Monday, September 30, 2013

The tea trolley gets a fall makeover

Some girls dress up their paper dolls, but this one likes to dress up her tea trolley! A new season means time for a makeover, so the yellow Welbeck chintz teawares have gone into hibernation for the year.

Instead, I've pulled out some vintage goodies in brown and beige tones to decorate with.

Seasonal decorating is fun because you tend to forget what all you've gathered over the years, and it's sort of like getting new stuff for free. Here I've used a small rack of tea bag holders, Harney's Pumpkin Spice tea (a recent gift), and a silver basket holding slices of tea bread.

The vintage silver basket is a piece I bought while out antiquing with my mom last year, and I still love the little acorns and leaves on the handle.

A teapot, a smaller teapot marked "Tea Bags" (oddly!) and a tea canister are joined by some brown teapot salt and pepper shakers.

Finally, the little scarecrow that was in a recent gift from a friend got plopped into the lavender silk flowers to make them more fall-like. Have you decorated for fall yet?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tea Room Recipe #39 - The Blethering Place Tea Room (Oak Bay, British Columbia, Canada)

Lately I've come across several fall recipes using cheddar cheese and apples, so this week I decided to try a Cheese and Apple Loaf, not quite sure what the result would be.

The recipe comes from the 1990 book "From The Blethering Place: A Collection of Traditional British Recipes." According to the book, "blethering" is a Scottish term which means "voluble, senseless talking." The tea room is now closed, but it was located in the village's oldest building and was originally home of a grocery store and post office. I love that!

Now the directions said to make this in "a" loaf pan, but it made so much batter, I couldn't help thinking this meant "a large" loaf pan, and I have only the smaller size ones. So, I made two loaves and adjusted the cooking time to 1 hour instead of an hour and a half. The result (despite a bit of sugar) was a crunchy-crusted, savory tasting bread I think would be great served alongside a fall or winter soup. The official Tea With Friends taste-tester disagreed, saying he detected the sweetness and, come to think of it, how would this be with a little honey on it? Well, he was right, and it was terrific! (I still think this would be lovely served with soup. It reminded me just a bit of those famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Red Lobster, but without the garlic.)

However you enjoy it, I think this bread is a great recipe for fall!

Cheese and Apple Loaf

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar (pulse regular sugar in the food processor for a minute or so if you don't have superfine)
2 eggs, beaten
8 ounces unpeeled, grated apples and their juice (about 2 medium)
1-1/4 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1-1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 rounded teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, apples, cheese and nuts. Sift the remaining ingredients together, add to bowl, and mix well. Batter will be very, very stiff! Spoon the batter into a loaf pan prepared with cooking spray and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. (Note: Remember that this is for the large loaf. The two smaller loaves required only 1 hour of baking time when I made mine.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

The winner of the stationery is ...

... Fiona! If you'll send me your snail mail address via the e-mail button at right, I'll get this set headed your way. Congrats!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Speaking of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, I thought I'd mention that the new recipe I tried turned out super! My go-to banana bread recipe calls for sour cream, which I didn't have, so I searched online for another recipe for an easy banana bread. (Side note: I thought of substituting some of the plain Greek yogurt we keep on hand these days for the sour cream. Do you think that would have worked?)

At any rate, the recipe I used is found here, and it was great! I did use the lower amount of sugar (3/4 cup) but I also added 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

With a cup of hot tea, a slice of any banana bread makes the perfect treat for afternoon teatime!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Baking pans in a color I adore!

At Target the other day, I wasn't exactly looking for bakeware when I happened upon some gorgeous new baking pans, but the color and design meant I simply had to come home with these. (At $9.99 each, they were also my final purchases on my anniversary gift card, alas, but Christmas will be here soon enough!)

The pans are part of their Threshold line of housewares, and the deep teal blue color is sort of the fall version of the teal/aqua palette I seem to have become slightly obsessed with this year.

Here's the bottom of the pie pan. Pretty, eh?

To try out the non-stick loaf pan, I baked a simple chocolate chip banana bread, and I'm pleased to report it popped right out of the pretty new pan! Are you a sucker for a pretty design in housewares too?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A new way to display vintage pins

For the past three and some odd years, I have displayed my teapot and teacup pins on my mannequin Matilda (you can see photos of her here). She was doing fine with this display and never complained about having to wear the same dress for so long, but frankly I was getting bored with her and decided to move some of the pins to a red velvet pillow, and here's the result!

Here's a detail of some of the tea-themed pins, which I really do consider as "art" and not just jewelry.

I got this idea not in a magazine *I* found but in one *my husband* picked up for me at Tractor Supply in Newnan the other day! Can you believe he would buy me a magazine, knowing I already subscribe to more than two dozen and usually purchase more? But his instincts were spot on, as I did not have this issue of Flea Market Style and absolutely love it!

There are so many neat ideas in this issue, but I especially loved seeing the pillow with costume jewelry arranged in the letter S. I thought about doing my last initial, M, but decided the A would be easier. And check out the drawer pulls on the pillow above it. You'd probably never know this from the way I love to shop, but some of my favorite decorating ideas are ones that simply require rearranging items you already own. It's thrifty, it doesn't require leaving the house (meaning I don't have to put on a bra), and it's fun!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Savoring some new Yezi Tea teas

I still have a few more tea samples from Yezi Tea to try, so this week I sampled the Dong Ding Winter Peak Taiwan Tea and Dragon Well Master Grade Long Jing.

The Dong Ding Winter Peak Taiwan Tea has the form of little balls of tea. When I opened the packet, I inhaled that crisp, fresh scent of wood shavings that I like so much. Steeped, the tea still had a bit of that woodsy fragrance. The taste was much richer and heartier than I normally find in an oolong tea, and it was the perfect brew to greet a cool fall morning!

I love the large, flat leaves of the Dragon Well Master Grade Long Jing. Dry, the green tea leaves had a fruity, almost grape-like fragrance. Steeped, the tea had a vegetal scent and taste that was quite satisfying. One thing these two teas had in common is that the tea leaves themselves had such a lovely, distinctive appearance. You know that old saying, "We eat with our eyes first"? Well, I sometimes think "we sip with our eyes first" as well, because the aesthetic pleasure of brewing and sipping loose leaf teas is one of the top reasons I enjoy tea so much. How 'bout you? Do you enjoy savoring the appearance of your tea leaves as well?

Monday, September 23, 2013

A teacup for fall

When my husband gives me cash or a gift card as a gift, as he did for our Sept. 2 anniversary, I seem to like to s-t-r-e-t-c-h that thing for as long as I can. So in addition to finding a new peacock Pyrex dish, thanks to his gift I also picked up a new fall teacup on eBay.

I love fall, but fall colors don't often go with my decor. The browns I can work with, but the bright oranges and bronzes, not so much. So when I saw this softly colored "Autumn Leaves" design teacup on eBay, I knew this was The One for me (much like the man who gave it to me, ha)!

The soft, gently faded colors of Limoges always appeal to me. (And if you want to see some more gorgeous Limoges, visit my friend Phyllis' blog here where she shares a recent wonderful find!)

The other thing I wanted to mention: I have long seen ads for Replacements, Ltd. in North Carolina, but I've never needed a replacement I couldn't find elsewhere so I've never ordered. This teacup was sold through eBay, but the seller was Replacements, and I was quite intrigued with the packaging the set arrived in. The box was so lightweight, and I'm used to opening teacups surrounded by either newspaper (which results in ink-smeared hands) or styrofoam peanuts (which are so messy). Replacements has ingeniously devised this box which shrink wraps the cup and saucer, separated by a foam pad, and wedges it into the box with a cardboard insert. Brilliant — and I'm glad it allowed my new fall teacup to arrive so safely. So what are you sipping from this week?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tea Room Recipe #38 - Barb's Country Tea Room and Yankee Peddlers (Osage Beach, Missouri)

Earlier this month, my husband and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary with a day in the north Georgia mountains. We enjoyed riding around and hitting all the antique malls along the way (or at least, I did!), and he asked if there was anything special I wanted to look for in the mountains. Yes, a fudge shop, I said. You always see fudge shops in the mountains, and since I hadn't had any fudge in ages, I wanted some. This week, I found a super easy recipe for a fudgey treat in one of my tea room cookbooks and decided to give it a try.

This cookbook is titled "A Collection of Favorite Recipes" from Barb's Country Tea Room and Yankee Peddlers in Osage Beach, Missouri. There's no date on the cookbook, but because of the ducks and country blue coloring I'm betting it's from the eighties. And I was delighted to find that what is now called Yankee Peddlers Tea Room is still in business there! It sounds like a fun place to enjoy tea and antiquing.

This recipe is called Quick 'N Easy Pecan Penuche, and penuche is a word I wasn't familiar with. (Did you know you can find the pronunciation of words by looking them up at the Merriam-Webster website and clicking on the audio icon? Go here to check it out!) I learned that penuche is "fudge made usually of brown sugar, butter, cream or milk, and nuts," which is exactly what's in this decadent treat. I think I'll start calling all my fudge penuche because it sounds so exotic. Just a single one-inch bite served in a paper cup would be a nice addition to the dessert course at teatime, don't you think?

Quick 'N Easy Pecan Penuche

1/2 cup butter or margarine (I used butter)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup chopped pecans (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans)

Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, add the brown sugar and boil. Reduce heat to low and stir for 2 minutes. Add milk, increase heat to medium and again bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Add confectioners sugar and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. Add 3/4 cup of the nuts and combine. Pour mixture into pan, then add the remaining 1/4 cup of nuts and lightly press into the mixture. Refrigerate until firm, or overnight. Cut into 1-inch squares and store in fridge, covered, up to 2 weeks. Yields about 5-1/2 dozen pieces.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A teatime stationery giveaway!

For months now I've passed by this great Karla Dornacher stationery set at Barnes & Noble. Frankly, I'm pretty well stocked on teatime stationery at the moment, but this was such a good buy it sure seemed to me that *somebody* who loves tea ought to be enjoying it. That's why I decided it was time to do a giveaway!

The box is shrink-wrapped so I didn't open it, but here's what's inside: 24 notecards, 24 stationery sheets, 48 lined envelopes and 48 envelope seals.

The stationery comes in this great box with a pull-out drawer. Could you use this? If so, U.S. and Canada residents, just leave an "enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. next Friday, Sept. 27, and it could be yours! Good luck!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bushberry Floral Collection Rose & Green Tea Soap

My other fun tea-related find at T.J. Maxx last week was this beautifully-wrapped bar of bath soap. And may I just say, I don't think we've ever had such a fine selection of soap choices in this world as we do today!

This one appealed to me because of the packaging, but when I turned it over and saw "Rose & Green Tea" on the label, I was hooked. It's a big bar of soap, and $3.99 is a very good price, especially compared with prices in gift boutiques for nice soaps.

Normally I use my good soaps in the shower, but this one has such a yummy fragrance it's currently scenting my lingerie drawer. It's an old-fashioned custom I still enjoy, and I'll bet some of you do as well!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Boston Tea Company's Cranberry Blood Orange Rooibos

Much as I love to shop, I've somehow gotten behind on my "free" shopping. That's what I call all those things like gift cards, Kohl's cash and rewards point certificates I've been hoarding and haven't yet spent. It was time to play catch up, so I headed to T.J. Maxx with my latest $10 in rewards points. This time, I got two items, including this $5.99 tin of tea from a new name in tea to me, the Boston Tea Company. (The other item is something I'll share tomorrow.)

Cranberry teas always make me think of fall, and this Cranberry Blood Orange Rooibos sounded like a nice new one to try. As soon as I opened the tin, I got a strong, pleasant whiff of orange. Steeped, the tea reminded me a lot of Harney's African Autumn blend, so I was pretty happy about that.

Usually when I share a new loose tea I like to pour a little of it out to photograph, but here I wanted you to see that this tea is visible through the lid! I thought that was quite interesting — especially since experts tell us not to expose our teas to light, but I'll probably drink this so quickly it won't become a problem!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Pleasures of Peacock Pyrex

Earlier this year, I found a beautifully-colored Pyrex casserole dish for just $6 at a cute little antique shop near Orange Beach, Ala. Since that time, gifts from my husband (a square casserole dish) and mom (a mixing bowl) have brought the number of these pieces up to three, so now I officially have a new collection!

I learned from a website that this "Peacock" Pyrex color was introduced in 2002, so it's not vintage by any means, it's just not a current color choice, so I have to go through my usual channels (antique stores and online searches) to find pieces at reasonable prices. This casserole dish came courtesy of a gift card my sweet husband gave me for our anniversary earlier this month! Now I'm on the hunt for the rectangular casserole dish and a pie plate (found a pie plate on eBay for $60, but I'm not paying that; $60 would buy a nice tea set somewhere!).

Since I'm now a collector, I had to splurge and drop the $1 this cookbook cost at an antique mall. It was fun to see that in this 1953 book, some of the Pyrex is the exact same shape of pieces I own today.

I also enjoyed seeing the old photos of Pyrex that was in fashion at the time, such as these Oven-Refrigerator pieces.

But what really got me was seeing the vegetables stored in those old Pyrex percolators! Do you have any kitchen collectibles that aren't necessarily teawares but something you use in the course of cooking your teatime (or even everyday) foods? I like having pretty things of every sort in my kitchen, as I'm a great believer in that old William Morris quote, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." My teawares and my Pyrex qualify on both counts!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Taste of Fall

When I got back from a trip to Atlanta on Saturday, I found a surprise gift basket from my friend Liz waiting in the garage. Now a gift from my shop-owner friend is always a real treat, not only because of the gift but also because of the presentation!

How could you not like the Raggedy Ann-looking features on the little scarecrow guy set against a backdrop of burlap and a pretty mossy green basket?

And of course I was thrilled to see a fall candle, as I've been wanting one but just hadn't made candle-shopping a priority lately! I also love these cute fall tissues. If you're like me, you'll buy the cute ones for friends but never for yourself.

And last but certainly not least, there was a tin of Pumpkin Spice tea from Harney & Sons! Now I don't believe I've ever tried this Harney blend before, though I thought I'd tried pretty much every flavored tea Harney makes. How did I miss one? Their Pumpkin Spice is a blend of rooibos with pumpkin flavoring and fall spices. It was indeed a very "fall-ish" tasting blend, with cinnamon notes of almost the red-hot-cinnamon variety, which I very much enjoy. Have you tried any new fall teas yet?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tea Room Recipe #37 - Magnolia & Ivy (Columbus, Ga. and Sandestin, Fla.)

This week's recipe is for a Fall Tea Spread which is easy, delicious, and something new in the way of fall tea sandwiches. Often, fall-themed tea sandwiches involve thin slices of apple and maybe some peanut butter edges dipped in pecans or walnuts. This spread, however, is those nutty and apple flavors combined in one quick whirl-in-the-food-processor step!

The recipe comes from the cookbook "Southern Teatime Made Easy" from Magnolia & Ivy, a beloved (and now gone) tea room I had the pleasure of visiting at both its Columbus, Ga. and Sandestin, Fla. locations.

The Fall Tea Spread was a real hit with my husband and me. We both ate the sandwiches and enjoyed them, and he said the spread would be great on a nice, fluffy biscuit. I was thinking it would be nice spread atop a thin, crisp cookie as well. However you try it, I think you'll agree that having a tea spread with the sweet tastes of fall is something different!

Fall Tea Spread

2 apples, peeled and chopped into chunks (I used Granny Smith)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until mixture reaches desired consistency. (I judged mine by looking to make sure the raisins were all chopped.) Serve on honeywheat or wheat bread cut into shapes, such as those I made with my fall leaf cookie cutters. Yields 40 tea sandwiches. (Note: I halved the recipe since there were just two of us, and we quickly gobbled up every bit of it!)