Monday, January 31, 2011

On the Alabama Antique Trail

Recently my husband said he thought it would be fun if we started going junking once a month or so, and of course I was quite game for that! Saturday morning was sunny and the weather was turning warmer (hallelujah), so we headed to northeast Alabama. We had been to two of the three antique stores we knew were in Centre, Ala. when we happened upon yet another store that wasn't on our map. I found some teacups there that were priced pretty fairly, but nothing that really bowled me over. Then, I spied a row of junky old glasses and thought I spotted a familiar pattern. Tea Room depression glass! Yes! It was the tall footed tumbler, it had no chips or nicks, and it was just $2! So now I have a clear piece to join my pink Tea Room sugar and creamer, and I couldn't have been happier. (Well, unless the tumbler had been pink, but I was still pretty happy!)

That was the find of the day, but a close second was this: two vintage Paragon mugs for just $2.50 each. I normally favor teacups over mugs, but I thought these were beautiful and at yard sale prices I had to get them.

The pink pattern is Victoriana Rose, and the blue pattern of forget-me-nots is Remember Me. Both are stamped with the royal warrant reading "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen - China Potters."

My other find of the day was this vintage hat which I picked up for a magazine layout I have planned. I think it will be just perfect for what I have in mind.

The colors are great, and the floppy little velvet bow makes me happy.

Funny, I got home and sat it on the dining table and realized it is a perfect match for my current placemats. Maybe I'll decorate with it!

If you're ever antiquing in the Alabama area, be sure to pick up a brochure or go online to This brochure was quite helpful with its map of the whole state marking the various clusters of antique shops. It's definitely a trail worth following!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tea Sandwich Saturday #5 - Bacon, Avocado and Tomato with Pesto on Pumpernickel

Wow, the name of this week's tea sandwich is almost as long as its recipe! I needed to use up some bacon that was left over from another dish, and I was in the mood for a heartier, meatier tea sandwich this week. I was inspired by a recipe I found here.

But I decided to make it easy on myself: I purchased basil pesto in a jar, a small tomato, a small avocado and a loaf of pumpernickel bread. I cut the bread into rectangles and spread them lightly with pesto, then added thin slices of the tomato and avocado, topped with a piece of crispy bacon. (My husband, by the way, cooked the bacon for me. I can prepare bacon just two ways -- "soggy" and "charred" are my specialties -- while his is always just perfect.)

So here's the thing: I *loved* the flavor of this sandwich. Boy, was it good, and I imagine it would be even better with fresh tomatoes from my own garden this summer. But it was definitely a meaty, salty little treat. My husband, after sampling and saying "mmm," told me "it's very assertive." Said he wouldn't pair this with white or green tea but rather a strong black tea, and I agree. He liked it enough to go make himself a bigger one after we polished off my "testers." I finally concluded I might or might not be comfortable serving this particular tea sandwich at a tea, and it would definitely depend on what other sandwiches I was offering. So this one goes in the "maybe" column as far as teatime is concerned, but for "anytime" eating it's definitely a yes!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ahmad English Tea No. 1

Tea lovers are just some of the nicest folks I know! This box of tea was dropped off at the office just last week by a lovely local woman I met at our Tea for Toys event back in December. She told me she became a fan of this tea while on a trip to England, and when she got back home she found she had to order an entire case of it if she wanted some. She did, and she shares!

I love the box design, and even the graphics on top are just lovely!

But most of all, I can now see why this tea was a favorite. It makes a nice strong brew, the perfect thing when you want a cup of straight-up black tea with no frou-frou flavorings, as I sometimes do. I was also happy to see the teabags are well-preserved in foil lined pouches and not those paper packets which seem to go flat sooner. If you've got to order a case of tea to enjoy this flavor, it's nice to know it will last!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Organic Raw Blue Agave

Having rarely met a form of sugar I didn't like, I am always, always interested in the topic of sweeteners! Recently, a friend surprised me with a gift of a bottle of Organic Raw Blue Agave.

The brand is Wholesome Sweeteners, and the bottle looks like this.

While I've had organic agave nectar in "stick" form (really they are just thin tubes of the nectar), I've never had it straight up and was happy to give it a try.

After reading on the label that it is 25 percent sweeter than sugar so you can use less, I sweetened a cup of brisk black tea with just about 3/4 teaspoon of the agave, and indeed that was just enough sweetness. I also sampled some of the agave straight from the spoon, and I really enjoyed the molasses-like flavor. This is a welcome addition to the tea sweetener offerings at my house!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tea garden dreaming

Roots & Rhizomes, Seed Savers Exchange, Select Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Michigan Bulb Co., John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, Edmunds' Roses, Park Seed, Burpee, Seeds of Change, Jung Seeds & Plants, Gurney's, Totally Tomatoes, Harris Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. These are some of the garden catalogs that have landed in my mailbox over the past few weeks, and I couldn't be more thrilled! There is something just so very *right* about the fact that in the midst of the dullness and grayness of winter, such bright, happy colors arrive in the mail to remind us spring is on the way. And I am already dreaming of this year's tea garden!

It got off to a terrific start the other day when my mom gave me another yard sale find of hers. It's missing a piece, she said, but she thought I might do something with this anyway. Now normally I have to let ideas steep a while, but this one came to me instantly: I am going to somehow glue these pieces to metal stakes and have them popping up through some flowers! Aren't the colors absolutely perfect for that!

It set my "garden mind" to dreaming, and I found myself looking at this tea-for-one set I've been using at work for the past few years. The friend who gave it to me is an outdoorsy type herself, and I have a feeling she would approve of finding her gift "growing" in my garden this year. So Spring, c'mon! I'm ready!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teapot & teacup cupcake baking cups

Weeks ago I was scanning eBay and began to notice sellers were offering these cute cupcake baking cups with teapots on them. Most wanted $4 or $5, plus shipping, and although I thought these were awfully cute I couldn't justify spending that much on throwaway cupcake papers.

But then Christine alerted me (in a blog comment) to the fact that these are actually available at Michaels. When I saw they were $1.99, I happily purchased two of the 75-count packages. I figured that was enough, because by the time I've made 150 of these I will be tired of them.

But here's my question: Why are the baking cup designers putting the *cute* part of the design on the bottom? I mean, sure, I'll know it's there and all, but if I get to the party, do I tell everyone to please turn their cupcakes upside down ("Watch those sprinkles, everyone!") and admire the bottom? Have they always made them this way and I'm just now noticing? But shoot, they were just $1.99, so I figured I'd sort all that out later!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tea goodies from Cracker Barrel

First I saw Linda's post about the new tea goodies at Cracker Barrel. Then my friend Beth e-mailed to let me know she'd seen them "live" here in my town. So when I was planning to join a friend for breakfast last week, guess where I suggested we meet?

My favorite find, for purely whimsical reasons, is this Tea Duckie. How can you not love this!

The bottom twists off to insert your loose leaf tea, and it works fine. I probably won't use this that often, but as a collector of tea infusers I thought this one was quite unique!

I also found a new bookmark, and I can never have enough bookmarks. Especially with teapots on them!

And last, I got this small (8-inch) teapot pillow which is now hanging in my craft room. If you happen to have a Cracker Barrel nearby, they also have tea-scented hand cream and bath salts, mugs, wall art, lamps and more. Definitely worth a trip for the tea lover!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tea Sandwich Saturday #4 - Pineapple Cream Cheese on Zucchini Bread

I'm still obsessed with the idea of using different breads on my tea sandwiches, and this week I pondered whether I've ever had a tea sandwich on a sweet bread such as zucchini bread. Have I? I'm not sure, but I figured why not give it a whirl! And that's how I came up with these Pineapple Cream Cheese Sandwiches on Zucchini Bread. Now don't get me wrong, I want *most* of my tea sandwiches to be savory ones, but if the tea room or hostess sneaks some strawberries or pineapple or mandarin oranges into one of my tea sandwiches, I certainly don't mind!

So here's what I did: Baked zucchini bread. Sliced fairly thin (about 3/8 of an inch), cut off the top crust, and then cut into squares (about 1-1/2 inches). For the spread, I mixed pineapple (1 small can) and cream cheese (an 8-ounce block) and sandwiched it between two slices of the zucchini bread. It was heavenly! It tasted so light and airy, and you can bet I'll be serving this quick and easy sandwich at one of my next tea parties, especially since I made an extra loaf of zucchini bread that is already waiting in my freezer!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Teapot and tea kettle earrings

One thing I've noticed about much of the tea jewelry out there today is that it's "fancy." If you look at the ads in tea magazines, you can find pieces with pearls or crystals or etched beads, but there's not much tea jewelry I would call "casual." That's why I so enjoyed receiving this pair of more modern/casual teapot earrings as a Christmas gift from one of my friends! I also wear a lot of brown these days, so I was quite happy to receive these.

One of my eBay finds from the end of the year had to come from England, and it was this pair of etched gold earrings that I'm saying are tea kettles. (OK, so they might be "coffee" kettles, but this is a tea blog and here they are going to be "tea" kettles.)

Even though I have pierced ears I don't mind wearing clip earrings, and I thought these were particularly lovely. And that's pretty much all the new tea jewelry I've seen in months!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trident Vitality with white tea

Are you a gum chewer? I'm not, usually, but I was standing in line at Kroger the other day and after I got through reading all the tabloid headlines I started scanning the packages of chewing gum. That's when I saw this new Trident Vitality gum which contains mint and white tea, so naturally I had to try it.

Have you noticed there is a mind-boggling array of chewing gum flavors today? Gone are the days when it was pretty much just Juicy Fruit (my favorite) and Wrigley's Spearmint and Big Red. Apparently Trident's Vitality is a new product line, and "Rejuve" is the name of the mint and white tea flavor. I checked the package, and this gum does indeed contain white tea extract. (And did you know Trident is a division of Cadbury? Now if they could make chewing gum taste like Cadbury's chocolate Easter eggs, THAT would be something I'd stand in line for!)

The chewing gum was good and it did have a little extra something along with a nice mint flavor, although I thought that $1.29 for nine little ole pieces of gum was a bit much. Perhaps I'm just paying for the fancy silver packaging. (I LOVE how the box closes!) But will you satisfy my curiosity on one point, friends? I am betting that most tea drinkers are not big gum chewers, mainly because we'd rather be sipping tea than chewing gum. Am I right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From 1942: "Meet You At Tea"

The year 1942 was a bit before my time, but if I'd been around back then I no doubt would have loved this booklet from the Tea Bureau, "Meet You At Tea." I was reading through its pages recently and thought you might enjoy an excerpt: "The voice of America today is quiet, firm, quick – the voice of a people with a job to do. It is a voice heard throughout the land – in the small towns and the big cities, in giant factories and small machine shops, in civilian defense headquarters and shipyards. Marching feet and droning motors and fast night trains give the rhythm to the symphony of America. America is going places. And more and more these words end brief morning conferences: 'Meet you at tea.'"

In this photo you can see that tea had gotten lots of publicity because of the vast number of newspaper clippings featuring tea. (Double click for more detail.)

The booklet includes quite a few vintage teatime recipes (and I *love* vintage teatime recipes), for things like Rolled Watercress Sandwiches and Colonial Spongelets and the unfortunately named Vitamin Sandwich. (The Vitamin Sandwich recipe actually appeals to me, though, so I'm saving it for one of my Tea Sandwich Saturday projects.)

The war years were much in evidence in this book, such as this page titled "V-For-Victory Tea, and ... May the Best Man Win!" The cutline with this picture mentions "muddlers," and I had to look that one up.

I also enjoyed this photo showing suggested items for a "tea bar" in the home. This little booklet is rather tattered and seems to have been well-read through the years, but after all this time it still encourages readers to "Meet You At Tea."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Remembering A Cup of Kindness

Can we talk?

The other day I heard one of those money-saving segments on the news and was advised to save my change each day in a coin bank. I realized I have the perfect bank, a Mary Engelbreit piece I received as a gift years ago but have never actually used as a bank! This gift is super special to me because it was a gift from a friend's *father* who was a Walmart trucker at the time he bought it. Retired now, Bob was a bearded, gray-haired gruff sort when I first met him, but it didn't take me long to figure out he was a teddy bear. Still, though, I was amazed when this bank arrived in the mail one day with a note from his wife. "Bob saw this at an auction and said 'Do you think Angela would like that?'" she said. She told him that yes, she thought I would, so he got it and that's how I acquired this bank. The sentiment means more to me than the bank does!

Although it is a cute piece, isn't it? Around the base it says "Pour yourself a cup of kindness," which is a great sentiment -- and one I can certainly bank on doing!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sweet Tea Quilt - A progress report

Since the winter snowstorm in Georgia last week had me happily housebound for several days, I took advantage of this unexpected gift of time and managed to finish hand piecing the quilt top for my Sweet Tea Quilt! I was so excited to add that final row!

This quilt kit was a 2009 Christmas gift from my DH. Because I enjoy handwork so much, I had decided to hand piece this quilt, and to be honest with you I didn't get but a few rows stitched until late last year, when I decided to get serious about it.

This quilt was designed by Holly Holderman using some of her Teatime Floral prints for Lakehouse Dry Goods, and obviously the teacups and the pink colors are why I like it so much!

Now I have to add a border of fabric and little folded triangles called prairie points. Then I'll add the batting and backing fabric and quilt it all together. I had failed to order any backing and was scrounging around online last week to find any vendors who had some matching fabric. Luckily, some was still available. (And on clearance!)

While I wait for the backing to land in my mailbox, I decided to experiment with another quilting idea I've had. I traced a teapot stencil and used it to cut out a 1930s reproduction print. I'm thinking of making a small wall hanging out of blocks like this one ... but I'm only giving this my attention until that backing fabric arrives!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tea Sandwich Saturday #3 - Mascarpone Ham Tea Sandwich

Inspired by the winter snow storm that immobilized much of Georgia this week, I wanted to see if I could make a tea sandwich using my snowflake cookie cutters. I found the perfect one to try, the Mascarpone Ham Tea Sandwich featured in the 2007 book "The Tea Experience" from Hoffman Media. Cutting the ham with cookie cutters was a bit of a challenge and I'm not sure it's worth the effort, so that's the reason you also see one plain, cube-shaped sandwich on this plate!

This recipe's use of mascarpone cheese is what made it so appealing to me.

In color and texture it seems very much like regular old cream cheese, but it has a much sweeter flavor.

This recipe called for the mascarpone to be mixed with honey, and thanks to my friend Belinda I had some special "tea friend honey" I used in the recipe.

I'm also exploring different breads this year, so I chose to pair the mascarpone cheese/honey mixture and smoked Virginia ham with this nice Seed Bread from Publix. Delicious! Here is the recipe as I made it:

Mascarpone Ham Tea Sandwiches

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 teaspoons honey
4 slices Seed Bread
4 (1/8-inch-thick) slices smoked Virginia ham

Mix mascarpone and honey, spread on bread, then top with ham. Yields 16 open-faced tea sandwiches. (Note: The book "The Tea Experience" calls for you to spread the bread slices with butter, but I forgot and certainly didn't miss the butter! With a lighter bread, though, it might be useful in keeping the sandwich from getting soggy. The book also suggests topping the sandwich with arugula, but I don't care for arugula so I skipped that as well.)