Friday, July 31, 2020

Sharing a little loveliness …

Want something to read that's pretty, uplifting, and free? Then I've got a deal for you! I get promotional emails from Stampington and Company about their many crafting magazines, and the latest email included a link to this digital magazine, "From the Garden," that is available for viewing free on I'm well-acquainted with because back when I was a magazine editor, we posted a digital version of our print magazine there, and I really like the simplicity of viewing, enlarging, and sharing articles from the site.

As I started flipping through it, I found several tidbits that I think will be enjoyable to fellow tea lovers.

Page 6 has some resin-molded teaspoons that are absolutely beautiful. These would be terrific favors for a tea party or package tie-ons for a tea-loving friend. (I don't believe they're food-safe, though, so I wouldn't try to actually use these for dining!)

Page 10 has a feature about a Handcrafted Bride-to-Be Tea. It's beautiful!

Page 23 shows a simple planter made from a teacup.

Happy reading, and I hope you all have a *lovely* weekend!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Queen's new portrait

Let's talk about the Queen, shall we? Did you see where a new portrait of her was just unveiled? I watched this YouTube video of the unveiling and enjoyed seeing the Queen's reaction.

When I first saw the portrait, I thought it was a photograph! What I like best: Her expression (neither too serious nor too frivolous), the color of her dress (turquoise!), those lavish lavender roses, and that gorgeous golden teacup!

Do you like the new portrait? Why or why not?

Monday, July 27, 2020

"Tea and Treachery" by Vicki Delany

Since I have enjoyed so many of Vicki Delany's other mysteries, I knew I would likely enjoy her new Tea by the Sea Mystery series, and I was so happy when I got an advance reader copy of Tea & Treachery from NetGalley.

Tea &Treachery has a rich cast of characters that stars Lily Roberts, a former Manhattan pastry chef who has recently fulfilled a dream of opening her own tearoom, Tea by the Sea, on the property of her grandmother's B&B, Victoria-on-Sea, in a small town near Cape Cod. Her tea-loving British grandmother, Rose, is a feisty 85-year-old who is charming when she wants to be but also quite meddlesome. Other characters include Lily's friend Bernadette (aka Bernie), a writer trying not so successfully to finish her book, and assorted helpers in the tearoom and nearby gardens.

Things seem to be going just swimmingly until Jack Ford, a local real estate developer, becomes determined to build a golf resort and convention center next door to Rose, disturbing the very serenity she most loves about the area. Alas, Lily's grandmother is unable to hold her tongue, and soon, Ford is suing Rose for slander. That should give her cause for concern, but of even more concern is the fact that Ford's lifeless body is discovered at the bottom of some stairs on Rose's property. Naturally, she is considered the prime suspect. Lily, Rose, and Bernie are determined to find the real killer, and when police don't seem to be having any luck, the three women are quite clever at conducting a shadow investigation of their own. (The B&B itself, it turns out, has a particularly delightful feature that assists the sleuths, and readers will look forward to learning more about this in future books.)

Tea &Treachery is a fast-paced cozy that has lots of suspects and red herrings that will keep readers guessing right up until the end. Tea lovers in particular will enjoy the new world Delany has created there at the seaside, and the fine sense of place makes this book a lovely way to while away an afternoon or two with a nice cup of tea at hand.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Tevive's Blueberry & Honey Tea

Do you consider yourself a tea snob? If you're reading a tea blog, I'm going to assume that you prefer fresh, good-tasting tea, and whatever your favorite type of tea, that you probably like to enjoy a high-quality tea, right? Me too. And yet, I don't consider myself a tea snob. If I'm on a road trip, I'll happily review a bottled tea I come across at a convenience store, and I've written plenty of times about finding good tea bags at Walmart and Target. And yet … I was never able to make my feet stop when I passed by the tea shelf at Dollar Tree.

But when I was picking up a few things there this week, I saw some boxes of Tevive Blueberry & Honey Pure Ceylon Black Tea. I'd seen a couple of other flavors of this tea there in the past but never tried them. But the combination of blueberry and honey sounded intriguing, and I thought, "It's a dollar. Live a little. Try it or you'll always wonder if it's any good."

And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tea! As soon as I opened the packet, I was struck by the scent of berries, and the tea tasted fresh and crisp with only the slightest astringency. It won't replace my favorite loose leaf tea vendors, but I was quite happy to find that tea is even available at the dollar store!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tea and … scandal?

Many of you know by now that I love discovering more of these old tea-related stereoscopic images found on the Library of Congress website. When I stared at this 1874 image long enough, I was surprised by how dimensional the rug (animal fur, perhaps?) seemed to look. You'll note that the caption says "Tea and Seandal," but I'm guessing that's a typo and should have been "scandal."

And here's a close-up view of the little girl in her "Thinker" pose. What do you think she's thinking?

Monday, July 20, 2020

"A Sprinkling of Murder" by Daryl Wood Gerber

Over the weekend, I finished reading the first book in the new Fairy Garden Mystery series by Daryl Wood Gerber (who also writes as Avery Aames), and it was such a unique premise for a series that I just devoured it!

The storybook setting is truly a character all its own in A Sprinkling of Murder. In the charming, dog-friendly coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Courtney Kelly has opened a combination fairy garden store and tea shop called Open Your Imagination. In addition to selling fairy gardens and supplies, Courtney teaches others how to create and personalize their own fairy gardens. Perhaps she has a leg up on other fairy gardeners, though, since she has a friend-slash-muse in the form of the tiny fairy Fiona, who loves showing up at inopportune moments to surprise Courtney and her cat, Pixie. Only those who believe in fairies can actually see Fiona, and it's quite entertaining to observe which characters are believers and which are not.

Before dawn one morning, Courtney is at home in bed when Fiona dashes over to say something horrible has happened at Open Your Imagination. Courtney rushes to her shop and finds the body of the cantankerous Mick Watkins, owner of a neighboring business, lying next to the shop's backyard fountain, and he's been strangled. Courtney is immediately pegged as a prime suspect not only because Mick is found at her business but also because the two had sparred over him wanting to expand his grooming business, Wizard of Paws, into her coveted space. The body is barely cold before Courtney learns that Mick was cheating on his wife, Emily, with a local council member, an entanglement that complicates the investigation from the get-go. Lots of locals had reason to want Mick out of the picture, and not all of them have alibis that check out.

The mystery keeps readers hopping throughout the book, but the real stars of the show here are this magical town, the fairy garden business itself, and the many special teatimes, such as a book club tea held at the shop. A cozy mystery featuring a fairy as a character runs the risk of being too cute to be believable, but Gerber succeeds in making Fiona every bit as real—and with just as many foibles—as the human characters. 

Also, like many cozy mysteries, this one concludes with quite a few of the recipes mentioned in the story, and the author has included several gluten-free versions of the treats as well, which will no doubt be appreciated by those who eat gluten-free foods.

Friday, July 17, 2020

I have a notion you'll like "Amy Barickman's Vintage Notions"

One of the good things about staying home is the rediscovery on my shelves of some older books that I haven't opened in a while. Lately, I've enjoyed poring over the pages of Amy Barickman's Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion, and Fun. It's a 2010 hardback that I'm pretty sure I bought when Newnan had a quilt shop some years ago. And while I set it aside with my sewing books when I lost interest in sewing for a while, now that I've been reading it again, I think it needs a permanent place on my "lovely things to look at" shelf. The beautifully designed book is based on the 1920s work of a Mary Brooks Picken and the women of The Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. I am so loving all of the patterns, recipes, quotations, and articles in this book.

And when I was reminded of some of the tea things I saw, I can't believe I haven't shared this book on the blog before. Most of my tea friends also enjoy cooking or sewing or both, and this book offers great inspiration on all counts.

The sweet stories are a delight to read and, if I do say so, especially suitable for pandemic reading. Don't you love the stylish dress this woman is wearing as she comes bearing the tea tray? I looked on Amazon to be sure this book is still available, and it is. (No association with Ms. Barickman, just a happy reader.) The book includes chapters for each month of the year and also some pockets for inserting articles or clippings of your own. I'm now going back through the book month by month (there are vintage ice cream recipes for July), and if you need some peaceful reading in your life, I am happy to recommend this truly charming book!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Teavana's Beach Bellini Herbal Tea

If they made a candle that smelled like this Beach Bellini tea, I would buy it in a heartbeat! I'm a sucker for any tea with pineapple or mango in it, and since this one had both, it jumped into my cart at Walmart last week and came home with me!

The pretty packaging caught my eye. It even *looks* beachy, and since I'm not traveling to the beach this summer (insert sigh here), Beach Bellini tea is a nice consolation prize.

I believe sachets are great at releasing the full flavor of a tea, and this one smells and tastes simply divine. If you're a pineapple and mango fan, too, you might want to give this one a try!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Twinings Cold Infuse Flavoured Cold Water Enhancer

I grocery shopped at Walmart the other day, and I was surprised and delighted to find a new product I'd seen on Amazon but deemed too expensive (about $10) for a mere 12 infuser bags. But when Walmart had it for just under $5, that seemed like quite the bargain—and one that would help me consume more water this summer.

The infusers are vacuum sealed, and these are the instructions on the top of the inner lining. That's pretty much all you do.

The sweet, enticing scent was primarily of watermelon. I love watermelon (and all fruit, really), so I knew this was a good sign.

This herbal tea contains hibiscus, beetroot, rosehips, and natural flavorings, and Twinings notes that "these herbal ingredients are specially heat treated to make them our first ever infuser safe to drop into cold water." 

So I plopped the infuser into my water bottle (I didn't care for this particular brand of water, so I poured it out and used cold tap water), shook it, and within just five minutes, the water had turned dark pink. The combination of herbal flavors in my water was quite refreshing, and I like knowing that this beverage comes from a trusted name in tea. The package, by the way, notes that this tea may also be sipped hot, but considering that the tagless infusers are designed to fit in water bottles, I think I'll reserve mine for that.

Have any of you tried this Cold Infuse Water Enhancer? Would you?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Tea at the beach … in 1926

One of these days, I'm going to have to break down and purchase an antique stereoscope so that I can quit making myself sit here and practically stare at my nose until I go all cross-eyed, but hey, that technique works and is free, so there's that. Basically, to make these images work, you have to sort of zone out and stare at the line in the middle (pretend you're doing your taxes, if that helps). Eventually, you'll come to your senses and realize that hey, that image looks kind of three-dimensional! And this one, taken at the "Deck" Tea Garden at the Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, in 1926 is especially fun when viewed in 3D. I believe I spy a few tea wares, and once again, I have the Library of Congress to thank for this!

And here's a larger view of the image itself if you're unable to view it in 3D. If you're not at the beach but would like to be, maybe this will provide a little beachside fun until you can get there!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Christmas (planning) in July

Since I haven't been recreational shopping in a while, I've turned to eBay and Etsy as I look for vintage tea-themed Christmas goodies. I'm also thinking way ahead this year since, as the pandemic has certainly proven, it's impossible to even predict what Christmas 2020 will be like. I'm going to tell the kids in my family that I need their wish lists by November 1. I just have a gut feeling that 2020 is not the year to be doing any last-minute hunting. So on that note, I found a cute little vintage plastic ornament on eBay the other day for just $1. (And yes, the shipping was more than the item, but the total was still about what I'd pay for an ornament.)

I love that this ornament is still in the original Sears package. Remember when the Sears logo looked like that? And when those price tags all looked so "modern" with their computer-generated numbers and symbols? Good times.

I'm also planning ahead to when Hallmark releases its 2020 Tea Time ornament, which is still a few days away. (This charming set is the fifth and final set in the Hallmark Keepsake series by Tracy Larsen if you have been collecting them too.)

Earlier this year, I finally found a mini aluminum Christmas tree I like (thank you, Goodwill!), which will display my miniature tea-themed ornaments. A new one from Hallmark is coming in October, and I can't wait to get Edythe Kegrize's Tea Party Twirlabout, featured in the brief video above.

Are any of you planning for Christmas yet?

Monday, July 6, 2020

Plantation Peach Tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation

Last week, the good people of Amazon delivered a new loose leaf tea I discovered while looking for a peach-flavored tea to try, and it was this Plantation Peach Tea. Since it said "100% American Grown Tea" and had a flag on the tin, maybe that was my sign that this was what I'd be sipping on the Fourth of July weekend!

The 2.3-ounce tin of tea was just $9.23, which I thought was a great price. And because I've been to the Charleston Tea Plantation before, it's kind of neat to have a tin featuring the tea fields I saw there.

As soon as I opened the tin, I was greeted with a nice peach scent, which was encouraging. Some peach-flavored teas don't taste (or smell) very peachy at all. This one did, but I wanted a bit stronger peach flavor, so I heaped my teaspoons full when I made the next 2-cup pot, and it was perfect. It's got the nice brisk flavor of black tea with only slight astringency, and the flavor reminds me of ripe, juicy peaches. I also made some of this tea and had it over ice, and it's great that way as well. So if you're a fan of peaches and looking for a new peach tea to try, I am happy to recommend this one!

Friday, July 3, 2020

The card giveaway winner is …

The Victorian Girl, so congrats! Funny enough, my favorite card was far and away #2, which didn't get many votes, and I like it mainly because it is the only one with some pretty floral background paper. I had wondered whether card #3 was too flashy with the frilly border AND rhinestones, but apparently not, as that was the clear favorite!

It was also helpful for me to know that while you favored the teacup-stack card (and I like that stamp design too), I also saw many fans of that pretty blue color.

The reason I wanted to know is that I'll be making more cards, and it's nice to see the variety of opinions regarding color and design. Thanks for playing along, and I'm sure there will be more card giveaways to come!

What I'll be reading this weekend …

So what's everybody doing for the Fourth this year? I've never liked crowds, and except for the years when I was a newspaper reporter and was on assignment that weekend, I've seldom gone where the masses are on July Fourth. So this year, in the time of COVID-19 concerns, I'm content to plan just a quiet weekend at home with some crafting and reading. And my reading list includes the new issue of Tea Time magazine, which I was fortunate to find at the grocery store the other day. The Coalport Ming Rose tea wares on the cover are perfect for summertime.

I always enjoy seeing the pretty foods they feature, and what immediately caught my eye this time was the Custard Cream Cookies made with an embossed rolling pin. Fellow Tea Time readers, did you notice those too? I've been seeing those pretty embossed rolling pins in the baking catalogs, but I've never ordered one. I'd love to hear from any of you who might have attempted to use one!

And since few people seem to be traveling outside the US right now, how very fitting that this new issue is the annual British issue. I always love seeing what's going on in tearooms across the pond, and oh, how I enjoy reading these articles. This lovely place is the Great John Street Hotel in Manchester.

And what about Sketch in London? The pink velvet seating here is absolutely swoon worthy. (And doesn't it remind you of ladyfingers just a bit?)

And on this side of the pond, however you observe the holiday, I wish you all a safe and Happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Teavana tea at Target

Since a trip to the grocery store continues to be the highlight of my biweekly retail shopping (especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise, alas), I am practically exuberant when I find a new tea at the grocery store. Over the weekend, I bought groceries at the Target in Carrollton, where I was happy to see social distancing measures being observed. And I was also happy to find a new Teavana bottled tea to try!

This one was the Peach Green Tea with Lemongrass & Mint. I tend to like most peach teas I've tried, and I was impressed by the bright, crisp, subtly minty taste of this one thanks to the added flavors of lemongrass and mint.

I didn't realize until I got home with it, though, that this tea was sweetened (I really *must* learn to read labels), but I did consume this bottle of tea in two servings, so there's that. This is only the second time I've come across this "craft iced tea" from Teavana, and the last time I found it was a year ago when I was in Texas. Have any of you tried any other flavors of this Teavana tea? I'd sure like to try them all!