Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sampling bottled teas (and deciding to stick with my own)

Warmer temperatures mean I'm drinking more iced tea these days, so for fun, I picked up a couple of new-to-me varieties at Ingle's the other day. I actually got the Nestea tea in both peach and raspberry flavors, but I drank the peach flavor on the way home.

Or perhaps I should say that I *tried* to drink the peach tea on the way home. There's no nice way to say this, but their peach tea has to be one of the worst bottled teas I've ever tried, and I've sipped some stinkers. I found myself wondering, "Have the testers ever had tea before? Did they try this out on any actual humans?" I don't like to be negative, but this chemical-tasting murky liquid just seemed to bear no resemblance to actual tea. I was so shocked by how bad it was that I took one more equally dreadful sip just to be sure, and the rest of it went in the trash. I was (and remain) puzzled by how a company could make such an awful-tasting tea. I bravely (or foolishly?) tried the raspberry tea the next day, and it was flat tasting but tolerable, nowhere near as bad as the peach flavor. Lesson learned. No more Nestea for me!

Next I tried the Upload Rainforest Infusions Raspberry, White Grape & Pear White Tea, which was immensely drinkable, although to be fair, it takes like grape juice. Which is good if you like grape juice. In which case, why not just buy grape juice, right? 

Now that that little exercise in tea-tasting is over, I'm sipping a nice black tea I steeped along with fresh mint leaves and then cooled in a pitcher in the fridge before serving over ice. It's so good, I wish somebody would make this tea and bottle it!

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Monticello for Steubenville teacup

I was in a new antique store in Dallas over the weekend, the Dali and Davinci Marketplace, when I spotted a new teacup for my growing collection of blue models. This one was the prettiest soft shade of a blue that had a touch of periwinkle in it, and the scalloped edges, rosy interior, and $6.95 price tag (and to my surprise, 20 percent off that) made this one a winner. But you know what another of my favorite features is on this teacup?

The backstamp! I'd heard of Steubenville but not Monticello made by Steubenville. That's got to be one of the most detailed backstamps I've ever seen, and I decided I had to do a little research. Steubenville Pottery Co. of Steubenville, Ohio, was in business from 1879-1959. The Monticello pattern was produced in the late forties and early fifties, and pieces were marked with a special backstamp listing the distributor, Herman C. Kupper of New York. I found an old ad for Monticello pieces, and it called these wares "Monticello—America's distinguished dinnerware" and said it was available at "better stores everywhere." I suppose so-called snob appeal has always been a selling tactic, yet how ironic that years later, I would purchase my Monticello secondhand.

But then again, if they'd just said "American's pretty dinnerware," that wouldn't have been much of a slogan, would it?

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Lavender & Honey soap winner is …

Holloway! And I've sent you an email so that I can get your mailing address. Congrats on winning!

The $1 "cahiers de broderies"

I found these "cahiers de broderies" at Dollar Tree over the weekend and immediately knew I had to get a couple.

The notebook comes with needle, embroidery thread, and an insert containing patterns for a few designs such as a cactus and a popsicle, but I opted to try something else and created my own design. But surely one of you can improve upon that, eh?

Just in case, I've got one more notebook set on standby, so I can always try a new and improved teapot design if I come across one. Suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer Night Tea Party, circa 1876

Now this is really random, but I found this photograph on the Library of Congress website and like it just because it's titled "Summer Night Tea Party." This is a detail of a shot from one of those old stereoscopic cards.

And here's an image of the full card itself, from Melander Photographer in Chicago, according to the info at left. The Library of Congress says little about this card other than the fact it was created circa 1876. My biggest question is, did children in Chicago really dress like that on a summer night back then? I'm currently sitting here in Georgia while wearing a lightweight T-shirt and knit slacks, and the A/C is going full-blast. Dressed like that, I'd have suffered heatstroke! (By the way, this is the first time I've been able to make myself "see" the photo in 3-D by staring at the images until they blend! Fun!)

Monday, June 11, 2018

June Giveaway: Lavender & Honey Soap

I found the cutest, most yummy-scented soap over the weekend and decided it would be great for the June giveaway! The Lavender & Honey soap itself has a delightful floral scent, but the packaging is what really caught my eye, something that surely any tea lover would enjoy!

So if you'd like to win it, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, June 15, 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, June 8, 2018

A tea I can *guarantee* you've not tried!

Well, this is new! My friend Kathy, who is a huge dog lover, recently shared a video promoting a new tea that I've certainly never had on my tea shelf, Barking Mad Creations Herbal Tea for Dogs!

Now I haven't tried this tea, for obvious reasons, and I don't have a dog, but I have a feeling this quirky video would be of interest to many of you, and the product itself might be appealing to the tea lovers who are also dog lovers.

I only ask that you not serve me tea out of the same teacup your dog uses! It was interesting to read about how the tea is prepared for the dogs, though (never hot!). Do you suppose dogs like tea as much as we do? I mean, why not!

So what do you think about tea for dogs? Yes or no?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Recommended Reading: "Pretty Handmades" by Lauren Wright

So a woman in Australia writes a craft book that is printed in Turkey and bought by a woman in Newnan, Georgia. If that's not the global economy at work, I don't know what is!

I was at my local Joann store the other day looking not necessarily for any particular craft book but just for something pretty. The day was gray and rainy, and I wanted something that "spoke" to me. Do you ever have a day like that? Well, this is what I came across, and I spotted the teapot and teacup graphics immediately!

Even a tea bag! When's the last time you saw artwork of a tea bag?

I wasn't at all surprised to find a pattern for a "Tea Party Tea Towel" inside. I don't care if I ever make it or not, I've just gotten so much pleasure from studying the pages of this lovely book!

Best enjoyed with a cup of yummy green tea, of course! I got my copy for 60 percent off thanks to a well-timed Joann coupon. That made this book's price about $8 and some change, less than the cost of many magazines, I note, but it's also available on Amazon if you don't have a Joann coupon handy.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Cricut Cuttlebug & teatime paper crafting

So here's what I made this weekend!

My birthday was last month, and I used the Amazon gift card my husband gave me to get this Cricut Cuttlebug machine for die cutting and embossing.

And then a gift from my oldest niece funded the purchase of the prettiest tea-themed dies I have ever seen, this Vintage Tea Party line by Sara Davies of Crafters Companion, founded in the UK but with an office in the US as well.  I ordered my goodies on eBay from a seller in the UK when I found that I couldn't get all the ones I wanted on Amazon, but I have seen some of the line there and some in the Paper Wishes catalog, in case you happen to like them as well!

It's taking me a while to learn the tips and techniques of this brave new world of what I consider "fancy" paper crafting, but I'm up to the challenge since I am so enamored of all the pretty tea-themed dies I have discovered. This lacy one from the Vintage Tea Party line has so much detail! I'm having lots of fun with my new toys, and I plan to share some of the notecards and other crafts I make in the days ahead. If you happen to be a Cuttlebug user,  or perhaps you've long advanced to one of the larger electronic  Cricut machines, please share any tips and links you think might be of interest. I do know that my friend Joy got a Cuttlebug about the same time I did, so I'm quite happy I know at least one other tea lover who is exploring this form of paper crafting!

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Summer 2018 Upton Tea Quarterly

The latest issue of the Upton Tea Quarterly arrived this week, and as always, I found it to be quite enlightening and entertaining reading. In the front of the book, I learned that Darjeeling production has "decreased from an annual average of 5.5 million kilograms to 3 million kilograms in 2017," a reduction of nearly 67 percent (!). I haven't bought any new Darjeeling tea in a while, and sure enough, the prices are much steeper than I would have expected, so if we're looking for quality Darjeelings, I guess we can expect to pay more for them, thanks to "a worldwide surge in demand and a limited supply of quality tea."

So that's the bad news. The good news is that there's a delightful feature on Roy Fong, owner of the Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco and a name quite familiar to those of us who study tea in this country. My favorite quote of his: "Tea chose me. Looking back, there was no other path but tea."

If you'd like to check out this issue for yourself, click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Tin Roof Teas giveaway winner is …

Misty, and I've just sent her an email! Thanks to all who entered, and I've got something else fun in store for June's giveaway, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A visit to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC

Whenever I'm out of town, if there's time, I love to visit a local independent bookstore. In Raleigh over the weekend, that was Quail Ridge Books, and I absolutely loved this store!

I've seen this particular C.S. Lewis quote in a bookstore before, but not nearly as well done as it was here.

And look at this little reading nook near the magazine section. I would like to transport that to a corner of my home! I'm crazy about the clear chairs too!

And I should have taken a photo of it, but they had a cute vignette dedicated to the recent Royal Wedding, complete with Harry and Meghan paper dolls, tins of tea, a book about Prince Charles's gardens at Highgrove, and this book, National Trust Book of Afternoon Tea by Laura Mason, which I asked if I could pluck from the table (it was a bookstore, after all). The employee smiled and said yes, and she thanked me for asking so she could reshuffle things on the table. I knew I wanted this book because Linda recommended it here. I'm a lazy tea book collector these days, so I sometimes wait for one of my fellow tea bloggers to recommend a book before I purchase it. Besides, I know I can trust anything Linda recommends!

I've already made one very simple and quite delicious recipe from the book, for Moroccan Mint Tea. It's simple. In a teapot, add three teaspoons of green tea, three tablespoons of sugar, and a handful of fresh spearmint leaves. Fill the pot with boiling water (I used "just under boiling" water), and let steep for three minutes. I can't remember the last time I actually added sugar to a cup of tea, but this was absolutely delicious!

Monday, May 28, 2018

May Giveaway: Tin of Green Coconut Tea from Tin Roof Teas

This weekend when I was in North Carolina for the always-fun annual party of the publishing company I work for, I made another trip to Tin Roof Teas in Raleigh, and they were offering a special on these tins of tea. So for the May Giveaway, I'm offering one lucky Tea With Friends reader just what I got for myself, a tin of their Green Coconut Tea!

I was especially smitten by these tea tins, which have a pretty blue and white design of camellia sinensis.

This delicious tea contains shredded coconut and Chinese Sencha, and it's a wonderfully refreshing change from the brisk English teas and fruity iced teas I've been sipping all week. If you'd like to win, just leave an "Enter Me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. Thursday, May 31, and you'll be entered to win. US only, please. Good luck!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "The Way of Tea and Justice" by Becca Stevens

Summary: Reverend Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, shares the story of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, social enterprises in Nashville, Tennessee, that minister to women recovering from violence, prostitution, and addiction.

My thoughts: As a Southern Baptist who happily lives smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, I must confess that I was more than a little nervous about reading a book with "Justice" in the title by a female Episcopal priest. I had plenty of preconceived notions about what this book might include, and to my absolute delight, I couldn't have been more wrong. This book was deep, it was thoughtful, it was challenging, and while the reverend and I do have a few theological hairs to split, I ended this book thinking how much I love this woman and how she's definitely a kindred spirit in the spiritual realm as well as the tea world. I'd love to visit the Thistle Stop Café, the tea room she birthed, and I'd love to be able to hear her speak one day as well.

The judgment: Read it, read it, read it. I had so many "wow" moments while reading this book that I hardly know where to begin. Here are a few:

• "When someone argues that prostitution is a choice … I always ask, 'What were the other choices?'"

• "Silence is the deep presence of truth, not the absence of words. The words 'nausea' and 'noise' come from the same root, and one of the greatest sicknesses is all the noise that fills our world and our heads. Noise keeps heaven at bay."

• "It is a Christian notion that an offering is poured out for the sake of the well-being of another. Tea becomes a symbol of the nature of sacrificial love. In the Gospels, Jesus said His blood was 'poured out' for the sake of forgiveness. We were created to be poured out. What if every time we poured a pot of tea for a stranger or friend, we were forgiving ourselves and others as freely as the leaves release their healing gifts?"

For discussion: While it's almost a given that tea parties and gatherings include only light conversation and happy topics, I must say I'm pleased to learn that teatime is also being used to help provide healing for women who have been rescued from prostitution and addiction. How do you feel about tea being used as a vehicle for "social justice"?

• If you've read the book, what did you think about the women's testimonies? Were you moved by any of them? If so, which ones?

• Stevens and her team faced a lot of obstacles on the way to opening their Thistle Stop Café. Would you have gotten discouraged? What do you think inspired them to continue?

Next Month's Book: A novel that's been in my Kindle queue for a while is The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies, so I'd love for some of you to join me in reading that during June!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Some lovely surprises from my tea friends

This time last week, I was preparing to head up to Woodstock, Georgia, to meet up with my friend Phyllis and her group of traveling tea friends. I loved being able to enjoy afternoon tea with them all and see Phyllis, my longtime blogger friend, and her friend Lori from Michigan, whom I'd also had the pleasure of meeting before. To my great surprise, the two of them gifted me and the other two Georgia visitors to the group with these lovely Gracie China teacups from the Tea Leave and Thyme gift shop!

I love-love-love scalloped teacups and saucers but don't have very many of them, so I was especially thrilled to add this lovely set to my teacup collection!

And in yet another surprise, Teresa from Ohio gifted me with this delightful tea towel and mints from the Buckeye State! I will remember her and our teatime together oh-so-fondly as I pop these peppermints and enjoy using the clever new vintage-style tea towel, two terrific reminders of that lovely afternoon of tea with friends old and new!

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Royal Wedding recap

So this was pretty much the view in my living room on Saturday morning, where my friend Lynn joined me just before 6 a.m. so we could watch the Royal Wedding. (Neither of us dressed up or wore makeup, as we were aiming for comfort, thus no photos of the attendees this time, ha!)

But there was no reason I couldn't "dress" the tea trolley for the occasion, so I pulled out the new teapot and sugar and creamer I recently found at T.J. Maxx, along with the "Harry & Meghan" mugs I found there as well. I tied a bow around Lynn's and told her it could be her souvenir of the day!

I had both Royal Palace Tea from Harney and Celebration Blend Tea from Fortnum & Mason on hand, but we both liked the Royal Palace Tea so much that we stuck with it throughout our viewing.

I made raisin as well as salted caramel mini scones, served with lemon curd and freshly whipped cream.

Crustless mini quiches were the only savory I made (this was more than enough food for two people!), and Lynn brought the fresh fruit.

And of course we had to have something chocolate for breakfast "dessert."

I actually bought these British cupcake papers after Prince William's wedding, and I'm glad I did, because I figure it will be quite a few years before another really grand Royal Wedding takes place. (I know Princess Eugenie is getting married later this year, but I'm guessing George or Charlotte will be the next "big" Royal Wedding.)

Lynn and I so enjoyed watching the wedding together, and I learned a fun fact about my friend. According to family legend, a grandfather several generations ago was a page boy for Queen Victoria, and somewhere there is a family Bible inscribed to him by the Queen! Lynn is researching that to find out who in the family now has the Bible, and I hope I'll at least get to see a photo of it one day.

So what were your favorite moments from Saturday? I loved the moment the gorgeous bride arrived, of course, revealing her simple but stunning gown, and I also enjoyed seeing the Queen arrive with the recently-recovered-from-hip-surgery Prince Philip. What a trouper!

Lynn recognized more of the celebrities than I did, but I did enjoy spotting Oprah (and I loved her hat!). I was also pleased that Sarah, Duchess of York was invited to this wedding, and I thought she looked lovely.

Meghan Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, looked absolutely stunning in her green dress, coat, and matching hat, I thought. When she started tearing up before the ceremony, so did I!

I thought it was awfully gracious of Prince Charles to escort Meghan in place of her absent father, and I loved that he extended his arm to Ms. Ragland on several occasions, clearly welcoming her into the family.

What were your favorite moments from the day? Do you agree with the ones listed by the Daily Mail?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Meeting some traveling friends for tea in Georgia!

On Wednesday, I was delighted to be able to join longtime tea friends Phyllis, left, and Joy, right, for tea at Tea Leaves and Thyme in Woodstock! We enjoyed the Queen's Tea along with …

Quite a few other ladies from Michigan and Ohio—and one more Georgian! Phyllis, whom many of you know from her Relevant Tea Leaf blog, has organized a Southern Tea Time tour, taking the group to Woodstock, Atlanta, Marietta, Savannah, Charleston, and quite a few more spots, and this was one of their stops on the tour. I was so, so happy to get to see Phyllis and Joy again, and I was also delighted to visit with the other tea-loving ladies!

One of them was Phyllis's friend Lori, also from Michigan, at right, whom I absolutely fell in love with when I got to meet her several years ago during a tea blogger trip to Kentucky. Lori is a fellow scrapbooker, and we talked papercrafts a bit on Wednesday. I was also delighted to get to sit across from (and gab with!) Angela from Georgia (yes, there's another one!) and Teresa from Ohio.

Check out Teresa's purse! Lovely!

And here are Kim, the owner of Tea Leaves and Thyme, with Angela. If you are someone who likes to visit tearooms when you travel, you simply *must* visit Angela Renals's Destination Tea, which is a wonderful go-to source for finding tearooms all over the country. I loved hearing about her creation of this website and her plans for its future. I learned she also has a Destination Tea Facebook page, and I started following Destination Tea there as soon as I got home so that I won't miss her posts!

And here I am with Teresa just as everyone was about to depart!

With so many tea friends to talk to, I must confess that I was less focused on the tea and food than I have ever been before because I was so captivated by all the tea talk! So when it was time to leave, I had a nice big to-go box of delicious food to take home with me, mostly the sweets, and I am still enjoying some "sweet" memories, both literal and figurative, from Wednesday's wonderful tea room visit. I know Phyllis will be blogging all about the Southern tea tour when they return home in another week or so, and now I can't wait to read all about their adventures!