Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A tea trivet with a past …

My friend Ruth, who is in her eighties, had said for years now that she had some tea trivets she wanted me to have when she passed away. Naturally, I dismissed that notion immediately, as there's no tea ware on earth that I want to gain by having a friend pass away! But Ruth, who is one of the kindest and most practical women I've ever known, said she told her daughter there was no sense in waiting anymore (and Ruth is to our knowledge not about to kick the bucket or anything), so why not just give them to me now? And so it was that she called recently, and I stopped by her house last week to pick them up along with two fun teapots (more on those another day). There are six of these trivets, and this silhouette design is one of my favorites.

I love the simple black design and the fact that it shows a couple at dinner. Is the gent holding a pipe?

But what intrigued me most was the back stamp: "Hotoven Harker, The Oldest Pottery in America." Really? I'd never even heard of this company. Have any of you? Naturally, I had to go look it up and found a bit of history here. What a fun discovery, and a what a thoughtful friend!

Monday, May 10, 2021

May Giveaway: Choose one of my books!

I don't usually keep very many of my own books "in stock," as it were, because readers can easily get them from sellers online. Thanks to requests I am getting from some local book sellers who want signed copies, however, I now find myself trying to keep at least a few of everything on hand. The other day, I realized that for the first time in possibly ever, I have at least a few copies of all my books available. So I thought it might be fun to give one away, and since I know that some of you have read everything I've written so far (and bless you!), feel free to enter to win a book that I can sign to someone else and get you ahead on your gift giving for the year. My debut novel, Emeralds and Envy, is also available in Kindle format, and that's an option as well.

So if you'd like to win a copy of one of my books for you or someone else, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, May 14, and you'll be entered to win. I will mail a copy anywhere in the world, so feel free to enter, and please make sure I have a way to contact you if you are the winner (email address; or your blog comment links to your email address; or you have corresponded with me over the years and know that I already have your email address). You don't have to decide which book you'd like right now since I'll ask you that when I send your notification on Friday.

Good luck!


Friday, May 7, 2021


The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

I'm used to perusing the Library of Congress files for *old* tea garden photos, but this week, I discovered that some of the newer photos on there were just as inspiring! This one features the Japanese Tea Garden inside Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, and all those lovely green shades are just delightful. The Library of Congress notes that it was "originally created as a 'Japanese Village' exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. When the fair closed, Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara created a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity." What a gift!

And here's another gorgeous view from that same collection of photographs by Carol M. Highsmith.

I'm hoping to do a little gardening myself over the weekend, and while I won't end up with anything like this, it's fun to dream, isn't it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Finding tea at Rubber Stamp Fantasy and Paper Arts

Because my husband tucked some lovely green paper into one of my birthday cards yesterday, I got a bee in my bonnet and decided that I would head to Rubber Stamp Fantasy in Marietta to indulge my stamping hobby. I got there just fine, but the bottom fell out within minutes of my walking into the shop. The delightful owners, Gary and Debbie, took great care of me, and having lived through more thunderstorms than I care to count, I simply asked if they had a place to go in the event of danger, and Debbie informed me that yes, they had a lower level to go to, so I was good. Today, I just want you to check out this store with me.

Oh! My! Goodness! Even their windows are full of inspiration.

I last went there years ago at the height of my scrapbooking craze, but I let that go and haven't scrapbooked in years. Card making, however, seems to be my new hobby that is here to stay. And while I love ordering Stampin' Up goodies, I also love all kinds of great stamping supplies, and this store provided an absolute sensory overload. Look at all these stamps!

Look at all these samples!

Look at all these inks and markers and papers!

I'm saving another wonderful tea-themed purchase to share later, once I've made something with it, but I wanted to go ahead and show you this adorable stamp set I found at Rubber Stamp Fantasy. My Sunday school class goes by the nickname of the "bluebirds," so to find a stamp set with bluebirds AND a teacup on it was simply delightful. And when I got home, I discovered that the owners had even included a pretty floral stamp in my bag as a gift—which seemed especially lovely since they had no way of knowing (until I was literally walking out the door and mentioned it) that it was my birthday. So driving an hour away from home with a flash flood warning might not have been my smartest hour, but I'm so grateful to have been re-introduced to a charming shop where I now want to be a regular!

P.S. This store, also on the Marietta Square, was closed when I passed by, but check out these *melamine* plates, including some with teacups on them! Adorable!

Monday, May 3, 2021

A taste of Venice


When I saw that ad for the Harney & Sons honeysuckle tea a few weeks ago and ordered it, I also ordered this Venetian Tiramisu White Tea, and I must tell you that it is just heavenly! I was trying to think of what teacup would be appropriate to use for a tea with "Venetian" in the name, and then I remembered this teacup that I got from a gift shop at the Vatican some years ago. Perfect! 

I haven't had any actual tiramisu in a while, but mm, just the thought of it makes my mouth water. So I had a feeling I would enjoy this tea, especially since it's made by Harney & Sons.

What's in it? Harney says it contains white tea, hojicha, cocoa flavor, vanilla flavor, cacao nibs, brandy flavor, and natural flavors. The cocoa and brandy flavors are what I detect most, and I certainly don't need any sweetener with a tea like this. This blend somehow manages to be both light and a bit decadent all at once, and I'm so glad I tried it. We may not be ready to travel abroad just yet, but I'm sure glad that our taste buds can!

Friday, April 30, 2021

Celestial Seasonings Probiotic English Breakfast Tea

After taking a round of antibiotics for an ear infection, I've been looking to add more probiotics to my diet, going for yogurt, sauerkraut (which I love!), and other foods. I know very little about probiotics except that they're good for us and are useful after taking antibiotics. So when I saw this Probiotic Tea at the grocery store, I knew I wanted to try it.

The packaging caught my eye, and then the bold words "Probiotic Tea" sealed the deal. I find it interesting that "English Breakfast" is in much smaller letters, which tells me that the "probiotic" factor is a bigger selling point. And hey, it worked for me!

The tea tastes like pretty much any brisk black tea (which is to say, fine but not the variety I would normally reach for first). What I am most intrigued by is the fact that this tea is being made with probiotics, and I hope that I'm sipping something that's extra good for me. Have any of you tried this (or another) probiotic tea, and if so, what did you think? Could you tell that it made any difference?


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Finding "tea time" when I'm not even looking for it!

A few weeks ago, I was passing by a cosmetics aisle at Walmart when I noticed a pretty pink nail polish that stopped me in my tracks. It was by L.A. Colors and was only a dollar or two (I didn't save the receipt), so I tossed it in my cart simply because it was The Right Shade of Pink. I'd been looking for a hot pink that wasn't too red or too fuchsia or too wine — just a nice dark pink. This color matches the interior of the roses on the front of this Emilie Barnes book. Perfect.

Since I work at home and from a computer, my hands don't get a lot of wear and tear during the week, but still, if a nail polish can make it through the week without chipping, I'm impressed, and this one did. A single coat can last me nearly two weeks! When it was finally time for a redo one evening before bedtime, I suddenly had the thought, "I wonder what the name of this color is?" It's usually something like Lipstick or Pretty Peony or Rosebud. And the name of this polish color?

Tea Time. So if you want a cheap tea party favor (or tuck-in gift) for your girlfriends, wouldn't this be a fun one? 

Monday, April 26, 2021

A thrifted teapot and tea pitcher

Even when thrifting, I normally stick with my traditional floral teapots, but this whimsical one caught my eye at Goodwill recently. I've met four new little girls in my neighborhood in the past few months, now that the neighbors are all walking close enough to chat with each other again, so I'm loosely keeping in mind that if we get to know each other better, I may need to have a tea party for the girls one day. And this is the kind of thing I wouldn't hesitate to use on a table outdoors!

The teacup is missing a handle, but the rest of it rather makes up for that.

And the price was right!

The same day I found that teapot, I found another piece, a medium-sized enamelware pitcher in pristine condition, which I thought I recognized as Mackenzie-Childs. I turned it over and sure enough, it was, and it still had the original stickers. Goodwill wanted $5.99 for it, and since it currently sells for considerably more than that here, I decided to splurge. (By thrift store standards, I mean.)

I'm no floral arranger, but I think any old roses plopped in a pitcher are pretty, so I was happy to find this one!


Friday, April 23, 2021

"American Cake" by Anne Byrn


Cookbooks: I can usually resist buying a new one, but the other weekend, I was at Ollie's when I came across a bargain book whose title and one particular recipe immediately made me realize I needed this book by Anne Byrn, the former food editor of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. First, the title American Cake and the words "stories and recipes" told me there would be some history inside, and there was.

And the first recipe I turned to? It was this Hot Milk Sponge Cake with Lemon Filling from the old Frances Virginia Tea Room in Atlanta, so I just closed the book and headed to the checkout counter. I knew I didn't even need to complete my normal rule about finding at least three things I was interested in reading or making before purchasing a new book or magazine!

Mary Lincoln's White Almond Cake appeals to me because a) Mary Todd Lincoln is said to have made this for Abe and b) I love anything with almonds!

And who knew there was something called a carrot tea cake! I did not know that cooked carrots were once used as an inexpensive sweetener in place of the more costly sugar. There are also fascinating stories about everything from Lady Baltimore Cake and Lane Cake to Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Red Velvet Cake.

The book also answered a question I'd had. I used to wonder why very old recipes called for a "teacup full" of something, but the simple answer is that a teacup was the equipment that was on hand for measuring back then. While I haven't yet made a thing from this book, I must tell you that I have been "devouring" the stories and history in these pages, and I believe many of you would enjoy this book too. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A sweet new mango tea

I cannot pass by a mango or peach tea if it's one I haven't tried before, and I recently found a new mango-flavored herbal tea that was the next best thing to having a sweet, juicy mango right in front of me!

Alex and I made a trip over to Sprouts grocery store in Peachtree City, and this Good Earth Tropical Mango & Moringa herbal tea was calling my name.

The blend inside the silken tea bags even *looks* fruity, doesn't it? I found it interesting that while this tea is categorized as an herbal tea, the ingredients include green tea. The ingredients are "Apple, Carrot, Sweet Blackberry Leaves, Moringa, Red Rose Petals, Green Tea, Natural Flavoring, Mango Pieces." I had to look up info on the moringa plant, which has lots of medicinal uses, but of course it was the word "mango" on the box that sold me on this tea, and while I've been enjoying it as a hot tea, I'm sure it would be good iced as well. Do you drink your teas both hot and iced? Especially when the weather warms up, I do!


Monday, April 19, 2021

Remembering Prince Philip

I knew that on Saturday morning, I would be glued to the TV so I could watch Prince Philip's funeral. At first, I wondered whether it was unseemly to use my royal commemorative teacup (made for Queen Elizabeth's coronation), but I had her on my mind, and that seemed the thing to do. And then I read that people across Britain would be having tea or visiting the pub in honor of the late prince, and I thought why not? So I grabbed some of these mini cranberry-orange scones from the store, and Alex and I watched the ceremony, which I thought was absolutely perfect. I loved how it honored his wishes, his naval experience, and his family. And I couldn't help thinking that even if you're the Queen (maybe especially if you're the Queen), it's still got to be devastating to lose a husband. I so admire the Queen and how she always seems to know how to handle both good times and bad.

And Philip … what a life! That new People Royals magazine has a nice article on him, and I wonder what it must have been like for him to be the queen's consort for all those years—and married for longer than some of us have been alive!

The magazine has a photo of him in 2003, shortly after he came to Newnan in 2000 to open the US division of Slumberland, the UK-based mattress company that was opening a plant in Newnan and whose owner was a friend. On Friday, I was the guest speaker at the local Rotary Club, which wanted me to talk about my books. While there, I ran into an old friend, a local businessman who was part of the group that got invited to a private dinner with the prince on the night before his visit to Newnan. Someone at his dinner table was dying to meet the prince, and my friend spoke up and said, "Well, we can make that happen." (He laughs now about the propriety of that, but I'm sure his heart was in the right place.) So when the prince headed to the back of the room and appeared to be headed his way, John caught the prince's eye and prepared to make the introduction, only to hear Prince Philip pause long enough to plainly (but not unkindly) say, "Actually, I was headed to the loo." Ha! It seems there are lots of great Prince Philip stories out there, and I was delighted to hear this one.

Later on Saturday, I drove down to Pine Mountain to meet some out-of-town friends who were there for a craft retreat. After lunch, we went shopping, and I bought some "Shortbread House of Edinburgh" shortbread fingers from a shop I visit whenever I'm in Pine Mountain, Sweet Home Antiques. The shortbread seemed a fitting (and delicious) tribute for us to try in honor of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, and while I was in the shop, I spotted a wonderful antique stationery box that was once a gift from another member of the royal family, Queen Victoria!

So this was a gift from Her Majesty Queen Victoria that somehow landed in my little corner of Georgia. Isn't this wonderful?

I also spotted this very large teapot that is like no other teapot I've seen before!

And if anyone collects miniature antique teapots, they sure had some lovely ones. 

So seeing some fine English antiques was a fun end to a day that began on a somber note, but I'm glad I watched the service for Prince Philip, and I wish the Queen and the rest of the royal family well. Did any of you watch the funeral?

Friday, April 16, 2021

The winner of the springtime tea giveaway is …

 Loralie! Congrats to Loralie, and thanks to all of you who entered. Stay tuned for more giveaways!

A delightful gift from a new friend!

I received an unexpected gift from a new friend this week and thought that you would enjoy seeing it here! Claire B. lives in my county here in Georgia, and while I've known her name for years (she was very active in local civic life back when I worked for the newspaper), I'd never met her face to face. Turns out, she and her cousin like cozy mysteries, and after Emeralds and Envy came out back in 2019, she asked if we could meet for lunch one day and if I'd sign copies for her and some friends. Of course I said yes, and we hit it off immediately. We stayed in touch on Facebook, and this week, we again met face-to-face for lunch. She'd told me she had something for me, and it was this teapot tissue holder she made from plastic canvas. Isn't it beautiful?

I've haven't done any needlework that involves counted stitching in a long time, so I know and greatly appreciate the amount of work that goes into a gift like this. And as I told Claire, with the blue of the teacup and the pink of the roses, this design looks tailor-made for me. Claire says she is happy that she is personal friends with a cozy author, and I'm happy that I'm friends with a lovely lady who stitches up such gorgeous needlework!


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A bit of serendipi-tea

Do you ever have those days when all your devices need to go on a diet? This week alone, my laptop, desktop computer, and iPhone are all telling me that they've gotten too fat with photos and need to slim down, so I've had to spend a little time going through photo files, and I came across something on my iPhone that I meant to share last month. I was sewing at the dining room table one day, and the scene looked like this.

I was about to pick up this teacup-shaped needle book when the strangest thing happened. I saw that tea bag tag and thought, "Wait a minute! I didn't sew a tag onto the handle of the teacup, so how'd it get there?"

And then I realized I was looking at the fabric on the table runner, and I had to laugh at myself as I reached for a needle! This beautiful table runner, a gift from reader Nancy C. in Iowa in 2017, is a piece I treasure, and I use it every spring, but the way the teacup and tea bag happened to align threw me for a loop! (And it doesn't take much.) Have you ever had a bit of serendipi-tea like that?