Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Some great new (to me) tea gifts!

While I'm grateful for any gifts that friends and family are kind enough to share with me, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some of my favorite gifts often end up being the old ones! I think it's because you can't just go buy these with an Amazon card, and it's always meant a lot to me when someone takes the time to discover something at a thrift store or garage sale with me in mind. And I haven't asked, but I'm betting that's where my fellow treasure hunter and friend Deberah found these goodies, including three tea-themed Christmas ornaments I did not already have. This cheerful "Spot of Tea" ornament is some type of china and quite heavy, and I've never seen one like it before!

This one is pretty in pink, and I love how the teacup is attached.

And Precious Moments! Remember when these sweet Precious Moments figurines were all the rage back in the eighties or so? (I imagine some people still collect them.) I seem to recall cross-stitching a few of these designs back in the day.

And among my other "old" gifts from Deberah was this set of tea-themed decorative plates, which I just love! They're marked "Sakura" on the back, and I'm busy imagining a wall grouping in the dining room.

Or maybe the living room! I've been thinking of taking down a shadow box there that I'm tired of looking at, and these would fit perfectly in that spot.

Hmm … it's fun to have options. And I ask this every year, but it's because I like knowing every year … did any of you receive tea gifts, old or new, for Christmas 2020? I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, December 28, 2020

This week between Christmas and New Year’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. The hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas has passed, and it’s a calmer, quieter time, and a time for reflection. This is the week I think about plans for the new year and what I hope to accomplish. Like many of us, I’ll be making my plans with a few tea-ish Christmas gifts at hand, including this teacup that Alex got me (I found it and he enabled it, ha!). This may well be the prettiest teacup I’ve ever had, and it is absolutely one of the most fragile. “Eggshell-thin” is a good description, and while I definitely plan to use it (what’s the point, otherwise?), I’m holding it by the base as well as the handle when it’s full of tea and at its heaviest, just in case.

The bottom of the teacup is marked M.Z. Austria.

The bottom of the saucer isn’t marked at all.

I just love all the roses and the scallops and the elaborate handle.

Daddy gives my sister and me money and tells us to go pick out our gifts at Christmas, so I bought some new teas and some new books with mine. One of the teas I got was this Raspberry Coconut blend from Tea Forté, and I’m enjoying it so much. I’m having the (slightly) fruity tea in between some of the mint teas I tend to wear out over Christmas.

So during this tea-sipping time of reflection, I’ve been thinking about how to approach 2021. The COVID pandemic is by no means over once the calendar turns to 2021, and someone online wrote about how, because of that, she’s anticipating another year that’s not very good. That just struck me as a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna, but I do think our attitude about life has much to do with how we experience it. I thought it was interesting timing that last week, a Christian speaker I heard in January of 2020 posted online about how she is determined to be "defiantly joyful." Wow, how I love that! I've never been one to choose a word or words for the year, but I think 2021 is a good time to try something new, so while I don't want to be delusional, I'm aiming to be "defiantly joyful" too. (Really, what is there to lose with that attitude?)

So that's what I've been up to over the last few days. What about you, friends?

Friday, December 25, 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A last-minute treat idea


The other night, I got a text from my friend Lynn telling me she'd just dropped off some of her famous Christmas fudge at my front door. I couldn't wait, because I've been the happy recipient of her fudge before and knew it was delicious!

She did two packaging techniques that I thought were so clever, I wanted to share them here. First, for padding, she used a paper doily! Now I always have paper doilies on hand, so I found this such a pretty and clever way to fill out a container.

The other technique is probably one I'm the last person on earth to figure out, but … I wondered where she found the square papers to present the chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge, but they're just round mini cupcake papers, and they conform to the shape of whatever's in them, apparently. That's so simple and sensible that I never would have figured it out if I hadn't seen it! Don't know if you'll be packaging up any treats for others in the next few days (or to enjoy, as I did, at your own personal teatime), but I thought these packaging ideas were worth sharing!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Counting down to Christmas …


Cookies and cards. That's going to be my theme for the week, I suppose, as those are the two things I have left to finish up before Christmas. Last week, I baked dozens of Spritz Cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, and Orange-Slice Bars to drop off with a few friends, but I still need more, so sometime between now and Wednesday, I plan to have another big baking session.

When I found "Vintage Christmas Sugar" at T. J. Maxx this year, I knew that was perfect for my Christmas cookies! (And it goes a long way. I've still got tons of it left in the bottle.)

I like how my "thrifted" cookie plates are turning out. This one was the rose-design plate I found recently for 75 cents at Goodwill (shown here), and it went to the friend I knew would appreciate it most.

And of course I had to take a tea break and enjoy an Orange-Slice Bar myself. It's amazing how much better that candy tastes when baked in a treat. I decided it was the grainy sugar coating I didn't care for, and when the candies are merely an ingredient in a batter, that graininess disappears. (The recipe is in my new cookbook and also this month's Coweta Shopper column here for anyone who would like it.)

My other project over the last week has been to stamp, color, and die cut nativity figures for some of the Christmas cards I'm sending (rather late in the month) to family this year. They take a while to create, but it's fun to do something in my craft room while watching old Christmas movies on YouTube.

I'm not sure the Stampin' Up people intended these designs to have a pastel background, but that's what I decided to do, so there you go. For some reason, Christmas seems to have gotten here faster than ever this year, and my goal is to finish all the "have-to" items on my list by Wednesday so that I can relax and "prepare Him room" by the morning of Christmas Eve. Are you ready for Christmas? Please tell me that I'm not the only one who isn't quite ready yet!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Who are those masked tea lovers?

A few weeks ago, I was out doing the weekend shopping when two women said to me, "I love your mask." I found that especially funny because a) my mask was a pitiful little homemade rectangle of pink floral fabric and b) I was wearing it only because the prettier, fitted one I found at Joann fogs up my glasses. So when tea friend Susan B. in North Carolina alerted me that Harney & Sons had a mask featuring teacups, I had to order one!

It arrived yesterday, and I love it! The website notes that it's 100 percent polyester and not medical-grade but instead designed for everyday use. It feels like a soft jersey knit.

I especially love that the elastic ties are adjustable. Perfect! I guess after so many months of mask wearing and making, makers have thoroughly fine-tuned the design. If you need a cute new tea-themed mask, too, go here to order. (And Harney has free shipping on all US orders, incredibly enough!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A great new source for teatime art

One thing I've noticed in my years as a tea blogger is that many of us have similar interests. I have found, for instance, that more than a few tea-loving souls share my interest in sewing and crafting, and I love it when tea friends send me a link to a new fabric or rubber stamp that features a design of a teapot or teacup. Similarly, I find that many tea lovers are art lovers as well. And since those of us who enjoy teatime occasionally need a piece of artwork for this or that project, I'm always happy to share a source for teatime images in the public domain. This past week, Jane Friedman's Electric Speed writing newsletter listed a new source for art that's in the public domain, Artvee. Naturally, I had to see if any tea-related works showed up, and I was overwhelmed! I found such wonders as "Tea on the Terrace" by Frédéric Soulacroix (French, 1858–1933). (And may I just say that I love that these women are not skinny!)

Then there was 
"Time for Tea" by Albert Lynch (French, 1860–1950). I can practically feel the golden glow of the sunshine streaming into the room.

And I also liked "Strawberry Tea Set (1912)" by Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935). The lines and brush strokes in this painting are particularly intriguing. There's lots more to look at, of course, but I was so excited by this new resource that I wanted to share it with you here. Incredibly enough, all of these images may be used for commercial and personal projects with no attribution required. (But as a creator myself, I think attribution is always a nice thing to provide, plus it assists the reader/viewer who wants to learn more.) Go here to check out for yourself!

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Santa mug cabinet

Years ago, I bought an old white kitchen cabinet from a friend for $25. It was "distressed" before we even started using that word, but I liked it, and I still do. It definitely needs painting and freshening and some new hardware, but it's been home to many of my tea wares for years, and I'm rather attached to it now. I recently decided to take everything out of it to inventory my teacups and saucers, and since I did, I decided it would be fun to decorate it for Christmas just this once. So for the rest of this month, at least, it's the Santa mug cabinet!

In between the mugs, I scattered a few of my vintage finds from the past year. One I'm most enjoying is my first putz house. I'd read about these for years but never actually owned a vintage one. When I found this one for $6 at a local antique shop, and it had roses on it, I decided it was perfect.

Another antique mall find (and maybe it was two years ago? can't remember) was a vintage *plastic* tree! I'd forgotten about the plastic decor of my childhood until I started seeing things like this tree and faux doilies made of plastic. 

And I wish I knew more about Lefton figurines. All I knew about this one was that a) it was so homely it was cute and b) it was 49 cents at the thrift store and had the original Lefton sticker on it.

This little honeycomb guy is actually an ornament. I was surprised to find him for $2 at an antique mall. Would love to find a stash of old honeycomb tissue ornaments some day!

Every year, different Santa mugs appeal to me. Perhaps because I spent much of the year working on a Christmas book featuring red and white, I'm now drawn to pastels once again, and this Santa's pink cheeks have caught my attention.

One good thing about all of the old red and white stuff, though, is that it all blends well!

And yes, I do close the doors so we can walk around the cabinet! I'm thinking one of my 2021 projects may be to paint it (and the kitchen!) turquoise and add new hardware to give it a newer "distressed" look. I think my tea wares would appreciate more modern accommodations, don't you?

So how do we cap off an afternoon of playing with the Santa mugs? With a Santa mug full of tea, of course! And I still haven't decorated the tea trolley yet (I had too many tea wares sitting out and had to figure out how and where to pack them), so I hope to get that done by Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2020

A delightful teatime surprise!

When my new cookbook came out last month, I sent a copy to my tea friend Bernideen as a thank-you since she had given me one of the vintage items shown in the book, a vintage handkerchief with a candy cane on it. This week, I got a surprise package from Bernideen in the mail, and I couldn't help smiling when my husband brought in this bit of happy mail and said, "You've got a present!"

Indeed I did, and it was this beautiful handmade tea cozy made from a vintage tea towel! Isn't it lovely?

As soon as I opened it, I surveyed my teapots and thought I knew right away which one would model it best. This one! And doesn't it look happy? It's already got me looking ahead to spring and the tea parties I *hope* I'll be able to give using my floral tea wares. Tea friends are the best—and surprises are right up there too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A new tabletop tea tree tradition


So I'd been looking forward to using my $1.99 tabletop tinsel tree I found at Goodwill. It's only 14 inches tall, and it perches atop the old typing desk that sits in my office. (I work at a computer desk that is always in various stages of disarray depending on the project, so this pink one gives me something pretty and tidy to look at.) And this year, I'm finally able to use some of those cute mini ornaments I've been collecting!

This year's find was the Hallmark Mini Tea Party Twirl-About Ornament. It is so adorable, and I love that the teacups and mice twirl!

These Santa mug and teapot ornaments were pieces I learned about thanks to my friend Joy, and I'm so glad I got them back when she told me about them. Also, I plan to wear the Santa mug as a charm on a necklace next year if and when I'm able to do speaking engagements again and get to give talks about my new Christmas book. So that "ornament" will double as jewelry!

And this tiny tea tray ornament was a gift from my former coworker Nichole many years ago, so it's the one I cherish most.

All of these pieces are around an inch or so, and I'm in no great hurry to fill up this tree. If I find a new one I like, great, and if they turn up at the antique mall, fine, but until then, I'm very happy to have just a bit of teatime on my "office tree."

Do any of you have tiny trees? I'm wishing I'd made a tree skirt for this one (I'm currently using a doily), so maybe I can come up with a teapot-patterned tree skirt by next Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2020

The tea tree is up!

Last year, I decorated with my vintage aluminum tree, so this was the year to pull out the white tree featuring all of my tea-themed ornaments. (I say "all," but I know there are a few more that I've hidden somewhere and haven't located yet!) 

Of all the trees I've decorated over the years, this one gives me so much pleasure because the vast majority of the ornaments were gifts from family and friends who know of my love of teatime. Every ornament pictured below was a gift. And aside from the ornaments themselves being gifts, I think it's truly a *gift* to have so many thoughtful family members and friends, and I feel rich indeed when I pull these out at Christmas—rich in all the ways that matter!