Monday, January 16, 2017

January giveaway: Teacup tea towels

Well, Spring has arrived, sort of! It was 73 here in Newnan yesterday, and as my sister put it, "I'm glad we survived our harsh winter last weekend." Indeed. But the warm temperatures sure have me thinking about the garden and Easter and springtime, and when I saw these Spring-looking tea towels at HomeGoods, I decided they would be the perfect giveaway item for January.

The first one says "You wash, I'll dry," and the second one sports an all-over teacup and bowl design in a cheery palette. If you'd like to win them, just leave an "Enter me" to this comment before Friday, January 20, at 7 a.m. and you'll be entered to win. (US and Canada only, please.) Good luck!

Friday, January 13, 2017

An old friend, a new teacup, and a celebrity memory

Deb and I became friends not long after she called me at the newspaper one day to see whether I might be able to help her find a nurse for Kevin Costner. He was in the area to film the 1994 movie "The War," which was set in rural Mississippi in the early seventies, and apparently he needed someone who'd been a nurse in the sixties who would know how to bandage him accurately for one of his scenes. Deb was doing some PR work with the movie back then and was asked to find a nurse, and she knew the people in a small-town newsroom might know a good one. So I asked around in the newsroom, one of my friends mentioned our retired-nurse friend Harriet, and of course she was *thrilled* to be asked to visit with Kevin Costner and see about bandaging him! Who wouldn't have been? As a thanks for my minuscule role in all this, my new friend Deb, who I'd known only by reputation, got me onto the set one day, so I got to stand around and drool over the romantic hunk—along with all the other women.

Deb moved away, and I hadn't seen her in years. I was thinking of her one morning this week, though, because of something I saw on the news that jogged a memory. That very afternoon—and years have gone by since I last saw her—I got a call from Deb. Now isn't that interesting? She'd found some old press club memorabilia she wanted to send to me and Alex, and she advised me to be careful opening the package, as there would be something breakable inside. I thought it might be an old press club award, but no... it was this gorgeous teacup and saucer! I absolutely adore the teacup and didn't have one like it!

And did I just make this up or did I read somewhere in blog land that Royal Patrician has gone out of business? At any rate, I was quite happy to be back in touch with an old friend (my "six degrees of separation" from Kevin Costner), and also happy to have received a beautiful new teacup. And Kevin, if you're reading today, stop by anytime. Alex and I will have the tea waiting!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tealia's Caramel Rooibos Tea

Are your taste buds ever influenced by something you've read? Mine sure are. A few years ago, I was reading a book that mentioned barbecue, and before I knew it, I was suggesting to my husband that we go out for barbecue for supper. I don't even really like barbecue! But I do like tea, so when I read that new tea book over the weekend, two types of tea I hadn't had in a while moved into the forefront of my thoughts: oolong (I promptly went to my tea stash and found one) and rooibos tea, which I have very little of at the moment. So when I saw this darling tin of Tealia's Caramel Rooibos at HomeGoods yesterday, it truly met a need. (Or at least a serious want.)

I must confess the cute tin was one factor. The tea was only $5.99, which was a good price, but they also had some other great brands of tea, as well as some of those pretty Wedgwood tins of tea. But a well-designed graphic gets me every time, and this tin of tea was the winner.

The caramel tea, by the way, is just delicious. It's sweet and caramelish and had that classic rooibos taste I was expecting, so I was very pleased with my purchase. So tell me, have you ever read about a food and then had to find that food to eat or drink?

Monday, January 9, 2017

"World Atlas of Tea" by Krisi Smith

I am very to sorry to report that I have no snow pictures to post today because those wacky Atlanta meteorologists got it wrong again. No snow. Not one flake at my house, only a little ice in the trees and on the deck. But I still spent a goodly portion of the weekend reading, and my first official tea read of the year is a review copy I received in the fall, the beautiful and highly informative World Atlas of Tea by Krisi Smith.

Part One focuses on Tea Basics and covers such topics as the tea plant, varieties of tea, and grading of tea. Two entire pages of this section are dedicated to "The Chemistry of Tea," a level of detail I was pleased to find. Part Two, Tea Brewing and Drinking, includes information on brewing basics, tea tools, buying and storing tea, and the health benefits of tea. One particularly helpful item in this section is the "tasting wheel" that gave me some new names for those tea tastes I am not that great at describing. With this new tool at my fingertips, perhaps I can increase my tea vocabulary when I'm reviewing teas this year. Part Three is on Tea Blending, which I'm not interested in exploring, but if you are, there are plenty of tips to get you going.

Part Four, almost half the book, is on The World of Tea, and it's here that this book really finds its value in the tea library. This section includes a vast amount of info on the tea-producing countries, and it was fascinating to read, for instance, that Sri Lanka exports 94 percent of the tea it grows, "the largest percentage in the world." Who consumes the most tea?  I've always heard that the Irish do, but Smith says that the people of Turkey actually consume the most tea—on average, more than 10 cups each day. And while I knew that Kenya was a tea-producing country in Africa, I did not realize that Kenya leads the world in exports of CTC (crush-tear-curl) black tea "and makes up 22 percent of the world's exports of tea." The book doesn't include footnotes or a bibliography, but anyone willing to do a little digging should be able to further research any of these topics that inspire—and they will.

The photography in this book is often stunning. Tea fields are a beautiful sight in and of themselves, but to see them at spots around the world is a joy. So are the photos of clay teapots for sale at a market in Hong Kong, a modern tea picker in Sri Lanka, and one of my favorites, that highly decorated teahouse in Iran. I spent several minutes gazing at this photo and trying to identify all the props hanging from the ceiling alone: lamps and globes and prisms and teapots and random glassware and … well, I'll save some of the examining for you. If you're looking for a new book to educate, enlighten, and entertain you about tea, World Atlas of Tea should do the trick.

Friday, January 6, 2017

How Southern tea lovers get ready for the snow

Here in Georgia, the big, big news is that we may get some snow today or tomorrow. I'm talking three or four inches, aka "a blizzard" by Georgia standards! That means we've all made a run on the grocery stores (and in my case, two libraries to make sure I'm a well-stocked reader if I am indeed snowed in). Happily, I also have a well-stocked tea cabinet, and the snowy, gray skies this week had me thinking about snowy teawares and "grey" tea.

I was at a meeting the other night when a new friend, Cynthia, handed me a cute gift bag and said there was something in it for me. She knows I like tea, and she and her husband recently visited Savannah and brought me back this Savannah Grey blend, which she noted is her husband's favorite, and some delicious Scottish shortbread. What a lovely and unexpected treat here in the first week of January!

I looked at these tea leaves before I even read the label, and I was instantly struck by how lovely they were. I knew by the variety of leaves this wasn't just an extra bergamotty Earl Grey but something special. Savannah Grey, according to the package, is "a superior China black tea with long silvery tips. Bergamot (a Mediterrean citrus) and lavender are added to this beautiful tea for optimum taste. Cornflowers are added to enhance the visual pleasure. This is Savannah's Earl Grey." And I must tell you, it was absolutely divine! I've had lavender-flavored teas before, and I've had Earl Grey teas before, but Oh. My. Goodness. This blend had a richness and a depth that's quite unlike any other Earl Greys I've tried. I can see why my friend's husband loves it—and the fact it comes from The Tea Room in Savannah (no longer a tearoom, but they do still sell teas in a local book shop) is a delightful bonus. (They also sell them online here.) So if I'm snowed in with my books and tea this weekend, I believe we shall get along just splendidly.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New tea and new tea goals

One of my goals for the new year is to drink more green tea, and that was made easier when my friend Susan gave me two tins of green tea for  Christmas. These teas are both by Brew la la Tea, a company whose name made me smile!

Happily, the teas did too. First I tried the Organic Chamomile Lemon Green Tea, which had a bright, sunny lemon taste. It wasn't a mouth-puckering lemony taste at all, and this wasn't a grassy-tasting green tea, so that was nice. Perhaps it was "softened" by the chamomile, but at any rate, I very much enjoyed this tea.

Blueberry teas can veer off into "tart berry" territory sometimes, but this Organic Blueberry Green Tea did not and made a wonderful evening cup of tea. So I'm off to a good start with my drink-more-green-tea goal for the year.

And you'll notice that I like to talk about "goals" and not "resolutions." I've never been very good at keeping resolutions, but I am actually pretty good at reaching goals, especially if I write them down. So you want to know what my tea goals are for the year? They're very simple (some of you may laugh), but with the busy life I've had this past year, if I accomplish all of these, I'll be quite satisfied. They are:

• Drink more green tea. (I'm aiming to "drink green" at least every other day.)

• Visit at least two new tearooms. (There aren't very many in my area of Georgia anymore, so this will involve some planning.)

• Host a tea for a friend or friends at least quarterly. (I miss doing this and am going to make it a priority item for 2017.)

So there you go! Do you have resolutions and/or goals for the new year? If so, do you have any "tea goals" you can share? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Just a reminder …


In case some readers didn't see my post a few weeks ago, I am now on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging schedule here at Tea With Friends.

Today launches my new writing blog, The Writer's Junk Drawer, which appears on Tuesday and Thursday, and you can find it here.

And if you're interested in writerly and bookish stuff, you can follow me by "Liking" my "Angela McRae—Writer" page on Facebook here. Thanks!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ginger wins the "My Country, 'Tis of Tea" prize!




Thank you to those of you who emailed me your responses to last week's pop quiz (all of them were 100 percent correct, by the way!), and Ginger was the winner of the prize, a $20 Amazon gift card. In case you didn't take the test and would like to know the answers, here they are. And Happy New Year!

1. This state was the first to grant women the right to vote, and some say a tea party helped advance the suffrage effort there. Wyoming

2. This state is the home of America’s only working tea plantation. South Carolina

3. A tearoom in this state served meals to scientists working on the Manhattan Project. New Mexico

4. This state is the home of a town called Edenton in which one Penelope Barker and 51 other women protested the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773, an event which became known as the Edenton Tea Party. North Carolina

5. This state has a city by the name of “Tea.” South Dakota

6. This state is the home of Stash Tea. Oregon

7. Luzianne Tea was founded in this state. Louisiana

8. One of the most legendary tea sandwiches is the Benedictine tea sandwich, named for a famous caterer, Jennie Benedict, and it is associated with this state. Kentucky

9. Lots of Depression Glass, including the Art Deco Tea Room pattern, was produced in this state. Indiana

10. In which state was Arizona Tea founded? New York

Friday, December 30, 2016

Napkin organization time

This week has been all about organizing. If it sits still long enough at this house, it is going to get organized, and preferably before midnight tomorrow. I love to end the year having checked off lots of things on my to-do list, and one of those items has been to clean out my linen closet and get rid of the things I don't use.  I do use my various napkins, but they were scattered in different piles, so I'm trying to bring order to the chaos.

I discovered that while I had lots of mismatched floral napkins in various pastels, the ones I ended up using almost every time I have a tea or other formal occasion are the dressier white ones, and they basically ended up being various white napkins with pretty corner treatments, clockwise from top left: monogrammed "M" napkins (which I love but found only four of them a few years ago), crochet-edge napkins (a find from my late mother), Battenberg lace napkins (also from my mom), and some thin but beautiful embroidered and pulled-thread napkins (I have no idea where or when I found these).

Happily, my gift from Aunt Jane this Christmas was a set of six more monogrammed napkins, which, surprisingly, were found at T.J. Maxx! I was intrigued to note the differences in the whiteness level of all of my napkins, and I realized since I usually use them with a cream-colored crochet tablecloth, I mix white and cream things quite regularly and don't really worry about whether or not something is a stark white. My only remaining question is what's the best way to store napkins. I usually wait and iron them right before I need them, but I'm thinking of going ahead and ironing them and rolling them around an empty gift wrap roll. Would love to hear any tips/thoughts you might have to share!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The January/February 2017 issue of Tea Time … and a question!

Since Christmas has passed, it's okay to talk about a magazine that features hearts on the cover, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I love the simple yet elegant idea of using heart-shaped slices of strawberry to embellish a cake. (And why haven't I thought of this before?)

Tea Time always has at least a few recipes I'd like to try, and this time, I was also inspired by the way they displayed macarons in this stemmed bowl. I have some similar glass bowls I purchased at a Southern Living at Home party years ago, and I don't pull them out nearly often enough. Macarons, truffles, shortbread bites … now I'm thinking of even more creative ways I can use these pretty scalloped bowls!

I always love to read about tea production around the world, and this time I enjoyed the article on tea by editor Lorna Reeves, who actually visited Sri Lanka herself and learned about Ceylon tea. A fun read!

And here's my question: How do you all keep track of favorite articles in Tea Time? I've decided I'm going to start keeping a log (printed or computerized, I'm not sure which) of favorite articles, recipes, and topics. That way, I'll be able to revisit favorite articles without thumbing through more than a decade's worth of issues. I have them all, and yet I rarely go back to those early issues. Do you? How do you keep track of your favorite articles? Or do you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In search of missing pieces

What do you do when you're missing a creamer? You substitute a cute Santa Claus tea figurine (thank you, Linda!), that's what! He's filling in admirably, I think, in light of the missing piece that I was unsuccessful at locating in 2016, so I'm hoping for better luck with the search in 2017.

Last year I bought this Christmas chintz teapot and two-tiered serving tray at a T.J. Maxx, and after I blogged about it, my friend Joy thoughtfully located three dessert plates and the sugar bowl for me—on clearance! As you can see, my table setting is a plate, four teacups, and one creamer short of completion. When I started seriously looking for the missing pieces in the fall, I was very surprised to find I could not locate the missing plate at any price, anywhere. Not even at Replacements.com, which told me that there must not be many of these out there! I could buy the sugar and creamer as a set, but I don't *need* another sugar bowl, so … I'm holding out.

What do you think about mixing this Christmas chintz pattern? When my dad gave me money to buy my Christmas gifts from him this year, I bought two of these pretty teacups when I found them at Marshalls, and I'm thinking they could blend well. Or would you just mix and match with four different patterns of Christmas teacup? No rush, though. I won't be putting these out again for another year!





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Country Christmas

I always enjoy seeing other bloggers' family Christmas photos, so I thought I'd share a few of mine this year! We celebrate at the home of my dad, who lives much more out in the country compared to my neck of the woods, and my sister's family is building a new home next door. So after we all finished visiting our various churches this year (and Alex and I agree our church's service was one of our favorite things about Christmas), Christmas Day saw the usual bountiful lunch and gifts, a next-door home tour, and a visit with the goats and my niece Amelia's new miniature donkey, Itsy.


I'm afraid I can't quite remember which of the five goats is which, but I know these two are Fred and Ethel.


It is indeed more blessed to give than to receive, and at Christmas, I really, really enjoy shopping for the grandkids and for my nieces and nephew. Amelia, who likes to send me long texts followed by a string of emoticons, loved her emoticon message bead kit. 😀😂😉


Matthew's new Star Wars Legos certainly made him smile.


Cari's favorite gift was clearly the new ukulele she received from her parents, and Alex and I knew she'd never guess …


What our biggest gift to her was this year. (If you guessed a sparkly new lamp for her new bedroom, you win!)


And I didn't take a picture of Madison opening anything, but her favorite part of the day was clearly spending time with her gentleman caller, Dylan.


Here's my sister, Rhonda, and me with Daddy, and then a better picture of Daddy. (Rhonda, who has always been thin, thought the other pictures made her look fat. As if!)


And here are Amelia and Matthew with their gingerbread house. Matthew was proud of the handle and doorbell on the house but said it looked like "a candy tornado" had come through. Ha! I hope you all had a great time celebrating with your own family and friends!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The gift of tea and reflection

I don't know about you, but I find that the week after Christmas is one of my most favorite weeks of the year. After all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it's wonderful to be able to just kick back and relax, stay out of stores (yes, I really said that), and reflect on the old year and look forward to the new one. And tea friend Frances surprised me with a lovely gift that is helping me do just that!

This darling little tea-themed tote and mug mat include a quote from the great C.S. Lewis, whose "Screwtape Letters" is one of my all-time favorite books.

Also included in the tote were two items perfect for post-Christmas reflecting, a darling new teacup pocket journal and a package of teas! (Frances couldn't have known this, but I talked myself down from buying that very journal in a gift shop recently. I feel guilty shopping for myself at Christmas, but I did remember that sweet journal and wished I had it. And now I do!)

But the message on the back of the tote is what I'm admiring most today, and I intend to do exactly this and little else. How do you relax after Christmas each year?





Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — The Exit Exam



Friends, I hope you all are getting ready to have a wonderful Christmas celebration with family and friends! And for those of you who have followed this series throughout 2016, I now present the final exam. I was going to make the quiz 50 questions, but my husband said that was too hard and he wouldn't do it, so I've whittled it down to 10. 

Anyone who correctly answers these 10 questions between now and 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, will be entered in a drawing for a very special gift! Can you answer them? If so, just type your answers, email them to me at angelamcrae at charter dot net (or use the button at right) and you'll be entered to win. Good luck!

1. This state was the first to grant women the right to vote, and some say a tea party helped advance the suffrage effort there.

2. This state is the home of America’s only working tea plantation.

3. A tearoom in this state served meals to scientists working on the Manhattan Project.

4. This state is the home of a town called Edenton in which one Penelope Barker and 51 other women protested the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773, an event which became known as the Edenton Tea Party. 

5. This state has a city by the name of “Tea.”

6. This state is the home of Stash Tea.

7. Luzianne Tea was founded in this state.

8. One of the most legendary tea sandwiches is the Benedictine tea sandwich, named for a famous caterer, Jennie Benedict, and it is associated with this state.

9. Lots of Depression Glass, including the Art Deco Tea Room pattern, was produced in this state.

10. In which state was Arizona Tea founded?

Tip: If you'd like an easy way to search the old blog posts to help you find the answers, click here.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Cookie Cup cookie cutter

So it was my last visit to T.J. Maxx / HomeGoods before Christmas, and I was looking for gift ideas for a dear friend I wanted to get a little something extra. I found her a beautiful pie plate with a wreath design inside, and while I was in the housewares section, I found for myself this Cookie Cup cookie cutter that looked intriguing. As you can see, I haven't even opened it yet, but it lets you imprint star designs …

Or a small fluted cookie design …

And small circle designs. That's all in addition to the large (about 3-inch diameter) opening up top. And since some of you like tea-themed kitchen gadgets as much as I do, I wanted to be sure you knew about it. You can also find these here, but I like the HomeGoods price much better!