Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Early Spring Flowers

One of my favorite experiences in life is the anticipation and then discovery of the first flowers of Spring! Ours came about 2 weeks ago. Today, the DH (dear husband) and I went for a noon-time walk and found several floral treasures. Within about 3 weeks (I'm hoping), some daffodils will be in bloom. A few are usually showing their splendor for my birthday. >-)

I came home and had a cup of black tea with a lot of milk and sugar to celebrate! I'm also like the Victorian ladies in that I enjoy keeping notes in my journal regarding what flowers are in bloom over the course of the seasons. Enjoy the photo tour.

Crocus in my yard

Aconites amidst the fall leaves

A slow and happy bee in an early spring feast

Squirrel was definitely interested in eating and not worried about me.

Pretty setting on the IU campus. The small white dots in the foreground are snowdrops.

Close up of snowdrops.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Art & Etiquette of the British Afternoon Tea Class in Midwest

I held my first Art and Etiquette of the British Afternoon Tea class in the Midwest this past Saturday. It was great fun!

I developed this class for the Continuing Education program at the University of New Mexico. When we moved to the Midwest, I worked with the local Continuing Ed group to offer the class here.

My group of 18 students seemed to have a lovely time. I asked students to bring their favorite teacup/saucer or mug. Many of them shared stories about the history of their cup, or loved teaware at home.
The tea class covered the differences between types of tea, how tea is processed, history of tea, tea etiquette, how to make a great pot of tea, and tea appreciation. I will be offering the class again in the fall.

Many thanks to the students for enriching the afternoon!

(Unfortunately, I was so busy, I forgot to take any photos!)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Family Tea Party with Blue Willow China

As a celebration for the launch of my sister's new Day Spa, I hosted a tea party (at the spa) with my Mom, Sister, and special friends. In planning for this party, I asked if I could use some of my Mom's china. I had suggested her white Pfaltzgraff, but she instead suggested her Blue Willow. I was excited by that opportunity, because the Blue Willow china is lovely! I was even more delighted when Mom started digging in her cupboard and pulled out pieces I didn't even know she still had! I was aware of the cups and saucers, but she also had luncheon and dinner plates, and a creamer and sugar. :-) I remember these items sitting on the built-in shelves of my childhood home, but had just assumed they didn't make it through the years. This blue willow china is what my mother received (from my grandmother) when she married my father.

Blue willow china was inpired by a beautiful story about forlorn lovers.

We had a lovely celebration for my sister! We enjoyed three sandwiches: cream cheese and olive, cucumber and butter, and dried fruit with cream cheese. We savored chunks of muenster cheese. We ate blueberry scones with devonshire cream and lemon curd. We finished with chocolate brownies and tart grapes. All of this we enjoyed with Black Pearl tea. Fun! Thanks to Mom, Sis and friends for joining me!

We also started a little girl on her journey as a tea party fan! When it was time to leave, she insisted the tea party was "not over!" She also ate several sandwiches and two scones! You go, girl!

Sweet memories!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bragging Rights of a Big Sister

As a big sister, I hold the unique privilege of being able to dish out lots of unsolicited advice on how my younger sister should run her life. (In reality, I'm really working hard not to do this!) At the same time, I also claim the right to be the third-most-proud person in the world of the little sis's accomplishments. (Spots #1 and #2 reserved by Mom and husband.) Right now, I'll claim this bragging right...

My sister just opened Practical Magic day spa in Salem, IL. It's in a beautiful old home, which is listed in the National Historic Register. The downstairs contains the reception area and a salon. Massages can also be performed downstairs. Upstairs holds three very large massage rooms and an office. The staff of Practical Magic have done a terrific job of decorating the place. It's tasteful and luxurious and calming. It's one of those spaces I just don't want to leave.

The house is a *perfect* setting for a tea-party! We've already had one; a little celebration yesterday. Photos to come in a separate post.

If you're in the South-Central IL area, stop by! The day spa is just a hop off of Interstate 57. Phone 618-548-1322. Here are some photos:

Finding Two Teas I've Mentioned

I've had questions about how to find two teas I've mentioned....

Black Pearl is a blend of black tea, jasmine tea, and vanilla. You can find it online at Serendipity Teas or at the St. James tearoom in Albuquerque, NM.

Picasso Soiree is a black tea flavored/scented like caramel and cream. You can find it at the St. James tearoom in Albuquerque, NM.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Victorian Manor Tea Room

I had the chance over this past weekend to visit the Victorian Manor Tea Room in Orange, CA. I was happy to be visiting with a friend and colleague! Here are a few photos...if you're ever in the area, it's definitely worth the stop.

The day was warm. The 80s temps felt heavenly compared to my 40-degree Midwest weather! Here is my friend standing in one of the arched entrance areas.

The tea room is a historic home in "Old Orange." Lovely grounds surrounded the wrap-around porch. Here, I'm standing in the gazebo.

The menu was very full - scone, soup, several finger sandwiches, fruit and veggies, truffles, and an assortment of desserts!

Friday, February 10, 2006

548 Cups of Tea

That's how many the DH (dear husband) and I served at the recent Chocolate Festival. Well, to be accurate, it's how many cups the DH brewed and served. He was the work horse. I just stood there and talked to people. I have fun at these kinds of things. I enjoy talking to people about tea. I had samples of the dry leaf for people to look at and smell, and we gave out small cups of Chocolate Mint tea. Folks seemed to really respond to the sensory experiences (visual/smell/taste).

The Chocolate Festival is a fundraiser for Options for Better Living.

Here are a few photos...

Me preparing to play hostess while the DH does all the work!

The DH ready for the masses!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lovely Jonquils

...."So lovely, that country in May. - All lacy with dogwood, literally flooded with jonquils! That was the spring I had the craze for jonquils. Jonquils became an absolute obsession. Mother said, 'Honey, there's no more room for jonquils.' And still I kept on bringing in more jonquils. Whenever, wherever I saw them, I'd say, "Stop! Stop! I see jonquils! I made the young men help me gather the jonquils! It was a joke, Amanda and her jonquils! Finally there were no more vases to hold them, every available space was filled with jonquils. No vases to hold them? All right, I'll hold them myself - And then I - [She stops in front of the picture.] met your father! Malaria fever and jonquils and then - this - boy...."

Amanda (Mother), Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

I played Laura (the daughter) in the Glass Menagerie as a Sr. in high school. I remember this scene so well. It was played by my best friend. Performing in this role had a profound effect on me. I recall the feeling of total abandon to my character.

I have always loved all varieties of daffidils - jonquils, narcissis, etc. My stepfather brings to my mother old fashioned ones that have double heads. They're more green than yellow. They're ready usually by late March....around my birthday. Perhaps that's why I love daffodils so much!

Right now I am sipping ginger tea (tisane) and breathing the super-sweet aroma of the jonquils sitting on my work desk. We "forced" these. The bulbs lived in the fridge from the fall - Jan 2. They started blooming in the last week and the aroma is heavenly!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Cup of Tea in Tribute

Two women that I admire deeply passed away this past week.
Civil rights leader
Coretta Scott King and feminist pioneer Betty Friedan.

I admire Coretta Scott King for her work in racial and economic justice. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which worked to remove what Scott King believed to be sources of violence: hunger, unemployment, voting rights, and racism.

I admire Betty Friedan for raising awareness that women can, indeed must, be fulfilled beyond their husbands and children. Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, is credited for beginning the feminist movement. As a woman who is happily choosing not to have children, I owe a lot to Friedan for her controversial and rebellious thinking in 1963!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Happy First Day of Spring!

Happy first day of spring! This may sound a little early for you, but the DH and I celebrate on Feb 1st. It's at this time of year that the northern hemisphere gains more solar energy than it loses; that marks a significant change for me. In addition, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinths are pushing up through the earth. It is spring!

We celebrate by having fresh flowers in the house. I'm lucky this year to have home-grown flowers. We've got beautiful geraniums that have been blooming all winter, and the last amaryllis flower. We've got daffodils that we're forcing to bloom. We should see the first yellow blossoms in the next few weeks. We'll buy a few more flowers this afternoon, to really celebrate!

I'm also drinking Ice Wine tea as a special treat. It's become one of my all-time favorites.

It's a mixed blessing for me today. I always look forward to this turning of the calendar. And yet, it is hard for me to filter out the noise of our times. Let me just say this, I am extremely disappointed in the leadership of our country. There is no "winning" to war.

I got Phished, but all is well...

Be careful out there. I avoided a very clever Phishing scam this morning. (Phishing is when someone attempts to get your personal information by sending an official-looking e-mail. It's fraud.)
This one was targeted at my Pay Pal account. The phishing note indicated that I had added an additional e-mail to my account. I had not done this, so I clicked on the link that said, "If this is incorrect, click here." Well, when I went to that link, the system demanded that I "update" my credit card information. That seemed very suspicious to me. The system looked identical to Pay Pals, except that it wouldn't let me go anywhere else on the page until I entered my credit card info. That was my tip-off. I called Pay Pal. It was a scam. I am very grateful I didn't supply my info. I went back into my real Pay Pal account, removed all my credit card info, and changed my password.

Professional institutions (banks, online businesses, etc.) should never ask for your account details (password, credit card, etc.) via e-mail. Never give out this private info via e-mail!

This scam was a little more sophisticated because it actually took me to a website that looked identical to Pay Pal's. If you are at a website that is asking for your private information and it just doesn't "feel" safe to you, trust your gut. If you have any doubt whatsoever, give the institution a call before entering your info. It's better to be safe than sorry! These phishing scams can be very convincing.

If any one else has internet safety recommendations, please share them!