Friday, September 28, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "A Literary Tea Party" by Alison Walsh

Summary: You have to love a cookbook that was inspired by a blogger (!) who was asked to turn her "Alison's Wonderland Recipes" blog into a book. And if you're a book geek as well as a tea lover, this charming cookbook is a must for your library.

My thoughts: The author has created recipes for teatime foods and beverages inspired by classic literature, including favorites like Anne of Green Gables and The Wizard of Oz and Little Women. For those who enjoy hosting themed tea parties, the author helpfully includes menus for entire themed teas, such as Alice's Mad Tea Party, Aslan's Feast (inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia), and Murder Most Delicious: A Detective Tea Party, which features recipes inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. As a writer, I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of the author's observations about food in books. She writes, "If we pay close attention, we'll notice that bread in books is rarely eaten alone. Instead, it is almost always shared, be it among family at a dinner table or fireside companions on a lonely trail." She also notes that desserts "are often connected to characters' emotions." How intriguing!

The judgment: This is such a clever idea for a cookbook, and I found quite a few recipes I want to try. The Blood Orange Scones (from "The Five Orange Pips" by Arthur Conan Doyle ) are going to be tempting once blood oranges are in season, and Arrietty's Mini Cherry Cakes (from The Borrowers by Mary Norton) are so elegant (and easy!) that I can already see these on my table at a Christmas tea.

For discussion:

• Do you hold themed teas? I have held seasonal teas and Royal Wedding teas but no themed teas. I'm thinking I need to consider a literary tea. (Possibly soon!)

• Do you find yourself thinking about the food in books? One time, I was reading a book that made some barbecue sound absolutely delicious. Now I'm not a big barbecue fan at all, but after reading about barbecue, I suddenly was eager to visit a local barbecue joint that night. Is it the power of suggestion? Or is it just that we're so easily influenced when we're hungry?

(Special thanks to NetGalley for the review copy of this book!)

Next Month's Book: The Harlequin Tea Set and other Stories by Agatha Christie

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The new Tea Time! ornaments from Hallmark

Now that my local Hallmark store has closed and my nearest mall Hallmark store has closed, I find I'm missing the fun of going to the store to see the new Christmas ornament releases. But I did have the presence of mind to remember that I needed to get my order in early for the third release in the Tea Time! ornament series from Tracy Larsen. (Here are the 2016 and 2017 ornaments in the series, which I consider a must for ornament collectors who happen to be tea lovers.)

And happily, these adorable new Nutcracker teacup and teapot ornaments are now available on and as well, so if I don't come across another Hallmark store soon, I can always go the online route. Maybe you too?

(Photos courtesy of

Monday, September 24, 2018

Now that autumn is here …

So Saturday was officially the first day of fall, but here in Georgia, it sure didn't feel like it. Do you know, the weather forecaster the other morning said that this year, we had more ninety-degree days in September than we did in August. I believe it! Still, knowing that it's officially fall gave me the go-ahead to start thinking about fall teas and tea wares. The other day, I happened to notice I had randomly stacked these three cranberry-colored teacup-and-saucer sets near each other in the tea cabinet. The one on the top was a recent find from Rome, Georgia, the one on the bottom was a souvenir from Rome, Italy, and the one in the middle came from eBay.

I've had this Pumpkin Ginger Tea from Republic of Tea on my mind for weeks now, but I didn't actually drink any until the weekend. By the way, do you all enjoy exploring all the new pumpkin-flavored treats each fall? I was in line at JoAnn on Saturday and noticed both Ghirardelli chocolate squares in a new pumpkin flavor as well as pumpkin spice piroulines, those cylindrical cream-filled wafer cookies that are so pretty on a dessert plate or embellishing a scoop of ice cream. But I'm waiting on a review from a friend (maybe one of you?) before I try those!

Even my reading tastes change in the fall, and I'm waiting till I detect that first nip in the air to crack open the most recent Jan Karon novel, the opening scene of which occurs on October 1. Do you pull out the fall tea wares at this time of year? Or have any tea or other rituals that you look forward to in the fall? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Mr. Titian Peale and Miss Mary Peale at tea

So the Library of Congress website says this: "Photograph shows Titian Peale, Miss Mary Peale, and another woman (seated on the left) sitting at a table set for tea, with a large silver tea service on the fore-edge of the table; they are in a room with two large windows at the rear with plants growing in pots on the windowsills, there is a small book shelf on a chest of drawers between the windows, along with books there is a small portrait that may be Titian as a younger man, and there is a large painting hanging behind Mary Peale."

Now, have I lost my mind, or is there no woman at left? I see what might have been a body, maybe, but … well, there's no head on it, or else that head is transparent, which is a wee bit creepy.

(Click here if you want to go to the LOC website and see the photo at the largest size.)

I am just flummoxed by this picture. But I am intrigued that Titian Peale, famous naturalist and photographer, was having tea! I still haven't figured out his relationship to Mary Peale, but I'm guessing a sister or niece since she is "Miss." If any of you happen to know, please share!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Finding Joy and Faith at Goodwill

So last Friday, the day I told myself I was going to look for lace and laciness everywhere I went, I happened upon this set of two plates at Goodwill in Carrollton. The set was marked $2.12 with a B, and since the "B" items (blue) were half off last week, that meant $1.06 for the set. Just 53 cents apiece, which struck me as a deal. Now I don't normally like to buy a set of anything that I can't see half of, but since I couldn't very well stand there and rip off the tape, I decided I'd take a chance. Besides, even if the second plate was a dud, who couldn't use a little more "Joy" in their life, right?
I got home and discovered the second plate read "Faith" and featured a teapot on a lace doily. Kind of ironic, isn't it, that I found a plate with a teapot, lace, and the word "Faith" on it that day?

When I first saw the "Joy" plate, I thought it was a Sandy Clough design, but then I noticed the name Galen Huang. Never heard of this artist before, but I sure like the plates, and I was very happy that these cleaned up so well.

Now my cleaned-up plates are hanging happily next to a Sandy Clough print that she actually signed for me many, many years ago at a women's conference I was attending. And that's my tale of lace, Joy, and Faith!

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Cambridge Lace Tea Mug

Now this is just weird. You know how I wrote about my book-fueled lace fixation on Friday's blog post? Well, later that very day, my aunt and I were shopping when I had the thought that I wished I had a lace-themed mug or teacup to use at my desk while working on the book, but I knew of only one teacup with a lace pattern, and it is black, and I was thinking "white lace." I'd told myself that morning to exercise my imagination by looking for lace-like things while I was out and about that day. Set your mind to it, and that's easy enough to do. I spotted spider webs and "lacy" highway railings, and in an antique mall, I spotted a vintage lace bridal veil and some lace doilies. But in T.J. Maxx, I was nearly speechless when I came across this lovely mug. Why?

It's from Cambridge Lace! Now isn't that a bit of serendipity?

When I spotted it with the other mugs, I thought, "Now wait a minute. How on earth is THAT supposed to work with holes in it?" Then I ran my fingers over both the inside and outside of the mug. While I could definitely feel a different texture to that part of the mug, I couldn't feel a seam or a hole or anything, as I had assumed that surely a glass (glass?) hole or two would be punctured. Hmm. Could this thing work? I had to find out. 

I've been using it only a few days, and I have already gotten so much enjoyment from using my new "magic tea mug," as I've taken to thinking of it. It also comes in an oversized teacup style, in case you're interested in visiting your own T.J. Maxx to look for one. And this wasn't the only lace-and-tea item I picked up on Friday. In my next post, I'll share what lacy goodness turned up at Goodwill … for just $1.13!

Friday, September 14, 2018

The fall tea and tea towels winner is …

Heather of the Blue Jeans and Teacups blog! And since I already have Heather's address, I can get this headed her way. Thanks to all of you who entered!

For the love of linens and lace

A few months ago, I had an idea for yet another cozy mystery, so yes, I'm in the midst of writing my third while I'm still editing numbers one and two. And while I'm in various stages of edits with the two other 75,000-word books, I got so excited about the next book that I started working on it right after Labor Day.

The new book is about a woman who restores old lace and linens. I've never really thought of myself as consciously "collecting" lace and linens, but as I looked back over the years of this blog, I can see that lace and vintage linens have indeed shown up here a time or two. I'm pretty sure most of you have a thing for lace and linens as well.

So I've got a question for you. What's the favorite lace or linen item that you own? I'm looking for inspiration for some of the characters who will be consulting with my main character in the books ahead, and I'm curious what others would name as their favorite lace or linen item. (Mine is a vintage crocheted lace tablecloth I received as a wedding gift.) Do you have something you'd like to have repaired? I'd love to hear your stories!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A surprise package from Hawaii!

Over the weekend, I received an unexpected and thoroughly delightful package from tea friend Lani in Hawaii. The highly decorated envelope was just a hint of what lay underneath!

Lani had written a while back to tell me about a new puzzle she had found with a prominent tea scene. Well, she has enjoyed the puzzle herself and now is passing it along to me. I absolutely love this idea of a passalong puzzle!

She even included printouts of the completed puzzle, which will definitely be of help!

And look at this: she separated the edge pieces for me. (Hallelujah!)

And last but not least, she generously included some teatime treats: Biscoff cookies (which I usually get only when I'm on an airplane and they're offered) and some Hawaiian Royal Cream Crackers, which are sooooo good when dunked in a cup of hot tea! So thank you, Lani, for the great gifts and the great puzzle ideas! 

Monday, September 10, 2018

September Giveaway: Fall tea and tea towels

I'm so ready for fall, and to make sure you're ready, I decided that one of you could use a new set of fall tea towels and a box of Stash Decaf Chai tea for the September giveaway!

The set of two tea towels came from Ross, by the way, and I think the embroidered pumpkin design is perfect for fall. And since so many of you seem to be avoiding caffeine these days, I decided we'd have a decaf tea this time so you can enjoy the flavors of fall as well.

So if you'd like to win the tea and tea towels, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, September 14, 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, September 7, 2018

"4 children around table, having a tea party"

This photo from the Library of Congress, circa 1893, is labeled "4 children around table, having a tea party." It is a "Photoprint by Gatch," and the caption card has categorized it as "Tea drinking; Children playing adults; Ph. Ind. (any idea what that means?); Tea; Children Play; and Shelf."

When I noticed the trunk at left and the three older children swamped by their oversized garments, I realized this very likely is children pretending to be adults, and I find that quite charming. (These days, I just wish some of the adults I know would pretend to be adults, and I'll bet you do too! Ha!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A head start on tea-themed Christmas ornaments

Usually by this time each year, I've added at least a few tea-themed Christmas ornaments to my collection. I hadn't seen a single new one all year until last week, at a local business luncheon, when a friend I see occasionally grabbed me and said, "Oh! I've got something for you in my pocketbook." And she pulled out these two ornaments she had tired of. So now I'm two ahead on this year's additions!

Then on Saturday, Aunt Jane and I were browsing at the Blake House Thrift Store in Carrollton, a new-to-me thrift store we've been visiting for a few months. I looked past that $1.97 sticker, mentally corrected the label to say "knickknacks," and thought, "Hmm, is that what I think it is in that red velvet box?"

And indeed it was a cloisonné teapot ornament, still sporting the $30 price tag from Dillard's. (I like this ornament a lot, but I would never have paid $30 for it!) 

The detail on this piece is just lovely. Even lovelier at $1.97.

And this isn't a tea-related piece, but since my late mother got me started with a small collection of vintage Christmas tree pins, I look for cheap ones all year long. This $1 model with all prong-set aurora borealis rhinestones was right up my alley. Fa la la la la …

Monday, September 3, 2018