbed my free bottle of "Beach" bath gel, and headed to the counter, telling myself, "Don't look around. Don't look around." Alas, the lady in front of me couldn't get her debit card to work, so while that was being figured out, I glanced at the display I was standing next to and spotted, in the faintest type imaginable, the word "Tea." Sigh.

Shower Steamers. With eucalyptus and tea. Designed to help me "Focus." Naturally, I had to take these home with me. So much for a totally free visit. (That lady was still trying to get her debit card to work when I left the store, so a clerk from the sister business next door, the White Barn, came over and said she could check me out. Sold!)

So Shower Steamers are a new concept to me, but they're certainly easy enough to use. Unwrap, place on the shower floor out of the direct spray of the water, and voila! Soon, you're inhaling this lovely scented steam. I definitely recommend this product, which you can find here. And when I got home and Googled, I found that there is a whole line of these eucalyptus-and-tea products at Bath & Body Works. Next time I get another coupon, I may explore some more!

Friday, July 13, 2018

The tea mug giveaway winner is …

Nancy Carolan! And I've just sent her an email, so this mug will soon be winging its way to her home for summer sipping. Thanks to all who entered!

Paging Penelope Barker …

I have long been interested in women who are trailblazers. Years ago, when I was beginning a career in journalism, I interviewed a local woman who was one of the first female airline pilots for Eastern Air Lines. She was smart, funny, and pretty. And when I interviewed her, I believe she was still restoring her "Painted Lady" Victorian home. She was one of those women who truly seemed able to do it all. No wonder I love the saying, "The one who says it can't be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it." So forgive me if I'm a little excited about having discovered an image I'd not seen before of a trailblazer in tea history, Penelope Barker, who led the Edenton Tea Party of 1774 in North Carolina, one of those protests held near the time of the Boston Tea Party. She and 51 other women decided to boycott tea in protest of the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773.

First, look at Mrs. Barker's face. Picture her as a sassy southern blonde with long hair. Couldn't that be Reese Witherspoon? AmIright or amIright?

At any rate, her intriguing image comes from a booklet I found *for free* on the Library of Congress website, The Historic Tea-Party of Edenton by Richard Dillard. Interested? You can access it here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My latest Goodwill find: Christmas decor or story idea?

As I've written about many times, I prowl the thrift stores for vintage Christmas decor all year long. Teacups, Santa mugs, serving dishes … I love them all, and at thrift stores, the price is always right. But recently, I bought a Christmas plate for two reasons: it had a pretty aqua color, but more important, it has a story!

On the front, it says, "Thank you, Lord! Ann Rowley (or Rawley)." There is, of course, always plenty we can thank the Lord for, and I wondered what made Ann so boldly thank Him on this plate she painted. Just life in general? Maybe she was grateful that God saw her through a sad or trying time? Maybe she was (is?) just a thankful person and found (finds?) it natural to be thankful to the Lord?

Then on the back of the plate, I read, "To: My Classmates of '53. We did have fun!!!! didn't we? Love ya! Ann." Now how many of these Class of '53 classmates do you think Ann made plates for? I'm thinking somewhere between four and eight. I'm picturing them all together at a tearoom one Christmas, each one unwrapping her plate and oohing and aahing over it. And one of them passed away, and so the plate landed at Goodwill when an unsentimental daughter (or one who, like many of us, is simply out of storage room!) was going through her mom's things.

I even Googled a few obituaries for Ann Rowley/Rawley (I'm still not sure which it is), hoping to find one who was a china painter, but I decided it might be more fun not to know which Ann this is, and what her real story is. I love this plate, and the mystery it presents makes me love it even more. If I write a book one day based on an old handpainted Christmas plate, perhaps some of you will remember that you first saw the idea here!

Monday, July 9, 2018

July Giveaway: Turquoise Tea Mug

I came across a great new oversized tea mug at T.J. Maxx recently, and I bought one for myself as well as one for the July giveaway! I like to sip tea out of something sturdy when I'm working upstairs in my office, so this is my new "workweek" tea mug.  I think this "Made in Portugal" mug is a perfect summertime mug with its pretty seaside color.

If you'd like to win a tea mug just like mine, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, July 13, making sure to include an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner, and you'll be entered to win. US only, please. Good luck!

Friday, July 6, 2018

"A Tea Spoon," circa 1907

So now that I've figured out how to correctly view these vintage stereographic cards, I am having fun looking for new tea-themed ones on the Library of Congress website, like this one cleverly titled "A Tea Spoon."

This image is circa 1907 from Berry, Kelley & Chadwick in Philadelphia. (Please click on the link up top if you're interested in trying to view it stereographically, as the LOC image is larger than the space here permits me to show.)

I wish I could tell more about the actual tea wares in this photo, but the expression on the man's face is definitely worth the price of admission!

Monday, July 2, 2018

A weekend in the North Georgia Mountains

This weekend, I was in Tiger, Georgia, a small town in the North Georgia Mountains, where my friend Shannon Alley (mother of my friend Liz) was having a book signing for her book of poetry, Time Stands Still in Tiger, which I edited for her earlier this year. It made my day to see Shannon holding court at the local assisted living facility, and she had a steady stream of customers for the entire two hours of the event!

Check out the cake they had made for the occasion!

As a thank-you from her daughters, Alex and I enjoyed a stay at the White Birch Inn, a charming bed and breakfast nearby, in downtown Clayton. We discovered Clayton a few years ago and have made a habit of visiting each fall, so we were delighted to stay at this lovely inn!

The inn and gardens were so beautiful …

And I loved everything from this birdhouse …

To this patio, still gorgeous after an overnight rain!

A few years ago, Liz told us about the Clayton Cafe, and Alex and I had a great fried chicken lunch there one day. The next time we went up, they were sold out of fried chicken, so we knew to get there early this time. We were a tad skeptical since the Clayton Cafe has new owners and has been refurbished, but the chicken was just as great as before! Furthermore, we struck up a conversation with a lady at the next table over. We learned she is from Tampa but comes to the North Georgia Mountains in the summertime. She left a few minutes before us and said, "Oh, by the way, your lunch is on me, and welcome to Rabun County." When we found out she had just taken care of our tab, we were speechless at this gift, just because we were friendly, I guess! Who knew? (Alex and I have decided we want to "pay it forward" sometime soon! I l-o-v-e spreading kindness in today's world!)

After Shannon's book signing, I enjoyed some shopping in downtown Clayton, and while I didn't find a tea postcard, I sure enjoyed browsing through the many stacks of postcards at Prater Collectibles & Antiques, a place I love to visit when I'm up there.

And I was about to think I would leave the town without spotting anything related to tea, but then I saw their outdoor display featuring this. So with a fantastic book signing, a delicious lunch, some fun shopping, and a tea sighting, it was a great visit, so I'll leave you with a few more images from my whirlwind weekend!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "The Tea Planter's Wife" by Dinah Jefferies

Summary: In 1925, Englishwoman Gwendolyn Hooper has just married a young widower and tea plantation owner, Laurence Hooper, and she travels to her new home in Ceylon, where she quickly learns that perhaps she doesn't know her new husband as well as she thought she did.

My thoughts: Wow, have my emotions gone through the wringer! At first, this book reminded me of a much older book, Invitation to Tea by Monica Lang, another tale that features the travails of young newlyweds making their life on the tea plantation. But almost immediately, this story injected several mysteries into the mix, and I was so intrigued that I could hardly put it down. I wish I could assume all of you had read this book because I would love to discuss it, but the main things worth discussing are all spoilers! So, I'll just say that I thought the author did a fantastic job of creating a vivid portrait of a young woman who struggles with being both a new wife and then, soon enough, a new mother. The issue of racial tensions on the tea plantation came into play as well, and with today's immigration debate, I thought this book would make a great jumping-off point for discussions about how we view those considered "foreign." There is much, much to chew on here, and the book also had some great villains! (Villainesses, actually.)

The judgment: This is one of those books that really moved in with me, and I found myself tearing up at the end, especially when I saw some unexpected emotion from a particularly hard-hearted character in his great moment of redemption. This would make a terrific epic film if Hollywood could manage not to bungle it up!

For discussion:

• When I read about the processing machinery at the tea plantation, I couldn't help recalling my tour of the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina and the machinery there. Did anybody else have that reaction?

• Laurence Hooper seemed to have a detached approach to the workers on his tea plantation and lets Nick McGregor manage them. Did Laurence turn a blind eye to too many things?

• And the most interesting question of all: Was Gwen a good mother?

If you're in a (non-virtual) book club and haven't read this book yet, I think The Tea Planter's Wife would make a wonderful selection!

Next Month's Book: I'm taking a chance here and choosing a book based only on its cover, The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A gift of Postcard Tea!

You know how friends go abroad and send you a postcard? Well, this time, tea friend Frances L. from California traveled to England and thoughtfully sent me not a postcard but rather some Postcard Tea!

There's even space right on the box for you to include a note to the recipient! 

And I just love the graphic on the back, especially the pretty red and turquoise coloring!

The tea itself was quite scrumptious! I opened the packet and inhaled that scent so reminiscent of fresh wood shavings, and this black tea was quite refreshing and, despite the pretty copper color in my teacup, had not a hint of astringency! I was hooked from the first sip and am so delighted Frances thought of me while on her trip. If you'd like to check out Postcard Teas for yourself, click here to learn more and see a photo of their charming shop!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Taking tea in Senoia

So this year's "Tea in the Garden" of the Senoia Area Historical Society got moved because of the storms that blew into town over the weekend, but those busy bees at the historical society had quickly transformed the local senior center into a tearoom, and it was so lovely! Right away, I ran into some old colleagues and took their photos in their hats. Aren't they cute? I was there to enjoy the tea and serve as a judge for the annual hat contest.

Each table was dressed to the nines, and formal china was used at every seat.

I love seeing lace tablecloths that are actually being used instead of folded away in a linen closet!

Another thoughtful touch was that the historical society paid tribute to the late Totsie McKnight, a beloved local lady whose memory still looms large. I had the pleasure of knowing Totsie and miss her still, so I smiled when I saw this display—and her recipe!

Now here's an idea I am going to use myself. They had bottled water in a silver punch bowl, and the labels had teacups on them! Aren't these great?

This was my place setting, and I had to ooh and aah over everything before I partook!

Another clever touch was the place cards in vintage spools of thread!

And while we didn't make it to the garden because of the rain, the garden made its way to us in the form of beautiful fresh flower displays on all the tables. I am always amazed at how much detail the Senoia volunteers put into their tea!

We had hot Vanilla Caramel Tea as well as a delicious iced Raspberry Tea.

And scones were served with Raspberry Pecan Amaretto Preserves, which were so tasty!

My friend Nancy Roy coordinates the tea and has been active in Senoia's historical society for the 20-plus years I've had the pleasure of knowing her!

The menu this year included Cheese Buttons, Cucumber Sandwiches, Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches, Chicken Salad in Phyllo Cups, and a Fruit and Cheese Skewer.

And dessert was Totsie's Tea Cakes and Rich's Frozen Fruit Salad (for those of you who have my department store tearoom book, this is the fruit salad in that book, and I loved their pretty presentation). Totsie's Tea Cakes, by the way, were soft and delicious, as were all the foods at this lovely, lovely tea!

And I was talking too much and didn't think to get a photo of the hat contest winner, but I can assure you that you all would have approved. She was a lovely lady wearing a vintage white hat with her lacy ensemble, and the other two judges and I all spotted her immediately, which made our job extra easy this year!

Friday, June 22, 2018

"At Farley tea"

My latest tea find on the Library of Congress website is this photo, and the description reads: "At Farley tea. Mrs. Daniel Skilling of New York City, a guest at the tea given by Mrs. James A. Farley, wife of the Postmaster General, on the afternoon of cabinet wives at home. 1/16/35"

This photo makes me wish *I* had been invited to the Farley tea!

But Lord willing, I will be at tea in Senoia on Saturday, where I'll once again be a judge for their hat contest. Photos to come!