Friday, October 31, 2014

Who wants a pretty quilt pattern?

No tricks, I have a treat for someone today! I've been sorting through and cleaning out my old sewing books and patterns, and there's a lovely and never-used quilt pattern I have finally admitted is simply beyond my skill set. It's called "Coffee Cake" by Quilt Soup, and although it has "coffee" in the title I thought those pretty cups and saucers would make it perfect to hang in my dining room. And it would. If I were that skilled a seamstress. And I'm not.

See this pretty quilted Dresden plate in the background of the cup and saucer? It makes me laugh now to think that a newbie quilter once bought this pattern. But perhaps you are an experienced quilter, or you know someone who is? If you'd like to win this pattern, just leave a comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3, and you'll be entered to win. (U.S. and Canada only, please.) Meanwhile, thanks for helping me clean out my stash!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tea-ish towels from T.J. Maxx

Seems as if it's been ages since I found any cute new "tea stuff" at T.J. Maxx, but I did find some cute new kitchen towels for Christmas there over the weekend and wanted to give you a heads-up!

I probably have enough nice cotton and linen tea towels to last me the rest of my life, but I *never* have enough of the good old terry cloth towels.

And of course T.J. Maxx always has them at a good price!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flavors of fall from Adagio

I'm still enjoying sampling the new teas I received from Adagio recently, and this week I tried two new ones that are part of their perfect-for-fall Nut and Spice Sampler, the Oriental Spice Tea and Almond Tea.

I never tire of opening a new packet of tea and inhaling and then examining the tea leaves. The Oriental Spice Tea is described as a "tangy Ceylon tea blended with fresh, herby-sweet spices." These spices include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and orange rinds, and I very much enjoyed the warm, spicy flavor of this tea.

I love-love-love almond flavor, and when I opened the Almond Tea a mighty fine scent greeted me. This almond-flavored Ceylon blend is absolutely packed with almond flavor, and I think I may have found my favorite "nutty" tea yet. It also tasted naturally sweet, and it was so dessert-y, in fact, that I forgot to get the sweet I originally headed to the kitchen for when I decided to sample this tea — and that's saying something! If you'd like to find out more about Adagio's Nut and Spice Sampler, go here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin Chai Tea Bread

It's not like me to wait this late in October to make a pumpkin recipe, but that's exactly what I've done. I was thinking back to that yummy Sweet Potato-Pecan Tea Bread I made recently, and I had the idea to make pretty much the same recipe but using canned pumpkin instead. And to spice things up, what if I flavored it with some chai?

The result, I'm happy to say, is one of my best tea bread loaves yet! Even the DH gave it an A+, so that made me happy. I again lined my glass loaf pan with parchment paper and then sprayed the parchment paper before adding the batter and baking. Another happy, whole loaf that doesn't come apart in the pan. I like this recipe so much, I may decide to do some more tweaks before I'm finished with it!

Pumpkin Chai Tea Bread

1/4 cup boiling water
2 heaping tablespoons loose chai (or equivalent in tea bags)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour boiling water into a cup and add the chai, steeping for about 5 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, oil, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. When the chai has steeped, add to liquid ingredients. Mix well using a wire whisk. In another medium bowl, add all the dry ingredients and stir. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepared 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 1 hour before removing loaf from pan.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A touch of fall on the tea trolley

Since I haven't redecorated my tea trolley in a while, I decided to add a few touches of fall before I go all-in with the Thanksgiving decor next month!

Now my husband wishes the sweetgum trees would disappear from our yard, and every time my bare feet step on these sweetgum balls in the summer I am inclined to agree, but I think the balls are kind of pretty when they're still in the green stage before they turn brown. I poured these in a teacup-shaped wicker basket and plopped in a copper cookie cutter just because it seemed like the thing to do.

I don't have a lot of things in the fall color palette, so I decided my Harney and Sons tins of Pumpkin Spice Tea and Cranberry Autumn Tea could also count as "decor."

These white flowers were used at the bridesmaids luncheon for my newly-married friend Cydney, but I think the natural colored fabric with raffia bow makes this kind of fallish.

This grapevine (I think) teapot was a long-ago gift from a friend, and I love it. Wish I knew how to make one of these!

And last but not least, I continue to use the lovely fall tablecloth I won from tea friend Bernideen's blog a few years ago. Have you decorated for fall? If so, do you change your decorations for Thanksgiving?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #43 -- The William Cullen Bryant Tea Room (Great Barrington, Mass.)

Now here's a name that is no doubt a familiar one to many of you. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was a poet, journalist, and at one time the editor of the New York Evening Post. He moved in some fine circles, as he was an early supporter of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York Medical College, and he also had ties to the Hudson River School of art.

The back of the postcard didn't tell me very much except for noting the address of the Maynard Workshop in Waban, Mass., which also happens to be the photographer for the postcard. The name "John B. Maynard" appears along with the notation "10 o'clock 11/18/37." So naturally I went online to do a search for "William Cullen Bryant Tea Room," and that led me to Google Books where I found an excerpt from the 1937 book "Massachusetts: a Guide to the Bay State." It says this: "The William Cullen Bryant House, now a summer tearoom, is in the garden behind the Berkshire Inn. The house (1739) is a two-and-a-half-story dwelling with a two-leaf door of the early Connecticut Valley type and with two interior chimneys. The interior is handsomely paneled, particularly the 'marriage room.' Here Bryant was married at the time he was practicing law and serving as town clerk (1815-25) of Great Barrington." It was fun to learn about one of the country's early literary lights, and I'm happy to know a little about the tea room that bore his name.

Friday, October 24, 2014

It's Christmas at Tea Time magazine!

I have been hitting the newsstands lately looking for magazines that would give me a little Christmas inspiration. I like to start early with my plans for gifting, baking and decorating, but I haven't seen any new magazines offering something I haven't seen a dozen times before. And while I'm always pleased to see the new issue of Tea Time magazine land in my mailbox, I was *very* pleased with this issue because it instantly gave me a new idea for this Christmas!

There are lovely articles galore, but my favorite was this spread on Spode's 76-year-old Christmas Tree china pattern. I confess it never occurred to me to pair my pieces with another pattern, but they did so here with gorgeous results! I also learned the shape of my Spode Christmas Tree teapot (mine's shown here) is called the "gadroon" shape. Nice to know!

And since I was too full to eat the beautiful Battenberg Cake at Fortnum and Mason in London when I visited in May, I was delighted to see a step-by-step recipe for one in the latest Tea Time. Have you received your new issue yet? If so, what were your favorite features?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"More Sweet Tea"

After reading "Sweet Tea & Jesus Shoes" last month, I was eager to tuck into the follow-up collection of short stories, "More Sweet Tea." Since I'm not usually a fan of short stories, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed that first volume of southern-themed tales. Now the second book has so inspired me that I'm thinking I'd actually like to *write* a few short stories like these, old-fashioned southern stories that make people smile or laugh out loud.

"Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" by Maureen Hardegree is about a woman who finds herself in a quandary when her hairdresser drops dead of a heart attack. What's the problem? Well, who's going to do her hair before she goes to the hairdresser's viewing? Another tale that had me grinning ear to ear, "The Healing Touch" by Susan Alvis, is about a nurse and her uncle who finds himself experiencing, well, let's just say a painful (but not terminal) ailment that probably doesn't need to be named on a tea blog. His wife, a bit of a herbalist and healer, uses the wrong prescription to treat his ailment and accidentally ends up curing him.

One of the sweetest stories I read, "The Hope Quilt" by Susan Goggins, has a subplot about a woman who teaches her future daughter-in-law to make biscuits. If you saw the "Biscuit Table" vignette in the photos of my friend's wedding earlier this week, you won't be surprised to know that this lovely lady reminded me of that one! And another story in the book, "The Sun, The Moon, and a Box of Divinity" by Clara Wimberly, includes an afternoon tea scene I loved. The hostess tells some young guests, "You know when I was a little girl, livin' in Mobile, Alabama, we had tea every Sunday afternoon. There would be cucumber sandwiches, watercress and cream cheese sandwiches, cheese straws with orange marmalade, and a variety of desserts." "Cucumber sandwiches?" one of the boys said, laughing loudly. "Heck, who'd want to eat a cucumber sandwich?" If you enjoy sweet stories like these, I definitely recommend these two books!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Adagio's Cream Tea

Among the free samples I recently received from Adagio Teas was a package of their Cream Tea. The name intrigued me, because in teatime circles "Cream Tea" usually refers to the simple English teatime treat of scones, clotted cream and jam, and tea. This time, however, the name "Cream Tea" refers to cream-flavored tea.

According to Adagio, this tea consists of Ceylon black tea with dairy-free cream flavoring.

The leaves are nice and black with a few bits of brown. I could smell the "cream" as soon as I opened this package of tea. Steeped, the tea had a very sweet, caramel-like flavor, and it did indeed taste as if cream had already been added, which I find rather magical. If you like a dessert type of tea experience, I definitely recommend this Cream Tea variety, and you can find out more about it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More scenes from the weekend's wedding!

All 24 of the guest tables had a theme at this wedding, and the Silver Teapot Table was, for obvious reasons, one of my favorites. The theme was inspired by a family friend that Cydney and her sister Alley have called "Missamanda," one word, from the time that they were little. And "Missamanda" recently decorated her own daughter's wedding reception with her grandmother's silver teapots, thus the inspiration for this table.

The White Pitcher Table was designed in honor of Cydney's maternal grandmother, Shannon, who is known as a wonderful cook and writer up in the north Georgia mountains. She is a gifted writer and poet, and you can see at back the frame bearing a poem she wrote for Cydney years ago.

The Biscuit Table was in honor of Cydney's paternal grandmother, Zelma, a prize-winning biscuit maker who uses only White Lily flour. This is the dough bowl she has used to make her biscuits for many years. I was there when Zelma first read this, and she was so touched! I shamelessly took advantage of the moment to ask if I might come over for biscuits sometime and she said of course I can. I hope she knows I wasn't even kidding …

The peacocks on this table were handed down to Cydney's Aunt Lynn by her mother-in-law. Cydney and Lynn have a special bond, and this sign says "their love for each other is as bright as a peacock's feathers."

Cydney's Aunt Lisa was the inspiration for the Flower Box and Thread Spools Table. The family has had some challenges this year (the loss of loved ones, serious illness), and "Lisa is the thread who has kept us all together," the sign said. (Sweet!)

The Watering Cans Table honored Cydney's Uncle Chip and Aunt Jane, who are known for their beautiful lawn and their green thumbs.

The Jewelry Chest Table said this: "In the middle of this table is Cydney's jewelry chest that her mother gave her when she was 10. This chest originally housed homemade necklaces, braided bracelets, and bubblegum machine rings. As Cydney grew, so did her taste in jewelry. Today, her most special piece of jewelry is not in this jewelry chest but rather on her left hand."

This is a detail from Alley's Table, in honor of Cydney's younger sister. This sign read: "This table inspiration came from Cydney's sister, Alley. From the time Alley could hold a crayon, she has had trouble not writing on walls or herself. As a little girl, she stayed on restriction for marking on walls and doing things like coloring her legs and Cydney's legs with a black marker until no skin could be seen. Today, her name is written in marker on the back steps at our house, spray painted on the floor of our basement, and carved in her dresser. Alley, sweet Alley, may you always color outside the lines."

The bride's mother's decorating skills were saluted in Mom's Table, which featured paint and fabric swatches, miniature paint cans and rolls of ribbon. (I guess you can tell Cydney's mom loves to decorate!)

The most magnificent table, though, was this enormous farm table set for the bridal party. (Did I mention that the father of the bride owns his own building materials company? It came in handy!)

Here's another view of this table showing the pretty copper-colored satin ribbon glistening in the late afternoon sun.

Another fun touch was this produce stand where the punch was served.

Souvenir cups were favors for the guests, and everyone got to sip punch through personalized straws.

Family friend Sharon was the inspiration for the Love Table, and I thought this one was a fitting note to end on! I wish I could show you *all* the decorations, but hopefully this has given you an idea of the wonderful wedding I attended over the weekend. Thanks for sharing in the fun!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cydney & Luke get married!

Since you all have heard about the bridal shower and the bridesmaids' luncheon for my sweet friend Cydney, I thought it was only fitting that I share some photos from her and Luke's wedding on Saturday! It was a beautiful day, and the weather cooperated gloriously (thank you, Lord!) for this gorgeous fall wedding. I had promised my friend Liz, the bride's mom, that I would be sure to photograph the decorations, so that's what I focused on — along with a few pictures of the bride and groom, of course!

Liz used an old headboard for this sign, which marked the entrance to the road where the wedding was held.

The morning before the wedding, as I drove down the road leading to the wedding venue, I couldn't help smiling as I realized Liz had decorated not only the entrance to the wedding site but also *the entire road* leading the way.

As you step onto the property, the first of many vignettes appeared, this one featuring a happy photo of Cydney and Luke.

An old mailbox was used as the receptacle for the gift cards, and an old iron bed was the "gift table."

Both got filled before the evening was over!

The mailbox was decorated with vintage jewelry, and I absolutely loved it!

As you headed on down the hill, you saw yet another vignette, this living room scene.

I had forgotten that Liz told me she had written "love" quotes all over an upholstered chair!

This pavilion was the perfect venue for serving the bride and groom's cakes as well as serving as the dance floor. (Side note: one of my fellow wedding helpers is from Illinois, and she said she had never heard of having a groom's cake until she moved to the South. Is that true for any of you? I'm curious!)

Here's the buffet that served as the bride's cake table as we were setting it up during the day …

– and here it is at showtime!

I loved the pretty cake with its burlap flower touches — both elegant and rustic and perfect for an outdoor wedding in the fall.

There's a fireplace in the pavilion, and Liz had decorated it to look as if it's part of Cydney and Luke's home.

Here's a closeup of the fabric and lace garland on the fireplace. (I hope my friend Sandra sees this eventually, because I took this photo knowing she would love this particular detail!)

This is the "Coffee Station" under the pavilion.

But wait 'til you see the table decorations! That was one of the things I know Liz has worked on for months. There were 24 table vignettes, all created using mementos and family treasures that honored various friends and family of the bride and groom. The morning of the wedding, we helpers started pulling boxes from beneath the tables to follow the instructions left by my highly-organized friend. The first box I pulled out to decorate with happened to be the table honoring family friend … me! Ha! What are the chances? Anyway, here's the "Frou Frou" table.

And here's the sweet message Liz wrote, which I know you will appreciate for its tea connections: "This table's inspiration came from family friend Angela McRae, who has been so sweet to Cydney and Alley over the past 25 years. She gave Cydney her first Easter dress, a beautiful, frilly frock with a mini hoop … it was precious. Also, Angela has given tea parties with both Cydney and Alley, teaching them the right way to make a good cup of tea and true Southern manners." Guess you can see why I love this family so much. Tomorrow, I'll share some more of these wonderful table vignettes!