Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meeting Another Tea Blogger

I recently had the pleasure of meeting, in person, Jenny of Tea Party Girl! What a great time! Jenny and I have been blogging buddies for some time now, and the chance to meet her in person was a gift from heaven! It just so happened that I was on a work trip in the Sacramento area, and Jenny lives not-too-far from where I was staying. Yippee!

We met at Paul Martin's American Bistro, a restaurant that focuses on using local produce and meats. The dinner was great! I had a mushroom burger and fries, while Jenny had a delicious salad. Notice the mountain of fries in the photo above! The place was certainly generous with its portions. For dessert, we shared an incredible cherry creme brule and a mint tisane. (See Jenny's post for a picture of us, with dessert.)

Blogging is such a wonderful hobby. I describe it as the modern take on pen pals. As a young girl, I had a pen pal that I found through Western Horseman magazine. I remember sharing stories about our horses and about how we'd love to meet someday. That meeting never happened, and I feel so blessed that this one did. As I shared a meal with Jenny, I learned more her passion for tea and food, and about her dedication to her family. I look forward to learning more in the future! Thanks, Jenny, for the tea room recommendations and for meeting me!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Earl Grey Manor

I recently had tea with a good friend at the Earl Grey Manor in Old Sacramento. It was my friend's first visit to a tea room and we had a lovely time! One of the many things I love about visiting a tea room is that time appears to slow down. My friend and I sat and chatted and laughed and shared for nearly two hours. We weren't rushed or distracted. We were present, in the moment, attuned to each other. That is such a gift.

The decor in the tea room is art deco. Fun and luxurious. You can sit at a table, the boudoir, or the large-group space in the rear. The food was also excellent. We ordered the Lady Grey Tea. We each had a pot of tea (Paris and Pear-Caramel). We started with black cherry soup (similar to the strawberry soup recipe).

Then we were served finger sandwiches. Next came blackberry scones with jam and cream, then short bread cookies and chocolate-bourbon truffles. We finished with cheese, crackers and fruit. You might imagine that we took quite a bit home!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hello, from smoggy, smoky California! Forest fires abound out here. The rising sun yesterday was this vibrant, big, orange orb in the sky. Very interesting and eerie, all the same.

I'm here for work and it's been a rather intense few days. Lots of meetings and working lunches and dinners with the team where I enjoy myself, but eat waaaaay too much! Oh, my.

I'm looking forward to my last day of meetings tomorrow, and dinner with a fellow blogger (Tea Party Girl) tomorrow night! We'll meet in person for the first time and I'm very excited!

OK, I've been tagged to answer a few fun questions. (Thanks, Linda!) Here you go...

Ten years ago... I was one year into my current career, struggling with how to reconcile my disillusionment with corporate America and at the same time reap its benefits.

Five things on today's to do list... Blog, stay focused in these meetings, keep my e-mail inbox from exploding, practice gratitude, get to bed at a decent hour.

Snacks I enjoy...McVities (plain or chocolate), chocolate chip cookies, brownies, madeleines and tea with it all.

If I were a millionaire....I'd build our dream house and open a tea room with Sweetcakes!

Places I have lived... On a farm, in the high dessert, in the hills and on the flats.

Monday, June 23, 2008

June Tea: A Picnic Tea

On our way to a picnic tea

I was on vacation last week, and I stayed home. I relaxed, did a few projects, cleaned and enjoyed a visit from family. On Saturday, after all the excitement, I took a few moments to have a picnic tea with the DH at our lot. This was an impromptu event. The DH spent ~20 min pulling things together while I was in the shower. Relaxed and easy was the theme. We had cucumber sandwiches, fresh fruit, a thawed piece of the raisin tea ring from earlier in the week, and a thermos of tea.

I've been blogging each month this year about a different tea party theme. Part of my intention here is to show the broad range in tea party styles - from fancy to simple. It can hardly get more simple than this one!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tea Review: White Honeydew

Vee, from Vee Tea, recently sent me a package of tea. We're trading tea samples. Fun! I first tried the White Honeydew and really like it!

Before tasting this tea, I was uncertain. I wasn't sure how I would find the combination of honeydew and tea. Wow, I'm glad I didn't let my preconceived notions interfere because I really like this tea! The honeydew aroma is enticing and the flavor is very refreshing! If you are interested in this tea, you can find it from the Urbana Cityspa & Teabar website. (Be sure to check out the intro video! Wow - wish I was planning a visit to Charlotte!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Laura Ingalls Wilder Cookbook

One slice of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Raisin Tea Ring

I can remember my first real love affair with books. There were two series I discovered, about the same time. I was probably 10 or 11. The first was the Black Stallion series and the second was the Little House on the Prairie series. I remember summer days, sitting in my window seat in my upstairs bedroom, reading these books with passion.

Two summers ago, I re-read the Little House series with equal delight. I was impressed by how many references I found to tea!

Last week, I browsed through the children's cookbook section of my local library and stumbled upon a small cookbook called The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook. Oh, imagine my delight! In this book are recipes collected by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I tried one of those recipes today, aptly named the Raisin Tea Ring. It was yummy! I enjoyed sharing it with a friend, during a leisurely afternoon of sitting on the front porch and chatting over this bread and a cup (or 2 or 3) of tea.

The ring turned out to be huge! The recipe calls for it to cool on a rack, but there was no way I was getting it onto a rack or plate or anything without breaking it, so here's the photo on the baking stone. Next time, I will make two smaller rings.

This cookbook was a very fun one for me to read. It's one that I think I will check out repeatedly from the library. (I'm trying to cut down on the number of books I purchase.) If you're a Little House fan, I think you'll delight in this book, too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Let's Bring Back the Parasol!

This post is dedicated to my friends, Ms. B and AZ Tea Lover, both believers in parasols.

That's me, with a lovely polka-dotted parasol returning from a walk downtown yesterday afternoon. No rain to be found (thankfully, as this area has had flooding!). Yet this umbrella-parasol is my friend indeed!

I enjoy warm weather, but I dislike the sun when it shines blindingly into my eyes. Here enters the parasol - I carry my own shade with me. I've just begun to do this, with a an every-so-slight sense of hesitation because other people aren't always the friendliest about it. No matter. The benefits outweigh that silly drawback. Perhaps if we all start carrying parasols, we can begin a revolution!! :-)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Red Zinger Iced "Tea"

In honor of National Iced Tea month, I'll share with you my favorite iced "tea." Tea is in quotes, because this brew is actually an iced tisane (herbal). There is no real tea in it. The original recipe came from MKP (thank you!), and I think she said it was in a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. I've long since misplaced that version and have made up my own, loosely, from what I recall. Here goes (this is imprecise - adjust to taste):

  • Equal amounts of red zinger tea (Celestial Seasonings), brewed strongly, and juice
  • (I use 6 teabags and 3 cups of water to make the red zinger tea (and let it brew for 10 min) with 3 cups of cranberry juice)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, thrown in with the red zinger tea
  • Mint for garnish (or sometimes I throw it in the jar and it adds an interesting flavor)
  • Fruit (lemon wedges, cherries, strawberries, etc.) to float in the jar
Important note: Do not pour the hot red zinger liquid into your favorite hand-blown glass pitcher. Bad things happen, including majorly cracked glass and red zinger everywhere. Instead, let the liquid cool first, then blend with the juice. :-)

I like mine tart, so I'll also throw in a dash of lemon juice. If you like it sweeter, add more of the main juice.

This recipe would be good with lots of juice types, I think. I also like to throw in some fresh ginger with the red zinger, or a dash of sparkling water as I pour the tea.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday, the ThirTEAnth!

A double post today, but I had to share with you the cute Tea Superstitions post from Denise at Uniquely Tea. (I borrowed this post title from Denise, too.) By the way, Denise was the leader of the magnificent Tea in London tour I took in March, 2007.

I'm on vacation from work next week. Wahoo! I am ready! Staying in town, relaxing and with the hopes (but no pressures) of tackling a few projects. My mom, sister and niece will also be over for a visit for a couple of days. Ah, relaxation, here I come....

National Candy and National Iced Tea Month

June is both National Candy Month AND National Iced Tea Month! I discovered this only yesterday evening, while browsing through my local library. It had displays featuring books for both. Fun! I already had an armload of books, and came home with an even bigger stack. I weighed them this morning - I packed home 8 pounds of books (by foot)! It is such a gift to live near a fantastic and vibrant library!

As for candy, I'm not much of a fan of the hard kind. Give me chocolate, or give me nothing! :-)

As for iced tea, I'm a luke-warm (ha!) fan. That's not the whole story. I do enjoy iced tea, especially on hot and muggy days. But if I had to pick between iced and hot tea, I would pick hot. Thankfully, I don't have to pick. And what I like about iced tea (I usually make sun tea) is the infinite variety it invites. I love to make it with black tea, green tea, herbs, a mix of the three, juice thrown in, a dash of bubbly water, etc.

Here is something I wrote two years ago about yoga and sun tea.

Enjoy your tea no matter how you drink it!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tub Teas

I've been making tub teas as gifts. (Thanks to Sweetcakes for the recipe!) Tub teas are herbed sachets that can be floated in the bathtub. Here's the recipe:

1.5 parts Oatmeal (pulsed) - I used 3 cups
1 part combined herbs - I used 2 cups combined of calendula, lavender, and lemon balm

Mix thoroughly and spoon into unbleached disposable tea bags. Add a string and double-fold, then sew across the top. Alternately, package in pretty jars and give with a reusable cotton tea bag.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Guest Blogger and Elmwood Inn

Note : I'm excited to share with you a guest blogger today! I've decided to liven things up by sharing the voices of some of my fantastic friends. My first guest blogger is Amanda, who fed me the delicious strawberry soup (recipe below). Enjoy this post!

Elmwood Inn
by guest blogger, Amanda

Photo courtesy of Elmwood Inn website

Stephanie has invited me to be a guest blogger here at Steph's Cup of Tea and I couldn't be more delighted! I always look forward to seeing what new tea information, flower and garden photos, or bits of inspiration she has to share with us. One of her latest posts, Afternoon Pleasures, featured photos from the tea that she and I shared in my home recently. She tells me that the photo of strawberry soup has generated some interest in the recipe.

The recipe comes from The Tea Table: Soups, Savories & Sweets from the Elmwood Inn, one in a series of tea cookbooks written by Shelley and Bruce Richardson. If you are a tea lover, or enjoy cookbooks in general, I highly recommend purchasing your own copies of the Elmwood Inn cookbook trilogy, as the pictures alone are quite worth the price. Also included are recipes for blueberry and melon soups, along with a photo of all three. For those of you only interested in the strawberry soup recipe, I have obtained permission from Elmwood Inn to share, and the recipe follows.

Bruce and Shelley Richardson owned and operated Elmwood Inn tea room in Perryville, Kentucky for 14 years. Stephanie and I have both lamented our loss in not having visited Elmwood Inn before they closed their doors in 2004. Bruce Richardson has become a renowned expert in the world of tea and has had a hand in ushering in the American tea renaissance. A list of all of the Richardsons' books, as well as their line of fine teas may be found on their website. Elmwood Inn Gunpowder Green is one of my favorites! Incidentally, for anyone who may be interested, the historic Elmwood Inn property, along with the nearby owner's cottage, is currently on the market.

Thank you to Stephanie, and her readers, for allowing me to contribute to such a charming blog. And thank you to Elmwood Inn for allowing me to share this delicious recipe. Cheers!

Strawberry Soup
1 cup fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons burgundy or grenadine (I used grenadine)
1 cup heavy cream

Combine strawberries, sugar, sour cream, grenadine, and cream in a blender. Cover and blend on low speed until thoroughly combined. Chill and serve. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, thinly sliced strawberries, and fresh mint.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hot Tea in Hot Water

Drinking hot tea on the diving board

It's hot and humid in the Midwest. After a very slow and cool Spring, we got hit head-on with a heatwave. It's probably feeling worse that it really is, just due to the abrupt transition.

What do you like to drink in hot weather? I vacillate between cold water and hot tea. In fact, lots of people drink hot tea in hot weather. There are a couple of thoughts related to this. The first is that drinking the hot beverage makes you sweat, thereby cooling down your body. The other thought is that is slightly raises your internal body temp, which makes it feel less warm outside.

There's a poll on the right - what is your favorite hot-tea beverage? If I've missed any, please leave it in a comment! Also, if you have any other theories on why hot tea works in hot weather, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Strawberry Heaven

Our strawberries have been doing really well this year, despite the birds! (They eat half a berry, and leave the rest!) I've had enough to munch on, make strawberry shortcake, AND make a batch of freezer jam. Yumm!

Strawberry shortcake, with a yummy low-fat, low-sugar whipped topping
(I'll share that recipe soon)

I wore my Grandma's strawberry-colored apron to make the jam

One of the things that's nice about freezer jam is that, since the berries aren't cooked,
they retain their bright red color! (Thanks, A and J, for the inspiration to make jam!)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mail Call

Yesterday, I got a surprise package in the mail from The Secret Gardener. She was my Pay It Forward partner. How lucky I am! Who doesn't love a surprise package?

The Secret Gardener put a lot of thought into her choices, spoiling me with tea-themed gifts. I really love the bright colors of the napkins, and I have the tassels hanging on my front door. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Afternoon Pleasures

"Among Life's precious jewels,
Genuine and rare,
The one that we call friendship
Has worth beyond compare."
~ author unknown

I recently had the joy of sharing afternoon tea in the home of a new friend. I am so blessed by the friends I have, new friends and old friends - near friends and friends far away!

Here are some of the tea-time treats we shared. What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon! That old adage is true - time flies when you're having fun!

Spanish iris and peonies

The table setting
We used china from A's grandmother
I just loved the little glass butter and jam dishes!

We started with strawberry soup
I could have eaten a gallon of this!

We enjoyed mini quiches, cucumber with dill sandwiches and egg salad and watercress sandwiches

We also enjoyed scones with homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd, and
zucchini-pineapple cake

One of the teas - it's a tea blend that traces its roots to Russia
Very lovely!

Thank you! I felt so pampered!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bathroom Blues

I'm sitting on my bathroom floor, enjoying the Sunday morning sun and my freshly-painted walls. The end of the story is a happy one - I really like the wall color, but when I first started, I was very worried. After the first few strokes of the brush, I thought, "Oh, I've made a big mistake!" Fortunately, the paint is very different when it is dried. And I am amazed at how much my experience of it changed when the blue painter's tape was taken down. A completely different and much softer experience. I was looking for a little color in my house (we have ubiquitous ivory walls). With a big sigh of relief, I love the color - Benjamin Moore Waterfall. By the way, I highly recommend the Benjamin Moore Aura paints. They are water-based and very low VOC levels. A little pricey, but for me, very worth it. I get really bad headaches from regular paint fumes.

Onto other domestic topics today. The DH and I shared dinner here last evening with a new pair of friends. We enjoyed the garden and had New Mexican enchiladas. For dessert, I made a recipe from the current edition of Tea Time magazine. I don't have photos of that, but here are the strawberries (from my garden) that I used.

I did a trial run of the recipe earlier in the week, and wasn't pleased with it. The custard sauce was too clumpy thick and I didn't have any Marsala (and didn't want to buy some just for this), so below is the recipe with my alterations noted.

Zabaglione with Raspberries and Pound Cake
1 prepared (10.75 oz) butter pound cake
2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (I used blueberries and strawberries)
2 tablespoons sugar (I didn't use this)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (I didn't use this)
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (I didn't use this)
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Marsala (I replaced this with 1 tsp Vanilla and the rest in water)
2 tablespoons milk (the recipe didn't call for this, but my trial run showed it was needed)
Garnish: fresh mint sprigs
Makes 4 - 6 servings

1. Thaw cake, according to directions.
2. Cut the cake into uniform slices. Place into serving dishes.
3. In a small bowl, toss the raspberries with sugar, lemon juice and zest to coat evenly; set aside. (I skipped this step and just used fresh berries. I don't think they need the extra sugar.)
4. In the top half of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala. Whisk together until mixture has doubled in volume and is thick and shiny. Spoon the warm custard over the cake and top with the prepared berries. Garnish with mint and serve immediately.
My note: Cook over medium-low heat. If the heat is too high, the custard sets up too quickly and gets clumpy.