Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
3/4 cup softened butter (salted)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with baking spray and/or parchment. (I used parchment alone and it was fine.) In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Next, sift the flour and baking powder together into the bowl. Add lemon zest, and use a large metal spoon to combine all ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Yields 1 loaf.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
The Rhinestone Teapot Pin
We all have that one friend who makes us wonder why on earth we keep them around. Mine is Judy.
This morning, Judy and I were out junkin’, hitting the local estate sales. We’ve been junkin’ buddies for years, and each of us knows exactly what the other is looking for. One of the best estate sales on my list was about thirty minutes away, so I picked up Judy at seven a.m. sharp.
Judy’s problem is that she doesn’t have a filter. She never thinks about whether or not it’s appropriate to say something. If the woman thinks it, she says it. Period.
Judy’s kids gave her a Kindle for her birthday last week, and now she won’t go anywhere without it. Judy has never been on social media before, and her kids signed her up on Facebook. I could absolutely kill them.
Before I’ve even finished my travel mug of English Breakfast tea, Judy says, “Did you know that during the Middle Ages, they treated hemorrhoids with hot irons? What they would do is—”
“I don’t want to hear about hemorrhoids from the Middle Ages this early in the morning,” I said. Actually, I didn’t want to hear about them anytime.
“Bill has hemorrhoids real bad, and he—”
“Dang, Elizabeth. Why are you so grumpy?”
“I’m not. I’m trying to wake up.”
We rode in silence for a blessed fifteen seconds before she was at it again, scrolling through Facebook on her Kindle and laughing. I wasn’t about to ask what she found so funny.
“These dancing orangutans are cracking me up,” she said.
“Uh-huh,” I said, not taking my eyes off the road.
“No, seriously. Look at this video.” Judy shoved her Kindle on top of my steering wheel.
“Hey, I can’t watch that and drive at the same time.”
“You’re no fun,” she said.
A few minutes later, she moved on to another topic.
“Did you know Mary Jenkins isn’t speaking to Lisa? It’s all over Facebook. She got mad because—”
“Say, did you bring that list of pieces you’re looking for in your Depression glass pattern?”
Judy collects Buttons and Bows Depression glass—the pink but not the iridescent—and is always looking for new pieces. If I could distract her with that, maybe she would quit obsessing over random posts on Facebook.
To my amazement, she turned off the Kindle and reached into her pocketbook for a small notepad.
“Got it right here,” she said. “I need three more dinner plates, one cup and saucer, two sherbet dishes, and the oval vegetable bowl. Then I’ll have service for eight, and that’s all I want for now.”
“I’m not really looking for anything special today,” I said. “Just my same old list—teapots, teacups, pretty silverplate, and old cookbooks.”
“The usual?” she said.
I nodded. I spotted a sign for the estate sale and turned down a side street, parking a few minutes later. Only a few cars were there, but it was time to go ahead and claim our numbers. The folks who run the estate sale give us a number in the order in which we arrive, and then at opening they let us enter a few at a time.
We were number eight and nine in line, so we’d likely be part of the first group to enter. At eight on the dot, they waved us inside. I glanced at the living room and walked past, headed for the kitchen. Judy did, too, because that was where we usually found Depression glass and teawares. I saw a counter stacked with pink glassware and hoped Judy would find some items she wanted.
The open cabinet doors revealed a display of teapots. I was excited to see a pink Aladdin teapot, which had long been on my wish list. It looked great. I ran a finger around the lid, spout, and base but couldn’t feel any chips or cracks. The teapot was marked eight dollars, so it was definitely going home with me.
Surprisingly, Judy and I were the only ones in the kitchen.
“Any Buttons and Bows?” I asked.
“Just nabbed this vegetable bowl and two sherbets,” she said, holding up the pieces in triumph.
Judy scanned the rest of the kitchen but didn’t find anything else she wanted. She said she was taking her glassware to the checkout table so the gals there could go ahead and box it. Then, she said that in the preview pictures online, she’d seen some old costume jewelry they had for sale, so she was going to check that out while I continued looking at vintage Pyrex dishes. Those small refrigerator dishes were quite fetching, and I’d been thinking of collecting them.
Within minutes, Judy returned and held out her hand. I was afraid she’d gotten out her Kindle and had something for me to view on Facebook. Instead, it was a rhinestone pin in the shape of a teapot.
“Thought you might like this,” she said.
“Pins are just three dollars each.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I love it. Listen, give me another minute to check out the Pyrex, and I’ll be up to pay. I want to hit a couple of other sales before the crowds get there this morning.”
When I got to the cashier, I saw Judy had whipped out her Kindle. “Did you know that during the Middle Ages—”
“Hey!” I said, a little too loudly. “Just wanted you to know I’m here and ready to pay.” To the cashier I said, “Look what my friend found for me.”
Judy beamed like a proud mother.
“I knew someone would want that old teapot pin,” the cashier said. “I’m glad it’s going to a good home.”
And it was. The pin was a little loud for my tastes, a little gaudy, and a little tarnished—kind of like Judy, now that I think about it. But I believe I’ll keep them both.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Sports advertising is a topic I’ve certainly never thought of in light of its tea connection — or at least I hadn’t until I read an article in the Spring 2015 issue of the Upton Tea Quarterly. When I think of sports advertising, I think of those ridiculously expensive Super Bowl ads and, later in the year, those NASCAR name-droppings that follow each race: “I’d like to thank the MasterCard-Ford-Coca-Cola-McDonald’s-Colgate team for helping us win today …” But sports advertising has been around a long while, as this article attests. Sir Thomas Lipton knew the value of building an advertising campaign around sports, and he capitalized on his love of yachting to help grow the Lipton brand.
Although he would try five times to earn the America’s Cup, he would never win, although he did gain a reputation as a good loser. When his ship Shamrock failed to win him the trophy in 1899, he commissioned the rival of that ship's builder to design the Shamrock II. The ship was tested at the William Denny and Brothers shipyard in Dumbarton, Scotland, the shipyard that had completed construction of the famous tea clipper Cutty Sark.
According to the Upton article, “America did not want to lose the Cup to the British, but more than a few Americans were actually rooting for Lipton. Win or lose, his increased tea sales would more than pay for the ride.” Lipton’s ship didn't win the race, but the Upton article notes that “the almost limitless exposure given to him by the press was priceless. In a very real sense, Lipton had become a pioneer in what was later to be called ‘sports advertising.’” It’s yet another way we can very truthfully note that our favorite beverage has changed the world! If you’d like to read the article for yourself, or to subscribe to the free Upton Tea Quarterly, click here.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
another glass teapot that didn't perform so well, and maybe some plants are in its future!
Monday, March 23, 2015
Saturday, March 21, 2015
A Growing Friendship
After enduring such a cold and wet winter, Joanne was ready to play in the dirt again. The first day of spring was one she always looked forward to, and this year she was especially eager for it. Her husband, Tom, had promised to build her a new garden shed. The two of them were in their seventies now and still enjoyed good health, so she saw no reason not to plan for the future as if she would have one.
Joanne had owned garden sheds of every shape, size, and color for thirty years now, but this time she wanted a small white cottage near the edge of the woods. Tom had been collecting all the old doors and windows he could find to make it happen. He was waiting for the ground to dry out a bit before he started on the foundation, but he’d given Joanne the go-ahead to start getting plants and décor ready.
In the garage, Joanne found the usual pile of garden pots and statuary that she always tossed inside at the last minute each fall. Typically, she waited for news of a freeze and rushed outdoors to collect any objects that might break. She’d learned the hard way that birdfeeders made of glass looked pretty during warm weather, but after they’d filled with water, frozen, and shattered—not so much.
The all-white garden cottage had been the focus of her reading and planning all winter. She kept a notebook where she taped photos from garden magazines and listed names of plants she wanted to grow. Joanne could hardly wait to watch it all come to life. Spring was definitely the season for the world’s dreamers and optimists.
Daffodils had been popping up in the neighborhood lawns for weeks, and in her cottage garden out front, the frilly burgundy foliage of the peonies was just coming up. Of course, the weeds were in abundance as well. Tom called those the zombies of the plant world, noting that you could try to get rid of them but they were indestructible and never really died.
Clay pots. That was what Joanne needed, her clay pots.
She loved seeing all the colorful ceramic pots in the garden center each spring, but when it got down to the serious business of potting and repotting plants, she found nothing did the job quite as well as a plain old clay pot.
She pulled out a box from beneath a shelf in the garage and found a dozen or so. Good. She already knew what she was going to plant around the new garden shed this year. She would have lemon basil, French thyme, cilantro, and several varieties of mint—the mint in pots because it was so invasive and would overtake her lawn if she didn’t corral it from the get-go.
Next, Joanne pulled out the box with her decorative garden pieces. The small mosaic fountain was a favorite and always created such a bright spot in the garden. The wire teapot planter had been a gift from one of her Red Hat Society friends a few Christmases ago. It had arrived with a poinsettia in it, and Joanne had often mourned the fact that poinsettias couldn’t grow outside year-round.
She still hadn’t found the planter she was looking for. It had been a gift from her gardener friend Marian, and it was perhaps the most treasured pot she had. Marian had died of a heart attack two years ago, and Joanne still felt the loss deeply. The two had been close friends, talking on the phone almost every day, getting together for lunch every Wednesday, and constantly seeing each other at church. And then, just like that, Marian was gone.
The two of them had talked on the phone the very morning Marian passed away, making it all the more difficult for Joanne to accept when Marian’s daughter called with the devastating news. Marian had been out separating the Siberian irises, and her daughter took comfort in the fact that at least her mother got to spend her last hours on earth doing what she enjoyed most—tending her garden.
Joanne hoped she would be so lucky as to take her last breaths outdoors while enjoying the beauty of nature.
Finally, Joanne spotted the earth-toned teacup planter in a box with some gardening tools she’d tucked away. She took the planter inside the house, rinsed off the dust and cobwebs, and carried it outside to the potting bench that she was using until the new garden shed made its debut.
There sat a small black plastic pot, and in it was a plant with lots of silvery-green foliage and tiny violet-blue blossoms. The plant was one she’d grown with seeds from Marian, who insisted on calling her plants by the Latin name. This one was ‘Myosotis sylvatica.’
Joanne removed the plant from its plastic pot, poured some potting soil into the teacup planter, and brushed away the excess soil before nestling the young plant inside. “There,” she said, pleased with her work. “For you, Marian.”
When the little white cottage was complete and it was time to settle in, Joanne would invite a few friends over to celebrate. Marian would have been so excited about the new garden shed, and Joanne wanted her to somehow be a part of it.
Now—thanks quite literally to the seeds she’d sown—Marian’s garden legacy would live on. For while Marian had preferred to call plants by the Latin name, Joanne did not. She intended to tell any visitor who asked that the sweet violet-blue blossoms in the teacup planter came from an old friend—and they were called Forget-me-nots.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Happy St. Patrick's Day, friends! Last year I won this book in Marilyn's St. Paddy's Day giveaway over at Delights of the Heart, but only this year did I get around to reading the delightful "Celtic Teas With Friends" by Elizabeth Knight. I knew Elizabeth's name as a tea professional whose books and articles I have enjoyed over the years. What I did not realize is that this book of "teatime traditions from Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland and Wales" actually features information on tea celebrations suitable for the whole year, not just St. Patrick's Day!
While the March 17 celebration is, of course, featured prominently, other monthly teas featured in the book include a Women's Christmas Tea, which is actually a post-Christmas event on January 6; a Gathering of the Clan Picnic Tea, suggested for Father's Day; a Sip-n-See Baby Blessing Tea in September; and a Boxing Day Tea in December. Menus, recipes and suggestions for party favors are included for each event.
The book also includes lots of fun info on tea and teatime treats, and I was most intrigued to learn that clotted cream dates to the 13th century, and some believe that cooked cream was actually traded for Cornish tin as early as 500 B.C.! I definitely agree with Prime Minister Gladstone's description of clotted cream as "the food of the gods."
If you haven't yet added this book to your tea library (and you didn't win one), I highly recommend you look for a copy of this charming book!
Monday, March 16, 2015
Saturday, March 14, 2015
The Legend of the Shamrock Teacup
Once upon a time, in the beautiful Irish countryside, there lived a handsome leprechaun named Liam. He was constantly leading friends into mischief, but he was a well-loved leprechaun nonetheless.
One year as St. Patrick’s Day approached, Liam rounded up some pals and said he wanted to celebrate the holiday out of the country for a change.
“Where?” said his friend Loughlin.
“Why?” said his friend Leary.
“My friends, we’re going to England to seek an adventure,” Liam replied.
“England?” said Leary. “They probably don’t even know how to celebrate the day over there.”
“They most certainly do!” said Liam. “Just pack your bags and meet me at the airport in Dublin in an hour.”
Leprechauns can time travel and do not, in fact, have to fly, but Liam and his friends could make themselves invisible and liked to hitchhike in a plane’s cargo hold, so that was how they traveled to England.
Upon their arrival at Heathrow, Liam boarded a shuttle and told his friends to follow him.
“Where are we going now?” asked Loughlin, who was always up for a good time.
“I still don’t see why we have to make this bloody trip,” said Leary, his disposition as sunny as always.
“You’ll see,” said Liam.
Soon, they left the hustle and bustle of London behind, and the landscape turned to rolling hillsides and farmland. They approached a sign reading “Stoke-on-Trent” and Liam pointed, announcing, “That’s where we’re going, my friends!”
“Oh boy!” said Loughlin.
“Whatever for?” said Leary.
“You’ll see,” said Liam.
The leprechauns checked into their room at the Royal Crown Inn and Pub in Stoke-on-Trent. Leprechaun check-in is quite a different matter than check-in for humans. For the leprechaun, it simply means running up and down the halls of the inn, spying out the very best room, and waiting until the occupants leave. The leprechauns then stretch themselves out flatter than a crumpet and slide under the door.
“Friends,” Liam said once they had settled in, “I can now tell you why we’re here. We’re going to tour the potteries!”
“Hurray!” said Loughlin.
“Potteries? Why would we want to go there?” grumbled Leary.
“You’ll see,” said Liam.
Some American tourists staying at the inn had arranged to visit the potteries, too. When Liam overheard the ladies talking, he and his friends decided to hop in the backseat of their SUV, in the tiny spots next to the pocketbooks, and hitch a ride.
Once they arrived at the potteries, Liam was first to leap out of the car. “Follow me!” he said.
Inside the first factory they toured, Liam and his friends peered around, wide-eyed, at the vast array of kilns and the teawares that had been produced there. Liam was quite the fan of Irish Breakfast tea and appreciated a good teacup.
“So this is where it all begins!” said Loughlin, impressed.
“Humph,” said Leary.
“This way,” said Liam. “But first, I have to ask you fellows a question. St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and I have a rather incredible idea for making sure this is one we’ll never forget. Are you in?”
“I’m in,” said Loughlin.
“What choice do I have?” said Leary.
“Good,” said Liam. “Come with me.”
They entered a room where workers applied transfers to new china wares. Floral designs were the favorites in that room. Liam overheard a woman named Cathleen say they were busying filling the orders of Americans who wanted festive new teawares in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’ve always loved St. Patrick,” Cathleen told her coworker Gail. “You know what great symbol is associated with St. Patrick, don’t you?”
“Can’t say as I do,” said Gail, looking at her watch. She was ticking off the minutes until the next smoke break.
“It’s a wonderful bit of symbolism,” said Cathleen. “When St. Patrick was helping spread Christianity all over Ireland, it occurred to him he had the perfect symbol for the trinity right there in his own backyard.”
“And what might that have been?” said the coworker, slightly interested.
“Why, the shamrock, of course!” said Cathleen. “Just as the clover is made up of three leaves, so the Holy Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three in one. Quite lovely.”
“How ’bout that,” said Gail, who thought that religious folk could be a pain in the bum sometimes.
“It’s a pity we’ve run out of shamrocks this year,” Cathleen said. “The manager says we could have all gotten a nice bonus if we just had a few more shamrock teacups to send to America.”
Just then, Liam told his friends of his extraordinary plan.
“Here’s the deal. You know how we flattened ourselves out a few hours ago and snuck under the door of our room at the inn?”
The friends nodded.
“I say, let’s flatten ourselves out into small shamrock shapes, quietly attach ourselves to some teacups, and we’ll get a free trip to America! We’ll have to stick close to the teacups each March, but the other eleven months we’ll be free to explore and have a grand time. Why, we can even go back home to Ireland most of the year if we like!”
“What a great plan!” said Loughlin.
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Leary. “But don’t leave me behind!”
And so it was that while the pottery workers went on break one day, Liam and his friends disguised themselves as shamrocks and climbed onto a teacup, which a darling woman named Cathleen was absolutely delighted to find and ship off to the States.
In America today, very early on the morning of every March 17, Liam and his friends depart their teacup home and run to their nearest Mass to pray and remember St. Patrick, dashing back well before the homeowner rises.
That’s just an old legend, though, for leprechauns can’t turn themselves into shamrocks. Can they?