Saturday, May 30, 2015

Teatime Tale #22 — The Secret Diary of a Garden Party Attendee

Dear Diary,
            Just once before I die, I would love to have a garden party on the lawn that wasn’t attended by eight thousand of my closest friends. Today, I stood on my feet for two solid hours and shook hand after hand and gave smile after smile. It does wear upon one.
            Oh, I know I’m not supposed to feel this way, and it’s a privilege I enjoy because of my birthright, but the truth of the matter is that I’m getting a little old for this sort of thing. I can’t publicly say this, of course, because the gossip rags already have us dead every time Philip or I come down with a sniffle.
            The English people love these garden parties, though, so attend them I must.
            At least I had an especially nice outfit this time. My dressmaker never lets me down, bless her soul. The bright pink color of my coat and hat had the press wagging about how it was clearly a reference to William and Kate’s new daughter, Charlotte. It’s fine with me if everyone wants to believe I wore pink because of that, but the truth is, I liked the color, and when my stylist suggested it, I said it would be fine. The happy color made me look a little perkier than I felt.
            And speaking of color, I could hardly believe that green and purple jacket Anne wore to the party. Good heavens, I haven’t seen that many flowers on a fabric since my late mother had her drawing room furniture reupholstered back in the eighties. I’ve never quite understood where my daughter gets her fashion sense, but at least I never have to worry about her behavior. God knows I haven’t always been able to say that about every member of this family.
            My granddaughter Beatrice, I’m proud to report, was at the garden party and looked lovely in her very modest dress and jacket, and she represented the firm quite nicely. I can tell she gets tired of all the pleasantries herself and would no doubt prefer to be at the club polishing off a few cocktails with her chums, but she knows how to plaster a smile on her face and make the expected small talk. Andrew and Sarah have done a fine job with those two girls, and in fact, I so wish he and Sarah would … well, no, I promised myself I would keep my nose out of that business, didn’t I?

            Philip is so good to accompany me on these social occasions, and goodness knows he’s had a lifetime to get used to them. The man never complains about the garden parties, but I could tell he was itching to get inside and go back to playing Candy Crush. Those poor souls on Facebook have no idea who “Princely Dude” is, do they?
            I still find it rather shocking that people will line up for hours just to sip a few cups of tea and eat a few cucumber sandwiches and slices of cake, all for the chance to curtsy or bow to me and possibly shake my hand.
            Thank goodness everyone is used to seeing me wear gloves. With all those dreadful diseases spreading around the world today, I can only imagine what I would end up with if I didn’t have my trusty gloves on. I haven’t been seriously ill in years, so I think they must help. Let the Americans keep those little squirt bottles of hand sanitizer they’re so fond of. Gloves. That’s the trick.
            And while all the chitchat gets old fast, I do, however, enjoy talking with the older citizens who show up at these parties. The social climbers, not so much, but the elderly, I have a real soft spot for. Today, there was a delightful 97-year-old woman in a wheelchair. She said she’d been waiting her entire life simply for the chance to see me up close, and now she could die happy since she’d gotten to shake my hand. She said it was the happiest moment of her life. I hardly feel worthy of such admiration.
            So yes, the lovely old people make it a somewhat worthwhile occasion, and so, year after year, I ask that, yet again, the wait staff pour more tea and prepare more slices of cake.

            I still think it would be great fun just to have a small party on the lawn one day for, oh, a few family members, like William and Kate and the children, Harry—as long as he’s not dating a hooker at the moment—Andrew and Sarah, and … oops, there I go again!
            One reason I have ordered these diaries to be destroyed once I’m gone is that everyone would think me such a whiner if they knew how I truly felt about so many of these social obligations. And there are those who would be shocked at what I genuinely think about my family, for that matter.
            Besides phoning up a few of my cousins, where else can I say what I really think about Anne’s jacket?
            Well, Dear Diary, it’s time to call it a day. All that standing and greeting has gotten to this old gal.
            Besides that, Philip keeps trying to get me to play at least one game of Candy Crush. He’s signed me up for an account under the name “Queenie,” the silly old fool.
            ’Til next time,

ER


Friday, May 29, 2015

Arnold Palmer's Half & Half with Sweet Tea and Pink Lemonade

It's almost National Iced Tea Month, and I decided to get a head start on the celebration by trying something I spotted at Ingle's last week, this Arnold Palmer Half & Half made with Sweet Tea and Pink Lemonade.

My dad is a golfer, so I definitely grew up knowing who the golfer Arnold Palmer was, although it wasn't until much later in life that I heard of the drink Arnold Palmer, a half-tea, half-lemonade concoction that I generally like. I've enjoyed other flavors of Arnold Palmer tea beverages in the plastic jug and in tea-stick form, but this canned one, alas, has that strange metallic aftertaste I sometimes find with RTD (ready to drink) teas.

And I so wanted to like this one because of the cute pink pull tab on the can. Oh well, I imagine there will be lots more new iced teas in my future this year!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Teacups dancing on a tea trolley

An old question asks, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" Well, today my question is, how many teacups can dance on the top of a tea trolley, and the answer is 15!

I've seen a tea room tea trolley stacked high with teacups before, and I was curious how many I could place on mine in just one layer. I was somehow expecting more than 15, and I was fantasizing about snapping a lovely photo with a vast sea of teacups in it. The photo would be so gorgeous, I'd probably have a poster made of it and use it on business cards. This, alas, is not that photo. (I was hoping for something like this.)

So maybe my next question is, how many teacups can dance on the top of a dining room table? Stay tuned …

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Republic of Tea's Banana Chocolate Tea

One of the lovely birthday cards I received this year included some yummy tea samples, among them this blend I've never tried before, Banana Chocolate from Republic of Tea.

This is a caffeine-free herbal tea that includes rooibos with chocolate and natural banana. I was delighted to find that this tea *really* tastes like bananas, and that's probably because the ingredients include real banana bits as well as banana flavoring. I have found that a lot of banana-flavored things on the market have an odd aftertaste, but this herbal tea was exceptionally banana-ish. Two thumbs up for Banana Chocolate Tea! Have any of you tried this one? If so, what did you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Steeped in Evil" by Laura Childs


Last week, I got all caught up on the books I was reviewing, editing, and writing, and I had time to actually read a novel that I wasn't being paid to tinker with. So what did I choose but the 2014 release "Steeped in Evil" by Laura Childs! I've clearly been too busy over the past year, because this was the first tea shop mystery I did not read within days of its release. In fact, it wasn't until I saw a new tea shop mystery was coming out this month ("Ming Tea Murder," anyone read it yet?) that I realized I was one book behind.

"Steeped in Evil" brings wine into the mix by having the murder occur at a wine tasting that Theodosia and Drayton attend. I thought it was an interesting twist to have a different beverage featured so prominently in the book, although tea still has, rightfully, a starring role. At first I thought the detective we love to hate, Burt Tidwell, was going to be MIA from this particular adventure, but he indeed has a place in the story. I was surprised to realize how much I was missing him before he appeared. The suspense builds and the identity of the killer remains unknown until the night of the Art Crawl Ball, and there's definitely more of an action-packed conclusion than ever before!

I enjoyed reading about Theodosia's new boyfriend, Max, and I can't help wondering if a tea shop wedding will take place one day. I'm sure rooting for one—and I can just imagine Delaine helping Theodosia find the absolute perfect gown. And now, I'm all caught up and ready for that next tea shop mystery!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Teatime Tale #21 - Memories and Memorial Day

 Memories and Memorial Day

          After enjoying her first cup of English Breakfast tea, Allison pulled a simple cream-colored teapot from a shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets. She didn’t want anything colorful or festive, just a simple teapot to serve as a vase.
            She opened the drawer where she kept her pruning shears, grabbed a pair of garden gloves tucked nearby, and headed out back to her rose garden. Unusual for May, there was a chill in the air, and that suited her just fine.
            Her David Austin English roses were doing well, she noticed, especially the soft, vintage pink ones like ‘Tea Clipper’ and ‘Wedgwood.’ But no, those frilly specimens weren’t the ones she wanted. Only those velvety blood-red American roses would do for the arrangement she had in mind.
            Actually, Allison liked all roses. The sturdy red ones out back came with the house, probably some Jackson and Perkins roses bought by the truckload back when the subdivision was first built decades ago. Sturdy and stately, the lush red roses never failed to bloom and give off their sweet perfume.
            Allison usually preferred to see her roses on the bushes as God intended them, but that day, she had something else in mind and needed them inside.
            Earlier in the year, Allison and her husband, Mark, had vacationed in France for two weeks. While there, they decided to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Mark was a World War II buff, and while Allison was by no means the expert he was, she was only too happy to make the trip because she’d always heard how her great-uncle, Marvin, had died in Normandy on D-Day. She never knew the specifics of his death but simply considered him one of the awful casualties of war.
            As a media specialist—what they called a “librarian” back when she was in school—Allison knew the basic timeline of the war, the major battles, and the historic moments that were still taught to most students. Her trip to Normandy, however, convinced her how much she had yet to learn about the war.

            One of Mark’s old college friends, Gerard, lived near Colleville-sur-Mer, the town where the cemetery was located, and he had met Mark and Allison at the nearest train station and driven them to the site. The entrance was beautifully landscaped. Simply going through the visitor center was a moving experience. There, portraits showed some of those who died in the war, including a woman who had the same name as a teacher at Allison’s school. That was rather jarring to her, as it no doubt was for that woman’s friends all those years ago.
            But it was an offhand comment Gerard had made in the visitor center that stayed with Allison.
            She had been studying the grainy old photos of young men landing on Omaha Beach when she noted the heavy equipment they were carrying as they left their landing craft and headed to shore.
            “It’s a wonder they made it through the water with those heavy loads,” she said.
            “Many of them didn’t,” Gerard said. “Lots of them drowned before they ever even got to shore.”
            Allison had always assumed her great-uncle was killed by a land mine or gunfire on D-Day. It never occurred to her he might have drowned.
            After touring the cemetery and viewing all the memorials, she realized there was a lot about World War II that had never occurred to her.

            “Whatcha doing?” Mark asked, suddenly interrupting Allison’s reverie.
            “Oh, nothing. Just making a little flower arrangement for our Memorial Day cookout,” she said.
            “Listen, I’m running to the store for more gas for the grill. I don’t want to run out while your family’s here this evening.”
            “Sounds good,” she said and watched him leave. Grilling out on Memorial Day was one of her favorite family traditions.
            As Allison pulled a spotty leaf from one of her roses, she thought back to the flower arrangements she had seen lying at the base of some of the crosses and Stars of David marking those graves in Normandy. She had placed a small bouquet at her great-uncle’s grave. Like other visitors to the cemetery, she and Mark had gathered sand from the beach and rubbed it into the engraved lettering on the cross so that Marvin’s name would show up in a photo. Afterward, she’d wondered whether it was respectful to take a photo of a grave marker, yet she couldn’t have imagined not taking the photo. She was glad she had, because her parents had seemed to appreciate it.
            Enjoying the quiet and peaceful morning, Allison was content to be back home in America, traipsing through her rose garden and snipping roses.
            For far too many years, she thought, she had treated Memorial Day as simply a fun holiday and an excuse for a three-day weekend. But the trip to Normandy had changed that. It made her resolve to observe the day properly and remember those who gave their lives for their country—including her great-uncle.
            Satisfied with her rose selections, Allison went back inside the house to preheat the oven for a cake she was baking for the family cookout. Then she prepared another cup of tea and settled in to watch the news, hoping perhaps someone would be filming live at the cemetery in Normandy. The sight of those 9,387 grave markers was one she would never forget. And she hoped she’d never again take it lightly.
            Allison rinsed out the cream teapot, filled it halfway full with cool water, and arranged a few of those deep red roses. In back, she added a small American flag she’d picked up at the craft store.
            “There,” she said. “And thank you, Uncle Marvin.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

The teacup winner is …

Heather from the Blue Jeans and Teacups blog! Heather, if you'll send me your snail-mail address via the e-mail button at right, I'll get this teacup headed your way. Congrats!

You are cordially invited to … tea on the porch in Senoia!

The lovely lady at right in this photo from last summer, my dear friend Nancy Roy, asked me to share with you tea friends that she would love to have you attend the Senoia Area Historical Society (SAHS) Tea on the Porch on June 20, 2015, to be held at Dub and Mary Pearman's charming historic home in Senoia. I am once again serving as a judge for the hat contest, so I will be there and would love to see any of you who might be able to attend. Dub, above at left, is president of the SAHS, and he and his wife are some of the most gracious hosts you will ever meet!

And here is Mrs. Dub, Mary Pearman, at left, along with SAHS Museum Director Maureen Schuyler. Last weekend when I spoke on tea at the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society (we love history here in Coweta County), I was surprised and delighted when both Mary and Maureen came to my talk. In fact, when I first saw them walk in, I couldn't quite believe it was the two of them and thought wow, those two ladies look just like Mary and Maureen from over in Senoia. Since they've heard me give a tea talk before, I was so touched that they came to Newnan for my talk. I will attend their tea parties any time!

Not to mention, I know there will again be beautiful teawares …

Lovely arrangements on the tables …

A Hat Contest with some charming entries …

And some of the yummiest teatime fare imaginable! This year's Tea on the Porch will also celebrate the life of Mary A. Brown, entrepreneur, who operated the first bed and breakfast inn in Coweta County, the Culpepper House on Broad Street in Senoia. Mary was also a dedicated member of the historical society and hosted its first tea at the Culpepper House. For reservations or more information on the tea, please call Nancy Roy at 770-599-6321 or e-mail her at roy292@bellsouth.net.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Daphne's Diary No. 2 of 2015

So there I was at Barnes and Noble the other day, riffling through the stack of Daphne's Diary magazines and looking for the best copy of the new issue. Suddenly, a woman walked up holding a copy of this very issue in her hands. I said something like oh, excuse me, thinking she wanted to put it back in the stack, but she was sort of embarrassed to admit she'd noticed her copy had a slight blemish along the spine and she was looking for the most perfect one. I laughed and told her I was doing the exact same thing, and she seemed so relieved. I have a feeling I would have liked that woman since we're both a little OCD about our magazines!

There is always much to love within these pages, and this time, I was delighted to come across a feature on Jo-Anne Coletti of Massachusetts, whose romantic artwork I've seen in many publications here in the U.S. I wish I could paint the soft, romantic roses that she does. And here's one painted alongside a gorgeous teacup. *Sigh*

I loved the magazine's feature on Tuscany, since I got to go there for the first time a year ago, and I even enjoyed the letters in this issue. Readers often send along photos of things the magazine inspired them to make or create, and this time, I liked seeing the tall glass cloche with teacups underneath. Charming!

Detachable recipe cards are included in each issue, too, and I must say I was intrigued by the idea of strawberry eclairs with basil cream. I've had a strawberry and basil tea but not a strawberry and basil treat! Would you try these? I think I just might!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sampling new teas from Twinings

Back in February, I know many of us took advantage of an offer from Twinings to send us three free samples of tea of our choice. Has everyone received their samples yet?

I was so happy when mine came, and I can't believe Twinings goes to this much trouble to personalize their sample offerings! (What a great marketing technique, though.)

The first tea I sampled was this Green Tea with Pomegranate, Raspberry and Strawberry. Some pomegranate-flavored teas I've tried are too tart, but this one was just perfect, perhaps balanced by the berry flavors. I very much enjoyed this tea and will look for it in stores.

I had assumed the green tea would be my favorite of these samples until I tried the Honeybush, Mandarin and Orange herbal tea. I loved it! It had the most pronounced orange flavor I've ever found in a tea, so I hope I can buy a whole box of this one in the near future.

The only disappointment was this Spiced Apple Chai tea. When I opened the foil packet, the tea smelled heavenly, and I was instantly transported to fall and apple festivals, warm sweaters and cinnamon brooms. But steeped? The tea smelled like dirt! It's the exact whiff I get when I open my bag of potting soil, and I was so disturbed by the dirt smell and funky, earthy taste that I couldn't finish the cup of tea. So, those were my experiences with the Twinings samples. How were yours?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scarfing up the great buys at Goodwill

Last week, I finished reading a book in which the heroine mentions enjoying her various scarves now that she's learned how to wear them. I don't suppose I've ever really done much with a scarf besides tie one around my neck bandana-style, so I made a mental note that the next time I was in Goodwill, I would see if they had any cheap scarves I could experiment with.

And I kid you not, this teatime scarf was the first one I found! The $1.91 price tag was perfect, and I'm not opposed to using this as a tablecloth either!

This Goodwill in Rome, Ga. had several items that caught my eye last week. My most expensive purchase was this $2.92 item. I hate when they tape things up so that you have to buy them and go home to check them out, but it worked out fine in this case.

Don't we all need a tidbit server for Christmas?

And this set of three teacups wasn't vintage bone china as I might have preferred, but …

For $1.51 for all three, I figured I couldn't go wrong with a few 50-cent Christmas teacups!

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's time for a May giveaway!

I don't know why T.J. Maxx is getting in so many pretty new teacups lately, but they sure are. I was in three different T.J. Maxx stores over the weekend, and all three of them had some chintz on the shelves. Astonishing! And if there's anything I like better than a new chintz teacup, it's TWO new chintz teacups—that's one to keep and one to share!

I've already started using mine, and oh my goodness, is this not one of the prettiest things you've ever seen? I might just have to write a Teatime Tale about this teacup before the year is over!

Meanwhile, if you'd like to win the matching set for yourself, just leave an "Enter me" to this post by 7 a.m. EST on Friday, May 22, and you'll be entered to win. U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Teatime Tale #20 — The Chinese Tea Basket

The Chinese Tea Basket

            It was Katherine’s seventy-fifth birthday, and Mary Linda could hardly wait to present her with a gift.
            The two had lived near each another in Atlanta since the time their parents brought them home from the hospital within four days of each other. Katherine was the older girl, and Mary Linda never let her forget it.
            They were fast friends from early on and more like sisters by the time they graduated high school. For that reason, their parents were quite comfortable surprising the girls with a three-week trip to China as a graduation gift. Flying out of New York, they were met in Beijing by old family friends, a missionary couple who agreed to serve as hosts and chaperones.
            During their stay, they toured some of the country’s many magnificent sites, including the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. No matter how busy they were, their hostess served green tea every afternoon using a beautiful Chinese teapot and matching handleless cups stored in a wicker basket. Katherine and Mary Linda found it the height of sophistication, and both developed a lifelong appreciation for green tea.
            Katherine had shopped for a similar set for decades. Once, she thought she’d found it at a small antique shop in Chicago, but the lid had been smashed to smithereens and inexpertly repaired. Perhaps that tea set was supposed to remain a memory.
            Their love for teatime wasn’t the only thing influenced by that trip. For Katherine, the taste of travel whetted her appetite for more. Once home, she got a receptionist job in a small Atlanta travel agency where she fell in love and married a man who loved to travel as much as she did. Because they both worked in the travel industry, when their children came along, the young family got to enjoy many trips across the United States and abroad.
            Mary Linda, meanwhile, had caught the eye of the captain on their flight to Beijing. Phone numbers were swapped, a courtship ensued, and she married him with the understanding she didn’t want to leave Atlanta. Since the airport there was getting busier every day, that was not a problem for the young pilot.

            The girls’ trip to China was just the beginning of their travel adventures. They had enjoyed tea in the shadow of Windsor Castle, had toured the Colloseum in Rome, and had purchased matching Herm├Ęs scarves in Paris after visiting the Eiffel Tower. In their seventies, they continued to enjoy trips together, such as the Alaskan cruise they’d just taken with their husbands.
            Mary Linda couldn’t believe Katherine was about to celebrate such a milestone birthday, and she was just days behind herself. Seventy-five. How did those years fly by so quickly?
            She could tell by the mirror—and by the medicine cabinet—that her body was changing, but inside, she was still that excited eighteen-year-old who flew to China after graduation. She was a little wiser, she hoped, but eternally young where it counted.
            One winter day, she and her husband were headed to a family reunion out of state when she spotted a huge, junky-looking antique mall. Something told her to stop.
            The place was freezing cold, and Mary Linda shivered as she walked the aisles with a watchful eye. She was ready to head back to the car to warm up when she saw it—a wicker basket fastened with a metal latch and clasp.
            Don’t get your hopes up, she told herself. How many times had she come across what she thought was a wicker tea basket only to realize it was simply another old purse?
            Could it be?
            Mary Linda had unhooked the latch, lifted the clasp, raised the lid, and held her breath. Finally! Inside was a set that was a dead ringer for the one she and Katherine had used in China fifty-seven years ago.

            The night of Katherine’s party, Mary Linda and her husband pulled up at the country club and parked the Cadillac. As she reached into the backseat for the carefully wrapped package, Mary Linda smiled at the bright red rice paper she’d found to wrap the gift. Perfect. Up the steps and into the club she went, eager to find her friend.
            The party invitation had expressly said no gifts, but Mary Linda couldn’t have cared less about that particular breach of etiquette. The second she saw Katherine, she motioned her over to a small side room at the club, one that was temporarily quiet and empty.
            “Come here. Open your gift,” she said.
            “Gift?” Katherine said. “I thought we agreed we weren’t swapping gifts this year.
            “I lied,” Mary Linda said. “Now go on and open it.”
            “You’ve got my curiosity up now,” Katherine said, tugging at the paper and tape. She wriggled off the bright red bow and paused to admire the giftwrap.
            Mary Linda had used a lot of tissue in the box, so she knew it would take Katherine a few minutes to unearth the gift. A gasp. A look. And … was that a tear?
            “It can’t be,” Katherine said. “Not after all this time.”
            “Yes, it is,” Mary Linda said, a deep joy filling her as she watched her best friend admire the same tea accoutrements they had enjoyed as young women on their first travels around the world.
            “And just for fun”—Mary Linda reached into her fuchsia floral tote bag—“I brought a Thermos. It’s green tea, and I want us to share the first cups using your new tea set.”
            Tears streamed down Katherine’s face, and Mary Linda’s wasn’t exactly dry.
            “I washed the teapot and the cups, by the way,” Mary Linda said as Katherine laughed.
            Mary Linda poured some still-steaming tea into Katherine’s cup and then her own. She held it aloft, urging Katherine to do the same.
            “To friendship,” she said, gently clinking cups.
            “To friendship,” Katherine said.
            And just as they had all those years before, they sipped and enjoyed their tea.