Monday, April 30, 2012

Carrots, candies & cookie construction

Well, my treats for the garden club meeting the other night turned out just as cute as I hoped they would, and it occurred to me this general idea might be of interest to anyone planning a garden tea in the future. I found the idea on the Family Fun website here.

After unwrapping the Nabisco Bisco sugar wafers, I easily assembled them into "raised beds" using Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting. Easy as pie. (Or, cookie, I guess.)

The carrots are made from the orange Mike and Ike candies. I personally do not much care for any candy that doesn't have the good sense to contain chocolate, but thanks to a young niece and nephew, I at least know what Mike and Ike's are.

The large size box, I found, gives you just enough carrot-colored candies to make 36 carrots, enough for 12 "carrot patches." With some "leaves" made from green gummy candy and the frosting and crushed chocolate wafer cookies serving as "dirt," these were very easy to assemble, if a little time-consuming.

Now here's where I confess to some challenges. Look closely at this photo, and you'll see that the layers of the Bisco sugar wafer have separated. Turns out, the addition of the frosting eventually makes them go soft. In fact, my cookies were a hit looks-wise, but I tasted one two hours later at the meeting and the sugar wafers had definitely lost their crunch. (And yes, the cookies were quite fresh to begin with, because I tasted one of the plain sugar wafers when I got home just to satisfy my curiosity on that point.)

Still, I think this is too cute an idea not to use again, but I would recommend a) have another pair of hands available so you can assemble these very quickly and b) eat them within 30 minutes of construction!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Teatime Giveaway #17 - Teatime stationery

And the moment you've all been waiting for: The winner of the Stampin' Up Tea Shoppe stamps from last week is Denise of Doll Quilters Monthly (and other blogs, too). If you'll send me your snail mail address via the e-mail button at right, I'll get these headed your way. Congrats! And this week's giveaway is a couple of items some of you may have already come across at your local Michaels store, and if not, well then you have a chance to win this fun new stationery!

First, we have a package of notecards, perfect for invitations to tea or simply saying "thank you" for a tea gift.

And for future tea planning, who couldn't use another cute memo pad? If you want to be entered to win, just leave a comment to this post between now and noon EST on Friday, May 4. Good luck!

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Marshall Field Afternoon Tea Menu

One of the items that's long been on my tea time "wish list" was a vintage Marshall Field department store Afternoon Tea menu. I recently came across this one online, and though it's undated, it's obviously vintage and it met my requirements aesthetically (because it was so pretty) and financially (because it was quite affordable!).

Would I have chosen the Tea for One (45 cents), the Favorite (70 cents) or the Hostess Tea (one dollar)? Decisions, decisions. All questions of thrift aside, I must say the Assorted Tea Sandwiches and Cream Cheese and Orange Marmalade Balls most appeal to me! (Double-click on the image if you need to see it larger.)

On this page, however, the Minced Tongue and Horseradish Sandwich is definitely *off* my list, I don't care if it was just 30 cents! So if we could travel back in time, what would YOU order here?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Attracted to magnetic teawares

A trip to Joann last week didn't turn up the garden accents I'd hoped to find, but the trip wasn't a total waste, for I came across some great little painted metal magnets!

I loved the cheerful pastel colors on these 3-1/2 x 2-1/2-inch magnets...

... and I also loved that they were not $3.99 each as marked but instead were 50 percent off!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sampling new Charleston Tea Plantation teas

It's been several years since I visited the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina, and I'd dearly love to go again one day. I never tire of looking at tea plants and talking to tea people!

Fortunately for me, my friend Lisa recently visited and returned with a postcard and some new tea samples to remind me of what I'm missing! Though I attended a First Flush Festival and enjoyed some of that tea, I have not actually sampled some of their other American Classic Tea blends, so I was delighted Lisa was willing to share!

First I tried this Rockville Raspberry tea, which was in a nice silken pouch and had a smooth berry flavor but without that tartness that sometimes turns me off with berry-flavored teas. This one was great!

My favorite sample, though, and the biggest surprise, was this Charleston Breakfast tea. From the moment I opened the packet and sniffed the woodsy scent of the tea, I was smitten. This was such a fresh tasting tea, and I must say I've rarely experienced the rich, fresh flavor of loose tea in a teabag but I certainly did with this one. It was a great tasting black tea with no astringency, and I got two steepings from the one teabag. I'm definitely sold on the Charleston Breakfast tea and will be buying a box next time I see it in a local store!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Women and Their Gardens" by Catherine Horwood

Sometimes I'm surprised where mentions of tea turn up. I just finished reading Women and Their Gardens by Catherine Horwood, a book whose aim was "putting on record that for centuries gardens have been important to women and women have been important to gardens." While I wasn't surprised at women's early gardening efforts, I was very much surprised to learn how long it took for "lady gardeners" to be recognized for their work. When Beatrix Potter, for instance, submitted a paper on spore germination of a rare form of fungi in 1897, she was brushed off and couldn't get her work taken seriously. Lucky us, though, in a sense, since this caused her to focus on her watercolors. (A hundred years later, in 1997, Potter's work as a mycologist, one who studies fungi, was the topic of a Linnean Society lecture. 'Bout time!)

Horwood's book is filled with enlightening stories of women gardeners, mainly in the U.K., who have influenced horticulture and gardening over the years. Here are some of the tea-related highlights I found:

-- A number of women made contributions to the field of horticulture through their artwork, including, the author says, Elizabeth Twining (yes, of the famed Twinings tea family), who lived from 1805-1889. She "was able to combine the two occupations of philanthropic work and botanical talents. In addition to establishing the Twining Hospital for the Poor near her home in Twickenham and being connected to two newly opened establishments for girls' education, Bedford College and Queen's College, she published fourteen books, including Ten Years in a Ragged School. In 1849, then in her mid-forties, she published the second volume of her work Illustrations of the Natural Order of Plants, which comprised extremely accurate drawings of plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew." (Go here to see some of her work.)

-- Ella Christie made a trip to Japan in 1907 that forever changed her, and when she came home to Perthshire she got a female Japanese designer to help her create a Japanese style garden, which included a tea house on an island in the middle of a lake.

-- Hilda Leyel in 1927 opened the Culpeper Shop in London, which offered natural products and herbal remedies. The author notes the shop also offered many of the simple tisanes, such as camomile and lime-blossom tea, which Leyel said were "so popular abroad but at that time almost unknown in this country."

-- There's also a fun story about one Viola Williams, who was the first woman to achieve a first-class diploma in horticulture at Reading University in 1937. She eventually got a job at a glasshouse and frame nursery. The author quotes Viola: "There were about one hundred men and one woman and me." She said Viola's only problem with the men was one early encounter: "The other woman used to do the tea and everything for us. She was off so they put me to making tea at breakfast, lunch, etc. I decided this was not my line at all so I boiled the tea for two hours and they didn't ask me to do it any more." (I'll bet!) If you're at all interested in women's history and gardening, Women and Their Gardens is a fine book to add to your library.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A tea house for fairies

The May/June issue of the magazine I edit, Newnan-Coweta Magazine, made its way to the printer last week, meaning that the deadline rush is over and I have more time for fun things like gardening and tea time! One of the stories in our upcoming issue is about a local woman who has placed numerous fairy houses throughout her garden. Naturally, I was inspired to think about adding a "tea house" for the fairies to my own landscape. When I saw this teapot for $4 at an antique store on Saturday, I knew immediately what I would do with it!

From the happy little bird perched on top ...

... to the watering can for fairy gardeners ...

... and the tiny little front door, I knew this was *just* what I needed!

Butterflies are welcome too, of course.

And the spacious opening at back means the fairies won't have any problem moving their furniture inside.

So, here's the fairy tea house at its new location at the base of a mossy tree. (Fairy landscaping plans are still being developed.) If you happen to know of any fairies looking for a new home in the South, tell 'em we're open for business!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Teatime Giveaway # 16 - Stampin' Up! Tea Shoppe Stamps

The winner of the teas, tea mug and tea filters from last week is ParTea Lady! Congrats! And I'm happy to announce we have yet another generously donated giveaway this week, these terrific new Tea Shoppe stamps from my friend Phyllis of Stampin' Up! (I included the link to her blog for those of you who *must* have your own set of stamps—whether or not you're the winner!)
As mentioned here, I've been enjoying my own set of these new stamps which I wrote about earlier this week. It's a very versatile set of designs, and I love that it's all housed so neatly in a nice plastic case. It dawned on me that in addition to cards and scrapbook pages, these also could come in handy for embellishing homemade food gifts, like cookies and cakes for teatime. Want to make some of these designs yourself? Just leave a comment to this post between now and noon EST on Friday, April 27, and you'll be entered to win. Good luck!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dining with Miller & Paine

The latest addition to my collection of department store tea room memorabilia is this sweet little dish from the Miller & Paine Department Store's tea room/cafeteria in Lincoln, Nebraska. I love the small (5 x 7 inch) oval shape and can just picture it being delivered to ladies' tables.

I love that every store's tea room or restaurant seemed to have its "signature" food items, and Miller & Paine was apparently known for its cinnamon rolls, about two of which would fit perfectly on this dish. Although the original recipe doesn't seem to be available online, a company called Runza continues to sell cinnamon rolls made from the Miller & Paine recipe today. (If I thought I could eat 4 dozen, I might consider placing an order!)

This Warwick dish tells me plainly it was "MADE EXPRESSLY FOR MILLER & PAINE, Inc." in LINCOLN, NEBR., and the online seller I bought it from says M&P was a great department store and she remembered eating in the tea room there. If anyone reading today has ever had a Miller & Paine cinnamon roll, I'd love to hear your review!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tea Shoppe stamps from Stampin' Up!

Confession: I am a lapsed stamper and scrapbooker. I still have most of the basic supplies, but somewhere along the way I got too busy with other projects and my pretty papers and stamps have languished in boxes and cabinets. That changed last week when my local Stampin' Up! demonstrator (and fellow tea enthusiast!) Phyllis sent a wonderful surprise package containing this great new set of "Tea Shoppe" stamps. "You NEED that set …" she said, and so she sent it to me as a gift!

The stamps are just as lovely as can be, with a large teacup, a design of three smaller teacups (I used one of these on the egg cups shown here), and enough flowers and sentiments to make this quite a versatile set to use!

There are stickers included so you can put them on the backs of the stamps if you so choose. (I so chose.)

And please be gentle with me and keep in mind I haven't done this in a while, but I was right happy with even the very first simple card I made using these stamps. So easy!

It was quite fortunate I still had that file box of unused scrapbooking papers, because I was able to make another card with vintage looking papers ...

… and yet another card with some of the pink and rose print papers I had on hand. I'm sure I don't have to tell you this is quite addictive, and I've been searching for other Tea Shoppe card designs online and pinning them to my Pinterest board like crazy! If you're interested in ordering a set of these stamps yourself and don't have your own Stampin' Up! demonstrator, please feel free to use my demonstrator (Phyllis has a blog here that customers may order from). Or … well, hmmm, should I go ahead and tell you about the nice surprise she and I have planned for this Saturday? Nah, I think I'll wait. If you're a stamper or scrapbooker, let's just say that you DO NOT want to miss this Saturday's giveaway! Stay tuned …

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SereniTea Liquid Organic Green Tea

Recently I received a press release and samples of a new product that sounded intriguing, this SereniTea green tea in single serving liquid packets.

According to the company, "SereniTea is harvested three times per year at the peak of freshness from the coveted Wuyi Mountains of China, and is made from the finest whole tea leaves. Once the leaves are dried through the patented extract process, they yield a rich liquid that when mixed with water provides consumers with an innovative beverage unlike any other on the market. A great option for the health-conscious, SereniTea is USDA certified organic and possesses double the antioxidants of a regular steeped tea due to its concentrated properties."

The single serve packets are obviously great for enjoying tea on the go, but I'm afraid I just didn't care for the taste. I tried it cold and it was so-so. Not bad, not too astringent, but it just didn't taste like much of anything. I tried making it with a smaller amount of water, thinking perhaps the taste would develop, but that didn't work either. I tried the tea hot and got the faintest, merest hint of something reminiscent of a woodsy oolong, but that was it. Again, the flavor just wasn't there. While I rather like the idea behind this product, which would be especially useful while traveling, the flavor was a disappointment. If you've tried this new tea yourself, please let me know what you thought!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Behind the scenes at Cari's Tea Party

In my family, it takes a village to throw a tea party! And if I may brag on my six-year-old niece Amelia for a moment, I have to tell you that this sweet little girl was a worker bee.

She diligently prepared the fruit cups, even if she did eat more of the strawberries than she actually put into the cups.

She also made sure the table was set just perfectly. (A fun teapot story: Amelia worked so fast she kept saying "I need another job," so at one point I told her to get six teabags out of the box of green tea and place them in one of the teapots. She looked a little confused. "Put these teabags in there?" she asked, holding out one of the individually wrapped teabags. "Yes," I said. Later, I went to make the tea and nearly poured hot water right in on top of the still-wrapped teabags. Now I see what she was asking!)

Another thing I wanted to mention about the table setting was that I found the perfect paper "placemats" to fit around tea-and-toast sets.

These are actually fancy Anna Griffin scrapbooking papers, which were on sale for just $1 at Michaels last week. I recommend stocking up on these when they're on sale like that!

The Chicken Salad served in egg cups was a real hit, so I wanted to mention how easy these were to make and decorate. Satin ribbon, double-sided tape, a rubber stamped teacup and you're done! (Please remember the cute pink teacup stamp design, as it will become quite significant later this week!)

And I've written about these before on the blog, but in case you're a new reader, this is just my standby Waldorf Chicken Salad recipe garnished with a Pepperidge Farm butterfly cracker and chives. Easy—and gets rave reviews!

I also thought you might enjoy seeing some more of my mom's ladies head vases.

Even after we decorated the table, she still had quite a few left!

So on behalf of the birthday girl, I hope you've enjoyed reading about Cari's Birthday Tea. Cheers, everyone!