Friday, January 29, 2021

Tealish's Caramel Crunch Tea


To be honest, I never would have thought of looking for tea on the Macy's website, but I had a gift card to spend and wasn't finding much that I wanted to spend it on, so I typed in "tea," thinking it would bring up only teapots and teacups, and found this! I always enjoy a good dessert tea, and the name Caramel Crunch sounded appealing, so I ordered it. (It was half off here as of this posting. )

The box contains 15 tea sachets, and they get extra points for packaging them in a *resealable* bag. (My joy at this discovery made me realize that I am excessively fond of resealable bags.) The website described this tea as a "buttery rich caramel and brown sugar infused black tea," but if you're like me, the first thing I noticed was the white bits. So what's in the tea? "Black tea, apple pieces, popped rice, calendula, safflower, sunflower petals, natural flavours." So I'm assuming that's the popped rice that I noticed.

The tea had a rich caramel scent from the moment I opened the bag, which I took as a good sign, and the taste is as rich and naturally sweet as I'd hoped. I love teas like this one because they're such great treats at anytime, and I have no guilt over such indulgence. Have any of you tried Tealish teas before? They're Canadian-owned, which may be why I'm just now learning of them. And next week, I'll be sharing about another Tealish tea, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tea and toast and … pandemic hobbies


The other night, I was reading a magazine article and came across the term "pandemic hobbies." I had not heard that term before, but I knew immediately what it meant: some new hobby that we've learned (or resumed) as a result of the pandemic. While I've gotten a lot more writing done during the past year, that's not exactly something new for me. But I did learn to make sourdough bread last spring and have made a loaf pretty much every week since, and because of that, I've taken to using my tea and toast sets to make tea and toast more special.

I've often seen this quote: "Bread and water can so easily be tea and toast." I love that! It's got so much to do with attitude and outlook and very little to do with circumstances. And that's how I see "tea and toast" when presented this way. I rarely buy jam or jelly, but fortunately, Alex has been eating PB&Js lately, so there happened to be some grape jelly in the fridge. I'm thinking some orange marmalade is in my future. And I still enjoy using these Lipper and Mann tea and toast sets in the Bristol Garden pattern. The set of eight was just $14.99, a favorite antique mall find of 2012. (Having a blog lets me date things I would never otherwise remember!)

And back to sourdough, over the weekend, I tried a new crosshatch design when I scored my bread. I like the way it turned out!

At my suggestion, my sister got me this sourdough kit for Christmas, and I am enjoying learning more about banneton basket proofing and using a scoring lame (the razor blade thingy, in case you're like me and did not know the word "lame" meant anything except in the sense of "that's so lame"). So I've said all that to say this: Sourdough bread baking has become one of my pandemic hobbies. Card making is another. What about you?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Crafting with a Cuppa Love

Months ago, I was looking for tea-themed Christmas stamps online and discovered a stamp company I'd never heard of before, Papertrey Ink. I bought their cute teacup-shaped Merry Mug stamps in hopes of creating tea-themed Christmas cards for a few friends, as I sometimes do, but the matching dies never became available, and I wasn't happy with the design without them, so … I continue to wait and cross my fingers that the dies will become available again. (Besides, the way the mail runs lately, I could make Christmas cards in February and mail them and nobody will know they weren't sent on time!) But then I discovered and ordered another set of Papertrey Ink products, their Cuppa Love stamps and dies, and that's what I've been experimenting with over the weekend.

One reason I find this set so intriguing is that the patterns are based on the old Fire-King and Pyrex glassware patterns. (I don't collect old Pyrex, but the heroine of my cozy mysteries most certainly does, and I couldn't help thinking that "Emma Madison" would appreciate this.) When I learned by looking on Pinterest that some crafters have stamped these designs in pink and turquoise palettes, I got even more interested. (I have a Pinterest board here if you'd like to see what others have made. I'm just getting started.)

Really, though, I bought this set because a) the stamps were on sale and b) I wanted that mug-shaped die. (Alas, I ruined a pair of Tim Holtz scissors cutting these metal dies apart. I didn't realize I should have had a pair of metal snips awaiting, and I don't own any—yet!) But I just loved the idea of making tea-mug-shaped cards, and I used some things I already had on hand to make a few trial runs. Most of the things were from Stampin' Up (the embossing folder, the small rose, the die for cutting the paper lace trim), but the larger rose (on the green card) uses a Peaceful Roses stamp from Gina K. Designs, part of a set that was a Christmas gift from my friend Kathy.

The cards open vertically (see first photo), and since I scored the white backing piece about 1/4 inch from the top before gluing these two pieces together with snail adhesive, they can even stand up. Each card fits inside a standard 4 x 5-1/2-inch envelope. I've also found a pattern for a treat box that can be constructed from card stock then glued inside two pieces of these mug cutouts, for mug-shaped treat boxes, and I imagine I'll be trying that soon as well. So that's what I was up to this weekend. What about you, friends?


Friday, January 22, 2021

Strawbridge & Clothier: the research begins!

In November, it will have been ten years since my first book, Dainty Dining, was published, and I’ve started researching even more department store tearoom stories and recipes for a second volume. This week, I realized I needed to take stock of the books, postcards, tea wares, and other goodies I’ve slowly been accumulating. One of the stores I’m interested in learning about is Strawbridge & Clothier, the Philadelphia store that closed in 2006. I had never heard of this store until I became interested in old tearoom recipes. This drawing of their English Room on the sixth floor appears in an old travel booklet I found on eBay.

I also have a vintage Limoges teacup from Strawbridge & Clothier, one of the few stores I’ve actually been able to find a teacup from!

But what I found was most intriguing this week was this book by Alfred Lief, Family Business: A Century in the Life and Times of Strawbridge & Clothier. I found it years ago, probably closer to 2011 than 2021, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I probably picked it up on eBay or Etsy.

And when I opened the book, I was surprised to find this inscription from the store’s former chairman: “To George E. DeLucas — With congratulations and sincere appreciation on the occasion of joining the Quarter Century Club. Stockton Strawbridge 4-1-71.” Now I’m really interested in learning more about this company! (And if any of you happen to have stories about Strawbridge & Clothier, I’d love to hear from you!)


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Discovering Jubilee glass

So a recent thrift store run with Aunt Jane was a quickie because I definitely like to get in and out these days. While she browses at the Salvation Army, I always look at the glassware, and this time, I couldn't pass up these two yellow glass saucers.

They were a little dirty, but I *love* etched glass, and the little points were all pristine with no chips or cracks. Pattern? I was pretty sure I'd never seen this one before, so solving that mystery alone was worth fifty cents.

When I got home and cleaned them up, these sweet little saucers sparkled. My original plan was to use them as giveaway plates for treats (a few cookies or a cupcake, for instance). But then I noticed the raised circle where the teacup sits. Hmm. So now I want to find a teacup to see if it sits as elevated as this would indicate. I went on eBay and typed in "vintage yellow etched glass," and lo and behold, this is Jubilee glass from Lancaster. I'm not willing to pay the $20 or so it would cost me to buy a cup (with shipping) on eBay, but if I see one at Goodwill or the Salvation Army sometime, game on. Besides, it's more fun to have a shopping goal. Buying the full cup and saucer set on eBay seems like cheating and defeats the whole point of "thrift"ing.

And don't these saucers look pretty in the late-afternoon sunshine? So there you go. Jubilee glass. Wasn't that worth fifty cents?

Monday, January 18, 2021

Cherry Grape Tea Bread

I've been going through an old recipe notebook to see which recipes are worth keeping and which I should toss. I found a recipe from 2007 that the Welch's Grape Juice folks had apparently shared with our local newspaper, and they suggest this tea bread as a good way of incorporating a little more fruit into the diet. This bread doesn't contain quite as much sugar as some of the tea breads I usually make, so I liked that and decided to give this one a try.

I used to fret over the fact that my tea breads always had a crack down the middle, and I later learned this is completely normal. I liked how the directions for this recipe say to check it for doneness by seeing if "the center crack looks dry." That makes it pretty clear that there will be a center crack.

This was an easy recipe to make, and my husband I both enjoyed it. When he said it tasted lighter (not knowing what the ingredients were), I asked him whether he meant the texture or the taste. He thought for a minute then said, "Both!" I thought that was a good assessment. So if a tea bread made with cherries and grape juice appeals to you, too, I'm happy to recommend this one. And of course sipping a cup of cherry tea alongside it will make it taste even better!

Cherry Grape Tea Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup 100% grape juice

1/3 cup canola oil *

1 5.5 -ounce package dried cherries, coarsely chopped **

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, eggs, grape  juice, and oil and blend. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ones and stir till moistened. Add the cherries and combine. Pour batter into pan and bake for 50 minutes or until top is brown and the center crack looks dry. Yields 12 servings.

* The original recipe calls for canola oil, but I didn't have any and used vegetable oil instead. 

** I found only a 5-ounce package of dried cherries at the grocery store, but that seemed close enough! And I didn't wish to bother chopping the cherries, so I didn't, although it probably would have been more colorful inside if I had.

Here's the nutrition info for a serving of this bread when made with canola oil: 240 calories, 6g fat, 0 saturated fat, 3g protein, 42g carbohydrate, 30 mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 1g fiber.

Friday, January 15, 2021

The winner of the teaspoons is …

Grammy Tea SLR, so congrats! I had no idea these little teaspoons would be so popular, so I'll keep them on my tea radar so that I can offer some as a giveaway again one day! 

Tea-mail: It's better than e-mail

When a big box came in the mail this week, I was so delighted! I've always enjoyed getting mail, even as a little girl. I used to order Betty and Veronica comic books for the joy of receiving them in the mailbox, and later, I ordered a book from the Sonny and Cher fan club and was thrilled when it arrived. All of that probably started my lifelong love affair with ordering things by mail. When tea friend Donna Z. wrote to say that she was getting rid of this Santa teapot and wondered if I would like for her to mail it to me, I said yes. These days, I'm usually trying to get rid of things more than acquire new things, but when it comes to Christmas and tea wares, I just can't seem to turn them down!

This cute little teapot will be a fun addition to my Christmas display this year. I love the little bird on his shoulder!

And what a great surprise it was to find this Sandy Lynam Clough teacup in the box as well! I was gifted the teapot, matching plate, and a teacup in this design from my friend Phyllis years ago, and I love it, but I have thought several times that it would be so nice to have a second teacup so that I could use this set when a friend comes over to quilt with me. (As I trust will happen one day soon once COVID-19 is behind us!) I was beaming when I saw that sweet Santa was joined by sweet Sandy, and it means so much to me that this favorite set of tea wares has been completely given to me by friends. How special is that? So this was my fun "tea mail" for the week. How about you? Did you get anything fun in the mail this week? I'm hearing of some friends whose Christmas gifts are just now arriving!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A surprise gift of Cherry Bing Tea


My friend Joy recently surprised me with a box of treats that included this decaf Cherry Bing Tea from Benjamin Twiggs. That's a vendor that's new to me, and since I love cherries and anything cherry-flavored, I was looking forward to trying it!

What's in this tea? "Tea and natural cherry flavoring." Perfect! As soon as I opened one of the individually wrapped tea bags, I got a nice whiff of cherry fragrance, and the flavor is as cherry-packed as I'd hoped!

It's a great, naturally sweet tea to enjoy on these gray, rainy days we've been having here in Georgia. So that's what I'm sipping for this second full week of National Hot Tea Month. How about you, friends?

Monday, January 11, 2021

A January giveaway of tea and teaspoons!

Let's observe National Hot Tea Month with a giveaway, shall we? I found these treats on sale at a local gift shop recently, so the winner will get one to keep and one to share with a friend! Each little packet contains four teas: chamomile, a white tea, and two teas that I can't see without opening the package, so ... we'll all be surprised, ha!

If you'd like to win the teas and teaspoons, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, January 15, making sure that I have a way to contact you if you're the winner, and you'll be entered to win. US only, please. Good luck!


Friday, January 8, 2021

An "unorthodox" method of making tea … in 1913

My friend Becky recently sent me a link to the Feeding America cookbook site at Michigan State University, and one of the books I looked into was from 1913, Dishes & Beverages of the Old South by Martha McCulloch-Williams. I'm interested in documenting any early references to tea in this country, so I always turn to the table of contents to see if "tea" is listed anywhere, and I found that section as I scrolled through the PDF of the book on my computer. Check out the author's "unorthodox" method of making tea:

An interesting way of making tea, to be sure!

If you like perusing old cookbooks as well, check out the collection here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Empire of Tea's Pomegranate & Berries Tea


When I was out shopping right before Christmas, I found this Pomegranate & Berries Tea from Empire of Tea, and I have to admit that I bought it because I thought the tin was so lovely!

Another blend sounded like one I would actually like better, but the tin was orange, and I just couldn't see me bringing an orange tin into my home, so I went with the pink one. Pomegranate teas, and berry teas, are often mouth-puckeringly tart, but oh well, I could understeep it if need be.

But to my delight, this tea wasn't tart at all! Yes, it has a berry flavor, but it's got only a hint of that tartness I usually find, and it's naturally sweet, which is great since I'm trying to lighten up on the sugar after baking up a storm over the holidays. I looked online and found that I can reorder this tea directly from the company, but it's $20 for the tin of 15 sachets, so the $4.99 tin I found at Tuesday Morning looks even prettier now!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Winter whites and wishing for snow

No matter what color palette I choose for Christmas, I always want that soothing winter white palette to come out in January, so the tea trolley finally got a new outfit this weekend. I've had lace on my mind, so I pulled out some lacy pieces and tossed them all together, and I like how it all ended up.

The featured tea set is a white-on-white dimensional teapot and sugar and creamer that I bought years ago, probably at T. J. Maxx. This set was used on the guest book table at my wedding, so I don't imagine I'll ever get tired of these pieces.

Here's a bit of detail. And it's sitting on a piece of crochet made by one of my grandmothers. It's really just a sample she crocheted (she left behind a lot of magazines where she clipped a piece inside that I assume she tried out before deciding whether to make a whole tablecloth or spread). I use them like doilies.

This Wedgwood "teapot" is actually a votive holder, and when you light a votive inside it on a cold winter night, it produces such a soft golden glow that I feel all Jane Austen-like just looking at it!

I've used this little faux flower arrangement from Ross for years now, but the pale, pale pink of the flowers just seems to work wherever I plop it.

And I even leave a few Christmas decorations out in January. I mean, we have church all year round, so why not decorate with church figures all year round? I also like the lacy rim on these dessert plates, which, Lord willing, I hope to be using at teatime again before too long! (I've warned Alex that when COVID is behind us, I plan to entertain like nobody's business.)

Another holdover ornament has "snow" inside. Did I mention that we got a dusting of snow here on Christmas Eve and woke to a light covering of snow on Christmas morning? I was sooooo happy. I know my northern friends are thinking, "Big deal!" But here, it IS a big deal, as I hadn't seen so much as a snowflake in years. A nice big snow (with no power outages and downed limbs) would be very much enjoyed this winter. (If any of you are inclined, I *love* to see my friends' pictures of the snow, so feel free to share!)

And of course this is my trusty old Heritage Lace tablecloth featuring tea wares, but I never get tired of it.

The teacup stand features teacups in shades of ivory, and each one has its own little coaster trimmed with tatted lace. Both the teacup and the coasters were gifts from friends, making them extra cherished.

I find that many of us go for a simpler, paler palette come January. My theory is that it symbolizes the clean slate with which we all like to greet the new year. Do you agree?

Friday, January 1, 2021