Friday, March 22, 2019

A new magazine to look for: British Tea

I wish Hoffman Media would stop coming out with so many special issues that tempt me, but alas, this one leapt into my hands while I was at Barnes & Noble earlier this week. I suppose the name of this title explains why, doesn't it?

This issue has so many lovely travel photos, and since I've been to England but not to the Cotswolds, this feature has me longing to plan a trip so I can wander the streets of some quaint little village.

There's a very rich-looking tea service depicted in the article on a Downton Abbey teatime, and there's also a lovely spread on the real Downton Abbey. It reminded me that we fans have a DA movie to look forward to this September!

And since we've just observed St. Patrick's Day, this shamrock-strewn Belleek set caught my eye too. There's lots of great eye candy in this issue, along with the usual fun recipe selection, so Anglophiles may need to add yet another magazine to the stash …

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mario Badescu Skin Care Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber and Green Tea

I don't know about you, but my skin has gotten much drier as I've aged. And after being holed up in my office with a space heater all winter, and now, working out in the yard during evenings and weekends, my skin is parched. Helpfully, when I was at Nordstrom a few weeks ago, I picked up a product I'd been wanting to try, this Mario Badescu Skin Care Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber and Green Tea.

I'm a fan of all of these ingredients and decided to give this spray a whirl. While I've just started using it this week, I must say that I'm absolutely loving it. It sprays a light mist over my face and feels only lightly moisturizing. I can't stand a greasy product on my face, and this avoids that feeling completely. Plus, it has a light, refreshing fragrance that makes it even more enjoyable to use.

And yes, it does indeed contain camellia sinensis leaf extract, so there's that. The big surprise to me was that the four-ounce size of this facial spray is only $7. And at the Phipps Plaza Nordstrom the other day, I experienced the kind of customer service that reminded me that yes, only the great department stores still deliver this sort of experience. I was shuffling several bags around, as well as the remaining half of my lunch from their restaurant. The salesclerk thoughtfully offered to give me a large bag to hold all of my smaller bags, and she also told me that since I live an hour away from the store, I could feel free to call her up if I want to re-order this facial spray—with free shipping. So I spent $7 in her department, and she treated me like a queen. Imagine that! So if you want to try this spray yourself, I would recommend you look here.

Have any of you tried this Mario Badescu facial spray before? If so, what did you think?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Are you ready for Spring?

Alex did a lot of work on our lawn this weekend, so I was inspired to go around and take photos of a few of the early bloomers like flowering almond, some kind of flowering cherry tree (I think), and some purplish tulips that I do not remember planting.

My other weekend project was to divide some African violets I have been rooting. A few months ago, I realized my street-facing bathroom window has light that my African violets really love, so I rooted three leaves, and they all resulted in little plants! I left the big one in the middle in the African violet pot, but I carefully removed the other two plants and repotted them.

I put the medium-sized one in this made-in-the-UK clay teacup planter, a gift from my friend Sandra many years ago. I have a matching large teapot planter too, but I haven't yet decided what's going into it this year.

And this tiny little plant is temporarily going to grow (I hope!) in a tiny little teapot planter I found at a garden shop in Wisconsin some years ago.

It turned cooler this weekend, and Spring doesn't officially arrive until Wednesday, but I'm ready for it. Are you?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Spotted: New recipes for teatime!

Sometimes the magazines arrive at my house faster than I can read them, but I'm glad I took time to check out the April issue of Country Living and the March/April issue of Midwest Living, because both of them have some yummy-looking new recipes featuring tea!

Midwest Living features recipes from a St. Louis pastry chef, and in the spread above, you can see at lower left the Earl Grey and Raspberry Pound Cake. Doesn't that look (and sound?) delicious!

And Country Living has a feature this month on "Tea Desserts," where the offerings include these jasmine madeleines and …

… other tea recipes, including the striking Chocolate-Matcha Swirl Pound Cake at right. So if you happen to subscribe to one or both of these magazines, I imagine you'll want to take note of the new teatime recipes in the current issues!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

"No Good Tea Goes Unpunished" by Bree Baker

It’s always nice to come across a great new cozy mystery series to check out, and for those of us who have a hankering for camellia sinensis, it’s extra nice when the mystery involves tea. Having read several different cozy series centered around tearooms, I was so pleased to find a new series about an iced tea shop and seaside café, and my first intro to the series is actually the second book, No Good Tea Goes Unpunished.

Bree Baker’s Seaside Café Mystery series centers on one Everly Swan, who has opened a seaside restaurant and iced tea shop in the coastal town of Charm, North Carolina. As befits a cozy mystery town, Charm is utterly charming, and it’s not surprising when one of Everly’s childhood friends decides to hold her wedding on the beach there. It is, however, surprising when the groom is found floating in the surf on his wedding night.

While solving the mystery of who killed the groom is the focus of the story, No Good Tea Goes Unpunished also has some thoroughly entertaining subplots. My favorite of these concerns Everly’s great-aunts, two elderly women who run a honey shop called Blessed Bee. The aunts are determined to enter a video application in a contest whose winner gets to appear in a documentary on “the plight of the American honeybee,” and the aunts' bee-themed antics are quite entertaining.

How Everly manages to juggle a murder investigation, her aunts’ bee obsession, a tea-shop-and-restaurant operation, and dueling romantic interests is quite the feat, but we’re cheering for Everly every flip-flopping step of the way.

Tea-loving readers will also enjoy the recipes included in the book, and if you’re like me and missed the first installment of this (truly) charming new series, you’ll turn the last page and immediately order the first book, Live and Let Chai, to see what you’ve missed!

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley

Monday, March 11, 2019

Release day is set for "Emeralds and Envy"

Quite a few of you have asked me to let you know when my debut novel becomes available, so today, I wanted to share that over the weekend, I got the very exciting news that my ebook, which will be published on April 16, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Some of you have told me that you prefer the paperback version, and it will come out after the ebook, so I'll be sure and share about that too. Both versions will then be available on Amazon, and I'm also going to order paperbacks to have on hand for those who want one personally signed. (I'm so honored that anyone actually wants my autograph, ha!)

Seeing the release of my first novel is literally a dream come true, so I'm delighted that my book will be available as an ebook in just a little more than a month. And I've learned that the pre-order price through April 16 is just $2.99 (the regular ebook price is $9.99, and you know how I love a bargain).

I do have a few fun giveaways planned for when the book comes out, so stay tuned for more about that, and you may win some fun prizes! So now that this bit of housekeeping news is taken care of …

Coming Wednesday: You know I've always got my nose in a book, and I am delighted to have discovered a new tea-themed cozy series … set at the beach!

Friday, March 8, 2019

The tea towels go to …

Ginger! And since I have her address already, I'll get these headed her way. Congrats to Ginger!

"Hissing Cousins" … and some tea tidbits of note

One of the best things about being in a book group is being inspired to read books you otherwise might not have delved into. I do enjoy history, though, so I was pleased when my online book group decided to read Hissing Cousins: The Lifelong Rivalry of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Eleanor and Alice were first cousins. Alice was the daughter of a president, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt married a man who became a wartime president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was her fifth cousin. The family tree is a little challenging to follow at first, but once you get that straight, the book offers some quite entertaining portraits of two very different women on opposite sides of the political aisle. Alice—or "Princess Alice," as she was known when she was younger—comes across as a devil-may-care woman who liked to have a good time and be right in the middle of all the action. Eleanor, on the other hand, comes across as the more serious cousin and devoted to serving those less fortunate, although she wasn't without her flaws. I like that authors Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer paint neither woman as a saint, showing them both warts and all, which makes the book quite believable.

And while I was certainly not looking for any tea references in this book, I was surprised to find quite a few. Such as:

• Theodore Roosevelt was not happy when he saw advertisements in his morning newspaper noting that the First Daughter would be in a "portrait show" benefiting a hospital in New York. He telegrammed: "They distinctly convey the impression that any person who wishes to pay five dollars may be served with tea by you and Ethel Barrymore. I cannot consent to such use of your name and must ask you not to serve tea." Alice didn't listen to her father, and she did serve the tea.

• As a young girl, Eleanor spent much time at her Aunt Bye's house, "drinking tea and nibbling cookies in the maid's sewing room."

• While married, Alice had an affair with Idaho Senator William Borah, who was once offered a cup of tea by a hostess and replied, "Do I look like a man who drinks tea?"

• Franklin and Eleanor were secretly engaged for a year before they made their engagement official. During this time, while he was out Christmas shopping in  New York one day, he dropped his mother off at her apartment "so that he could duck out for tea with Eleanor at 3:30."

• When King George and Queen Elizabeth came to the US and visited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the royals visited the Roosevelts at the family home in Hyde Park, NY. Before dinner one night, FDR pulled the king aside and said, "My mother does not approve of cocktails and thinks you should have a cup of tea." The king replied, "My mother would have said the same thing, but I would prefer a cocktail." (And the king got his cocktail.)

Isn't it fun when you're reading a book for one thing but learn something else at the same time?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sugarfina Matcha Green Tea Caramels

When I was at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta last week, I saw a display of sweets at Nordstrom that caught my eye. Although I'd heard of Sugarfina before, I don't believe I'd  ever sampled their sweets, so naturally, these Matcha Green Tea Caramels caught my eye.

To be honest, some of the matcha-flavored treats I've tried have tasted too much like matcha for my taste buds, so I bought these tea-flavored caramels while not quite knowing in which direction these might go.

And how pleasantly surprised I was when I bit into one and got a nice bit of matcha flavor, yes, but these are first and foremost caramels. What a lovely combination! At $7.50 for 2.9 ounces, these don't need to be scarfed down like M&M's but rather savored a few at a time. I could also see adding these to a dessert at teatime for a tasty finishing touch. Have any of you tried these caramels before? You can find out more about them here.

Monday, March 4, 2019

March Giveaway: "It's Always Time for Tea" Tea Towels

For the March giveaway, I picked up this cute set of coral and turquoise tea towels at a Ross store over the weekend. There are two of these tea towels in the set, so if you're feeling especially generous, you could even share one with a friend!

If you'd like to win the the tea towels, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, March 8, making sure to include an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner, and you'll be entered to win. US only, please. Good luck!

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Orange Marmalade Cake … and plans for more!

Last Friday, Daddy turned 80 years old, so my sister and I had a surprise party for him at her house in Tallapoosa with family and friends.

Rhonda made barbecue, Brunswick stew, and sides, and all I had to do was get the paper products and make a cake, so I got the easy end of things. Daddy usually bakes the cakes in our family, but I decided this occasion was deserving of the Orange Marmalade Cake made famous by Jan Karon's Mitford books. The cake was even more delicious than I had imagined, and two of the older ladies at the party asked me for the recipe, which I took as a great endorsement. I got the recipe from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader, and the recipe is also available online here. It wasn't hard to make at all, just a little labor intensive, and I found myself thinking about whether this wonderful cake could somehow be turned into a teatime treat involving something besides regular cake slices.

Fast-forward a few days, and I was reading the new issue of Southern Living, which features Joanna Gaines on the cover. I enjoyed the profile of her, especially since Rhonda and I are planning a trip to Texas this summer and plan to stop by the Gaines family's Magnolia empire in Waco, which my sister's family has visited and enjoyed before.

But the magazine also had a feature titled "Garden Party," and one of their ideas was to use a round cutter to turn a sheet cake into "two-layer minis." Naturally, I had a real eureka moment and realized I could do that with the Orange Marmalade Cake. I can just see the little bits of marmalade sparkling atop a miniature version of the cake. Isn't it neat when you have a question about something and then the answer serendipitously appears?

So how many of you have made the Orange Marmalade Cake? I'd love to know how it turned out!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Recommended reading: "Vintage Roses" by Jane Eastoe and Georgianna Lane

I've been sipping my Whittard of Chelsea English Rose tea with the most delightful new book, and I know some of you would enjoy it as well. It's Vintage Roses by Jane Eastoe with photography by Georgianna Lane, and it is simply splendid, easily one of the prettiest books I've put my hands on in years.

The photography captures roses in so many poses.

The book also explains about tea roses and how they came to be hybridized, which is interesting, but I must say that I am happy just flipping through the photos for long, admiring moments.

When I showed my husband this photo, he said this book is "very Angela." I'll take that as a lovely compliment.

I recommend reading this book with a rosy teacup at hand, and for many of us, that shouldn't be hard at all. Have any of you read this book, and if so, do you love it as much as I do?

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Herbery's Ginger Lemon Honey Tea … and Clementine Tissues

Do you suppose we’ve become spoiled by the ease of online shopping? These days, I tend to think that anything my heart desires should be available within a few mouse clicks, and when it’s not, I feel indignant. How dare they? Well, that was my reaction when I found some new tea that I really liked at a Tuesday Morning store last month, Peach Mango tea from The Herbery, and I wanted to know if I could order more from Amazon or a company website. Alas, no. But I quickly realized this was truly a first-world problem, not something I’m entitled to, and got over it. If I ever came across more of this tea, good, and if not, fine. So while I didn’t see the Peach Mango flavor again, I did run across the Ginger Lemon Honey flavor at the T.J. Maxx in Carrollton and scooped it up.

And I’m happy to say that The Herbery, elusive as the company seems to be, may be my new favorite provider of fruity teas. This Lemon Ginger Honey flavor delivers on all counts of its name, and I also got the merest hint of a flavor I have adored since childhood—honeysuckle. In fact, at first sip, I was reminded of sipping honeysuckle nectar right off the vine there at my family's old homeplace in West Georgia. Nectar of the gods, honeysuckle is. To find that in a tea? Why, it had never occurred to me, and I’m so glad I decided to try this one. The other thing I decided to try at T.J. Maxx was these cute tissues I’d merely glanced at recently. They’re from Clementine Paper, a stationery line that has lots of cute products, but I don’t really need to buy even my tissues from T.J. Maxx, do I?

Then I noticed the cute cupcakes and teapot and teacup on the box and, well, yes. Yes I do. Have any of you tried these tissues yet? I think they're adorable!

Friday, February 22, 2019

"Young girl in white dress" — a teatime writing prompt

I have a folder on my computer desktop where I will occasionally store a photo that I think would making a good writing prompt. I've taught writing only a few times so far, and will happily do so again if I ever find the time, but I will always be prepared to offer a photo for a writing prompt. This involves simply sharing an image and asking the student to write something about it. I found this image on the Library of Congress website and think it would make a great writing prompt.

What do you see when you look at this little girl? What's going on in her head? Is she happy or sad? Do you think you could make up a story about her? I do!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Baking with Bella

Last week's posts were taken up with Valentine's Week items, so I didn't want to let too much more time pass without sharing something fun from the weekend before, when Alex and I had the pleasure of staying with grandkids Bella and Owen overnight while their parents were out of town. Bella has become quite the baking queen, and she wanted to make strawberry cupcakes, so I decided we would do the cake part from a boxed mix but make the cream cheese icing from scratch. And the photo at right, just for fun, is showing Bella's reaction when she read a newspaper column Alex wrote about her. Bella was concerned, shall we say, when she discovered Alex had recently written a column mentioning her brother, Owen, but not her, so of course Alex had to write one about her too. I think she liked it!

And while I frosted one of these Valentine cupcakes, and I couldn't by any means tell you which one, Bella did the rest of them herself using the new Wilton decorating kit we got her for Christmas. Aren't these lovely? (They tasted great too, I am here to tell you, and I enjoyed two of them with copious quantities of the family's tea!)

Bella also loves animals, including her poodle Luke (miniature poodle Gracie didn't make it into the photo). She is thinking she might like to one day open a restaurant where both human and animal diners can eat, complete with food cooked especially for the pets too. I can see that idea taking off, can't you?

And while the boys stayed out of our way during the baking, here's Owen with a Fortnite toy that Luke tried to run off with.

As soon as I walked into the kitchen on the day of our visit, I spotted this artwork Bella had created and hung on the refrigerator, and I was so delighted to find out she had made it for me. (Note the image of Luke on the tea mug.) You can probably imagine how very happy this made me!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Some thrilling thrifting

Aunt Jane and I hadn't visited the Carrollton Goodwill store in a couple of weeks, so that's where we went on Saturday. Most of the time, Aunt Jane racks up and I do not. This time, the reverse was true.

I never get tired of bargains on old Sandy Lynam Clough items, and this $2.99 print with the "R" on it happened to be in the store on the weekend "Red" items were half off, so yippee, a print for $1.50. (Although it's a little curious to me why they write the "R" for "Red" in yellow, but … whatever.)

And I have for years wanted a pretty way to display my business cards when I'm out speaking about editing or writing, as I will be doing several times this year, and this business card holder was absolutely perfect for me!

And 89 cents? Are you kidding me? I'm almost offended that such a gorgeous piece is less than the price of a plastic doodad down the street at Dollar Tree. ("Almost," I said.)

The painter even signed it, and ironically, I have a character named "Teri," spelled just that way, in my novel coming out this spring. Odd, then, that I would run across this particular item. That bit of serendipity was worth more than 89 cents to me!

My best find, though, was this pretty vintage teapot. As usual, Goodwill had it all covered in clear packaging tape, but I was happy that I removed it to find everything in tip-top shape.

I thought $4.99 was a fine price for this teapot.

Especially for a Sadler. So are you coming across any fun tea finds at the thrift stores in your neck of the woods? I'd love to know!

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Amazon gift card winner is …

Jean at! Congrats, Jean, and thank you to everyone who visited this week. I hope it's been an especially LOVE-ly Valentine's Week for everyone! 💗

"People Having Tea Together"

An old colleague of mine is a historian, and earlier this week, he sent me a link to a site called "Vintage Everyday" that is just delightful. And what is even more delightful is All. These. Photos. Of People Having Tea!