Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ginger wins the "My Country, 'Tis of Tea" prize!

Thank you to those of you who emailed me your responses to last week's pop quiz (all of them were 100 percent correct, by the way!), and Ginger was the winner of the prize, a $20 Amazon gift card. In case you didn't take the test and would like to know the answers, here they are. And Happy New Year!

1. This state was the first to grant women the right to vote, and some say a tea party helped advance the suffrage effort there. Wyoming

2. This state is the home of America’s only working tea plantation. South Carolina

3. A tearoom in this state served meals to scientists working on the Manhattan Project. New Mexico

4. This state is the home of a town called Edenton in which one Penelope Barker and 51 other women protested the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773, an event which became known as the Edenton Tea Party. North Carolina

5. This state has a city by the name of “Tea.” South Dakota

6. This state is the home of Stash Tea. Oregon

7. Luzianne Tea was founded in this state. Louisiana

8. One of the most legendary tea sandwiches is the Benedictine tea sandwich, named for a famous caterer, Jennie Benedict, and it is associated with this state. Kentucky

9. Lots of Depression Glass, including the Art Deco Tea Room pattern, was produced in this state. Indiana

10. In which state was Arizona Tea founded? New York

Friday, December 30, 2016

Napkin organization time

This week has been all about organizing. If it sits still long enough at this house, it is going to get organized, and preferably before midnight tomorrow. I love to end the year having checked off lots of things on my to-do list, and one of those items has been to clean out my linen closet and get rid of the things I don't use.  I do use my various napkins, but they were scattered in different piles, so I'm trying to bring order to the chaos.

I discovered that while I had lots of mismatched floral napkins in various pastels, the ones I ended up using almost every time I have a tea or other formal occasion are the dressier white ones, and they basically ended up being various white napkins with pretty corner treatments, clockwise from top left: monogrammed "M" napkins (which I love but found only four of them a few years ago), crochet-edge napkins (a find from my late mother), Battenberg lace napkins (also from my mom), and some thin but beautiful embroidered and pulled-thread napkins (I have no idea where or when I found these).

Happily, my gift from Aunt Jane this Christmas was a set of six more monogrammed napkins, which, surprisingly, were found at T.J. Maxx! I was intrigued to note the differences in the whiteness level of all of my napkins, and I realized since I usually use them with a cream-colored crochet tablecloth, I mix white and cream things quite regularly and don't really worry about whether or not something is a stark white. My only remaining question is what's the best way to store napkins. I usually wait and iron them right before I need them, but I'm thinking of going ahead and ironing them and rolling them around an empty gift wrap roll. Would love to hear any tips/thoughts you might have to share!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The January/February 2017 issue of Tea Time … and a question!

Since Christmas has passed, it's okay to talk about a magazine that features hearts on the cover, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I love the simple yet elegant idea of using heart-shaped slices of strawberry to embellish a cake. (And why haven't I thought of this before?)

Tea Time always has at least a few recipes I'd like to try, and this time, I was also inspired by the way they displayed macarons in this stemmed bowl. I have some similar glass bowls I purchased at a Southern Living at Home party years ago, and I don't pull them out nearly often enough. Macarons, truffles, shortbread bites … now I'm thinking of even more creative ways I can use these pretty scalloped bowls!

I always love to read about tea production around the world, and this time I enjoyed the article on tea by editor Lorna Reeves, who actually visited Sri Lanka herself and learned about Ceylon tea. A fun read!

And here's my question: How do you all keep track of favorite articles in Tea Time? I've decided I'm going to start keeping a log (printed or computerized, I'm not sure which) of favorite articles, recipes, and topics. That way, I'll be able to revisit favorite articles without thumbing through more than a decade's worth of issues. I have them all, and yet I rarely go back to those early issues. Do you? How do you keep track of your favorite articles? Or do you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In search of missing pieces

What do you do when you're missing a creamer? You substitute a cute Santa Claus tea figurine (thank you, Linda!), that's what! He's filling in admirably, I think, in light of the missing piece that I was unsuccessful at locating in 2016, so I'm hoping for better luck with the search in 2017.

Last year I bought this Christmas chintz teapot and two-tiered serving tray at a T.J. Maxx, and after I blogged about it, my friend Joy thoughtfully located three dessert plates and the sugar bowl for me—on clearance! As you can see, my table setting is a plate, four teacups, and one creamer short of completion. When I started seriously looking for the missing pieces in the fall, I was very surprised to find I could not locate the missing plate at any price, anywhere. Not even at, which told me that there must not be many of these out there! I could buy the sugar and creamer as a set, but I don't *need* another sugar bowl, so … I'm holding out.

What do you think about mixing this Christmas chintz pattern? When my dad gave me money to buy my Christmas gifts from him this year, I bought two of these pretty teacups when I found them at Marshalls, and I'm thinking they could blend well. Or would you just mix and match with four different patterns of Christmas teacup? No rush, though. I won't be putting these out again for another year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Country Christmas

I always enjoy seeing other bloggers' family Christmas photos, so I thought I'd share a few of mine this year! We celebrate at the home of my dad, who lives much more out in the country compared to my neck of the woods, and my sister's family is building a new home next door. So after we all finished visiting our various churches this year (and Alex and I agree our church's service was one of our favorite things about Christmas), Christmas Day saw the usual bountiful lunch and gifts, a next-door home tour, and a visit with the goats and my niece Amelia's new miniature donkey, Itsy.

I'm afraid I can't quite remember which of the five goats is which, but I know these two are Fred and Ethel.

It is indeed more blessed to give than to receive, and at Christmas, I really, really enjoy shopping for the grandkids and for my nieces and nephew. Amelia, who likes to send me long texts followed by a string of emoticons, loved her emoticon message bead kit. 😀😂😉

Matthew's new Star Wars Legos certainly made him smile.

Cari's favorite gift was clearly the new ukulele she received from her parents, and Alex and I knew she'd never guess …

What our biggest gift to her was this year. (If you guessed a sparkly new lamp for her new bedroom, you win!)

And I didn't take a picture of Madison opening anything, but her favorite part of the day was clearly spending time with her gentleman caller, Dylan.

Here's my sister, Rhonda, and me with Daddy, and then a better picture of Daddy. (Rhonda, who has always been thin, thought the other pictures made her look fat. As if!)

And here are Amelia and Matthew with their gingerbread house. Matthew was proud of the handle and doorbell on the house but said it looked like "a candy tornado" had come through. Ha! I hope you all had a great time celebrating with your own family and friends!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The gift of tea and reflection

I don't know about you, but I find that the week after Christmas is one of my most favorite weeks of the year. After all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it's wonderful to be able to just kick back and relax, stay out of stores (yes, I really said that), and reflect on the old year and look forward to the new one. And tea friend Frances surprised me with a lovely gift that is helping me do just that!

This darling little tea-themed tote and mug mat include a quote from the great C.S. Lewis, whose "Screwtape Letters" is one of my all-time favorite books.

Also included in the tote were two items perfect for post-Christmas reflecting, a darling new teacup pocket journal and a package of teas! (Frances couldn't have known this, but I talked myself down from buying that very journal in a gift shop recently. I feel guilty shopping for myself at Christmas, but I did remember that sweet journal and wished I had it. And now I do!)

But the message on the back of the tote is what I'm admiring most today, and I intend to do exactly this and little else. How do you relax after Christmas each year?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — The Exit Exam

Friends, I hope you all are getting ready to have a wonderful Christmas celebration with family and friends! And for those of you who have followed this series throughout 2016, I now present the final exam. I was going to make the quiz 50 questions, but my husband said that was too hard and he wouldn't do it, so I've whittled it down to 10. 

Anyone who correctly answers these 10 questions between now and 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, will be entered in a drawing for a very special gift! Can you answer them? If so, just type your answers, email them to me at angelamcrae at charter dot net (or use the button at right) and you'll be entered to win. Good luck!

1. This state was the first to grant women the right to vote, and some say a tea party helped advance the suffrage effort there.

2. This state is the home of America’s only working tea plantation.

3. A tearoom in this state served meals to scientists working on the Manhattan Project.

4. This state is the home of a town called Edenton in which one Penelope Barker and 51 other women protested the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773, an event which became known as the Edenton Tea Party. 

5. This state has a city by the name of “Tea.”

6. This state is the home of Stash Tea.

7. Luzianne Tea was founded in this state.

8. One of the most legendary tea sandwiches is the Benedictine tea sandwich, named for a famous caterer, Jennie Benedict, and it is associated with this state.

9. Lots of Depression Glass, including the Art Deco Tea Room pattern, was produced in this state.

10. In which state was Arizona Tea founded?

Tip: If you'd like an easy way to search the old blog posts to help you find the answers, click here.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Cookie Cup cookie cutter

So it was my last visit to T.J. Maxx / HomeGoods before Christmas, and I was looking for gift ideas for a dear friend I wanted to get a little something extra. I found her a beautiful pie plate with a wreath design inside, and while I was in the housewares section, I found for myself this Cookie Cup cookie cutter that looked intriguing. As you can see, I haven't even opened it yet, but it lets you imprint star designs …

Or a small fluted cookie design …

And small circle designs. That's all in addition to the large (about 3-inch diameter) opening up top. And since some of you like tea-themed kitchen gadgets as much as I do, I wanted to be sure you knew about it. You can also find these here, but I like the HomeGoods price much better!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tea treats from my pen pal!

A Christmas gift from Sandy, my pen pal in New York, has arrived, and I have had so much fun tucking into the wonderful array of gifts. I especially wanted you to see some of the handmade and tea things she included since those are favorites for so many of us! My favorite was this embroidered piece featuring friends at tea.

It's the perfect gift for a tea-loving pen pal, isn't it?

And some stocking-shaped silverware holders. Aren't these darling? I especially love how she included "paper utensils" to illustrate how they are used!

And a beautiful fabric tote bag that I have truly *needed* to corral some of the tea-themed quilting supplies that have been floating around my office-slash-crafts room.

Sandy also included some cute teacup napkins and a new tea strainer, and also a coloring book, some tea-themed gift bags, framed artwork of a three-tiered tea tray, a china tea bag holder, some pretty flower accents she crocheted for the kitchen sink sprayer, several charming notepads and shopping lists, recipe cards, and a few more things she knew I'd love because they're "quilty" gifts. Honestly, I was pulling so many goodies out of that box, my husband sat in amazement and watched. He said it was like watching all of those circus clowns pile out of a tiny little car and wondering how they all could possibly fit inside. But as we all know, tea friends are some of the most generous of friends, aren't they!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sampling new teas from a tea friend in Canada

Some of you have clearly been much more industrious about getting out the Christmas cards than I have been this year, and oh, I was so happy when I received one from Margaret in Canada! Not only because she so thoughtfully sent me a card but also because it contained samples of two delicious teas I've never tried before, Northern Delights Inuit Herbal Tea and Basilur Frosty Afternoon Ceylon Black Tea!

First I tried the Northern Delights Inuit Herbal Tea. It had a wonderfully rich, sweet taste (without adding any sugar, which I almost never do anymore). In fact, I tried to detect what was responsible for the sweetness. Cinnamon? A wee touch, maybe, but not the main flavor at all. Finally I looked on the company's website and saw that the tea contains a few things I'd never have guessed in a million years: "sarsaparilla roots, fenugreek seeds, cloudberry, cinnamon, carob, roasted maté, natural flavours, roasted barley, grilled dandelion roots." I loved this tea!

And although it says "Frosty Afternoon," I enjoyed this Basilur Pure Ceylon Black Tea in the evening and so enjoyed the surprise of its bright, citrusy taste! (I taste first, guess the flavor last.) The blend is of black loose tea ("grade FBOP from the lower elevations of Ceylon," the website says) and has cornflower, blue cornflower, and the flavors of passionfruit and orange. A lovely treat from a lovely tea friend!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bottlebush trees and bell jar ornaments

If you're like me, you probably have some "collections within collections." I knew that among my Christmas decorations, I had a "thing" for bell jar ornaments a few years ago, and I began to notice that many of them had bottlebrush trees inside. Then I realized that I have quite a few little bottlebrush trees as well. This year, they're all lined up on the mantel in the living room.

I usually pick up a new bell jar ornament or two most years, and I love how these tiny little worlds all have something different inside. 

I've never really collected a Christmas village (although I'm jealous of my friends who have villages of tea shops!), but I do use ornaments like this one as village pieces. Can this count?

And of course when I'm going all Shabby Chic, my cream-colored teapots and candle holders are never far away, and neither is one of the vintage teapot ornaments I collect.

One of my favorite little trees is this one under glass, which I nabbed the minute I saw it at a Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic store in Atlanta a few years ago. The store didn't stay in Atlanta long, so I'm glad I got this when I did!

Another bottlebrush tree with a Santa, and another bell jar ornament with tiny bottlebrush trees inside.

Another vintage teapot ornament gets worked in here as well, alongside another doodad with a tiny bottlebrush tree and, in a nod to our Wisconsin family, a Green Bay Packers ornament that lights up and turns all different colors at night. It's the one "modern" addition to this vintage grouping, and I think our little Packers snowman fits in quite well!

Monday, December 19, 2016

How to have a (turquoise) blue Christmas

I seem to be adding to the Christmas decorations day by day this year, and I thought some of you might enjoy seeing a few more of the "teatime" touches I've worked in, so I'll be sharing a few more this week. The teapot ornament hanging on the bride's basket above was a *perfect* fit for this turquoise vignette, and it was one I was delighted to receive from Margie in California last year.

The butterflies on the ornament are the perfect shade of turquoise, and the ornie reads, "When in doubt, make tea." Good advice, always!

And just to show you that I do occasionally follow through with the things I *say* I'm going to do on this blog, here is the bride's basket full of mini-ornaments that I was inspired to gather after reading an article in that Christmas issue of Flea Market Décor. I didn't want to decorate the living room and dining room entirely in turquoise this year, so the turquoise is confined to this little table in our foyer, but I've enjoyed having a splash of turquoise to enjoy.

I found a beaded turquoise tree at Marshalls, I believe, several years ago, but it's a little too new for my tastes, so I accessorized it by adding right on top this tacky/gaudy/lovable (choose one) rhinestone Christmas tree I found at an antique mall years ago.

Now these stars are some pieces I found at Target the year I first got into decorating with turquoise, and they are pretty, but they are lethal. In fact, I started to toss them this year, but the glitter looks so pretty with the other stuff, I decided they get to stay for another year.

And last but not least, there's the dollar store nativity that remains one of the most meaningful gifts I've ever received. If you haven't read the story behind it, it's here.