Friday, December 29, 2023

Remembering Aunt Jane

I debated whether to mention this here, but so many of you have read my posts about my beloved Aunt Jane over the years that I wanted to let you know she passed away on Wednesday, and my family would sure appreciate your prayers as we prepare to say goodbye to her. Daddy had asked me to put something on Facebook that night so that friends and family would quickly hear the news, and before I wrote a post, I combed through some of my photos of Aunt Jane online. I am almost always the photographer at family events, so I was happy to find a photo of the two of us enjoying my niece's bridesmaids tea at the Swan House in Atlanta last fall.

It occurred to me that some of my favorite photos of my late mother and my aunt involved teatime, which I came to enjoy late in life. I wasn't a little girl who grew up having tea parties or going to them, and I was probably close to thirty before I ever had hot tea! Thank goodness the ladies in my family had so many happy teatimes together. This photo of my mother and Aunt Jane was taken at my house back before I married, and I love how happy they look. I strongly suspect that in addition to delighting in being in the presence of the Lord, we'll enjoy new teatimes when we get to heaven, and I'd love to think this is what it looked like for Aunt Jane sometime after she got there.

And this was another teatime, at the original Tea Leaves and Thyme in Woodstock, where my mother, aunt, sister, and nieces enjoyed tea together. Aunt Jane may have been mentally challenged, but she always, always enjoyed eating out. You can probably imagine how precious these teatime memories are to me now. So I'll close 2023 with a very personal post and my wish for you and your family to enjoy a happy and healthy 2024 together!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

A joyful Christmas

Highlights of Christmas 2023: Gatherings with friends and family, a cookie class with a friend, getting to drop off treats for a few dear friends here in Newnan, and on Christmas Day, getting to see our great-nephew, five-month-old Ezra, celebrate his first Christmas with all of a child's wonder!

This sweet ceramic tray was a gift from my friend Susan, and it is SO fitting for this Christmas. Those around our Christmas table were different this year. My sister’s mother-in-law passed away late in 2022, and her absence is still sorely felt. Aunt Jane suffered a great decline in health last fall and has been in a nursing home, and the week before Christmas, Daddy had to (quite unexpectedly) have a pacemaker put in! But the good news is that he got to come home before Christmas and seems to have bounced right back. So in addition to Christmas Day with our family, my sister and I went to see Aunt Jane, who is not doing well, then on the way home, I stopped by the hospital to see a dear friend who fell and shattered her hip and had to have hip surgery late on Christmas Eve!

The most peaceful hour I enjoyed this month was at the candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve (photo from the First Baptist Church of Newnan Facebook page). Definitely reminded Alex and me that despite all the family goings-on, the gift of Jesus—which sees us through the good days as well as the hard ones—is the REAL gift. And I marveled that despite all the challenges this month, I can truly say it was a joyful Christmas. Was yours? Oh, friends, I sure hope so!

Monday, December 25, 2023

Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas teas from Aldi

As a still-newish Aldi shopper, I had not even thought about looking for Christmas teas there until Ginger mentioned them in a comment a few weeks ago. So when I was in Aldi last weekend, I looked for any new teas and spotted three Christmas ones and got a box of each!

The Sugar Cookie tea from Benner Tea Co. is so sweet that it really does taste like it has sugar in it, although it's actually a white tea blend with chamomile, licorice and cinnamon. The combination is fabulous and rivals any of the best dessert teas I've ever tried.

Candy Cane is their peppermint-flavored tea, and it's an herbal tea with a nice robust minty flavor. I liked it a lot!

Cinnamon Spice is a cinnamon-flavored black tea, and it reminds me of a milder version of the Hot Cinnamon Spice tea by Harney. These teas were only $2.39 a box, and I will happily buy them all again if any are left the next time I visit Aldi!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Some gifts for the tea-themed tree—and me!

It was quite fun to have two unexpected gifts land in my mailbox last week, both containing ornaments that are now proudly hanging on my tree! First to arrive was this darling Hallmark ornament from my friend Joy, who knows how much I love Santa mugs. This "electric mixer" Santa mug is delightful, and in fact, I kind of think they ought to make a real electric mixer with a giant Santa mug for the mixing bowl. I'd buy it!

Then a few days later, my friend Frances sent this Old World Christmas teakettle ornament! (I always want to type "tea kettle," but the Merriam-Webster dictionary says "teakettle.") Teakettle ornaments seem to be the rarest of the tea-themed ornaments, and I love the pretty turquoise accent color on this one.

She also sent me one of the cute felted teacup ornaments she found at Target. I marvel that someone took the time to add the snowflake embellishment on top!

And finally, I've had this sweet ornament for months now and had forgotten that I'd placed it on my bookshelf upstairs. A friend who knows I write cozy mysteries and love teacups found this at the Georgia Writers Museum and thought it would be perfect for me. I agree. My tea-themed tree is so spoiled this year!

Monday, December 18, 2023

A new way to use cranberry sauce

I was flipping through some of my vintage recipe booklets the other night when a recipe called Cranberry Chews caught my eye. I love treats made with cranberries, but this one is made with cranberry sauce. I happened to have two cans of cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving, so I decided to give this recipe a try.

Now, I had assumed the "chews" would have the texture of a blondie, but they ended up tasting more like a cranberry cake. Still tasty, just not what I expected! And I must say these would be great on a tea table or as a teatime snack at the holidays. If you'd like to try them, too, here's the recipe.

Cranberry Chews

From Candy and Cookies Cook Book

By the Newnan Junior Service League (date unknown)

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1-1/2 cups prepared biscuit mix (I used Bisquick)

1 (8-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce, sliced into 1/4-inch cubes (note: I used just over half of a regular 14-ounce can)

1 cup chopped pecans

Confectioners' sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Stir in the biscuit mix. Fold cranberry sauce cubes into the batter as well as the pecans. Spread in well-greased and floured 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Sift confectioners' sugar over top. Cut into thin bars while slightly warm. Makes about 3 dozen bars.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Here come Santa mugs!

Okay, fellow Baby Boomers! Who grew up listening to the Gene Autry Christmas album? I can still hear him singing "Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane." Only today, I am thinking of updating the lyrics to say "Here come Santa mugs, here come Santa mugs, right down Santa mug lane!" Last week, I received a marvelous gift of seven new-to-me Santa mugs. My friend Teresa's middle daughter had found them in the attic of a house she rents, and the owner had told her she was welcome to anything she wanted in that attic. Well, the daughter and her sisters didn't want them, so Teresa claimed them for me. For years now, I have been sipping my Christmas tea out of vintage Santa mugs (the ones that are in great shape and don't have crazing), and I am always delighted to acquire new ones!

My favorite is this pink-faced Santa. All-pink Christmas decor is becoming a real trend, and I'm thinking of going pastel with next year's decorating, so this little guy is a welcome addition to my collection.

These are tiny little plastic Santa mugs that I believe were once sold in packages of six as party favors. I'm thrilled to have three of them!

This guy is what I consider Santa Mug Classic, and due to paint loss, age, and other factors, each one of these ends up being unique. I have quite a few of these since my late mother used to pick them up for me for 25 cents at Goodwill. I know this because the price, in grease marker, is still on the bottom of many of them. If she were still alive, she would be shocked to know that some Santa mugs are selling for $20 in antique malls, which is the reason I haven't bought a single one there!

Finally, these two matching Santa mugs look like some of the older ones in my collection, and I hope to pull them all out this weekend and take inventory before I fill a cabinet with them. I love the design and the coloring and the slightly smaller than usual size of these, and I also like that the one at left has his eyes open while the one at right is what collectors call a "winking Santa." But you know what else I like?

They still have the original labels on them from a company called Brinn's in Pittsburgh! I feel like I hit the jackpot with these mugs, which are truly an example of one (wo)man's trash being another (wo)man's treasure

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Recommended reading: "Living With Roses" by Victoria Magazine

On Saturday, I happened upon the most beautiful tea table book, and while the topic isn't anything remotely Christmasy, it's such a lovely book that I wanted to tell you about it so that a) you can look for the bargain version at your local T.J. Maxx and b) if that's not an option, you can perhaps add it to your Christmas wish list! The book retails for $39.95 on the Hoffman Media website, $31.99 on Amazon—and an additional $6.40 off with the instant-savings coupon I saw there yesterday, though those sometimes disappear overnight—and $24.99 at T.J. Maxx. (I had a gift certificate, so mine was free. Yay!)

Now, I'd seen Living With Roses advertised in Victoria, but I've already got so many books about roses and didn't know if there was anything particularly special about this one. But oh, there was! And at 10-1/2 by 11-1/2 inches, the book was much larger than I'd imagined as well.

One of my rules for purchasing picture books and magazines these days is that I quickly flip through it, and if I don't see three things I absolutely love, I leave it. Well, this was the first spread I turned to in Living With Roses, and I was hooked.

I also love to gather ideas that I can recreate with pieces I already own, and this vintage wicker tray with teacups on it reminded me that I have a pink wicker tray that I haven't used in a while. I think I see some sweet valentine décor in my future!

Dreaming of spring is often what gets me through the gray, gloomy days of winter. This tea table hits all the right notes, and would you get a gander at that tablecloth? What a spectacular print! This book has already been such a pleasure to look through, and I have a feeling I'll be enjoying it for a long, long time to come. Maybe you need a copy too? If so, let Santa know!

Monday, December 11, 2023

The tea-themed Christmas tree, 2023 version

As I was hanging more ornaments on the tea-themed Christmas tree last week, I told Alex, "I never thought I'd say this, but we have too many ornaments." He just looked at me. Actually, what I meant to say was that we need a bigger tree next year because this medium-sized white one is holding about as many as I safely feel it can support! It is always so lovely to hang these ornaments and think about the sweet friends who gave them to me (my favorite ornaments), the friends who gave them to me and are no longer with us (the most bittersweet moments of tree-decorating time), and the ornaments I purchased as souvenirs of a trip (also fun memories). Here's a sampling from 2023 …

Friday, December 8, 2023

Peppermint Bark Tea … from Walmart!

So I'd read that Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane tea was available at my local Walmart and had to run by there yesterday to get some. If the Candy Cane Lane tea is there, though, I never found it, but what I did find was their own Great Value brand tea in a "Limited Edition" Peppermint Bark flavor. Naturally, I had to grab a box.

Now, their tea bag packaging could use an upgrade, couldn't it? I expect something a little more festive in a holiday tea, but at least they are individually packaged, so I give points for that.

And I am happy to report that the tea is actually quite tasty! The ingredients? Cocoa shell, roasted carob, peppermint, spearmint, natural flavor, and sweet blackberry leaf. It definitely has that rich "dessert tea" taste, and at just $2.48 a box, I have to agree that it's a Great Value! Have any of you tried this yet?

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A cookbook signing for my friend Susan!

You know the girlfriend I took the cookie-decorating class with on Saturday, Susan? Well, she has just published her first book, a cookbook whose title features the nickname given to her by family and friends, Sweet Susie's Table: A collection of Southern desserts and appetizers. I am so proud of Susan for fulfilling her dream of writing a book and sharing some of the many delicious recipes for which she is so well-known. (Her book is beautiful, too, and I'm not just saying that because I got to edit it. I had nothing to do with the design!)

On Sunday afternoon, her coworker Jennifer opened her lovely home for a book signing and book launch party hosted by some of Susan's friends, and I was delighted to be one of them!

The book is currently sold out on Amazon and may not even be available again until after Christmas, but once it's available to order, I'll host a giveaway of a copy here so that Susan can sign a book for one of you!

Susan is one of the best cooks I have ever known, and some of the recipes from her book were served at the party. I especially wanted to show you fellow tea party lovers how she served samples of her famous Red Velvet Cake: She layered the cake and icing in these cute little square plastic cups (from Dollar Tree, to my great surprise!). I thought this was a fantastic idea for serving a favorite cake at teatime!

Her Crack Corn Dip was a huge hit …

And so were her Daddy's Chocolate Ritz Crackers.

Her Strawberry Bread with Cream Cheese Icing was so moist and delicious.

But my favorite? Can you believe it wasn't a sweet but this Pimiento Cheese Ball? Oh. My. Goodness. I'm so glad I have this recipe now!

It was so much fun to be with my dear friend as we gathered to celebrate her book. She sent an early copy to one of her baking mentors, someone she's had the privilege of meeting in person on many occasions, and amazingly enough, the lovely *Paula Deen* has already written her a beautiful thank-you note saying how much she enjoyed the book and that she read every word of it! I am so happy for Susan, so look for a very special cookbook giveaway in the new year!