Monday, April 24, 2017

A beautiful gift … and a fabric that even Veruca Salt couldn't find!

Recently I mentioned that I had received a lovely gift bag as a thank-you gift for being a judge for the hat contest at the Senoia Area Historical Society's spring tea. I got to select from three fabric gift bags, all with lovely tea-themed prints, and I immediately chose this one with the teacups, handwriting, and aqua blue fabric. It was calling my name!

Here's a close-up of the fabric. Isn't this yummy? As soon as I got home, I was typing in all the key words I could think of and soon determined that this was a line of fabrics by Susan Winget for Jo-Ann craft stores. Yay! We had a Jo-Ann! I would go there and nab a few yards! Only … it appears this fabric must have been out a while, as there's no longer any at my Jo-Ann store, it's sold out at Jo-Ann online, and although I've found some companion prints, I haven't even been able to find this print on eBay. And this would be so perfect in a wall hanging or something simple in my dining room. I felt a bit like the original Miss I-Want-It-Now, Veruca Salt, whom middle-aged gals like me will remember. (Click here if you need a refresher.) Ah, well…

I was so excited about my beautiful fabric bag that I almost forgot to mention the terrific treats inside, including a huge bottle of this delicious-smelling Oriox Green Tea Lotion made with camellia sinensis leaf extract…

And a cute Christmas mini tea tote, teas and mug mat. I love these designs!

But oh, this fabric! Here's the other side of the bag, and you'll note the vintage drawings of teacups at bottom right, one used as a pincushion and one with a little bird visiting. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that some overeager seamstress purchased an extra yard or two and will have it on eBay soon!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Some Japanese green teas fertilized with ... sugar cane!

Earlier this year, the online book club I'm in read the book Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile. I know that it's also a drama series, which I haven't watched, but I very much enjoyed the book that centered around a young woman who inherited a sugar cane farm in Louisiana. For that reason, I was particularly delighted when I heard from Kei Nishida of Japanese Green Tea In, a new company that imports some of the highest-grade green teas in Japan—teas that are grown using sugar cane as a fertilizer! This process is called the "Chagusaba Method," and I was naturally eager to try these teas, which soon arrived in some particularly lovely packaging.

The first of the teas I tried was the Issaku Premium Japanese Green Tea. As soon as I opened the packet, I inhaled a whiff of what was clearly very fresh green tea. I used a filter bag to steep these bright green leaves, and the result was a super smooth tasting green with a very rich mouth feel. And rare for a green, I found no astringency in this tea. It was terrific!

Next I tried the Gokuzyo First Crop Japanese Green Tea. This tea had a lighter, more subtle green tea taste, but as with the other tea, I was delighted by the fresh taste and absence of any astringency. I think that lingering astringency you get with some greens is one of the reasons more people don't drink green tea, so this was a wonderful green and one I am quite happy to be able to recommend. And if, like me, you're intrigued by the idea of tea grown with sugar cane as a fertilizer, click here to learn more about this process!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Royal Ardalt cup and saucer perfect for spring!

A few weeks ago, my sister and I had a yard sale together, and I'm so glad I went through her "junk" the night before. Unbeknownst to me, she had decided to downsize and get rid of some of the teacups that had belonged to her husband's grandmother. She offered me all of them I wanted, but I showed (for me) great restraint and was thrilled to take home only this one, which is by a maker whose name I don't ever recall hearing before, Royal Ardalt.

For years I've seen this shape of teacup in other collections, but I don't believe I've ever had one quite  like this. I love the bulb-like shape of the cup. So soft and feminine!

And I thought the saucer was especially pretty as well, making this the perfect set for springtime sipping. Have you all heard of Royal Ardalt? I thought I knew just about every name in teaware, but that was a new one to me!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The winner of the "Tea With Friends" tea blend from Adagio is ...

Janet P.! And Janet, I just sent you an email to confirm your address and will get this in the mail to you shortly. Congrats!

"Pekoe Most Poison" by Laura Childs

In this, her eighteenth tea shop mystery, writer Laura Childs takes a bit of a different turn. I found the characters and the plot both a little edgier this time, and this may be one of my favorite tea shop books of recent years. The story begins with Theodosia and Drayton attending a type of tea I initially thought might be rather off-putting: a rat tea. Instead, I found myself thoroughly intrigued. As Drayton explains it to Theo, "Seventy-five years ago, rat teas were all the rage in Charleston. You see, at the advent of World War Two, our fair city underwent a tremendous population explosion as war workers arrived at the navy shipyard in droves." Drayton goes on to tell her that this growth resulted in super busy downtown merchants, who tossed their trash on the sidewalks, drawing rats. Public health officials led a campaign to get rid of the rats, and society ladies even had "rat teas" to help promote the effort. So Theo and Drayton are guests at a modern-day rat tea complete with wait staff in rat costumes. Alas, the tea hostess's husband meets his ghastly demise at the tea, and so our story begins.

If you've read the tea shop mysteries all along, as many of us have, you've probably noticed by now that Theodosia's personality has shifted and changed over the years. It's a transformation I have particularly enjoyed watching. Today's Theo is stronger and more self-assured than the early Theo, and her skills as both a businesswoman and an amateur sleuth seem to have grown by leaps and bounds.

There's a possible new romantic interest for our heroine as well, and I will keep my fingers crossed that Theo finally gets a steady gentleman caller in the next book. One of our regular players is out of town and thus absent from the tale (no spoilers since some of you may not have read this book yet), and I was surprised to find how much I missed this character.

My only complaint about the tea shop mysteries is that they don't arrive nearly as frequently as I would like, but considering that Laura Childs (aka Gerry Schmitt) has three other series going as well, I guess I can't complain. And to satisfy my thirst for more of her books, I have just added two more of her other cozy mysteries to my reading queue. If you have read Pekoe Most Poison, I'd love to hear whether you enjoyed the book as much as I did! Did you find it a little different from the others?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April Giveaway: Tea With Friends Southern Belle Blend Tea!

Friends, I am so excited about this month's giveaway because it was so much fun to create! When Adagio Teas recently offered me the opportunity to try some of its teas for review, I decided to try my hand at something that I had toyed with but never done on their site before: creating my own blend.

I mixed and matched teas, uploaded a variation of my blog header to go on the small tin (super easy), and within days, I was enjoying my own exclusive tea blend. THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! (To create your own blend, go here and dive right in! Wouldn't these make great favors for a tea party? They're $5 each but half off if you order 10 or more, which makes them quite affordable for favors.) I've enjoyed my own sample of the "Tea With Friends Southern Belle Blend," and since I ordered two of the tins, I'd love to get some feedback on the tea from one of you!

My blend was inspired by a certain Southern heroine who hailed from a place known as the Peach State, so of course my blend is heavy on the peaches, and I added a touch of cream as well. There's a bit of Assam tea that has just a hint of molasses, and finally the tea is embellished with lemon verbena, an herb associated with my Southern heroine's mother. If this doesn't leave you saying "Fiddle-dee-dee. Who cares?" then I'd love for you to be my guinea pig! If you'd like to win this sample tin of tea, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. Monday, April 17, and you'll be entered to win. (US and Canada residents only, please.) Good luck!

Monday, April 10, 2017

A perfect afternoon of Spring Tea in the Secret Garden!

A soft breeze, warm sunshine, the happy sounds of of tea being poured into glasses and teacups, and the lively chatter of dozens of women. These were my sensory experiences on Saturday when the volunteers in Senoia once again combined their considerable talents to host a tea benefiting the Senoia Area Historical Society. This one had the delightful theme of "Spring Tea in the Secret Garden," and oh, how I wish you all could have been there!

I was again asked to serve as a judge for the hat contest, and I eagerly said yes, knowing that tea with the SAHS folks is always a treat. A friend of mine who saw some of my photos on Facebook expressed amazement that they offer a plated tea for so many guests, but I've simply come to expect this from the hardworking volunteers in Senoia! In addition to Vanilla Caramel Hot Tea and an Iced Watermelon/Strawberry Green Tea (I had to try both), we enjoyed Chicken Salad en Croute, a Fruit Skewer, a Cucumber Sandwich, Grape Tomato, Cheese, Black Olive, and Parsley in a Filo Cup drizzled with Raspberry Vinaigrette, and Cheese Buttons.

The first table I noticed when I stepped inside the gardens was this one, and oh, how happy I was to realize this was the judges' table!

At each place setting was a charming iced cupcake with edible butterflies!

Homeowner Pat Thompson is the one who graciously opened her gardens to us all. In talking with Pat later, I learned that she did most of this work herself, hiring out only a few things like the bricklaying in the patio area where we sat. I'd love to have a garden like this but don't want to do that much work, and I haven't yet found a solution to this particular dilemma!

My fellow judges were Angela White, who is well known locally for her work with our county in planning and tourism (she also happens to be in my Sunday School class) and someone I met just last week, Sara Moore, who now works at the newspaper where I used to work. Here's sweet Sara, at left, with Nancy Roy, the tireless organizer of the tea and the dear friend who so kindly invited me.

I had a great time chatting with my fellow judges, and we oohed and aahed over all the pretty hats as well as our food. I had skipped lunch and was glad I did when I saw the dessert offerings! I loved coming home with the clever idea of the pound cake and strawberry skewers and frosted pretzels, and of course macarons are always a favorite sweet for me. (Now that I've had the pleasure of sampling macarons at Ladurée in Paris, I appreciate getting a good macaron here at home!) And if all that weren't enough, we also enjoyed a decadent chocolate pudding with whipped cream and an embellishment of chocolate, served in a perfectly Southern touch of a mini Coca-Cola glass. Loved it!

The organizers even had commissioned handmade fabric gift bags of tea goodies for each of the judges, and I got to choose first. Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I chose the aqua-colored one (which I 'll show you soon), and all three of us were tickled with our gifts. You can see Sara's pretty bag in the photo with her above, and this is Angela White's. I loved all these great tea fabrics!

And just for fun, I asked Sara to take a picture of Angela White, at left, and myself with another Angela, Angela Munson, who was the Overall Winner of the hat contest. I can tell you on good authority that Angela, Angela, and Angela—among many others—all had a great time!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Some new organic teas from Arbor Teas

This week I sampled two new teas from Arbor Teas, the organic tea company that recently sent me some samples of their teas. The two I tried this week were the Earl Grey black tea blend and the Five Peaks Green Dew, a green tea.

The Earl Grey, to my surprise, had more of a fresh, woodsy scent than the perfume-like bergamot scent I was expecting. And after I steeped the tea and tasted it, I was quite impressed. This tea had a musky taste with a more subtle bit of bergamot. The tea tasted very fresh but not what I'd consider a typical Earl Grey at all, and I liked that! (I also bookmarked this recipe for Earl Grey Tea Madeleines that I found on the site.)

When I opened the packet of Five Peaks Green Dew green tea, I thought the tea had a very vegetal scent. Steeped, the tea's scent reminded me of roasted asparagus. It had a rich and satisfying green tea taste, with very little astringency. Do you like organic teas? Or drink only organic teas? While I do drink teas that aren't labeled organic, I must say that I enjoy seeing that word "organic" on a tea label, and I'm delighted to have discovered some delicious new teas from Arbor Teas.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A pretty-in-pink tea mug with an infuser basket that's great!

I was recently offered the opportunity to review some products for Adagio Teas, so I truly felt like the proverbial kid in the candy shop as I made my selections. One thing I had wanted to try but absolutely did not technically need was this: their Pink Porcelain Cup and Infuser. Clearly I am not hurting for teawares, but when I'd visited the Adagio website, I couldn't help wondering whether this infuser basket would work or not, as I've had plenty of unfortunate experience purchasing tea mugs with infusers that weren't very good at keeping tea particles out of my tea. For that reason, I was a little skeptical.

But since I got to order this one for free, I figured I had nothing to lose. When my package arrived, it dawned on me for the first time that the lid really would help keep the tea hot while it steeped, and I was surprised by a) how very sturdy the stainless steel basket was and b) how fine the holes of the infuser basket were. I was suddenly quite hopeful!

And reader, I am happy to report that the the infuser basket in this mug does a terrific job of straining off the tea leaves. You will note that the lid also serves as a coaster, so maybe I can stop staining the berry bowls I usually let fill in for coasters as I steep my tea. And I don't want to tell you what fun new tea I was drinking just yet (I ordered some for a giveaway next week, so stay tuned!), but I will say that even the smallest particles of tea were strained off. I was impressed, and I'm thankful to Adagio for letting me try a reasonably priced infuser mug that actually works. You can check it out here in pink and here in other colors as well!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ding-dong, it's Avon calling … with a charming new teapot!

A few weeks ago, my friend and former coworker Beverly got in touch to let me know that she was selling Avon again and that they were coming out with a teapot that she had a feeling I might want. Now I was an Avon lady myself back in college and have remained a fan of their products, so I was quite happy when Beverly contacted me. When she showed me a photo of this tea-for-one set and I saw the *handwriting* on it, I knew I had to have it for the office where I do my writing!

This is my new go-to teapot and teacup in my office, and I absolutely love it! Isn't this design beautiful? The catalog description notes that it is "decorated with a vintage Parisian illustration," and it makes me so happy to have teawares with writing on them at my side as I finish up the edits of my novel!

Will it help my writing and editing? Only time will tell, but I am delighted to have this set! There are also some other great new tea-themed pieces in the Avon Living catalog, and Beverly said that yes, I could share a link to her Avon website here in case, like me, some of you have been without an Avon lady for a while. (She and husband David run their business together, and she laughingly informed me he is "an Avon guy" instead of an Avon lady.) Here's the link to the tea set, and here's a link to the brochure with other tea goodies. Do you have an Avon lady where you live? And if so, do you have a favorite product? Mine, by far, is their makeup remover lotion, which I guess I've been using for more than 20 years now. It takes off even the most waterproof mascara without taking off eyelashes in the process, and once I discovered it, I never used anything else!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Afternoon tea in the garden … a few years ago

I am quite excited about going to "Tea in a Secret Garden" next week (see previous post), so I was particularly delighted when I made a check of the Library of Congress website to look for new-to-me tea images and spotted this one.

According to the entry at, "Photograph shows two girls having a tea party with their dolls in a garden." The photograph was published circa 1900, and neither the subjects nor the the photographer are identified. Isn't that a charming photo? I like to use random photos as writing class prompts, so I think I'll share this with my star pupil next week and see what she comes up with!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Live nearby? Come to 'Tea in a Secret Garden' on April 8!

For those of you who live locally, it dawned on me that I should let you know about one of the best opportunities to enjoy tea in this area, the Senoia Area Historical Society’s “Tea in a Secret Garden” coming up on April 8! This flyer has all the info, and you need to RSVP by Saturday. I’ll be there as one of the judges for the tea's ever-popular hat contest, and I can’t wait!

Their last big tea event was this one, and here are scenes from another one of their lovely teas I attended as well. This group always takes great care of their guests, and the food and tea are absolutely delicious!

So if you happen to live within driving distance of Senoia,  I know they—and I—would love to see you there!

Monday, March 27, 2017

An inspired new Easter decor!

Last week I was inspired to do some early Easter decorating thanks to an incredibly thoughtful gift from a blog reader in Iowa, Nancy!

She mailed me this beautiful tea-themed table runner she'd made!

I immediately loved all the tea-themed prints, including one with teacups …

And one with tea names …

And one with tea bags and tea tags! How charming!

I also loved her elegant touch of a label on the back stating who made the piece, for whom, and the year. (Interestingly, my late mother's name was "Nancy Carolyn." It is quite intriguing to me, then, that I have come across so very many lovely Nancys in recent years!)

Inspired by Nancy's lovely gift, I pulled out some pink and pastel pieces and started experimenting. I found these tiny little bunnies at Tuesday Morning last year. I love the look of foil-wrapped chocolate Easter bunnies, and since these are purely for decor, I am not tempted to eat them!

 The giant Easter chick was a T.J. Maxx find a few years back, I believe.

I don't have a heap of pink Depression glass, but I did have enough to pull together four mix-and-match place settings using linens in place of the pink placemats I discovered I do not own. (Now how did that happen, I wonder? I used to buy everything in pink!)

I have only one, and I definitely don't need to collect one more thing at this point in life, but this Sharon or Cabbage Rose design glass teacup is certainly pretty!

So I'm quite pleased with the new decor that Nancy has inspired, and if any of you would like to drop by for a cup of tea, the table's ready!

Friday, March 24, 2017

And the tea towel giveaway winner is …

Nancy Reppert of the Rosemary's Sampler blog! Congrats, Nancy, and I'll have these on their way to you shortly!

A tea towel from Luther Travis

A thoughtful friend recently gave me a vintage tea towel she bought for me since she knows I like old linens and teatime.

The towel is in great shape, and I'd never seen one like this before with both a teakettle and a tea infuser.

I've actually owned a few infusers just like this one, and the graphic is spot-on!

The designer, Luther Travis, is a name that was new to me, but I did a little research and found that Luther was designing back in the sixties. These colors remind me very much of the Early American decor my family had when I was a little girl, which would have been the late sixties, so it's fun to have a "new" tea towel that's almost as old as I am!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Christmas in March!

Last week I got to meet with a friend I haven't seen since Christmas, and she gave me several belated (and much appreciated) Christmas gifts, including this cute tin of Alice in Wonderland Tea from Adagio!

I'd not heard of this herbal blend, but I loved the scent and sight that greeted me when I opened the tin!

This tea contains green rooibos, apple pieces, raspberry leaves, raspberries, strawberries, natural strawberry flavor, natural creme flavor, blue cornflowers, and rose petals. I loved the taste, which had only the merest hint of the rose and tasted mostly like a nice, lightly fruit-flavored rooibos. (And isn't it lovely?)

I had some to accompany my afternoon snack of what is just about my favorite sweet in the world, that super easy toffee you make with saltines!

I assume all of you have made this about a million times, but here's the recipe just in case someone has not.

Easy Toffee

20 saltines
1 stick butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Pecans or other nuts, as desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and arrange saltines in four rows of five crackers each. Fold foil tightly around edges of saltines to create a "rim" to the foil. Melt butter and brown sugar in microwave and combine well. Pour mixture over saltines, bake for five minutes, and remove pan from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot saltines and allow to soften for about two minutes, then spread chocolate evenly over saltines. Add pecans and let the toffee cool in refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. Break into pieces and try not to scarf it down in one sitting! (This, by the way, is the half-size recipe, which is all I will let myself make because this stuff is crazy good. People sometimes make this at the holidays and call it "Christmas Crack," and there's a good reason for that!)