Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #16 -- Little Grey House Tea Room (Maitland, Fla.)

Some of the tea room postcards I have are from grand, busy tea rooms, but this week's featured tea room is the opposite of that, the Little Grey House Tea Room in Maitland, Florida.

The back of the card notes the tea room was located "One mile north of Winter Park." Apparently the tea room served luncheons, dinners and special parties, and the "Antique Glass" makes me think they might have sold these glasswares. Wouldn't that have been a lovely place to visit? A book was published in 1904 called "The Little Grey House," using the English spelling "grey," and I can't help wondering if that inspired the name of this house and tea room. If it were still around today, I'd sure love to stop by for tea and shop for some antique glassware!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fond Easter Wishes!

I'm sure many of us are busy today with Good Friday services and/or getting ready for Easter weekend, so I wanted to go ahead and wish you all a very Happy Easter! If you notice the front of this card, you can see where the postmark bleeds through. And on the back ...

... it reveals the postmark is from 1904! So Helen E. Wells was sending Miss Helen Besler "Fond Easter Wishes" 110 years ago, and I think those sentiments are just as valid today. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Homegrown Tea" by Cassie Liversidge

Do you have a tea plant? If so, or if you're even thinking about getting one, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of "Homegrown Tea" by Cassie Liversidge. I recently got a review copy in the mail and have found it a wonderfully helpful book, a must-read for the tea-lover who is also a gardening enthusiast. The first pages of the book cover how to grow the tea plant, camellia sinensis, and how to take cuttings, something I'd like to master myself. Once the tea plant is mature, the book tells how to process the leaves at home to create your own white, green and black tea.

The book also includes chapters on making teas and tisanes from many herbs and flowers. Here is a painting (and the paintings are also by the author) of three kinds of thyme, including one I want simply because of the name: Lemon Curd Thyme! Who knew? Liversidge describes the medicinal benefits of each plant as well as how to grow it, harvest it, and store the leaves or flowers. She includes the Latin name of each variety and recommends using it when shopping for plants, because some plants with similar sounding names may not in fact be safe to consume.

The fun of reading any gardening book is that I always learn about something new. While I learned lots of new things in this book, I was quite surprised that I've never before heard of Sweet Tea Vine. A native of China and Southeast Asia, this plant was studied for its use as an alternative sweetener, but scientists also learned something else. "In the leaves," says Liversidge, "they found special compounds called saponins, known to benefit the immune system. There are many more saponins in Gynostemma (Sweet Tea Vine) than in ginseng, and it is often referred to as 'poor man's ginseng.'" If you're growing your own camellia sinensis or have any interest at all in making your own herbal teas, this is definitely the book to get!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A doily to cheer any tea lover!

The other day I received this delightful 10-inch doily in the mail from Margie in California. Isn't it pretty? The story of how she got it made me love it even more!

Margie writes, "I was shopping in my favorite antique mall and came across this - no price tag so the owner just gave it to me. You like 'blue' so I thought you might like it." Actually, I love it! The embroidery is gorgeous!

This scalloped edge must have taken forever to stitch. Such meticulous handwork.

And even the back of the piece looks immaculate. I love the sweet gift from Margie, and my inner bargain-ista is so impressed to know she got such a darling piece for free!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A tea for Tax Day

Today is Tax Day, and the only folks I know who get excited about it each year are my accountant friends, who are understandably happy to be winding up this crazy-busy season of the year. Because of the role of tea and taxes in our nation's history, I thought it would be appropriate to fill my cup today with Elmwood Inn's Hyson Green Tea, as this is one of the types of tea that was thrown into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party.

The tea tin says, "The three tea ships raided at Boston Harbor are thought to have contained nearly 342 chests of several types of teas, including Bohea, Congou, Souchong, and Hyson." Our protests aren't nearly as colorful today, are they? You know what I've always wondered? After the tea was dumped, did anybody ever scoop up a handful of water from Boston Harbor to see if you could taste the tea? I can't help wondering if it got "cold brewed" there in the harbor.

According to Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, at the time of the Boston Tea Party a third of the exported tea from China was green tea, and green Hyson was considered the best. It's the one the Chinese called yu-tsien or "before the rains" tea. From the tin: "The English thought the name of this tea sounded like the name of a wealthy East India Company director in London named Phillip Hyson, and the young tea took on Mr. Hyson's more pronounceable name." Here's what the dry tea leaves look like. The scent is a combination of woodsy and grassy, a very fresh scent.

And here it is steeped. These leaves had a very vegetal scent, rather like steamed spinach. The taste was what I consider a classic green tea taste, slightly grassy, and I want to drink more green tea since it's been in the news lately for boosting memory AND burning calories, both of which are great benefits. (To keep up with more tea news, I have started regularly posting links to stories of interest to the tea world on Twitter, link at top right, including studies on the medicinal benefits of tea.) I very much enjoyed this Hyson Green Tea, which is available on the Elmwood Inn Fine Teas site here. Throwing it into your local harbor in protest of taxes is entirely optional.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The tea trolley's new Easter outfit

With Easter fast approaching, I thought I'd better get on the ball with displaying a little Easter finery on the tea trolley. I'm pretty sure it was tea blogger Bernideen who influenced me to start changing up my trolley's decor on a regular basis. It's sort of like playing with paper dolls, only much more fun, in this tea lover's opinion!

And I KNOW it was Bernideen who influenced me to use my vintage linens more often. I had actually forgotten I had this vintage yellow tablecloth with teapots on it until I started scavenging around in the linen closet!

I love the sunny, cheerful colors of springtime. And I must tell you I am delighted that I have finally coaxed this African violet into blooming again. I just killed another mini violet (pausing for a moment of silence), so I'm extra glad this larger one is still with us.

But even if I kill every bloom on the property, I will always have flowers in my home courtesy of teawares, like my beloved Royal Winton Welbeck teacup. (If you haven't read the backstory of my Welbeck collection and are interested, it's here.)

Another Welbeck teacup: this Summertime patterned one. It's old and crackledy and may fall apart one day when I'm using it, but I think it's just lovely.

I also used a few of my vintage Easter postcards featuring teapots.

I don't know whether the tea trolley appreciates all the new outfits I've been giving her lately, but they sure make me feel better!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #15 -- Tick Tock Tea Room (Hollywood, California)

This postcard from the Tick Tock Tea Room in Hollywood was mailed in 1950, and I like that the card shows both the exterior and interior of the tea room. You'll note the clock says "TICK TOCK" above the clock and "GRUEN TIME" beneath. What's Gruen time? Well, Gruen was the name of a watch company in Cincinnati from 1917-1921, so I'm guessing that's it. (If anyone has another theory, I'd love to hear it!)

The best thing about this card, though, is the chatty message on the back. I'm guessing the message actually begins with the words halfway down, and then the words above were scribbled when the sender, Harriet, ran out of room. So here's how I read it: "This is where we ate tonite. Ann, De, Margaret, Violet Carlson (Ted's nurse), & Doris & I. We had a huge turkey dinner. We have had a big day - I was on a television show today KFI-NBC (just local) gobs of fun. De & Ann were on also. I am writing this in Hollywood Bowl waiting for the ballet to start. We are leaving on (Fri.?) on Sun. 5 pm to go to Seattle. Harriet." Wow! That Harriet knew how to write a postcard, didn't she! I imagine Mrs. Lelah A. Sutton of Lincoln, Nebraska was happy to receive it. I love knowing what was eaten at this tea room ("a huge turkey dinner"), and now I want to know who Ted was and why he had a nurse. Also, why were Harriet, De, and Ann on TV? One day, I think I may just sit down and make up some short stories to fill in the blanks about all these great old postcards!

Friday, April 11, 2014

A friend is in Tea Time magazine!

The new issue of Tea Time landed in my mailbox this week, and I had eagerly awaited its arrival. You see, I had heard while in Kentucky that my tea friend Nancy Reppert, proprietress of Sweet Remembrances Tea Room in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, would be featured! And she was!

Doesn't she look like the perfect, most gracious hostess? I thought they captured her spirit quite well in this photo!

I'd been corresponding with Nancy for years through our blogs, but I got to meet her face-to-face in Kentucky last month. I must say, there may come a day when I meet a tea friend from afar who is just a real pill and a disappointment, but so far, every single "tea friend" I've met in person has been just as I'd expected. And Nancy, like so many others I've met through the world of tea, has two qualities I prize in women: she's smart and she's funny! Here, she humored me by posing next to the Greentree Antiques and Tearoom sign in Lexington, Kentucky before we all went in for tea.

Before reading the article in Tea Time, I brewed a special gift I had received from Nancy in Kentucky, some of Rosemary's Relaxing Tea from her sister Susanna's herb shop next door, and I used this pretty mug mat from Nancy as well. (The tea was divine, by the way!) Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania is at the top of my bucket list of places to visit, partly because I absolutely adore herbs and would love to visit the shop in addition to the tea room! Years ago, a friend here in Newnan owned a magnificent antebellum home and had a small herb shop on the property. I loved to drop by just to sniff the place. It was heavenly. And while I love herbs for their scent, I also find them so useful in cooking, in flavoring tea, and just for the pleasure of seeing them in my garden. It turns out that the Repperts' late mother, Bertha Reppert, opened her Rosemary House herb shop back in 1968, long before our society recognized the value of herbs. Isn't that amazing? I always love to hear about entrepreneurial women who were ahead of their time! And it sure sounds like the apples didn't fall far from the tree. If you'd like to keep up with the adventures at the tea room and herb shop, bookmark the Rosemary's Sampler blog here. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Proud to be a bag lady

Who of us ever has enough tote bags in this world? I certainly don't. I use these 99-cent ones from T.J. Maxx and other stores to organize crafts (yarn, quilt scraps, scrapbooking supplies). I use them to store mailing supplies (one hangs in a closet and gets every padded envelope and small box that comes in the mail). I've been known to use these bags as gift bags for large presents like, oh, a pair of pillows or seed starter trays for a gardening friend. My point is, one can never have enough of these large 99-cent tote bags, and one recently found these new ones at T.J.!

You can see why I liked this design, right?

I mean, really, a few more graphics of tea sets would have been nice, but I can totally live with these.

Maybe you need to pick up a few more yourself?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cobblestone Kitchens Lemon Poppyseed Scone Mix

Occasionally I get a bee in my bonnet and decide to have scones for lunch. This week the lunchtime scones were courtesy of my friend Maureen, who recently gifted me with a package of scone mix.

This mix is from Cobblestone Kitchens, which I learned is a Canadian firm. That's appropriate since Maureen is Canadian too! These scones couldn't have been any easier to whip up. You pour the scone mix into a bowl, add 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and a cup of milk (I used skim milk), stir/scoop/bake, and about 15 minutes later you have nice, hot scones!

I love Lemon Poppyseed-flavored anything, and these scones were especially good. They baked up nice and fluffy, and the lemon taste was excellent. It was probably overkill that I had some lemon curd with mine, but boy, were they good. I often see scone mixes but have rarely bought them, so it was quite a treat to receive one from my friend Maureen. Have you tried any scone mixes you like lately?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New — Tetley Black & Green Tea

The other night I ran through the Ingle's grocery store near my dad's house, and as I passed by the tea section I saw a new type of tea. It was this large box containing Tetley's Black & Green Tea, just $3.69 for 72 tea bags. Sounded worth a try, right?

What most intrigued me was that this is black AND green tea. Interesting.

The teabags are the round ones I most often associate with the Republic of Tea. When I opened the box, the scent was nice and brisk, so I was ready for a good, strong, black cup of tea — but maybe not since green was added? And by the way, how does one steep a tea that's both black AND green? Well, according to the box, you add boiling water, just as you would with black tea. So I did.

The result was the most plain, boring cup of tea I've had in a while. Blah. Not good blah or bad blah, just ... blah. I had expected something at least a little different, but this didn't do it for me. The good news is, I now have a nice box of plain Jane tea just waiting for iced tea season and some mint from the garden to flavor it up!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The gluten-free cookbook winner is ...

Marilyn M.! Congrats, Marilyn, and I'll be in touch ASAP about how to get the cookbook headed your way!

Thrilled to be thrifty!

Because my Aunt Jane loves to visit thrift stores, that's where we often go when I take her shopping. A recent stop by a Goodwill store in Carrollton netted this fabulous array of loot for just $8 and some change! I was thrilled!

Why? For one thing, I found some miniature copper molds I think are just delightful. These are sitting in a silverplate Reed and Barton bowl that someone will be getting for Christmas with cookies inside. The last time I paid several dollars for an ugly piece of plastic on which to present Christmas treats, I swore, never again. Not when thrift stores have so many more charming options for just a dollar or two!

And on the subject of copper molds, I should probably warn you that I've suddenly found myself on a vintage Jell-O recipe kick, so I've started looking for inexpensive copper molds to make gelatin treats as well as frozen fruit salads. I love the thought of frozen salads as teatime treats made in such pretty shapes! Also, I am channeling my inner Betty Crocker and shall soon attempt to make a Tomato Aspic, and this copper ring mold looked just perfect for that. I also liked the small tin plate from Avon with a Plum Pudding recipe printed on it.

The vintage Christmas goodies at Goodwill always catch my eye too, like the Santa mug and Christmas sleigh here.

The Christmas sleigh with spaghetti trim still has the original Napco sticker on bottom. I love that! Do you know the term "spaghetti trim," by the way? I had to learn about that a few years ago when I was on the lookout for a Christmas figurine with this kind of trim, and I believe it was probably eBay where I learned what to call it.

"Spaghetti trim." I marvel that all that "spaghetti" remains intact after so many years!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #14 -- Younkers Department Store Tea Room (Des Moines, Iowa)

About the time last Saturday's tea room postcard was published, I received the terrible news that the Younkers Department Store Tea Room in Des Moines, Iowa had suffered a devastating fire during the night. In their story about the Younkers fire, USA Today noted, "It was renowned for its elegant Tea Room, which featured oak tables and chintz draperies. The Tea Room hosted a who's who of Des Moines inside the anchor of a vibrant downtown shopping scene." Renovations of the building began last fall, with plans to convert it into apartments and reopen the tea room. A report in the Des Moines Register said the tea room was not as badly damaged as other parts of the building, but it was unclear if the building will be considered a total loss. So after this sad news out of Des Moines, I thought today it would be appropriate to focus on some happy memories of the tea room, as shown in the postcards here. This one, from 1942, has writing on the front in very faint pencil, and the sender says she'll meet the recipient, Mr. Graham Walker of Sheridan, Wyoming, at a hotel in Rapid City.

On the back of the card there is also this sweet message from a child: "Dear Dedde, how are you? We saw some better Escalator than the May [another department store]. Buttons is a good dog. But when we took him to the dog place. Love, Maurine." (Or Waurine, maybe?)

The second postcard is postally unused, but I find it interesting the chairs appear to be the same as in the first postcard, they're just different colors!

My blogging friend Bernideen in Colorado went to Bible College in Des Moines and twice attended events at the Younkers Tea Room in those days. She asked me last week for a link to a Younkers Tea Room recipe I posted several years ago on this blog, and it's this Chicken Salad if any of you would like to see it as well. I also made the tea room's Wilted Spinach Salad last year, and that recipe is here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The winner of "The Petit Four Cookbook" is ...

Julia Ann, who said she was hosting a bridal luncheon in 10 days! If you'll send me your snail mail address via the e-mail button at right, I'll pass it along to the publicist so she can get this book headed your way. Congrats!

Teas for your inner hippie

These large cans of hippie-looking tea have caught my eye for quite a while now. Recently a Facebook friend wrote about how these Peace Tea drinks are some of her favorite teas, so I decided it was time for me to try them. I prayed no one would see me drinking them, as it would ruin my carefully cultivated reputation as a prude. Fortunately, I wasn't sighted by anyone but my husband ...

When I came in with this 24-ounce can of Peace Tea's Tea + Lemonade flavor, he said, "Did you get enough to drink?" Actually, this proved more than enough, especially after I realized each can was THREE SERVINGS! The 150-calories-per-can (50 calories per serving) wouldn't be just terrible, but 39 grams of sugar per can? That, I can do without. It did taste rather nice, but in a Kool-Aid-is-tasty kind of way, not like anything resembling traditional tea.

I smarted up before drinking the Razzleberry Tea. I poured it in a glass of ice to dilute the sugariness ("only" 36 grams of sugar in this flavor) and sipped this can of tea over the course of three days. Not hard to do at all, but not practical either. So there you have it. I've tasted 'em, and I'm glad I got that out of my system!