Friday, July 30, 2021

A wonderful Dollar Tree find

Not all Dollar Trees are created equal. Some have really good finds all the time, and others aren't quite up to the standards of their sister stores. But there's a Dollar Tree in Carrollton that never fails to have a great book section, and I was intrigued when I saw this book titled How to Make Jewelry Charms from Polymer Clay by Jessica Sharpe. Since my first mystery series is about a woman who makes jewelry, this new craft book made me wonder whether my heroine might dabble in making colorful bracelets like this for kids. (If a cozy mystery ever comes of this idea, you'll know exactly what inspired it.) I played with Fimo and other polymer clays back in the late eighties, I believe, and this book sure makes me want to play with them again. Do you see what I see on the lower left of the cover?

What I really love about this book is that the author gives very detailed step-by-step instructions on how to make the charms. 

And these adorable teapots? I don't see why the techniques couldn't apply to fondant if you wanted to make edible versions that could go on cupcakes! So consider this a heads-up to check your local Dollar Tree first, and if you can't find this book there, it's only $8 and some change on Amazon. And I must say that I'm quite smitten with the ideas in this fun book!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A cookie you won't snicker over

Sometimes, the perfect dessert is just a cookie away, and I wanted to tell you about an easy new cookie recipe I tried over the weekend. It was one of these necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention things. I had half a box of graham cracker crumbs left over from a dessert I made for Father's Day last month, and I didn't have anything in mind for them, so I thought I'd look online and see if anything caught my eye. I found this snickerdoodle recipe, and it was just the thing.

Cookies made by rolling the dough into balls always seem to work up fast, and in no time, I was enjoying a cup of hot mango tea and enjoying some crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside snickerdoodles. Something about the graham cracker crumbs gives these a fabulous texture, and these cookies may be appearing on my Christmas cookie plates this year!

The other thing I like about cookies is that if you're a sugar fan like I am, they help with portion control. Just one or two can be the perfect dessert or snack, and if you're looking for an easy cookie to try, I can recommend this one. With a cup of tea on the side, of course!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Am I blue?

Am I blue? Why, yes, I am, thank you, but that's only because I'm sipping some new Blue Mango Iced Tea courtesy of some samples I recently received from Adagio Teas!

When I saw that the pouch contained just six tea bags, I thought hmm, those must be some big tea bags!

And indeed they are! At about six inches wide, these are definitely the largest loose leaf tea bags I've ever come across!

The package said to cold-brew the tea in the refrigerator overnight (a favorite way to make tea in Georgia's hot, humid summers), and soon, my husband said, "What's that blue tea in the fridge?" I explained that it was the Blue Mango Iced Tea, and when I read the ingredients, it's actually got a lot more than just mango. This blend contains Lemon Grass, Butterfly Pea Flower, Chamomile Flowers, Rose Hips, Natural Mango Flavor, Marigold Flowers, Mango Pieces & Lychee Flavor.

It's an intriguing (and enjoyable) taste, and it's certainly not like any other herbal iced tea blend I've tried. I definitely taste the lemongrass and some light floral notes (from the rose hips, maybe), but it also reminds me faintly of some sort of fruit punch. It's quite refreshing on these hot afternoons we've been having, and I am so pleased to have been able to try this new blend. It's here if you'd like to check it out for yourself!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Some new thrifty finds

Every once in a while, I find something at Goodwill that I consider a splurge, like this large (10-1/2-inch) scalloped plate. Normally, $4.99 would seem like a lot for a Goodwill plate since I find so many great ones for under $2, but this one immediately struck me as the perfect piece to decorate with in March for St. Patrick's Day. So I got it. 

The softly colored violets are just my cup of you know what, and I don't often find green pieces that I just love, but I loved this one.

Now, I probably should steer clear of the book aisle in just about any store, but this volume caught my eye for the name alone.

Then I looked inside and realized that some of the reading women are sipping tea, like this one …

And this one. I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet, but I'm intrigued by the concept of a reading woman being "dangerous." So have you found any thrifty finds lately? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Sunday's bridal tea menu

When my friend LeeAnne, shown here, asked me to be a part of this bridal tea on Sunday, I was quite happy. Even when I can't participate, I always, always feel left out if there's a tea somewhere and I wasn't invited to be a part of it. So if you live in another state, be sure to send me an invite to your tea and just know that I probably won't be able to attend. Ha! (After looking at this photo, I realized that later, before the guests arrived, someone straightened the little embellishment thingie on top of the stand at left, which had obviously come unscrewed a bit. Bless them.)

I absolutely love the folks in my Sunday school class. If there is a need anywhere in the church, they know to hit us up, and honestly, you have to be on your toes to make a donation because someone in this class will beat you to it! So while sometimes I've fretted over whether there would be enough food at a "group tea" that I wasn't in charge of (can you say control freak?), that never crossed my mind with this group. For one thing, our beloved Marla, who has done some professional catering, was supplying the tea sandwiches, so I knew they would be good and plentiful. Here are some of her cucumber sandwiches (perfectly thin and wonderfully crunchy) and pimiento cheese sandwiches (which I forgot to try!).

These Hawaiian rolls were used for the chicken salad sandwiches, and in the middle were the salmon sandwiches on wheat bread, both absolutely delicious.

Thanks to our friend Linda, there were also two types of cute mini quiches (spinach and cheese, I believe), shown here with more of the tea sandwiches.

And the sweets were plentiful as well. Alas, I did not get a good photo (and more importantly, a bite!) of LeeAnne's famous lemon pound cake, hiding at back here. LeeAnne is the official pound cake baker in the class, and everyone always raves over her cakes. I distinctly remember trying to get a close-up of the cake, but then I got called away to do something else at the tea, and that was that. (Anyone who has ever hosted a tea can relate. Between all the cooking and decorating, it's amazing that we get ANY photos!)

As I mentioned Monday, the gorgeous sugar cookies commissioned by my friend Deborah were the stars of the tea table. I really *must* learn to make these. Several of us commented that while such pretty cookies aren't usually that tasty, these were delicious. The cookie itself was soft and sweet, and even the icing was good and soft enough that it didn't taste like that tough fondant icing I've nearly chipped a tooth on before. These were wonderful in every way!

My contribution was the mini scones (from the Agatha Christie newsletter here) and Brown Sugar Shortbread (recipe here), this time spiced up with a teaspoon of pulverized Earl Grey with Lavender and Roses tea. Several people asked me for the shortbread recipe. Ironically enough, I had just gotten through sending the recipe for the Pumpkin Spice version of these shortbread cookies to my publisher to include at the end of Rubies and Revenge, which is coming out soon. I'm glad to know that this recipe is still so well received! I also got a great compliment from a new SS classmate who told me that these scones (baked just before teatime) changed her mind about scones. The only one she'd ever had before was one of those massive, triangular, hard-as-a-rock scones from a certain chain-store bakery. This soft and fluffy scone, served with raspberry jam and whipped cream, was nothing like that, she said, and now she's a fan. Cheers to English scones!

And last but not least, I served three teas but got photos of only two teapots, the ones with Charleston Tea Plantation's Peach Tea (a hit) and Harney's Venetian Tiramisu tea (an even bigger hit). I didn't have a free second to make the Palais des Thés green citrus tea until toward the end of the event, but it got good reviews as well. Next time I help with tea for 30-plus women, though, I will have more pots of loose leaf tea ready to go ahead of time because these ladies kept me hopping next to my electric tea kettle. We had a fabulous time, and now I can't wait for the next tea!

Monday, July 19, 2021

A bridal tea for Jordan!

Yesterday, I was honored to help with a bridal tea for Jordan, at left, the daughter of my dear Sunday school classmate Dawn, second from left, and they're shown here with groom Logan's mother and grandmother.
Lots of ladies in my class contributed to the food and decor, and here I am with friends Deborah (official class Social Queen), Fran (our Sunday school teacher and the event hostess), and LeeAnne (the party planner).

These Limelight hydrangeas were from Fran's lawn, and arranged by Deborah, and they smelled heavenly!

More flowers, these also arranged by Deborah. I just love pretty flowers on a tea table.

Jordan got lots of wonderful gifts, and it was fun to watch her open them.

Tomorrow, I'll share our menu for the tea, but I can tell you right now that my favorite item on the menu was these gorgeous sugar cookies that Deborah ordered just for the tea. They featured Jordan and Logan's initials as well as these gorgeous teacups, and these are the types of cookies I dream of making one day!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Black Tea & Blackberry Lip Balm from Jack Black

The peach tea lip balm I'd had on my desk somehow disappeared (I'm thinking it was the victim of an over zealous decluttering effort), so I looked on Amazon to see if something similar was available. One of the first items I came across was this Jack Black lip balm I'd been seeing for a while, so I ordered it.

It's got skin protectant and SPF 25 sunscreen, so I decided this would be a good lip balm to apply before my daily walk on these hot, humid afternoons here in Georgia. When mine arrived, I learned that the lip balm has a pleasant texture and flavor, and it's a nice change from the other variety I had been using, which was good but a tad on the runny side.

And it does indeed contain green tea leaf extract, so I add bonus points for that. But imagine my surprise upon learning that Jack Black is a line of luxury cosmetics for … men! I guess this is the first time I've accidentally ordered something designed for men before!  I still like this lip balm, though, and according to the reviews, I'm not the only woman who's using it. Maybe they could call it Jill Black?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A pop-up tea room in Tokyo

Reader Diane M. has shared a most fascinating teatime article, and you can find it here. (The screen grab above shows what it looked like on at the time I accessed it.)

Apparently, this tea room is a temporary structure that architect Terunobu Fujimori installed to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, and it's certainly unlike any tea room I've seen before. When I read the article, I was especially intrigued that the method of charring the wood preserves it and provides fire resistance. Instantly reminded me of how God uses trials in our lives to strengthen and preserve us, but I'd certainly never thought of "charred" wood as strong before. Interesting!

I hope we'll hear more about this tea room in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, so keep your eyes peeled, friends. And yes, I would love to go to tea there. Would you?

Monday, July 12, 2021

A new variation of Brown Sugar Shortbread

I have made this Brown Sugar Shortbread (recipe here) more times than I can count. I refrigerate the dough when I make it in summer so that it gets stiff enough to cut cleanly, and it always, always comes out great and tastes so rich and buttery. Next Sunday, my Sunday school class is giving a bridal tea in honor of the daughter of one of our members, and I was delighted to be asked to help. So yesterday, I decided to try making this shortbread with the addition of a teaspoon of Earl Grey Lavender and Roses tea, and it is as delicious as I suspected it would be. I didn't have a tea bag in this flavor of tea, so I just pulverized the tea in a spice grinder.

I'll be contributing the scones and jam and cream to next week's tea, and I decided that I'll take this shortbread, too, just because you can never have too many offerings at a group tea. The tiny little flecks are tea! At first, I was going to do something different and cut these out with my teaspoon-shaped cookie cutter instead of the teapot one that I normally use, but Alex agreed with me that once it baked, it resembled a dog bone, and that wasn't quite the look I was going for. (Plus, the "handle" of the teaspoon cookie was so thin that it broke when I lifted it off the pan, but Alex was happy to eat it, anyway.) A reader once asked if it was necessary to prick the shortbread with the tines of a fork before baking, and it isn't. It's simply my attempt at making these cookies look like that yummy Walker's Shortbread.

When I was asked if I had some teapots and teacups we could use for the tea, I laughed. (If they only knew …) But I suggested we use these tea and toast sets since they'll be easier to balance when everyone is roaming all over my Sunday school teacher's house, where we're holding the tea. I've already started pulling everything out and am greatly looking forward to my first tea in quite some time. We're all supposed to wear hats to the tea, so hopefully I'll have cute photos for you this time next week!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Tea Time magazine winner is … Malick!

 And I've just sent a notification email, so the magazine should go in the mail soon. Thank you to all who entered!

Friday, July 9, 2021

A pop-up magazine giveaway

Are you seeing double? I am. Earlier this year, I renewed my subscription to Tea Time magazine, but when weeks and weeks passed and I hadn't received the July/August issue, I emailed them, and they promised to send out that issue. They did, and the brown envelope containing it arrived the same day as … my issue with the subscription label on it. So who would like the spare copy? If you'll leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. tomorrow, July 10, I'll pick a winner and pop the magazine in the mail to you. (US only, please.)

I'm glad I didn't miss this issue, though, because it's their annual British issue, which is always a favorite. One of the first things that caught my eye was this Johnson Brothers Eastbourne teapot, which resembles a green Homer Laughlin pattern on some plates I have. I would never have guessed this was Johnson Brothers, but I like it.

And the recipes this time include some of my favorite summertime flavors, a Lemon-Lavender Shortbread and Blueberry-Ginger Tartlets.

For tea equipage fans, there's a wonderful feature on teapoys, these lovely pedestal tables that I didn't even know about until recently, and now I'm going to need one in order to live a normal life.

So surely somebody out there doesn't subscribe to Tea Time and could use this extra issue. Is it you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Bigelow Botanicals Cold Water Infusion—Watermelon Cucumber Mint

Like many of us, I'm sure, I'm always on a quest to drink more water, and I am happy to report that I've been enjoying the refreshing new Watermelon Cucumber Mint variety of Bigelow's new water infusion "tea" that I picked up at the grocery store recently.

The ingredients include "chamomile, hibiscus, rooibos, licorice, cranberry fiber, peppermint, ashwagandha, natural watermelon and cucumber flavors with other natural flavors (contains <1% natural watermelon and cucumber juice from concentrate)." The only thing I questioned in that list was "cranberry fiber" (maybe the fiber has a cranberry taste?). Now that the summer heat has made an appearance, I've been sipping ice water like crazy, so this flavored herbal infusion is a nice treat. It's definitely weaker than an iced herbal tea and seems much more like the fruit-infused water I've had in the fridge in summers past.

And as always, Bigelow gets freshness points for packaging their blends in individual foil packets. I'm ready to try my next Bigelow Botanical. Have any of you tried the other varieties, and if so, what do you recommend?

Monday, July 5, 2021

Summer comes to the tea trolley

The calendar may say that summer arrives in June, but I've always thought that summer doesn't really arrive until July. And since I'm longing for a trip to the beach (which I hope to find time for in the next few months), I thought I'd provide myself a little inspiration by adding some beachy things to the tea trolley this month, this time featuring some Gracie tea wares with simple blue bands in the design.

Among the other goodies on the tea trolley is this lovely little inspirational book I came across a few years ago, Life Is Better at the Beach by Christina Vinson. I always love to add books to my decor.

In honor of the ocean-colored palette, I added a few teacups in pretty aqua and turquoise colors.

I've always heard that colors of the water are soothing, and I believe it.

I kept this tea trolley decor very simple, and as always, Alex's Uncle Roy presides over it all, but he matches, too, this time! Fellow beach lovers, do you have any coastal decor out at your house?