Friday, July 29, 2022

Southern Living talks tea

Southern Living magazine is a publication that's super popular here in the South, and I always make time to look into each issue when it arrives. Somehow, I earned a free two-year subscription not long ago, then a friend who didn't know this gave me a subscription as a gift, so with the freebies and extension, I'm going to be reading this magazine for years to come! And I must be slipping, because I somehow managed to miss a certain teaser line on the front cover of the new issue. Did you spot it?

I always enjoy reading articles about how to make sweet tea. Every tea maker in the South seems to have their own preference for how to make it. If I'm making a pitcherful, I tend to just boil water, pour it over some tea bags (number depends on the size of the pitcher), and steep it for about 5 minutes before letting it chill in the fridge. If it's "company" tea, for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I make it with about a cup or so of sugar per pitcher of tea. (A bit less is fine by me.)

And I've read before that baking soda keeps tea from getting cloudy, but I've not had a problem with tea getting cloudy. Have any of you tried this trick? The other tea tidbit I gleaned from the article: "The rule in many households is that a pitcher of tea should be so dark that you cannot read the newspaper through it." Ever heard that one before? I sure haven't!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Twinings "Detox" Grapefruit & Basil Green Tea


After trying that yummy Fig and Vanilla tea from Twinings last week, I sampled another new Twinings tea I came across at Ollie's, this "Detox" blend that is a "Grapefruit & Basil Flavoured Green Tea."

Do you ever struggle to remember a tea you've enjoyed in the past? I do, and fortunately, I can usually search a word or two in the search box at the top of this blog and find what I'm looking for. But when I looked back at old posts, I couldn't find the yummy grapefruit-flavored tea that lingers in the memory like a pleasant tune I can't quite recall. I do recall that grapefruit-flavored teas seem to be pretty rare, and I took one sip of this one and thought, "Oh, yes, here we go!" I don't actually like grapefruit that much, yet I love grapefruit-flavored teas. This one has a bright, citrusy taste from the grapefruit, and the basil flavor is subtle. "Refreshing" is the word that best comes to mind.

So thanks to Twinings, I have a new grapefruit-flavored tea to enjoy! I'm still puzzled that these new Twinings blends have landed on the discount shelves at Ollie's. They don't expire for another year or two. Did they not sell as quickly as hoped? I may never know, but I do know that I'll be trying all the new blends that Twinings sends them, especially for the bargain price of $1.99 a box!

Monday, July 25, 2022

Zucchini & Raisin Bread

I don't know about you, but I do not like to let groceries go to waste these days! So when I had some zucchini that needed to be used, I looked on Pinterest and found a zucchini bread recipe that I wanted to tweak. I'd never made zucchini bread with raisins before, but I also had some raisins that I needed to use up, so this sounded like the perfect use for them.

This tender bread is perfect as an afternoon or evening snack with a cup of tea, and Alex said he thought this was the best loaf of zucchini bread I've ever made, so of course I wanted to share the recipe with you!

Zucchini & Raisin Bread

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups grated zucchini (about 2 large)
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with some of the zucchini. Fold in raisins. Pour into two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans prepared with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour. Yields 2 loaves.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Twinings "Calm" Tea with Fig and Vanilla


"Calm. Promotes a balanced mood," said the Twinings box. Well, what woman couldn't use that?

This tea, while a new blend, was on sale for just $1.99 a box at Ollie's last week, and the Fig and Vanilla combination sounded like one that I would enjoy.

I always award extra points for individually wrapped tea bags, because that makes these perfect for sharing or tucking into a card for a fellow tea lover.

I don't believe I'd ever heard of ashwagandha root until seeing it listed as an ingredient in that wellness tea I tried last month, but now I'm seeing ashwagandha root everywhere (three times this week alone). I'm not sure which taste notes it's contributing to this tea, but I can tell you that the sweetness from the fig and vanilla flavors gave this tea a richness and sweetness that immediately made me go, "Ah! A dessert tea!" If I see some more of this blend the next time I'm at Ollie's, I'll be stocking up!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Thrifted deals and steals

I like to think that thrifting is one of my superpowers, so I was feeling quite smug when I came across some fun deals including a bargain-priced Royal Albert teacup and saucer at the Salvation Army in Carrollton the other day. I usually prefer cups and saucers with floral designs, but in the fall, I'll take anything I can find with a peachy color palette. Or apricot, in this case!

And of course, the price was right.

I'm not sure I could ever pass up a Royal Albert cup and saucer for $1.25. But … when I got the set home and unwrapped it from the plastic, something about the handle struck me as awfully large for a teacup. And then I realized the bottom of the "teacup" doesn't quite fit within the ring of the saucer. Hmmm … then I looked up this Covent Garden Fruit Series on the Royal Albert Patterns website (a fabulous place for identification and research), and I realized someone had "married" the mug with a teacup saucer. Now that's just wrong! But considering the price, I still think I got a bargain, and if I ever find a lone apricot teacup that's similarly priced, I'll complete the set. Still, I'd love to know how this happened. Someone broke the teacup and happened to have a spare apricot mug? Someone was donating grandma's things and didn't know the difference between a teacup and a mug? One can only wonder.

Other recent finds, from the Drop-N-Shop in Carrollton and just 50 cents each, included what I believe is a butter pat, at left, and a bows-and-garlands china coaster with a silver rim. The turquoise piece is going in my "butter pat case" I'm working on filling, at any rate.

And finally, ReThread didn't turn up any tea wares, but I started collecting those kitschy old items made of safety pins last year, so now I have a Christmas tree, an angel, and this basket. For $2.49, it struck me as a steal that will cost much more than that come Christmas. Have you all found any good thrifted deals lately?

Monday, July 18, 2022

Tea Cakes & Tea Treats


Curiously enough, I have never attempted to bake a tea cake, that Southern specialty that is basically a light, fluffy, not-overly-sweet cookie. So when my friend Deberah asked the other day if I would mind sampling hers and offering an opinion (she's trying to perfect her mother's old recipe), I did what any helpful friend would do and said yes.

And a few hours later, a plateful of yummy tea cakes arrived at my door.

Such a deluxe snack was certainly worthy of pulling out one of my Royal Winton snack sets, and oh, were these tea cakes good! Even though I've never made them, I've eaten them plenty of times, and I recalled they were supposed to be light, not too sweet, and perfect with a cup of tea (thus the name). Alex agreed and said the flavor and texture were just right. I put some of them in the freezer so we wouldn't be tempted to gobble them all up.

Deberah also brought me a bag containing other delightful treats, including this print of a teatime painting by her mother!

And this charming vintage Japanese tea bag holder was her mother's, too, and I am so honored to have it. Now I'm just trying to work up the nerve to ask my friend if she'll share her mother's tea cake recipe! (Do you make tea cakes? If so, do you have a family recipe for them? I didn't grow up with tea cakes, so this was a new treat for me.)

Friday, July 15, 2022

The peach tea and tea towel gift goes to …

 Joy B.! And I know where to find Joy, so this will soon be headed her way. Congrats!

On "Faded Glamour by the Sea" … and tea!

At my house, we watch a lot of British crime dramas. On one show the other night, I couldn’t help grinning at the sight of three cops standing there at the precinct sipping from cups of tea with the tea bag tags hanging down. If you stumbled across such a show set here in the US, such a sight would likely give you pause, but set as it was there in Sussex or wherever, it was completely normal. It struck me that I shouldn’t really be so surprised when I see teacups on TV or in a book or magazine since many, many people in the US and around the world drink tea each day. Which brings me to my point: I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised to find a few tea wares in the new book Faded Glamour by the Sea by British designer Pearl Lowe.

I ordered this book purely because its art director was Shabby Chic founder Rachel Ashwell, and I have long enjoyed her books, and those she works on, because they’re just so pretty and dreamy and brimming with the vintage things I love. (There’s also the fact that my third cozy mystery series, coming in 2023 or 2024, is set at the beach, and I suspected this book would be full of inspiration for those books, and it is.)

And as usual with interior design books like this, I found myself peering at the photos and looking for tea-ish things. Like this shelf with a pitcher and worn old teacups.

Or this window ledge with what appears to be a lidless silver teapot and glass jars full of seashells.

And while we're on the topic … Have you all been hearing the term "coastal grandmother"? That's the trendy term for those elegant beach-residing women who dress in neutrals and stick to classic styles (think navy-and-white-striped sweaters and white blouses and plain straw beach hats; nothing too flashy). And when I think of "coastal grandmother" interiors, the images in this book are what I think of. Nothing too new, no overabundance of driftwood and cutesy quotes about the beach, and nothing fussy or contrived. (I have a feeling not all "coastal grandmothers" would agree with me on this, and that's okay too!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Tea and Wellness

When Alex was in the hospital early last month, I spent almost every night with him, leaving only for brief trips home to get new clothes, do some laundry, check the mail, and things like that. My thoughtful stepson kept insisting he wanted to come relieve me for a night, so after several days, I said yes. And as soon as he arrived and I got in my car to head home, I felt that little scratchy feeling in my throat that made me think, "Oh no! I can't be getting sick!" You ever had that happen? Well, a good night's sleep with no hospital interruptions helped immensely, but I also made a run by the drugstore and got zinc tablets, throat lozenges, a new bottle of multivitamins, and on a whim, this Get Wellness tea. I can't tell you medically speaking whether taking all of that is or isn't a cure, but I can report that I didn't get sick!

So when I went back to the hospital—and blessedly, it's just ten minutes from my house—I took this tea with me and sipped it constantly for several days in a row until I felt more secure that I wasn't coming down with something. (If only hospitals didn't have all those sick people, right?)

You can probably tell by the shape of the tin and the round tea bags that this is a Republic of Tea blend. It contains organic rooibos, licorice root, ashwagandha root, European elderberries, astragalus root, chicory root, echinacea root, cardamom, clove, and natural spice flavor. It actually tastes pretty good, much like any spicy fall-flavored tea, and even though Alex is now home and doing well, I still sip this tea every now and then because … wellness!

So do you have a go-to remedy if you suspect a cold or sore throat might be coming on? I'm wondering if my solution is the norm, so please share!

Monday, July 11, 2022

July giveaway: Peach tea and tea towel!

Earlier this year, I discovered that Hobby Lobby had begun selling specialty foods like jams and jellies and custom spice mixes. What I did not discover until the weekend was that they sell teas, too, so I bought some Just Peachy tea for me and some to share with one of you. And of course when I saw a peachy tea towel as I headed to check out with the teas, I figured one of you should have it to remind you of your tea-loving friend here in Georgia.

I love the name of this Seattle tea company: Little Prayer Tea Company.

I like their packaging too! The graphic says "Hope is an Anchor of the Soul," and it includes a favorite scripture as well: "Help me find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). At first, I wondered why they chose that scripture, and then I realized it's a reference to the fruit of the spirit. I'm a little slow, eh?

Here's the fruit on the tea towel.

The Just Peachy tea, by the way, contains black tea, natural peach flavor, peach pieces, marigold flowers, and apple pieces. It's a nice, brisk black tea that does indeed have the flavor of juicy peaches. I haven't tried it iced yet, but I'll bet it's good that way too. So if you'd like to win the peach tea and the peach tea towel, just leave an "Enter me" to this post anytime between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, July 15, and you'll be entered to win. (US only, please.) Good luck!

Friday, July 8, 2022

A tea cartoon … from 1828

My latest find from the Library of Congress website is this 1828 cartoon captioned “Woman Dropping Her Tea-cup in Horror upon Discovering the Monstrous Contents of a Magnified Drop of Thames Water Revealing the Impurity of London Drinking Water.”

If I thought my tea contained all that, I’d drop my teacup too!

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

"Pleading the Fish" by Bree Baker


I do not like goodbyes, so it was with some trepidation that I began reading what I knew was the last of the Seaside Café mysteries by Bree Baker, Pleading the Fish. The heroine, Everly Swan, runs Sun, Sand, and Tea, a café and tea shop in Charm, North Carolina. This book kicks off with Everly planning her long-awaited wedding to local detective Grady Hays, and of course she's still battling the old family superstition that says Swan women are cursed in love. Grady is determined to help rid Everly of that notion once and for all, but before the two of them can delve too deeply into her family history, Everly gets a local historian, Susan Thames, to help her—but Susan soon turns up dead in a well. Despite Grady's pleas for Everly to leave the murder investigation to him, she (naturally) marches right on into the sleuthing, and threats are soon coming her way.

In between trying on old family wedding gowns and planning her beachside nuptials, Everly manages to make a few enemies, including several who clearly had reasons to want Susan out of the picture.

In this cozy wrap-up, Everly makes her peace with an old nemesis, and a surprise find in the attic helps her finally put the Swan curse to rest. A delightful-sounding lemon cake has a starring role in the book, and the recipe is, blessedly, included. There are lots of loose ends to wrap up here, and Baker does so beautifully. If only there were more of these sweet books to come!

Monday, July 4, 2022

Friday, July 1, 2022

Country Living Flea Market Finds

I'm pretty sure this issue of Country Living Flea Market Finds is a reprint—the cover seems so very familiar—but I didn't buy it the first time I saw it a year or two ago, and this week, when I was in line at the grocery store, I decided I needed it. My second cozy mystery series will, Lord willing, launch this fall, and it features two Alabama sisters who run a unique collectibles business. So I've been doing a lot of reading about collectibles since not every collector can focus mainly on teacups and teapots (alas).

Some of the items in this issue were just so fun to read about, like collections of vintage hair appliances, umbrellas, and—dear to my heart as a former 4-H'er—4-H memorabilia. But of course my primary collecting interests reside with all things related to dishes and teatime, so I was pleased to spot this pretty array of china plates.

And look at these lovely butter pats!

I'd recently written about how I've decided to start collecting butter pats, and to my surprise and delight, a thoughtful blog reader in Virginia, Patricia, mailed me two charming vintage butter pats with pink roses on them. How perfect!

Just curious: Do you collect anything outside of the tea wares world? Or know someone with an unusual collecting passion? I (and my characters) would sure love to hear about it!