Saturday, June 30, 2012

Teatime Giveaway #26 - A new tea journal

It's been a month of international connections here at the Tea With Friends blog: The last winner was a reader in Indonesia, and the newest winner, Hearthkeeper in Christ, will be getting the Hello, Doily napkins donated by a reader in Canada. Congrats, Hearthkeeper, and if you'll send me your snail mail address via the e-mail button at right I'll get these headed your way! The next item up for giveaway is this tea journal I found at Marshalls recently. (Glasses not included!)

The 5 x 7-inch journal has quotes and tea artwork on the interior pages, and I have a feeling one of you *needs* this journal for recording your tea pursuits! To be entered to win, just leave a comment to this post between now and noon EST on Friday, July 6. Good luck!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Need to hear from Jemilyea!

I need to get in touch with the reader with the nickname "Jemilyea." You won a recent giveaway and I thought I had your e-mail and snail mail addresses saved somewhere, but apparently I don't. I want to get your gift headed your way, so if you'll get in touch via the e-mail button at right that would be terrific! Thanks!

Sweet Tea Clothing Co.

When we traveled to Wisconsin recently to meet the newest addition to the family, baby Andrew, we took along a unique gift to remind everyone this sweet boy is half southern: It's a onesie from the Sweet Tea Clothing Co. reading "Sweeter than the Tea," and it comes packaged in a Mason jar! To see what the onesie looks like outside the Mason jar, go here. There are also other sizes and colors of clothing and accessories for both children and adults.

But I have to tell you one of the most amazing things to me was opening my mailbox and realizing this Mason jar had been shipped in a plain old bubble wrap envelope! I almost croaked! I shook the envelope expecting to hear shards of glass rattling around, but then I read the label and realized wow, the postal service really did pay attention and "handle this package with care." Now I don't know if I'm more impressed with the onesie or the postal service's amazing delivery of it!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A tea friend's new business!

Some of you know my friend Teresa Carter, a local caterer and tea lover who is a blogger herself. She's blogged as Southern Touch Catering, she's shared afternoon tea with several of us tea bloggers before, and as of about two weeks ago, she is now the proud owner of her very own café!

For any locals who may be reading, Teresa's café is located in the Summergrove Market Square, just past the performing arts center off Lower Fayetteville Road. Here are Teresa and husband Ken busy behind the counter.

I was actually in Wisconsin the week she opened, and last week was magazine deadline week so I was chained to my desk, but this week things are a bit better! My friend Deberah and I decided to go there for lunch yesterday, and though Teresa was quite busy we were thrilled to get to visit and beg a few photos from her and her sweet granddaughter Samantha (who was our cover girl at Newnan-Coweta Magazine a few summers ago) as well as Ken, whom we'd also enjoyed getting to know during the course of that very fun photo shoot.

My Special of the Day was special indeed: Shrimp and Lobster Bisque, a Chicken Salad Croissant, Potato Salad, Iced Black Tea (sweetened perfectly!) and an Ice Cream Cone for dessert (I chose chocolate in a waffle cone), all for just $6.95. W-O-W!

As I told Teresa, since I've enjoyed her food before I knew it would be good, but it was even better than I expected! That Shrimp and Lobster Bisque was to die for, and the Chicken Salad was terrific as well (love to find grapes in chicken salad). The Potato Salad was simply delicious (just the right amount of mustard!), and everything tasted so very, very fresh. No surprise, as Teresa is very committed to fresh and natural ingredients and actually told us a little about the process of finding some of the ingredients that go into her food. Nice!

I also give points for fresh flowers on the table and ...

... the cheerful decor! Since Deberah and I went early, there was one brief moment when two tables gave me a clear view. Glad I got the shot, as I'm told the lunch rush descended upon the place shortly thereafter!

There are also cookies and cake slices available at the counter, and I left with some yummy White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies! Everything truly exceeded my expectations, which really is not surprising since Teresa is a veteran caterer and, personally, such a class act. And ... she has mentioned the possibility of hosting teas in the future, so you can see why I'm terribly excited for and about my entrepreneurial friend!

*For fellow bargain hunters who'd like to see the daily specials, look for Southern Touch Catering on Faceboook and "like" her page!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some new Dollar Tree finds

Some days we're sipping Diamond Jubilee Tea and reading lovely British magazines, and then other days it's time to keep it real by making a trip to Dollar Tree.

Today is one of those days, and I'm happy to report I found a few tea-ish things on my latest trip, including this Daily Defense shampoo with Green Tea & Thyme.

I like the shampoo just fine, but I was a bit disappointed I couldn't find any camellia sinensis leaf extract on the label. All kinds of other extracts, just not that one!

My next tea-ish cosmetic find was this Vanilla Citrus White Tea shower gel.

Again, I couldn't find any camellia sinensis listed, but I have learned that the all-encompassing word "fragrance" is sometimes where products have the "tea." Considering the price I paid for the shower gel, I can't complain! (And it does smell good, by the way.)

Finally, have you ever seen little pink plastic shot glasses for $1? I haven't. I'm not sure I'd ever been *looking* for them, but I had this brief vision of iced tea samples, or tea bread samples, served in the glasses. Where will I use these? I do not know, but when something's just a dollar I figure you sometimes have to live a little and take a risk!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Underground tearooms!

Just got the June 2012 issue of British Country Living, which is the publication I most enjoy relaxing with these days. The writing is first-rate, the pictures superb, the topics lively and surprising, and in recent months they've featured some of the loveliest little cottages and studios I've ever seen. Love-love-love my British Country Living!

And I love it even more when this magazine treats me to something new involving the world of tea, such as the topic of Secret Tearooms!

Now first it must be said that I was so fascinated by the absolutely brilliant papercut artwork accompanying the article that at first I forgot to read the article! The artwork is by Julene Harrison, and you can see more of her work here. Do you love it as much as I do? I'll bet you do!

It's really quite appropriate to have artwork and not photographs accompanying this piece, because the article by Joanna Simmons explains how there is a nationwide movement in which everything from art exhibits to shops and supper clubs is temporarily "popping up" in homes or public buildings. Of course "pop-up tearooms," also delightfully referred to as "underground tearooms," greatly appeal to me. Basically, a woman and perhaps a friend or two stages teas in her home for, say, just two days. The cost to guests is reasonable (similar to what we'd pay for afternoon tea here), guests may leave the money in a teapot, and the host gets to experience having a "tearoom" on a very temporary basis, with no commitment. (The article notes that you do have to register as a caterer with the UK's Food Standards Agency, so it's not as if you can just slap some scones on the table and hang up your shingle.) One woman who uses an alias books her teas strictly via e-mail, and guests don't even know the location until they've booked! Now I'd love to attend such an event, but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable charging others to have tea in my home. Friends, especially. But what if it were friends of friends? I might not feel so bad about that. What are your thoughts on underground tearooms? Would you consider going to one? Would you consider hosting one?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blueberry & Vanilla Muffins

With some fresh blueberries from my parents' blueberry bushes on hand, I knew it was time to try a new blueberry recipe this weekend!

I've been craving muffins lately, so I decided to try a recipe I came across for Blueberry & Vanilla Muffins.

Blueberry recipes seem to be popular right now since red, white and blue treats are on our minds with July 4 nearing. I came across these patriotic cupcake papers from Wilton at Michaels a few weeks ago, so I decided to use them with this recipe.

My source was "The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book," at back, which I only recently learned is not the same as "The Perfect Afternoon Tea Book" in the foreground. These two British titles are similar, and they're both published by Lorenz Books, but they are quite different books, as I realized when I came across the larger book at Scott's Bookstore in Newnan recently. (I had earned a store credit, happily, and used it on this book!) The smaller, 8 x 8-inch book, contains just 35 recipes, including my favorite, never-fail madeleine recipe.

The newer purchase, this large 9-1/4 x 12-inch book, is simply brimming with 160+ great recipes in its 256 pages. This may be one of the best all-around teatime recipe books I've ever come across, and there are so many things I want to try: Leek and Bacon Tarts, Vegetable Muffins, English Muffins, Drop Scones, Teacakes, Rock Buns, Marmalade Teabread, Tea Fingers, Sticky Gingerbread, Lemon Roulade with Lemon-Curd Cream and oh, so much more! But first, blueberries. If everything in "The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book" is as good as these lightly sweet muffins, I'm going to be using this book a lot!

Blueberry & Vanilla Muffins

3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (the recipe calls for caster or superfine sugar, for which you *can* substitute granulated, but I prefer to substitute confectioner's sugar)
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour and baking powder, then stir in confectioner's sugar. In separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, butter and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into bowl with dry ones and mix well. Add blueberries and stir. Spoon batter into baking cups until nearly the top of the cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are just beginning to turn golden brown. Yields 12 muffins.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teatime Giveaway #25 - "Hello Doily" napkins

The winner of the teatime tote bags from last week is Andri, so congrats! Now you know, one of the things I could never have anticipated about hosting these Saturday giveaways is that I would be blessed with so many contributions to my never-ending stash of giveaway items. With unexpected gifts from tea companies, blog readers and assorted tea friends, I have almost reached the halfway point of the year and yet I'm still months ahead on gifts! I was so excited when I received these napkins in the mail the other day, I couldn't wait to share them with you. These were donated for a giveaway by Margaret in Canada, who herself won a giveaway earlier this year and obviously believes in "paying it forward," so to speak.

Now I just love cute paper napkins, and one of you is going to love winning these pretty aqua napkins, which will be great to use at teatime, or do as others have done for me before and tuck several into a tea gift for a friend!

These 5-inch-square napkins are by Toronto graphic artist Wendy Tancock, and I love both the front and back of the package. If you do too, just leave a comment between now and noon EST on Friday, June 29, and you'll be entered to win. Good luck!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Harney & Sons Diamond Jubilee Tea

One of the things I enjoy about returning home from a trip is seeing if any good mail is waiting for me. This time I had an unexpected package from a blog reader (you'll hear about it tomorrow!) and my long-awaited tin of Harney & Sons' Diamond Jubilee Tea.

The tin contains "black tea with silver tips, bergamot and citrus flavours," and I'm happy you can actually see the silver tips through the Harney tea sachet.

Harney calls this a "bespoke blend," and I must agree! It has a rich, regal taste, an especially classy Earl Grey (said to be a favorite of Her Majesty), and I find it quite the suitable sip for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. If you've tried this tea yourself, what did you think?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A guessing game

Today it's "Guess the identity of this object" day. So … can you guess what this is? I mean yes, it's a teapot, obviously, but besides that, what is it?

A notecard? No.

Does this angle give you more of a clue?

How about this?

Surely this!

I always knew there just had to be a box of tissues with tea on it somewhere, and I found some at the Festival grocery store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin last week! Any readers shop at Festival? I really liked the store, and I definitely loved their tissues!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A drink with Purse-a-Nali-Tea

While I was antiquing in Sheboygan Falls last week, my husband wandered into a gift boutique and bought something that he said he knew I'd want. He was right! From Brownlow Gourmet, a name I've come across before in tea-dom, come these cute little "Purse-a-Nali-Tea" tea bag totes. What a great gift idea!

He bought the Apricot Mandarin flavor, and I enjoyed it both iced and hot. It's a brisk black tea with a pleasantly fruity flavor—and I'm happy to report it's as tasty as it is cute!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vintage teawares from Wisconsin

The "American Pickers" guys I mentioned yesterday may find all the motorcycles and metal signs, but I think I'm getting pretty good at sniffing out the teaware bargains up north. In one antiques shop in Plymouth, Wisconsin, I came across some of the prettiest teacups I've seen in a while, like this pale pink Grosvenor Bone China cup and saucer I found for just $6.

I loved the soft white rose design, and the teacup was in such pristine shape I wondered if it had ever been used. (It has been now!)

Of course I'm always on the hunt for vintage Christmas teacups, and I was thrilled to find this one, marked Princess Anne Bone China, likewise in great condition.

Of course what *really* thrilled me about this set was the price!

In Sheboygan Falls, I ponied up just $2 for a lidless tea canister marked "Czechoslovakia" which is now happily serving as a container for spatulas and large spoons on my kitchen counter. I love it!

And I can't resist pretty dinner plates for $1.50, like these Pope-Gosser plates. At this price, I could give these away with treats and they'd be cheaper than "throwaway" plastic. Again I'm impressed with the prices of things in Wisconsin, and if I had more storage room I would have brought home much more!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Picking new places to visit

We've just returned from nine days on the road, so I thought I'd share a few photos of sights we saw along the way! Recognize this place?

If you're a fan of History Channel's "American Pickers," you do. It's the famous Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa, which my husband, a great fan of the show, decided he wanted to visit while also checking Iowa off of his list of States I Have Visited.

If you're a regular viewer of the show, you might recognize some of these goodies, such as the Laurel and Hardy masks.

Here's a giant advertising character that greets you upon entering the shop.

Some items for sale. (No teawares that I could find!) And, alas, no Mike, Frank or Danielle, although it was still nice to see where they do business.

Here's the iconic car that is featured in lots of shots, with the Mississippi River in the background.

LeClaire was quite a pretty little town, and we were able to enjoy lunch and a bit of sightseeing afterwards. I loved this great store, Grasshoppers.

I bought some jewelry pieces there and a cute little folder of "Gardener's Tea."

At LeClaire Antiques and Appraisals, an antique shop along the main street there in town, I found my official souvenir of LeClaire, this pretty floral teacup. It was an $8 find made by Old Royal Bone China in England.

Now, the real reason we were in Iowa was that we were headed up to Wisconsin to see a new grandson, sweet little Andrew ...

... and his big brother Michael! Michael, we learned, is adapting well to the family addition, except for when Andrew cries during his favorite cartoon, "Bubble Guppies," which earned Andrew a wee little whack from his brother one morning!

And here Alex and I are with both boys! We enjoyed a great visit with their parents, Heather and Brad, and hopefully provided a little help during their first week at home with the new baby. (And we did manage a little shopping excursion one afternoon, so tomorrow I'll share the bargains I found.)