Monday, October 3, 2022

A Bridesmaids Tea for Madison!


My oldest niece, Madison (center), is getting married in December, and I offered to host the bridesmaids tea. I told her I could either do it myself or we could go to a tearoom, and when I offered her the option of the Swan Coach House in Atlanta, that's what she chose. And I'm so glad, because that's also where I hosted a bridesmaids luncheon for her mom, my sister, Rhonda, thirty years ago!

See that glass-enclosed room on the second floor? That's where we had tea, a private room called Sally's Porch. If you're in the area, you probably already know the history of the place, but for those of you who aren't: the Swan Coach House is located on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center near the historic Swan House mansion. The house was owned by the Inmans, a prominent Atlanta family who helped rebuild the town following the Civil War. And Emily Inman loved swans, so when you visit the Swan House (well worth a visit), you'll see swan motifs throughout the house. And while I haven't seen these movies, I understand the Swan House has been featured in the Hunger Games movies. The Swan Coach House was, as you might guess, originally the carriage house.

On Saturday, this old carriage house was the site of our tea.

I loved all the pretty vintage teacups. 

After I booked the tea, I received a menu of selections and was asked to choose four savories and three desserts, so I tried to select a wide array of things since I had no idea what these bridesmaids might like. The good thing was that Madison told me not one of them had any food allergies I needed to worry about. (Hurrah!)

All the teas come with a first course consisting of a Cheese Ring with Strawberry Preserves and Crackers, Scones and Lemon Curd, and Cheese Straws. The Cheese Ring was a real hit with Amelia, my youngest niece.

For the savories, I chose  Chicken Salad in Phyllo Cups, Spanakopita (my favorite), Mini Quiches, and Assorted Finger Sandwiches (to include cucumber, which is Madison's favorite, and they obliged).

For the desserts, I chose Key Lime Tarts (a real hit), Chocolate Toffee Pecan Bars, and of course Miniature French Silk Swans. If you eat lunch here during the week, you pretty much have to get a regular French Silk Swan, which consists of a meringue base filled with chocolate mousse and topped with Chantilly cream and almonds, all in the shape of a swan. I liked having the mini one even better since I didn't have to commit to just one thing for dessert!

In addition to the bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom, and me, Aunt Jane was attending. I thought it was so sweet that Madison asked if she could invite her great-aunt to the tea just because she knew she would enjoy it.

Here's Madison with her mom as well as the mom and stepmom of her groom, Logan.

Those of you who've been reading this blog for many years might be interested in seeing how "the little girls" I used to give tea parties for have grown up. Here are nieces Amelia, Madison, and Cari today. I love these girls so much, and I'm so happy that tea has been with us for their entire lives.

And despite predictions of rain, rain, rain early in the week, we couldn't have had a more gorgeous day to enjoy this tea. And coming soon … a wedding!

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The winner of the chai hand soap is …

 The winner of the hand soap giveaway is Daniele K. Congrats!

Friday, September 30, 2022

"The Collected Cottage" by Kathryn Crisp Greeley

I know that many of you are fans of dishes, glassware, silver, and flowers. If you’re also a fan of lavishly illustrated home-decorating books, I am happy to recommend a new one that I’ve added to my library, The Collected Cottage by Kathryn Crisp Greeley. Years ago, I was at an Atlanta boutique, browsing the shop’s many fine offerings, when I spotted her first book, The Collected Tabletop. Her belief in tables (and homes) being “collected, not decorated” immediately resonated with me, and I loved how she went into exquisite detail about her table wares and the occasions on which she uses them. (Also, the book's recipe for Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve made it for my family, for the shut-in ministry at church, and even for local law enforcement at the local Public Safety Luncheon, where one burly officer who'd just heard how good it was asked for a large slice and said, “God bless you, ma’am!”)

As soon as I heard she had a new book out, I ordered it and eagerly awaited its arrival. This book is huge (9-1/2 x 12 inches), and its 376 pages are filled with photos and text that I have been poring over and savoring. I don't buy a lot of these "coffee table" type books because they tend to feature cold-looking homes that don't appear to be actually lived in. Greeley's Chestnut Cottage in North Carolina appears to be very much a home, and "the good china" gets regular use. I can't see flow blue china now without thinking of her collection.

She's clearly passionate about entertaining, and she seems quite gifted at selecting just the right china, crystal, flatware, and gifts for her guests. Everything on these tables is just so lovely and thoughtfully chosen.

Of course, her love for a good tea party is what I like best! It has occurred to me that all of my cozy mysteries so far have featured characters who are also "collectors." I can't help thinking my imaginary friends would enjoy this book, and I know some of you will too!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Gallivanting through the countryside … and finding tea!

On Sundays after church, Alex and I have started taking short road trips to local spots within an hour or two of home. We've made some fun discoveries, and this past Sunday, we headed south to Manchester and Warm Springs. These old smoke stacks were at the site of an old textile mill.

They're right across from a lovely pond, so picturesque on a nice fall day.

These visitors sure loved it!

Then we headed to Warm Springs, where we enjoyed some great barbecue and a little shopping. I bought some rhinestone jewelry for myself and for a friend's Christmas gift, and I also found a new flavor of Piper & Leaf Loose Tea that seemed perfect for fall, their Sweetie Pie Chai.

When I pulled the resealable pouch out of their signature logo bag, I was pleased to see that I could inspect the tea without even opening it. It contains Sweet Potato, Cinnamon, Tulsi, Ginger, Licorice Root, Clove, Organic Flavor, and Cassia Oil.

Spicy and sweet, this "root and herb infusion" was a great "dessert tea" and one that I am now sipping my way through like nobody's business! I don't always find tea on our jaunts through the local countryside, but it's sure nice when I do.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Fall Giveaway: Toasted Vanilla Chai Hand Soap and Soap Holder!

Now here's an item I don't believe I've ever given away before, a bottle of hand soap and a soap holder from Bath & Body Works! I got a nice B&BW coupon in the mail and decided to stock up on fall soaps, and I realized this would be a fun giveaway for one of you who might enjoy a new hand soap too!

I love it when the fall flavors and scents arrive. I've already had Pumpkin Spice Moon Pies and a Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pumpkin Spice Oreos. Some Pumpkin Spice Shortbread (made with tea) is on the way to my mailbox, so hopefully you'll hear about that soon, but this Toasted Vanilla Chai hand soap is my new fall treat for the week, and some lucky winner will be getting one too.

Along with this soap holder.

'Cause nothing says fall like pumpkins, right? 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 Saturday, October 1, making sure I have a way to contact you if you're the winner, and you'll be entered to win. (US only, please.) I realize Blogger has been doing weird things lately, so if you have trouble entering here on the blog, please feel free to enter via the Tea With Friends page on Facebook or email me your entry at angelamcrae at charter dot net. Good luck! 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Twinings "Glow" Tea with Strawberry and Cucumber

And once again, the tea aisle at Ollie's has captured my attention, this time with the "Glow" green tea blend from Twinings. 

Nettle and strawberry and cucumber in a green tea? Well, why not? When I got home and tried it, I was very pleased with the subtle strawberry taste with what sure seemed like a hint of mint. Indeed it was, as the ingredients include green tea, apple pieces, stinging nettle, natural strawberry and cucumber flavors, peppermint, and "steviol glycosides," which I learned are the compounds in Stevia.

When I looked up this tea on the Twinings website in the UK, I was surprised to see that *their* Glow blend is a peach-flavored white tea. Will that one come to the US eventually as well? That would be fine, but I sure like this one!


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A fabulous surprise: Alice in Wonderland Scentsy Warmer

 I stepped outside to get the mail one evening recently and had a box from Scentsy sitting on the doorstep. I knew the name of this company that produces those lovely scented wax warmers, but I've never owned one. I was about to take the box to my next-door neighbor, whose packages are occasionally left here by mistake, when I realized my name was on the package. What on earth? I opened it and was absolutely delighted to learn that my friend Alicia had surprised me with their new Alice in Wonderland Scentsy Warmer! (I at first typed "Alicia in Wonderland." Freudian slip, ha!)

I have always loved artwork and notecards featuring a stack of teacups, so it's absolutely brilliant that Scentsy made this warmer with that design!

And I wondered about the 10/6 in the design and googled it. Turns out, the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland wore a hat costing ten shillings and six pence, so 10/6 became known as Mad Hatter Day. How fun!

In a bit of excellent planning, designers made the top teacup lift off so you can empty it of wax if you'd like to use another scent, although I am currently loving this "Berry Blessed" scent.

I actually received four wax bars with my warmer, so I will be enjoying this beautiful, fun gift for many scented hours to come. I think you can probably sense how absolutely delighted I was to receive this! Have any of you used Scentsy warmers before? I'm definitely a fan now!

Monday, September 19, 2022

A vintage teatime tablecloth for fall

When I bought those avocado-green glass dishes the other weekend, I knew immediately that I didn't have a fall tablecloth that would go with them. The tablecloths I had just wouldn't work, so I looked on eBay and found a small vintage tablecloth that I'm using as a topper and layering with a favorite crocheted tablecloth. I just love the colors of the teapots and teacups here …

And here.

And here.

I'm still looking for a few things to add to this table, but I thought you might enjoy seeing the beginnings of some new fall table decor, all inspired by $9 worth of dishes from Goodwill!

Friday, September 16, 2022

The winner of the two tickets to the tea ceremony is …

Julia D.! Congratulations, and I hope those of you in the Anderson, S.C., area have a fun time at this event!

Ready for Fall Tea Time

The new issue of Tea Time has arrived, and it reminded me of something Tea Time–related that I meant to share! If you've read the magazine for years, you've no doubt read articles by British tea expert Jane Pettigrew. I have several of her books and met her at a World Tea Expo many years ago, and she was just as lovely as I'd expected. Well, she emailed me the other morning asking to use some of my photos to accompany one of her upcoming articles in Tea Time! I was so honored she would want to use them that I immediately said yes and sent her the photos. I believe it's going to be in the January/February 2023 issue, so that's going to be something fun to look forward to. Meanwhile, I am delighted to start thinking of new fall teatime treats thanks to this new issue.

Now first, I have to share a chintz design I don't believe I've ever seen before, the one on this Royal Winton Grimwades Peony chintz teapot. Isn't it gorgeous? I'm not normally a fan of black-and-white tea wares, but I absolutely love this.

The fall treats in the September/October issue are some of my favorites each year, and this spread shows some particularly yummy-looking ones.

Did you note these Spiced Apple Parfaits? I love the presentation, perhaps because I have these very dessert glasses, and I also love these flavors. I've already made an Apple-Pecan cobbler this fall (I'll try to share the recipe here soon), and now I've got even more new fall treats to try. Are you doing any fall baking yet?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Remembering Queen Elizabeth

I was in the middle of a telephone call last week when my husband came to my office door and held up his cellphone, a news site's headline declaring that Queen Elizabeth II had just passed away. We'd been wondering about her health since that morning, when early news reports said that her family had been summoned to Balmoral and that doctors were "concerned" for her health. I know that if the Lord delays his return, we will all face death eventually, but honestly, I just didn't want the Queen to die.

Why? As an American, I'm sure I don't feel the loyalty her subjects do, but there was so much to admire about Queen Elizabeth. She was referred to in some documentary last week as an "accidental" queen, since she never would have had the job if her uncle hadn't abdicated. Yet as a Christian, I believe there are no accidents, and I can't help thinking that God handpicked her to serve for the time that she did. Could anyone have possibly done a better job of serving in post–World War II England? I can't think of a soul who could have.

Sure, she was beautiful and elegant and had that bit of royal fairy dust that all little girls want, yet I got the impression that duty—to God, country, and family—is what motivated her most. I'm such an introvert that when I think of having to go to all those meetings and grand openings and hospitals and official visits with my hand stuck out to complete strangers, it makes me want to crawl in bed and pull the covers up over my head.

Of course, the Queen's fondness for afternoon tea and Earl Grey was something I always enjoyed reading about. Here's a photo from a book I read years ago, The Royal Shopping Guide, and it pictured the young Princess Elizabeth taking tea with her family. So many of my happiest teatime memories involve, in a very real sense, the Royal Family. On my 50th birthday, my husband and I had tea at Fortnum and Mason and enjoyed Coronation Chicken tea sandwiches using the recipe said to have been created in honor of her coronation. I hosted a tea for friends when William and Kate married, and a girlfriend came over the morning of Harry and Meghan's wedding for a light tea as well.

I was pondering which one quality I admired most about the Queen, and I realized it wasn't her sense of duty, profound as that has been. I value loyalty above many, many other qualities, and she by all accounts remained a loyal, trustworthy sovereign to the British people from the moment she came to the throne seventy years ago. She was so honorable, in fact, that I heard that one of her former prime ministers, Tony Blair, claimed the only two people he could count on not to leak information were his wife and his Queen. I'll bet that, like me, many of you, too, have admired the Queen and were sad to hear of her death. If you're a fellow royal watcher, what will you miss about Queen Elizabeth?

Monday, September 12, 2022

A fun giveaway: Tickets to attend a Kimono and Tea Ceremony in Anderson, South Carolina!

So who are my readers in the Anderson, South Carolina area? I got to visit the charming Carolina Parakeet Tea and Gifts myself several years ago when I was a speaker there, the guest of owner Donna Siemen. I am delighted that the shop is marking the fifth anniversary of its brick-and-mortar location this month, and to celebrate, Donna has offered to give one of my readers *two free tickets* to attend a Kimono and Tea Ceremony Demonstration with Tea Master Reiko Blackwell, shown above, on Saturday, October 1, from 2-4 p.m. So are you in the area or willing to drive there? I wish I could!

According to her bio, "Reiko Blackwell has been practicing the 'Cha no Yu' Tea Ceremony for more than forty years. She has demonstrated widely in the upstate region and beyond, including several performances at Furman University’s Place of Peace. She also is proficient at Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. She holds an instructor’s license in Kyudo, the study of the Japanese long bow. All of these are elements of Japanese culture."

So if you would like to be entered to win the tickets and be a part of the Kimono and Tea Ceremony with Reiko at Carolina Parakeet on October 1 (photos from my visit are shown here), just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, September 16, and you'll be entered to win them! Please make sure I have an email address where I can contact you if you do win, and that way, I can put you in touch with my friend Donna. Good luck!

Coming Wednesday: Some thoughts on the passing of Queen Elizabeth