Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.   I had a great time with our family celebrations.  Now it’s time for a little rest and relaxation (and trying to lose this cold) before the New Year and another round of dinners and family birthday celebrations.  My three children and one of my two grandsons all have January birthdays.

It has been nice to spend quite a bit of time curled up in my warm jammies with a cup of tea and a good book.  I’ve read all four books in the Twilight series in the last couple of weeks (mostly out of curiosity) and found them to be entertaining, albeit far fetched.  Now I’ll concentrate on my Christmas books.  There is “Death At Buckingham Palace” and several new tea books.


I’ll have lots of new tea to enjoy while reading them.  My hubby gave me a case of PG Tips pyramid tea bags, plus a large box of London Cuppa.  I also have three tins of loose tea that came in my Martha Stewart Tea box – more about that later, plus various other small boxes of gift tea.

PC271165The Martha box contains Green, Earl Grey and Golden Assam.  I’m also enjoying my own Christmas ParTea blend from Adagio. 

PC291168This cute Lenox ornament was a little “after Christmas shopping” gift to myself.  It is perfect with the comfy chair holding a little mug of tea with cookies and a book. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Tea Poem

A Cup Of Christmas Tea is one of my very favorite Christmas books.  Most of you have probably heard this poem at one time or another, since it has been around since 1981.  No matter how often I read it, I’m moved to tears every time.

Then in 1999 a wonderful sequel was written called A Memory of Christmas Tea. 

PC151106 There are a few tea theme ornaments that are too large for my little tabletop tea tree.  They hang on our large living room Christmas tree.




I’m planning to do some more baking today and work on preparations for our family Christmas Eve dinner.  My children can’t all be here on the same day, so we have two dinners.  Tomorrow it will be standing rib roast with an English sherry trifle for dessert.  Of course, Christmas Day we will feast on turkey and stuffing, with pecan and pumpkin pies for dessert.


Monday, December 21, 2009


Gingerbread has been around since ancient times.  It can be made as a cake or cookie with ginger and molasses as its main flavor.  It is thought that the Crusaders brought gingerbread to Europe during the 11th century.  It became so popular during medieval times that people held gingerbread fairs.  The English added bread crumbs to their recipes, often quite stale bread crumbs, with many spices added to hide that fact.  This led to the distinctive flavor of the dessert.  Some recipes add pepper, raisins, nuts and spices to the batter.


Did you know that Nuremberg, Germany was once known as the gingerbread capitol of the world.  It was not made at home, but exclusively by master bakers known as the Lebkuchler.  I’m glad that here it’s a popular home baked Christmas treat.

 My grandsons build a gingerbread house each year with their Aunt Cynthia and look forward to this Christmas tradition.  It’s a simple project if you use one of the many gingerbread house kits available at this time of year.  Unfortunately, unlike homemade gingerbread,  it’s usually not edible, especially after sitting around as a decoration for a while.  The boys do pick some of the candies off and eat them. 

When I was a child, my Mom always baked (made from scratch) gingerbread men at Christmas.  She would use icing to dress them, some with pants and some with skirts – they were so cute, and delicious.  Once I baked chocolate gingerbread men that turned out really well, but I haven’t had much luck with gingerbread cake.   

Do any of you bake gingerbread at Christmas? 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Tea Tree

I finally got my little dining room tea tree up this morning and so close to Christmas.  I’ll just have to leave it up through January to have maximum enjoyment from it.  Some tea rooms I’ve been to have a Christmas tree display that is left up all year – now there’s a thought.

PC181118I do enjoy adding new ornaments each year.  My favorite addition this year was my little Wedgwood Jasper Ware teacup that I posted about earlier.

PC181110This little three tier stand with its plates of goodies is very cute.

PC181112Here is a cake stand with little dangling forks and spoons and a pretty plum pudding with whipped cream.

PC181113This tea trolley with the tiny teapot and Yule log is another favorite.

PC181116I have a couple of these earlier version Spode teapots and the matching teacup and saucer.

PC181117This is one of several pretty teacups that were purchased on a trip to Tennessee.  They were made to commemorate Old Country Roses Ruby Anniversary.  They came in several chintz patterns and colors. 

PC181111 I love this little china tray that holds a creamer and sugar bowl.

My tabletop tree should have room for lots more ornaments.  It’s always fun to find something new each year.  Now I think it’s time for a cup of tea and a sit down to relax and enjoy my tea tree.



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Decorating and Snacks

I’ve been admiring lots of gorgeous Christmas decor on some of my favorite blogs.  Christmas is almost here and I’m struggling to finish my decorating.  It would be nice to have a little time to enjoy it before having to take it all down and pack it up for another year.

This morning the fireplace mantle was decked out for the holidays. 

PC161109I did notice that my star garland that I’ve used for several years is starting to look a little wilted.  It was fun to make the stars using lots of fabric scraps, beads and torn strips of muslin. 

PC161111   I think my favorite is a checked Debbie Mumm fabric with little teabags.

PC161112 I’d like to make a teapot garland to use next year.  Forget Christmas in July, judging by the way things are going this year,  I’d better get started in January.

My favorite snack helps keep my strength up for all these holiday activities.  It’s always great when the clementines start arriving from Spain in their little wooden crates.  PC151102 They are so sweet and juicy, easy to peel and seedless – you can’t beat that.PC151103Our family easily goes through several boxes before they go out of season.  I’ve been enjoying them with a handful of cashews au poivre.  No I don’t make these, they are Emerald brand sea salt & pepper cashews.

Do you have a favorite Christmastime snack and are you still decorating? 


Monday, December 14, 2009

Yule Log

The Yule log was traditionally cut on Christmas Eve and placed on the hearth by the master of the house.  The custom dates back to the 12th century and was known in most countries of Europe.  Today the Yule log has become a traditional Christmas cake with chocolate icing.




3/4 c. sifted cake flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3 tbsp. water

2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. light cream
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. vanilla


3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. cream

Grease a 15"x10"x1" jelly roll pan; line bottom with wax paper, which has been greased. Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder into small bowl. In medium sized mixing bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Add sugar gradually, beating until very thick. Add vanilla and water; fold in flour mixture.

Spread batter in pan. Bake in 375 degree oven for 12 minutes or until center springs back lightly when touched. Loosen cake around edges with small spatula; invert pan onto a clean towel which has been dusted with confectioners' sugar. Peel off wax paper. Roll up cake in towel. Place on wire rack, seam side down; cool. Prepare the filling and spread on cake as directed. Chill cake overnight then frost as directed.

FILLING: Mix egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan; blend in cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Cool and chill. In mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until soft and smooth. Beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Mix instant coffee with vanilla and add to sugar mixture. Add custard a spoonful at a time, beating constantly until light and fluffy.

Unroll cake, spread with 2/3 of filling. Roll up cake. Place seam side down on cookie sheet. Spread with rest of filling mixture; chill overnight then frost.

FROSTING: Melt chocolate pieces, butter and cream over hot water, stirring until smooth. Let stand 5 minutes; quickly spread over roll. Score lightly with fork tines for textured effect. Chill cake overnight; keep chilled until serving time.

It can be a lot of fun to decorate your Yule log with meringue mushrooms, Christmas greens, etc.  People can be quite creative with these cakes and you will see them featured in many Christmas books and magazines.  Sometimes chestnut puree is used in the filling and the cake can be white, instead of chocolate.  A bark look can be created by drawing the tines of a fork along the frosting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Card Holder

One of the craft workshops at our ladies Holiday Hearts and Homes event this year was a cute Christmas card holder.  I usually stash all my cards in a basket on the coffee table, but that makes it harder to enjoy looking at them.  When I saw this fun project, I had to make one for myself.

It only takes a few simple supplies and is constructed around a wire tomato cage.  You clip the cards on with small binder clips.  The decoration on the top is a Christmas door knob hanger.

PC071081 It was quick and easy to put together.  I like that you can switch out the paper and use it to hold other cards, (birthday, anniversary, etc.)  or make a money tree for a fundraising event.

PC071082I think it is a unique way to display your cards so that everyone can enjoy them at a glance.

PC071083  Now I’d better get busy writing my cards, especially to my relatives and friends in the Great White North.  I believe the postal deadline for Christmas card delivery to Canada is tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tea and Hoppers

I had never heard of hoppers until seeing the entry yesterday in my tea calendar.  I have always enjoyed cookbooks and magazines  that feature foods from around the world, but this dish was totally new to me.  Having lunch with tea and hoppers is an institution in Sri Lanka. 


They are made of rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, salt and yeast and are served with curry or a spicy sauce.  They are like a crepe bowl, with an egg cooked on top.

Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world and the people there drink a lot of tea.  That wasn’t always the case and before the 1860’s their main crop was coffee.  Then the coffee rust fungus killed off most of the coffee plants and a lot of the estates took to growing tea to avoid financial ruin. 

A lot of people consider high grown Sri Lanka tea as the “champagne” of Ceylon teas.  Products containing 100 percent Ceylon tea will have a special Lion logo on the package.

Ceylon tea Lion logoI’ve probably drank many teas that are a blend containing Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.  I have read that all Sri Lanka’s black teas taste best with a little milk, which is how I enjoy my black tea.

As for the hoppers, I’d like to try some for lunch one day with a nice cuppa.     


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas crafting

It seems like the older you get the faster the year flies by.  When I was a kid my Dad was always telling me “don’t wish your life away”.  You know how that goes – I wish it was summer holidays, or my birthday or Christmas.  Now I wish things would slow down instead.

Christmas in July for crafters makes sense now.  I’ve left it too late again and now I’m scrambling to finish gift bags, etc.

PC011068 At least the little gift tote bags can be whipped up in a hurry.  They are much quicker than the snowmen.  How about you – have you finished your Christmas crafting?

PC011069 Now for something not craft related – a new tea that I tried on the long drive to St. Augustine.

PB241038 Rooibos tea is not a favorite of mine, but I like pomegranate and passion fruit, so I thought this was worth a try.  I was pleasantly surprised by the unique refreshing flavor.  It’s nice that it doesn’t contain caffeine either and at 50 calories not too much of an indulgence. 

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