Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Two little girls at tea …

Oh, some of these old Library of Congress photos make me laugh! This one is adorable not only because of the little girls at tea but because of their expressions. What do you think they're saying and thinking? I think the little girl on the left is saying something like, "Hey, do you know why the chicken crossed the road?" And the little girl on the right is thinking, "If I have to listen to one more of your lame jokes, I may go cross that road myself."

The little girl on the right looks kind of bored and cranky, which of course makes me like her best. What about you? What do you think is going on in this photo?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The winner of the Tiesta Tea is ...

Robin Coxon! Robin, I've just sent you an email so that you can send me your mailing address, and I'll get this tea headed your way shortly. Congrats!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Some delightful and dainty new finds

My weekend visits to T.J. Maxx and Marshalls didn't turn up any good teawares, but the Douglasville Goodwill store produced two of the most charming (and thrifty) pieces I've found in a while!

First, I spotted this adorable little lacy bowl on the Christmas aisle, but when I saw how delicate it was, I just knew it had to be plastic. Nothing that fragile could have survived on the shelf at Goodwill, could it?

It was marked on the back "Iris 1922 Fine Porcelain Cluj-Napoca." So yes, porcelain! (And for $1.91!)

I ran my fingers around the edges about a hundred times, but I couldn't find one flaw or one break in the lines of this piece. Amazing! (And check out a similar piece that sold on eBay a few years ago. Wow! If anyone wants mine for $163, I'll bet we can make a deal.)

That would have made me happy enough, but then I found this! Many of you know that I collect Santa mugs and sip my tea out of them over Christmas, and I generally forego the snowman mugs (that would be a whole 'nuther collection), but something about this one caught my eye. This little fellow's expression looked so familiar, and when I turned it over, I found …

It is a mug of a snowman character from one of Jan Karon's beloved Mitford books! I came to those books late, long after everyone else had been reading them, and didn't learn about these collectibles until it was too late to buy them. Today, I will certainly scoop up any thrift store goodies I ever come across that are related to the Mitford books, which I read over and over again because they're an absolute pleasure to read and incredibly uplifting. So it was definitely a good day at Goodwill. Have you found any fun thrifted treasures lately?

Friday, September 15, 2017

September Giveaway: Nutty Almond Cream Tea

I start to get antsy if I haven't found a tea giveaway by the middle of the month, so I was delighted to come across one of my favorite new teas on sale this week and decided this would make a great fall giveaway. It's an apple cinnamon herbal tea from Tiesta Tea called Nutty Almond Cream. I say it tastes like a Krispy Kreme doughnut, but others insist it tastes like a cinnamon roll. Either is fine by me, and I hope that it sounds tempting to one of you!

If you'd like to be entered, just leave an "Enter me" to this post by Tuesday, September 19, at 7 a.m. and you'll be entered to win. US and Canada only, please. (And the teacup is not included since it was a gift from a friend!) Good luck!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Zhena's fall teas: The giveaway that wasn't

Friends, I have been looking for something fun for a fall giveaway, but so far it has eluded me. On Saturday, I was at T.J. Maxx when I came across these stackable tins of Zhena's teas, and I thought oh boy, this is it! With Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple, Chocolate Truffle, and Cranberry Bliss, what could be more perfect, right? Alas, I found only one set of the tins, and I selfishly decided to enjoy it for myself. On Sunday afternoon, I heated water in my electric tea kettle, plucked a tea bag from one of the tins (there were only 16 tea bags total, I discovered), and prepared to enjoy the flavors of fall.

But the Pumpkin Spice tea didn't taste very pumpkiny. It tasted like a so-so tea with a little cinnamon in it. Then I tried the Caramel Apple, and it tasted just as weak. Huh.

Later in the week, I tried the Chocolate Truffle. It was okay and did taste a little chocolatey. The Cranberry Bliss had a fairly fruity flavor, but compared to Zhena's teas I've enjoyed in the past, these weren't nearly as tasty. So the good news, I guess, is that I got stuck with them instead of one of you. I checked on the tin and the teas don't expire until 2019, so I'm mystified about how I ended up with such weak tea. Just an FYI in case, like me, you're at T.J. Maxx and lured by these flavors!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Storm prep, tea-lover style

By the time this post appears online, Georgia is expected to be deluged with rain and increasing winds from Hurricane Irma, so I would appreciate prayers for our safety (and ongoing electricity!) during this storm. I do have my stovetop teakettle ready because our gas stove can still heat water in the event of a power outage. Saturday, though, was a beautiful, sunny day, and while I was out shopping, I came across a new magazine I wanted to share with you, Celebrating Everyday Life by Country Sampler. Now I don't believe I've ever purchased Country Sampler because my own decorating style is more traditional and void of any rustic touches, but this issue wasn't what I'd consider "country" at all!

For one thing, I give them points for creating what is actually a *pretty* Halloween-type display that could easily be tweaked for lots of fall occasions, with its whimsical color palette and the miniature pumpkins strewn about.

There are some yummy-sounding recipes to try (Pumpkin Soup, Chocolate Orange Babka Loaf), and I was quite smitten by this red transferware Christmas tablescape too.

The magazine features a lifestyle expert I've never heard of before, Jennifer Carroll (do you know this name?), but I sure like her styling as seen in this magazine. If you like to pick up new magazines each fall and Christmas, this is a great one to add!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Chocolate Chai from Adagio Teas

I've sipped gallons of iced tea over the past few months, and when temperatures dipped just a wee bit this week, I immediately started thinking about fall teas. I remembered one I'd been waiting to try, this new Chocolate Chai sample I was fortunate to receive as a gift from Adagio Teas.

Spice teas are some of the ones I most enjoy sipping each fall, and this one has the flavors of masala chai — black tea, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon — combined with the rich taste of chocolate. Even the loose tea has those pretty golden colors of fall that I'm starting to see on the trees.

And the taste? It was exactly what I'd hoped it would be, a rich, spicy tea that was equal parts chocolate and delicious spices. I'm pretty sure I've found a new fall favorite!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"A Cup of Tea?" by Eric LaBranche and Margaret Anne Suggs

While there are lots of tea-themed picture books about little girls, I came across one on the NetGalley review site recently that stars a young boy and would be perfect for the little guys in our lives whom we're trying to introduce to tea. A rhyming picture book translated from Dutch, A Cup of Tea? is the sweet story of a little boy who is trying to get his parents to play with him. First, his mother comes home from work and he's hoping she'll play with him, but she wants "a nice cup of tea" first. His aunt comes over to visit his mother, and she, too, wants to sit and enjoy a cup of tea.

Finally Daddy comes home from work, and the little boy just knows fun time is about to begin. Alas, Daddy, too, needs "a nice cup of tea." The creative little boy decides to set up a late-night tea party for his parents, but alas, he forgets to make the tea! All's well that ends well, though, as the boy's parents tell him, "instead of having just a plain cup of tea, they said that they'd rather have a special 'cup of me'!"

The book's whimsical illustrations are pleasing on their own, but they are also interspersed with tea dribbles and stains, making an already charming picture book even more so. A Cup of Tea? will be published on October 16, and I think it will appeal to quite a few tea lovers!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Colors and "Tea Leaves"

While I have great appreciation for black-and-white images, I came across both color and black-and-white images of some artwork that surprised me this week. As I often do, I was researching tea images on the Library of Congress website when I found the image at left, a photograph of a painting by William McGregor Paxton titled "Tea Leaves."

The painting is lovely, isn't it? But because of the black and white colors of the photograph, I had a hard time distinguishing some of the objects in the photo. The bottom of the teapot, for instance, almost looks clear to me in this image. And then, like Dorothy stepping into Oz, I discovered  …

The colorized version! (Thank you, Metropolitan Museum of Art.) And wow, is this a different scene! Viewing the oil on canvas painting in color, I'm noticing the silver teapot, the ruffles of the redhead's dress, the lemons in the bowl in the foreground (I hadn't regarded them before), and the wrap or drape or whatever that is across the chair on the left. Does this color image grab you as much as it did me? 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A YouTube video that tea lovers will love!

Okay, I should have shared this tea company's video here first, but I just wasn't thinking and shared it on Facebook the other day instead. The video got so many positive comments, even from friends who aren't big tea drinkers, that I realized everyone found this as entertaining as I did!

I learned about BOH Tea, by the way, when I got an email from them offering to send me some tea samples. I hear it's actually good tea, and I said sure, of course. And now I look forward to receiving this tea and trying it for myself!

Monday, August 28, 2017

"Elementary, She Read" by Vicki Delany

"That high tea was great," the customer with the grand bust said to me. "I'll be telling all my friends about this place."

"What high tea?" I said. "Oh, you mean afternoon tea. You really shouldn't get those mixed up. High tea, sometimes just called tea, is what the working man calls his dinner, and afternoon tea is what you had."

— From Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Tea lovers, I just finished a new cozy mystery that I think you'll enjoy as much as I did, and I particularly love the premise of this one. In the small town of West London, Massachusetts, Gemma Doyle runs a Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium at 222 Baker St. (221 Baker St. wasn't available). Gemma is English but came to America to help her Great Uncle Arthur run his bookstore, and they also own half of the business next door, Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room.

The bookshop sells all things Sherlock, including not only books but also such items as busts, puzzles, mugs, dish towels, and the occasional rare collectible. A near-priceless issue of a magazine that published the first Sherlock Holmes story lands in the shop under some highly unusual circumstances, and when Gemma—along with her tea-shop-owner friend Jayne—tries to restore the magazine to its rightful owner, the two come across a dead body and find themselves suspects in a murder investigation.

Like her store's namesake, Gemma possesses some amazing powers of deduction. It's great fun to watch her do things like introduce herself to a character she's never met before, getting the person's identity correct based simply on her powers of observation. The author gives us plenty of red herrings, the requisite dust-ups with local law enforcement, and, of course, enough cups of tea to make us all want to go browse through the book shop and order "afternoon tea" at Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room. The second book in the series hits shelves September 12, and I can't wait!

Friday, August 25, 2017

A teacup pattern that's familiar …

I always love seeing what will be on the cover of the new issue of Tea Time magazine, and this time, the pattern was one that's quite familiar, this rich blue-and-gold-toned Heirloom pattern from Royal Albert.

This pattern is featured (third from top) on the cover of my book Teatime Tales.

I guess everyone sees "fall" when we see this Heirloom china, because I served a yummy fall-ish carrot soup in mine. (The recipe is here.) I don't know about you, but I do my best cooking and baking in the fall. When the weather turns cooler, I love to spend time trying out new recipes, and this new Tea Time has some great ones, from a curried egg salad that I would *not* reserve just for teatime to a chocolate-drizzled peanut butter shortbread whose photo made me want to lick it right off the page. This issue definitely has me drooling ahead to fall. Are you a fall baker too?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

This year's Hallmark Tea Time ornaments!

While I've bought a few vintage Hallmark ornaments online and at antique malls over the years, I've rarely collected any tea-themed ornaments the year they actually were introduced. Last year, however, I bought the first ornaments in the Tracy  Larsen Tea Time ornament series, and over the weekend, I bought the second set of teapot-and-teacup ornaments, these cute little penguin guys!

Here's the teapot…

And here's the teacup and teapot both in the package insert. (I love that they are packaged so carefully in the insert, so hopefully these will stay safe through the years and truly end up being "Keepsake" ornaments.) Are any of you collecting these ornaments as well? Got yours yet?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Alex's book is released this week!

This doesn't have anything to do with tea, but it does have something to do with me, so I thought that those of you who live in the area might like to know that my husband has finally (after many years of requests!) compiled some of his award-winning newspaper columns into a book, and his first book signing will be this Thursday from 3-5 p.m. at Redneck Gourmet in downtown Newnan! (A second signing will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Carnegie downtown.)

Here's a brief description of the book: "Southern humorist Alex McRae shares a collection of his award-winning newspaper columns. From possums and puppies to donuts and dating, these columns are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry or get mad. If you like down-home humor with a side of sass, you won't be disappointed."

His illustrator and friend David Boyd Sr. will be on hand, and Mrs. Earlene Scott, beloved Newnan bookseller, is coming out of retirement to supervise the signing. It should be a fun afternoon, and for those of who know and enjoy Alex's work, I'd love to see you there!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Grandmother of the Fairy Gardens!

Friends, do I have a treat in store for you today! And this is purely thanks to the kindness of a reader, Pam P., who recently sent me an email and shared photos of some of the fairy gardens she and her grandchildren have made this summer. When I asked whether I might share them here, she graciously said yes, and I hope you'll be as inspired by her ideas as I was! Here is Pam's own fairy garden. 

 I love that her fairy is holding a teapot, and you'll also note that adorable table with two teacups and saucers sitting at the center of the vignette! (And those tiny mushrooms—adorable!)

Here is Pam's granddaughter Lainey, 14, with her fairy garden composed in a beautiful ruffled container and sporting several levels of interest. I had not considered elevating a feature within a fairy garden, but what a great idea!

And here is a more detailed shot of Lainey's garden. "We made the little table for the cup and saucer out of rocks and jewelry-making pieces," Pam said. Brilliant!

Eleven-year-old Saralynn made a fairy garden as well, and I'm so impressed that all three ladies made quite different styles of fairy garden. Pam searched thrift stores for bowls,  she said, but the lovely fairy came from Pike's! (It had not dawned on me to search an actual nursery for fairy garden supplies. But of course!)

For this scene, Pam said, the tiny cups and saucers on that darling little table and chairs are actually *jewelry charms* from Michaels!

And while grandson Carter isn't pictured (and probably wouldn't want to be featured on a tea blog!), Pam did share the "man cave" he made, which I thought was a terrific twist on this idea, and one some of you may wish to keep in mind if you have young grandsons or nephews who might like to make one of these. She said Carter's container is a pot his dad uses when camping, and the "ladder" on the side is made out of Lincoln logs!

After being inspired by Pam, I visited both Michaels and JoAnn over the weekend (and Hobby Lobby is on the list as well), and I'm going to start with a fall-themed fairy garden and try to update it seasonally. Here are my takeaways after reading Pam's advice and checking out the local stores:

— Shop thrift stores for unusual containers for fairy gardens.
— "Nature provides beautiful items for decorating them as well." White rocks and river rocks work nicely, she said.
— At Michaels, the fairy items and the miniatures are on opposite sides of the store, Pam pointed out, so  check out both.
— Pam noted that fairy garden items sometimes get discounted. At the Fayetteville Michaels, she found some fairy garden items for 70 percent off! (And I noticed on Saturday that JoAnn had fall fairy garden items at 50 percent off already.)

I hope to have my fall-themed, tea-themed fairy garden up and in business within the next week or two, so stay tuned. And special thanks to Pam for sharing all these great photos and ideas!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Fall Baking magazine winner is …

Ruthie Miller! And I've just sent you an email so that I can see about getting this in the mail to you. Thanks to all who entered!

Who was growing tea in 1813? We were!

Granted, I am a tea nerd, but I was quite excited to come across a publication with some tea history I'd not read before! This is the 1879 Special Report titled "Tea-culture As A Probable American Industry" by William Saunders, Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds, Department of Agriculture. (I found this, of course, on the Library of Congress website, and you can access it here.)

Here's some intriguing info I found on page 5:

"With regard to the introduction of the tea-plant into the United States, the earliest notice which has come under my observation is contained in the following extract taken from the Southern Agriculturist, published in 1828:

I find that the tea-tree grows perfectly well in the open air near Charleston, where it has been raised for the last fifteen years at M. Noisette's nursery. Tea, as exported from China, would cost too much in the preparation, for each leaf goes through a particular process there. But, as this is probably done with a view of economizing room and preserving its freshness in the long sea voyage to which it is exposed, we might, in raising it as a crop, use it and export it, at least northwardly, dried in the same manner as senna or hops."

So, if my calculations are correct, if in 1828 tea had been growing for 15 years in M. Noisette's nursery, that means tea was growing near Charleston in 1813, much earlier than I'd believed!

The piece goes on to mention efforts by a Junius Smith to grow tea in Greenville, S.C. "about 1848." And 1848 is also the earliest date I have found for Dr. Charles Shepard's tea-growing experiment at Pinehurst Tea Plantation in South Carolina, which provided some of the plants that later became part of the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Yet another fun discovery in the never-ending history of tea!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wild about Teavivre's Wild Tree Black Tea!

This week I got around to sampling a new tea I recently received from Teavivre, their Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea. As soon as I opened the package, I got the sense something was different about this tea. The scent was similar to fresh wood shavings but with a pleasantly musky note as well.

The thin, wiry leaves were a deep, inky black, with a few of those golden bits you find in Yunnan teas. Here's what the website says about this tea: "The local tea tree is Fengqing large leaf species, (which) can produce thick tea leaf. Our Ancient Wild Tree black tea then has large, strong leaves. The dry tea is glossy and dark, covered with thin pekoes. Its full aroma and bold taste can be revealed when brewed, as well as the particular strong taste which brings a characteristic of raw pu-erh to this black tea."

Steeped, the tea had a somewhat smoky fragrance, a pleasant one, and the taste was rich and layered, so much so that I detected different notes with each sip. A rich black tea? Yes, but also smooth and with a taste that, for some reason, made me go, "Aah, fall is on the way." And all that in an unflavored black tea. I was impressed and look forward to enjoying more cups of this fine tea!

Monday, August 14, 2017

August Giveaway: Victoria Classics Fall Baking magazine

Fall is not officially here yet, and won't be for a while, but the fall magazines have started to hit the newsstands, and the Fall Baking issue from Victoria Classics is one of the most tempting fall issues I've come across in ages. From the Pumpkin-White Chocolate Soufflé Cake on the cover to the mile-high Caramel Cake, at top right, and Orange Chocolate Caramel Tart, at bottom right, these treats look amazing.

Some of the recipes are for individual serving size treats that would be perfect on the tea table, including the Cappuccino Blondies and Chocolate and Sea-Salted Caramel Nut Tartlets. So if you'd like to win a copy of this issue for yourself, just leave a comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. Friday, Aug. 18, telling me which of the five recipes I've mentioned here sounds *most* appealing to you, and you'll be entered to win. And please make sure you've included an email address where I can contact you if you're the winner. Good luck!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Some new teatime fabrics

Lately I've been spending many of my free hours of the weekend stitching. Last weekend I finally finished the last block of a quilt I've been working on for years, and I've been inspired to start shopping for fabrics again so that I'll have plenty to see me through the fall and winter. When I came across this new teapot-and-teacup fabric, I wanted to be sure to share it here. I ordered it from the Fat Quarter Shop, and it's called "Royal Teapots" by Timeless Treasures.  I love how they even package their fabrics in plastic, so it's protected from dust until I get a chance to use it one day!

I've started collecting dark blue fabrics for a tea-themed quilt I've long had on my to-do list, and I knew that by the time this quilt moves to the front of the line on my project list, this fabric won't be around any more, so I decided to get it now.

And that prompted me to see what other tea-themed fabrics are out there these days. So for my fellow stitchers and crafters, here are a few of the ones I've found, some of which were shared with me by blog readers!

Chicks on the Run by Cheryl Hanes for Benartex Fabrics

High Tea by Jera Brandvig for Lecien Fabrics (I like the "Lemon Scone" colorway)

Afternoon Tea — Rosette Tea Set — by Whistler Studios for Windham Fabrics

Sausalito Cottage - Teacup Bliss by Holly Halderman for Lakehouse (I have a similar design in another colorway, but the lavender is lovely and reminds me a lavender-loving former blogger I know!)

Tea Party Recipe Fabric

And if you know of any other fun new teapot and teacup fabrics, please feel free to share a link in the comments, because I know I'm not the only one who would like to know!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

On Sunday School & Sausage Bread

Once a quarter, my very fun, very sociable Sunday School class brings in breakfast to share. Last quarter, I decided to make one of those yummy sausage, egg, and cheese casseroles. Unfortunately, so did all the other women, and the table in our classroom was a sea of cheese-topped 9 x 13-inch dishes. Sigh. So for this past Sunday's gathering, I had found a recipe for a fancy-schmancy sausage bread recipe. I would take a breakfast bread this time! And wouldn't you know it, so did everyone else. We had muffins, banana bread, biscuits, some type of pastry, and one lonely egg and cheese casserole. You have to fight for a spot on the crowded table, and my tray of sliced sausage bread, I am told, looked like a second plate of the banana bread that appeared at the beginning of the table, so Alex and I came back home with most of it. That is actually not bad news, my friends, because this stuff is delicious!

I made this bread with a mild sausage, both Parmesan and white cheddar cheeses, and a tiny amount of hot sauce, which wasn't hot at all but added a nice flavor to this bread. And when you warm it up again? I guess the sausage keeps the bread moist, because oh, is this bread good. In fact, the rest of the loaf is almost gone now.

And here's the recipe I used if you'd like to try it for yourself. I'm thinking this would be a nice "savory" to serve at a breakfast or brunch type of tea event, but some people don't seem to like sausage on the tea table. If it's a mild sausage, I do. Where do you stand in this debate? Any sausage lovers reading today?

Monday, August 7, 2017

A new tea mug (and a new dog!) for Amelia

Many of you have been reading about my youngest niece, Amelia, for years on this blog, so I thought you might enjoy an update since she graced Aunt Jane and me with her presence for a shopping day on Saturday — a rarity with a 12-year-old who's usually too busy keeping up with her 18- and 21-year-old sisters! Here are Amelia and Aunt Jane having lunch at Zaxby's.

Amelia is crazy about dogs, horses, and pretty much any animal she's ever come across. When she grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian's assistant so she can work with animals all day. I asked her why not a vet, but she doesn't want to go to school that long, she says. We'll see. Her home currently has chickens, goats, a cat, two dogs, and a miniature donkey. Amelia absolutely adores her Great Pyrenees, Lily, so she decided that Lily needed "a husband," and that meant she saved her birthday money and got Luke, who seems quite taken with her already. She introduced me to him as soon as I arrived.

When we were in a T.J. Maxx on Saturday, we came across a great new "tea mug" that is perfect for Amelia. It says, "I wish I were my dog."

Check out the back of the mug! Cute! This will be great for the green tea Amelia is so fond of. I enjoyed seeing the things she shopped for on Saturday. She had several birthday gift cards left and bought some plaques and Bible verse art for her new bedroom, along with blank canvas and paints to make another one of her own. She loves Hobby Lobby as much as I do and says she will be happy to drive me there when I'm too old to make it there myself. (And I have witnesses now!)

It was a fun day, and after we got back from shopping, I was flipping through the photos on my phone when I discovered a selfie she had taken when I asked her to hold my phone at one point. Cute reminder of a fun day with this sweet girl!