Saturday, October 25, 2014

The William Cullen Bryant Tea Room (Great Barrington, Mass.)

Now here's a name that is no doubt a familiar one to many of you. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was a poet, journalist, and at one time the editor of the New York Evening Post. He moved in some fine circles, as he was an early supporter of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York Medical College, and he also had ties to the Hudson River School of art.

The back of the postcard didn't tell me very much except for noting the address of the Maynard Workshop in Waban, Mass., which also happens to be the photographer for the postcard. The name "John B. Maynard" appears along with the notation "10 o'clock 11/18/37." So naturally I went online to do a search for "William Cullen Bryant Tea Room," and that led me to Google Books where I found an excerpt from the 1937 book "Massachusetts: a Guide to the Bay State." It says this: "The William Cullen Bryant House, now a summer tearoom, is in the garden behind the Berkshire Inn. The house (1739) is a two-and-a-half-story dwelling with a two-leaf door of the early Connecticut Valley type and with two interior chimneys. The interior is handsomely paneled, particularly the 'marriage room.' Here Bryant was married at the time he was practicing law and serving as town clerk (1815-25) of Great Barrington." It was fun to learn about one of the country's early literary lights, and I'm happy to know a little about the tea room that bore his name.

Friday, October 24, 2014

It's Christmas at Tea Time magazine!

I have been hitting the newsstands lately looking for magazines that would give me a little Christmas inspiration. I like to start early with my plans for gifting, baking and decorating, but I haven't seen any new magazines offering something I haven't seen a dozen times before. And while I'm always pleased to see the new issue of Tea Time magazine land in my mailbox, I was *very* pleased with this issue because it instantly gave me a new idea for this Christmas!

There are lovely articles galore, but my favorite was this spread on Spode's 76-year-old Christmas Tree china pattern. I confess it never occurred to me to pair my pieces with another pattern, but they did so here with gorgeous results! I also learned the shape of my Spode Christmas Tree teapot (mine's shown here) is called the "gadroon" shape. Nice to know!

And since I was too full to eat the beautiful Battenberg Cake at Fortnum and Mason in London when I visited in May, I was delighted to see a step-by-step recipe for one in the latest Tea Time. Have you received your new issue yet? If so, what were your favorite features?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"More Sweet Tea"

After reading "Sweet Tea & Jesus Shoes" last month, I was eager to tuck into the follow-up collection of short stories, "More Sweet Tea." Since I'm not usually a fan of short stories, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed that first volume of southern-themed tales. Now the second book has so inspired me that I'm thinking I'd actually like to *write* a few short stories like these, old-fashioned southern stories that make people smile or laugh out loud.

"Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" by Maureen Hardegree is about a woman who finds herself in a quandary when her hairdresser drops dead of a heart attack. What's the problem? Well, who's going to do her hair before she goes to the hairdresser's viewing? Another tale that had me grinning ear to ear, "The Healing Touch" by Susan Alvis, is about a nurse and her uncle who finds himself experiencing, well, let's just say a painful (but not terminal) ailment that probably doesn't need to be named on a tea blog. His wife, a bit of a herbalist and healer, uses the wrong prescription to treat his ailment and accidentally ends up curing him.

One of the sweetest stories I read, "The Hope Quilt" by Susan Goggins, has a subplot about a woman who teaches her future daughter-in-law to make biscuits. If you saw the "Biscuit Table" vignette in the photos of my friend's wedding earlier this week, you won't be surprised to know that this lovely lady reminded me of that one! And another story in the book, "The Sun, The Moon, and a Box of Divinity" by Clara Wimberly, includes an afternoon tea scene I loved. The hostess tells some young guests, "You know when I was a little girl, livin' in Mobile, Alabama, we had tea every Sunday afternoon. There would be cucumber sandwiches, watercress and cream cheese sandwiches, cheese straws with orange marmalade, and a variety of desserts." "Cucumber sandwiches?" one of the boys said, laughing loudly. "Heck, who'd want to eat a cucumber sandwich?" If you enjoy sweet stories like these, I definitely recommend these two books!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Adagio's Cream Tea

Among the free samples I recently received from Adagio Teas was a package of their Cream Tea. The name intrigued me, because in teatime circles "Cream Tea" usually refers to the simple English teatime treat of scones, clotted cream and jam, and tea. This time, however, the name "Cream Tea" refers to cream-flavored tea.

According to Adagio, this tea consists of Ceylon black tea with dairy-free cream flavoring.

The leaves are nice and black with a few bits of brown. I could smell the "cream" as soon as I opened this package of tea. Steeped, the tea had a very sweet, caramel-like flavor, and it did indeed taste as if cream had already been added, which I find rather magical. If you like a dessert type of tea experience, I definitely recommend this Cream Tea variety, and you can find out more about it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More scenes from the weekend's wedding!

All 24 of the guest tables had a theme at this wedding, and the Silver Teapot Table was, for obvious reasons, one of my favorites. The theme was inspired by a family friend that Cydney and her sister Alley have called "Missamanda," one word, from the time that they were little. And "Missamanda" recently decorated her own daughter's wedding reception with her grandmother's silver teapots, thus the inspiration for this table.

The White Pitcher Table was designed in honor of Cydney's maternal grandmother, Shannon, who is known as a wonderful cook and writer up in the north Georgia mountains. She is a gifted writer and poet, and you can see at back the frame bearing a poem she wrote for Cydney years ago.

The Biscuit Table was in honor of Cydney's paternal grandmother, Zelma, a prize-winning biscuit maker who uses only White Lily flour. This is the dough bowl she has used to make her biscuits for many years. I was there when Zelma first read this, and she was so touched! I shamelessly took advantage of the moment to ask if I might come over for biscuits sometime and she said of course I can. I hope she knows I wasn't even kidding …

The peacocks on this table were handed down to Cydney's Aunt Lynn by her mother-in-law. Cydney and Lynn have a special bond, and this sign says "their love for each other is as bright as a peacock's feathers."

Cydney's Aunt Lisa was the inspiration for the Flower Box and Thread Spools Table. The family has had some challenges this year (the loss of loved ones, serious illness), and "Lisa is the thread who has kept us all together," the sign said. (Sweet!)

The Watering Cans Table honored Cydney's Uncle Chip and Aunt Jane, who are known for their beautiful lawn and their green thumbs.

The Jewelry Chest Table said this: "In the middle of this table is Cydney's jewelry chest that her mother gave her when she was 10. This chest originally housed homemade necklaces, braided bracelets, and bubblegum machine rings. As Cydney grew, so did her taste in jewelry. Today, her most special piece of jewelry is not in this jewelry chest but rather on her left hand."

This is a detail from Alley's Table, in honor of Cydney's younger sister. This sign read: "This table inspiration came from Cydney's sister, Alley. From the time Alley could hold a crayon, she has had trouble not writing on walls or herself. As a little girl, she stayed on restriction for marking on walls and doing things like coloring her legs and Cydney's legs with a black marker until no skin could be seen. Today, her name is written in marker on the back steps at our house, spray painted on the floor of our basement, and carved in her dresser. Alley, sweet Alley, may you always color outside the lines."

The bride's mother's decorating skills were saluted in Mom's Table, which featured paint and fabric swatches, miniature paint cans and rolls of ribbon. (I guess you can tell Cydney's mom loves to decorate!)

The most magnificent table, though, was this enormous farm table set for the bridal party. (Did I mention that the father of the bride owns his own building materials company? It came in handy!)

Here's another view of this table showing the pretty copper-colored satin ribbon glistening in the late afternoon sun.

Another fun touch was this produce stand where the punch was served.

Souvenir cups were favors for the guests, and everyone got to sip punch through personalized straws.

Family friend Sharon was the inspiration for the Love Table, and I thought this one was a fitting note to end on! I wish I could show you *all* the decorations, but hopefully this has given you an idea of the wonderful wedding I attended over the weekend. Thanks for sharing in the fun!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cydney & Luke get married!

Since you all have heard about the bridal shower and the bridesmaids' luncheon for my sweet friend Cydney, I thought it was only fitting that I share some photos from her and Luke's wedding on Saturday! It was a beautiful day, and the weather cooperated gloriously (thank you, Lord!) for this gorgeous fall wedding. I had promised my friend Liz, the bride's mom, that I would be sure to photograph the decorations, so that's what I focused on — along with a few pictures of the bride and groom, of course!

Liz used an old headboard for this sign, which marked the entrance to the road where the wedding was held.

The morning before the wedding, as I drove down the road leading to the wedding venue, I couldn't help smiling as I realized Liz had decorated not only the entrance to the wedding site but also *the entire road* leading the way.

As you step onto the property, the first of many vignettes appeared, this one featuring a happy photo of Cydney and Luke.

An old mailbox was used as the receptacle for the gift cards, and an old iron bed was the "gift table."

Both got filled before the evening was over!

The mailbox was decorated with vintage jewelry, and I absolutely loved it!

As you headed on down the hill, you saw yet another vignette, this living room scene.

I had forgotten that Liz told me she had written "love" quotes all over an upholstered chair!

This pavilion was the perfect venue for serving the bride and groom's cakes as well as serving as the dance floor. (Side note: one of my fellow wedding helpers is from Illinois, and she said she had never heard of having a groom's cake until she moved to the South. Is that true for any of you? I'm curious!)

Here's the buffet that served as the bride's cake table as we were setting it up during the day …

– and here it is at showtime!

I loved the pretty cake with its burlap flower touches — both elegant and rustic and perfect for an outdoor wedding in the fall.

There's a fireplace in the pavilion, and Liz had decorated it to look as if it's part of Cydney and Luke's home.

Here's a closeup of the fabric and lace garland on the fireplace. (I hope my friend Sandra sees this eventually, because I took this photo knowing she would love this particular detail!)

This is the "Coffee Station" under the pavilion.

But wait 'til you see the table decorations! That was one of the things I know Liz has worked on for months. There were 24 table vignettes, all created using mementos and family treasures that honored various friends and family of the bride and groom. The morning of the wedding, we helpers started pulling boxes from beneath the tables to follow the instructions left by my highly-organized friend. The first box I pulled out to decorate with happened to be the table honoring family friend … me! Ha! What are the chances? Anyway, here's the "Frou Frou" table.

And here's the sweet message Liz wrote, which I know you will appreciate for its tea connections: "This table's inspiration came from family friend Angela McRae, who has been so sweet to Cydney and Alley over the past 25 years. She gave Cydney her first Easter dress, a beautiful, frilly frock with a mini hoop … it was precious. Also, Angela has given tea parties with both Cydney and Alley, teaching them the right way to make a good cup of tea and true Southern manners." Guess you can see why I love this family so much. Tomorrow, I'll share some more of these wonderful table vignettes!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #41 -- The Menger, San Antonio, Texas

This week's tea room postcard features an establishment that is actually still in business, the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. The caption on the postcard refers to the hotel's "tea rooms," plural, and I think they are quite lovely. I like their upholstered furniture, the wicker basket of roses on the bamboo table, and the pretty garlands over the archways. This would have been my kind of tea room back in the day!

The back of the card was postally unused, so I turned to the Internet to tell me a little more about this place. It turns out the hotel was built in 1858 by a German immigrant, and by the 1870s it was one of the best-known hotels in the southwest. Notable guests have included Robert E. Lee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mae West, Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langtry, Cornelius Vanderbilt and William McKinley. Their website doesn't mention any tea service today, alas, but it does say that their Colonial Room Restaurant's "famous mango ice cream" was served at both of President Bill Clinton's inaugurations. If I'm ever in San Antonio, I think I might just enjoy a stay at the Menger Hotel!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sampling Twinings' Prince of Wales Tea

I just realized I've had a "first" here on Tea With Friends. Every single day this week I've featured a lovely "freebie" I have received from a friend or tea vendor. (I could get used to this!) Today's freebie is a sampling of Twinings' Prince of Wales Tea courtesy of my friend Lisa. My mug was a souvenir from the Twinings shop in London the first time I visited the U.K.

Now I see this tea in stores occasionally, and I thought I had surely tried it, but I can't find a record of ever having sipped this tea. And so I was happy to read the teabag wrapper and learn a bit about this tea. "Prince of Wales is a pure China black tea sourced from regions including the Yunnan province and other southern regions of China. This blend is light in colour and has a smooth and mild taste, with a well-rounded character. Great in the late morning or in the afternoon, it is perfect with or without milk and can be sweetened to taste." I actually found the tea has a bit of a smoky quality, which I very much enjoyed. I had this tea as an afternoon pick-me-up one day when I was working on a big editing project, and it gave me just the boost I needed. Have you tried this tea? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A surprise of vintage teatime recipes

Jenn in Massachusetts e-mailed a few days ago and said she had "a little something" she wanted to send me. When her package arrived, it contained the most charming 1904 book titled "A Book of Beverages."

I hope you can tell from the photo, but the title was printed on its own paper label and affixed to the book's cover. I just love that, but then I just love vintage things anyway. This book was published by Jenn's Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, the Colonel Timothy Bigelow (Bigelow!) Chapter. She said their chapter house is being reorganized, a stash of these books was found, and the group decided to use them as a fundraiser. I am, then, the happy recipient of one of them, and I found several recipes for tea inside!

This recipe for Ginger Tea sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? I tend to forget that homemade teas have been around for quite a while.

And this recipe for Boston Punch made with tea sounds easy and pretty. "A single violet may be added to each cup," it says. I think of edible flower embellishments as being a new trend, but apparently the idea has been around for some time. I've so enjoyed reading through this delightful gift from a thoughtful tea friend, and I look forward to enjoying this "Book of Beverages" for years to come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Darjeelings: an experiment in black and white

This week I decided to try a tea tasting with some of the new samples I received from Golden Tips, and it struck me it might be fun to compare these two Darjeelings, one white and one black! On the left I have their Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling, a white tea, and on the right is their Arya Ruby Darjeeling, a black tea.

Loose, the teas looked just as different as you might expect. The Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling tea had a loose, fluffy appearance. It had a slight fragrance of wood shavings. The Arya Ruby Darjeeling had a distinct musky fragrance, and the tea leaves were much heavier and firmer.

Steeped, the Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling had a pleasantly smooth, mellow taste to the pale yellow tea. The Arya Ruby Darjeeling, on the other hand, had an almost grape-like quality and produced a copper-colored brew, definitely my favorite of the two since I tend to like a tea that shows off. I very much enjoyed trying these two teas together. If you'd like to try some of Golden Tips' fine teas for yourself, go here to check out the offerings.