Friday, February 23, 2018

"The Taster" by V. S. Alexander


Summary: Magda Ritter, a young woman in Nazi Germany, goes looking for a job, and a well-connected uncle helps her get one of the most interesting (and dangerous) occupations ever, serving as a personal taster for Adolf Hitler, even though she's not a Nazi party member and is by no means sold on Nazi beliefs. And without spoiling some of the storylines in the book, let me just say that the teacup on the cover represents quite a few pivotal scenes in this book. I was surprised!

My thoughts: Oh, I hope some of you have read (or will read) The Taster, because I found it thoroughly fascinating. I can't exactly say I "enjoyed" it, because I have always been and forever will be so appalled by the monster that was Hitler, but this book gave me lots of food for thought. I can't recall ever before reading a novel in which Hitler was a character, so it was intriguing to view him through the eyes of a young German woman who gets a job of making sure his food hasn't been poisoned. In some scenes, Hitler is actually nice to the people (and animals) around him, and I found myself thinking, "Could that have been possible?" The author certainly made it seem so. Magda gets involved with an SS officer who, like her, is no fan of Hitler, and it soon becomes clear that not everyone in Hitler's orbit is enamored with him. Although we all know how the story turned out, I found myself lingering over one part of the book about a failed assassination attempt on Hitler and thinking, "Oh, if only …" The Holocaust is referred to only briefly—and somewhat obliquely—and that is perhaps the book's greatest weakness.

Also, while I usually love to learn about any famous tea houses in history, I was bothered to learn that Hitler enjoyed a tea house, simply because I'm sorry to know that he ever enjoyed anything. The fictional Hitler had a fondness for tea and loved his apple cake, two things that are apparently true of the real Hitler.

The judgment: I highly recommend this book for some enlightening reading and discussion. The well-written book is an easy read, but it also is thought-provoking for anyone who wonders whether fascism is alive and well today. I used to think that "nationalist" thinking died with Hitler, but then I watched those awful videos from last year's white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville and realized that, tragically, such evil thinking is still with us. The book was a sobering reminder of what happens when evil leaders and beliefs are blindly accepted by the masses.

For discussion: Did you learn some new things about Hitler from this book? Do you have difficulty imagining him treating people or animals well? What did you think about Hitler's tea house and tea parties?


Next Month's Book: Whew! This month's book had such a heavy theme, I need some lighter fare and can't wait to get the new Laura Childs book, Plum Tea Crazy, as our Tea Lovers Book Club read for March. See you "back in the book club" on March 30!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A teacup toast to two queens!

Sometimes I wonder why I pay for cable TV, because there's not much on it I care to watch anymore. This winter, however, I finally caved and subscribed to Netflix, so in addition to PBS's "Victoria," I've also been enjoying "The Crown," and naturally I had to order the companion books that go with each series. 

I love history, and I realize the dramas are not 100 percent true to life, so I enjoy having these books to consult after each episode. I also have a designated teacup for sipping during each show. Is that silly? For "The Crown," the obvious choice was this teacup from Paragon, issued to commemorate the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

On a recent episode of "Victoria," I was sorry to learn that a storyline about Victoria and Albert getting lost in Scotland and seeking refuge in a poor couple's shack was not based on anything recorded. Wouldn't it be fun to think the two showed up like common beggars and requested a night's stay? Still, it's a fun show, and the designated teacup for viewing it is this one I bought at Windsor Castle, the teacup's pattern having come from a Minton dessert stand purchased by Queen Victoria at The Great Exhibition in 1851. Are any of you also watching and/or reading about Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth? Are you taking note of all those great tea scenes (and tea sets) as I am?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Some new shopping buddies!

Most of the time if I write about any weekend tea finds, you'll hear me mention that Aunt Jane is my regular shopping buddy. Once in a while, my youngest niece, Amelia, joins us. This weekend, however, it was my middle niece, Cari, and my sister's youngest child, nephew Matthew, who joined Aunt Jane and me. We had a great time together, and all of us came home with some fun new finds, including the tea and chintzware carafe here.

First we went to the mall in Douglasville, where the good news is that the Hallmark shop's tea I'd had my eye on was 75 percent off. Made for Hallmark Gold Crown, the Crafters & Co. tea was the organic Black Cinnamon flavor, and I believe it's the first tea I've seen with a pull-top can.

The bad news is that the tea wasn't very good. It tasted weak and not very appetizing, but perhaps it was simply old. That's not good, but the really bad news is that the Hallmark shop itself is going out of business! The one in my town closed a few years ago, and now one at a mall can't survive? I'm a little nervous about where I'll get my Hallmark Christmas ornaments for all the children in our family this year, but I guess there's always Hallmark.com. (Right?) I'm curious how many of you have a Hallmark store near you. Very many of you?


After we ate lunch at Chick-fil-A and finished up at the mall, Cari asked if I would *mind* going to a new antique mall nearby so she could look for vintage clothes. (Are you finished laughing yet?) Of course, good aunt that I am, I obliged. And to my surprise, I came upon something I'd been looking for but didn't expect to find anytime soon, a new carafe. I'd been looking for a simple water carafe for my bedside table, but the only ones I found online didn't appeal to me at all. This one, chintz and just $11.50, will do quite nicely!


Cari, by the way, bought a lovely pink vintage gown. She explained to me that she just loves all things vintage, and I was surprised (but delighted) to learn that my niece shares my love for old stuff, including this carriage at the entrance to Ben's Antiques.

And just in case I need to taunt him with it at his rehearsal dinner one day, here's a picture of me and Matthew. What a fun Saturday!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Breaking news: Sugar bowl reunited with teaware family!

Remember when I found that pretty blue-accented teapot and creamer at T.J. Maxx in Marietta last month? Well, I looked at my T.J. Maxx in Newnan, but they didn't have the sugar bowl. I looked at the store in Carrollton, but they didn't have it. Then I just knew I'd find it at the store in Rome, but they didn't have it, either.

Then last Friday, I had lunch with a friend and decided afterward that I'd run over to Peachtree City and see if their T.J. Maxx had it. I'd never actually seen this sugar bowl, mind you, yet I somehow believed it existed. Logic told me that it did. My heart told me that it did. And guess what? There it sat. (No creamer, by the way, just the sugar bowl.)

And I kid you not, as I walked to the store's checkout counter, Hebrews 11:1 sprang to mind. It says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I realize that's a frivolous application of one of the great truths of the Bible, but I somehow felt it applied. Do you believe God can speak to us in a T.J. Maxx? I do!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Amazon gift card goes to …

Frances Lamparter! Congrats, Frances, and happy shopping!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The winner of the signed copy of "Dainty Dining" is …

Terri of the "At the Maple Table" blog! Terri included her email address so that I could contact her, and this book will soon be on its way to Vermont. Congrats!

Valentine's Week Giveaway #7

Happy Valentine's Day, friends! Today I conclude this annual week of sharing my tea-themed vintage valentines and offering tea-themed giveaways to readers! Today's valentine features a sweet little girl having tea and cookies, which I personally think is always a fine idea.

I love the old-fashioned font on the inside of this card, and I also love that it is signed "To Samuel, From Carl, Mary and Irena, 1931." Charming!
And while most folded valentine cards I've seen have blank back sides, this one features a young suitor taking flowers to his valentine. So please consider this post your "flowers" from me, dear reader! 

And for our last giveaway of the week, I thought I'd give a $10 Amazon e-gift card to the winner so she (or he?) can purchase whatever they like, whether that's a few e-books, a paperback, or even a box of tea! If you'd like to be entered to win, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Feb. 15 and you'll be entered to win. Good luck!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The winner of the socks is …

Mary! And I've just sent you an email so that you can send me your snail mail address, and I'll get the socks headed your way. Congrats!

Valentine's Week Giveaway #6

I tend to collect valentines that are for children, but I found a "grown-up" valentine card on the UK eBay site that I had to have! And does the gentleman remind you of Darrin Stephens (actor Dick York) on Bewitched?


He looked kind of cranky on the front of the card, but I'm glad the tea appears to be perking him up as we get a glimpse of his tearoom visit on the inside of the card! (Which is unsigned, by the way.)

Since the gent was possibly dining at a tearoom, I thought I'd give away a signed copy of my book of tearoom recipes, "Dainty Dining." (I know some of you already have a copy, so if you'd like to win a copy for a friend or family member, feel free to enter and I'll sign it to them.) Just leave an "Enter Me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST tomorrow, Feb. 14, and you'll be entered to win. Kindly include an email address or have a link for me to contact you if you're the winner. US and Canada only, please. Good luck!

Monday, February 12, 2018

The winner of the Emilie Barnes devotional book is …

Daniele K.! And I've just sent you an email so that I can get your snail mail address and get this on its way to you. Congrats!

Valentine's Week Giveaway #5

Today's valentine is one I was delighted to come across because it introduced me to a type of valentine card I'd never seen before, one with a doily design embossed right into the card. I also learned there is apparently something desirable about cards with "silvered" designs, and in this one, you can see that the teapot and teacups being used by these little elephant teagoers have silver finishes to them.

I bought this card on eBay, but what I did not realize until it arrived is that the spoon is actually a tiny metal spoon! So this quickly became one of my favorite new vintage valentines.
 
And here's the inside of the card, which, interestingly enough, was left blank, while …

Grandma and Grandpa signed it on the back, not the inside. Did folks used to sign the backs of cards? I can't remember ever seeing one signed that way before. But wow, look at that penmanship! Doesn't it give you a warm, cozy feeling to remember such sweet sentiments of yesteryear? I hope so, because "warm and cozy" is the theme for today's giveaway, which is actually something I bought a while back and have been saving for this week.


Some of you may remember a few weeks ago when I found these teacup socks on sale at Charming Charlie. Well, I bought an extra pair that I stashed away for a Valentine's Week giveaway, so that's today's gift! If you'd like to be entered to win these cute socks, just leave an "Enter Me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST tomorrow, Feb. 13, and you'll be entered to win. Kindly include an email address or have a link for me to contact you if you're the winner. US and Canada only, please. Good luck!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The tea stickers go to …

Loralie! And since I've got your snail mail address already, I'll get these headed your way. Congrats!

Valentine's Week Giveaway #4



"You Suit Me To A T" says this sweet little lass, happily sipping out of her teacup, as we all so often do. This card wasn't signed, and it's a pity, because I'm sure someone would have enjoyed receiving this one!

And since today happens to be the Lord's Day, I thought a perfect giveaway would be something I myself was delighted to receive a copy of as a Christmas gift, "The Tea Lover's Devotional" by Emilie Barnes. I checked and was happy to see it's still available on Amazon, so I'm going to have a copy sent to the winner. If you'd like to be entered to win it, just leave an "Enter Me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST tomorrow, Feb. 12, and you'll be entered to win. Kindly include an email address or have a link for me to contact you if you're the winner. US and Canada only, please. Good luck!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The notecards winner is …

Joy! And since I have your address already, Joy, I'll get these headed your way. Congrats!

Valentine's Week Giveaway #3

I haven't found too many valentine postcards, so I was happy to pick up this one this year! I think this image is so sweet, and I love the thought that such sweet sentiments used to sail so openly through the mail!

Originally sent in 1920, this card reads: "Dear Aunt, I am well and hope you are the same. I am sorry my birthday is so near. from Leo." I wonder why Leo felt he needed to apologize to his aunt for his birthday being so near … Valentine's Day, presumably? Thoughts?

For today's giveaway, I thought I'd give one of you something that was a real hit when I shared my own copy of it the other day, this "I Love Tea! Stickers" booklet by Teresa Goodridge. If you'd like to be entered to win it, just leave an "Enter Me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST tomorrow, Feb. 11, and you'll be entered to win. Kindly include an email address or have a link for me to contact you if you're the winner. US and Canada only, please. Good luck!

Friday, February 9, 2018

The tea infuser goes to … Misty!

And I've just sent her an email, so hopefully she'll soon be sipping tea with the assistance of this new infuser. Congrats, Misty!

Valentine's Week Giveaway #2

One of the things I most enjoy about collecting vintage valentines is that they don't take up a lot of room! I'm out of storage space for many more teacups and teapots, but I don't think I'll ever be able to pass up a sweet valentine like this one that was once sent to someone's teacher!

I had a teacher named Gayle years ago, and I can easily picture her as a little girl, sending this card to a favorite teacher. I have no way of knowing whether this could possibly be true, but it's fun to imagine!

And while I don't give away my vintage cards, I'm happy to share a package of brand-new ones! These cute teacup thank-you notes were one of two boxes I found at a T.J. Maxx the other day, so I got one box for me and one for one of you! If you'd like to be entered to win it, just leave an "Enter Me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST tomorrow, Feb. 10, and you'll be entered to win. Kindly include an email address or have a link for me to contact you if you're the winner. US and Canada only, please. Good luck!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Valentine's Week Giveaway #1

Welcome to my annual Valentine's Week of giveaways! Every year I think I've probably discovered the last of the tea-themed vintage valentines, and yet each year I seem to find more. I found quite a few new ones this year and already have a head start on next year's valentines, so I'm hopeful that we'll have at least one more year of Valentine's Week giveaways. This valentine appealed to be because of the Kewpie-like little girl holding the tea tray next to a tea trolley like mine!

And it is signed "Bobby" on the back. I love the signatures and invent stories to go with all of them!

And for the first giveaway, I have a heart-shaped tea infuser I found on eBay and ordered from China weeks ago! I got the one on the left for me and the one on the right for one of you. If you'd like to be entered to win it, just leave an "Enter Me" comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST tomorrow, Feb. 9, and you'll be entered to win. Kindly include an email address or have a link for me to contact you if you're the winner. US only, please. Good luck!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Getting ready for Valentine's Week!



In preparation for Valentine's Week, which kicks off here tomorrow with seven days of giveaways, I thought I'd share a few of the pink and heart-themed goodies I've displayed on my tea trolley for the month. I was delighted to realize that family and friends gave me almost everything in this display, from the teapots and beautiful handcrafted cards to the teacups and even a teacup stand. (A friend who is downsizing had that in her car at Christmas and said she wondered if I wanted it or if she should just throw it out. I'm trying to downsize a little too, but let's not be ridiculous about it!) At any rate, please be sure to check back in the coming days as I share vintage tea-themed valentines as well as some goodies I'm so excited about giving away this year. The fun begins tomorrow!





 

Monday, February 5, 2018

"Kitchen Sink" Chocolate Chip Pan Cookies

Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies where you tossed in everything but the kitchen sink, as the saying goes? I experimented with a mash-up of several recipes this weekend, and the result was so good ("Perfect!" in the estimation of Mr. Tea With Friends) that I was asked to hurry up and write down exactly how I made these so that I can (perhaps) duplicate this success again! This recipe was actually prompted by two things. One, I had a lot of partial bags of baking chips left over from Christmas baking and …


Two, I had a pretty new cookie sheet I wanted to break in! This was a $5.99 find at T.J. Maxx the other day, and because of the pretty mint green color, I decided this pan might find its way into one of my future columns for The Coweta Shopper. (Which technically makes this a business expense. Ahem.)


So I decided to try to bake chocolate chip pan cookies, which I don't believe I've ever actually made before. They were quick and easy because I didn't have to take pans out of the oven every 10 minutes, and they were absolutely delicious!

I definitely suggest trying one (or two) of these cookies while they're hot from the oven. Oh. My. Goodness! If you'd like to try these for yourself, here's my recipe. I had my cookies with a nice strong cup of hazelnut tea, and it was a perfect afternoon tea treat!


"Kitchen Sink" Chocolate Chip Pan Cookies


3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups chocolate chips or other flavored chips (I used a combination of semisweet, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and caramel chips)
1/2 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 10 x 15-inch cookie sheet with aluminum foil, or prepare with cooking spray. In large bowl, cream butter using an electric mixer. Add eggs and combine using high speed of mixer. Add sugars and vanilla and combine. Next, use a spatula or large spoon to add the flour, soda, and salt, and combine well. Then fold in chocolate chips and pecans. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan and bake for 23-25 minutes, just until edges are beginning to brown. Let cool for a few minutes (if you can wait that long!) and cut into cookie squares of desired size. Enjoy!