Friday, December 14, 2018

On dolls and tea and Christmas

Vintage Christmas cards and postcards with a tea theme do not appear to be that plentiful, but this week, I found a new-to-me vintage postcard on Flickr that we are free to use with a link to Dave here.

Isn't this a sweet image? I love that line about "you and your dollies so festive and jolly," and I don't hear that much about dolls anymore. Do you? When I was a little girl, Santa used to bring me those fancy dolls that were really for display, usually in a velvet or lace dress and with perfectly coiffed hair protected by a nearly invisible hair net. One doll I do remember playing with is Dancerina the ballerina. Do any of you remember your childhood dolls? I'd love to hear about them, especially if they joined you for tea!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Magic Rabbit Tea Infuser

I received an early Christmas gift of a new tea infuser from my friend Nancy, and I'm nicknaming this one "Snow Bunny" since I am hoping to see snow here in Georgia sometime this winter.

 It's actually a Magic Rabbit Tea Infuser, and it's quite simple to use.

You fill the infuser, a typical tea ball, and the bunny attached to it perches on the side of your cup while the tea steeps.

And when you're done, the infuser "magically" goes back in the hat while the bunny is there to greet you! Now I don't always use my cute tea infusers (I tend to reach for a mesh strainer or filter tea bag), but I do love to collect unusual tea infusers as fun teatime novelties. It has dawned on me that I need a clever way of displaying them. Any ideas?

Monday, December 10, 2018

The tea-themed tree, 2018 edition

Earlier this year, my friend Carole Ann gave me a couple of these tipping teapot ornaments that appear to be magically pouring tea, and I am so happy to have them on my tree this year. In fact, as I was putting up the tree last weekend, it dawned on me that this tree is rich in memories and friendship, and that's probably why I enjoy it so much. The smallish (six-foot) white tree I bought last year was a hit with my husband, so I decided to decorate the same tree again this year.

Two of my most treasured ornaments: tea-themed ornaments lovingly handmade and gifted to me by thoughtful friends. Tiny gold charms are on both and always make me smile when I pull them out!

A souvenir of a long-past December trip with Alex. 

Another treasured gift from a friend, which I take as a reminder that I, too, am to be "steeped in tranquility" at Christmas, not running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

A local shop owner gave me this ornament years ago. Kind of makes me want to do an all-blue-and-white tree one day. Hmmm …  

Another treasured handmade ornament, this one from Texas!

A tea-loving Madame Alexander doll who came to me from Hawaii.
Together, they all make me so, so happy!

I also decided it was time to get a few presents under the tree, so I pulled out the vintage-look gift wrap I've been gathering for the past two years. It reminded me of a cautionary tale from last year …

Note how the gift wrap has a To/From label printed as part of the design (see center of photo). Well, last year I decided I would just write on the paper instead of applying labels. But no one in my family (except me) knew to look for the handwriting, so it probably took us thirty extra minutes on Christmas Day to hand out all the presents since everyone was trying to figure out whose package was whose!

So it's back to labels this year.

And of course I don't have to tell you, dear reader, how I reward myself following an afternoon of wrapping gifts!

Friday, December 7, 2018

"The Southern Living Party Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Gathering"

In my early twenties, I was introduced to Southern Living magazine, and I've been reading it pretty steadily ever since. Southern Living is always a source of high-quality home and garden articles, excellent photography, and delicious recipes, and they currently feature a monthly column by one of the South's greatest writers, the incomparable Rick Bragg. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to review a new cookbook from this magazine, The Southern Living Party Cookbook by Elizabeth Heiskell.

The original Southern Living Party Cookbook came out in 1972, and this new edition, subtitled "A Modern Guide to Gathering," is a beautiful book that's just brimming with recipes begging to be tried. The book also includes a brief "Hosting Handbook," which would make this book a great wedding gift for a new bride setting up her home.

The book is divided into sections titled Teas, Coffees, and Receptions; Brunches and Lunches; Come by For a Drink Y'all; Cookouts; and Celebrations and Dinners. As a tea lover, I especially enjoyed the first two chapters and found plenty of goodies I want to make, including the Puff Pastry Chicken Salad Ring, Lemon Drop Cookies (they're made with crushed lemon candies), and the Quick Petits Fours. There are also several tea sandwich recipes I'd like to try, including the Salmon-Cucumber ones, and something that sounds like a real possibility for teatime, the Cream Cheese-and-Pecan Rolled Grapes (with bacon!). And since I've never had a Southern Living recipe fail on me, I'm most eager to give these new ones a try. Now if Southern Living would just shoot for an entire book of teatime recipes, I'd be in heaven!

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The opera singer and her tea set

Have you ever heard of opera singer Alma Gluck? I had not, but I spotted her photo while perusing old tea images on the Library of Congress website. This one says:

Photograph shows Romanian-American opera singer Alma Gluck (1884-1938) seated on floor with toys for Christmas including a Schoenhut toy piano, "Tinkerblox" word set, Maillard chocolate box, dolls, tea set, stuffed cat and stuffed bear on wheels (possibly made by Steiff). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2016)

I enlarged a section of the photo showing the tea set to get a little more detail, but it's blurry, so I can't quite tell what the design is. If you happen to recognize the pattern, please chime in!

So … Alma Gluck. I Googled her, and while I'd never heard of Alma, I certainly have heard of her son and her granddaughter. (I loved Remington Steele!) Who knew?

Monday, December 3, 2018

I'm dreaming of a retro Christmas

Like many of you, I imagine, I now have so many Christmas decorations that I could decorate my house several times over. This year, I have developed a real hankering for the retro colors and designs from the fifties and sixties, so that's what I used to surround some of my Christmas teacups on the tea trolley this year.

My favorite antique mall find of the season: a white plastic tree with flocked velvet poinsettias and fake pinecones. (I can remember when ladies wore plastic floral corsages at Christmas. Can any of you?)

For those of you who, like me, were born between 1930 and 1970 (I was born the last year of the Baby Boom, 1964), I highly recommend this book, Under the Tree, which shows the dolls, trains, games, and other toys that were so popular during these years. I shared it with my husband for the first time recently, and he spotted an erector set just like the one he got as a child.

I've also started collecting vintage Christmas cards when I spot them for a reasonable price. I love the bright colors and designs on these. (I've also discovered vintage nativity cards, and I'll share those another day once I've got my nativity sets placed.)

I love pulling out my Christmas teacups each year, and it's almost like discovering a new gift when I reach into the box and find poinsettias and holly gracing some bone china cups and saucers. And I will indeed use them all during the month of December. It makes sipping so much more festive!

Another fun antique mall find this year was this Rushton Santa Claus doll. I loved his vintage look and thought he'd be fun to decorate with. As I was paying for him, a man came up and told me he believed this doll was from the thirties. 

Santa's shoes looked pretty old, so I thought, "Hmm. Maybe." But then I got home, did a little research, and discovered Santa is actually a doll produced by Coca-Cola in the fifties (if you look at his left hand in the photo, he is missing the Coke bottle), and it sold for $3. Not surprising, really, that I'd find one of these in this area since I live near Coke's home office.

And this is the topper on the cute little Santa mug arrangement I got last month at that Christmas market. My tea-themed tree is up (I'm saving those photos for another day), and it's truly beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! How about at your house?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "Imperial Tea Party" by Frances Welch

Summary: When Queen Victoria's favorite granddaughter, Alexandra, marries Nicholas II of Russia in 1894, Britain and Russia begin an uneasy alliance, and Frances Welch's account of this "ill-fated British and Russian royal alliance" provides lots of first-person accounts of what the parties involved were thinking at the time.

My thoughts: I like to read first-person accounts of historic events, so I particularly enjoyed the many diary entries surrounding the three meetings between the British and Russian royals during the reign of Nicholas II. While tea was not the focus—and despite the book's clever title, I didn't expect it to be—I did find some intriguing bits about tea in the book. While "Alicky" and "Nicky" were engaged, "As they stopped for tea on a riverbank, Nicky proudly noted his future wife's unexpected catering skills: '[We] started to boil up some tea. Alix did all of this, since she has an excellent new "tea basket" from Granny.'" And on the way to one of the meetings after Queen Victoria's death, Queen Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII, was at sea on the Victoria and Albert when there was "a horrible knocking about in the North Sea," and the book says that "at one point, during a lavish tea, the Queen had been thrown across the room." She was thrown onto her back, according to one account, "followed by the tea urn, teapot, etc., all on her lap … it was a most unpleasant incident." Queen Alexandra is said to have laughed off the incident and agreed to have tea brought to her elsewhere. I'd have probably called it a day at that point!

Of course, the story of the Romanovs does not end well, since the tsar, tsarina, and all five of their children were later executed, and the book does a good job of explaining why the British had been hesitant to have the family seek asylum in England. The book also manages to humanize all of these royals, and here at the hundredth anniversary of the Romanov family's demise, it's a particularly fitting time to revisit their history. The book isn't light reading, but I learned a lot by reading it and even went online afterward to watch some documentaries about Tsar Nicholas and his family.

On a lighter note, I'm looking forward to the December read, In Peppermint Peril, a cozy that's first in the new "Book Tea Shop Mystery" series from Joy Avon, and it's about a woman who organizes book-themed tea parties. What a fun idea for a series, and I do hope some of you will read along!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A needlework project for winter

A few weeks ago, my sister was attending a retreat in the North Georgia Mountains with some friends from her church when she texted me a photo of a hat she saw in a shop there. "You should make this hat," she said. I agree. And I would wear it. In fact, I wish I'd had it yesterday on my 5 p.m. walk, when the temperature was in the low thirties with brisk winds. Despite wearing a thick winter coat and leather gloves, I nearly froze. So getting some sort of hat, and fast, is a must!

I've been sewing hexies during my free time as I watch Netflix these days, but I may have to set those aside in favor of whipping up a new hat. I've found a crochet pattern for a similar hat here and a knit pattern for such a hat here. (There's also a pattern you can buy for a knit hat with a teapot design here, but this is way beyond my skill set as a knitter.) I believe I could crochet the hat on pretty quickly, but alas, I've signed up for the site and clicked every button on that page and cannot find a way to download the pattern. Are any of you familiar with Ravelry and have any tips?

Meanwhile, would you wear this hat? I sure would, around my neighborhood at least. If you're a needlework fan, I'd love to hear what you're working on during these cool evenings!

Monday, November 26, 2018

An announcement about … my first novel!

Because so many of you dear blog readers have encouraged me in my writing efforts over the years, I wanted you to be the first to see the "cover reveal" for my debut novel, Emeralds and Envy, a cozy mystery that will be published by Red Adept Publishing next year! The book is about a small-town sleuth, Emma Madison, who is a former newspaper reporter turned jewelry designer. Emma loves to go junkin' for vintage jewelry (sound familiar?), and she uses her jeweled finds to create new jewelry … when she's not busy solving crimes. You can read more about the book here.

And you won't be surprised to learn there's a bit of tea in this book! There may come a day when I write a book that doesn't have a tea scene or two in it, but this is not it.

I wish the book were already published so I could have it available for you on this Cyber Monday, but alas, I took my sweet time in writing and revising it. But I do hope you'll forgive my excitement in going ahead and sharing the cover. My understanding is that the publisher will release the ebook first and then the print book thereafter, and I do plan to order some print copies to sign for those of you who would like one. So please stay tuned because 2019 is going to be an exciting year!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Memories of Thanksgiving 2018

We were blessed with sunny skies and mild weather for our Thanksgiving celebration here in Newnan yesterday. From left, that's Daddy, Aunt Jane, brother-in-law Brad, nephew Matthew, sister Rhonda, nieces Amelia, Madison, and Cari, and me.

And the same group with Alex, since we didn't have a spare person to take a photo of all of us this year!

A tearoom-owner friend once told me that restaurants aren't supposed to leave dishes out overnight, but at my house, I do indeed set the table the night before. I love all my turkey dishes, and I had forgotten I own amber glassware until I opened the plastic bin Alex fetched from the garage. Once I got the tea pitcher on the table, it dawned on me that, ironically, I had not thought about making tea for Thanksgiving, so I added that to my list of tasks for Thanksgiving morning to be sure we had both sweet and unsweet tea for everyone. I didn't think to take photos of the food, but here was the menu, which is split between my sister and me: turkey and dressing, rolls, layered salad, broccoli casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, olives, deviled eggs, and chocolate chip, pecan, and sweet potato pies. Yum! (It's not technically accurate to say the menu included the deviled eggs, as I made them and then forgot to get them out of the fridge, but I did send the entire plate of them home with my sister, as I'm not a huge fan of deviled eggs, but everyone else is.)

"Gobble, gobble" sounds a bit like "waddle, waddle," doesn't it?

We also continued our Thanksgiving tradition of giving new Christmas ornaments to the nieces and nephew. Matthew got a Spider-Man ornament.

Horse lover Amelia got a horse for her collection.

Walking Dead fan Cari got an ornament featuring her favorite character from the show.

And niece Madison recently survived a bad car wreck with only minor bumps and bruises (thank you, Lord!), so I thought a guardian angel ornament was perfect for her this year.  I hope you all enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with those you love as well!

Monday, November 19, 2018

How teacups are like paper dolls

Whenever I get a new tea accessory, I am like a little girl with paper dolls, trying out new clothes on each doll. In this case, Dianne V. in Canada, who won one of my giveaways a while back, surprised me with a lovely pot holder that came in the mail last week, and I loved "trying out" my teacups to see which one got the new "outfit."

Dianne said she'd been looking for something tea-related to send me and found this recently at her garden club meeting, where some of the ladies are quilters. I think this is one of the prettiest pot holders I've ever seen, and I've never come across this gorgeous teacup fabric before.

I was also quite charmed by the card she enclosed, which features artwork titled "Three Wise Monkeys Tea Room" by artist Will Millar. I can easily imagine that I am turning into at least one of these dear old ladies—possibly all three—and I am going to have to frame this card!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Some terrific ideas for mailable tea gifts!

I recently received a lovely surprise package from tea friend Frances in California, and I thought her gifts were all brilliant ideas for unbreakable goodies to send to tea friends — maybe even during the upcoming Christmas season!

The package smelled yummy from the moment I opened it thanks to this Earl Grey sachet.

And I'm planning to enjoy a little pampering this weekend thanks to this green tea mask sheet. (Don't you love the graphics?)

And last but not least, this isn't tea-themed, but Frances said she was including the Jelly Belly jelly beans (in one of my favorite flavors, peach!) just for fun in the new Mason Jar ziplock bag. Is this bag not adorable? Imagine it filled with a few spoons of your own blend of loose tea! She told me they have these bags on Amazon, and indeed, just type "Mason Jar baggie," and you'll find lots of options. Thanks again, Frances!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Suggestions wanted for Christmas teas

The other night, it dawned on me that for the first time since I became a true fan of tea, I no longer live within driving distance of a tea shop where I can go to sniff and taste new teas. Isn't that sad? There used to be a great tea shop just a few miles up the road in Peachtree City called Teafusions, but it closed. And there used to be Teavana shops all over metro Atlanta, but they're now closed. So it has occurred to me that until scratch-and-sniff technology makes it way to the internet, I'll be ordering by mail or finding my teas at the grocery store. In past years, I have enjoyed Christmas blends including the Candy Cane Lane Green Tea from Celestial Seasonings (a favorite), Christmas Tea from Twinings, and Holiday Chai from Republic of Tea.

I've also enjoyed the Holiday Tea and White Christmas Tea from Harney & Sons, which I assume I'll still be able to find at my local Barnes & Noble.

But now I'm thinking I may need to plan a day trip to somewhere in Georgia with a true tea shop just so I can *experience* the teas in person. Meanwhile, do you have any new Christmas blends you can recommend? The minute Thanksgiving passes, my taste buds will switch from pumpkin spice to peppermint, so any minty blends are especially welcome!