Wednesday, August 30, 2023

"The Latest Cake Secrets" … from 1934

I can't seem to pass up a vintage recipe booklet. Usually, I look for pretty ones in case I want to photograph the cover or use the inside graphics for one of my book projects. Last week, however, I spotted this one at an antiques shop in Carrollton and was charmed by how very worn this 1934 booklet was. With the cover hanging on only with the assistance of masking tape, this booklet was a General Foods publication designed to promote Swans Down Cake Flour.

And since I always love to know the story behind an item (it may end up in one of my stories), I was delighted to learn that this booklet came from a rummage sale!

Whenever I see old booklets like this, I turn to the index of recipes in the back and search for the word "Tea." This time, I found an entire section called "Tea Cake Recipes."

The section includes such delicacies as Two-Egg Cup Cakes, Coconut Vanities, and …

Butterscotch Slices and Blueberry Tea Cakes. (I trust you noted the pretty teapot and teacups in the photo! Google Lens helped me determine that this is the Rosebud Chintz pattern from Spode.)

And I must admit that I always thought it was "Swan's" Down and not "Swans" Down, so I learned a new (i.e., correct) spelling from this booklet as well. Do you have any tattered old cookbooks or recipe booklets, maybe something that was handed down in your family? I'd love to know!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Recommended Reading: "Under the Tulip Tree" by Michele Shocklee


She poured hot water from a kettle sitting on the stovetop into a plain white cup with a tea ball. Taking a pale-blue saucer from the open shelf that held short stacks of mismatched dishes, she set the cup on it and handed it to me. “You take sugar?”

— From Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee

I just finished reading a great book with my online book group, and while the tea quote above was quite a serendipitous find, I enjoyed this historical fiction book so much that I wanted to tell you about it!

The story begins on the day of the stock market crash in 1929, which also happens to be Lorena Leland's sixteenth birthday. The daughter of a well-to-do Nashville banker and his society-loving wife, Rena is about to be feted at a lavish party, but the day's events turn not only the party but her whole life upside-down. Fast-forward seven years, and dad is a binge-drinker, mom has had to go to work, Rena's older sister is a new mother with a cheating husband, and life hasn't turned out the way any of them thought it would. Rena had gotten a job with the local newspaper but is let go during the hard times. Her old boss suggests she apply for a job with a new Federal Writers’ Project he's heard about, and she's intrigued by the opportunity, which calls for interviewing former slaves, who are now getting on in age.

A nervous Rena shows up at the house of Frances "Frankie" Washington, and neither woman is what the other expects. Despite being 101, Frankie is still quite sharp, and she slowly begins to trust Rena and reveal her story. The tale is hard to read at times, as a tale about slaves certainly should be, yet the author handles it deftly, mainly in a series of flashbacks told in Frankie's own voice.

While Rena ends up interviewing others in the course of her new job, Frankie's is the story she can't get out of her head, and many more trips to Frankie's house ensue. The story unfolds like a mystery, and the author does a fine job of resolving all the plot lines before the book comes to an end. It's hard to imagine writing about such a horrible topic and ending up with a book brimming with hope and inspiration, but Shocklee pulls it off. If you're looking for a worthy new book to read, I'm happy to recommend this one.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The joys of "Flea Market Decorating"

A friend of mine watches craft videos before she goes to sleep at night and calls them her "bedtime stories," which I think is just lovely. Since I do sometimes scroll through social media before I hit the hay, I started making my Instagram feed all-pretty, all-the-time so that it could serve as my own "bedtime stories." While Facebook and Twitter are sort of a free-for-all that you can't always control (other than to click off, which I do frequently), I permit no arguments, no politics (even the discussions I agree with), and nothing unpleasant on my Instagram feed. I follow lots of home decor "influencers," and the current issue of Flea Market Decorating has just the sort of of lovely thrifted vibe they would adore!

This issue also has a fun feature on styling a tea party with vintage finds. Isn't it pretty? I've always wanted to find a vintage quilt to use as a tablecloth.

But perhaps my favorite article in this issue (by Tovah Martin, who used to write for Victoria!) was about a woman who collects Jade-ite, and have you ever seen so many Jade-ite tea pieces? I had long wondered whether the spelling is "Jadite" or "Jade-ite," and it turns out it's both! Jeanette Glass Company called their version Jadite, and Fire-King named theirs Jade-ite. This issue has lots of great info about what's hot in the world of vintage right now (wicker, lab ware, and those sixties-looking orange and brown dishes, of all things), and it's quite a fun bit of leisure reading! 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Chocolate Mint Tea Sachets from Harney & Sons

The other day, I was in the mood for a chocolate-flavored tea, and to my dismay, I didn't have any. How did that happen? There have been times I've had quite a variety of chocolate teas on hand, but alas, this was not one of those times, so I headed to Amazon to see if any of the Harney teas could arrive in two days. The answer was yes!

I've noticed that during the workweek, I don't really take time for a nice long tea break. I take five minutes to stretch my legs, run downstairs, and put the teakettle on. So tea bags seemed like a good choice, but I wanted to make sure the tea tasted good, so I ordered these Chocolate Mint tea sachets instead of loose tea.

And you know what? They're great and have the chocolate flavor I was looking for! Also, they were just $5.22 from Amazon, which is only a few pennies more than teas at the grocery store, so I think the price is nice. If you're a Harney customer, do you drink both loose tea and tea sachets? Do you detect any difference in the taste? 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Some fun thrifting on the way to an exam

After hearing several reminders from women who’d just had their mammogram, I recalled that I was overdue for mine and scheduled the appointment for last Tuesday. My doctor’s offices are in Jonesboro, thirty minutes from my home in Newnan, and I psyched myself up for the visit by stopping by the Jonesboro Goodwill, where I’ve often found better treasures than I have at the Goodwill stores closer to me. This time was no exception!

The first thing I spotted was this eight-inch vintage chintz plate marked Shelley. At $1.09, that plate was definitely going home with me. Vintage chintz is probably my favorite china to find, but I rarely find it in antique malls, and it’s even rarer that I find it at thrift stores. I recognized the pattern immediately, and when I got home and looked it up (thank you, Google Lens), I learned it was the Maytime pattern.

Now, it occurred to me a while back that I’ve never purchased a lily of the valley teacup, which is odd for someone whose birthday is in May and who loves the fragrance of those flowers. So when I spotted a stack of three pretty teacups with lily of the valley on them there at the Goodwill, I was intrigued, but I don’t typically buy orphaned teacups. Still, Goodwill stores don’t always pair the cups and saucers, so when I headed down the next row, I spotted a stack of four saucers and four dessert plates, and yippee, they were the mates to those teacups! At $3.09 for the teacups and $5.09 for the eight other pieces, I had to run get a buggy.

Do you remember the potato chip commercial that said, “Ruffles have ridges?” Well, this bowl had some ruffles and ridges that I immediately recognized since it was the Iris and Herringbone Depression glass pattern my mother used to collect. (I’ve often mentioned how my sister used to call it “Irish Hambone,” and I can’t see a piece of this without recalling that). I love ruffled glassware, and this bowl was $3.09, which I thought was another fine bargain. A new apple bowl for fall!

The oddest thing I found? This beautiful gold plate dated 1910. I asked the young man checking me out at Goodwill, “You don’t happen to speak German, do you?” He laughed and said, “No, ma’am,” but he did automatically give me the senior discount of an extra 25 percent off all of my purchases, and even though I’m “only” 59, I’ll gladly take the discount. Turns out, if Google Translate is correct, the plate reads, “In memory of your parents 1910.” (Why doesn't it translate "In memory of MY parents," I wondered. Are you supposed to give it to someone in memory of their parents? Is that translation even correct? If you speak German, please chime in!)

But it was actually the back of the plate that I found most intriguing. Am I looking at 113-year-old masking tape? And how can "elders" be addressing "mother and father," do you suppose? Or did the scribe mean that his/her elders gave the plate in honor of this person's parents? I have so many questions! Occasionally, something like this “speaks” to me as a possible storyline for one of my books, and that was certainly the case with this piece.

I also found a few Christmas goodies I’ll share at the holidays, but the glass and china I found last Tuesday gave me something pleasant to think about an hour later when my body was being tortured by the nice lady in Jonesboro who told me not to breathe or move. (As if!) Happily, I got the all-clear and the lovely word “Normal” just two days later. And I say all this not because I’m particularly fond of oversharing but because other women were kind enough to remind me to get my mammogram, so I’d love to think I could help remind one of you to get yours. And if you need a fun incentive, go thrifting on the way there!

Friday, August 18, 2023

A new style of teapot stamp

I've been collecting tea-themed craft supplies for years now, and most of my teapot and teacup stamps feature frilly English-style tea wares. I check eBay every now and then to find supplies that I've not seen before, and recently, I came across this cute teapot stamp from Clear Magic Singles. I really like this stamp because it's so different from my other designs and looks Asian and a little more exotic.

One of my favorite parts of stamping is coloring, and while I do have some markers and colored pencils from various crafts companies, I remain sold on the fine-point Sharpies I found at Kroger a year or two ago and used them here!

I even colored one of these teapots to go in my bullet journal, where I like to feature a current favorite stamp design each month so that when I look back through these journals (and one of them lasts me two whole years), I can recall what I was stamping with at the time. With fall on the horizon, I'm starting to think about crafting a little more, including what sort of handmade Christmas cards I plan to send this year. If you're a crafter, are you thinking about your fall and holiday projects yet?

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

A new-to-me type of tea!

Do any of you subscribe to Bon Appétit? I've had a free subscription for several years now, but it had gotten to where it had so many complicated recipes with so many hard-to-find or exotic ingredients that for a while there, I just took it straight to the trash and didn't bother opening it. But when I saw the photo on this month's cover, I knew I would like this issue because of the salmon recipes and the article on the Salmon Sisters (not to be confused with the Silver Sisters, ahem).

I was reminded that I do enjoy the brief tidbits about various foodie topics in the magazine, and this one about corn definitely caught my eye! Have you ever heard of making a "tea" from corn silks? Are they serious? But lo and behold, I googled and found that yes, corn silk tea is a thing, and apparently, the tea is a mild diuretic, which is helpful for some conditions. Would you try corn silk tea? I must admit that the next time I get some corn with the silks attached, I will have to give this a whirl.

And this isn't related to tea but to corn, but did you know there is a specific gadget to help you "de-kernel" (who knew that was a word!) corn? Other than tea accoutrements, of course, I don't like a lot of gadgets in the kitchen, but this is one I think might come in handy!

Monday, August 14, 2023

A new style of snack set & other thrifty finds

Because I've collected snack sets (aka tea and toast sets) for many years, I'm pretty good at spotting them in thrift stores. The other day, I came across some of these sweet little indented snack plates with *mugs* instead of *cups* that fit in the indentations!

Granted, this eight-piece set was missing a mug, but since the whole kit and caboodle was less than what I would pay for a single snack set at an antique mall, I was still getting a bargain.

That same day, I came across a cute silver serving tray for $2. It's clearly seen better days,  hasn't it?

I'm hoping silver polish will bring these roses back to life. If it doesn't,  plan B is that I'll spray paint it pink and plop it in my crafting area.

My other fun find was a large (ten-inch) papier-mâché Easter egg box! Small ones were ten to twenty dollars last Easter in the antique malls, so I was very happy to find this large one for just $7.99 at Goodwill. I love finding off-season decor at great prices, and by the time next Easter gets here, who knows what all I've have discovered!

Friday, August 11, 2023

The tea towel winner is …

 Frances! And I have her address already, so the tea towel will be on its way shortly. Congrats!

"Tea & Sympathy" by J. New

I'm always game to try a new cozy mystery series, and I recently learned about one set in the UK. When I looked on Amazon, it had pretty good reviews except for a few quibbles about the editing. Since the book was in Kindle Unlimited and I'm a subscriber, I decided to check out Tea & Sympathy by J. New and am glad I did. It's the tale of Lilly Tweed, the former "agony aunt" or advice columnist who was recently let go when the local newspaper downsized. Lilly decides on a career change and follows her dream of opening a tea shop in the market town of Plumpton Mallet.

Though she's no longer dispensing advice at the newspaper, Lilly still gets called upon to offer advice and sets up a letterbox outside her shop so that requests can be discreetly dropped off there. When she gets a desperate-sounding letter from a woman named Carol Ann who believes her life is in danger, Lilly offers to meet with the woman, but alas, Carol Ann's body is found in the river before the two ever meet.

Among the things I liked in the book: Lilly's shop clerk, the American student Stacey Pepper; a cat named Earl Grey (although yes, we’ve had that name for a pet before in a beloved American tea-themed cozy series); and Lilly’s excellent knowledge about which teas are best for which ailments. This book was much shorter than most cozy mysteries I’ve read, but that has its charms as well, as this is definitely a book that can be read in one sitting and a few cups of tea. And this fun, light-hearted read ended with a cliffhanger, so I’ll at least have to read book two to find out what happens next!

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

"Daphne's Diary," Number 4, 2023

It is always fun to spot a new issue of Daphne's Diary, which is printed in the UK, in my local Barnes & Noble. Sometimes, I grow weary of reading news magazines or writing-craft magazines, so it can be a luxury to feed my soul instead of my mind for a bit, and DD always manages to bring me some inspiration that helps on all fronts!

I've not made one of these pretty rectangular tarts before, but this roasted strawberry tart recipe will definitely have me looking for a new tart pan at T.J. Maxx.

And I was also happy to see a piece on growing your own tea.

Of course, some of the images are just for fun, like the coloring pages and graphics pages the magazine always includes.

This issue was extra tea-ish, with even the back cover appealing to tea lovers. Clearly, Daphne's Diary is a magazine that I enjoy reading simply because it's so lovely. What's the last lovely magazine that you read? Please share!

Monday, August 7, 2023

A giveaway from the Buc-ee's in Auburn, Alabama!

Do you have a Buc-ee’s where you live? I’d heard of the chain from my sister, who discovered it on trips to Texas with her Texas-born husband, and when I went to Texas with her four summers ago, I went to my first Buc-ee’s. Alex had never been to one, though, so on Saturday, after visiting some sites in Alabama that we wanted to see, we stopped by the Buc-ee’s in Auburn, which opened in April.

I had imagined the buzz might’ve died down by now, but no. They were still doing a brisk business at the chain, which has 120 gas pumps and over 50,000 feet of retail space. It is definitely a sight to behold! 

In Texas, I remember being impressed by the enormous array of snacks and all the bottles of every flavor of Tazo tea. This time, I was especially intrigued by the clothing, cookware, and gifts. I definitely need to go back there for some fun Christmas shopping. (“And where on earth did you find this lovely gift, Angela?” “Well, actually, I got it at this wonderful gas station in Alabama …”) And while I did not plan to buy a Buc-ee’s T-shirt (tea-shirt?), I saw this one and had to have it!

I had to have this oh-so-true tea towel as well, and I also got one to give away to one of you! So if you don’t have a Buc-ee’s nearby (or even if you do) and would like to win this tea towel straight from the finest gas station I know of, just leave an “Enter me” comment to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, August 11, 2023, and you’ll be entered to win. (And feel free to leave your comment on my Tea With Friends Facebook page if you prefer.) Good luck!

Friday, August 4, 2023

Bigelow Botanicals Peach Lemonade Acai Cold Water Infusion


I am apparently on a mission to sample every cold-brew infusion on the market this summer, and the latest find was this Peach Lemonade Acai Cold Water Infusion from Bigelow Botanicals.

This is clearly more of an herbal tea since it contains no camellia sinensis, and the ingredients are "chamomile, rosehips, hibiscus, licorice root, natural peach and lemon flavors with other natural flavors (soy lecithin), lemongrass, lemon peel, citric acid, peach pieces, acai juice granules." The light peach and lemon flavors are what I detect most, and I like that these infusions aren't sweet or sugary like Kool-Aid and truly are just a flavored-water beverage. (And as hot as it's been around here, I'm drinking lots of these each day!)

And of course I have always liked the fact that Bigelow's tea bags are packaged individually. Have you tried this flavor? I think it's my favorite of the cold water infusions I've sampled this summer!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

A day for family and friends … and tea!

Saturday was a super busy day, and it included lots of visits with family and friends! One of the most fun things I did was meet my high school friend Cindy, who nows lives in Tucson, Arizona, at a coffee shop in Tallapoosa. We graduated together way back in 1982 and hadn't seen each other since! We reconnected on Facebook a decade or so ago, and she was kind enough to request a face-to-face meeting the next time she was in town so that I could sign a copy of my new book for her. What an honor! Cindy is a registered dietitian and always shares the most enlightening articles on FB, so I've enjoyed being her "friend" for the second time in life!

We met at K & M Coffee Co. in Tallapoosa, the town where our beloved Haralson County High School is located (and where my dad now lives).

I was surprised to discover the many collections on display (but not for sale) in the shop, like these teacup-shaped pieces that I discovered are (I think) part of an espresso maker.

The old coffee grinders were fun to see.

And the Jadeite cup and saucer set caught my eye, but the dancing cats in front of it really made me smile.

I got there early, so while I waited, I had a vanilla chai latte and a cinnamon scone, and both were delicious.

And as if all that weren't enough to make my Saturday a treat, the day ended with a visit to my niece Cari's home to see new baby Ezra, my first great-nephew, who was 11 days old. I hadn't seen him since a few hours after he was born, and it is amazing how quickly a baby seems to change and grow up. A fun day indeed!