Monday, June 29, 2020

Giveaway: Need to send a note to a tea-loving friend?

Got any notes you need to send? Because if you do, perhaps you'd like to win this set of four notecards! I've been stampin' up a storm with my new Stampin' Up stamps and dies that I bought with my birthday money this year. After stamping and die cutting lots of new design elements with the Ornate Garden Suite, which I just love, I decided to combine the new lacy frames with some of my old (mostly Stampin' Up) tea-themed stamps. So I didn't necessarily need these four cards, I just wanted to have fun making them, and I did! If you'd like to win these four cards, please leave a comment stating which card is your favorite. Just tell me whether you prefer card number 1, 2, 3, or 4 and you'll be entered to win. (Please comment by 7 a.m. EST on Friday, July 3. US only, please. And then I'll tell you which card is my favorite!)

Card 1

Card 2

Card 3

(This stamp was not from Stampin' Up and is from Crafter's Companion if any of you happen to be into stamping.)

Card 4

Good luck!

Friday, June 26, 2020

A truly "sweet" vintage photo

As National Iced Tea Month comes to a close, I thought about the fact that I haven't yet made my more-or-less annual pitcher of simple syrup, a concoction that lives up to its name by being so simple that it really does require only a cup of sugar and a cup of water, combined and boiled until the sugar crystals disappear. Other than that yearly indulgence, I don't sweeten my iced tea, and I only rarely sweeten my hot tea, but when I do, I enjoy having a box of sugar cubes from Domino Sugar on hand. Have you ever thought about how they pack those cubes? I had not until I came across this photo from the Library of Congress.

The old stereograph is from 1912, copyrighted by the American Sugar Refining Company, and "shows women packing sugar cubes in boxes on scales."

And this YouTube video shows how sugar cubes are produced today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The journey of blue and white ceramics

The new issue of Veranda arrived the other day, and at first, I didn't even notice that up top, it said "Global Blue & White."

But then I came across this stunning feature inside and realized that oh, they meant this blue and white! I love how they created a timeline of blue and white ceramics and shared how the pieces "marched through 16th- and 17th-century Europe like a vivid carnival, fresh off a journey of color and craft that began in southern China, where artisans discovered a chemical kinship between their prized porcelain (made with locally sourced and highly coveted kaolin) and cobalt oxide (the only pigment to withstand porcelain's high-firing temps)."

Naturally, I was eager to spot some blue and white tea wares. While I'm familiar with the Blue Onion pattern on the plate above, I had not heard of the Blue Fluted Half Lace pattern on the teapot by Royal Copenhagen. That handle is so pretty and delicate looking.

And these exotic Mexican wares remind me of some of the Polish pottery I've seen in recent years with the cream and blue colors. I have a few blue and white teacups, a few plates, and two blue and white teapot lamps, and I seem to enjoy them best in the summertime. Are any of you fans of blue and white ceramics?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Tea & Father's Day

At family gatherings these days, the menu is divided between my sister and me, which makes life easier for both of us, but one constant: there will always be at least two pitchers of tea on hand, sweet and unsweet. Since it was Father's Day yesterday, I for some reason was drawn to remember all those years that my dad went to work at Ford Motor Company and packed his black metal lunchbox with a sandwich, chips, and a thermos of sweet tea. I was probably in my twenties before I ever had a cup of hot tea (imagine!), but at least I grew up knowing the joys of iced tea, like that shown here by my niece Cari as we all gathered for lunch at my sister's house yesterday.

Rhonda, my sister, made a roast for sandwiches, along with some delicious Instapot stew, and I brought the fixings and sides. (And I didn't get a photo, but for dessert, I made a heart-shaped chocolate chip pan cookie and brought ice cream to go with it.)

I think Aunt Jane was particularly happy to have everyone gathered. Even though Alex and I are still sticking close to home and social distancing (he's wearing the mask I made him; mine is pink), it's nice to feel that we can at least gather with family again.

And the other big news from my sister's house is that Amelia and Matthew have just gotten a Nigerian dwarf goat. Andy is the little guy's name, and I must admit he is awfully cute!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ice-brewed green tea

This may look like just a glass of ordinary iced tea, but oh, my friends, it is not.

Why, you may ask, do I have loose tea sprinkled over a pan of ice cubes?

Well, so I watched this brief video the other day. Although I don't have any Japanese green tea on hand, I heard the words "cold water extracts less bitterness," and I was sold. So I tried this method with some gunpowder green tea I had, and to my surprise, it really doesn't have that astringent flavor that is so often associated with green tea! I did, of course, have to strain the tea leaves before pouring the brewed tea into a glass, but then I had a nice big pan full of tea leaves to toss on my roses, so that was good. Am I the last person to hear about ice-brewed green tea? Have you heard of it?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Tea, lace, and inspiration

A trip to the grocery store continues to be one of the retail highlights of my week, so I am very thankful for the magazine selection at Ingles and Kroger these days. Last week, Kroger turned up a new issue of the The Cottage Journal titled Vintage Cottage, and as soon as I flipped through it, I knew I had to have this issue.

I was quite charmed by this feature on vintage children's pieces like china and bronzed baby shoes. I have some bronzed baby shoes that were mine when I was a baby, but mine are attached to a photo display stand. One day, I'll come across something unique to do with them!

What I really loved in this issue, though, was these gorgeous photos of a vintage sewing machine and vintage lace. Something about lace just speaks to me. I have a lace-collector friend here in Newnan (I'm talking *serious* lace collector), and I am most fortunate that she has been kind enough to let me play in her lace sometimes.

In case you can't read it, this quote from Coco Chanel seemed worth sharing: "I consider lace to be one of the prettiest imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature." I so agree! I see lace in spider webs, Queen Anne's lace, a dandelion, and much more. And does that pretty floral teacup at left catch your eye? It certainly did mine. I don't believe I've ever bought an issue of the Cottage Journal before, but I'm sure glad I came across this one. Do you like lace too? Any lace stories you can share?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Experiments in (teapot) cookie cutting

I believe I've mentioned before that I am working on a cookbook featuring vintage Christmas recipes, and this weekend, that involved testing a peppermint pie recipe and a sugar cookie recipe. Both of them turned out great, hallelujah, and after I made sugar cookies in Christmas shapes, I remembered that I wanted to use this teapot-shaped cookie cutter I had tried, unsuccessfully, before, so I used some of the leftover dough for that. See that handle on the cookie cutter? I wanted to cut out the interior of it.

But if I pressed too hard, I ended up with what amounted to teapot puzzle pieces, and the handle broke completely off, so I ended up leaving that piece intact.

This cookie's handle had the most pronounced interior, and I thought maybe I could cut it out once the cookie baked, but of course it all baked together. When I got through with all the other cookies, I was still puzzled about this teapot cookie cutter, and I couldn't honestly remember ever having seen sugar cookies with the interior of the handle cut out. So, I found a website that showed this particular style of cutter, and lo and behold, the interior isn't supposed to be cut out. Who knew? I didn't want to decorate these particular cookies, but at least now I know what to do the next time I do.

And if you happen to be on Pinterest, feel free to check out my board titled Cute Sugar Cookies. Heavy on the roses, lace, and tea wares, these are some of the gorgeous cookies I aspire to bake and decorate as my skills improve!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Iced tea of yesteryear …

I was looking up vintage advertisements online this week when I came across a new "old" name in tea, Canterbury Tea, which is the focus of this 1939 magazine advertisement. Since June is National Iced Tea Month, I'm trying to remember to focus on iced tea in addition to the hot tea I always drink.

This ad is intriguing with its recipe for a "Tropical Tempter." I found it interesting that this calls for, in addition to the tea, pineapple, bananas, lemon juice, pineapple juice, sugar, carbonated water, and crushed ice. I'd be willing to try it, but this definitely sounds more like punch (or dessert!) than tea.

But it did remind me of something. Last month, I made a dish that required crushed pineapple, and I had to drain off the juice. Now I hate to waste anything, especially these days, so I saved the pineapple juice and used it to sweeten my tea that week. I enjoyed it so much that later, I saved some cherry juice and did the same thing. And while I don't normally sweeten my tea, I did enjoy these fruity sweeteners. So the next time you have to drain off some juice, you might try adding a teaspoonful or two to your tea!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Trice's Lemon and Ginger green tea blend

So my first post-quarantine visit to a retail establishment that wasn't a grocery store was Great Clips. The second? A stop by T. J. Maxx, where I continued to wear my mask and was correct in believing that the rainy morning would make for a quiet store, and it did. I bought a cute new pink bread pan (for all those loaves of sourdough bread), a journal (there's so much to write about), and … some tea!

This Lemon and Ginger blend from Trice was billed as being good both hot and iced, and that appealed to me.

I'd bought some of this brand of tea before, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember how to open the box! Finally, I realized there was a band around the box that slid off, then the inner box opened with a hinged lid. So if you buy some of this yourself, don't be like me and spend 15 minutes figuring out how to get in it!

This is one of those rare teas that I like both hot and cold! On a rainy day, I had a cup of the hot tea and enjoyed the soothing warmth from the ginger. On a hot day, I plopped one of the silken tea bags in a glass of ice water and found the lemon and ginger flavor refreshing and cooling. They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? I now think that when life gives you lemons, make some tea!

Monday, June 8, 2020

A new teatime craft project

Inspired by a fun tag book in the new issue of Somerset Studio, I was in the mood to play around with some of my paper craft supplies this weekend. And I had just unearthed this old chipboard teapot "book," so that seemed like the perfect canvas to use. Just five pages? Piece of cake.

For a collage project like this, I really enjoy looking through the odd bits of paper ephemera I've collected. I found a lot of postmarked stamps I'd cut off old envelopes, and I also found a package of vintage-looking Tim Holtz paper pieces I got last year at Joann. I found they inspired my writing more than my crafting, though, as I would make up stories in my head about the old library card, the ticket stub, the air mail stamp, etcetera. (I also think these tidbits are good writing prompts and plan to use them the next time I teach a class on writing and am talking about creativity.)

The vintage image of the little girl is one I found on the Library of Congress website a while back, and I pondered how serious she was about her teacup, which made me think that "Handle With Care" was an appropriate message here. I tinkered with this so long that I got only one page done in this totally frivolous flip book, but I found it relaxing and enjoyed doing it, and that's what counts!

I thought about stamping the word "teatime," but then I found these old letters I had stamped years ago and glued a clock face embellishment at the end. Done!

I have been a lot craftier in recent months for obvious reasons, and I also found a new *free* quilt pattern over the weekend, Teapot Garden by Darlene Zimmerman, that I've saved for when I finish the two quilt tops I'm working on right now. Isn't it pretty? If any of you are crafters/quilters/needle workers, I'd love to hear what you've been up to!

Friday, June 5, 2020

In observance of National Iced Tea Month

In observance of National Iced Tea Month, I reached into the dark corner of my kitchen cabinets and pulled out the one remaining true "TEA" glass of the four I bought many years ago. Can you see the word "TEA" on the front? Around that band, it also says Thé, Tee, and TE'. I bought a set of four of these glasses more than a decade ago at a World Market store, but alas, three of them have gone on to Glory.

And what type of iced tea am I sipping? I'm so glad you asked! One thing I love about iced tea is that I can happily experiment with blending teas I probably wouldn't otherwise consider combining. Here, I had some rose tea a friend had given me (mostly dried rosebuds, actually), and I added some gunpowder green tea and really enjoyed the blend.

And the mint seeds I planted a few weeks ago? They're in a pot (I listened to those of you who told me how invasive mint is!), and they're already coming up like crazy, with a few of them large enough to add to my rose-flavored iced green tea. Are you celebrating National Iced Tea Month? If so, have you got an iced tea to recommend?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Inspiration & Art

At such a trouble-filled time in our nation's history, I pondered whether it's even appropriate to carry on as usual with a tea blog this week. And then I thought yes, yes it is. If we don't have hobbies and pleasures and loveliness and hopes for a happy future, we'll all go mad. So I continue to pray for our country in light of both COVID-19 and our ongoing racial tension, I *vote* (mailed my absentee ballot on Monday since Georgia's primary is next week), and I'm on the lookout for other constructive ways to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. So on that note, I wanted to share with you a bit of happy mail that arrived at my house recently. It was the May/June/July issue of the mixed media journal Somerset Studio, and I never cease to be amazed at the creativity within. I also find it interesting that while the cover sort of looks like it's crying, there's a beautiful turquoise background and a beautiful pink rose spray up top. Fitting, eh?

I really, really love this altered tag set by Diane Adams since it features vintage postcards. (How about one with tea quotes, maybe? I think this project is in my immediate future.)

And then I saw this bit of chalk-art lettering and had to smile at the wording.

Finally, this simple, wise message is one that never grows old, does it? Just what I needed.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Portuguese Honey Bread

Several years ago, I found a 1969 issue of Good Housekeeping at a yard sale and bought it because of the food and craft ideas. One of the recipes that caught my eye was for Portuguese Honey Bread, a type of sweet bread that includes a lot of spices, including anise seed, a flavor I seldom come across.

This weekend, I decided it was time to try baking this bread, and I was thrilled that mine came out looking like the photo in the magazine! I sprayed the pan with cooking spray, but I was still a little nervous about whether the bread would come out of the pan cleanly. What a beautiful sound when I inverted it onto a plate and heard a pleasant little plop.

The bread is baked in a 9-inch rose mold, which I believe I found on eBay, and when I checked eBay over the weekend, several of this exact mold were again available there at reasonable prices. (It's a two-quart mold, so if you have that size in another design, I'd certainly use it.)

I served the bread warm, and Alex and I both enjoyed it. (He had his with coffee, and of course I had tea.) While not dry, it's not the typical moist tea bread either, and something about the texture seems exactly right for teatime. The original recipe was enough to make three loaves, but after making a few calculations online, I whittled it down to one. So if you'd like to try this sweet bread yourself, here's the recipe!

Portuguese Honey Bread

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cold mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3-2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, add butter, molasses, honey, and sugar and mix at medium speed until fluffy. Add mashed potatoes, sherry, cloves, anise, cinnamon, pepper, baking soda, and baking powder and beat till combined well.

Using low speed of mixer, add half of the flour. Mixture will be very thick, so add the rest of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon or a spatula just till combined. 

Prepare 2-quart mold with cooking spray and add batter. The original recipe said to bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and I checked at 1 hour and 20 minutes and found mine tested clean. Bread should be coming away from the sides of the mold.

Leave bread in mold and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from mold and serve warm.  Yields one bread.