Friday, September 29, 2023

A scrap of tea history

Last year, I got interested in learning to make junk journals, a new crafting trend in which you take old paper and fabric scraps, stickers, lace, and all kinds of tidbits and turn them into journals. Have I actually completed one? Well, no, but I have several in progress.

So when I came across a whole big packet of vintage junk journal supplies at an antique mall, I was thrilled to get it!

But when I started poring over it, I found a few things that I just couldn't bear to cut up, like this item on "high tea." It says, "Several hot dishes are served at a high tea. A hot supper and a high tea are almost the same thing. The supper may, of course, consist of a greater variety of substantials, and all sorts of water ices and ice creams may be served, also frappé." While I have given up on trying to persuade the world that "high tea" and "afternoon tea" aren't the same thing, that the former is a lowbrow meal and the latter is the fancy one, I still felt rather relieved when I realized this information required clarification even back in the late 1800s.

This page was from an old issue of the  Ladies' Home Journal. It's undated, but one of the items on the back notes that "the year 1900 will not be a leap year," so I'm assuming the publication is from 1899.

I also found an old sheet of recipes that I decided I will not be cutting up. Fudge Squares made with Bisquick? I'll be trying that between now and Christmas.

And one of the most inspiring finds of the whole packet was this tiny little 2 x 5-inch sheet torn out of the pocket notebook of some old saint of yesteryear. I was so inspired by his or her commitment to giving that I started keeping a "self-denial envelope" in my purse so that I will be reminded to think about the less-fortunate and perhaps count my own blessings a little more frequently!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Luzianne Tea's Honeyed Peach Southern Blend

Here's a question for you: Do you always check out the tea section at the grocery store? I don't. Unless I just happen to be in need of a plain tea or a blend that the grocery store carries, I don't usually even think to glance that way. And if I do look, the word "glance" is accurate, because I'm merely wondering if there's anything new to try. And that's why my most recent grocery store glance caused me to spot this Honeyed Peach Luzianne Tea from their Southern Blends collection.

It's a flavored herbal tea (happy news for those of you who are watching the caffeine), and I was happy to find that it comes in individual paper packets. It's fun to share teas in cards when they're individually wrapped like this.

And I'm delighted to report that I love-love-love this tea! It really does taste like a nice juicy peach with a bit of honey, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the first ingredient is "apple." It also contains "rose hip, natural flavor, chamomile, licorice, lemon verbena, dried honey, and citric acid." Maybe the "peach" is in the form of "natural flavor"? At any rate, it's a great tea with a peachy taste I'm very much enjoying. The other flavors in this line are Mint & Rose Blossom (which sounds a little iffy) and Watermelon and Honey (which sounds even iffier). Have any of you tried any of these blends? And I'm curious about whether they're sold only in the South. Are there "Northern Blends" in Michigan and Pennsylvania? Would love to know if any of you have spotted these teas!

Monday, September 25, 2023

A touch of fall and a touch of tea

Now that fall is officially here, I feel free to celebrate and decorate! Last weekend, I visited a local T.J. Maxx where I finally decided to use a gift card that my sister had given me for my (May!) birthday. I had been thinking that my mantel sure could use a touch of flowers, but I don't like orange, so the choices can be limited at this time of year. This basket is clearly designed for a mantel or shelf because it has a flat back with a small built-in hanger, and the soft colors are exactly the sort of fall decor I like.

I also bought this spice-scented ceramic pumpkin candle in a soft green.

And while I was happy with my cream-colored votive holder, Wedgwood mini teapot, and wax-melt teapot, I needed a few more fallish things to replace the pastel floral decor I'd had up there all summer. That's when I remembered some great advice I've read in several places over the past few years, which is to "shop your house." I'm so glad I remembered that I had tucked away this grapevine teapot, a gift from a friend many years ago …

And this teapot-shaped straw-and-metal basket, which had been serving as a card holder in my craft room. I think it looks right at home on the fall mantel, and my cards are now happily housed in a pretty box.

I'm learning that I really like to re-use favorite decorative items, and my new (and old) fall pieces are a fun way to greet the new season. Have you decorated for fall yet?

Friday, September 22, 2023

About that tea-and-Sprite trend …

Longtime readers will recall that one of our longtime mottoes here at Tea With Friends is this: "We try all those dorky teas so you don't have to!" And this may be the dorkiest one yet, but as soon as I read about the global trend of steeping Lipton tea bags in bottles of cold Sprite, I knew I had to try it. It didn't sound like it would be good, mind you, but it didn't sound particularly disgusting either. Just weird.

My first challenge was figuring out how to open the box of Lipton tea bags, which, coincidentally, I had just bought for my husband, who sometimes likes a plain black no-frills decaf tea at bedtime. I didn't realize these "everyday" tea bags are all lined up in a row in a box in a foil pouch in another box. I was exhausted by the time I got the thing opened. So then I did as I'd read one is supposed to do and added two plain black tea bags to the bottle of Sprite (pouring out a little of the Sprite so it has room to fizz), turned it upside down in the fridge (I sat mine in a Tervis tumbler), and let it steep. They say 10-20 minutes is sufficient, but I was between tasks and let mine steep a little longer. 

Then the moment of truth arrived. What would it taste like? Tentatively, I took a sip and discovered that it tastes like … Sprite. I detected only a very, very faint bit of tea flavor, but if you handed me this beverage alongside regular Sprite and blindfolded me for a taste test, I'm not at all sure I could tell the difference. So there you go. I've read that people are cold-steeping all kinds of teas in Sprite now, but I rarely drink soft drinks anymore and have had my fun with this new trend, and that, my friends, is that. (Feel free not to try this at home!)

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Malty Biscuit Brew Yorkshire Tea



Talk about some happy mail! An unexpected gift was in my mailbox the other day, and it was a package of this Malty Biscuit Brew tea from Yorkshire Tea. What made this gift even more special was that my friend Frances got this for me on her recent trip to England!

This tea really does taste like a pleasant black tea with a slightly sweet finish that's reminiscent of a British biscuit (or cookie). Frances said it's one of her favorites, and I can see why!

"Tastes like tea and biscuits," says the box, and I am so delighted to agree!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Shopping for the (one-day) shop

I have so many friends who have booths in local antique malls, and a light bulb went on one day. When I retire in a few more years, I, too, will have time to have a booth in an antique mall. So now I’m going to start devoting a few shelves in the garage to my “one-day” antiques booth (“Angela’s Antiques,” as I now think of it). Friends who’ve had shops before tell me it’s a great way to rotate antiques in your house. By the time you’re tired of a piece, someone else is just getting into vintage things and will love it. And so, all that to say that one of my recent Saturday thrift store finds, this $12 hot chocolate pot, is something that I will decorate with now but that may end up at Angela’s Antiques one day.

It was apparently a great day for picking up cheap plates. At the same store, I found a Thanksgiving plate I’d never seen before, and I look forward to decorating with it this November.

Earlier this year, I discovered too late that I didn’t have very many pretty green things with which to decorate for St. Patrick’s Day. This $3 rose plate goes into my “spring” box of decor in the garage.

I do love a pretty enamel tray, and this green one is by Marjolein Bastin, whose work I have loved for many years. And $5.99 seemed like a great price for a nice big 13-inch-wide tray.

This little kitchen plate with a prayer on it ($2) matches a Lord’s Prayer plate in my kitchen, so I had to have it.

And ironically enough, my new glass “teacup” with Brim on it (49 cents from a thrift store in Carrollton) was actually an old advertising mug used to promote a coffee blend back in the day. I was almost home to Newnan when I finally remembered the company’s slogan. Do you remember it?

Friday, September 15, 2023

Recommended Reading: "Antiques, Artifacts & Alibis" by Sally Bayless


"At the time, I'd let my ex keep the bigger pieces, bargaining for some of the better small antiques, like the marble-topped table I used as my nightstand. After looking around, I emptied a single box, the one marked 'essentials,' which held my favorite black tea, imported from Yorkshire, England, along with a mug, my tea kettle …  and a package of shortbread cookies I'd brought along for emergencies."

— From Antiques, Artifacts & Alibis by Sally Bayless

Last week, I discovered a new-to-me cozy mystery author who quickly became a new favorite. Sally Bayless's Dogwood Springs cozy mystery series is about the recently divorced Libby Ballard, who is headed for her first day of work as the new director of the small-town museum in Dogwood Springs, "the prettiest town in Missouri." When Libby discovers the body of the previous museum director in her office, well, it's not exactly a great first-day experience!

I immediately fell in love with Dogwood Springs and the characters, including local hairdresser (and font of information) Cleo, her nerdy nephew, Zeke, and museum board member Alice, who I gather will be the regulars in this series. Lots of folks seem to have had it in for the old museum director, and the story keeps us guessing about the killer until the very end.

The book features a smart heroine with a personal connection to her new town that I found particularly charming (no spoilers here). And having been on a historical society board before, I had to smile at some of the goings-on at the history museum, which I thought were spot-on, give or take a dead body. If you enjoy clean cozy mysteries, too, this is a series well worth checking out, and I'm already halfway through the second book!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Mystery of the Elevator Lady Spice Cookies … solved!


As I've mentioned here before, I write a monthly cooking column for a local publication called The Weekly. In this month's column, I shared how last fall, I was browsing at a local antique mall when I came across a vintage recipe booklet titled Candy and Cookies Cook Book by the Newnan Junior Service League. The local Junior League is known for its legendary Taste of Georgia cookbook, which is still sold today, but I'd never heard of this candy and cookie booklet.

No publication date is listed, but the type looks like something from the fifties or sixties. I was delighted to find recipes by several local ladies who are gone now but whom I met early in my career, including nurse Harriet Alexander. My favorite memory of Harriet is that she was already beautifully white-haired when she was asked to serve as a consultant on 1960s-era nursing practices to Kevin Costner when he was in town to film The War. She got to bandage him up for a scene!

Another lovely contributor was Pat Crook, who assisted with the teas I was once asked to attend in neighboring Senoia so I could report on them for the newspaper (imagine going to tea as part of your job!).

But another recipe caught my eye because of the intriguing name: Elevator Lady Spice Cookies. No contributor name was listed, and I wondered how these cookies ended up in a Newnan cookbook when, based on the local folks I asked, Newnan didn't have any "people elevators" back in the fifties and sixties, just freight elevators. Maybe, I thought, some Junior Leaguer went to Atlanta and got the recipe from an elevator lady at one of the department stores like Rich's or Davison's. At any rate, I followed the recipe and baked these cookies, which are perfect for fall, and loved them, as did Mr. Tea With Friends.

The one thing I did not do before submitting my latest column, however, was google "Elevator Lady Spice Cookies," so when I asked readers of my column to let me know if they knew the backstory, several of them did. Apparently, the booklet simply reprinted a recipe from this popular Peg Bracken cookbook from the sixties! (So much for my theory that this was a local recipe with a tie to Atlanta.) Still, the cookies are definitely worth trying and make a fabulous afternoon tea snack.

Elevator Lady Spice Cookies

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, add shortening, sugar, egg, and molasses and blend well. In larger bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Add dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine well. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and space 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Yields 40 cookies.

Monday, September 11, 2023

My it's-almost-fall tea trolley

It's not yet fall, but it's too late to decorate for summer, so I decided I would compromise and have an it's-almost-fall tea trolley this year.

The main pieces I decided to pull colors from were this harvest-themed teapot and tablecloth, both favorite items that I actually won from former gift shop owner Bernideen on her tea blog some fourteen years ago (she's on other social media now, but some of you will remember her blog). (UPDATED: She's still blogging here!)

Once I noted that the teapot and tablecloth both had some purple/magenta colors, I realized it would be just fine to pull in some rosy hues, like this thrifted "daily bread" plate I found in Wisconsin last year.

And since I haven't yet collected as many brown transfer ware teacups as I would like, I pulled in a few colors that seemed to blend with these other fall colors (including number three on the teacup stand, which is my teacup from Queen Elizabeth's coronation, my nod to the first anniversary of the late Queen's passing). What are your tips for in-between-seasons decorating? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, September 8, 2023

Recommended Reading: Flea Market in Style magazine

The cover of this new Flea Market in Style magazine appeared in one of my social media feeds recently, and as soon as I saw those pretty aqua and turquoise colors on the cover, I couldn't rest until I found a copy at Barnes & Noble!

Photos of al fresco dining always catch my eye, and that goes double when I spot teacups and vintage dishes on the table!

This article suggested the lovely idea of having guests bring foods in vintage containers and then share stories about them. I like that!

Now, I've long known that I could use my old tea tins as flower vases, but this article had a neat trick for how to do that: just use a small jam jar to hold the water and place it inside the tin. Another handy idea! This new magazine has so many great articles on decorating with vintage finds, and I'll bet some of you would enjoy it as well!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

A "Gatineau" collection begins

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the new issue of My French Country Home magazine when I spotted what I thought were some of the most perfect fall dishes I'd ever seen. It was a lovely brown transferware pattern, and the maker wasn't listed, but thanks to the wonders of Google Lens, I discovered it was a pattern called Mason's Chantilly. There wasn't a lot of it on eBay, but in the course of searching for those dishes, I spotted yet another perfect-for-fall brown pattern I liked even better, and I just received my first teacup and saucer marked Radfords Fenton in "The Gatineau" pattern (with quotation marks around the name, which I find interesting).

I fell in love with a lot of things about this china. First, the pattern completely covers the interior of the teacup! I often find a teacup with a little spray of flowers inside, but other than some pastel chintz patterns with all-over floral designs, I've rarely seen an inside-and-out pattern like this.

Also: This pattern is subtle. I like the softness of the color palette, which has a light copper and some browns but also turquoise (!) and mauve. Decorating for fall can be a challenge when you're not just wild about orange, so I'm already thinking of the decorating possibilities if I can collect all the pieces in this pattern one day. Teacups and dessert plates (always my first pieces, for obvious reasons) are plentiful on eBay, and I wouldn't mind having four dinner plates as well. 

Finally, I like the fact that both saucer and teacup have scalloped rims, which I find to be the most feminine shape of china pieces, and I have long loved feminine things. This teacup was just $6 on eBay (the $7 shipping still made the cost reasonable), so I'm quite pleased to have at long last found some fall-patterned dishes that I truly love!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Happy Labor Day!


Hope you have a safe and Happy Labor Day, friends!

Friday, September 1, 2023

The third time's the charm …

It's a phenomenon I've observed for years now: When a hostess breaks an item, consequently breaking up a set of four place settings or four snack sets, she donates the other three sets to charity. That's why I bought this set of three snack sets and this set of three bone china trios recently. And my third set of three? It was three clear glass snack sets I found at a thrift store in Carrollton a few weeks ago.

Curiously, I don't believe I've ever had glass snack sets. That's probably because they're so easy to find, and if I needed twenty or so, I could probably pick them all up tomorrow at any of our area antique malls.

But the floral shape of these was just too charming to pass up at a mere $3 per set. They definitely remind me of sunflowers, which play a role in my next Silver Sisters mystery, so for that reason alone, I "needed" these. I believe they're by Hazel-Atlas, although I've seen the pattern referred to online as sunflower, daisy, and cosmos, so I'll continue to look for an "official" name. When I was at the thrift store, which benefits a local ministry, I was mulling over the fact that there were just three of the sets when the clever store manager suggested I could invite the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to tea. (At the risk of sounding like a total heathen … but where's my set?)

And since today is what I consider the first day of Psychological Fall (September = Fall, even with 90-degree temperatures here in Georgia), I've begun pulling out some fall linens. With colorless plates like these, I think colorful linens would be a must, don't you?