Friday, March 31, 2006

Aunt Pansy's Tea Set

Aunt Pansy lived in a beautiful, old-fashioned house in the woods of Northern Pennsylvania. Although she had no electricity, nor running water, she created an elegant and lovely home. Beautiful pitchers and basins on tabletops in the bedrooms, antique furniture, and a cozy kitchen, melded together into a comfortable home. A meadow, a running brook, and apple trees surrounded her house. Each summer she would return to this home where she lived for more than 60 years. During the winters she would live in modern luxury at the home of her physician son at Lake Elsinore, California. Sadly, it was during one of these winter visits to California that her home was broken into and much of her antique furniture stolen. It's suspected that some antique dealers who had been canvassing the community, in search of furniture to buy, had been back to help themselves while she was away after Aunt Pansy had turned down their offer to buy her things.

The cups, saucers, and plates in this tea set are from Aunt Pansy. She gave them to her niece; my mother-in-law. She, in turn, gave them to me, piece by piece, as birthday and Christmas gifts. The mark is Royal Derby and I cherish them because they represent a portion of my husband's and children's heritage. Each piece is hand-painted, so none are identical. They are so fine, you can see the shadow of your hand behind the porcelain when held up to light. I never serve a tea party with this china set without thinking of Aunt Pansy. She passed away at 100 years old, having lived a long and productive life. I often wonder about the guests she served with this lovely set.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Breakfast Tea

The painter applied a coat of beautiful 'coconut milk' colored paint to the walls in our living areas yesterday, but he's not quite done with the ceiling texturing, so the mess continues on our remodel project. It requires some innovation to be graciously hospitable under these circumstances. My friend, Bonnie, is visiting this week. At first I thought that a breakfast tea on the back porch might be a possibility, but the air is still too chilly for a comfortable tea outside. So, instead I set up a breakfast tea in the motorhome. A lace tablecloth that was clothes-pinned to the valence hid the metal blinds behind and created a lacy, romantic background for the tea table. A pastel, spring tablecloth, dried lavender bundles, and fresh daffodils added color and cheer as the table decor. In the background, soothing classical music with sounds of the ocean added provided tranquility and restfulness to the setting. Relaxation and friendship, good food, tea with sugar and soymilk. . .it was a perfect way to start the day!

The scones were "gingered raspberry walnut" that were cut into wedges and folded over with sugar sprinkled on top. We tried them out with a variety of jams and spreads. Double Devon Clotted Cream, my homemade lavender jelly, Marmalady's Rose Tea Jelly, Chai Applebutter, and Amaretto Cherry Jam were delicious spreads for our scones. We tried little bits of all and declared it an even tie: all were perfectly delicious!

A beautiful "lavender tea towel" was added as a part of the decor. It was stitched by my dear friend, Gwen, in Ohio. The parfait fruit cup contains preserved raspberries from my pantry with mandarin orange pieces.

A "Village" lavender candle and a "Yankee" Hazelnut Coffee scented candle were a part of the centerpiece. The lavender tea set is handpainted and was something I collected in pieces from my favorite Victorian gift shop on the Oregon coast. Tea mugs are part of this set, but today we decided to use coordinating teacups and saucers instead.

Sweets for breakfast! Alma made the Alma Roca and the Chocolate Oatmeal cookies. The truffles were a birthday gift from long-time friend, Nancy in Florida. And the petit fours were made by a friend of my mother's. Marizpan fruit candies add color to the tray.

This layer of our tea tray contained more nutritious foods for our breakfast palette than the top one! Fresh Fuji apple slices, creamy fruit tarts, and waffle bites with peanut butter were garnished with strawberries and mint.

Our sandwich layer was unorthodox, but delightful! Tofu and olive spread was served on open-faced, toast. Whole wheat tortilla roll-ups were filled with Adam's natural peanut butter and Oregon Marionberry Jam. Carr's "Biscuits for Tea" completed this layer of our tea tray. Fresh garden mint added a touch of green to brighten the tray.

The three-tiered tray was too small for our scones, so they were served on a separate plate. Because this was 'breakfast', some of the items on the menu were unique to most teas.

I have two dear friends named Gwen. So, I identify them by the state in which they live. Gwen in Iowa writes the devotionals that I post on the "Jesus on My Mind" blog (it is linked to Gracious Hospitality, if you would like to read it). And Gwen in Ohio is a tea friend of mine. Both are true "kindred spirits" and each has significantly blessed my life! The beautiful tea cozy in this picture was a birthday gift to me this year from Gwen in Ohio. She knows I am crazy about lavender, so made me this adorable lavender tea cozy. It is a perfect match for my lavender teapot.

Our tea of choice was our favorite, "Yorkshire Gold", served with lumps of sugar and soymilk. Absolutely delicious! We drank the entire pot!

A beribboned napkin contained our flatware and a bundle of fragrant, dried lavender from my garden.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Soothing Foot Soak

A Spa for the Feet

A soothing food bath enhances body circulation and boosts drainage of the lymphatic system. This benefits overall health and is helpful in the treatment and prevention of colds, flu, and headaches. Although alternating the treatment of feet by soaking first in hot and then cold tubs of water, the addition of warming and cooling oil blends augment the experience. Recipes using pure essential oils may vary, but two that are especially soothing are:

The Warming Blend

1 drop ginger essential oil
2 drops clove essential oil
1 drop peppermint essential oil
1 Tbsp. almond or olive oil

The Cooling Blend

1 drop Mandarin essential oil
1 drop lemon grass essential oil
1 Tbsp. almond or olive oil

Instructions for foot bath:

Gather two large basins. Fill one with hot water and another with cold water. Ice cubes can be added to the cold water if desired. Add the warming oil blend to the hot water and the cooling blend to the cold water. Sit comfortably and submerge your feet in the hot tub for one minute. Then plunge your feet quickly into the cool basin and hold there for one minute. Repeat this process at least 2 to 3 more times. Remove your feet from the cool basin last and pat try with a dry towel. Moisturize feet with lotion and put on warm socks to keep feet warm. Relax and enjoy the benefits of the spa treatment. Repeat the process several times; morning and night if necessary.

Guest Quarters

The May issue of Romantic Homes magazine has a beautiful article about making visitor's feel welcome in your home. It shares tips on making things elegant and comfortable, so that guests will have a memorable stay. Included are beautiful pictures of guest rooms and guest baths. I read the article and felt badly, as a dear friend is visiting this week. Since our home is in the midst of being remodeled, there is not comfortable guest room for my friend to stay in. But, you work with what you have. So, I spent time creating a comfortable and beautiful space in our motorhome. All lovely environments start with a sparkling clean palette. With Pinesol fresh counters, rugs washed and dried, woodwork polished, quilts and sheets freshly laundered --- everything was ready for the next stage in preparation. The finishing touches were a Mrs. Teapot, a container of Yorkshire Gold tea, a teacup and sugar cubes, bottled water, refrigerator stocked, and snack foods in the cupboards. Candles, fluffy bath towels, and a bouquet of fresh, garden daffodils added color and graciousness to the accommodations. Although it may not be worthy
of Romantic Homes, it's my desire that our guest is comfortable and enjoys her visit. What a pleasant treat it is to have dear friends 'stay awhile'. God is good!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Welcome Bouquet

Yesterday I was reminded that welcoming hospitality does not need to be fancy, nor expensive. On our drive yesterday we were greeted by a floral bouquet in a rusty bucket at the end of a neighbor's driveway. The placement and parts of this floral arrangement were so unorthodox that I just had to take a picture! The rusty bucket was set on stumps. Planted inside was a small juniper tree. Stuck around the edges were pink flowers and green leaves of silk. Used to fill in the open spaces were fresh branches of fruit tree blossoms and forsythia. A metal, cut-work sign saying 'welcome' completed the arrangement. Although simple, it did a great job of drawing attention to the cheerful greeting it represented! A welcome is a welcome. . .not matter how simple or unique!


Daffodils and forsythia are some of the first flowering plants that blossom in the spring in our locale. After the brown and dreary days of winter, their vibrant yellow adds so much cheer to the landscape. They are wonderful brighteners of the spirit! Both are great for cutting and using for floral arrangements in the house.

Forsythia is a member of the Oleaceae (Olive) family. There are six species of this diciduous shrub and it is common in Asia, Europe, and North America. In early spring, the flowers are produced first, being bright yellow with four petals. Later, the leaves are produced and are opposite of one another on the branch. Forsythia is a fast growing shrub, growing one to two feet per year. They make excellent, informal hedges and also make beautiful, individual specimen plants. They usually grow to between eight and ten feet tall. They are known for their ease in growing in all types of conditions.

The forsythia in this photo are at a neighbors house. They remind me that we need to plant a few in our yard. Such cheer they bring!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Water for a Thirsty Earth

Today it has rained all day long! Drenching, wet, solid rain! But, the house in its stage of remodeling was too confining and a drive into the rain to see the drenched neighborhood seemed important. Gray skies or not, we went for a family excursion to see what we could see. As you can see from this photo, the wetlands were very wet today!

The wildlife refuge was quiet today. A great-blue heron, mallard ducks, a loon, some cormorants, a red-winged blackbird, flocks of Canadian geese, and a gull were observed on an otherwise lifeless day on the water. I imagine most of them were hiding out in sheltered places until the rain passes by.

A spot of color on a dreary day! A common weed in our locale provides a sea of purple near farmer's field. I'm frustrated that I am unable to recall the name of this spring weed! I've searched the Internet for weeds of our state and haven't come up with anything. I am hoping that my friend, Patty, can help me out.

Purple blossoms in bloom on a farmer's circle-corner. Circle-corners are very common in our area and taken for granted. But when I think about the name 'circle-corner' I realize that it simply does not make sense! Circles do not have corners! Do you know what a circle-corner is? Farmers have large irrigation systems for their fields that have a central pivot in the center of a field with a large irrigation pipe on wheels that rotates slowly in a circle as it waters. It creates a huge circle that can be planted with alfalfa, corn, potatoes, or other crops. Of course the fields are not round, but square or rectangular instead. The circle-corner is the area of the field that the pivot irrigation system does not reach. There corners are used to stack alfalfa, to grow other crops in (such as fruit trees), or simply to be left as they are, as in this case. The field of purple adds a bright spot to the world today.

Wet tracks and a waiting train along the river's shore.

The wildlife refuge wetlands provide habitat for many little critters. Muskrats, mink, and beaver dwell in the marshes and river banks. This is a slide that they use in their water play. Such fun to watch, but a rare treat. They usually are pretty wary of observers.

Rocky, river's shore on a very rainy day. Needless to say, our walk was a short one! Most of our photos were taken from the open window of the vehicle.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tiles and Thyme

Here is a close-up of the front tile and thyme feature at Dad's and Alma's house. Square stepping stones have been made into blocks and a small, thyme plant has been placed in the center of each open space. With time, the thyme will spread and grow, creeping toward the concrete squares and filling in the spaces of soil. I'm eager to see this after growth has occured. The question is, will the thyme have to be trimmed back? Or will it control itself and only stay were it is supposed to? Stay tuned!

Home on Island Beauty

Dad and Alma have been very busy the past several years, completing their new home and landscaping. Since this is their retirement home, Dad decided he didn't want any lawn to mow. Instead, they installed a rock, bark, and tiles with the herb, thyme, in between each block. A low maintenance home gives them all the more time to enjoy living on an island in the San Juans.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Relaxing Chamomile Tea

1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers per cup
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk per cup
Honey or maple syrup to sweeten

1. Pour boiling water over the chamomile, cover, and steep 15 to 20 minutes, until strong.

2. Add the soy milk and sweetener to taste.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Libby & Coco

Little Libby and Coco
enjoying a frisky day
in the sunshine.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Perfect Cupan Irish Tae

The Irish are very fond of tea. A strong, robust cupan tae (otherwise known as a cup of tea) is desired by all levels of Irish society. It's the beverage of choice at break-time. Factory workers, office workers, farmers, construction workers, and housewives; all desire a perfect cupan strong tae. Their rules for making the perfect cupan tae are generally endorsed by all cultures and people, but the Irish add their own twist, preferring a very strong tea that is well mixed with at least 1/3 portion of creamy milk. The milk always goes into the cup first, then the tea. The Irish tea blend is a combination of High Grown Ceylon tea and a hearty Assam tea grown in India. Steeped for five minutes with sugar added, it is a rich flavor with malted hints and a deep color. Irish hospitality requires that someone always be the pourer for tea service, as self-serve is never endorsed. This person may be male, female, young, or old, but is always called "Mother" when serving in this role. The host or hostess, when tea is served, always will ask, "who would like to bethe mother?" or "shall I be the mother"? St. Patrick's Day is the perfect day to celebrate a cupan tae. Go pour one for yourself before you start your day! Enjoy!

This crazy photo of Irish green cup was sent to me by an online friend. I think it was one that made the rounds in Yahoo groups.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

My friend, Gwen in Ohio, stitched this pretty
St. Patrick's Day tea towel for me.
May your day be awesome!
Don't forget to wear some green
or you'll be pinched!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Old-Fashioned Charm

Kitchen: Faraway Ranch, Arizona

Kitchen Spring Tune-Up

Spring is a good time to complete a tune-up in your kitchen. Appliances will run better if proper maintenance is done routinely. Here are some tips for keeping your kitchen in good running order:

1. Sanitize the dishwasher by running a cup of white vinegar through a wash cycle. Make sure the dishwasher is empty. Vinegar also works well for cleaning out automatic coffee makers.

2. Use the self-clean setting on your oven to clean it out for spring baking. Clean stove-top drip pans by placing in a large kettle with 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent added. Bring to a boil and then turn off heat and allow drip pans to sit until cooled. Then take out and complete scrubbing by hand.

3. Clean out the disposal by placing citrus peels and a handful of ice cubes in the disposal. Run for 15 - 20 seconds and then continue to run with cold water.

4. Pull out the refrigerator and unplug. Vacuum the dust from the coils for more efficient operation and energy conservation.

5. Clean counters and ledges with a safe, homemade disinfectant. Spritz with white vinegar and allow to sit on counter for about 30 seconds. Wipe and then spritz with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit on counter for another 30 seconds. Wipe clean. Wear old clothes, as the hydrogen peroxide could bleach out clothing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hunger for Spring

Like thirsting flowers awaiting rain,
My heart cries out for Spring again.
Once more to feel the softening air,
Caressing, tender, everywhere.
For fertile earth beneath my feet
Nor carpeted by the Winter's sleet,
Now confined by wintery blast,
Comes forth God's handiwork at last!

Gene Appleby

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Small and Early

Small and Early
By Tudor Jenks

WHEN Dorothy and I took tea, we sat upon the floor;
No matter how much tea I drank, she always gave me more;
Our table was the scarlet box in which her tea-set came;
Our guests, an armless one-eyed doll, a wooden horse gone lame.

She poured out nothing, very fast, the teapot tipped on high,
And in the bowl found sugar lumps unseen by my dull eye.
She added rich (pretended) cream - it seemed a willful waste,
For though she overflowed the cup, it did not change the taste.

She asked, "Take milk?" or "Sugar?" and though I answered, "No,"
She put them in, and told me that I "must take it so!"
She 'd say "Another cup, Papa?" and I, "No, thank you, Ma'am,"
But then I had to take it-her courtesy was sham.

Still, being neither green, nor black, nor English-breakfast tea,
It did not give her guests the "nerves" whatever those may be.
Though often I upset my cup, she only minded when
I would mistake the empty cups for those she'd filled again.

She tasted my cup gingerly, for fear I'd burn my tongue;
Indeed, she really hurt my pride-she made me feel so young.
I must have drunk some two score cups, and Dorothy sixteen,
Allowing only needful time to pour them, in between.

We stirred with massive pewter spoons, and sipped in courtly ease,
With all the ceremony of the stately Japanese.
At length she put the cups away. "Goodnight, Papa," she said;
And I went to a real tea, and Dorothy to bed.

Heartwarming Steaming Hot Tea

"It was George Eliot who earnestly inquired, 'Reader, have you ever drunk a cup of tea?' There is something undeniably heartwarming and conversation-making in a cup of steaming hot tea. . . It is an ideal prescription for banishing loneliness. Perhaps it is not so much the tea itself, as the circle of happy friends eager for a pleasant chat."

Book of Etiquette 1921

Over the Moon Smoothie

Over the Moon Smoothie

1/2 cup silken tofu, drained
1 ripened pear
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup pear juice (or soy milk)
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups ice

In a blender, combine silken tofu, pear, avocado, and liquid. Add honey and vanilla. Add ice and blend until very smooth.

Serve in tall glasses with a straw. Garnish with a mint leaf and enjoy.

Sugar Shapes for Tea

Making sugar shapes for tea parties is a simple process. Pretty flower, heart, or star shapes can be made from the recipe below:

Sugar Shapes

1 cup sugar
2 tsp. water

Combine until it is the mixture is the consistency of wet sand. Pack the mixture into plastic molds with shapes no more than 1 - 1 1/2 inches across. Allow to dry overnight. Remove from mold and use to sweeten tea.

For variety: use unbleached sugar, such as Florida Crystals, for a vintage, old-fashioned look. Or add a drop of food coloring to the mixture to make colored sugar shapes.

Plastic molds can be purchased at kitchen supply stores.

Store sugar shapes in a dry, cool place for up to one month. Use an airtight container so sugar shapes don't absorb moisture or smells.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tranquility by the Sea

This quaint little gate welcomes guests to a cottage by the sea. What tranquility! I can imagine a back yard picnic with ocean waves crashing on the rocks below with smells of seashore, the call of gulls, and salty tastes of sea spray.

A welcome entry is important for any home. It need not be fancy, ornate, or expensive. The warmth of greeting can be achieved simply and with small expense. Have you analyzed the welcome to your home recently?

Persimmon Cookies

3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup millet flour
3/4 cup cashew butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp.coriander powder
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Blend cashew butter and flours together until well mixed. In another bowl, mix the persimmon, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and coriander. Add the moist mixture to the dry mixture. Add the dates, raisins, and nuts. Drop cookies onto a prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 - 18 minutes.
Makes: 36 cookies

*Vegan and gluten free

Drink Tea with Us

"You must drink tea with us tonight."

Jane Austin
Sense & Sensibility

Elegant Tea Tablecloths

Elegant Tea Tablecloths

Most tea parties are known for their elegance or frills. Here's an idea for creating a tea tablecloth that is a cut above the rest! You will need:

1 plain colored tablecloth that matches your decor
a variety of large, silk flowers such as roses, daisies, mums, etc.
mini magnets (available at craft stores)

Using a hot glue gun, secure a magnet on the back of each flower. It is best to apply the magnet to a petal near the center of the flower rather than on the actual center. Allow glue to harden. Drape the tablecloth over a table. On the draping portion of the tablecloth, arrange flowers randomly in an elegant manner. Use another magnet on the back side to secure in place.

This makes a beautiful backdrop for your tea table. Because so many silk flowers are used on the tablecloth, candles instead of fresh flowers may be preferred for the centerpiece.
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Friday, March 10, 2006

Jo's Sabbath Rice

Into a rice cooker place 1/3, 1/3/, 1/3 portions of wild rice, brown rice and white rice in whatever porportions you want to feed.

Add appropriate amount of water and cook according to rice cooker directions.

Assemble a containter with any variation in amount of the following ingredients:

Pine Nuts
Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
Chopped Olives
Finely chopped Mushrooms
Finely chopped small amount of RED Bell Pepper
Green Onions thinly sliced
Pumpkin Seeds
Very small amount of chopped Jalapeno Pepper

When rice is done, mix all the ingredients in and fluff with a fork. Put the lid back on and set it on the table.

It will be gone in no time, people will take seconds, will try and guess what's in it and will ask for receipe. Just smile and be vague and say...."oh it's whatever seemed like it would go good."

Recipe by: Jo Kuhlmeyer

Roses from Vicki

Vicki sent me this pretty, cross-stitched tea towel with a pink teacup and red rose. She does beautiful work and I especially love cross-stitch. ATAA is the acronym for the online tea group we belong to. Thank you, Vicki!

Pale Pastels from Val

This beautiful tea towel was sent to me by my exchange partner, Val. I love the soft, pastel colors she selected. She used a vintage tea towel with a rick-rack and crocheted edging. It's so pretty and I look forward to using it for 'tea'. Thank you, Val!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Violets Tea

If time and distance were not so far, I'd find my violets tea-ware and prepare a violets tea for my friend, Gwen. But Ohio is so far away, so instead I'll share this photo and best wishes for a wonderful day! Happy Birthday, friend!

Photo: From a tea my sister and I shared with my mother on Mother's Day a few years ago.

Happy Birthday, Gwen

Happy Birthday
~ to my tea friend ~

Have a wonderful day!

A Picture of my Baby ~ Coco

With children nearly grown, a mother's heart finds other little creatures that need nurtured and cared for. Here's a picture of my 'baby' --- a miniature Schnauzer I've named Coco. Although she is nearly a year old and much bigger than this, I enjoy this baby picture of her and remember how helpless she was. Her little puppy eyes are not yet open here. Soft, silky fur and little toenails remind me of her days as a tiny puppy who fit into my palm. The white spots have disappeared as she has grown and she is now fully black with a few 'stray' white hairs here and there. She is full of personality and pep these days!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lavender Face Scrub

Lavender Face Scrub

This simple recipe creates a face scrub
that is nutritious, natural, and tasty!
Suitable for all skin types.

6 drops lavender essential oils
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

Add lavender drops to honey and blend.
Then gently stir in the nutritional yeast until the mixture is smooth.
Use to scrub face or as a facial mask.
Relax and enjoy!