Saturday, March 31, 2012

Teatime Giveaway #13 - A book on making macarons

The winner of the sewing goodies is Amber S., so congrats! If you'll send me your snail mail address via the e-mail button at right, I'll get these items headed your way. Back in January, I mentioned finding a helpful book about making macarons. After learning there was lots of interest in these popular teatime treats, I told myself to be on the lookout for another of these books the next time I was in Marshalls, since I knew a copy would make a great giveaway.

Well, I looked and I found! So if you'd like to win this book about how to make macarons, just leave a comment to this post between now and noon EST on Friday, April 6. (Go here if you'd like to see the review of this book and some information about the whole macaroons/macarons distinction.) Good luck!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Teapot & teacup cakes — by the master!

Looking at pictures of fancy cakes is one of my guilty pleasures. I say "guilty" because I do not, in fact, intend ever to make one of these cakes, I just like to look at them. I thought about trying to make one once for, oh, about five minutes, until I realized I would need about a month of classes and $500 worth of equipment just to get started. Not gonna happen. So now I happily look at all the pretty pictures of the pretty cakes. And nobody makes them any prettier than the legendary Sylvia Weinstock, whose lovely book "Sensational Cakes" I recently came across.

I first read about her work in Victoria magazine years ago, and I have been a fan ever since. Interestingly, she is a firm believer in using buttercream and not the fondant favored by so many cake bakers today. Here are some of her teacup cakes featured in one chapter of the book. Gorgeous!

The book also tells about the bride whose pewter collection inspired this magnificent teapot cake. Wonderful!

Finally, I wanted to tease the book by showing you a glimpse from the chapter on cakes inspired by the famous wares and teawares of Mackenzie-Childs. I love this company's designs, and seeing them transformed into cake is simply brilliant. Bake on, Ms. Weinstock!

Note: Today I also have a blog post up about a new book on Gimbels at my Dainty Dining blog. Please go here if you'd like to see it!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An old design on new teawares

Now here's a strange question for you: Have you memorized the patterns on your teawares? I probably would have said "no" if you'd asked me.

Oh, I knew I had lots of things with pink roses on them, like the design on this Crown Staffordshire teacup and saucer set I've had for several years now.

But then I saw a Dillard's ad in the April issue of Southern Living for some new, more casual Royal Albert dishes. And upon closer inspection ...

... I said hey, that's the same design on my vintage teacup! Curiously enough, I saw some of these new dishes at HomeGoods a couple of weeks ago, well before I saw them being advertised in print. Pretty dishes—and if I find them on sale, I wouldn't at all be opposed to mixing some new with my old!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A tea for bedtime

Lipton sent me a box of their caffeine free Bedtime Story tea a while back, and I finally got around to trying it. I sure liked the name!

The Bedtime Story Herbal Tea is made with spearmint leaves and chamomile flowers. Now I've had mixed experiences with chamomile teas, since some of them have had a tiny bit of a bitter taste to them.

This one, I'm happy to say, was a perfectly pleasant chamomile and spearmint blend, and all I could think as I sipped along was what a "soft" taste this tea had, with no bitter edges. Caffeine at bedtime has never bothered me, but I certainly don't mind opting out of the caffeine altogether, and Bedtime Story is a tasty way to do precisely that!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Larry's Tea Room glassware

I was asked yesterday if I always get gifts for my husband's birthday, and the answer, alas, is no, but it's never too late to start a new tradition! Happily, that flea market wasn't the only source of a good find. We also stopped by Angel's Antiques in Opelika, Ala. on our way home, and there I picked up a pink sugar and creamer in my beloved Tea Room Depression glass pattern.

I've pretty much memorized the "book prices" for Tea Room pieces, so when I saw $20 on the sugar bowl I thought oh, that's the book price, no bargain there. But then I realized it was $20 for the set, and then I realized these items were in Larry's booth, and Larry was offering 25 percent off everything in his booth. Here the smaller set is pictured in front of the larger set I already had, and you can see the designs up top are a bit different.

It's interesting to me that the handles have different shapes on these two sugar bowls. The smaller one at front has a more rounded interior, while the larger one at back is clearly rectangular. This smaller sugar and creamer set has a matching tray I'll now be looking for, and whether I ever find it or not, $15 was a great price for the set, which is in flawless condition. In their "Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass," Cathy and Gene Florence say, "We're certain that pieces pulled from moulds were marred at that moment. It was an inherent flaw in the design and manufacturing process. We've told you previously about examining factory boxed Tea Room where over 25% was not in mint condition when closely examined."

The spouts on these two creamers also sport different shapes, and I love to imagine tea room customers using them to add milk to their coffee or tea. The Florence book notes, "As the name insinuates, the very Deco styled Tea Room pattern was marketed for use in the tea rooms and ice cream parlors of that day which justifies the many fountain items occurring that are not seen in other patterns." I really hope I find that tray one day, because I can just picture the sugar, creamer and tray on a tea room customer's table. And for my fellow collectors, I should mention that while I'm partial to pink, the Florence Depression glass book says green Tea Room pieces are actually more desirable than the pink ones. My friend Phyllis recently wrote about finding a gorgeous green Tea Room sugar and creamer here, and I was so happy to hear that more Tea Room pieces have been rescued by those of us who prize them!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A surprise flea market

Our story begins last Wednesday, my husband's birthday, when he wanted to take the day off work and go gallivanting. He's fun to go gallivanting with, so I was game. We were driving through the country just past Roanoke, Ala. when we saw what looked like a mile of cars parked along both sides of the road. What on earth?

It was Ruth's Flea Market, which a nice teased-hair lady told us is held only on Wednesdays, and "you really need to get here by 7 or 8 to get anything."

Online listings later revealed Ruth's is open on Saturday as well, but we were just astonished at how many vendors and buyers were milling about right there in the middle of the week. The offerings ranged from cases of neon-colored bras in sizes I didn't know existed to deer heads, homemade canned goods, old weapons, fresh produce, plants, these bunny rabbits, and of course old flea market favorites such as glassware, china and silver. I don't suppose I have to tell you what caught my eye!

But I do have to tell you what I bought: this gorgeous old three-piece silver set, and for just $10! The sticker said 5 pieces for $10, and the other two pieces were ...

... egg cups, maybe? You tell me. They surely don't match, but who cares, I got those great silver pieces for a song!

Here's what the set looked like before the first round of polishing.

Now I just adore these old pieces of silver with Repoussé work, or embossing, that's near the top, and the chasing, or etched design, that's on the lower half.

I was drawn to this set because I love the Victorian design, and a little research revealed that indeed this maker, Homan, was in business in the late 1880s and changed its name to the Homan Silverplate Co. in 1896. I wondered why there are what look like two sugar bowls, only one without a lid. Here you can see that in the bowl at front there is a rim, while the bowl at back has no rim. When I searched online for similar sets, some listings described the odd piece without a lid as a waste pot or slop bowl (what a name!), which was used to pour off the old, cooled tea before the hostess refilled her guests' cups. Whatever the case, I'm quite happy with the gifts I got for my husband's birthday this year!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teatime Giveaway #12 - For the tea lover's sewing stash

The winner of the Parisian teacup journal from last week is Darlene of The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook. Congratulations, Darlene, and I hope you'll enjoy using this on your anniversary trip to Paris! (The journal, by the way, came from Ross, since some of you wanted to know.) And this week's giveaway is aimed at the tea-sipping stitchers out there!

First, there's a yard of this fun fabric I found at JoAnn recently. It has lots of fun tea words and graphics, and the colors are cheerful, too!

And if you need a place to stash your straight pins or needles while sewing, you can use this adorable teapot pincushion, which was generously donated by a friend of this blog who asked to remain anonymous. I think her gift makes this week's giveaway extra special, so just leave a comment between now and noon EST on Friday, March 30, and these goodies can join your sewing stash. Good luck!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kauffman's Famous Nut Bread

A friend of mine brought her 90-something mother by not long ago to let me know she is enjoying my book "Dainty Dining," which her daughter is reading to her chapter by chapter. Talk about a heartwarming moment! I asked my friend's mother the name of a few department stores where she remembers dining, and she mentioned Kaufmann's in Pittsburgh, Pa. Naturally, that sent me on a quest to see if I could find some Kaufmann's recipes.

As luck would have it, I came across a copy of the book "See What's Cooking at Kaufmann's." Among the recipes in the book was one for "Our Famous Nut Bread," so naturally I had to try this "famous" food for myself.

The recipe was easy to make, and after I refrigerated it overnight it sliced just beautifully!

The cookbook also said Kaufmann's recommends using this bread to make tea sandwiches, so I did that as well and greatly enjoyed the nutty bread served with an olive and cream cheese filling. In case you'd like to try this yourself, here's the recipe as I made it.

Kaufmann's Famous Nut Bread

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and coat a 9 x 5 x 4-inch glass loaf pan with cooking spray. (The Kaufmann's cookbook says to preheat to 350 if using a metal pan.) Sift flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Using electric mixer, blend butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat for about 2 minutes. Add pecans and mix well, then add milk and mix again. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed of mixer, just until combined. Bake for 1 hour, then let stand in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Wrap unused bread tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate.

Note: "See What's Cooking with Kaufmann's" said this bread is "delicious served as finger sandwiches with a cream cheese and olive filling." I made such a filling by combining 4 ounces cream cheese and 20 olives in the food processor and pulsing until blended well.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teavana's Citrus Lavender Sage Herbal Tea

Oh, the power of suggestion! Merely reading an e-mail about Teavana's new Citrus Lavender Sage herbal tea set me to thinking about trying this new infusion.

To be honest, I don't drink too many herbal teas simply because I've grown to enjoy good blacks, greens and oolongs so well. A new dessert-flavored tea may turn my head, but herbals? Not so much. Still, I was in Atlanta and had Teavana on my mind, so I stopped by the store and innocently asked to sniff the Citrus Lavender Sage. And I must say, it had me at hello! Ohhhhhhh ... if you're ever-ever-ever inclined to try a new herbal blend, or maybe you need something caffeine-free for bedtime, THIS is one you must try.

I was totally in love with the fragrance before I ever had a sip, but I quickly got home and steeped this for the full 5-6 minutes suggested. Here's how Teavana describes it: "An herbal blend fit for royalty, this sublime bouquet of fruit and floral is a healthy pick me up for any time of the day. Citrusy orange, sweet pineapple and red delicious apples complement and soften to a smooth perfection with luscious lavender, sage and 'superfruit' sea buckthorn." And how do I describe it?

Heavenly! It's such a refreshingly citrusy drink, and when I tried it iced I found myself wishing I'd bought more of it. I'm not sure whether it's the fragrance or the taste of this fantastic blend I like best, but the combination is a winner in my book!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taking tea with Miss Minnie

If you're like me, you've given more than a few of these plastic tea sets as gifts to the little girls in your lives over the years.

The one I saw at a T.J. Maxx this weekend was all cute and pink and Disney-fied, but there was something different about it.

It was a "Bubble" Tea Party set, complete with a bottle of liquid blow bubble solution and ...

... the clincher, these teaspoons with holes in them for blowing the bubbles! I've been meaning to get together with a girlfriend who has two adorable toddler girls, and now I know exactly what I'll be taking along to amuse them (and me!) while we visit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finds from Fayetteville

Last week my friend Deberah and I were out visiting several local nurseries when we saw a banner that said "Antiques," and like me Deberah was perfectly happy to stop by. Turns out it was a newly-opened antique store on Highway 85 in Fayetteville, Next Generation Antiques and More. They had lots of good stuff at reasonable prices, and I had a small pile of goodies when I left.

I'd been looking for an old silver teapot to use as a garden planter, and this one for $3.50 seemed perfect!

This old tin had the prettiest roses on it, and I think it will be great for holding small teaspoons.

This footed silverplate piece was my favorite find from the trip.

I liked the swan etched in the center. The bottom is stamped "Raimond Silverplate," and I plan to polish it up and use it to display my next batch of macarons.

A sucker for soaps, I loved these aromatic little 2-inch-square blocks, which were 6 for $5.

And finally, I found my niece Amelia this little graniteware cup for her growing collection of "Little House on the Prairie" dinnerware (or what she thinks was their dinnerware in the 1800s). I'm definitely trying to make sure my nieces like antiques and tea, because hopefully they'll be the ones driving me to tea rooms and antique malls one day!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teacups & African violets

Are any of you African violet lovers? I grew up around grandparents who rooted these like crazy, and for a while I had the magic touch myself. In recent years, however, I couldn't even keep a single African violet alive, much less root one. After coming across some fresh new plants at a couple of nurseries last week, I decided to give them a try again.

This one is a miniature African violet and now resides in an orphaned Limoges teacup.

The bright mauve pink is such a happy color to have around!

This green teacup planter came from JoAnn a few years back, and it's now home to a regular-sized African violet.

The pretty ruffled petals make me think of fancy ladies in chiffon gowns.

And I could really use one more teacup planter, but for the time being this plant is in a very large teacup and saucer.

The pink and white variegated leaves seem like a good fit with ...

... the flowers on the teacup. (Can you tell I'm eager for Spring to officially arrive this week?)