Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year


Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  For the first time in several years, all my children and grandchildren celebrated with us on Christmas Day.  We enjoyed turkey with all the fixins for dinner and an over abundance of desserts including pecan pie, pumpkin pie, red velvet cake, sugar cookies, chocolate fudge, and Belgium chocolates.  Whew – I’m going to need those Zumba classes next year.

Our computer went on the fritz on December 23 and we didn’t get it back up for six days – maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  It meant that I had more time to read several new tea theme books. 


Leftover turkey at my house is usually transformed into turkey tetrazzini the week after Christmas, but this year I decided to try something different.  I made Southwestern turkey soup from a recipe I found online.  It was delicious and a little unusual with the diced fresh avocado and cilantro.  It was well spiced, even though I cut the cayenne pepper from 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4.

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The Traveling Tea Ladies book “Death in Dallas” has been an entertaining read so far.  One of the four main characters described the group as Steel Magnolias on steroids.  I like the many references to tea and the tea time recipes and tips.

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I’ve had lots of Christmas teas to sample, like this Harney & Sons Holiday tea.  It is a citrus and spice flavor tea, similar to others available at this time of year.  I do like the little tins (5 sachets per tin) that were perfect for stocking stuffers and small gift bags.


Wishing all of you a Happy New Year.     

Friday, December 23, 2011

International Tea Farms Alliance

Some time ago I received a package from ITFA that included four teas from Taiwan.


The ITFA was started by farmers at Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantation with support from tea farmers in Japan, Indonesia, India, Hawaii and Korea.  The organization was launched at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last June.  The main objective is to bring tea farmers and consumers closer together using the web, trade shows, conferences, etc.

The Global Tea Tasters Club is a remarkable resource for the tea enthusiast.  Not only do you have the opportunity to enjoy wonderful teas from several tea growing regions, but you obtain a wealth of knowledge about the tea farmers and their operations.



There were several pages of information with lots of interesting facts and photos about the history of Taiwanese tea, the farms and the growers.

The tea itself was well packaged, mostly using the vacuum pack method which really compacts the tea leaves.  The tea itself is very fresh and full of flavor.  One of my favorites is the Ruby Black Tea  from Yuan Shiang farm that I’ve been enjoying as my morning brew.  It’s a pleasure sampling the oolongs too and learning how the degree of fermentation or growing altitude affects the flavor of these teas.

Be sure to check out the interesting ITFA website and their Global Tea Tasters Club.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Tea Tree

I’ve been collecting ornaments for my tabletop tea tree for a number of years.  I love looking at it each Christmas and have it set up in my dining room.


This is last years tree.  I’m not sure if I’ll have time to put it up again before Christmas, but I did find one new ornament to add to my collection this year.


My tree already includes a couple of Spode teapots and a Spode cup with saucer in the “Christmas Tree” pattern, but this is the first time I’ve seen this little plate and spoon ornament. 


Won’t this make a pretty addition to my Christmas tea tree?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cloud Tea Monkeys

There are a lot of tea books available for young girls and I’ve purchased several for my little granddaughter.  I’ve never found any that I thought my grandsons (10 and 8) might enjoy, until now.


This book is based on the centuries-old legend of tea picking monkeys.  Tea that is sold today as monkey picked hasn’t literally been picked by monkeys, but refers to the highest quality Tie Guan Yin tea.

Cloud Tea Monkeys is full of wonderful characters, like the little girl Tashi, her mother, the heartless tea plantation overseer, the Royal Tea Taster and Rajah the head male monkey.  The drawings of the Tea Tasters face as he samples the tea in Tashi’s basket are quite hilarious.

This is like a tea fairy tale.  The little girls mother becomes very ill and can’t pick tea and there is no money for a doctor.  The little girl is too small to pick the tea in her place. 


Tashi pours out her heartache to the monkeys that she has befriended on the plantation.  Then something happens that will change her life forever. 


This book has vivid descriptions of the huge tea plantation and colorful illustrations (by Juan Wijngaard).

DSCF0544I loved this book with its happy ending and I hope my grandsons will too.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Cards

Is it just me, or are the holidays getting more hectic each year?  Although hubby has been out of the country on business for a while, he did manage to leave me several of his cross-stitch Christmas cards.


He stitched a series of cards including Hope, Faith, Love, and  Joy.



The cross-stitch pieces just slide into the cards and can be removed for framing.


There was also a series of smaller round pieces with various subjects.  My favorite is this snowman that suits the card perfectly.


Now I just need to get busy and send them out.  How about you – do you still mail Christmas cards?  Some people are turning to online cards and I have received some gorgeous animated ones.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Teavivre - Tea For Life

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of sampling tea from a group of tea lovers from China, Australia, Canada and France (all living in China)who make up TeavivreThis company has a terrific website with an impressive amount of tea information.  Be sure to check out all the great photos in the Tea Pictures section.  I especially enjoyed seeing the Tea Exhibition photos at three different locales.


The tea was very well packaged with individual bags of tea inside the foil pouch.  There is a great label on the back with a lot of really useful information including origin and manufacturer, production date, storage instructions, shelf life and a brew guide.


I have several types of tea to sample including Bailin Gonfu black, White Peony (Bai MuDan), Jasmine Dragon Pearls green, Yun Nan Dian Hong black, Dragon Well green and a Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Toucha.

Since I’m such a black tea lover, I first sampled the Bailin Gongfu. This brewed a satisfyingly smooth and slightly sweet cup of tea.  I really like this one.

I was tempted to try the Pu-erh next, since I was not feeling up to par and I’ve read that this tea (sometimes called a medicinal tea) is great for calming stomach upsets, but settled on White Peony instead.  I’m not fond of tea that is really flowery, but this Bai MuDan was delicate, sweet and not too flowery –  really delicious.

I’m very happy with the Teavivre tea that I’ve sampled thus far and will share more later.  Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn about the company and see the excellent variety of quality tea that is available, do visit their website.  They also have a reward program for discounts on future purchases and free shipping on orders over thirty dollars.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Charleston getaway

We just returned from a four day trip to the beautiful city of Charleston, SC.  It was lovely to have this mini vacation before hubby returns to Belgium.

There are so many historical buildings, museums, plantations, forts and parks to visit.  Many of these were within walking distance of the Lodge Alley Inn where we stayed. 

DSCF0484 The Inn has several buildings.  We were in the Griffith Suites building that was originally used as a powder magazine during the Civil War and has heavily reinforced walls and ceiling.


At four o’clock each afternoon the Inn served sherry and cookies in the lobby.  The weather was so warm that we often sat in the courtyard instead.

We were amazed by the number of restaurants in the historic district.  High Cotton and Magnolias, two excellent choices were on either side of Lodge Alley.  One of my favorite meals in Charleston is Shrimp & Grits, which I enjoyed at the High Cotton Sunday brunch.


Some of the best grits I had were from the Dixie Supply Bakery and CafĂ©.  We were told that Dixie Supply was on the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  The local stone-ground grits are cooked in heavy cream and butter, which gives them a wonderful creamy texture.

A horse drawn carriage ride is a popular way to enjoy the many sights.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and our tour enjoyable.  They decide your route after you have boarded and there are several.  We were a little disappointed that our route did not cover the battery with its magnificent homes and Rainbow Row.  

PB273628 So many of the buildings featured beautiful wrought iron gates and balconies.  The wealthy had little gardens tucked away behind their gates.  Many of the homes that did not have gardens had window boxes filled with flowers. 




Monday afternoon was spent at The Charleston Museum.  I was surprised at the size of their collection and delighted at the many tea related artifacts.  They have a great Historic Textiles Gallery, Civil War artifacts, historic Charleston silver and much more.



There was one antique store that we passed on our way back from the museum.  They had two tea caddies for sale, one traditional style with wood and crystal and this unusual one.  The $375 price tag was not in my budget.  My shopping consisted of adding a couple of Pandora beads to my bracelet at The Shops of Charleston Place in the Charleston Place Hotel.  I also bought a tea bag caddy and a lovely Charleston souvenir photo book.

DSCF0518 Of course, a visit to the Historic Charleston City Market was a must.  There are four blocks of open air buildings with the main entrance on Meeting Street.  Locally made sweetgrass baskets are beautiful and collectible and you can see them being woven and purchase them at the market.


I’m sure that you can tell by now that I loved my second visit to Charleston.  Everyone should visit this great city at least once.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dainty Dining

The new book Dainty Dining by Angela Webster McRae is a wonderful collection of heartwarming stories, recipes and tea room memorabilia.


Whether you’re a tea enthusiast, history buff, or love to cook, this book is for you.  Dainty Dining explores department store tea rooms in their heyday.  Many of these department stores are now defunct, but their fascinating history and delicious recipes have been passed along for us to enjoy.

As I read their stories and looked at the memorabilia, I wished that I’d had the opportunity to dine at Burdines, Filene’s, Gimbels, Rich’s  or any of the twenty department store tea rooms included in the book.  It’s been great fun to step back in time and visit them by way of the writers extensive research and remarkable collection of postcards, menus, china and more.  I can’t wait to recreate some of their most popular recipes like Chicken a la King, Filene’s Seafood Newburg, Innes Tea Room’s Rum Cream Pie, or Crystal Tea Room Hot Cheese Tarts for a start.

I’d enjoyed Angela’s writing on her fun and informative blog Tea With Friends and been enriched by our friendship.  If you would like to add Dainty Dining to your library, it is available for sale on her blog.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Tea Cubed

There always seems to be something new in tea, doesn’t there?

I think the pyramid shaped silky tea bags are a step up from the square paper bags.


Now Lu Lin Tea has introduced their loose tea in cubes.  This would appear to have the advantage of giving the loose tea leaves more room to expand.

Lu Lin tea cubed

The company has a nice selection of tea in cubes, including Long Jing Green Tea, Jasmine Dragon Pearls, Fujian Oolong, Ginseng Oolong, Puerh, Puerh with Lavender, Keemun Breakfast and Lapsang Souchong.

Right now I have several new teas to try from International Tea Farms Alliance,  so I probably won’t be purchasing tea cubes anytime soon.  I’d love to hear if any of you have tried Lu Lin tea cubes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shaving Mug or Mustache Cup

This mug was a find at a local thrift store recently.  I knew that it would be perfect for my future son-in-laws firefighter collection.


It is a bit confusing when comparing the two.  The mustache cup was invented in the early 1800’s because most men in Victorian times had a mustache.  They were waxed and curled and could be quite elaborate.  The problem arose when their mustache would hang into the beverage cup and drip wax into their drink.  The ladies did not find a dripping mustache to be very attractive, and it was certainly not clothing friendly.

The solution was to put a ledge or guard in the cup.


Many beautiful cups and saucers have a mustache guard, but this sturdy mug was used for shaving.  The holes let the soapy water drain back into the mug.  Shaving with a straight razor must have been difficult (and dangerous), so most gentlemen visited the barber shop to get a shave.  Many of them had their own shaving mug which they left at the shop for their exclusive use. 

Some were occupational mugs, like this firemen mug.  Many had the owners name or monogram.


So, I’ll still be on the lookout for a pretty mustache cup and saucer, but I’m glad that I found this shaving mug and learned a little bit about the difference between a shaving mug and a mustache cup.

I’ve only seen one mug with this particular scene online, but it was a slightly different shape.  This one may have been made in Japan.  There are no markings on the bottom.  If you know any more, I’d love to hear it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Everything Alice

The Wonderland Book of Makes & Bakes (Read-Baldrey & Leech) is a recent addition to my tea library.  This book  makes me wish that there was more time for crafting and baking in my life.


The book began as an idea hatched over a shared cup of tea and the authors then spent months preparing all the projects and photo styling, etc.  The terrific photographs were taken by Tiffany Mumford.


There are so many lovely projects and recipes that it is hard to pick some to share with you.  I thought the Time For Tea jewelry was really cute.


I’ve been meaning to make some teacup candles for a while now.


This Vintage Cake Stand is also on my to do list.  What a fab way to repurpose your mismatched china pieces.  I love the mini cupcakes with their fresh flower toppers.  There is also a project that uses fabric to cover an old teapot, much like my friend Angela did at Tea With Friends.


Look at this wonderful celebration Red Velvet Cupcake.


I’m sure some of you talented bakers could make these adorable Wonderland cookies -


or Curious Teapot Cake.

There are many more great recipes and projects using embroidery, applique and more.  I liked the Lavender Dormice, Drink-Me Cordials, Cheshire Cat Hand Warmers, Tweedledum & Tweedledee Shoebags, Wonderland Aprons, Tea Set Invitations and Duchess Macaroons, to name a few. 


Of course, no tea party ensemble would be complete without a hat.  The teacup shape and toile fabric made this my favorite hat project of the book. 

So yes, I’d definitely recommend Everything Alice to my friends.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Masons Friarswood Teapot

This teapot in my sister-in-laws collection is an interesting shape.  I really like the allover textured relief pattern and the fancy knob on the lid.


I don’t know the history of this teapot, but it is probably circa l970.   


This is Masons made in England ironstone in pattern C4856.  Because of its exceptional durability, ironstone is great for everyday use tableware.


It says “guaranteed permanent acid resisting color” on the bottom, instead of dishwasher safe as it would today.  Household automatic dishwashers didn’t really catch on until the 1950’s, although the first practical machine was invented in 1886 by Josephine Cochrane.

I’ve seen other pieces in this pattern on eBay and it seems to be quite popular with collectors.  You can find some of the history of Mason’s Ironstone here.  


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