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!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Finding gifts for the tea lovers on your Christmas list

If you’re like me, this is the time of year you start looking for tea-themed gifts for a friend or two on your Christmas list. Over the weekend, I went to the Christmas Open House at Carriage House Antiques and Gifts in Senoia, and I found the perfect gift for a fellow tea lover (I believe she’s too busy to read this blog these days!), and it’s this Mud Pie teacup, coaster, and spoon set. The teacup says “O Christmas Tea, O Christmas Tea." I paid $18 for this one, but they're also on Amazon and eBay for $21.99 with free shipping, which still isn't a bad price!

The attached spoon reads "Joy Tea the World."

To go with the set, I got this cute little bag of Santa’s Workshop Tea from Metropolitan Tea Company (and one for me). It’s a nice, brisk black tea with a pleasant cranberry taste. Have you found any good tea gifts this year?

Friday, November 9, 2018

The winner of the Talbots teacup socks is …

Marilyn Miller, and since I have your address, I will get these headed your way. Congrats!

The Self-Pouring Teapot

I was recently looking up some old advertising images online and came across this one for the P. D. & Co. Self-Pouring Teapot. I was frankly surprised I'd never come across this style of teapot before, and of course now I'd love to find one. (Preferably at Goodwill, and preferably for $2 or less.)

Naturally, I Googled and found an amazing number of images of this teapot, in silver as well as chintz and other china patterns. I'm still just amazed that I'd never heard of this teapot before. I'm also puzzled by its claim that it "saves at least 25 per cent of Tea." Why would that be? Any guesses? If you've seen this teapot before, or perhaps even own one, I'd love to know more!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A visit to Vintage Market Days

On Saturday, my sister, Rhonda, Aunt Jane, and I traveled to Hampton and the Atlanta Motor Speedway, but the only “race” we were interested in was the “race” to see all the goodies at their Vintage Market Days event!

I didn’t buy any of the silver in this suitcase, but isn’t this a fun idea for a display?

There was lots of clothes and jewelry, Christmas decor old and new, and a handful of booths that I would say were exclusively vintage. My favorite, far and away, was the booth by Soulshine Cottage, which makes vintage Christmas arrangements using vintage Christmas baubles, and I was in love! This little one was made with a vintage tart tin (like the ones I used here to make financiers).

Here's another one made with a tart tin.

Some designs were so colorful and cheerful that they just made me smile.

And for the Shabby Chic lover, there were some in a softer palette.

I even spotted one in a teapot, but it's not the one I went home with.

My picture doesn't do it justice, but this arrangement in a mini Santa mug is the one I chose as my treat for the day. Have you ever been to a Christmas market like this? Saturday's was my first, and as much as I love vintage stuff, I'd sure love to find more of them!

Monday, November 5, 2018

November Giveaway: Talbots Teacup Socks!

For the November giveaway, I thought one of you might enjoy the same little treat I picked up for myself last month, these new teacup socks from Talbots! I love these and got them on sale (with free shipping; always look for a deal, right?). 

If you'd like to win the socks, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, November 9, 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, November 2, 2018

Bigelow Benefits Ginger & Peach Herbal Tea

Have any of you come across the Bigelow Benefits teas at the grocery store?

I spotted their Ginger & Peach Herbal Tea and decided to give it a try. As always, one of the selling points of Bigelow's teas is that they are packaged in those nice, thick foil packets!

I've had several cups of this new tea and am enjoying it very much, but I must say that I was not expecting peppermint (which I happen to love) to be such a prominent flavor in a tea labeled "Ginger & Peach." I do detect a little kick from the ginger, but I'm not getting much peach taste at all. Still, this tea is so enjoyable with the mint and ginger that I'm sipping it right up. If you've tried this one or another in this line of teas, I'd love to hear your review!