Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tea Art Wallets

I made these sweet wallets using tea calendar artwork. I love them! These wallets are very versatile and hold quite a bit of stuff! I would love to share with you how I made these, but honestly, I can't. It was hard and I had Sweetcakes by my side. (She's the one who really figured it out!)

Mine is the one in green on the left. I gave the other two as gifts.

Here's what the inside looks like. The red part on bottom is actually the pocket piece. The raw ingredients for these include newspaper, card stock. artwork cut to size (and placed strategically), contact paper, and double-stick tape. Add in some magical origami-like folding, and you've got a really cool wallet!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This week's tea blogathon theme is Litera-Tea (from Gracious Hospitality). I'm not at home, so I don't have access to my normal library of tea books, but thought I'd share two fun finds from my Tucson trip. At Bookman's, an awesome used bookstore, I found these two books.

The first, A Perfect Cup of Tea, was written by journalist Arthur Gray in 1903. What I love most about this book is the lovely artwork (shown at bottom). The second book I nabbed is The Language of Flowers, by Kate Greenaway. This book was originally published in 1884, and also contains wonderful artwork. And I never knew that flowers could convey so many diverse sentiments. I've been somewhat surprised to find that not all of them are happy. In my world, flowers only bring happiness. :-) This book is fun, tho, because you can use it as a reference either by flower or by desired expression.

Images from A Perfect Cup of Tea

Monday, March 24, 2008

This Incredible Skirt!

Today is my last day in Tucson (big sigh).  The weather has been perfect and I've had a wonderfully reviving visit!

We visited Buffalo Exchange earlier in the week. If you don't know of Buffalo Exchange, it's a really cool place.  Like a thrift store (clothes/shoes/accessories only), but only current styles. Prices are a little higher than a thrift store, but a lot less than at a regular store.  While shopping, Roxy Red says from the other end of the store, "Steph - I found the PERFECT skirt for you!"  And here it is!  It was even in my size!

It's got a tea party scene on the bottom with teapots and teacups embroidered throughout.  It's also lined and has this lovely turquoise trim on the bottom.  It is just such a sweet skirt!

And the story gets better!  Here's what I paid for it:

And here's the original price for this unworn Ann Taylor LOFT skirt. 
It's just a cool thing when the serendipitous parts of life bless us like this!  

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bewley's Irish Breakfast

I'm really liking this Bewley's Irish Breakfast tea.  Irish Breakfast is traditionally an Assam, which makes a very strong tea.  The typical "wake me up" punch. I'm not a huge fan of the Assam intensity.  What I like about this Bewley's is that it is mixed with Darjeeling.  The Darjeeling gives the Assam a counter-balance.  For me, this is a great cuppa.

Also, I poured some of Tea G's Hurricane Herbal over ice today.  LOVE it!  Hurricane Herbal is indeed very herbally, and drinking it over ice is so refreshing.

Wrap Me in Duck Tape, Please!

Yep, you read it right! And here's the story - my friend, AZ Tea Lover, had this great idea to make custom dress forms while I'm in town. It's a 3-person project, so having her sister here at the same time was a great benefit. Find a tutorial on this Etsy site tutorial.

The gist of the process is to wear a form-fitting shirt then wrap layers of duct tape around your torso. Once it's quite solid, you make seam lines on it and cut it up the back. Then you stuff it. Voila - a custom dress form! (Now, I just need to learn to use it!)  

Note - If you try this at home, be sure to enlist a partner.  Two helpers is even better!  Also, these people will be taping your entire torso, so make sure you pick people you're comfortable with.

Start with a base layer over a snug shirt you can sacrifice.

Keep going until the entire bodice is covered. After this stage, add vertical strips (not shown) of tape to reinforce and smooth out. Note: This stage is mildly uncomfortable. I could breathe fine, tho shallowly.  This look reminds me of 7 of 9.  Any Star Trek fans out there?

Mark the back line, bust line, waist line, hip line, shoulder line, side seams (and note measurements). Then have your partner cut you out of it, down the back line.

Me and my shadow...

A Tucson Surprise!

I had the privilege to play part in a great surprise for my Tucson host, AZ Tea Lover. Her sister flew in and met me at the airport and together we greeted AZ Tea Lover. She wasn't expecting her sister, and the surprise on her face was priceless! The three of us all love tea and we have birthdays within about a week of each other. Fun, Fun!

We've been celebrating with these yummy cupcakes from Sweetcakes. They are divine!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Magical Day

Today is a magical day! It's the spring equinox, a full moon, Good Friday - and my 35th birthday! Birthdays are always magical, but with the alignment of all of these other special events, it's a very powerful day! I went for a walk this morning and plan to celebrate with a big bowl of posole (vegetarian-style) tonight, thanks to the DH's culinary skills. I'm heading out tomorrow for a few days in sunny Tucson, to spend time with AZ tea lover.

Here is a poem I wrote for my b-day last year. I like it so much, I've brought it back for an encore.

Cheers! Stephanie

Riches of My Life

A yellow daffodil and the scent of geranium

A safe home

Wealth enough to give me plenty of what I need and, thankfully,
Only some of what I want

A spirit and will that are my own

A body that I have befriended

A steadfast family

A life partner who challenges me, loves me, and feeds me -
My body and my soul

Friends that touch my heart

A mind that can discern its own truths

Enough pain and loss to make what I have
Ever sweeter

Plans and dreams

My life is 35 years beautiful
And I am present
I am flowing -
Flowing over with gratitude

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Day of Spring Tea

Hello and happy First Day of Spring (according to the Roman calendar). See my post here about how I celebrated the beginning of Spring a long time ago!

I'm sending a shout-out and birthday wishes to Roxy Red today! Roxy Red is one of the most dedicated tea drinkers I know!

I'm also participating in Par Tea Planner's First Day of Spring tea party. Here's my spring tea table:

It's a diminutive set, perfect for a child and her (or his) doll. The DH (dear hubby) found it at a local thrift store. I love the Alice in Wonderland motif!

Speaking of Spring, here is my version of Easter eggs. They're tea died and I think they're fabulous...but there's a reason I only made two! Recipe below. Main ingredient: patience!

The two brightly webbed eggs still have their thin skin intact (mostly). The other two do not. You can see that the tea dying is still present on the left/right eggs, but it's much less impressive. What is so hard - and takes so much patience - is peeling the hard boiled eggs so that the skin does not come off. I had to chip away, one tiny piece at a time.

For the patient lot of you, here are the instructions:
  • Hard boil your eggs.
  • Make a saucepan full of really strong black tea (use enough liquid to cover the eggs).
  • With a spoon, lightly crack the egg shells (the more cracks, the more pattern). Be sure not to crack so much that the shell falls off. It needs to be cracked, but still intact.
  • Let the eggs steep over night in the tea bath, in the fridge.
  • Shell very carefully and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I'm participating in Gracious Hospitality's blogathon on tea-themed topics. This week's topic, the story of a favorite teacup and saucer, stumped me. I don't have one favorite. I have many favorites. They're all favorites, but in different ways. So, I picked one that I haven't blogged about before.

This lovely cup and saucer came to me as a gift from my sister, for my birthday a few years ago. I love the bold colors and the hand-painted details. Something about this set prompts me to be contemplative.

The cup and saucer remind me of my sister, too. She is both bold and contemplative, qualities I greatly admire.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chandler House Tea Room

Last Saturday, two girlfriends and I "broke away" (hee hee -if you know Indiana movie trivia or you are a cyclist, you'll get the reference) from a busy month to spend some time relaxing and enjoying each other's company. We visited the Chandler House Tea Room in Bedford, IN. This newly-opened tea room serves a luncheon menu from 11 am - 2 pm. On the menu, you'll find sandwiches, soups, salads and marvelous tea-themed desserts. I was very impressed with the tea menu, which highlighted over 20 high-quality loose teas.

One friend chose a hand-tied artisan tea. It was fun to watch it unfurl and display the artistic flower inside.

The other friend and I split a pot of Lover's Leap (black estate tea), served in this lovely cream and brown pot.

We all ordered quiche and a salad, both of which were delicious. Notice the heart-shaped cheese. Such attention to detail always impresses me!

The dessert menu included scones, petit fours and tartlets. We had some of all! It's hard to pick a favorite!

The tearoom decor was very elegant. Deep burgundies and gold were featured throughout. This tea cart caught my eye!

If you live in the area, I highly recommend a visit to the Chandler House Tea Room in Bedford (812-278-8923)! You will also enjoy browsing through the small gift shop that, by the way, sells the brown and cream teapot featured above.

Thanks to K (Sweetcakes) for sharing some of her photos! You can read her review of the tearoom here. I always find it interesting to read various reviews of a tea room.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ireland: A Piece of my Tea Heart

Ireland holds a special place in my heart when it comes to tea. You see, it was in the Shelbourne Hotel in Ireland that I first had a formal afternoon tea. That was approximately 10 years ago. I had been a fan of hot tea my whole life, and I held tea parties with my grandmothers. But it was Ireland that gave me my first look at a three-tiered stand and the fancy foods with all the trimmings.

I remember the scene well. It was my last day in Ireland. I had been to Leixlip for a work trip, and stayed the weekend in Dublin. It was an event of special import for a number of reasons, including that it was my first time to travel outside the US alone and I was staying in a youth hostel alone, both of which pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone. But I stayed with the challenge and have such wonderful memories!

The tea story goes like this...I had spent the day shopping in Dublin and was eagerly anticipating the pinnacle event of the week - afternoon tea in the Lord Mayor's Lounge of the Shelbourne Hotel.

I remember walking into the tea room and seeing all of these well-appointed, sophisticated-looking people (men and women) having tea. I felt a bit under-dressed, as I had on simple slacks and a sweater. Most of the women were in hats! But the hostess was kind to me and I was made to feel most comfortable. The savories featured salmon sandwiches. I don't think I had ever tasted a more heavenly morsel. Then came the scones - oh, my! And I thought they were dessert. Imagine my surprise when out came the bite-sized chocolate cake, the shortbread cookies and the fruit tartlets.

On a related note, I was in London last year just before St. Patrick's Day. I was on the Tea in London tour, and it was magnificent! To celebrate my year anniversary of going on that tour, and with a nod today toward the British Isles, I pulled out a cookbook I had purchased last year in a used book store on Channing Cross Road.

The cookbook has old Scottish recipes. Scottish folks are often credited for being the originators of the scone. Last night I made Treacle (Molasses) scones. I had to do a bit of interpretation for the measurements. I will give you the originals and my guesstimations below. The scones turned out well, so I think I guessed correctly. Also, note that these scones are not overly-sweet , which I appreciate. (I can hardly eat a store-bought scone because they are too sweet!)
Treacle (Molasses) Scones
1/2 lb. Flour (about 1 cup, and I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoonful Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda)
1/2 teaspoonful Cream of Tartar (scant)
1/2 teaspoonful Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoonful Ginger
1 teaspoonful Sugar
1 tablespoonful Treacle (molasses)
1 1/2 oz/ Butter (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)
Buttermilk to mix

Mix all the dry ingredients well. Rub the butter into the flour. Mix the treacle with a little buttermilk. Stir into the flour mixture, adding enough extra milk to make a stiff dough. Knead lightly, roll out to 3/4 inch thick. Form into a round and cut into 8 triangle pieces. Place on a greased tin in a good oven (I used 350 degrees) and bake ten-fifteen minutes. (Mine needed a good 15.)

It was from the trip to Ireland that I resolved to make tea a regular part of my life, and tea has taken me so far. I am humbly grateful!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gracious Hospital-i-tea's Blogathon!

Image from Gracious Hopitality

I'm planning to join Gracious Hospital-i-tea's Blogathon. It looks like a lot of fun with such interesting topics! Plus, it will provide great tea party inspirations, I'm sure. Read about all the details here. The themes are:

March16 - March 22: Teacup-a-Story

March 23 - April 29: Litera-Tea

March 30 - April 5: Decor-a-Tea

April 6 - April 12: Stitches-for-Tea

April 13 - April 19: Dressed-to-a-Tea

April 20 - April 26: The-Sweet-and-Savory-of-Yummy

April 27 - May 3: The White, Green, Black, and Herb of Tea

May 4 - May 10: Set the Table, Tea is On!

May 11 - May 17: Tea Room Ventures and Venues

May 18 - May 24: The Pouring Teapot

May 25 -May 31: A Teatime Drawing

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Spring Walk Through Campus

I feel very privileged to live within walking distance of Indiana University. In fact, in the book The Campus as a Work of Art, art critic Thomas Gaines called IU one of America's top five most beautiful campuses. Thanks to the DH (dear hubby), I know where to scout out all the early-blooming flowers on campus. Here are some recent photos of my walk through IU. (Also, let this be a premonition to you all - in the Spring and Summer months, I'm just as likely to blog about flowers as I am tea! :-)

On my way to campus, through a neighborhood of bungalows populated with students, sits a house with winter aconites. I asked the young guy on the porch if I could take this photo. I don't think he even realized the flowers were in bloom. ;-)

The campus landscaping staff has been busy sprucing up the grounds.

Naturalized lavender crocus

Close-up of the lavender crocus

Giant clock on campus. Though it looks old, it's relatively new. I love the look of it!

Creek that runs through campus


One of the reasons IU is so beautiful is the use of native limestone in most of its buildings. The limestone produces such ornate and marvelous sculptural - yet functional - edifices.

Close-up of carved limestone on a building

Friday, March 14, 2008

March Tea - Weight Watchers Recipes

Here are the recipes I promised from my Weight Watchers tea menu. Go here for the full menu and points estimations.

Weight Watchers Scones - 2 points/scone
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup buttermilk (did you know you can buy this dry and mix as-needed?)
1 1/2 cup frozen berries (unsweetened) - I used frozen mixed berries
cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture is dry but crumbly.
  3. Add buttermilk and berries.
  4. Place onto a silmat or floured workspace. Shape into an oval and cut into 6 wedges. (I actually cut into 8 wedges).
  5. Coat with cooking spray.
  6. Bake until golden, ~20 minutes.

Stephanie notes: Either I messed up when adding the flour (which is entirely possible), or something wasn't quite right with the recipe, b/c when I turned this onto the cabinet, there was NO way I could shape it into an oval. It was too wet, so I added about an extra 1/2 cup of flour to get it to the consistency I needed. Also, I baked about 25 min total. If you try these, please do share how the recipe worked for you!

Celebration Cake - 1 point/slice (1/16 of a 9x13 pan)
1 white cake mix
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 egg whites
1 small can mandarin oranges in orange juice

Mix together and bake at 350 degrees for 25 min. Cool.

8 oz. fat free cool whip
1 sugar free instant pudding (vanilla)
1 small can pineapple in juice

Mix together with spoon and spread on cooled cake. Refrigerate. (Tastes even better if it sits overnight!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March Tea - Weight Watchers Menu

In the March Tea (photos here), I worked with my Mom to make the menu as Weight-Watcher-friendly as possible. My Mom used her big Weight Watcher points book to help me decipher this. It was fun - and sometimes very challenging! For example, to figure out the points for the avocado-tomato-nut thins, we had to translate from a serving of 16 crackers to two. We were cautious in our points assignment and we erred on the side of a bit extra, when in doubt. Here goes....and if you have any insights on the points assignment, let me know! (PS - Some of these are repeats from the February tea.)

Total menu = 11 points
This isn't too bad for a fancy meal. One just takes it easy with a light dinner.

Savories = 7 points
  • Avocado-tomato-Blue Diamond nut thins. (Small chunk of avocado and half a grape tomato on nut thin cracker) - 2 crackers, etc. = 1.5 points
  • Cheese-apple slice-whole wheat baguette slice. (Thin slice of cheese and apple slice on half of a slice of baguette; bake until cheese is melted) - 2 servings = 2 points
  • Chicken salad (purchased)-whole wheat bread (One serving equals 1/4 of a regular sandwich) - 2 servings = 3.5 points

Scones = 2 points

  • Weight-watcher berry scones (recipe to come) - 2 points/scone
  • We served the scones warm and without toppings. They didn't seem to be lacking.

Desserts = 2 points

  • Chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate-dipped apricots - 1 of each = 1 point
  • Celebration cake (recipe to come; white cake with mandarin oranges; fat-free cool whip, sugar free jello topping with pineapple) = 1 small piece (1/16th of a 9x13 cake) = 1 point

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March Tea 1 and Family Visit

March is going to be a month full of teas! The month is shaping up like this:

  • Weight Watchers tea with my family (last weekend)
  • Visit to Chandler House tea room in Bedford, IN (this weekend)
  • Tea and discussion of tea history (revolutionary war and beyond) with a lovely high school student (date TBD)
  • Visit to a tearoom in Tucson, AZ (end of month)

I'll look forward to sharing each of these with you! To get started, below is a photo montage of my recent tea party with my family. The focus, of course, was my 5-month-old niece! :-) We tried to make this tea as Weight Watcher friendly as possible. In a separate post, I will share our menu and the estimated points. Also of note is the china shown. It is from my Grandmother. The china is stamped Viking and is made in Alliance, Ohio. I don't know anything about this china, so if you have any background, please share.

Enjoy the photos! (below)

Photos from March Tea with Family

Monday, March 10, 2008

Teabag Sachet

Check out the lovely teabag sachet - and instructions for making it - at Susan B's blog.
Enjoy! I just love the linen fabric that she chose!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Old Country Roses

This lovely set and its pair are an early birthday present. The pattern is Old Country Roses by Royal Albert (now sold under Royal Doulton). Royal Doulton claims this is the best selling dinner pattern in the world. I can understand why! I love the bright colors and the gold edging.

I now have a teacup, saucer and luncheon plate set for 2 - perfect for a special afternoon with a friend. I'm actually in the space of trying to not collect any more china. I have so much that I keep some in storage! But I had commented to a friend that I would like just one more cup/saucer to complete this pair. Voila!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Patchwork Bag

Cake Goddess (aka Sweetcakes) recently surprised me with this gorgeous patchwork bag. She incorporated the colors from my tablecloth, in addition to some very fun teapot fabric from Mary Engelbreit (found at Hobby Lobby). She used Simplicity pattern 9963. I love this bag! It's so whimsical and useful at the same time! (And orange is my favorite color.)