Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Click here to see the set if you're interested.)
Click here to see it.) I hadn't done any research online, so I wasn't even sure there was a tenant in the old Carson Pirie Scott building, known for its beautiful cast-iron ornamental work. But I got there and saw lots of people going in and out, and I wondered what it could be …
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Pumpkin Chai because of the cute little orange pumpkins in this blend! This black tea is flavored with cinnamon, cloves, caramel, and the pumpkin candies. I believe it was the cloves I detected in this tea that gave it a different (but enjoyable) taste. Definitely a fun tea to try for fall!
And I was most eager to try this Peanut Butter Cup tea, as I had been wondering if anyone made a tea with peanut butter flavor. Could that possibly work? First, let me just tell you this: imagine drinking a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Uh-huh. Quite appealing, isn't it? Interestingly, this tea is actually peanut-free, according to the David's Tea website, and it's flavored mainly with almonds, cocoa beans and chocolate chips. I wish there were a David's Tea close to me, but since they charge just $5 shipping to the US for orders under $50, I think I'm going to be a regular here!
Monday, September 28, 2015
Last week, my husband and I spent a night in Chicago while on the way to visit our family in Wisconsin. After we settled into the hotel, we decided to take a stroll from the Grant Park area up to some of the old Chicago department stores I have researched over the years. On our way back, Alex actually spotted this place before I did, and I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it, Russian Tea Time, right there by the Art Institute of Chicago!
Did they serve tea every day? Why yes, yes they did. But it was long after 4:30 by the time we popped by, alas!
Apparently, Russian Tea Time is a legendary restaurant there in Chicago, and I still can't believe I haven't read about this somewhere before. I certainly wish I could have enjoyed afternoon tea there since it was just a short walk from our hotel. If any of you have ever had tea at this tea room, I would dearly love to hear about it before I pass through Chicago the next time!
Saturday, September 26, 2015
A Prize-Winning Quilt
With the war going on, she was surprised there were enough men left in town to even get the fair up and running, but thanks to the persistence of the Taylorsville Women's Club, the fair would go on as usual. The amusement company would arrive at the last of September, just as it always did, but instead of every men's club in town running all the booths and exhibits, the women would be in charge. Before Charles had gone off to war, she usually ended up helping with many of his county fair duties anyway, so she felt very comfortable in that regard. She sure did miss Charles. She missed her brothers, Lou and Lee, too, but in a different kind of way.
"So Myrtle Mae, which quilt are you going to enter this year?" Charlotte Perkins had asked a few weeks ago. Charlotte was one of Myrtle Mae's neighbors—and some of her prime competition in the quilt contest at the county fair. In fact, Charlotte had won blue ribbons the past three years, a fact she did not hesitate to mention if the topic of quilting came up in conversation. And when Charlotte was around, somehow, it often did.
"I haven't decided yet," Myrtle Mae said. "I've finished a half dozen new ones this past year, so I imagine it'll be one of those."
"The judges seemed to like star design quilts last year," Charlotte said. "In fact, now that I think about it, I believe I got a blue ribbon for my Feathered Star quilt at last year's fair."
"That was truly a gorgeous quilt," Myrtle Mae said. She didn't deny that Charlotte was a fine quilter; she just wished Charlotte weren't so inclined to toot her own horn.
Myrtle Mae didn't see any need to tell Charlotte, but she was pretty sure she was going to finish her new appliqued teapot quilt made from flour sacks, and that would be the one she entered in the fair. Like a lot of women who sewed during the war, Myrtle Mae used flour sacks to conserve the "good" material for other uses, and the challenge was to use the colorful, cheerful flour sack prints in new and interesting ways. Myrtle Mae had seen flour sack appliques of baskets, flowers, and stars, but she'd never seen one made with teapots.
She'd looked through her quilt books for a teapot pattern but couldn't find one. Finally, one night after she put Raymond, Harold, and Gloria to bed, she looked at the small cream-colored teapot on her kitchen counter and drew a freehand version of the pot onto a paper grocery sack. When she cut out the template and transferred the design to fabric with a pencil, she was fairly certain she'd discovered a new quilt pattern she would enjoy stitching.
Like her mother, who was from England, Myrtle Mae had grown up drinking brisk black tea rather than coffee. Some of the women in her coffee klatch thought that was just plain odd. Too bad for them and more tea for her, that was Myrtle Mae's philosophy.
Most evenings, she prepared herself a nice hot cup of tea while she worked on the teapot quilt. Myrtle Mae enjoyed selecting the most colorful of the flour sack fabrics to add to her quilt. As she stitched each teapot into place, she whiled away the hours thinking and praying. She thought about her young family, and she prayed for her husband, brothers, and all of those serving overseas, praying the war would soon come to an end so they could all be together again.
As the teapot quilt came to life, Myrtle Mae found her worries and cares slowly slipping away, just as if they had been absorbed by the pretty cotton prints at her fingertips. Before she knew it, she'd created one hundred of those blocks and began stitching them into ten rows of ten each. The effect, she had to admit, was rather striking. She hoped the quilt judges at the county fair would agree with her.
When the fair opened and all the quilts were judged, Myrtle Mae eagerly entered the quilt exhibit building and was thrilled to see that her teapot quilt had earned the coveted blue ribbon. To her astonishment, the quilt had also received the Best in Show Award, and the judges' comments made her beam with pride: "To Myrtle Mae McDaniel, in recognition of beauty, creativity, and workmanship, and also for patriotism in the creative use of flour sack fabrics, wisely conserving material at this important time in our nation's history."
The other quilters had flocked around Myrtle Mae and congratulated her on the award. Even Charlotte offered congratulations, although she had added, "You know, I almost entered an applique quilt this year, but I went with another star quilt instead. You just never can tell what will strike the judges' fancy each year, can you?”
Before leaving the exhibit building and going in search of her children—who were no doubt riding something that would make them dizzy and eating something that would give them a stomachache—Myrtle Mae looked at the teapot quilt, remembered the thoughts and prayers that had gone into all those stitches, and wondered when Charles and her brothers would get to come home.
A blue ribbon was nice to have, but seeing all her family safely home again? That was the best prize she could ever imagine.
Friday, September 25, 2015
I finally got around to reading the newest tea shop mystery from Laura Childs this week, and since it takes place in the fall, I'm actually rather pleased I waited until fall to read it. "Ming Tea Murder" kicks off with our favorite tea shop owner, Theodosia Browning, at a swanky soiree being held at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, where her boyfriend Max works in public relations. The occasion is the opening exhibit of an 18th century Chinese tea house purchased by the museum, and Charleston society is out in full force. Alas, one of the museum's board members meets his unfortunate demise at the event, and Max himself ends up on the list of suspects. This murder is extremely personal to Theo since someone she loves is implicated, and she seems more intent than ever on ferreting out the killer.
From a tea standpoint, I quite enjoyed the fact that several new tea events were staged at the Indigo Tea Shop. There was a fun new Titanic Tea, a Tower of London Tea on Halloween, and in what I believe was a first for the tea room, it actually closed one weekday morning to host a post-funeral tea.
This book also introduced a couple of new characters I'd love to see return, including Delaine Dish's Aunt Astra and a fun transplanted Texan named Harlan Duke. As I was reading this book, the 16th in the series, it occurred to me that I have probably read more books by Laura Childs than by any other author. I very much enjoyed "Ming Tea Murder," and I firmly believe these tea shop mysteries are must-reads for any true tea lover!
Thursday, September 24, 2015
On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I was delighted to find quite the assortment of pumpkin-flavored offerings. There were pumpkin bars, pumpkin toaster pastries, pumpkin chocolates, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin coffee, and pretty much any pumpkin delight you could imagine. What went home with me, however, was this Pumpkin Spice Rooibos!
A tin of 20 tea bags was just $3.99, and I thought it was a pretty tin indeed.
These were those nice pyramid tea bags, and they had a wonderful scent when I opened the tin. The steeped rooibos tea had a lovely fall flavor, with hints of pumpkin as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and it was a great fall teatime treat. I still haven’t had my first pumpkin latte of the season, but since fall is officially here, I’m happy that Trader Joe’s was able to ease me into the new fall flavors.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
(Photo courtesy of Universal Furniture)
As if there weren't enough things for us tea lovers to want in this world, I recently discovered that I am tempted by the Paula Deen Home line for Universal Furniture, which features this charming whitewashed side table with those lovely turned wood legs that I like. And after seeing this in a local store and admiring it, I looked up some info about it online, and you'll never guess what it's called. (Click here if you're curious!)
So … is that a sign I'm supposed to have a couple of these tables?
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The Fall issue of the Upton Tea Quarterly has arrived, and once again I find myself tucking in to learn more about Sir Thomas Lipton. As you can see from the cover of the quarterly, Sir Thomas was featured on the cover of Time magazine's November 3, 1924 issue.
The article references a biography of Lipton that found that between 1910 and 1914, "Lipton's worldwide tea empire grew to staggering proportions, and that growth was directly linked to Lipton's genius for generating 'news.' Newspapers loved Lipton because he sold papers and it seemed that the American public could not get enough of him."
The account also notes that after Lipton lost his third quest for the America's Cup, he received "more loving attention than the men who had won." For some reason, that reminded me of Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson, who technically "lost" the Miss America pageant this year but whose story we'll never forget thanks to the publicity generated by her heartfelt monologue about the nursing profession—and the resulting brouhaha after the hosts on "The View" belittled her. I can't help thinking Sir Thomas Lipton was in pretty much the same position!
Other things I learned from this article:
• During the Spanish-American War, Lipton made his fortune in the pork trade.
• Lipton was involved in scandal when, "early in 1914, a case was opened that implicated Lipton Limited in an illegal bribery scheme to secure contracts for provisioning military canteens." (The article notes that "Lipton appears to have been unaware of the bribery system until the case was opened," but as the well-known figurehead of the company, he was naturally called to account.)
I can't help being fascinated by the tea merchant whose name remains on tea products I sip today. If you'd like to read this article for yourself, or to subscribe to the free Upton Tea Quarterly, click here.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Months ago, someone shared this cute pin cushion idea with me, and I'd been meaning to try it. Now that fall is here and needlework is calling my name once again, I decided it was the perfect time to "upcycle" a leaky little teapot that I find simply beautiful but unsuitable for liquids.
I actually bought this tiny little one-cup teapot in an antique store in Gainesville, Ga., and got home with it to find it leaked. So I've been using it to hold cotton balls, but when I heard about the pincushion idea, I knew that's what I wanted to do.
And mine is not nearly as neatly made as the lovely original, but I basically just wanted mine to be a pretty place to stick needles and pins, not necessarily to be a showpiece of tea crafting.
Also, because this teapot is so small, I needed my cushion to poof up a bit so it would be big enough to actually house the pins. So, all I did was find an ounce or two of fiberfill stuffing, place it in a scrap of floral fabric, and then tie it up like a little potpourri ball. Then I hot-glued that baby into the lid of my teapot, added a little pink trim, and voila!
The leaky teapot is useful once again, and once it's served its purpose for the afternoon, who would ever suspect what is inside!
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Art and Inspiration
Teresa's mother had given her that first teacup, a simple Blue Willow cup and saucer. When her grandmother passed away, Teresa inherited a pretty cobalt-blue cup and saucer by Royal Albert. A girlfriend who often sat in her kitchen sipping tea noticed the blue teawares and began to give her blue teacups for Christmas and birthdays. And so a collection began.
While Teresa enjoyed drinking tea from the pretty teacups, she got the greatest pleasure from admiring their beautiful colors and patterns. She marveled that such miniscule pieces of art appeared on such thoroughly useful vessels.
Teresa was taking art classes at the local rec department, and she’d made excellent progress with her watercolor painting. Her instructor had encouraged her to enter a local juried art show, but Teresa didn’t feel she was ready for that.
One sunny fall afternoon, Teresa decided to go outside on her patio to paint. First, she focused on the last of the morning glories in the backyard flower garden. The periwinkle color was glorious, and Teresa painted several blossoms, but the result was lackluster. She turned her attention to an autumnal display of white and orange pumpkins. A fall-themed piece of art would be nice to have in her home, but Teresa painted the pumpkins and found them unbearably boring.
She walked into the house to make a cup of cranberry tea. Out of habit, she reached for the Blue Willow teacup from her mother. Teresa caressed it and fingered the rim. It still had that small nick in the back, but if she painted the teacup, who would ever know?
Forgetting the cranberry tea, Teresa headed outside with the Blue Willow teacup and began to compose a scene. Something bothered her, though. The single teacup looked a little too perfect, a little too stiff. She went inside, retrieved three more blue teacups, and headed back outside.
Teresa stacked them haphazardly, staggering the handles and giving the teacups a casual appearance. Bright blue watercolor paints began to fill the paper, and soon, Teresa was quite pleased. Despite the inspiration of nature around her, Teresa had found beauty right in the middle of her kitchen with everyday objects she used and had taken for granted.
For once feeling satisfied with her work, Teresa took the teacup painting to her next art class to share. The instructor, Harriet, asked to speak with her after class.
"Thanks for staying, Teresa. I'm quite impressed with this painting. What do you plan to do with it?"
"I haven’t planned to do anything with it," Teresa said. "Hang it in my kitchen, I suppose."
“I told you!” Harriet said smugly. “I had a hunch this would be the hit of the auction, and I also think you need to seriously consider painting more works in this style.”
“I’m thrilled it did so well, and yes, I’ll absolutely think about painting more works like this,” Teresa said.
And she did. She went home and thought about how much joy the actual painting of that piece had brought her. Maybe she would create a few others and see if she could place them in local galleries. Maybe she'd create some notecards and prints for sale, too. Suddenly, her artistic possibilities seemed endless.
But first, Teresa sat in her kitchen, where she sipped a cup of cranberry tea, looked at her Blue Willow teacup, and again admired its beauty, so pleased she had helped others see it as well.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Before I delve into pumpkin- and spice-flavored teas for the fall, I decided I needed to finish sampling the green teas that Teavivre was kind enough to send me recently. This one was their Premium Grade Dragon Well Green Tea. I'm not sure I'd ever have been much interested in that tea until I read the tea shop mystery "Dragonwell Dead" by Laura Childs! These tea leaves smelled very fresh and spring-like, which I found an interesting observation here at the onset of fall.
One thing I love about green teas is that you can steep them at different temperatures and get different taste experiences. I much prefer a milder green tea, so I steeped mine for just two minutes.
Steeped, this tea had a vegetal scent that made me wonder if it would be a grassy tasting green tea, but I needn't have feared. This was what I call a buttery tea, one with a very rich mouth feel, and it was a most enjoyable Dragonwell tea. And really, how many times in a typical week does a tea lover get to use the word "dragon" in conversation?
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
So, friends, is it pumpkin season or not? I've seen on Facebook where some friends have actually had their first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season. I'm wanting one, but it's just not quite cold enough yet. What about you? Have you had a pumpkin treat yet, and if not, are you waiting for a particular weather or calendar event? Lord willing, I'll be going up to Wisconsin to visit family soon, and I have a feeling the cooler temps there will help speed up the arrival of my "fall."
I do love all the pumpkin treats of fall, so I was inspired to search old blog posts for pumpkin recipes. If you're looking for a new one to try, here are some I've enjoyed!
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
here's a link to nutrition info for the curious.) My husband asked what they tasted like, and I said peach tea- and raspberry tea-flavored Sprite.
Monday, September 14, 2015
a great new teacup from Gracie Bone China. Over the weekend, I found at Marshalls a tea mug that looks like a companion piece with brightly colored roses that immediately told me this should be my new fall tea mug!
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Plain, Reliable Betty
Dr. Cohen’s counseling office wasn’t what I'd expected. I had been nervous about going there ever since I made the appointment. What if all she did was nod her head and peer over her reading glasses and say, “Hmm, I see.” What if she was mean to me? Worst of all, what if she’d never seen anyone so needy and couldn’t help me? Still, I knew I needed to do something, so I made the appointment, and there I was.
Right away, I found the office pleasantly inviting. I’d expected gray furnishings and walls, perhaps a few motivational posters with perky sayings on them. Instead, the beautiful reception area with sage green walls and fern-patterned sofas didn’t feel like a counseling office at all. It felt more like a cozy living room.
After I checked in, I sat down and picked up a copy of People magazine, pleased to find it was current. Most doctor’s offices seemed to prefer dog-eared copies about a decade old.
“Betty Brown? Dr. Cohen will see you now.”
I took a deep breath and placed the People magazine back on the table. I would just have to wait to find out which Hollywood power couple was divorcing that week.
Like the reception area, the doctor’s office was a nice surprise. First, I was relieved that there was no red leather couch for me to lie down on. Instead, two beautiful wingback chairs in a turquoise geometric print sat before the doctor’s desk, a simple glass and metal piece. For some reason, I liked that her desk was glass. Talk about transparency!
Dr. Cohen, who had short, spiky gray hair, stood and shook my hand. “I’m so happy to meet you, Betty. Before we begin, would you mind telling me a little about yourself?”
That was what I was there for, after all, so I gave her the scoop.
“I was born in England, and my family moved to this country in the 1960s. I went through elementary, middle, and high school just fine with no rebellion, little of the customary teenage angst. My parents said I gave them very little trouble.”
I paused, and Dr. Cohen nodded affirmingly. I liked that.
“So the early years were fine, but in college…” I said with a sniffle. “That’s when it first hit me how truly plain I was. Or am, rather. All the other gals had dates every weekend, but I never got asked out. Not once. Oh, I did things with groups of friends, but it wasn’t the same. I always wanted a boyfriend, but I never got one.”
When I paused, Dr. Cohen gently asked, “And you’re still single today?”
“Yes,” I said, and the tears began to trickle once more. “I’m still just plain, reliable Betty, the one everyone relies on but no one ever thinks to talk to at a party. I’m so taken for granted. Dr. Cohen, is something wrong with me?”
Dr. Cohen smiled and shook her head.
“Betty, in both my personal and professional opinion, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to belong, with wanting a relationship. But what I’m concerned about is that you seem to be letting others define you.”
Puzzled by what she’d said, I stopped sniffling.
“First, do you call yourself plain, reliable Betty?” she asked.
“So you’ve heard someone else call you that?”
“No one’s ever actually called me plain to my face, but I can tell they’re thinking it. And they have called me reliable. Everybody says that like it’s so great.”
“So you would prefer to be thought unreliable?”
“No!” I quickly said. “Of course not.”
Dr. Cohen was hard to read right then. She said, “So why would you mind being thought of as reliable?”
“Hmm.” I hesitated. “I guess I don’t mind being thought of as reliable, but I don’t want to be thought of only as reliable. Does that make sense?”
“Betty, in my practice, I see teapots every day who are thoroughly unreliable. Some of them have cracks and chips that won’t ever be repaired. Some of the so-called pretty ones are such narcissists, all they do is sit around staring at their own reflection in the china cabinet. They’ve never actually been called into service and have certainly never proven to be reliable serving pieces.”
I had not given much thought to those attractive teapots I had envied. “Really?” I said.
“You would be surprised at the teapots that have come into this office. And then there are those who truly want to serve but have some unfortunate physical defect that makes them unable to function well.”
“I know just who you’re talking about—the drippers!” Betty said. “I don’t mean to brag, Doctor, but I never drip. Ever.”
“I know that, Betty. Your family is well known for your excellent service through the years. You’ve always been considered … well, plain and reliable, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
I found myself sitting up a little straighter in that pretty wingback chair of hers. “I think I see your point,” I said.
“Why don’t you go home and work on a list of all the things that are actually good about being plain and reliable,” Dr. Cohen said, “and then come back in two weeks, and we’ll discuss how you feel about it.”
I nodded, told her I’d book the appointment on my way out, and thanked her for her time. Dr. Cohen had certainly given me a new way of looking at things.
As I stood at the reception desk waiting to get my appointment card, I noticed a handsome gentleman, a hunter green Chatsford teapot, waiting in a chair and holding the new issue of Sports Illustrated.
And to my surprise and amazement, he smiled at me! Was I plain and reliable? Yes. And so much more.