Friday, November 28, 2014

New teatime Christmas decor

It is always fun to find a surprise in the mailbox, but it's even more fun when the surprise comes from a tea friend! This week, the mailbox turned up two delightful new tea-themed Christmas decorations I'll soon be including in my holiday decor, a cute plaque with a tea mug and an embroidered teapot ornament.

Both are from Donna Z., a longtime friend of this blog, and I was sooooo tickled to receive them. I've even been examining the ornament to see if I might be able to make something like this myself one day. Thanks for kicking off my holiday decorating in style, Donna!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Looking for a deal on tea?

As much as I love to shop, I'm often asked if I shop on Black Friday, and the answer is no. I treasure sleep much more than getting a deal on the one or two laptops they'll have at some big box store the day after Thanksgiving. Besides, crowds make me cranky. But I don't at all mind a little cyber shopping around Thanksgiving, and if you're in the market for some tea, I have a great recommendation! My friends at Teavivre.com have some specials online, and they've also given me up to 20 $5 gift card codes to give away to those of you readers who would like one!

These digital gift card codes are good through November 2015, apply to any teas or teawares on the Teavivre site, there's no minimum order, and the $5 discount can even be used to pay for shipping. You can e-mail me for a code through the e-mail button at right. (One reader recently told me she had a problem doing that, so feel free to e-mail angelamcrae at charter dot net and that will work too!)

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The virtues of vanilla

It seems that vanilla, as a flavor choice, gets a bad rap sometimes. I know that when I was younger, it used to bug me to go to an ice cream shop with someone and watch them order a scoop of plain old vanilla. How insulting to Baskin Robbins and those however-many-it-was flavors to go with the very least exotic flavor in the case. But our tastes change over time, both figuratively and literally, and today I have a much greater appreciation for the virtues of vanilla. I love the scent, I love the way it flavors cookies and cakes, and yes, I even like it to flavor my tea! This week, I tried another of those samples Adagio Tea sent me recently, their vanilla tea that was part of their Nut and Spice Sampler.

It is obviously a black tea, and one Adagio describes as "Bright Ceylon tea with pure vanilla. Soothing and cozy, like warm sugar cookies made with fresh vanilla beans." "Soothing and cozy" is a great description, because this tea is warming, subtly sweet, and it certainly doesn't call for the addition of any milk or sugar. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced I've become a fan of vanilla. Are you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ellen Clapsaddle Thanksgiving postcards

Much as I love collecting old tea room postcards, my vintage holiday postcards are actually some of the ones I treasure most. One of my favorite Thanksgiving postcards is this Ellen Clapsaddle card featuring a turkey, the words "A Glad Thanksgiving," assorted serving pieces and a sweet little row of teacups up top.

Another Ellen Clapsaddle design features a different style of turkey, the words "Greetings for Thanksgiving Day," and a napkin along with some flowers and a teacup and saucer. I love the simplicity of this design.

My third Ellen Clapsaddle Thanksgiving postcard says "Welcome Thanksgiving." It bears the image of a pie-making lass who happens to have what looks like a Blue Willow teapot in the background. So who IS Ellen Clapsaddle? According to Wikipedia, Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (1865-1934) was an American illustrator and commercial artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and "today she is recognized as the most prolific souvenir/postcard and greeting card artist of her era." It is estimated that she created over 3,000 signed designs, which I find amazing. I love to read those Wikipedia articles in which some reader has disputed information in the article. On the Ellen Clapsaddle page, it says two of her designs were accepted by a publishing company in New York and became "an immediate success." Someone inserted a comment that says, "BALONEY--Art postcards weren't invented as a publication form in the time period referred to here." That made me smile! So whether Clapsaddle's postcards were "an immediate success" or not, I feel quite safe in saying they are some lovely pieces of artwork that collectors are still enjoying today.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #47 - Donaldson's Glass Block Department Store Japanese Tea Room (Minneapolis, MN)

Donaldson's Glass Block Department Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota is a vintage department store I initially found interesting because of the name. The store was so named because of all the glass used in its design (there are lots of photos of the exterior in postcards on eBay if you're curious, as I was). But of course what I really enjoyed learning about was the store's Japanese Tea Room, which is shown here in this postcard mailed in 1908.

This card was mailed to Miss Mary Brown of what I believe is Mora, Minnesota. It was mailed from Osseo, Minnesota on Oct. 5, 1908 and reads, "Dear Aunt, I see you are still OK these days and playing (music?). How did you survive the cool spell? I guess there was a heavy fire in Foley the other day and the forest fires are all out now I hope. I guess I will have to draw this to a close. Your loving nephew Bill." It continues to amaze me that occasionally I am sitting here reading someone's correspondence from more than a hundred years ago. A hundred years from now, how will folks know what we were up to back in 2014? Will they go back and read our Twitter feeds, blogs, Facebook pages or e-mails? Somehow I doubt it, but I can't yet imagine what will take the place of the old handwritten letters and postcards. Can you?

Friday, November 21, 2014

A new tea room opens — in 1914!

Last month I blogged about a wonderful vintage cookbook that tea friend Jenn sent me from Massachusetts. She said at the time that the chapter house of her Daughters of the American Revolution chapter there, the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter, was being reorganized, and when they came across a supply of the books, they decided to use them as a fundraiser. But the story doesn't end there. This week, Jenn wrote with the exciting (to me at least!) news that it has been discovered that her DAR chapter's house once was home to ... a tea room! Above is a screen grab of the chapter's website where I pulled up this information.

A scrapbook revealed that this DAR chapter opened their tea room in the "old Paine Homestead" in 1914. This is a screen grab of a newspaper article about the tea room, and here's a link to the blog post with the article. I won't ruin the surprise by telling you what type of china they used (just take a guess), because I absolutely adored getting to read about this charming tea room of yesteryear. A special thanks to Jenn, once again, for sharing, because I know some of you are going to love this wonderful bit of tea room history as much as I do!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The giveaway winner is … me!

Ha! Many times throughout the year you'll see a headline on here that says, "The giveaway winner is …" and it announces the winner of my latest giveaway. This week, I am delighted to report that my mailbox turned up a wonderful package that I won in a giveaway sponsored by my tea blogger friend Marilyn!

Among the goodies I received was this adorable red glass tea trivet. I knew immediately where I would use this, as I have two small desks in my office upstairs (one for writing, one for reading), and the "reading" desk needs a place to sit a mug of hot tea. Perfect!

I was especially happy to win this pretty red and purple teapot bracelet, as I have a new red sweater that needs some accessories. This is just what I needed!

The exuberant little girl on the front of this sweet mini book reminds me of Marilyn herself—I can almost imagine that's her in the whimsical tutus she sometimes wears!

And there was also a surprise bookmark tucked inside my box, always a most welcome gift in this house. Thanks so much, Marilyn, for hosting the giveaway and especially for picking me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Some new tea from Kenya

A popular credit card commercial always likes to say, "What's in YOUR wallet?" I think a much more fun question is, "What's in YOUR teacup?" Today, mine has a tea filter containing a very fine blend of tea that I recently received from my friend Lisa.

Lisa's father was an interpreter for the UN and went to Kenya quite a bit, so she says that she has a real fondness for Kenya. For that reason, she was at a market not long ago and bought what she thought was Kenyan teabags from Safari Pure Tea only to find out she'd purchased Kenyan loose tea instead. May I just say I am so blessed to get my friends' tea rejects? As most of you know by now, I'll try anything once, and if it's good I'll drink it more than once!

I had no idea what to expect when I opened this bag of Safari Pure Tea, but when I poured a little out I realized it is one of those super-fine blends that resembles coffee grounds. The other tea I've had that looked like this is the London Cuppa blend, which I know some of you have tried and enjoyed. When I first steeped this Safari tea it was wayyyyy too strong for these tastebuds, but when I steeped it a second time for just about two minutes it was perfect. It's a nice brisk blend and just the sort of thing I enjoy on these cold afternoons when I need a little pick-me-up at the end of my workday. So now it must be asked: "What's in YOUR teacup today?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My bargain Sadler teapot

I must confess I felt a little guilty buying this Sadler teapot at a Bremen antique mall over the weekend since I happen to have a tea blogger friend who collects Sadlers, but when you're in the antique mall and you see one marked $18 (not bad) and realize the booth has marked most things half-off (really not bad), what are you to do? Well, you buy the teapot!

I loved the shape of this teapot as well as the pretty rose design, which will blend well with the pink teawares in my collection.

This backstamp looks rather new-ish to me, and when I searched online I saw it described as a 1947-and-later mark and also as a 1955 mark, but I would not be shocked to learn this teapot is only a few years old because it is in such good condition. At any rate, I love my new $9 teapot and look forward to pouring many cups of happiness from its sweet little spout.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spotting tea in unexpected places

I just love being surprised when I discover "teatime" in an unexpected place. This weekend, that place was Staples, the office supply store. Can you guess what this is?

If you guessed a journal, you would be correct. Journals are very important to my writing life, and I never seem to have enough of them. I usually have at least three or four extras on hand in case of emergency, and a writing emergency is simply having a new idea that requires its own journal!

This one is nice and thick, and I was pleasantly surprised such a nice quality journal was just $12.99. Even the young woman at the checkout admired it, asking where in the store I'd found it. (The gift section, where they have some really lovely things.) This new journal is absolutely perfect for the notes I'm about to start making in preparation for next year's Saturday teatime project, which is still in the planning stage. It's very, very different from anything I've ever done here before, and I can't wait to start!

I also like to look through the calendars when I'm out shopping in late fall, and this mini calendar (about 7 x 7 inches) features quotes by Karen Kingsbury, an inspirational author several friends have recommended to me but whom I've not actually read yet. Still, I liked the look of this $2.99 calendar, and when I flipped it over to see the images on the back …

… I realized this was just my cup of you-know-what!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #46 - Waioli Tea Room (Honolulu, Hawaii)

When I spent a year cooking old tea room recipes in 2013, one of the tea room cookbooks I acquired for this project was from the Waioli Tea Room in Honolulu, Hawaii, a tea room owned and operated by the Salvation Army. When I saw this vintage postcard from that tea room, I naturally was interested. (Click here to see what "tropical" food I prepared from the tea room's cookbook.)

Although this postcard doesn't contain a message, it does contain some information that I found useful, that someone ate there on May 20 and ate a "Buffet Lunch." Now I don't have any official research for this, but my sense is that older postcards were purchased more for mailing and communication purposes, and more modern-era postcards (say, fifties on) were just as likely to be purchased as souvenirs. This is not the first time I've seen a postcard whose purchaser used it for journaling purposes, and I must say I rather like this idea. When you purchase postcards during your travels, do you send them or use them as keepsakes?

Friday, November 14, 2014

MojiTea bottled tea from Argo Tea

If I see a new bottled tea I've never tried before, I am probably going to buy it and try it. That's just what I did at Kroger this week when I saw Argo's MojiTea sitting pretty in one of the featured cases.

This MojiTea drink includes "Armenian Mint tea, vitamin-filled lime juice and pure cane sugar." Each bottle contains about two servings of 70 calories each, and I absolutely loved the taste of this tea. It was pleasantly sweet and yet I got a lot of the lime flavor, which I love. I checked out their website when I got home, and I was surprised to learn that Argo Tea sells loose leaf teas and tea sachets as well as the RTD teas I've blogged about before. Have any of you tried Argo's loose leaf teas? You can go here to learn more — and also to see one of the coolest modern teacups ever!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A taste of Thanksgiving

It's my turn to host Thanksgiving this year, and I'm so looking forward to it! A day set aside for giving thanks is such a lovely idea, and I like that the Thanksgiving hostess isn't expected to have the whole house decorated or presents under the tree just yet. For a little inspiration, I picked up a copy of the new Taste of the South magazine.

The first thing that caught my eye was this Cranberry-Pretzel Salad. Friends, how do you feel about this? Personally, I'm intrigued. I'm already planning to have homemade cranberry sauce as well as the canned stuff my family has always had, and perhaps one more cranberry item might not be too much.

I also liked this pretty spread showing the bounty of the southern Thanksgiving table. It reminded me that I got some new Thanksgiving linens the last time I hosted Thanksgiving, and I need to remember to use them this year!

Though the Cranberry-Pretzel Salad recipe doesn't appear to be available online, the magazine's website does include this recipe for Sweet Potato S'mores Bars, which I think sound yummy! The sweets are the Thanksgiving treats I like best, perhaps because we all sit around enjoying them with tea (or coffee) for a few days after Thanksgiving is over. So who are the Thanksgiving cooks among us this year? If you're the cook for your celebration, are you cooking anything new this year?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The almost-perfect Lilly Pulitzer tea tumbler

After I left T.J. Maxx with a new Christmas teapot on Saturday, I walked next door to Marshalls and left with the most summery new tea tumbler imaginable, but it was something I had to have because a) I love Lilly Pulitzer's cheerful patterns b) I love roses and c) I love teapots! When I saw this pretty tumbler sitting on a shelf staring at me, I literally stopped in my tracks and pulled out my reading glasses because I thought I was imagining there were teapots on that tumbler. As a longtime Lilly Pulitzer fan, I would certainly have heard if Lilly had introduced a teapot design, wouldn't I?

But indeed there were teapots.

And indeed there were roses.

But the funny thing is, the reason this particular Lilly pattern wasn't on my radar is that it's one of their lines created for a sorority, Delta Zeta. See the little triangle and the Z? Yep. So I, who was never in a sorority, now own a Delta Zeta tea tumbler. But my goodness, isn't this just the cutest thing? Would you have been discouraged from buying it by the sorority connection? If you're a tea fan and happen to have been in Delta Zeta, well, I would HAVE to have one of these if I were you. (But don't pay the $20 they're going for on eBay. Hold out for Marshalls, where I got mine for just $4.99!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day!


Today I'm lifting my cup to all of America's veterans, past and present!

Monday, November 10, 2014

A new Christmas teapot

On Saturday I visited a big T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods store in Marietta that I haven't been to in a while. I had a writer's group meeting in the area, so afterward I buzzed by to see if they had some Christmas goodies out. Indeed they did, including this pretty Christmas teapot!

I know from experience, and from reading other tea blogs, that it can be hard to find a Christmas teapot at all, much less at a good price. This one from Gracie's China was just $12.99, so it went in my cart pretty quickly. And if you'd like a shopping report, I can also tell you they had plenty of Spode Christmas Tree pattern teacup and saucer sets ($4.99), Spode Christmas Tree pattern teapots with peppermint cane handles ($19.99), assorted chintz and poinsettia design tea-for-one sets ($9.99), and something fun but that I'd have no idea what to do with, a giant gingerbread man cookie cutter that I'd estimate was between four and five feet tall ($49.99).

After my mom passed away so quickly and unexpectedly last fall, I must say the holidays were pretty dreary. I think it's safe to say my whole family was in survival mode, just wanting Thanksgiving and Christmas to get over with and sail into the history books. A godly friend who had lost her own mother earlier in the year had told me that joy WOULD return to my life, and though I had a hard time believing her then, I can see now that she was right. So even though I see all the pretty Christmas things in the stores and miss getting to ooh and aah over them with my mom, I remember to be thankful for all the years we did get to do those things together, and often now I like to imagine what pretty things *she* is seeing in Heaven that I can look forward to seeing for myself one day. Meanwhile, I know she would not like it if she thought everyone was moping around down here in her absence. So I guess that's my long-winded way of saying, I am soooo looking forward to getting back in the Christmas spirit this year! Are you Christmas shopping yet? Have you decided how you want to decorate? I'm thinking of ditching the blue and brown Christmas decor from last year and going back to good old red and green. I'd love to hear your plans!