Monday, July 30, 2018

An absolute must-read: "Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea"

To my great delight, a copy of Hoffman Media's lavish new tea book, Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea, showed up unbidden on my doorstep recently, and friends, I have to tell you that I am absolutely in love with this book!

I've never seen such a lovely tea book before, especially one so large (10 x 12 inches and an inch and a half thick) and with two (count 'em, two!) ribbon bookmarks. Splendid design on someone's part. And those aren't even the book's most impressive features in the great scheme of things. The real treasure in this book is all of the fascinating information, ranging from sections on the history of tea to its harvesting, oxidation, and fermentation methods and more. I was familiar with some of this information, but in reading this book, I learned there is still a heap more I have to learn about the wide, wide world of tea.

The lush, colorful images are a delight to behold, but this is much more than a picture book, and I was stunned by the amount of new information I came across. I shouldn't have been surprised, but it seems that most tea books give an overview, at best, of the world of tea, and this one goes into so much detail that my inner tea nerd was just beside herself. Are you one of those who likes to know about the chemical composition of tea? How it best grows? How the terroir (natural environment) of the tea affects its flavor? I adore that stuff, and this book is jam-packed with tea teachings I've never read anywhere else. Note the image at upper right, above. It's illustrating how the tea plant on the left has a weaker root system than the plant on the right. Why? The one on the right was grown from seed, the one on the left from a cutting. Fascinating!

And while I've seen differing lists for the various categories of tea, Pettigrew says there are six:, white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and dark. "Dark" teas include puerhs. "Dark tea" is new terminology to me, and I'm happy to have it, along with Pettigrew's extensive explanations (with charts, above) of how each category of tea is processed.

The book includes maps of all the tea-growing regions of the world, and I was happy to note that here in North America, the South is well represented. (We ought to get *something* in exchange for all this heat and humidity, right?) And see that little tea leaf graphic in northwest Georgia? Do you know where that is? Well, I'll tell you. It's at Dunaway Gardens here in Newnan, a historic property just 12 miles from my house, and while I knew Dunaway has been growing tea for a while, I was surprised and oh-so-proud to see it included in the book!

Of course, North American tea growers are only a small section in the book, and the larger tea-growing regions (Guangxi Province in China is shown here) get their due as well.

I felt as if I were opening a surprise on every page as I came across treats like this image showing machines that make matcha. Some more of my favorite tidbits from the book:

• In Taiwan, Oriental Beauty tea gets its unique flavor from some "leafhoppers" that bite the leaves, "causing the plants to produce enzymes to defend themselves and provoking oxidation in the leaves before they have been plucked."

• While I'm familiar with bricks of tea, I'd never before seen "logs" of dark tea like some attributed to Hunan Province in China.

• In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Camellia Forest Nursery grows a pink-flowering camellia sinensis plant. (Yes, I want one!)

• I wish I'd known this when I was in Italy a few years ago, but there is an experimental camellia plantation in Tuscany that has been growing tea since 1760!

• The section on Darjeeling tea in India was especially intriguing and indicated that the tea industry there is much larger than I had imagined (52,000 permanent employees, 15,000 during plucking season!). I also found it interesting that "local knowledge is crucial [to Darjeeling's tea plantations], and expert tea makers tend to remain in a particular region for the duration of their working life because the skills required to produce good teas there are unique."

Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea is now available through Hoffman Media and on Amazon, and if you don't have it yet, or at least have it on your wish list, I highly recommend you get a copy and settle in with the biggest cup of tea you can find!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "The Canterbury Sisters" by Kim Wright

Summary: Wine critic Che de Milan has recently lost her mother and been dumped by her boyfriend, so she decides to join a group of women travelers ("Broads Abroad") for a pilgrimage to Canterbury, where she plans to scatter her mother's ashes.

My thoughts: Boy, was this cover misleading. It's soft, feminine, and light-hearted, and that doesn't describe this book at all. Now the book wasn't totally awful, and parts of it were even good, but Wright's liberal use of profanity was a huge turnoff. I definitely should have looked online and read the plot and some reviews first so that I wouldn't have assumed that the story was actually about three sisters. It's been so long since I've read The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer that I simply didn't realize this was going to be a modern-day, all-woman twist on that story.

The judgment: It was a great idea to have what is basically a group of misfits get to know each other on a journey to Canterbury. But some of their stories strummed my nerves. Like the hard-to-like main character, Che, who at one point proudly confesses how promiscuous she's been. Lovely. Another of the women on the trip is supposedly a reality TV star, but apparently we are to believe that she is the first one in the history of reality TV to make a journey without a camera and videographer in tow. On the other hand, another woman shares a wonderfully moving story of finding an unlikely ally as she attempts to care for a husband with Alzheimer's. I would love to have seen more emphasis on that part of the story. In fact, that woman's story could have (and perhaps should have) been its own book.

For discussion:

• This has absolutely nothing to do with the book, alas, but which teacup on the cover is your favorite? Mine is the top one with the pink roses.

• The women on this journey initially seemed very judgmental of each other, which I thought was very true to life (and at times funny; we're all judging each other all the time, if we're honest). But when they learned each other's flaws, they were much more accepting of each other. Why is that?

• Do you think any of the characters found redemption through their pilgrimage? 

Next Month's Book: A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere by Alison Walsh.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

July/August 2018 Flower Magazine

I remember reading Flower magazine many years ago when it first came out, but only recently have I started seeing it on newsstands again. In fact, after buying two issues in a row (initially prompted by a feature on Shabby Chic's Rachel Ashwell), I realized I needed to go ahead and subscribe. Reading pretty magazines, especially a more upscale one like this, is my guilty pleasure.

My first subscription issue has arrived, and look what I see on the cover, "Tea Party Pretty." Oh boy!

I love seeing new tea things, and this petit four stand … wow. Just wow. (And the price tag is a wow, too, at $600. For silverplate. But hey, I still would love to have one.)

The spread on "Tea for Two" includes some gorgeous teacups as well, and I'm so happy I went ahead and subscribed to this beautiful garden- and flower-filled magazine. If you'd like to check it out for yourself, click here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Feeling craft-tea

So I'm slowly getting back into paper crafts, and I have my friend Kathy to blame, or thank, as the case may be! After moving to Savannah for her husband's job years ago, Kathy and her husband have officially retired and moved back to Newnan even sooner than I'd hoped, but it was a mixed blessing. While I was thrilled to have my dear friend nearby once more, I was heartbroken about the reason for their early return: their baby granddaughter, Wren, lives here and had been diagnosed with cancer, so they moved back to help with her care. Fast-forward to this year, and Wren's tumor is stable, she's living the life of a normal three-year-old, and the trial meds she is on are doing their job. I can't tell you how thrilled we all are at this awesome news!

Kathy has long been "just my cup of tea," but to have my dear friend back in town and have her sweet granddaughter doing well is such a delight! Kathy is also a Stampin' Up consultant, so now that her life is semi-normal once again, I am going over to her house every few weeks or so for a playdate in her amazing studio. I really need to take some photos so you can ooh and aah over it just as I always do. Her studio appears to contain every paper crafting gadget ever made, I do believe, and Kathy is incredibly generous in sharing. She also taught me to use her die-cutting machine, which is why I had to have my own Cuttlebug a few months ago. I've learned that I love-love-love cutting out die-cut images and words. (The wording above came from these dies.)

This "hello" die was a clearance find at Michaels, and I'm playing around with layering these words.

The last time I was at Kathy's, I spent most of my time using her supplies to stamp and cut out images of these teacups, part of the new Time for Tea set from Stampin' Up (shown here, if you're interested in seeing the dies too).

In fact, I like die cutting the teacups so much, I keep all the extras in a little cardboard box that housed the last piece of costume jewelry I bought at T.J. Maxx. So expect lots more crafting reports in the days to come, thanks to the fact that my friend is back in town! (And please keep sweet Wren on your prayer list, that her healing may continue!)

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Tickled Pink" with my new teacup – seriously!

This week, for only the third time in my life, I had a guy friend give me a teacup. He gave me two, actually, but first I wanted to write about this one, Vernon's "Tickled Pink" pattern. Now if you had to guess, when would you say this set was made? Based on the contemporary graphics, you're probably not guessing the 1800s or the 1930s, are you?

If you guessed anywhere from 1958-1965, you'd be right (at least according to I don't have any retro-style teacups, and I must say that I'm quite charmed by this set! It's also a great example of the dishes that were popular during the era of midcentury modern design, which also happens to be the era in which I was born, which I suppose makes me midcentury modern as well. I even love the name of this teacup's pattern, "Tickled Pink," and its retro styling makes me want to crank up some tunes by Petula Clark and Diana Ross and the Supremes! Now, my only problem is that I'm trying very hard to convince myself that I DO NOT NEED the darling teapot that matches this teacup. (But if you want to see it, click here.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Fruity summertime teas

I've still got a few more T2 teas to try thanks to a marvelous Christmas gift from a friend, and this week, I sampled two more of these individually packaged loose-leaf teas.

First, I tried the Very Berry Fruitea tisane. I have always loved berries, and this flavor reminds me of those berry-flavored popsicle treats they sold at Six Flags Over Georgia when I was a little girl. With elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, this is possibly the berriest tea I've ever had. Now this berry-flavored tisane was a little tart, as most of the berry teas seem to be, but it was still quite good. It was the fun and fruity tea I expected, and yes, even in July, I enjoyed it hot!

Now I sincerely hoped I would like a tea called Southern Sunrise, but oh my goodness. As soon as I opened the packet of loose-leaf tea, I could imagine I was in some heavenly herb shop with all those lovely mingled scents, including—did my nose deceive me?—grapefruit. Why, yes! It contains grapefruit, white hibiscus, and lemongrass. And when I steeped the tea, I actually found myself leaning over my tea mug and simply inhaling the glorious scent. The taste? It lives up to the scent, I'm pleased to say, and even reminded me of the grapefruit taste of Fresca, although I can't tell you the last time I actually sipped a Fresca. Both fruity tisanes were delightful, and I'm so pleased to have come across two new, great-tasting herbal teas!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bath & Body Works Shower Steamers with Tea

I must say that the coupons I've received in the mail from Bath & Body Works this year have indeed been successful in getting me into their stores. The other day, I was at the mall in Douglasville and had a coupon for a free full-size bath product, so I marched into the store, nabbed my free bottle of "Beach" bath gel, and headed to the counter, telling myself, "Don't look around. Don't look around." Alas, the lady in front of me couldn't get her debit card to work, so while that was being figured out, I glanced at the display I was standing next to and spotted, in the faintest type imaginable, the word "Tea." Sigh.

Shower Steamers. With eucalyptus and tea. Designed to help me "Focus." Naturally, I had to take these home with me. So much for a totally free visit. (That lady was still trying to get her debit card to work when I left the store, so a clerk from the sister business next door, the White Barn, came over and said she could check me out. Sold!)

So Shower Steamers are a new concept to me, but they're certainly easy enough to use. Unwrap, place on the shower floor out of the direct spray of the water, and voila! Soon, you're inhaling this lovely scented steam. I definitely recommend this product, which you can find here. And when I got home and Googled, I found that there is a whole line of these eucalyptus-and-tea products at Bath & Body Works. Next time I get another coupon, I may explore some more!

Friday, July 13, 2018

The tea mug giveaway winner is …

Nancy Carolan! And I've just sent her an email, so this mug will soon be winging its way to her home for summer sipping. Thanks to all who entered!

Paging Penelope Barker …

I have long been interested in women who are trailblazers. Years ago, when I was beginning a career in journalism, I interviewed a local woman who was one of the first female airline pilots for Eastern Air Lines. She was smart, funny, and pretty. And when I interviewed her, I believe she was still restoring her "Painted Lady" Victorian home. She was one of those women who truly seemed able to do it all. No wonder I love the saying, "The one who says it can't be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it." So forgive me if I'm a little excited about having discovered an image I'd not seen before of a trailblazer in tea history, Penelope Barker, who led the Edenton Tea Party of 1774 in North Carolina, one of those protests held near the time of the Boston Tea Party. She and 51 other women decided to boycott tea in protest of the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament in 1773.

First, look at Mrs. Barker's face. Picture her as a sassy southern blonde with long hair. Couldn't that be Reese Witherspoon? AmIright or amIright?

At any rate, her intriguing image comes from a booklet I found *for free* on the Library of Congress website, The Historic Tea-Party of Edenton by Richard Dillard. Interested? You can access it here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My latest Goodwill find: Christmas decor or story idea?

As I've written about many times, I prowl the thrift stores for vintage Christmas decor all year long. Teacups, Santa mugs, serving dishes … I love them all, and at thrift stores, the price is always right. But recently, I bought a Christmas plate for two reasons: it had a pretty aqua color, but more important, it has a story!

On the front, it says, "Thank you, Lord! Ann Rowley (or Rawley)." There is, of course, always plenty we can thank the Lord for, and I wondered what made Ann so boldly thank Him on this plate she painted. Just life in general? Maybe she was grateful that God saw her through a sad or trying time? Maybe she was (is?) just a thankful person and found (finds?) it natural to be thankful to the Lord?

Then on the back of the plate, I read, "To: My Classmates of '53. We did have fun!!!! didn't we? Love ya! Ann." Now how many of these Class of '53 classmates do you think Ann made plates for? I'm thinking somewhere between four and eight. I'm picturing them all together at a tearoom one Christmas, each one unwrapping her plate and oohing and aahing over it. And one of them passed away, and so the plate landed at Goodwill when an unsentimental daughter (or one who, like many of us, is simply out of storage room!) was going through her mom's things.

I even Googled a few obituaries for Ann Rowley/Rawley (I'm still not sure which it is), hoping to find one who was a china painter, but I decided it might be more fun not to know which Ann this is, and what her real story is. I love this plate, and the mystery it presents makes me love it even more. If I write a book one day based on an old handpainted Christmas plate, perhaps some of you will remember that you first saw the idea here!

Monday, July 9, 2018

July Giveaway: Turquoise Tea Mug

I came across a great new oversized tea mug at T.J. Maxx recently, and I bought one for myself as well as one for the July giveaway! I like to sip tea out of something sturdy when I'm working upstairs in my office, so this is my new "workweek" tea mug.  I think this "Made in Portugal" mug is a perfect summertime mug with its pretty seaside color.

If you'd like to win a tea mug just like mine, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, July 13, making sure to include an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner, and you'll be entered to win. US only, please. Good luck!

Friday, July 6, 2018

"A Tea Spoon," circa 1907

So now that I've figured out how to correctly view these vintage stereographic cards, I am having fun looking for new tea-themed ones on the Library of Congress website, like this one cleverly titled "A Tea Spoon."

This image is circa 1907 from Berry, Kelley & Chadwick in Philadelphia. (Please click on the link up top if you're interested in trying to view it stereographically, as the LOC image is larger than the space here permits me to show.)

I wish I could tell more about the actual tea wares in this photo, but the expression on the man's face is definitely worth the price of admission!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Monday, July 2, 2018

A weekend in the North Georgia Mountains

This weekend, I was in Tiger, Georgia, a small town in the North Georgia Mountains, where my friend Shannon Alley (mother of my friend Liz) was having a book signing for her book of poetry, Time Stands Still in Tiger, which I edited for her earlier this year. It made my day to see Shannon holding court at the local assisted living facility, and she had a steady stream of customers for the entire two hours of the event!

Check out the cake they had made for the occasion!

As a thank-you from her daughters, Alex and I enjoyed a stay at the White Birch Inn, a charming bed and breakfast nearby, in downtown Clayton. We discovered Clayton a few years ago and have made a habit of visiting each fall, so we were delighted to stay at this lovely inn!

The inn and gardens were so beautiful …

And I loved everything from this birdhouse …

To this patio, still gorgeous after an overnight rain!

A few years ago, Liz told us about the Clayton Cafe, and Alex and I had a great fried chicken lunch there one day. The next time we went up, they were sold out of fried chicken, so we knew to get there early this time. We were a tad skeptical since the Clayton Cafe has new owners and has been refurbished, but the chicken was just as great as before! Furthermore, we struck up a conversation with a lady at the next table over. We learned she is from Tampa but comes to the North Georgia Mountains in the summertime. She left a few minutes before us and said, "Oh, by the way, your lunch is on me, and welcome to Rabun County." When we found out she had just taken care of our tab, we were speechless at this gift, just because we were friendly, I guess! Who knew? (Alex and I have decided we want to "pay it forward" sometime soon! I l-o-v-e spreading kindness in today's world!)

After Shannon's book signing, I enjoyed some shopping in downtown Clayton, and while I didn't find a tea postcard, I sure enjoyed browsing through the many stacks of postcards at Prater Collectibles & Antiques, a place I love to visit when I'm up there.

And I was about to think I would leave the town without spotting anything related to tea, but then I saw their outdoor display featuring this. So with a fantastic book signing, a delicious lunch, some fun shopping, and a tea sighting, it was a great visit, so I'll leave you with a few more images from my whirlwind weekend!