Monday, December 30, 2019

"Tide and Punishment" by Bree Baker

Tide and Punishment takes us back to Charm, North Carolina, a coastal town on the Outer Banks, where Everly Swan runs Sun, Sand, and Tea, an iced tea shop, in her historic home. The holidays are rapidly approaching (a theme that especially resonated with me this year with the short span between Thanksgiving and Christmas), and her days are awhirl. She’s got a progressive dinner appetizer course to plan, cookies to bake for half the island, and her delightful—but unmanageable—elderly aunts to keep in line, Fran and Clara. Aunt Fran has recently gotten obsessed with garden gnomes and started painting them for everyone. 

Everly hosts a Christmas party where friends and customers can sample her delicious treats, hopefully tempting them to place orders before Christmas. Mayor Dudley Dunfree is there, being his usual vainglorious self, and Aunt Fran decides to let him and the other guests know that she is planning to run against him for mayor in the next election. But it turns out that the mayor’s re-election won’t be an issue. When guests leave the party, the mayor’s body is discovered on the snow-covered ground—and Aunt Fran is holding a bloody garden gnome nearby.

Detective Grady Hays is soon there to investigate, and he and Everly frequently tangle during the search for the killer—when they’re not busy keeping their feelings for each other in check. Everything sure looks like Fran had means, motive, and opportunity to kill the mayor, but in her heart, Everly knows her aunt couldn’t possibly have committed the crime.

Tea lovers will enjoy reading about a beachside tea shop that keeps twenty different varieties of iced tea on tap, even in December, as well as the occasional hot beverage for those who need warming up. When Baker writes about snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, and peanut butter cups filling the air with the scents of sugar and spice and everything nice, it’s easy to forget about the murder—but someone around town seems intent on framing Fran, and broken garden gnomes have developed an ugly habit of popping up all over town. Whether you’re ready to leave Christmas behind or not, I highly recommend that you prepare to be charmed by the Seaside Café Mysteries by Bree Baker, because I’m certainly looking forward to her next one.

(Book courtesy of NetGalley)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Free ebook of Okakura Kakuzo's "The Book of Tea"

Even though I've read dozens, maybe even hundreds, of books about tea and teatime, there are always books on my teatime reading list that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. One of them is the 1906 classic The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo, and I discovered this week that an ebook version is available for free from the Library of Congress!

If you can read epub files, just click here, look for the download button at left below the photo, and select "EPUB" to download the book. Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Monday, December 23, 2019

The giveaway winner is …

Sandie of Crazy 'Bout Quilts! Congrats to Sandie, and there will be more fun giveaways coming in 2020!

A tea-and-cookie break

I don't know about you, but I have found that this Christmas has arrived at lightning speed. Something about Thanksgiving falling so late this year really put the Christmas season on fast-forward, and I didn't buy that last gift until Saturday, which is quite late for me. Still, by Sunday afternoon, I was looking around at the presents that still need wrapping, thought about a little more decorating that I didn't quite get around to, and did the only sensible thing a woman could do: I prepared a cup of tea and some cookies. And I even fancied it up by using one of my vintage tea-and-toast sets. The cookie sticks (I wrote about my new pan here) finally got dipped and sprinkled (which for some reason makes me think of Baptists and Methodists), and I made several batches of spritz cookies one recent weekend as well.

The spritz cookies, by the way, are a Christmas classic as far as I'm concerned, and they were the topic of my most recent column in The Coweta Shopper.

But you know what Alex and I have just devoured this weekend? Our neighbor Viveca makes these ridiculously delicious little treats at back that are simply a mini pretzel with a Rolo candy melted on top and a pecan pressed into the middle. That combination of salty and sweet just can't be beat, and we were so happy to receive these. Do you have a favorite Christmas candy or cookie? I'd love to know!

Friday, December 20, 2019

1920s slang from the cast of Downton Abbey

Fellow Downton Abbey fans, I saw a new video this week that enlightened me to some 1920s-era slang, including a term that readers of this blog would surely, surely like to know about it.

It's just a few minutes long, so check it out here. (And tell me, please, had YOU ever heard this before? I had not!) For that and other flapper-era terms, go here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A *reader* teatime giveaway!

Seriously, this giveaway is not an Angela giveaway, it's a *reader* giveaway! A few weeks ago, a reader named Cara sent me a surprise package of tea goodies that she said I was welcome to keep or to share in a giveaway. Well, I must tell you that I did keep some of the goodies (tea-themed scrapbooking papers and a new Swedish dish towel), so I told myself that it was only fair that I offer the remaining items in a giveaway, and first up is this cute"Made in Sweden" cellulose/cotton dish towel that is "soft and absorbent when wet" and a "sustainable alternative to sponges." (I'll show you the cute one I kept later. Mine is green, but I knew full well that you all would want the blue one.)

Next: two darling tea-themed cards, one for your "best tea" and one featuring woodland critters on a teapot.

And finally, this beautiful package of tea-themed paper napkins. (I can never bring myself to use these and end up just looking at them. Promise me that you'll use them!) "I found the napkins in a clearance bin in Vienna, Austria, of all places," she writes. How fun is that!

So thank you, Cara, for sharing gifts with me *and* with one of my (other) readers. If you'd like to win these goodies, please leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Monday, December 23, making sure to leave an email address so I can get in touch with you (if you're not someone I regularly correspond with), and you'll be entered to win. US only, please. Good luck!

Monday, December 16, 2019

A tea-themed tree full of memories

I decided to go with my vintage aluminum tree in the living room this year, which is decorated mostly in vintage glass balls, so on my white shabby chic table downstairs, I decided I'd put up my trusty old pink feather tree with some of my tea-themed ornaments. Almost every ornament on this tree was given to me by a friend or family member or was a souvenir from a trip, so this tree is covered in memories. Here are a few of the ones I'm enjoying this year.

A "pouring" teapot.

A teapot "steeped in tranquility."

This dated teapot ornament was a gift 20 years ago.
Bottled tea leaves and teapot charm.

A rosy teapot ornament made for me in memory of my mother.

A charming handmade ornament with a vintage teapot charm.

"When in doubt, make tea" has a dangling crystal charm. I've always loved the turquoise coloring on this one.

A Sandy Lynam Clough ornament.

Gotta love Madame Alexander!

A gift from family.

A whimsical embroidered teapot with a delightful touch of Christmas plaid. 

A San Francisco Music Box Company ornament. (Remember when those stores were in almost  every mall in America?)

From my most pink-loving friend.

 A glass teacup.

A teapot topper and a tiny tea set ornament.

And finally, I added pink and blue reindeer in a retro design this year, just because I thought they'd blend well with my pink tree.

Tea tins: 1) for storing breakable ornies 2) for elevating bottlebrush trees.

So I have a big tree and a tabletop tree this year. How many trees are up at your house?

Friday, December 13, 2019

Coconut A La Creme Black Tea from Plum Deluxe

I'm working my way through the tea samples Plum Deluxe was kind enough to send me recently, and this week, that meant a rich black tea, their Coconut A La Creme Black Tea. I love coconut. I know some people do not, but I like coconut in candy, I like it in coconut cream pie, I like it in ambrosia, and yes, I like its flavor in my tea.

When I saw the great big coconut pieces in this Coconut A La Creme blend, I had high hopes for a great-tasting tea, and this one did not disappoint. The tea also has vanilla flavoring, and during this colder weather that's come our way, I'm so happy for a rich-tasting coconutty tea that's like having dessert in my Princess Anne "Noel" teacup in honor of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Where to find 82 free recipe booklets

My correspondent (and friend) Joy has shared a link to an amazing *free* resource, the Nicole Di Bona Peterson Advertising Cookbook Collection at Duke University's Rubinstein Library. Some 82 vintage recipe booklets are included, and of course this one caught my eye with the pretty tea wares on the cover. And just what IS The Vital Question, you may ask? It is, according to the inside of the booklet, "a discussion of the food problem and its relation to health and happiness  –… including a comprehensive treatise on the principles of cookery … with practical and economical recipes for making simple, palatable and nutritious shredded wheat dishes." Recipes include such delicacies as Strawberries in Shredded Wheat Baskets and Oyster Shredded Wheat Patties.

Like World War II–era recipes? Then you may wish to check out War-Time Cook and Health Book, with recipes for foods such as Corn Custard, Soft Honey Cake, and Apple Brown Betty.

Perhaps one of the most tempting titles is Choice Recipes, which features chocolate and cocoa recipes by a "Miss Parloa," including Chocolate Walnut Wafers, Wellesley Loaf Cake, Baker's Chocolate "Divinity" (yes, Walter Baker and Co. is apparently that Baker's Chocolate), Marshmallow Fudge, Chocolate Cream Pie, and more.

I love old recipe booklets, and when I see a new source for treats that might work at the tea table, I am always inclined to share … as was Joy!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Taking tea with Santa Claus

I'm slowly bringing out all of my Christmas collections this year, and that means dusting off (and using) my Santa Claus mugs. I like to make a cup of plain green tea and drop in a single peppermint candy. It's a quick, easy way to enjoy more peppermint tea!

I began by unpacking the mugs from two large crates and lining them up in rows on the kitchen floor. I got to 115 and thought I was done, but apparently I have not been super organized about mug storage, because I have since found about 10 or 15 more stored in various other boxes of decorations. I finally realized that nobody out there is demanding a count of my mugs, so I quit worrying about the number and just started sorting them. This week, I plan to remove some china pieces from cabinets and replace them with Santa mugs to enjoy during the holidays.

This is what I consider the classic Santa mug, and this is the style I have the most of. Many of them are marked "TAIWAN" on the back.

I also have several of this guy, whose hat is decorated with holly and berries. No backstamp, but these definitely look newer to me than the classic Santa mugs.

This guy looks even newer and a little surprised about something.

This Santa mug, hand painted and etched with the name "The Country Cottage," was a gift from my friend Joy. His eyes remind me of the Christian fish symbol!
I have just four or five Santa mugs that are predominantly green or blue, including this guy. As you can see, he's got some paint loss, and these mugs aren't really delicate or precious.

I do enjoy seeing the different expressions on Santa's face. The one at left here looks sleepy, and the one at right looks like he's been using lash booster.

And when I examined the Santa mug with the nice lashes, I noticed that it was made in Japan. I obviously added this one in 2008, and the 29 mark is probably the price my late mother paid for it, as she used to pick these up for me when she saw them at thrift stores.

So I collect Santa Claus mugs, and I'd love to know what you collect. Anything specific, or do you just like everything Christmas?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Candy Cane Herbal Tea from Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe recently offered to send me some tea samples to try, and I was delighted to find this Candy Cane Herbal Tea among the offerings! This caffeine-free herbal would be a great holiday blend for those of you who are avoiding caffeine.

It's available only through January, and it's a blend of green rooibos and peppermint with "some of those creamy and sweet mint notes of candy canes but without all the sugar." I found it naturally quite sweet, and the taste (and scent!) are lovely. It's the perfect treat after an evening of Christmas decorating. (For those of us who still aren't quite finished.)

I loved the bright, minty taste of this new tea blend, and I think many of you would enjoy it as well!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Wish Books of yesteryear

Do you all know about the Wishbook Web Project? It was launched in 2005 to share those wonderful old Christmas gift catalogs from the past, and I recently took some time to start looking through them in search of a doll from my childhood. All I remembered was that the doll had a light-blue velvet dress trimmed in white fur, and I remembered getting her as a gift long about first grade, because I entered her in a doll show at school and won some sort of prize. The doll—as well as her name and any maker—had been lost to time, but thinking about the old Sears catalogs made me go "Hmm…" Well, I guessed she came from the Sears catalog, and I further guessed it was around 1970, when I was six years old, that I received her. So I clicked on that catalog, turned to the dolls, and voila! There she is, and I’ll bet you anything my mother chose her because her name was Angela! 

Much as I love vintage Christmas things, I have been having a great time looking through these catalogs of yesteryear, and not surprisingly, there are lots of tea sets to be found. Here’s a page from the 1937 Sears Christmas catalog, and don’t you wish we could buy all those things at these prices today! I, for one, would be delighted to get a 45-piece Blue Willow set for 89 cents.

Even more tea party goodies are shown here, in the 1958 Wish Book.
Are you ready to visit WishBookWeb and start looking for your own toys and tea sets of yesteryear? Click here, and enjoy!