Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — Tennessee

I realized this week that I really don't know too much about my neighbor to the north, Tennessee, but I did manage to gather a few tea-related Tennessee tidbits that I thought were interesting, and I hope you will, too!

• The Woman's Exchange of Memphis, a group founded in 1885, has an award-winning tearoom that is still going strong today.  I love to read old tearoom cookbooks, and in this one, I found the first (and only) pimiento cheese recipe I'd seen that calls for melting the cheese. (It was delicious!) Go here if you'd like to see what the Woman's Exchange is up to today. While it's not an English-afternoon-tea type of tearoom, it still sounds like a lovely place to visit one day!

• The M & O Tea Room in Gatlinburg (postcard circa 1940) was a tearoom and craft shop that billed itself as "a good place to rest or play!" Like a lot of southerners, I grew up going to Gatlinburg, Tenn. on family vacations. For that reason, I was intrigued when I found this vintage postcard for the M & O Tea Room and Craft Shop and The Rossmore in Gatlinburg. The back of the card is blank, and I wasn't able to find out anything about this tearoom except that it was in operation around 1940 and some local weavers sold their wares here. Newer hotels had come along by the time I was a child visiting Gatlinburg, but I'll bet the M & O served many a happy tourist in the tearoom in its heyday.

• It's closed now, but one of my all-time favorite tearooms was Miss Mable's Tea Room in Dickson, Tennessee. I visited with a girlfriend more than a decade ago now, and to this day I can remember the beautiful tearoom, the exceptional service, and the delicious food including some scones that remain among the best I have ever eaten. Happily I have some cookbooks from the tearoom to help me keep those memories near! I was dismayed this week to find that I apparently never put my Miss Mable's photos in my official tearoom scrapbook. I know they're somewhere in all the boxes of paper and photos I have squirreled away, but meanwhile, my friend Phyllis blogged about Miss Mable's here. (I had forgotten about the PT Cruiser with "Driving Miss Mable" written across the back!) I think there's a lot of truth to that old saying about how people may forget what you've said to them but they will never forget how you made them feel. Miss Mable's made me "feel" as if I were family, and I'll never forget that wonderful experience!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cultivating tea … in 1848

"No plant is more simple in its cultivation, and none requires less skill and attention than the Tea Plant; any one who can cultivate a cabbage can cultivate the Tea Plant."

— Junius Smith, "Essays on the cultivation of the tea plant"

My latest discovery on the Library of Congress website? This 1848 (1848!) book titled "Essays on the Cultivation of the Tea Plant." I couldn't believe a book on US tea cultivation was written this early. I'd seen the 1899 book on tea cultivation by Dr. Charles Shepard, founder of Pinehurst Tea Plantation in South Carolina, whose plants were later transferred to the Charleston Tea Plantation.

But the discovery of an 1848 book on growing tea strikes me as quite a discovery, so I've downloaded it to my iPad and started reading!

For those of you who share my passion for tea history, here's a link!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

In the holiday mindset

I don't know about you, but I really feel like Christmas is on the way when I start finding Christmas magazines in the mail. And since the November/December issue of Tea Time just arrived in my mailbox, maybe that's one reason I ordered my first Christmas gift of the season this week!

There is always much to love in the holiday-themed issue of the magazine, and as usual, I find myself drawn to the gorgeous blue-and-white decor featured in the Hanukkah Celebration.

Equally charming is the "Winter Wonderland" spread featuring frosty whites and silver and lots of white foods. The photography is incredibly lovely, and since I've been thinking about hosting a Christmas tea for the ladies along my street, this new issue is providing me with inspiration galore. Have you started your Christmas preparations yet?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recreating a "London Fog"

 Have you ever had a London Fog tea latte? I've had this drink at both Starbucks (so-so) and a local tea and spice shop (excellent), and recently I saw several recipes for the drink being shared on the Afternoon Tea Across America Facebook page. I decided it was time to experiment, so I did!

For my London Fog, I placed one Earl Grey tea bag in a mug and added boiling water, then added three shakes from my bottle of McCormick lavender, and let it all steep for about four minutes. While it was steeping, I microwaved some milk. After straining off the lavender from the tea, I added about three tablespoons of the hot milk to my drink, along with a few drops of vanilla extract and one teaspoon of sugar. I must say I enjoyed my homemade version of this rich, sweet drink! Have any of you made a London Fog? If so, any tips you'd care to share?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In praise of poke cakes

Over the weekend, the Webster side of my family had its annual family reunion at a state park in Crawfordville, Ga. It was great to get together again with my dad's side of the family, and for me, one of the highlights was that several of my aunts — whom I consider some of the best cooks God ever put on this earth — asked for the recipe for the Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Poke Cake that I took!

I've long been a fan of the "poke" cake, the out-of-a-box cake you bake, poke holes in, and then fill with yummy stuff like, in this case, caramel ice cream topping, whipped cream, and cream cheese. Not exactly a diet-friendly recipe, but then I tend to make a poke cake only once or twice a year.

I found the recipe on Pinterest, naturally, and was quite pleased with my first effort at making a herringbone pattern by dragging a toothpick back and forth through the caramel. I froze my cake overnight so it would still be cold (and thawed) by the time it arrived at the reunion two hours away. If you're a fan of poke cakes, give this one a try! (And tell me, how can we adjust this for teatime? I absolutely love the moist texture of poke cakes, and the creamy toppings, but other than scooping up individual bits and making mini trifles out of them, I cannot think of a cute and clever way to present this at the tea table. Can you?)

Monday, October 17, 2016

A giveaway from Hoffman Media: "Tea & Scones"

Once again, I am delighted to host a giveaway courtesy of our friends at Hoffman Media, and this time it's a hardback book I know many of you will want, "Tea & Scones: The Ultimate Collection of Recipes for Teatime." I've received a copy from them myself, and now one of you can win a copy as well!

If you haven't made scones in a while, I can assure you that this book will get you in the mood for baking. Since I regularly have one cup of canned pumpkin left over from something or other in the fall, I was happy to find a recipe calling for precisely that amount of pumpkin. And since my dad has been sending me home with sweet potatoes far more often than we are able to consume them at this house, I was equally pleased to find several recipes for sweet potato scones. The caramel ones shown in the book had me drooling, but then blueberry is a perennial favorite type of scone, although I could easily be swayed to try something new like Rooibos-Infused Cherry Scones, one of the savory scones (perfect accompaniment for fall soups!), or the gluten-free Vanilla-Pear Scones I could enjoy with a friend who eats gluten-free foods. In other words, there is pretty much something for every taste!

The book also includes recipes from 12 different tearoom owners, all of whom tell the story of how they came to open a tearoom. I was so happy to see Miss Spenser's Special-Teas of Longview Farms in New Virginia, Iowa, included. Even though I've not yet had the pleasure of visiting, I've "met" owner Donna Hardin in cyberspace and consider myself a fan!

This book was originally published in 2011 as "Scones & Tea," and this updated version has an expanded gluten-free section as well as some great how-to photos. I particularly enjoyed seeing the step-by-step photos for how to prepare fruit scones so that fruit is incorporated throughout. Very helpful!

So if you'd like to win a copy of this book, just leave an "Enter me" type comment between now and 7 a.m. EST Monday, October 24, and you'll be entered to win. (US only, please.) I'll collect your contact info, and Hoffman Media will mail the book directly to the winner. And if you can't wait and would like to go ahead and order a copy of this book for yourself, just click here!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — South Dakota

Earlier this year, I came across a book that mentioned a town called "Tea, South Dakota." Now I thought that was just a fun bit of fiction until I learned that there really is a town called Tea, South Dakota!

• If there was ever a place that begged a visit from tea lovers, it would surely have to be Tea, South Dakota.  I found this community guide to the town online, and I was just fascinated by all the fun names. You can read about the town in the Tea Weekly newspaper, and anyone with small children might want to look into MyTea Tykes or Tea Tots, two local childcare facilities. I for one would enjoy wearing a T-shirt in support of a child playing Tea Soccer, and I know I would enjoy a visit to the Tea Area Historical Society. The best time to go to Tea, clearly, would be the third weekend in June, when Teapot Days are held, an event which includes the crowning of Ma and Pa Teapot.

• In June of 2006, Tea, South Dakota, was honored in the US Senate upon the occasion of its 100th anniversary.  If you have difficulty reading the above image from the Congressional Record, the part I was most interested in was this: "Tea’s unusual name was discovered when the community was asked to submit 10 town names to the Postal Service but only 9 could be decided upon. A recess was called during a town meeting at which tea was served. Someone suggested the name 'Tea' be added to the list. Shortly after, this tight-knit community was informed that their new name would be Tea. Tea was officially incorporated in 1906."

• In 1885, the Ladies of the Presbyterian Aid Society in Woonsocket, South Dakota, gave a benefit Tea Party at the church. This bit of ephemera comes from the Library of Congress, and I love how it says, "A Good Supper will be served from 6 to 9 o'clock" and that afterward, there would be "Music, Charades, and Magic Music." Can anyone tell what that last handwritten line says? I'm thinking it reads, "Proceeds for Mr. Currant." Just goes to show that benefit teas have been around for a while!

Friday, October 14, 2016

A 1910 book of "Candlelight Tea" recipes

I really need to make a list of all the great tea resources I'm finding on the Library of Congress website. This week it was a charming vintage book that's in the public domain, "Candlelight Tea" by Lina Dunlap.

This book was published in 1910 by Transylvania Printing Company of Lexington, Kentucky, and it features recipes for beverages, salads, and sandwiches.

Here's one page from the sandwich section, and I think two of these three recipes sound just fine (you can probably guess which ones). I'm intrigued that the Neufchatel sandwich recipe is quite similar to one I make today, 106 years after the publication of this book. (It's here.) I just love looking through old cookbooks, and some of you may as well!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Teavivre's Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

I was in the mood to sample a new green tea, so I turned to some samples I recently received from Teavivre and tried their Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea.

The dry tea leaves seemed to have only a slight vegetal scent, but that might have had something to do with my sniffer being out of whack thanks to fall allergies. Still, I always enjoy admiring the unique flat shape of Dragon Well tea leaves.

I was surprised to inhale the aroma of the steeped tea and find I could indeed smell the distinct aroma of something akin to steamed asparagus, a scent that past experience told me meant this would be a tea I'd enjoy. Indeed, yes! The smooth-tasting tea had only a mere hint of astringency, no grassy aftertaste, and I drank (and enjoyed) several cups of it. I do find myself trying to drink more green tea these days simply because it has so many great health benefits, including weight loss and lower risk of cancer. I don't think I've mentioned it here, but I'm happy to report that by eating less and walking more, I've lost 16 pounds over the spring and summer and hope to shed a few more by Christmas. So if green tea will help me with that, I say, bring on the green tea!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Aunt Martha likes Tea Time

So I was in Hobby Lobby to pick up some supplies so I can make the needlebook from the kit I picked up at the quilt show last week. Among the supplies was a particular size and type of thread, and what did I find nearby but this darling book of Aunt Martha's Embroidery Patterns featuring Tea Time designs!

These are iron-on embroidery patterns, and they are designed so you can use each one more than one time. I may try to trace them to make my book of designs last forever! Here's a snippet of one spread, and as you can see, you have to read them backward or read through the opposite side of the page.

If you don't happen to live near a Hobby Lobby, I regret to say that you won't be able to use your 40-percent-off coupon and get your $4.99 book for $3 as I did, but hey, it's just $4.50 online straight from the publisher, Colonial Patterns, Inc., and you can find it here—and see images of all the lovely designs!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"A Dark and Stormy Murder" by Julia Buckley

The latest cozy mystery I've read is "A Writer's Apprentice Mystery," and that theme appealed to me, but so did that house on the cover. The book may be set in Blue Lake, Indiana, but that house is a dead ringer for what is arguably Newnan, Georgia's most famous historic home, the Parrott-Camp-Soucy house. (Please click here and see whether you agree.)

"A Dark and Stormy Murder" by Julia Buckley is a terrific launch to this new series, and the premise is one I think many of you would enjoy. Lena London is a longtime fan of Camilla Graham's suspense  novels,  and when Lena gets the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the assistant to her idol, she moves to Blue Lake and into Graham House, where she will receive free room and board in addition to the amazing opportunity to help Camilla write her new book. The Gothic home and lakefront property are quite the storybook setting for Lena's new job, at least until she spots a dead body along the shore near the house. Lena finds herself caught up in the search for the man's killer, all while settling into her new job and making sure she meets the expectations of her famous boss.

Happily for those of us who like our cozies with a side order of tea, this one keeps the pot quite full, including this snippet from a scene with Lena and a local detective:

"Hey—is that a teakettle I hear? You go make some tea. I'm going to have a look around. I'll meet you at the back door."

I nodded and locked the front door after him, then went to the kitchen and fumbled with the box of tea bags, finding one and plunging it into my mug of boiling water. I indulged myself with sugar and cream and sat down, taking a few bracing sips."

Buckley's well-drawn characters, particularly the aging writer and her eager-to-please apprentice, are easy to bond with. Also, the murder investigation is plotted nicely and has an intriguing cast of characters weaving in and around Graham House and leading us in just enough different directions to keep things hopping. And in one new twist for a cozy, at least for me, one plot thread was left unresolved. I'm trusting it will be addressed in the second book in the series, and I'll be ready for it, cup of tea in hand.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Finding tea at the local Quilt Expo

The Newnan-Coweta Historical Society held its Second Annual Quilt Expo last week, and once again, I had a terrific (and inspiring) time admiring quilts, buying a few goodies, and visiting with friends old and new. In the collage above, you can see one of my favorite quilts at top left, a design featuring the iconic image of our Coweta County Courthouse.

I really want to get going on some sort of craft project this fall, and when I asked my tea-loving pen pal and fellow quilter, Sandy, whether I should finish an old project or start a new one, she suggested I do both, so I actually went there with that intent. I would get inspired to finish up something old (I'm thinking that yo-yo quilt I've had going for several years), and then I figured I would get inspired to start something new! I ran into an old friend, Hettie, whose beautiful quilt is shown here. When she told me it took 1,000+ blocks, I just shook my head and said that isn't going to happen until I retire. She smiled and told me that's when her own quilting took off!

The old train depot where the exhibit was housed is set up nicely with booths on the interior surrounded by lots of vendors on the outside. I made several rounds so I would be sure to see everything, and this booth of beautiful felted appliqué pieces caught my eye. My tea radar was working, because my eye went pretty quickly to what's within the red circle.

It was a kit for this adorable felted needlebook in the shape of a teacup! How darling is this! I'm missing a few supplies necessary to complete it, but when it's done, I'll be sure to share a photo.

The designer, Laura Bosma of nearby Peachtree City, was super friendly, and when I told her I love tea things and had to have this kit, she kindly pulled out some pieces that weren't actually on display to show me. Apparently she has an open-studio event with a tea theme each year around Mother's Day, and one of the projects was this teapot design that reads, "The best days include Tea and Stitches."

I believe she said the women received only the felt teapot and then embellished it and pieced it however they wanted.

Here's another teapot design, and both are just lovely! I will definitely be keeping her contact info handy so I can stay informed about her work! (She has an Etsy shop here, although none of the teacup needlebook kits are listed at this time.)

So obviously the tea pieces were my favorite finds of the day, but I also enjoyed just seeing the beautiful artistry of all who contributed quilts for the exhibit.

Now I'm already looking forward to next year's show!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea - South Carolina

Some weeks this year, I've found myself worrying I wouldn't be able to find enough tea-related things to say about a state. That certainly wasn't the case with South Carolina, which I am inclined to rate the number one state in the US in its tea importance. Why?

• Pinehurst Tea Gardens in Summerville, South Carolina, is said to be one of the first places tea was grown here in the US.  According to the Charleston Museum, Dr. Charles Shepard founded Pinehurst in 1888, near the site of a tea planting at what is now Middleton Place, and his oolong won first prize at the 1904 World's Fair. When he died in 1915, the tea plantation declined, but cuttings from his plants "were used in South Carolina’s third and fourth attempts to commercially grow tea. Both the American Tea Growing Company (eventual failure) and the Charleston Tea Plantation (located on Wadmalaw Island in Charleston County and currently operated by R.C. Bigelow Tea) propagated plants from Pinehurst."

• Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, is today the home of the Charleston Tea Plantation, whose delicious teas are part of the Bigelow family of teas.  I know many of my tea friends have had the pleasure of visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation, as I have, and I definitely recommend a visit. Go here to learn more.

Click here to watch video on "The Birthplace of Sweet Tea"

• Summerville, South Carolina, is the home of the Sweet Tea Trail—but not without a bit of controversy. There's a little brew-haha that's been simmering up in South Carolina for a while now. I remember when a friend told me a year or so ago that a mutual friend who lives in Summerville claimed that Summerville was "the birthplace of sweet tea." "Huh?" I thought. "Where'd she get that?" Apparently, it all begins with an Azalea magazine article in Spring 2010 that shared the claim that Summerville is the birthplace of sweet tea. Now I loved my visit to Summerville a while back and found the town absolutely charming, but … birthplace of sweet tea? Evidence, please. Later, Charleston City Paper published a piece saying the birthplace-of-sweet-tea claim is bogus. I rather agree with that article's author, who says, "I do not suspect any untoward motives on anyone's part. It's just a case of journalists trying to tell a story in the simplest, most compelling way they can and occasionally getting a few facts wrong. But you can see how our love for a good yarn slowly but surely glosses over any inconvenient details." This article goes on to provide some evidence that "Yankees were drinking sweetened iced tea as far back as the 1860s, two decades before Dr. Shepherd (sic) plucked his first tea leaf in Summerville." If you're at all interested in US tea history (whether or not you're actually interested in sweet tea), I think you'll find these articles most interesting. I'm going to be busy for weeks trying to confirm some of the info in that video and both articles!

Friday, October 7, 2016

"Tea At Hostess House"

I have been pleased to discover that the Library of Congress updates the offerings in its collection of public-domain digital images on the web. This week, I came across one that was new to me, titled "Tea At Hostess House." 

The Library of Congress summary says, "Photograph shows women having tea at a 'hostess house' probably in a military camp during World War I. Hostess houses were set up by the War Work Council of the YWCA. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2016)."

Have you ever heard of a "hostess house" before? I had not, but a little surfing and I found an abstract from the Winter 2008 Winterthur Portfolio which explained, "During World War I the Young Women’s Christian Association established hostess houses at American military camps and employed women as hostesses. The houses were newly constructed, large, and durable buildings, some of which were designed by women architects. They mediated public and private space and helped control interactions between soldiers and their female friends and relatives. As shelters in which the soldiers could buffer the military and find personal comfort, and as places for women to gain experience in managing complex and relatively large institutions, the hostess houses were a significant facet of the home front in World War I."

Yet another bit of history in which tea apparently played a role!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My October Shopper column: A tribute to Emilie Barnes

My October column is up at The Coweta Shopper, and for those of you who aren't local readers, you can see it by clicking here (it's on page 6).

This month, since I knew so many local readers would remember Emilie Barnes, I wanted to pay tribute to her recent passing. Perhaps you have a fond member of Emilie Barnes and her books as well?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Some charming new holiday decorating ideas

One thing I enjoy about Thanksgiving and Christmas is the planning for these holidays. My sister and I are already planning the Thanksgiving menu, and I bought my first Christmas gift this week. For years I have been collecting special Christmas issues of magazines, and this week I came across a new one I think is just beautiful, Holiday Home Style from Hoffman Media.

Have you ever made silver your decorating focus at Christmas? I haven't, but this magazine features so many lovely silver (and gold) decorations, I've started thinking about it. Silver pitchers, sugars, and creamers filled with greenery and berries ... appealing, isn't it?

I also loved the feature on Wendy Addison, an artist whose work I first enjoyed in Victoria years ago.  The banner made of old newsprint is typical of her style, which I fell in love with the moment I saw it. I also love how her silverware is displayed in pretty cream pitchers.

Even the recipes looked yummier surrounded by all this Christmas finery, such as this Black Forest Trifle displayed so charmingly on these Christmas dishes. Have you started planning for Christmas yet? Have you bought any Christmas magazines? I'd so enjoy hearing about them!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A different type of tea from Tetley

 I stopped by Ingles in Bremen over the weekend and, as always, had to browse the tea aisle. New to me was a line of Tetley Super Herbal Teas, and after debating for a bit, I settled on the "Immunity" blend with Vitamin C, a peach-and-orange flavored tea.

 I was torn between this blend and the Pineapple and Citrus flavored one (with Vitamin B7), but I guess being from the Peach State means my default tea choice is always going to be the one with peach!

These tea bags are round ones, what I think of as Republic-of-Tea tea bags. This tea had a very tart citrus taste, and since I've been trying not to take allergy meds now that fall allergy season has arrived, I'm hoping this will help me keep colds and sniffles at bay. I usually avoid teas with medicinal or health claims since plain old black and green tea is so good for you, but the flavor of this one was quite enjoyable, so I may have to give another of these Tetley blends a try. Have these shown up at your local grocery store yet?