Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A royally good read

I started seeing this new People Royals magazine on the newsstands about two weeks ago but didn't initially pick it up. Then, I read online that this isn't just some special issue but is rather the premiere issue of a new quarterly publication from People that is aimed at royal watchers like me. So that tempted me to pick it up the next time I saw it at the grocery store.

My custom is to flip inside a magazine, and if I don't see at least three photos or stories that appeal to me, I put it back. This time, I flipped to this article right off the bat, and then I didn't have to bother looking for items two and three.

The Duchess shares not only info on how to make the perfect cup of tea but also a bit of tea history I had not heard before: our famous Anna, Duchess of Bedford, often credited with "inventing" afternoon tea, was the sister of Sarah Ferguson's great-great-great-grandfather Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford. Did you know that? I did not. And I also didn't know that "Fergie" sells a line of tea and "biscuits" (cookies) in support of one of her charities. If the shipping from the UK weren't almost as much as the item itself, I'd have placed an order already. Still, I was happy to add this magazine to my stash of royal publications, and because of the tea article, I think some of you would enjoy it too.

Monday, March 29, 2021

An update on Newnan …

Since so many of you have been kind enough to reach out and ask how Alex and I fared with Friday's tornado that devastated my hometown of Newnan, Georgia, I thought that this Monday, it would be appropriate to update you on Newnan before I venture back into the sweeter world of teatime. I haven't been out to view the damage myself (local law enforcement has asked that we all stay away for now), but a friend who lives closer to town, Leigh McKnight, was kind enough to allow me to share some of her images here. Newnan High School has sustained heavy damage and is closed this week. 

I've probably not mentioned this here before, but Newnan served as a "hospital town" during the Civil War and was the site of a Confederate military hospital. Eventually, lots of the buildings in Newnan—including schools, churches, and some of the larger homes—were used in treating some of the thousands of soldiers. Following the battle of Brown's Mill in 1864, Newnan treated wounded soldiers from both the North and the South, so one of the theories of how we got our nickname of "The City of Homes" is that the city's homes were spared during the Civil War precisely because of its role as a hospital town. Now, some of these old homes could use a hospital themselves. This one is obviously damaged a bit (minor compared to many, many other homes), and if you're interested in seeing some before-and-after photos, go here on Facebook. The first "home" pictured after the high school is now a special events facility where friends and I have taken tea on numerous occasions. I was heartbroken to see the windows blown out and the porch sagging from the destruction. And our lovely old homes with columns blown away are practically unrecognizable.

As a lifelong Georgian, I am accustomed to tornadoes coming through in the springtime. I remember hiding out in the basement with my sister and parents when I was a little girl. Alex and I don't have a basement, but when tornado warnings buzzed on my phone around midnight Thursday, we went to our bathroom downstairs to wait out the storm. The house shook a few times and there was some serious thunder and lightning, but that was it. I didn't think much of it until I checked Facebook and saw where one of my close friends said her house 10 miles away had been hit, the windows blown out and the roof ripped off, and that downtown Newnan looked like "a war zone." Then another friend posted video of rain pouring through the ceiling of her house. Then I learned a former coworker's home was hit. I now know so many with damage that I've stopped counting. Videos appeared online very quickly the next day, and it was eerie to see houses with roofs and upper floors ripped away and utility lines scattered across the road like so much Silly String. Amazingly, my understanding is that no one died directly from the tornado. (Sadly, one man died of a heart attack on the way to go rescue his daughter, who was supposed to get married the next day.)

So while cleanup is obviously going to take a long while, the good news is that Newnan is a very *giving* town. In fact, we saw on Facebook that the police department was asking for donations of water and nonperishable food, so we got dressed and headed to the grocery store. On the way, I checked my Facebook feed (never so grateful for Facebook!) to be sure of where to drop it off, and they posted that they were already overflowing with donations and for people to please hold off for a while. That story was repeated at other collection sites across town that asked people to hold off on any more giving. Any time there's been a tragedy here, I see the same sort of response, so we're waiting to see whether to buy tangible items later in the week or simply make a donation to one of the relief agencies. People's kindness to each other has brought me to tears. So Newnan doesn't really need anything but your thoughts and prayers right now!

And speaking of prayer … my prayers these past few days are full of thanks to the Lord that there wasn't a major loss of life from this tornado. When I saw this photo that Leigh took, I really pondered that cross showing up in the damage here at Holy Week. I'm so glad she noticed it!

So if I haven't overshared with you today, I'll end with a link to a local company's drone footage showing how "The City of Homes" has turned into "The City of Tarped Homes." But everyone is grateful because it could have been so, so much worse. And I am grateful that some of you tea friends were kind enough to check on me.

Wednesday, I trust, we'll be back to talking about teatime here!

Friday, March 26, 2021

A tea-themed Easter postcard from 1927

With Easter just around the corner, I've had Easter Sunday (and bunnies) on my mind. I've found a few tea-themed vintage Easter postcards on eBay over the years, and when I browsed a few weeks ago, I found this one and wanted to share this sweet girl and her bunny friends with you!

Miss Mildred Schreib of Caledonia, New York, was sent this 1927 note by Martha W., who wrote, "Dear Mildred: Here's hoping you have a joyful Easter. Thank you for sending the birthday card. Sincerely, Martha W." I think I'm going to try to get a few Easter cards in the mail. Wouldn't it be nice to be remembered for a thoughtful gesture 94 years later? Hope you all have a lovely weekend and enjoy this spring weather!


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

"Closely Harbored Secrets" by Bree Baker

In the latest Seaside Café cozy mystery from Bree Baker, Closely Harbored Secrets, Halloween is drawing nigh, and tea shop café owner Everly Swan is attending a ghostly walking tour when one of its actors is found dead. In an especially spooky twist, the victim has scratched Everly's name in the ground. Was the woman fingering Everly as the culprit, or was she merely trying to tell her something?

Naturally, investigating this murder wasn't on Everly's to-do list for the week, as she would much prefer to raise funds for Charm, North Carolina's famous wild horses while baking her sweet treats and serving one of her delicious specialty iced teas. Everly’s limited-edition blend this season is called “Widow's Brew,” a crimson-hued blend of blood orange tea with hibiscus and rose hips.

Meanwhile, Aunt Fran's campaign for mayor is in full swing, and with voting just around the corner, Everly, Aunt Clara, and her aunt’s other supporters are busy trying to see that their candidate wins, but Fran's fellow candidates aren’t going down without a fight. And as if all that weren’t enough, Everly gets an emotional sucker punch when love interest (and homicide detective) Grady Hays tells her they should call things off—before their romance has really even gotten off the ground. Hurt but wasting no time, Everly accepts a date with a local paramedic who's had designs on her, and while she has a good time with the kind suitor, she instantly regrets the move. Interestingly, so does Grady.

On the home front, a tricky bookshelf repair is keeping her up at night, but her DIY efforts pale in comparison to the clean-up efforts she must undertake when someone breaks into her Victorian home and wrecks the place. The plot builds to a slow boil on Halloween night, and Everly faces her gravest danger yet when she discovers the identity of the killer.

This is just the kind of clean cozy read that I love, and I believe many of you would like it as well!

Monday, March 22, 2021

A new tea mug for spring

I tend to rotate my tea wares according to the season, and when spring arrives, I definitely want to use something sunny and cheerful and springlike with flowers on it. When I was at T.J. Maxx the other week, I saw this glass tea mug and just had to have it!

I love that you can even see the brush strokes on the flowers.

And these bees! Who doesn't love bees and honey? (My sister is thinking of getting into the bee business, which I am strongly encouraging. Imagine all the tea and honey!)

For just $4.99, this pretty glass tea mug has already paid for itself in happiness as I've been sipping from it for the past week, and the T.J. Maxx I shopped at had a heap of them, so check them out if you're in need (or want) of a new spring mug!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Tetley's Duchess Balmoral British Blend

So if you guessed Duchess Balmoral blend, like Joy did, you correctly guessed which tea I bought at Ingles last week! I prefer flavored black teas over plain black teas, and I always vote for the feminine over the masculine, so the blends with "duchess" and "lady" in the name, Duchess Balmoral and Lady Clarence, came out on top, followed by the gents, Lord Kensington and Earl Grey. However, when I saw Ginger's comment that she often judges a new tea blend by its Earl Grey, it dawned on me that this is very smart, as I know how a good Earl Grey is supposed to taste, so I may have to reconsider my tea-buying biases. 

So Joy will be receiving some of these tea bags in the mail. I like the graphics! It is indeed a "sweet and creamy" tasting vanilla-flavored tea, and I love it when a tea seems like a calorie-free dessert.

I like the boxes that dispense tea bags from the bottom, and the perforation on this box allows us to do exactly that.

I also like how the box calls Duchess Balmoral "the jewel in the crown," and now I'm eager to try another of these blends. (If  you've already tried one yourself, I'd love to hear about it!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Tetley's new British Blends

When I went to Ingles on Friday, I needed to dash down the coffee-and-tea aisle to get to something else, and since I didn't need any tea, I wasn't even looking at those shelves, but I *was* apparently looking at the floor and literally stopped in my tracks. Well-played, Tetley, well-played!

I'd been seeing a few ads for these Tetley British Blends, and I couldn't help smiling at the thought of Tetley cleverly capturing my attention by putting an in-store advertisement on the floor. It worked, and can you guess which of these four blends went home with me? As I stood there making my selection, I realized that I very much have a psychology behind my tea buying, and that struck me as amusing. Can you guess which one of these I bought? Was it A) Duchess Balmoral (sweet and creamy vanilla flavored black tea) B) Lord Kensington (strong and full bodied black tea) C) Lady Clarence (smooth and well rounded English Breakfast black tea) or D) Earl Grey (fresh and zesty flavored black tea)? If you're the first one to guess correctly, I'll send you a card with a couple of these tea bags to try for yourself!

And I loved the tea, by the way, as it was even better than I'd expected! I'll tell you which tea it was on Friday!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Signs of spring


One sure sign of spring is that everyone is starting to do their spring cleaning. I took three boxes of books, clothes, and other castoffs to Goodwill on Friday myself. In the donation line, I was behind a woman whose SUV was filled with donations, and she said her husband was out of town for three weeks, so she decided it was a great time to purge his things, which I thought was funny. She apologized for the hold-up, but I told her she was fine and I was in no hurry. (Aunt Jane and I went shopping on Friday instead of Saturday because I wanted to be there in time to see niece Amelia get ready for her prom that evening!)

But even as I was patting myself on the back for donating some old tea wares I didn't want anymore, Fate led me to the ReThread Thrift Store, where I found this lovely English Crown Staffordshire bone china teacup for $1.99. Could you have left this behind? No, I didn't think so.

Then at the Salvation Army, I found a gorgeous set of four etched rose iced tea goblets, the large ones, for just 75 cents each. When I paid for them, I found out they were half off, so I got four pretty new glasses for $1.50!

Of course, I'm always stocking up on pretty plates for future gift giving …

And I'm not going to turn down a vintage rose plate at these prices. But the prettiest thing I saw on Friday wasn't in any store. It was …

My niece Amelia! At 15, she was attending the prom of her home school group, and I thought our self-described farm girl and dog lover looked lovely, but of course I am highly biased.

I'm told she and her friends had a great time, which was so nice to hear, although it makes me a little sad that she's growing up so fast!

Some of you who've been reading this blog for years may remember when Amelia and I went to tea at the American Girl store in years past, or when she helped me with her sister Cari's birthday tea one time.

And finally, since you all get to hear about Aunt Jane so often, I thought you'd like to see how happy she was to have her picture made with our sweet Amelia!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Taking tea *inside* the US Senate


For the benefit of anyone who might be reading this post on a cellphone, I'm transcribing the delightful text accompanying this cartoon that appeared in Harper's Weekly on April 10, 1858, apparently reprinted from the Washington Globe and titled "A Congressional Scene" …


During the protracted session of the Senate last week, Senator Clark having the floor, said: "If it be the pleasure of the Senate to adjourn now, it would be very agreeable to me. I have had nothing to eat since 8 o'clock, neither bread nor any thing else." But the Senate wouldn't adjourn, and he proceeded till 8 1/2 o'clock, when, during an explanation by Mr. Green, having spoken over three hours and a half, he availed himself of the opportunity to indulge in that beverage which "cheers but not inebriates," with accompanying muffins and sandwiches, which gave his desk the social aspect of a cosy tea-table. The Hon. Senator retained his right to the floor, with a cup of hot tea in one hand, and a huge sandwich in the other. The scene was novel, but a twelve hours' fast had created an inexorable stomach. By the call of the Yeas and Nays he was afforded ample time to finish his repast.

When I did a Google search to find out who those senators might have been, it appears they were Daniel Clark (R-NH) and James S. Green (D-MO). Wouldn't you love to have a photo of this particular moment in US history? I would!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

ChapStick Total Hydration Peach Tea Lip Oil

I can never walk past a new ChapStick display without checking it out, and when I was at the grocery store earlier this week, this Peach Tea Lip Oil caught my eye.

Peach Tea? Well, I happen to be almost out of my David's Tea mango-flavored lip balm, a favorite, so for $4.49, this product seemed like something I should try. 

I glanced at the ingredients there in the store but didn't see camellia sinensis listed. Once I got home, I realized nothing with peach is listed either. "Flavor," maybe? So I'm just puzzled by this "Peach Tea" name. The lip oil tastes vaguely like peach-flavored lip balm, so that's a plus.

This lip oil squeezes out of a tube and reminds me very much of the rollerball-style lip gloss that dribbled from my (and every other teenage girl's) lips back in the seventies. It's a little thicker but not quite as gloppy. I do like how it feels on my lips, so I'm keeping this at my desk for use at home. Have any of you tried this product? It's just such a departure from the classic ChapStick I've always used that I'm curious to know what others think of it!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Pretty papers, florals, and teatime!

I spent a few hours organizing my paper crafting supplies over the weekend, partly because I just received my *second* order of the new Fine Art Floral papers from Stampin' Up. I think these are some of the prettiest papers I've ever come across in the paper crafting world, and I'm so glad my friend Kathy is a Stampin' Up demonstrator and hooked me with up the entire suite, the first time I've liked a group of products so much that I got everything in it. (You can check them out here if you happen to be a Stampin' Up fan.) When I got through organizing, I even had time to whip out a few cards, including a sympathy card for a friend whose father-in-law passed away and a teapot birthday card (using an old Stampin' Up teapot stamp) that I gussied up with the new Fine Art Floral papers.

I greatly admire fine art but have zero artistic ability, so I was intrigued that an artist painted this design that so prominently features the artist's brush strokes that were then reproduced on papers. Perfect!

The other fun thing about this set was that it comes with gold leaf, which you can apply to some of the stamped floral designs. It is beautiful but rather messy to use, so I've been applying it while at a counter in the bathroom, where it's easier to clean it up than in my carpeted office-slash-craft room. (So only a precious few friends will be getting cards with gold leaf on them!)

And on a similar note, I wanted to let you know about the pack of Echo Park Paper Co.'s "Practically Perfect" papers that I found at Tuesday Morning the other day (just $6.99) since it also may be of interest to crafty tea lovers.

The pretty florals caught my eye, but then I saw the sticker page with teapots and teacups and knew I had to have this!

I can imagine that the vintage-looking florals will come in handy for lots of cards …

And of course I was delighted to see that some of the smaller graphics in the packet included this one, which will be saved for a card for a tea lover, no doubt. Have any of you been paper crafting lately? If you come across any pretty florals and/or tea images, I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Galanin + Klein Manhattan Black Tea

When I started blogging about tea way back in 2007, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the available tea vendors. That very year, I went to the World Tea Expo and was introduced to more vendors, and I remember thinking that wow, the interest in tea was really growing. Today, I learn of new tea vendors every week, and I'm happy to try them as fast as time, opportunity, and my budget will allow!

On Monday, I mentioned my weekend visit to Old Mill Antiques in Dallas, where I found a booth selling tea and tea wares. This Galanin + Klein Manhattan Black Tea caught my eye. It was marked half off the regular $12 price, so for $6, this one certainly seemed worth a try. I'm a sucker for elegant packaging.

When I got home and opened it, I thought uh-oh, it's those tiny little bits of tea leaves. But you know what? I loved it! This tea brewed up nice and brisk but not too brisk, and it definitely has sweet undertones ("chocolate notes," according to the jar).  I found on the Galanin + Klein website that this tea is made in Phoenix, Arizona, by a woman-owned business, which I thought was rather fitting here during Women's History Month. I love discovering new teas, and I was extra happy to have discovered this one—and at a bargain price!


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

"Haunted Hibiscus" by Laura Childs

The 22nd Tea Shop Mystery from the incomparable Laura Childs is out this week, and it's a page-turner. As the Magic 8-Ball might say, "All signs point to an exceptionally spooky Halloween for Theodosia Browning and friends." First, Theo and her tea sommelier friend, Drayton Conneley, show up for a literary-themed haunted house event that benefits the Heritage Society. But something goes terribly awry, and the costumed ghouls end up being the least scary folks in sight when an author at the event is murdered and her body shoved out a third-floor window for all to see. To make matters worse, the detective later sent to investigate at the victim's home is shot in the line of duty.

Regular readers of this series will be familiar with both victims—the deceased woman and the injured officer—and the personal connections make it plain that Theo will be unusually eager to find the person or persons responsible for these crimes.

The Indigo Tea Shop plays its usual starring role in the book, and those who love fall—and fall teas—will find much to enjoy, from a Sherlock Holmes Tea to a Pumpkin and Spice Tea featuring "Drayton's special cinnamon spice tea." (Question: Has anyone ever packaged specialty teas in conjunction with the Tea Shop Mysteries? I'd be first in line to buy anything Drayton conjures for the shop!) And young chef Haley seems to outdo herself in the kitchen this go-round. It's astonishing how quickly she can turn an ordinary day's lunch special into a specialty tea for ten unexpected guests from a local B and B.

As always, Theodosia, Drayton, and Haley are so simpatico that they feel like old friends we get to check in on once a year, making these books a perennial delight for tea lovers. With many twists and turns and lots of red herrings, this tea shop tale was one of my favorites of recent years. Cheers to Childs for another fine mystery!

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley

Monday, March 1, 2021

Exploring a new honey hole

When I picked up Aunt Jane on Saturday, I decided to head out in a different direction of West Georgia, and one leg of our journey took us by the Old Mill Antiques in Dallas, Georgia. This antique mall, which I found on a Google search, is right on the route that my mom and I used to travel, and I'm puzzled that we never came across it together.

We got there early enough that there were only a few other shoppers in the mall, so I enjoyed the browsing. Right off the bat, I knew I was going to enjoy this mall thanks to an entire booth featuring tea and tea wares, Sunflowers and Tea Leaves. (I'll share more about the new tea I discovered there after I've had time to review it.)

This mall had so many interesting things to see. Like boudoir lamps! When's the last time you saw some of these?

And naturally, this display caught my eye. So many pretty plates and saucers!

While I was happy to pick up a few things at the tea booth, I was most excited by this handpainted vintage Christmas teacup. I've had an idea for a trilogy of Christmas novellas I want to write, all centered around vintage Christmas china, and I want each cover to depict one of these items. I've got two of the three pieces—a plate and an angel figurine—but I really had my heart set on finding a vintage handpainted Christmas teacup. While I've got plenty of Christmas teacups, I didn't have a handpainted one, and I was envisioning something that looked a little homemade, a little imperfect. I knew immediately that this was it!

And now I'm wondering who L. (or La?) Duato is! Isn't it fun when you *finally* locate a piece that's been on your wish list for a while? I'm ready to start writing that first novella now, and thanks to one of the vendors at Old Mill Antiques, the ideas are falling into place!