Monday, May 31, 2010

My $10 windfall

Limoges plate with yellow and blush pink roses, $1.

Limoges plate with small spray roses, $1.

Crown Staffordshire floral jam pot, $1.

Rustic but charming cup with rose, $1.

Three-footed scalloped glass bowl with silver overlay, $1.

Noritake lemon server -- and every tea lover *needs* a lemon server -- $1.

Porcelain tea trivet with unusual windmill design and flowers, $1.

Giant coffee table book on decorating with flowers, $1.

New needlepoint pillows that match my mom's new den, $1 and $1. Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply hasn't come across the right Memorial Day weekend yard sale! Hope you all have a great day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tea and Books Saturday #22 - "The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea"

The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea
By Helen Simpson
1986, Arbor House/William Morrow

Although I've had it for years, I only recently actually read "The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea" by Helen Simpson. What an absolutely delightful little book! I loved its small format, its recipes and its great variety of information, but most of all I loved its spirit, you might say.

Describing the legendary teas at the Palm Court of the London Ritz, Simpson writes: "Here is one of the few places outside church or royal garden parties where a woman may wear a hat and feel entirely at ease. In fact, those approaching the Palm Court clad in such garments as jeans, shorts or sneakers will be reluctantly but firmly turned away. Suitably dressed tea-bibbers, however, will be greeted by the Palm Court's Master of Ceremonies ..." In the section on tea's history, she says: "After more than a century of drinking tea from China, the British instigated and won the disgraceful Opium Wars against the Chinese. The causes of these wars will not be explored any further here for fear of shocking the reader." I love that! Also in the history section, Simpson notes that in the late 1700s, "tea was taken at breakfast and after dinner, always green and milkless, whether Bohea, Twankey or Hyson." Bohea and Hyson teas I've heard of, but Twankey? Turns out that was the name of a cheap blend of Chinese green tea.

I enjoyed reading the behind-the-scenes info on how the Ritz prepared its huge loaves of bread that were used in making tea sandwiches, and there were quite a few recipes I hope to try. I was especially intrigued by the Potted Shrimps, whose "mixture will keep for a month under its veil of clarified butter."

The book concludes with a short but helpful directory of teas, and it was there I found the Simpson quote I enjoyed most of all: "Tea-drinking is a cheerful habit to cultivate, as each cup gently shifts fatigue, lifts the spirits and brightens the brainbox." My brainbox certainly enjoyed reading this witty and informative book!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tea and a new pink hydrangea

Here is what my new Hydrangea serrata 'Amacha' looks like about two weeks after it was planted.

I'd gone to Wilkerson Mill Gardens, an area nursery known nationally for its incredible hydrangea selection, in search of a pink hydrangea for the shade garden.

I fully intended to get a mophead hydrangea (what I think of as the classic hydrangea) and not a frilly lacecap hydrangea, until I saw this description next to a small grouping of plants.

Needless to say, I knew immediately this hydrangea was going home with me!

As you can tell from this photo and the one up top, my new hydrangea is doing quite well! I had never heard of Amacha tea, and I was surprised to learn that "Ama cha" actually means "sweet tea" in Japanese. I also read that hydrangea tea is used in Japan to celebrate Buddha's birthday, but perhaps this hydrangea is an ecumenical plant because it's certainly right at home in my little Baptist garden! A pretty new flower with a surprise tea connection? Got to love it!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer 2010 The Herb Quarterly

One of my thoughtful correspondents who remembered my tea garden plans sent an alert that I might want to check out the new issue of The Herb Quarterly. Indeed I was delighted to see the article "Designing a Tea Garden" touted on the cover of this magazine, which I have purchased occasionally over the years. I've long been intrigued that in a day when high-gloss magazines, and even digital magazines, are so prevalent, this old-fashioned, illustration-rich magazine keeps rocking along, and I'm pleased it does. (The herb in my photo is chocolate mint, which is growing so quickly that I snipped some to display in a vase. I read that's a good way to keep herbs handy for a few days when you aren't going to use them immediately.)

The article on the tea garden was quite helpful, and it suggested plants I'm familiar with (Angelica, Hibiscus, Nettles) and a few that were quite new to me (Agrimony, Betony, Valerian). I was happy to see the author, Katherine Weber-Turcotte, recommends a bistro set as one of the options for creating a focal point within the tea garden, because that is precisely what I have planned for mine!

Even if you're not in the midst of designing a tea garden, I think tea lovers would greatly enjoy this issue of The Herb Quarterly. I found articles on chamomile tea's effectiveness in countering anxiety and on hibiscus tea's ability to lower cholesterol. There's also a great feature on British Berry Desserts with recipes for yummy-sounding treats like Raspberry Ice Cream with Sweet and Savory Sage Shortbread and Trifle with Red Currants and Lemongrass. The illustrations are gorgeous as ever, and I think this issue will be a hit with a lot of tea lovers!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Researching pottery and porcelain marks

Always eager to learn more about my teawares, I recently found a discount copy of a book I'd been wanting, "Miller's Pottery and Porcelain Marks" by Gordon Lang. I got the 2001 edition for about $5, and I absolutely love it! The book measures about 3-3/4 x 7-3/4 inches, so it's practically pocket-sized, but it packs a heap of info into its 400 pages.

"Miller's Pottery and Porcelain Marks" is a very user-friendly guide, and most of the pages show a pottery mark in the small left-hand column and then a description in the larger right-hand column.

Here are seven marks I photographed from random teacups. You can look up makers by name, by initials or monograms, and even by "devices," such as crowns, shields, anchors and globes. Only when gathering pieces for my photos did I realize my blue Swinnertons teacup and saucer has a teapot depicted as part of its mark! (Double-click on the images for more detail.) Sometimes I had to use the book as a beginning point to surf the web for more information, but with this book and the internet at hand there's been no mark, no company I haven't been able to find, and that is well worth the price of this book!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Boston tea recommendations?

One of my friends at work is going to Boston next week and she's looking for a nice place to take tea. She looked through the usual directories/resources online but didn't find anything she liked, and she says she would *greatly* appreciate recommendations from any of you who've taken tea in Boston. Can you help?

A Chinese Tea Basket

On Friday my friend Katherine was in town from Augusta and we met for lunch at Holly Cottage Tea Room. She'd already told me she found something tea-ish for me at an estate sale back home, and she had a huge grin as she came walking up with this pretty basket in her hands. She informed me this was my birthday, Christmas, etc. present for a while, so I knew it must be something good!

Inside the basket? A beautiful Chinese teapot and two teacups!

The design of the lid is so pretty, and one I've never seen before. The whole set is in absolutely mint condition.

Katherine said she didn't know if I would even like this sort of thing, but I absolutely do! As I told her, a lot of Chinese teapots just aren't that pretty to me, but this one is just lovely and the set (and basket) are like nothing I've ever had before. And of course it's even more meaningful because it's a gift from a friend!

If you're like me, you "break your own rules" for teawares sometimes. I may prefer English bone china, but I've bought some Chinese and Japanese pieces before when they were pretty enough. This beautiful bow-bedecked basket of flowers is certainly more than "pretty enough" in my book!

I always look to see if the teapot has strainer holes, and this one does.

And I have no idea what these marks above the words "Made in China" say, but I will certainly have fun investigating -- and using -- my new gift!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jade's Tea in McDonough

Since my tea blogger friend Maureen has so kindly visited me in my town several times, I thought it was time to visit her in her neighborhood for a change. Last Thursday, I took the day off work and headed to McDonough, where Maureen had suggested we check out a new tea spot, Jade's Tea.

First, here's my sweet friend, always with a sunny smile on her face!

Jade's Tea is a small and cozy tea shop with simple, clean decor and a soothing green color palette. It's very tastefully furnished, as if each shade of green, each fresh flower on the table were chosen with great care.

In one of the more creative displays of loose leaf tea I've come across, Jade's Tea has small metal tins attached to the wall with Velcro fasteners, and you are welcome to take them down and sniff. (We did!)

Both Maureen and I decided to have bubble tea, and we both ordered some in chai flavor. It was served in such a pretty glass! I was surprised this bubble tea was a milky drink, not the iced, slushy-type bubble tea I've always had before. When I returned to the shop's website later, I saw I could have ordered it iced, so now I've learned there are different types of bubble tea to be enjoyed. (I didn't dislike it -- it was just different!)

Tea lust got the better of me, and I ordered a second tea with my lunch, the Peppermint Chamomile Orange iced tea I'd seen on the Jade's Tea website. I must say this was the prettiest iced tea presentation I've ever seen! A glass teapot held the tea and was accented with a slice of orange. (Go here to see Maureen's pink Lavender Lemon iced tea and to read her account of our day!)

Both of us, I think, fell in love with the cute glass holders for the tea strainers. I was sorry they weren't for sale, although that's probably a good thing! Have you ever seen a glass holder for a tea strainer? This was a first for me.

The Potato Asparagus Salad I ordered was thoroughly delicious. Don't you love it when you order a meal and you can truly taste the unique flavors of the food and not the mushed up blend of it all?

My lunch choice was the Basil Turkey Sandwich. I don't guess I've ever put whole basil leaves on a sandwich but I sure will in the future, because this one was great. The delicious meal was just the fuel I needed for a fine afternoon of shopping with Maureen, who is a great tour guide. We went to the quilt shop nearby, A Scarlet Thread, and she helped me find not one but two new teapot fabrics, as well as some wonderful bargains in their half-price room. Then it was on to Marshalls for a bit more scavenging before I headed back to Newnan. A new tea place with a new tea friend and bargains too? It doesn't really get any better than that!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tea and Books Saturday #21 - "Loving Tea"

Loving Tea
By Jane Resnick
Berkley Books, 1997

Jane Resnick's "Loving Tea" is one of the few tea books I've come across that is a mass market paperback, the size of those romance novels and mysteries you find at the grocery store. But don't look down on it just because it's not a fancy hardback, for this is one terrific tea book and offers lots of great info, much food for thought, a wealth of information on herbal teas, and even some new teatime recipes to try.

I even liked the chapter titles, like "Torturing for Taste: How Tea is Manufactured" and "Graciousness, Greed, and Gunfire: The History of Tea." I believe it helped that I approached this book as one with some basic background knowledge of tea. I would not recommend this as a "beginner" tea book but rather as a book for the "intermediate" tea drinker/enjoyer. There is, for instance, a helpful chapter on terms used in describing tea, and I think tea newbies would be fairly lost here while more experienced tea drinkers will say "Yes, that's the word I've been looking for!"

Herb lovers will find much to enjoy here, as there are several chapters devoted to herbal teas. One chapter offers tips for making your own herbal teas, and I learned that a tea made of only one herb is called a "simple." Those made with two or more herbs are called a "blend," and the author recommends "simpling" (love that word!) before blending. She also describes a few of the various tea ceremonies and says one of the elements included in the Chinese tea ceremony is a broken fan. Why broken? "Traditionally, a rattan fan was used to revive the fire. The broken part is in regard to an ancient Chinese belief that 'Nothing can be perfect unless it includes one tiny imperfection.'" My fellow quilters will note the similarity with the quilter's belief in the "humility block," the idea that a quilt should contain one imperfect block because only God is perfect.

Near the end of the book, Resnick quotes a famous monk who talked about bringing "awareness" to our enjoyment of tea in order not to miss our "appointment with life." (That sounds like something our thoughtful tea friend Marilyn Miller would say!) Such thoughtfulness fills this book, and it's one I think many of you would enjoy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Here we go 'round the mulberry ... tree!

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go 'round the mulberry bush
So early in the morning.

I've sung that tune since I was a little girl, so imagine my surprise at learning mulberries don't really grow on bushes but on trees! (Wikipedia has one explanation why the song says "mulberry bush.") And what, pray tell, made me investigate this? I've been paying more attention to what's growing around my home this year, and lo and behold we have a mulberry tree which is happily tossing mulberries at me each day. The ripe berries look like very long blackberries, and the taste is similar but not quite as sweet and a little bit more tart.

There are quite a few mulberry recipes available online, but I pulled out my trusty "Totally Teabreads" book by Barbara Albright and Leslie Weiner and made a few substitutions to one of the recipes. If you have mulberries, you might wish to give this a try, and if you don't, I'll bet blackberries will work just fine!

Mulberry Tea Bread

2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups fresh mulberries (I chopped the mulberries in half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir vanilla into milk. Then, in three additions each, add the flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, beating just until combined. Fold in mulberries. Pour into loaf pan and bake 55-65 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This teacup is for the birds

Over the weekend I had a $10 T.J. Maxx gift certificate I'd earned from my T.J. Maxx rewards card, and I was hoping to find something tea-ish to use it on. I was very pleased to find this great teacup with a bird on it for just $9.99, which means they paid ME a penny to take it, and that's my favorite way to shop.

Actually, this teacup has two birds on it.

And actually, it's more than just a teacup -- it's a teacup bird feeder!

I hung it near the Shade Garden so the birds and I can visit while I work. I hope they enjoy their "tea"!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Some winsome estate sale finds

For about the third time in the past year or so, I have returned from an estate sale with a tea trivet. I wonder why this should be so? Is it that estate sales are generally the province of older people, and they are the ones more likely to have known what a tea trivet is and to have used (or inherited) one?

At any rate, I was delighted to find this one, one of the most highly decorated tea trivets I own!

It's about the size of a dessert saucer, so I'll bet the non-tea-fanatics don't know what this is. And may it ever be so! If you want to look for one—to keep your own teapots from leaving a heat mark on the table, or simply for decorative purposes—it's easy to tell because of the side elevation of the tea trivet. Because it has either a rim or sometimes "feet"on the bottom, it doesn't sit perfectly flat on the table as a saucer would.

When I turned this one over, I smiled when I saw that "Winsome" was the name of the pattern. "Yes, it *is* winsome!" I thought.

This butter pat was a cute piece too, and for $2 the price was right. At least I think it's a butter pat. If you know differently, I'm willing to be educated!

This piece is marked "Grindley." I enjoy studying the maker's marks and learning what I can about porcelain, china and pottery, and there is always something new to learn in the wonderful world of teawares!