Thursday, April 30, 2009

May/June 2009 Tea Time Magazine

A month or so ago, I was in a store and *almost* bought this neat-looking "brownie pan" with individual squares so your brownies would all have lovely, rounded corners. Tempting though it was, I resisted, thinking, "Now why do I really need that when I can just cut them into squares myself?" Why? I'll tell you why. Have you seen the cover of the new Tea Time? What is featured but White Silk Tartlets made using square tartlet pans, and that brownie pan would have been perfect for these! Sigh.

I'm intrigued that Tea Time's cover calls these tartlets "Our Best Dessert Ever!" That's a pretty bold statement to make for a magazine that's been dishing up all manner of desserts for quite a few years now. These tartlets are made with white chocolate and heavy cream, which sounds yummy, so I'll have to make them and see if I agree.

The most interesting feature in this issue is one that's particularly timely, recipes for a Kentucky Derby Tea. The big race is coming up Saturday, and yesterday our magazine's customer service rep in Kentucky told me everyone is excited and a bit worried about rain on race day. Oh, to be there myself! If you're into the Derby Day festivities, do not miss this issue of Tea Time. There are recipes for Herbed Shrimp on Grits Cakes, Mint Julep Profiteroles served in tiny little silver cups, and my favorite item on this menu, horseshoe-shaped tea sandwiches. Clever!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"The True History of Tea"

Last night I finally finished a new book I've been reading for the past few weeks, "The True History of Tea" by Victor H. Mair and Erling Hoh. I must confess I nearly quit at several points along the way. This was at times such dense reading I felt I was stuck reading a college textbook. I'm glad I finished it, however, because I learned a lot about tea's rich history, including the parts I really wasn't that interested in (pretty much everything that occurred before the discovery of English Afternoon Tea).

That said, here is some of the noteworthy tea trivia I gleaned along the way:

-- "Tsiology = the art and science of tea." (I've never come across that word before. Have you?)

-- A chapter on "The Tea and Horse Trade" says that "in 1078, one Tibetan horse cost 100 catties of Sichuan tea."

-- John Wesley, founder of Methodism, debated what he thought was the "sinfulness of tea-drinking" and for 12 years gave up the habit, but later resumed tea drinking "on the advice of his physician" and had a half-gallon teapot made just for him by Josiah Wedgwood.

-- After the war, George Washington ordinarily had tea at both breakfast and supper at Mount Vernon.

-- Mao Zedong rinsed with green tea rather than brushing his teeth.

The book also has some great photos I've not seen before, including the first English silver teapot and a photograph from 1840 said to be the first-ever photograph of a tea party. So while this book is not exactly light reading, I still find it valuable as a reference book (there's a nice index) and will no doubt turn to it again in the future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We're sending the socks to ...

... Loretta J! If you'll send your snail mail address to, I'll get these in the mail to you. Congrats!

Displaying vintage teapot earrings

Recently my costume jewelry has become a bit of a jumble, so I decided it was time to get organized. I really like to display and store things in non-traditional ways, so I am organizing my vintage teapot earrings (and a couple of vintage bracelets) by attaching them to the edge of an old pink ruffled vase, and I rather like the effect. The interesting thing I wanted to mention about these pieces (some of which were just 99 cents and a dollar or so for shipping on eBay) is that they all feature the exact same teapot design. Some of these I've shown before, but I hope at least a few of the designs will be new to you.

Here are some rhinestone ruby earrings I wore last Christmas.

These pearl ones are a tad on the gaudy side, and the gold is brassy and discolored, but I like them anyway.

I have sometimes worn these plain silver teapot earrings as my "everyday earrings."

And though I normally prefer silver and white gold, I needed a pair of gold earrings last year and these fit the bill.

This bracelet is signed Monet, and inside the circle is that same old teapot design that's on all these earrings.

Finally, this gold charm bracelet is a bit discolored, but I liked that it had both a teacup and teapot with pearls on them. Do you happen to have any pieces featuring this ever-present teapot design?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sock it to me!

The other night I was driving home from a trip to the Jo-Ann store in Fayetteville when I got behind a car with this license plate: "6FT2GAL." Now I dearly love a good license plate, so I told my husband about it, and he very practically pointed out, "You know, that's not the kind of thing you really have to announce." Indeed! So I guess you could say "feet" were on my mind that evening because when I was at the Jo-Ann store I came across some great little footie socks in their $1 bins. (Technically they are now the $2.50 bins, but I first knew them as the $1 bins, so that's what I call them.) There were several footie designs featuring coffee mugs and teacups. They were marked two pair for $2.50, but they were on sale and rang up 97 cents for two pair if any of you have a Jo-Ann nearby and want to look for these.

Also on the theme of coffee/tea/chocolate, I found this adorable tin of mints the other day at Hastings. Even though it's mochaccino flavor, I believe this can qualify as a "tea lover's treat" because the tin is clearly teacup-shaped.

And guess what? I'm giving away the above socks and mints today, along with some brand new samples of Mighty Leaf Tea, to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment between now and 7 a.m. EST Tuesday and you'll be entered to win. Good luck!

(P.S. Here are the socks I got for myself, in case you want to look for them when you visit Jo-Ann. The bottom pair was an orphaned set, so I imagine there's at least one more cute design out there!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #17 - GenMaiCha

When I opened this week's tea sample, I thought just one word: Granola! But the tea didn't *taste* like granola ...

Category: Japanese Green Tea

Purveyor: Harney & Sons

When purchased: March 2009

Dry leaf appearance:
I knew this tea was supposed to have rice in it, but I wasn't expecting the mini-kernels of popcorn! (And yes, out of curiosity I did eat one of the pieces of toasted rice popcorn, which tasted just like stale regular popcorn.)

Wet leaf appearance: Like you accidentally mixed a spoonful of leftover rice from the previous night's dinner with your green tea.

Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 190 degrees, 2 minutes.

Scent: I have liked so many of the teas I've tried this year, it was high time I found one I didn't much care for! And I didn't much care for this one. I wasn't even *thinking* about the rice in the tea, but as soon as the hot water hit the tea leaves I caught a strong scent of rice cakes. I'd just as soon eat styrofoam, so having this scent in my tea was not something I enjoyed.

Color: A pale green.

I like rice, a lot, so I was surprised at how very much I disliked this tea. Apparently my palate can live with last week's "fish tea" but not with this week's "rice tea."

Additional notes: According to the book, "Once considered a cheap peasant beverage, GenMaiCha has recently come into vogue among Japanese urban elite and in the United States as a health drink." (But I'll be sticking with some of the other Chinese and Japanese greens as my "health drink.")

Next week's tea: Hojicha

Friday, April 24, 2009

The roses are in bloom ...

... and I think that embroidered flowers are almost as pretty as live ones! I also think I've been a bit long-winded with some of my posts this week, so I'm going to leave you with this simple photo and a wish for a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Knitting and Tea" by Jane Gottelier

What a brilliant idea! That's all I could think when I learned of the book "Knitting and Tea," written by Jane Gottelier and photographed by her husband, Patrick Gottelier. The husband and wife fashion designers, who teach in Cornwall, have a unique perspective on combining the twin loves of tea and knitting. She grew up going to English tea rooms with her parents and sister, and he was raised on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka by his English tea planter father. Cool!

I am hard pressed to say whether I liked the tea information or the knitting designs best in this book, so I'll just say this: Even if I did not knit (and I am still a newbie knitter), I would enjoy reading this book. Its various chapters were inspired by tea plantations and tea rooms. This gorgeous Garden Jacket, for instance, is one of my favorite projects in the book (I love the garden fork and trowel) and appears in the chapter titled "Green Tea." It is inspired by the Tregothnan Tea Plantation, which grows the only black and green tea produced in England. I was especially interested in this chapter because a generous tea friend recently shared some Tregothnan tea with me (and it was delicious)!

In addition to the garments, which are lovely, there are quite a few cozies, my favorite being this Cupcake Tea Cozy from the chapter "Afternoon Tea." The book includes recipes from several tea rooms, and I also enjoyed reading about "Strawberry Teas" (tea is served along with strawberries and ice cream at a cricket club in Dimbula) and the "Builder's Tea" (a cheap, stout tea preferred by British construction workers). And thanks to this book, I now have a new destination for my bucket list, The Tea Factory in Sri Lanka. This is a tea factory that's been converted to an award-winning hotel, and you can pluck your own tea which will then be processed and packaged for you. All this AND a book filled with terrific knitting designs? I'm impressed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tea & Azaleas

About a year ago, I visited an old friend who had invited me over to see her azaleas and rhododendrons (which she grows and sells) and really grew to appreciate the flowers more than ever. That afternoon, I stopped by Hastings and found on the clearance rack a wonderful British book by Jane Brown titled "Tales of the Rose Tree: Ravishing Rhododendrons and Their Travels Around the World." I can't explain quite why I was so drawn to this book, I just knew I had to read it, if for no other reason to help me understand the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas. From the book: "All azaleas are rhododendrons." (So what's the difference? The UGA Extension Service explains, "All azaleas are rhododendrons, and both are in the genus Rhododendron. The term 'rhododendron,' however, is commonly used to refer to the group of plants usually with large, leathery, evergreen foliage, while 'azalea' refers to those with smaller, thinner leaves.")

I began to have an "aha" moment when I read this: "Old as they are, rhododendrons are descended from the more ancient magnolia (Magnoliaceae) and tea (Theaceae) families and so have ancestral connections to the tulip trees (linodendron), camellias, stewartias and the franklinia." Now isn't that a new reason to appreciate our southern azaleas! Writing about the early plant collectors, Brown mentions the famous "Wardian case" that came into use in the 1830s and "revolutionized the transport of plants." Brown says that "all this was not, of course, for the Chinese azaleas, but for serious economic crops such as tea and cotton. John Reeves, as keen a gardener as he was a progressive tea inspector, suggested to his friends in the Horticultural Society that a collector should be sent to China, ostensibly to look into tea planting but also one with a good eye for garden plants." So I don't think it's a stretch to say we can at least partly thank tea for our enjoyment of azaleas in springtime! These soft red ones are in bloom at my house.

I was so in love with azaleas and rhododendrons last spring, I used an eBay gift card from DH to buy this cup and saucer bearing their likeness. Roses are normally my favorite flower on teawares, but once I learned the connection between tea and azaleas, I thought it needed to be honored with a teacup!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A postlet about wristlets

Steph recently celebrated a birthday and shared on her blog a particularly wonderful gift she had received, a Teacup Wristlet from her friend Sweetcakes. If you're a regular reader of Steph, as I am, you know that Sweetcakes is rather legendary as a friend, seamstress and baker extraordinaire. I commented on Steph's blog about how wonderful the wristlet would be for storing my iPod, and lo and behold, Sweetcakes was kind enough to make one for me. And here it is!

Is this not just about the prettiest thing you've ever seen? It's not just stitched, quilted, embellished and be-handled, it's also ... be-zippered. I officially don't do zippers. I stand in awe of people who do zippers. To say I am thrilled with my new wristlet would be quite an understatement!

A few weeks ago, I thought I had lost my iPod. I've been having issues with leaving either the earphones or the USB port at the office, greatly affecting my ability to keep up with the Barnes and Noble "Meet the Writers" podcasts (which are excellent, by the way). Now I have a solution for keeping all those pieces together, and it couldn't be a more stylish one. Thank you so much, Sweetcakes!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A vintage tablecloth & "mats"

Since several of you happened to notice and comment on that vintage tablecloth from the traveling tea party last Thursday, I thought I'd tell you about it. This was one of my more unique vintage finds, and it's a 22-inch-square tablecloth with corners featuring appliqued teacups, plates, a teapot, and a creamer and sugar.

The curious thing to me, though, was that this cloth came with four more matching applique pieces that were described as "mats," but they are just about 7-8 inches wide, so these would be nearly hidden by the average cup and saucer set. They are exact duplicates of the corner appliques on the tablecloth.

Want to know my theory? Since I have so many UFO's myself ("unfinished objects," in crafter jargon), I can't help wondering if the needleworker was supposed to make *two* of these little tablecloths but never got around to sewing the four appliques onto the second cloth. The only kink in that theory is that the top edges of these pieces are finished off, and had I been making the tablecloth I'd have attached them directly to the fabric. (I think.) At any rate, whoever found these pieces kept them together (fortunately for me), and thus the story of the unfinished pieces being "mats." What do you think?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #16 - Bancha

Just when I thought perhaps the teas were going to start looking and tasting alike, this week's sample was a surprise in just about every respect!

Purveyor: Harney & Sons

When purchased: March 2009

Dry leaf appearance:
After the fine, almost spice-like appearance of some of the recent Japanese greens, I was surprised to see thicker dark green leaves once again.

Wet leaf appearance: This tea turned a dark green and had the "chopped spinach" appearance I've come to expect from some of the green teas.

Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 175 degrees, 2 minutes

Scent: As I believe I've mentioned before, I try very hard to only consult the Harney book for the tea's time and temperature prior to my tea tasting, but I must confess I read the word "walnuts" as I was flipping through the Bancha pages. It bugs me if this ever happens, because when I am tasting a new tea I don't want to be influenced by what even so great a "tea mind" as Michael Harney thinks about it. I don't really worry about "getting it wrong" because my opinion is my opinion. So although I found myself wondering if I would detect something akin to a "walnut" smell, I most assuredly did not. I smelled ... fish! It wasn't a bad fish smell -- it was sort of like broiled shrimp or scallops -- but it was definitely fish I was detecting. Once my tasting was complete, and firmly convinced of what *I* thought this tea smelled like, I consulted the Harney book, intentionally this time, and it spoke of "subtle green tea base notes of spinach and nori, along with faint hints of toasted walnuts." OK, but I smelled fish! So I started googling references to Bancha and learned I am not the only one who thinks it tastes like fish. Nori, it turns out, is an edible seaweed, and if I'd known that I might not have found it so odd that my tea smelled like fish!

Color: A bright yellow.

If you had the prettiest tin of tea the world has ever seen but labeled it "Smells and Tastes Like Fish!" you couldn't have interested me. So, I was shocked that I actually liked this tea pretty well. It had a pleasant and smooth (and slightly brothy) taste I enjoyed. I really think everyone ought to sample this tea at least once just for the curiosity factor if nothing else!

Additional notes: The Harney book notes that "Bancha is made of the larger, tougher leaves that emerge just fifteen to twenty days after the younger Sencha shoots have been harvested." But for me, this one will always be "The Fish Tea."

Next week's tea: Genmaicha

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cari's "Turning 10" Tea Party

My favorite 10-year-old, my sweet niece Cari (short for "Carolyn Hope"), celebrated her birthday today with a party with family and a few friends at my mom's house, so I thought I'd share some photos in honor of the day.

My parents are actually selling this house and moving into an old farmhouse they've spent the last few years renovating, so mom bought these two table-and-chair sets to set up a "tea room" just for today. The two candelabra she bought for $5 (the set) yesterday. That's my mom!

Cari requested my mom make a Red Velvet Cake, so she did. My sister made Red Velvet Cupcakes with decorative icing, but I took all the food photos early and forgot to get a picture of the cupcakes when they arrived. They were yummy, though!

Cari had told me she wanted something made with raspberries, so I made this berry tart, my first ever, which turned out quite well, I thought! You can find the recipe here.

Here's a note on finger sandwiches and savories: I made our old favorite finger sandwiches (Olive-Egg Salad and Cucumber Cream, recipes I've shared before), but to save time I "cheated" on the Chicken Salad in Phyllo Cups. Publix makes a great chunky chicken salad, and I was surprised to find that one small 8-ounce container (I had gotten two) filled 26 of the 30 phyllo cups. Although I do like to make some things for all my tea parties, I have gotten over thinking I have to make every single item from scratch.

Here's the birthday girl opening her Little House on the Prairie DVD's (Season 2), which seemed to be a real hit.

Here's something I brought for the gift table, a honeycomb crepe paper teapot I found on eBay a few months ago. (I believe it cost $4.50 or so.)

And finally, here's my sister Rhonda with the birthday girl. (And in case she checks this blog tonight: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CARI! WE LOVE YOU!!!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My traveling tea party

Some weeks ago, I was asked if I would be interested in participating in a "traveling tea party" in which certain teapots are being passed around the country this year with the stories to be preserved in journals and collected by the tea lover who organized the event. I thought it sounded like a fun idea and signed on, and my tea party, held last night, was a simple tea for two.

You see, my friend Kathy from Savannah has been in Newnan house-sitting for her daughter and son-in-law, who are traveling in Europe for a few weeks. So to me it made perfect sense to host a traveling tea party with a friend who traveled to my town to house-sit for some travelers. How much more travel-ly can you get?

I was going over to Kathy's last night (or Kathy's daughter's house) to knit and quilt. Not too surprisingly, we never actually got around to crafting, but we did enjoy the beautiful spring weather out on the patio with my super easy, packed-in-a-picnic-basket tea party. Our "twilight tea" consisted of Ham, Asparagus and Cheese Frittata, Fresh Fruit, Heart-shaped Cucumber Sandwiches and Dark Chocolate Madeleines. We enjoyed two different types of tea, the Chocolate Spice Kusmi Tea I received earlier this week and some Mango Tango tea. This simple tea party was a perfect way to enjoy spring and the all-too-rare treat of time with a dear (and normally 300 miles away) friend. I hope the next recipients of this traveling teapot enjoy their "tea and conversation" as much as my friend and I did!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Those "Tax Day Tea Parties"

Today is April 15, or Tax Day, and by now I'm sure everyone has heard of the "Tax Day Tea Parties" being planned all over the country to protest government spending. My newspaper ran a story on Monday about some local protests being planned. Now I think it's a good thing when anyone takes the time to get up off their duff and take a stand on an issue they care about, but I'm a bit conflicted about these "tea parties" being held today. Why? Here's my list of pros and cons:


-- Citizen activism is a good thing.
-- Grassroots movements can sometimes get a politician's attention when a single voice will not.
-- Underperforming businesses may see even more evidence that many of us in America are tired of a "bailout culture" and ready for that mindset to end. I don't think I've heard anyone, from the President on down, who is excited about pumping more money into failing businesses.


-- It's easy to show up at a rally and feel like you you've done something. It's not so easy to write a letter to the editor, or your congressman. Or to help recruit a good candidate to run for office. Or to volunteer to work on a campaign.
-- The Boston Tea Party actually had something to do with the tax on tea! I realize this year's "tea parties" are so named because of that historic event, but lots of folks just don't get it. I saw a photo of a woman pouring a jug of Arizona Tea into her local lake as an act of "protest." Now, how does wasting money AND tea send a message? (A friend of mine said the fish get to enjoy the tea.)
-- Radio money guy Dave Ramsey yesterday afternoon talked about how he once lived in a place where a politician's office received so many teabags as an act of protest, the people in that office said they've never gotten over the sickening smell of all that tea. I don't want tea to become politicized!

So I confess my fondness for tea has totally clouded my judgment on this issue. Since I've gone all wobbly on the matter, any of you care to comment? My experience has been that tea lovers know how to disagree without being disagreeable!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spicy Chocolate Kusmi Tea

My friend Deberah was in Philadelphia with family last week, and despite what I know was an extraordinarily busy time for her she somehow managed to return with a gift for me: this beautiful tin of Spicy Chocolate Kusmi Tea! I was glad I had a mug infuser at work so I could have some for a morning treat, and just as I hoped, it was delicious.

Here's what it says on top of the tin: "Founded in 1867 in St. Petersburg, the tea house Kousmichoff has been carrying on the same activity to offer connoisseurs and gourmets subtle flavourings as well as the highest quality blends. Distributed all over the world, Kusmi Tea blends are well known for their pleasant tastes and the smoothness of their flavours."

It may have been founded in St. Petersburg, but the label says this tea is now made in France, which may account for the beautiful design of the tin. And on a cold, rainy and stormy Monday, a surprise chocolate tea treat was not a bad way to start the week!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tea towels: To use or not to use?

Last week while reading the comments on Linda's blog, I learned that she and Steph deal with one of the same questions I do: Do you use those pretty tea towels or not? I've ruined a few by mopping up spaghetti sauce and kitchen spills, so I began storing my "good" tea towels and using only the ones I don't mind soiling. Then I read "The Kitchen Linens Book" by EllynAnne Geisel last week, and she had a solution to this problem which I have already put into use. "Any towel that's embellished -- embroidered, or edged, or painted -- I'll put out in the powder room, where I can be fairly certain they'll be spared of hands greasy from food prep or dirty from tinkering with the mower," she says. So these two tea towels don't necessarily match this corner of my yellow bathroom next to the linen closet, but I like the idea of displaying them on this dear lady, a towel butler(ette) that was a Christmas gift from my mom.

The cross-stitch tea towel was actually a gift from my friend Ann, who had recently acquired one of those fancy embroidery sewing machines which does about 5,000 stitches and even cooks supper for you. Since not all of us were blessed with husbands who know how to cross-stitch, like ParTea Lady, I was quite happy to receive this tea towel!

This pink towel was a recent find at an online boutique called Grandma G's. She has gorgeous vintage linens, impeccable customer service, and I was floored at all the "gifts with purchase" that arrived with my dinky little order of a single tea towel. She sent ...

... the carefully packaged tea towel tied with pink ribbon I have tucked away for a future craft ...

... an egg-shaped goodie bag containing Hershey's kisses and a bookmark and some TEA ...

... and finally, she included a little quilted coaster/mug mat made out of beautiful floral fabric! I'm not sure she made anything off my purchase, but I certainly enjoyed shopping with her!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


"He is not here, but is risen." -- Luke 24:6