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!

Friday, August 4, 2017

New tea titles are on the horizon

Have you seen any new tea books you'd recommend? I haven't, so I headed to Amazon and looked for tea books that are going to be published soon. I found quite a few titles that interest me, so I thought I'd share them here.

Tea & Empire, James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon by Angela McCarthy & T.M. Devine (coming September 19, 2017). The blurb: "This book brings to life for the first time the remarkable story of James Taylor, 'father of the Ceylon tea enterprise' in the nineteenth century. Publicly celebrated in Sri Lanka for his efforts in transforming the country's economy and shaping the world's drinking habits, Taylor died in disgrace and remains unknown to the present day in his native Scotland. Using a unique archive of Taylor's letters written over a 40-year period, Angela McCarthy and Tom Devine provide an unusually detailed reconstruction of a British planter's life in Asia at the high noon of empire."

Easy Leaf Tea: Tea House Recipes to Make at Home by Timothy d'Offay (coming November 7, 2017). The blurb: "Tea expert Timothy d’Offay starts with the very basics with a section on water and tea tools to make brewing easier, like the hoop jug that helps you get the water temperature right for your green tea in an instant and with minimal fuss. Then, as well as traditional ways of making tea, he explores new brewing methods such as Flow Brew, which involves brewing one tea through another to create an infusion, and Ambient Tea, a way of making tea pair better with food. There is a Cold Brew chapter as well as one for delicious sparkling teas, called Kitchen Colas, which you can make in the comfort of your own home with tea and a few other natural ingredients."

Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith, A Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery (coming Dec. 26, 2017). The blurb: "Daisy, a widowed mom of two teenagers, is used to feeling protective—so when Iris started dating the wealthy and not-quite-divorced Harvey Fitz, she worried … especially after his bitter ex stormed in and caused a scene at the party Daisy’s Tea Garden was catering. Then there was the gossip she overheard about Harvey’s grown children being cut out of his will. Daisy didn’t want her aunt to wind up with a broken heart—but she never expected Iris to wind up a suspect in Harvey’s murder. Now the apple bread and orange pekoe is on the back burner while the cops treat the shop like a crime scene—and Daisy hopes that Jonas Groft, a former detective from Philadelphia, can help her clear her aunt’s name and bag the real killer before things boil over …"

Creative Haven Teatime Coloring Book by Marty Noble (coming January 17, 2018). The blurb: "Inspired by historical tea culture and its modern popularity, 31 original designs to color include beautiful tea settings; whimsical arrangements of stacked tea cups and tea pots; and tea-related designs, patterns, and borders. They also include pictures based on vintage tea advertisements. Pages are perforated and printed on one side only for easy removal and display. Specially designed for experienced colorists, Teatime and other Creative Haven adult coloring books offer an escape to a world of inspiration and artistic fulfillment. Each title is also an effective and fun-filled way to relax and reduce stress."




Ladurée Tea Time: The Art of Taking Tea by Marie Simon, author, Hélène LeDuff, illustrator, and Marie-Pierre Morel, photographer (coming February 13, 2018). The blurb: "Tea time is a moment for sharing, when the mind wanders to faraway lands and calm returns to our crazy world. In Ladurée Tea Time, the iconic Parisian luxury patisserie pays tribute to this libation of the gods in its inimitable fashion. With mouthwatering photography and beautiful illustrations, the leaves of this chic book are steeped with tea-time menus and more than 60 sweet and savory recipes fit for Marie Antoinette."

Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas (coming February
13, 2018). The blurb: "Let Mat transport you to a sunny table adorned with fine china, the sound of birdsong, and the smell of the sea, for his ultimate collection of recipes from his latest book, Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe. Here, Mat has honed his unique experience and his passion for food. Recipes for Cakes and Scones include a classic Victoria Sandwich and a local Dorset Apple Cake. Slices and Tarts feature a Bakewell Slice, Individual Treacle Tarts, Bramble Cheesecake, and Raspberry Meringue Kisses. Delicious Cookies range from Lavender Shortbread and Rose Thins to Anzac Biscuits inspired by his Kiwi roots. Try Mat’s specialty Dainties and Patisserie such as Marshmallow Tea Cakes, and Camp Coffee and Caramel Eclairs. For the quintessentially British Afternoon Tea try Savories and Sandwiches including Classic Finger Sandwiches—Cucumber and Mint, Smoked Salmon and Dill, and Egg and Cress—Welsh Rarebit, Crab on Toast, or Cheese Choux. Finally, making the most of the ripest fruit, are recipes for irresistible Preserves and Cordials—a Bramble and Rose Jelly, Orange and Whiskey Marmalade, Lemon and Mandarin Curd, Apple and Pear Cordial, and Mat’s Elderflower Fizz."


A Literary Afternoon Tea: 55 Recipes for Savory Nibbles, Bite-Sized Sweets, and Custom Teas for Book Lovers by Alison Walsh (coming June 5, 2018). The blurb: "Tea and books: the perfect pairing. There's nothing quite like sitting down to a good book on a lovely afternoon with a steaming cup of tea beside you, as you fall down the rabbit hole into the imaginative worlds of Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, and Sherlock Holmes . . .  Fire up your literary fancies and nibble your way through delicate sweets and savories with A Literary Afternoon Tea, which brings food from classic books to life with a teatime twist. Featuring fifty-five perfectly portioned recipes for an afternoon getaway, including custom homemade tea blends and beverages, you will have everything you need to plan an elaborate tea party. Cook up and enjoy: Turkish Delight while sipping on the White Witch’s Hot Chocolate from The Chronicles of Narnia; Drink Me Tea with the Queen of Hearts’s Painted Rose Cupcakes from Alice in Wonderland; Eeyore’s “Hipy Bthuthday” Cake with Hundred Acre Hot Chocolate from Winnie the Pooh; Hannah’s Sweet Potato Bacon Pastries and Jo’s Gingerbread from Little Women; Tom Sawyer’s Whitewashed Jelly Doughnuts from Tom Sawyer; And more! Accompanied with photographs and book quotes, these recipes, inspired by the great works of literature, will complement any good book for teatime reading and eating."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Quilts Galore" by Gini Athey


"Outside of Green Bay, the rain stopped, but clouds still hung heavy in the sky. Setting my bags and coat aside, I quickly put the kettle on for tea. I couldn’t calm down or start and finish one thought without new ones intruding. William and I had always made decisions together, from the mundane choices about what to do for the holidays or whether we wanted a flagstone or concrete patio…"
From Quilts Galore by Gini Athey

When I was in Wisconsin in June, I visited a Green Bay quilt store that carried a local author's books that caught my eye. First in the series was Quilts Galore by Gini Athey, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it with you here.

Marianna Spencer is just beginning to find her way in life again following the death of her husband, William, two years ago. The two of them used to visit Wolf Creek, a small town near Green Bay, and Marianna decides to visit Wolf Creek by herself one day. There, she finds the quilt store she always liked to visit is for sale, and she impulsively decides to buy the shop for herself. When Marianna moves to Wolf Creek and lives above her newly purchased quilt shop, we as readers soon get acquainted with her neighbors and neighbor businesses, including a jewelry store, a coffee shop, an inn with fine dining, a garden shop, a clothing boutique, and a book store.

Meanwhile, there's quite an unexpected turn on the home front. Marianna was William's second wife, and he and his first wife had an adopted daughter from whom he had become estranged. Marianna had never even met the child, but one day, the teenage Rachel shows up at Marianna's door—with a baby—and confesses her mom has kicked her out and she and the baby have been living in a shelter. The messiness of this whole situation has the ring of truth, and I found myself pondering what I would do if such a teenager showed up needing my help yet I had no blood ties to her. I hope I would do as Marianna did and try to help the young woman and her infant son. I like that the author did not make this a rosy, life-is-perfect fairy tale but instead a heartwarming story with the bumps and bruises that are, in fact, part and parcel of life.

This book also inspired me to turn my attention back to quilting, or perhaps it's merely coincidence that I pieced more quilt blocks last month than I did in the entire year prior. Of course, I also loved the fact that Marianna, Rachel, and others seem to sip many cups of tea. I know that some of you would enjoy this lovely book as much as I did. Now I can't wait to start the next one in the series!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Making Peach Tea Ice Pops

Friends, I am going to share the easiest recipe you will ever find on this blog: Make some tea. Add some chunks of fruit if you like. Freeze it in ice pop molds. The end.

I got this idea when a thoughtful tea friend sent me a recipe for Black Tea Cherry Ice Pops that she found in a magazine. As soon as I saw it, I couldn't believe that I haven't made tea ice pops before, and I made a mental note to be on the lookout for ice pop molds. I happened to be in Walmart over the weekend and saw one of those end-of-aisle displays full of these molds for just 92 cents each. Sold!

I didn't have the ingredients on hand to make the Black Tea Cherry flavored pops (but plan to; they're made with black tea and honey and pureed cherries and sound divine!), but I was eager to try the molds, so I plopped in some peach-flavored green rooibos. I filled the cavities half full of tea, added a few pieces of fruit, and placed the mold in the freezer. I filled each cavity only halfway because otherwise, I knew the fruit would all float up to handle level. After the mold spent a few hours in the freezer, I added the rest of the tea and let the pops freeze completely. Then I lowered the entire mold in a pan of hot water to help the molds loosen slightly, and the pops popped out beautifully. Can't remember the last time I had this much fun for 92 cents!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The winner of the Tea Party Chocolate Making Set is ...

Donna Z.! And Donna, I've just sent you an email to confirm your snail mail address so that once I have it, I can get this headed your way. Congrats!

Experiments in tea-shaped candies

Well, friends, I finally got around to trying the new chocolate mold I recently purchased, and I'm happy to report I give myself a solid B+ for my first effort! I melted the new Sea Salt Caramel candy melts (from Hobby Lobby), quickly poured the liquid into the cavities of the mold, and when I checked on them later in the afternoon, they popped out quite nicely. I do see what are probably "air pockets" (see the teapot and the teacup at bottom), so perhaps I need to jiggle the mold next time as they tell you to do with cake batter sometimes.

I did wonder how hard it would be to clean the mold, but as you can see, there's no candy left behind, just the bits on the back from where I tried to level out the melted candy once I poured it in. The mold washed absolutely clean in just seconds, so I'm quite happy with this new chocolate mold!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some new tea goodies and some Tealeaves tea!

So the mailbox turned up a surprise package from Frances in California, and the goodies inside included this gorgeous tea towel and three new-to-me teas! 

Now a word about this tea towel. It's that beautiful aqua blue color I'm so crazy about these days, and look how it mirrors the pattern on my aqua teacup from Windsor Castle!

Once I got past my excitement over this charming tea towel, I realized I had three new tea bags to sample, all from Tealeaves, a Canadian company. So far I've tried only the "Relax" blend, which I assumed would have chamomile, and it did, but I must say it was the best chamomile blend I've ever had. All the ones I've tried before are one-note chamomiles, with that one distinctive taste and nothing else. This "Relax" tea, however, was quite complex and delicious. Here's the description I found on the Tealeaves website: "This herbal blend is widely treasured for the ingredients' soothing properties; the marriage of passion flowers and valerian root naturally soothe the nerves and relieve anxiety and tension, while boosting the immune system. Helps the body unwind with chamomile blossoms, french lavender, lemon balm, rose petals, and vitamin C." If you'd like to learn more about Tealeaves teas, click here. (And thank you, Frances, for the new tea towel AND for introducing me to a new tea vendor!)

Monday, July 24, 2017

July Giveaway: Tea Party Chocolate Making Set

I found these cute Tea Party Chocolate Making Sets at T.J. Maxx the other day for just $3.99, and I decided that in addition to nabbing one for myself, I also needed to get one for the July giveaway!

Disclaimer: I haven't actually had time to try mine yet, but at $3.99, I'm willing to give it a whirl. The molds have several designs, but of course the teacup and teapot are my favorites.

The set also comes with four teapot-shaped cards with recipes for various flavors of the chocolates. I'm pretty sure some tea-shaped treats will be showing up on my tea table soon! If you'd like to win the giveaway set, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. Friday, July 28, and you'll be entered to win. U.S. and Canada only, please. Good luck!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thrifty housewives

Today it's almost trendy to be "thrifty," and a few years ago, I began to see women write on their blogs about going "thrifting," which was their way of describing a shopping trip to their local thrift stores. But I found a video on the Library of Congress website that reminded me that being "thrifty" was once very much a necessity.

The video is titled "Food Thrift: Scraps from the Past," and in it, narrator Constance Carter shares some of the clever ways that housewives of yesteryear managed to feed their families during hard times. I was especially intrigued by the substitutions for tea, and if you click on the video here, around the 10:30 mark, you'll find out what some of these were!

(And for my fellow history lovers, you can also find a link to the transcript here.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Christmas in July—the annual reminder

As I do every year, I like to issue my annual Public Service Announcement and remind everyone that when you hear about those Christmas-in-July sales, please don't forget that *now* is the time to start looking for tea-themed Christmas goodies if you want to get the best prices—and selection. A case in point? I bought a "Cup of Christmas Tea" teacup and saucer in mint condition at Goodwill the other day for $2.52.

This set is in such great condition that even the sticker on the bottom of the saucer appears pretty unworn. I was delighted to find this lovely set, and it will join another of these sets found at an antique mall for $12.99. (And I had thought that was a great price!) I note with interest that it's the 25th anniversary of the Tom Hegg book upon which this pattern is based, A Cup of Christmas Tea. Maybe those of us who consider ourselves fans of the book—and of tea—should do something special to celebrate. (Ideas?)

And since I obviously had Christmas on my mind that day, I also found a new teacup Christmas ornament at Hobby Lobby. Yes, my friends, the Christmas decorations are already out, and you know that if you snooze, you lose, so ... keep an eye out. These cute ornaments are $4.99 but only $3 if you use the 40-percent-off coupon, which I typically pull up on my iPhone as I'm standing in line. Anyone come across any more tea-themed Christmas goodies we need to know about? Christmas will be here before we know it!

Monday, July 17, 2017

A visit to the Steep Tea House in Canton

On Saturday I tried out a new tea spot in Canton, Georgia, along with my tea friend Joy, her friend Sandy, and a new friend Joy had met on the Afternoon Tea Across America Facebook group, Trisha. When we first heard of it, the tea house didn't appear to serve afternoon tea, only lunch type offerings and an extensive list of teas, and that was fine. Late last week, however, Joy discovered the Steep Tea House was now offering afternoon tea some days, including Saturday from 2-4 p.m., so we all agreed we'd rather change our "lunch" plans to "afternoon tea" plans, and as it turned out, that made Trisha's tea-loving husband, Jeremy, decide to join us as well.

And here we all are: Trisha, Jeremy, me, Sandy, and Joy.

They have about 50 teas available, I believe, and we each ordered a different one. The teas were served in small individual teapots with warmers, and I liked the crisp, clean look of the white teawares. I ordered the Apple and Fig Tea, which was excellent. Because we were all sharing, I also got to enjoy some of Joy's Southern Belle blend and Jeremy's Assam tea. I liked both of those as well, and I was particularly impressed that the Assam was prepared properly and not oversteeped.

Frankly, I'm not sure any of us had any idea what this particular "afternoon tea" would be like, we just knew we were game to try it. To make sure I was good and hungry, I'd eaten only a pastry for breakfast, so I was famished by the time 2 p.m. rolled around. The sandwiches came not on a three-tiered server but on individual plates. The flavors were chicken salad on mini croissants (my favorite), a cucumber and dill cream cheese, and pimiento cheese. They were quite filling.

Interestingly, our server then came back to take our "scone order." I don't guess I've ever ordered my scone at teatime, so I found that intriguing. (Not bad, mind you, just different.) Our choices were Apple Crumble and Strawberry Shortcake, and three of us ordered apple, and two, including me, ordered the strawberry. These were the Apple Crumble scones.

And these were the Strawberry Shortcake scones. Both were served with lemon curd and cream. They tasted good, but we all agreed these were not traditional, light, biscuit-type scones. They were so crumbly (both flavors) that we ate them with our forks, yet I happily polished off every bite of mine. I didn't mind so much, but I have a feeling those who've had typical scones might not have been pleased with this type of scone.

I was a little surprised when no sweets course followed, yet after eating all of the tea sandwiches and the large scone, I was quite full. When we got our checks, I was also surprised to realize our tea was only $15, which I thought was fair considering that the amount of food was less than you usually get at afternoon tea. So while the Steep Tea House is not the sort of place I would visit if I were in search of a traditional white-gloves-and-bone-china-teacups type of experience, I did enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and, of course, the excellent company! I probably won't be a repeat customer for their afternoon tea unless they decide to go with an expanded, traditional type of tea service, but I would gladly return for lunch there if I were in the Canton area. And the employees (especially the beautiful young lady who was our server) were quite accommodating and attentive. I'd classify this as a new and more modern type of tea experience, and best of all, it was another happy day enjoyed with tea and friends!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Souvenirs from our visit to the Grand Hotel

Souvenir shopping is always fun, and I thought I'd share the goodies I came home with as mementos from my recent visit to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island! I always like to pick up those inexpensive guidebooks, and in the one above, I learned that Somewhere in Time wasn't the only film featuring the Grand Hotel. Esther Williams (for whom the Grand Hotel's swimming pool is named today) starred in 1947's This Time for Keeps, which was also partly filmed there.

My most intriguing souvenir purchase was this Dessert Notebook, which is fastened together sort of like a book of index cards. Frankly, I wish they'd just made it a spiral-bound book, because this is not going to be very convenient to use without bending the stiff cardboard pages, but ... recipes. So I had to have it, right?

You won't be surprised to hear that my favorite souvenir from this trip is the one I'll bet every tea lover gets, the teacup and saucer ornament in the signature Camellia Rose pattern.

And as a writer, I am absolutely nuts about pens, so this one was a must for recording thoughts and ideas from my trip. What's your favorite souvenir to look for? Books, teawares, and pens are mine ... not necessarily in that order. I'd love to know what you look for!



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tea Garden at the Grand Hotel

I enjoyed my visit to Mackinac Island in late June, but I must say that my favorite place was not even the parlor of the Grand Hotel where I had afternoon tea. No, it was this beautiful tea garden and fountain so lavishly spread out on the grounds below the hotel! I entered via the staircase you see at far left above, and that's where I immediately saw tucked away … 

These beautiful peonies with a gorgeous piece of artwork in the background.

I adore peonies and love to admire them on the rare occasions I see them.

This bright pink one was simply breathtaking!

The foot of the staircase led me to the lawn, where a game of croquet was in progress.

From this angle, the croquet players could see Lake Huron in the distance.

On the advice of my scouting husband, I headed back behind the tea garden and found a lovely greenhouse filled with geraniums, the hotel's signature flower. I read on the Grand Hotel website that the front porch flowers include 2,500 geraniums, and more than 5,200 geraniums can be found in all of the flower beds combined. That's a lot of geraniums!

Now I didn't actually see any tea plants in the garden, but the so-called "tea gardens" of yesteryear were also designed for drinking tea and strolling, and they were sometimes called pleasure gardens as well. Who wouldn't find "pleasure" in seeing a giant topiary in the shape of one of the island's famous horse-drawn carriages? Below are a few of the other tea garden snapshots I took that day, and as you can see, I do love flowers. And considering that it was almost July when I took these, I remain astonished that the mild climate there in Michigan makes these lovely flowers possible at this time of year!








And if you enjoy tea and gardens, you'll enjoy Bernideen's "Tea in the Garden" link-up party today. You can find it here!