Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Daffodils and teacups

I'm way overdue for pulling out one of my favorite spring teacups, this cheerful design from Royal Ardalt that features daffodils and iris, which happen to be what is blooming at my house right now.

Flowers have definitely been on my mind this week, as I was inspired to cut some of the mini daffodils growing out front. I'd never cut any of them to display inside before, and when I did, I was delighted to find they have a lovely light floral scent. My husband said they smelled very "clean," which I think is his way of saying they don't smell overly perfumey. I even plopped some in a little glass vase on the kitchen windowsill.

They're a charming addition to the house, and I love that even when they go the way of all the earth, I will *always* have a flower garden waiting in my teacups. I used this one to sip some Timothy's Green Tea Orange Jasmine, and the light floral taste was the perfect blend for this cup. I've been drinking a lot of unflavored green tea lately, and I'm about ready to shake things up and search for some new floral blends. If you know of a good one, please share!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Turquoise and the tea trolley

Much as I love pink, I had grown weary of seeing the same pink rose tea wares on the tea trolley and decided to give it a makeover this weekend.

I was also reorganizing my office and realized I was using a vintage tole tray to hold scrapbooking papers, but it's really so pretty that it ought to be out where I can enjoy seeing it. So I started looking for turquoise things and had enough to pull together a new look for the tea trolley, which *almost* felt like shopping.

Have I ever mentioned what hangs over this tea trolley? It's a large framed picture of Alex's late uncle Roy Green, who I gather was a character. I have always loved this antique photograph of him as a child, and that's probably because of the turquoise tint as much as the image of Roy himself.

On a practical note, I also needed a place to plop the avocado plant I've been growing for almost a year now! Last year, I made some loaded guacamole around Cinco de Mayo, and I'd been rooting the pit in the kitchen windowsill. Over the weekend, I tried to find a pot with drain holes so that I can water this periodically, but all I came up with was an old plastic pot from the nursery. I really want a simple clay pot with a liner, but until I feel it's safe to go out and about again (and I'm not there yet), I'll make do. At least I had a teacup planter on hand!

It turns out I had more than enough turquoise teacups to fill the teacup stand. In fact, I have another one left to drink out of!

Now I had been thinking of sending this particular teacup on to Goodwill, because it has a manufacturing flaw near the rim (looks like lipstick up top, but that's paint). Lately, though, I've been watching the Instagram videos of Shabby Chic founder Rachel Ashwell, and she has reminded me that there is beauty to be found in imperfection, so I decided I liked this teacup once again. It reminds me of a saying that a friend shared when we were in junior high, and it went something like this: "If we cannot have what we like, then maybe we can learn to like what we have." A good motto for anytime, but especially right now, eh?

And see these dried flowers? When I spoke to the Marietta Daisies Garden Club back in February (which seems like a *lifetime* ago now), they gave me one of their live floral arrangements in a pretty yellow teacup. That arrangement lasted for, like, two weeks or something, and when I finally took it out because I wanted to use the teacup, I realized the dried flowers were still quite lovely, so I've been letting the things traipse from teacup to teacup. I'm sure I'll toss them one day, but not yet.

My favorite tea tin happens to be turquoise, this Celebration Blend Tea tin I got at Fortnum & Mason on my 50th birthday trip to Europe almost six years ago!

I was surprised to realize I don't own a turquoise teapot (yet!), but a cream one will always serve me well. This is a little cheap one I got years ago, probably at T. J. Maxx, and I still love the roses on the handle and lid.

The jury's out on whether that avocado plant gets to stay there, but I'm enjoying the new color palette. Have you done any reorganizing and/or redecorating while we've been staying at home? I hear it's a popular pastime!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Clara Barton, the American Red Cross, and a five o'clock tea

Did you know that Clara Barton was fifty-nine when she founded the American Red Cross? Now that I'm firmly in my fifties, I'm even more interested in women who were trailblazers in midlife, and I was delighted to learn a bit more about the famous Clara Barton. I was on the board of the local American Red Cross many years ago, and I continue to donate blood when one of their bloodmobiles rolls my way. The American Red Cross has a Facebook page where they've been sharing some good tips to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and I'm especially intrigued that they are asking for blood donations from those who've had the virus and recovered, in hopes that others can be treated with this "convalescent plasma," as it's being called.

So what does all that have to do with tea? Not much, except that I was browsing the Library of Congress website this week and found this 1889 invitation to a "Five O'Clock Tea" that Clara and the General Field Agent of the Red Cross were giving in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The American Red Cross had been founded as a battlefield relief organization, and the Johnstown flood of 1889 marked the first peacetime relief effort for the American Red Cross. I love how the invitation reads, "Your presence will be esteemed a favor." I may have to borrow that!

And finally, I thought you might enjoy seeing the Clara Barton Chapel in Glen Echo, Maryland, part of the Clara Barton National Historic Site. The home at this site is where she spent the last fifteen years of her life, and her home also served as the first headquarters of the American Red Cross. I'm looking forward to being a blood donor again soon, and afterward, I'll be sure to lift my cup in honor of Clara Barton!

(All photos courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth!

If I'd planned a little better, I would have made some Coronation Chicken Salad yesterday in honor of Queen Elizabeth's 94th birthday. Instead, I just pulled out my Paragon teacup commemorating the Queen's coronation as I privately saluted her and wished her a happy 94th!

I'm a regular reader of the Daily Mail online, and I was happy to see lots of lovely tribute photos to her. It was also through the DM that I learned that Buckingham Palace had released a brief video of some archive footage in honor of the Queen's special day. Click here if you'd like to see it too!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Backyard roses and a thrift-store "vase"

Are any of you Zooming your way through this time of quarantine? In the last month alone, I have used the Zoom video-conferencing app for a work conference call, I have Zoomed for Sunday school, and on Saturday, I was online for six hours while I enjoyed Zooming with crafting buddies in Newnan and Savannah. We had all agreed it might be fun to gather for a "virtual" craft day, so I set up all my card-making supplies and colored and created cards while I visited on-screen with friends who were working on sewing and paper crafts of their own. We were told that Zoom would kick us off after forty minutes and we would have to re-join the call, but it never did, which was awesome. I didn't realize how refreshing it would be to connect with friends in this way, and it truly did feel like visiting in each other's homes! So I was in quite a lovely mood that evening and thought, you know, I'm going to go cut some roses.

A yellow rose bush was growing behind my house when we moved here in 2006, and it has produced flowers every single year, unlike the finicky David Austin roses I planted in front of the house. I've never done a thing to this yellow rose bush, and yet these pretty blossoms keep coming back. I knew we were predicted to get more storms on Sunday, so I wanted to rescue a few blossoms and bring them indoors. I have no idea what type of rose this is, but the fragrance is yummy!

And while I do have vases I could use, I have been plopping flowers into this "Sweet Tea" glass I found at a thrift store last year. I'm pretty sure I found this for something like fifty cents at Goodwill or another store, and I thought I'd blogged about it here, but I looked through my old blog posts and can't find that I did. (If you remember seeing this glass on here before, would you kindly let me know? I can't find it under "sweet tea" or "glass" or "Goodwill," and I can't imagine how else I would have described it.)

I would dearly love to have more of these glasses, and the bottom is stamped "Home Essentials," so that was helpful. I found the glasses on Amazon, sold out, and apparently the glasses sold from 2015 on. I found reviews for them on, too, also dated several years ago. When I get back to my thrift store shopping, I will be on the hunt for more of these cute glasses. (Ironically, I'll mostly be drinking unsweet tea out of them.)

So I Zoomed with friends and cut roses and made some banana bread. How did you spend the weekend?

Friday, April 17, 2020

Food Network Magazine's April & May 2020 issues

With more time for leisure reading lately, I've been enjoying catching up on my reading list, including magazine reading. I had not even read the April issue of Food Network Magazine when the May issue arrived, so this week, I spent a little time delving into both magazines, and they delighted me for different reasons. The April issue, at left, features a gorgeous lemon pound cake on the cover, and I'm eager to make it the next time I go to the store and get some fresh lemons.

That issue also has a nice article on how to make various flavors of macaroons (not macarons), and as a coconut fan, I find this idea quite enticing.

The May issue of the magazine, though, is the one that really has me lusting to make a new sheet cake! I've only ever made chocolate sheet cakes, but these flavors sound so good: PB&J, Chocolate-Hazelnut, Cinnamon Apple, S'mores, and more. They're the subject of this month's pull-out booklet in the magazine, and cut into bite-size pieces, these cakes would be right at home on a tea tray.

So I was already thinking "tea" when I turned the pages of the May issue and saw a feature on places to enjoy Tea Time! I realize our magazine shopping is probably going to remain limited for a while, but if you're at the grocery store and see this issue at the register, you might want to take a copy home with you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

On watching "Belgravia"

(Photo courtesy of ITV)

Okay, friends. So who has started watching "Belgravia" on Sunday nights? I have, and boy, am I glad I did. All I knew about it was that it was created by Julian Fellowes of "Downton Abbey" fame and featured actress Harriet Walter (I've been hating on her wonderfully nasty characters since "Sense and Sensibility" days). So that was enough to get me hooked, but I did not realize that Anna, Duchess of Bedford and her newfangled afternoon tea would be featured in the first episode! What a treat!

And if you have a little extra time for viewing (and who doesn't these days?), click here to watch this video on "How To Make a Proper Cup of Tea."

I'm not going to mention any spoilers—yet—but I'd love to know who is watching "Belgravia" with me? Any fans?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Saturday entertainment: Teacup Fairy Garden #2

Last week, my friend Lynn K. thoughtfully sent me a complete kit for another teacup fairy garden, and I had so much fun putting it together on my potting shed on Saturday. All I had to add was dirt (and the remaining bit of moss I found), because everything else was provided, including the teacup! 

I must confess that I was tempted to use the teacup for tea first, but instead of saving it, I went ahead and used it for the new fairy garden.

This one is presided over by its very own guardian angel with a little bling on her wings. I love her! (I like to think it's me back when I was still a brunette, ha!) I felt like I was playing paper dolls as I surrounded her with the acorn-capped mushrooms, toothpick flowers, and garden ladder, which are such sweet, sweet touches.

Naturally, one of my favorite features of the kit was this tiny little glass teapot perched on a bottle-cap "table." Precious!

And a little bluebird of happiness found a home on this decorate seashell. Since I love anything that calls to mind the beach and the ocean, I imagine the fairies will appreciate this too.

Finally, it never hurts to sprinkle a little magic into one's fairy garden, the perfect finishing touch for this new tiny treasure! (And thanks again to Lynn for providing some much-needed entertainment during these days of quarantine!)

Friday, April 10, 2020

Happy Easter, friends!

I love Easter! In fact, because Christians get to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday, I like Easter much better than Christmas. Last year, when I woke on Christmas Day, my husband laughed when I told him my first thought was, "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" And then I thought, "Oops. Wrong holiday. Got ahead of myself there." At any rate, I thought you might enjoy seeing a vintage Easter teapot card I found on eBay a while back.

And today is Good Friday, an unusually contemplative one in my book. I hear lots of friends saying they are using this unexpected downtime to think about what's really important in life, and I've done some of that too. I've been immensely grateful that I've had the Lord to call on during this coronavirus pandemic, and my husband and I have made a point of regularly naming our blessings throughout this situation. (Including the fact that we haven't wanted to kill each other—yet. Ha!)

So friends, I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking of you all and wishing you a blessed Easter weekend!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Guess who's taking tea with Oprah?

I don't know about you, but one of the brightest spots in my day now is when the mail arrives. And thank goodness I subscribe to so many magazines! Oprah's is one that I somehow started getting for free a while back, and the April issue arrived this week. I haven't read this magazine consistently over the years, but I've been enjoying it lately, and I do believe this is the first time I've seen her having tea on the cover. While I don't always share Oprah's beliefs, I do think she's a generous, kind person who genuinely likes to help others, and I admire her for that. (And for encouraging so many people to pick up a book, of course!)

What's interesting is that she calls it "tea with a few of my favorite ladies," and these "ladies" are Sadie, a rescue cocker spaniel, and Sunny and Lauren, her springer spaniels. The phrase "you lucky dog" comes to mind, as I imagine it would be a fine thing to be one of Oprah's pets. The magazine notes that she gave them canine-friendly treats from her tea table.

And this final bit in this month's letter from Oprah had me going there for a moment. I love that she has a sense of humor!

Monday, April 6, 2020

"The Tea Chest" by Heidi Chiavaroli

If you’re catching up on your reading these days, an intriguing new book to add to your list is The Tea Chest by Heidi Chiavaroli. Since the cover depicts a woman in a period dress and with a tea clipper in the background, a scene typical of historical fiction, readers may be surprised when they dive into the first chapter and meet Lieutenant Hayley Ashworth. Hayley is about to begin special training in California as she tries to become the first woman SEAL. Prior to the training, she heads home to Massachusetts to visit her drug-addicted mother. Hayley's mother is out of town, but while in Massachusetts, Hayley meets up with her old boyfriend, Ethan Gagnon, who is now running an antiques shop he inherited when his wife died. He encourages Hayley to choose an item from the shop as a gift, and she is inexplicably drawn to an old wooden tea chest.

Meanwhile, back in 1773, Emma Malcolm—the daughter of one of the king's agents in America—is dreading a future in which she seems destined to marry a young tea importer her parents think will make a good match for the family. The Sons of Liberty are stirring up trouble near her home, and despite what is expected of her, Emma gets caught up in the furor in ways she never would have expected, including her growing attraction to Noah Winslow, a young patriot whose honor and integrity capture her heart. Emma is even at the center of events on the night of December 16, 1773, when the infamous Boston Tea Party takes place, and the course of her life is set to take a very different turn from what she's imagined. An important document chronicling the events of that night lands in Emma's hands, and eventually, it makes its way into a tea chest she owns.

Chiavaroli does a terrific job of connecting Hayley and Emma across the centuries, and the many ways in which the women's lives are mirrored are fun to read. This is a novel that has something for everyone: history for those who love to learn about the Revolutionary War–era, a bit of romance for those who prefer a good love story, and of course the mystery of how Hayley crosses paths with Emma. A few scenes in the book seemed rather intense for a historical fiction novel from an inspirational publisher, so sensitive readers may find that the story makes them queasy in a couple of spots. (The scenes do move the story forward, though, so props to the author for having the guts to include them.)

For those who like both their tea and their women strong, it's hard to imagine a better escape than The Tea Chest.

***Review copy courtesy of NetGalley***

Friday, April 3, 2020

Tea & Coping

(Graphic courtesy of the Coweta County School System) 

"Coping" is a word I've been seeing a lot lately, so I was pleased when our local school system's website shared this handy chart of 50 Coping Skills for Kids. If any of you have children or grandchildren you're taking care of during the quarantine, maybe you'll find an idea or two that you hadn't thought of just yet.

And of course I was happy when my tea radar spotted this part of the chart at lower left. At first, I wondered why it said "a warm cup of tea" and not "a hot cup of tea," but then I realized that when writing for children, it's probably best to go with "warm" for safety reasons.

Warm or hot, cups of tea have provided much comfort for me this week. I've continued with my usual amount of editing and writing work, I've read a bit more, I've taken more walks to savor the beauty of springtime, and I've enjoyed many, many cups of tea. In fact, I don't usually make a whole pot of tea at one time, but lately, I seem more likely to make it by the pot than by the cup. Perhaps that's because I *know* I'm not going anywhere and can easily finish a whole pot in a day.

What about you all? What are you doing to cope during this season of quarantine? I'd love to hear your tips!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A TED-Ed video on "The history of tea"

I've been looking up online tea videos, and I was surprised that I'd never come across this TED-Ed talk on "The history of tea."

The video is just about five minutes long, and it's a nice introduction to tea history. If you're like me, you know so much tea history and even trivia by now that it's sometimes hard to whittle down the topic when someone asks you about tea. This was a good reminder of the basics, and I will return to this video the next time I'm planning a speech about tea and need to make bullet points about tea history. 

There are some additional resources accompanying the video (under the headings Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, and Discuss) that may be of interest to some of you as well. If you've seen any good tea videos yourself, please feel free to leave a link in the comments!