Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Picnic

Did you have a favorite story as a child? I'd like to share one of mine with you. It's quite old-fashioned and so very quaint. Stories have always been common for teaching children values and character development. My parents were no exception when it came to instructing my sister and me in the way we should grow. One of the books my mother had as a child was an first edition copy of a book called Bedtime Stories by Arthur Maxwell. He was an English writer, so his stories not only taught character development but reflected British culture and family life. I suspect that my parents thought they were teaching me how to get along with my sister when they read this story to me, but an incidental affect was the love it created in me for picnics and tea parties! I think you'll see what I mean when you read this story. Note the words 'kettle' and and 'picnic' inserted into the text to create a word picture for the reader. Unfortunately the very first page of the story has been torn out of the book. . .but I remember how it went. Doris and Kathleen were dear friends who got into a dispute and were not speaking to one another. They made-up and decided they wanted to go on a picnic. The story picks up from there. . .

"They're both too busy washing," said Doris. "We shall get punished if we do."

"But let's try," urged Kathleen.

To the little girls' surprise both mammas were quite agreeable to their going for a picnic together, provided, of course, that they did not go too far and that they got everything ready themselves. Strict instructions were given as to the place they were to go, where they could easily be found if necessary.

Now all was happiness. Kathleen's mamma said she wouldn't mind if they prepared the food in her house; so in they both went. Kathleen cut the sandwiches, and Doris wrapped them in waxed paper and put them in the picnic basket, which was the prettiest little basket you could wish to see.

They then found the little tent that Kathleen's daddy had bought for them to use in the garden, and rolled up an old piece of blanket so that they would not have to sit on the damp ground. Of course they decided to take a kettle with them, because this was going to be a really-truly picnic.

They they started off. The two mammas found time to come away from their washing to wave good-bye to the two little girls from the front gate. They were glad to have the children happy.

The girls had not gone far, however, before they made the discovery that while they had brought the tent, the blanket, and the kettle, they had left the lunch behind! In the excitement of saying good-by they had actually forgotten all about the most important thing. So back they had to go to get it.

Now they were off again, and very happy little girls they were. They did not go very far away, but to them it seemed miles and miles. They made up all sorts of stories as they went along, and imagined they were really grown-up big people going to a real picnic.

Presently they came to the quiet little place on the beach to which they both always loved to come. They had been here many times with their mammas, but this time it was all quite different. They both felt so important.

Somehow they managed to get their tent put up. It was quite a big job for such little people, but they felt they must do it all properly.

The tent fixed, they both thought it must be time to have something to eat. So they opened the all-important lunch basket and began to take out all the little packages they had put in it so carefully just an hour or so before.

How good everything tasted! so much better than a dinner at home! Really they had never had such a lovely meal before. If their mothers could have seen them eating the plain bread and butter as if it were sugar cookies, they would have been quite surprised. Perhaps they would have decided to have that for dinner every day!

How quickly the lunch basket was emptied! There didn't seem to be half enough in it. Doris and Kathleen were so hungry that they ate up everything they had brought; there wasn't even a crumb left.

Then they played games and told stories to each other. Soon the afternoon passed and the time came to pack up. Down came the tent, the blanket was folded up, and the empty lunch basket slung over Doris' shoulder. Then they started for home.

"Haven't we had a lovely time?" said Kathleen.

"Haven't we!" said Doris. "And only yesterday we said we wouldn't speak to each other any more."

"I'm so glad we made up," said Kathleen.

"So am I," said Doris.

Just then they turned the corner of the road, and there, right in front of them, were two mammas standing at the gate of Kathleen's house.

"We're so glad you've come back safely," they said. "We were just coming to look for you.

Then there were hugs and kisses, a welcome supper, a bedtime story, and a trip upstairs to dreamland.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

If you've been reading Gracious Hospitality for awhile, you probably realize that I love creamed soups made with oven-roasted cashews. This heart-healthy alternative to dairy is creamy, smooth, and rich. Recently I adapted my recipe for creamy potato soup to cauliflower soup. It did not disappoint. Savory, rich, and creamy --- it was a perfect supper for an autumn day.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower, steamed in about 1 cup water
1 cup raw cashews, oven-roasted
3 - 4 cups soymilk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. marjoram

Steam cauliflower in water until tender. Place in blender and whiz until smooth. Pour about 1/2 the mixture into a kettle. Then add the cashews to the remaining cauliflower in the blender. Add about 1/2 the soymilk, salt, soy sauce, and marjoram. Blend until cashews are creamy and smooth. Pour into kettle and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired. Re-heat as necessary and serve.

*Adding a chicken-style seasoning like Bill's Best Chicknish' or McKay's is good in this recipe.

Friends of the Library

Our local library had a book sale today. It was conducted by the "Friends of the Library" and the funds gathered from from this event are used to buy new books for the library. Discards and donations are organized and displayed by volunteers so community members can browse and buy. For about $6.00 I obtained some interesting new cookbooks, a few decorating books, and two stacks of Better Homes & Gardens magazines. It's a pretty frugal way to obtain some hours of reading pleasure!

Our library has been a friend since we moved to our community more than twenty years ago. At that time the library was a mobile van that came to our neighborhood once or twice a week. If there was something we wanted to read that they didn't have on the van (which was frequently, as the van was small) all we had to do was request a book by title or author and it would be on the van or mailed to us within a few days. Eventually the library moved into a spare room at the local elementary school, and later to several spare spaces at a local business. Finally, it was with a great deal of pride and appreciation that we finally got our own library building. Just around the block from us, it's been a nice place to end up after a walk. Helpful librarians and great service are their trademark! They ordered and delivered countless books for learning and unit studies during our home education years!

Hmmmm, what is the librarian reading? Oh, it's Gracious Hospitality! And yes, she scanned through all my links --- to your blog as well!

Thank you, friendly librarians, for all the service you have been to our community! We appreciate the great wealth of information and resources you provide for us!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Color Harmonies

The study of color is fun and interesting. Did you know there are actually 'rules' that help you with color schemes for both indoor and outdoor decor? I've always enjoyed working with a color wheel and studying color. Each color has it's own value and hue. And color harmonies are created by choosing complementary, analogous, triadic, split-complementary, tetradic, and square color schemes. Although we generally think of home decor when we think of a color scheme, take time to look around in nature. God used his own rules for color harmony when creating the earth! It's a fun activity to spend time with children, having them paint a color wheel and then taking it outside to identify color schemes found at the park, in the woods, at the lake, or the zoo! Application of these principles then become easy when applied to projects in the home --- from setting a table to painting a bedroom.

The photo above is one that really appeals to me. At first glance it draws me because of the beautiful barn red roof! Then, of course, the lavender is noted. Both colors are near one another on the color wheel. Directly across from the color between them on the wheel is green, making this a split-complementary color harmony or scheme. Look around you and see what kinds of color harmonies you can discover in things around you. Fashion, home, nature, and more all appeal most when principles of color are applied. Simple rules. . .and great pleasure in the beauty all around.

Photo: Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Sequim, Washington

September's Yellow

Best I love September's yellow,
morns of dew-strung gossamer,
Thoughtful days without a stir,
Rooky clamours, brazen leaves,
Stubble dotted o'er with sheaves
More than Spring's bright uncontrol
Suit the Autumn of my soul."

Alex Smith

To the Meadows Took My Way

While ripening corn grew thick and deep,

And here and there men stood to reap,
One morn I put my heart to sleep,
And to the meadows took my way,
The goldfinch on a thistle-heat
Stood scattering seedlets as she fed,
The wrens their pretty gossip spread,
Or joined a random roundelay."

Jean Ingelow

It's Apple Time!

It's apple season! Pickers in our neighborhood are busy harvesting sweet and juicy Fuji's by the crate full. The Pink Lady variety is used as a pollinator amongst the Fuji rows; they are harvested separately for those who like this rosy and aromatic apple.

It's the time to make applesauce, yummy desserts, and apple cider. Of course, it's never out of style to just enjoy a crispy apple by itself or as wedges dipped in cinnamon and sugar.

Apple Crisp

Recently I spent some time in the kitchen and made an apple crisp. It's very yummy and easy to prepare. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free. It can also be corn, soy, and nut-free. Or, if you'd like, it can be prepared using gluten and dairy products. It's one of those great recipes that can be used to 'invent' whatever your needs or tastes desire.

For the topping:

3/4 cup sugar - white, brown, or natural
(maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
3/4 cup flour (favorite gluten-free flour mix, just starch
like cornstarch, almond meal,
other nut meal,
or whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, dairy-free
margarine, or coconut oil
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grates or sprinkles of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and/or allspice

For the filling:

6 to 8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup sugar (or stevia and maple syrup)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
a few grates or sprinkles of nutmeg
1 Tbsp. minute Tapioca

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a deep pie pan.
Mix together the topping ingredients with 2 knives or a pastry blender until it
resembles small peas or cornmeal.
Toss together the filling ingredients in a bowl. Pour into the pie pan.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling.
Bake for 35 to 35 minutes, until the top is crisp. Serve warm with coconut milk
or just plain.

*I used gluten-free Montina flour and coconut flour; coconut oil;
stevia and maple syrup as my ingredient choices. Apple varieties
were this season's Fuji and Golden Delicious.

Since it's fruit, it could be a good addition to
any meal - even breakfast!


Serve with a sprig of mint and some chilled coconut milk! Delish!

Have you tried any of these apple varieties?
Golden Delicious Fuji Crabapple Spokane Beauty Granny Smith Northern Spy Early Criterion Gala Stayman Winesap Spartan

firm, crisp, sweet, juicy, good in pies, cream-colored flesh, tart, large, firm, good in sauce, mild, yellowish white flesh, slightly spicy, aromatic, brisk flavor, white flesh, yummy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fragrant in Lovingkindness

"When we obey Him, every path He guides us on is fragrant with His lovingkindness and His truth."

Psalm 25:10 TLB

The morning glories have grown by leaps and bounds! Three or four varieties that are planted by the dog kennel to provide shade are melding together to create a wild wall of color and entanglement! How I dread the first frost! I'm enjoying them daily while they are still vibrant.

Oatmeal Cookies

Because oats are not grown in 'dedicated fields' and a risk of cross-contamination with wheat is likely, oats have been banned at our house along with wheat, rye, and barley. Being gluten-free brings challenges, but we've all adapted to the lifestyle as required by one family member. Sometimes you really miss certain foods, like oatmeal cookies! Recently I found a package of 'organic and certified gluten free' oats at the health food store. They've been grown in a dedicated field and have been tested to make sure no traces of wheat or other gluten-filled grains have contaminated the oats. I couldn't resist buying a package, even though a container about the size of a Quaker Oats box was more than $10.00! The first thing I tried was this recipe for oatmeal cookies. Delicious! I think you'll agree, even if you are not 'gluten-free'. Here's the recipe:

Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp. EnerG Egg Replacer*
4 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten-flour blend**
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips***

Cream together coconut oil and sugars. Add vanilla, egg substitute and mix well. Add dry ingredients, continuing to blend with mixer. If ingredients are too dry, add a little more water. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Scoop cookies onto a baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool on baking stone and remove when cooled.

Variations: add cinnamon, raisins, walnuts, or extra vanilla or almond extract.

*3 tsp. egg replacer is equal to three eggs.
**I used Montina flour and coconut flour in equal portions. For those who can use gluten products, an equal amount of whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour can be used.
***Carob chips can replace chocolate chips, although a vegan AND gluten-free version of carob chips is yet to be found.

A Dramatic Lady

I completed my tea towel for swapping this month and it's now on it's way to Vicki's. She was my partner last month as well, so I chose to work with a design similar to the tea towel I stitched for her last exchange so she could have a pair. This 1920's lady is expressive and vibrant! I find that stitching faces is somewhat difficult, as the thread doesn't always cooperate with how I believe something should look. The designer of this pattern indicated that everything should be stitched in black except for the little bit of red and yellow that was used for hair and lips. I suppose this adds to the dramatic effect desired, but I find myself wishing for a little more color. I really have been enjoying stitching on linen after the many cotton tea towels I've be making. Cotton is so forgiving, but I'm becoming accustomed to the linen and have been adapting quite well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cottage Window Sunbeams

"Just as there comes a warm sunbeam into every cottage window, so comes a love --- born of God's care for every separate need."

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Photo: Cedarbrook Herb and Lavender Farm

Monday, September 24, 2007

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Soup and autumn seem to go together so well. As chilly weather sets in, it's time for simple, comfort food! My father-in-law gave me a beautiful butternut squash from his garden. I roasted it and made this savory soup. Roasting the squash made it easier to peel and it deepened the flavor of the flesh, making it richer and more flavorful.

1 large butternut squash, oven roasted
1/2 cup raw cashews, washed and oven roasted*
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions
8 fresh sage leaves
6 - 8 cups chicken-like broth**
salt to taste
savory seasoning to taste
ground nutmeg to taste
pinch of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and roast butternut squash for about 1 hour, until tender. Remove from heat. Then roast washed, raw cashews in oven for 20 minutes, until browned.

When squash is cooled enough to handle, remove skin and any seeds. Chop into pieces and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add onion and sage leaves. Stir occasionally and cook until onions are translucent and tender. Add squash pieces and chicken-like broth. Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce heat, allowing mixture to simmer for a few minutes to combine flavors. Remove from heat.

Working in batches, add the roasted cashews and puree the soup in blender. Since the soup is hot, work carefully, as hot liquids in a blender can erupt! Return soup to clean saucepan. Season with salt, nutmeg, and pinch of sugar. Add a savory seasoning if you like (tamari or Bragg's Liquid Aminos, Bell's Seasoning, etc.). Adjust liquids if you desire a thinner soup.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh sage leaves. Enjoy!

*Hazelnuts can be used instead of cashews. After roasting, cool and then remove skins by gently rubbing.

**I used Un-chicken broth, but any type of vegetable or vegan chicken-style broth will work. Or add water and McKay's Chicken-style seasoning or Bill's Best Chicknish to taste.

Graceful Lady

Last July Clarice posted a picture on her blog showing this beautiful, vintage pillow case. It's embroidered and colored with textile paints. But portions of this graceful lady were not completed --- the most important parts --- the face, hair, arms, and hands. I offered to complete the project for her, and yesterday took the last stitch. Clarice, your pillow slip will be back on it's way to you soon! I hope you like the results. I couldn't resist stitching the outline around the basket and her hair as well. I made her a red-head! I hope you like it! I enjoyed this project --- it was very relaxing stitching on this old linen piece.

*And a note to blog reader, Toshiko, in Japan --- I think of you every time I use the embroidery clippers! Thank you for them!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Welcome Autumn

'Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,
And night by night the monitory blast
Wails in the key-hole, telling how it pass'd
O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,
Or grim, wide wave, and now the power is felt
Of melancholy, tenderer in it's moods,
Than any joy indulgent summer dealt."

William Allingham

A walk in the autumn woods reveals so much beauty. Have you noticed how even seeds and seed pods have character and loveliness? Although autumn's flowers are not as delicate as those in spring, they have such vibrancy. Bright yellow, red, and purple dot the wooded forest. Accents of white in both flower and berry give sparkle to the forest bouquet. Leaves just turning color compliment all shapes and sizes of cones. And still there is enough green; a green that accentuates the colors of autumn and features them. Soon winter's bleakness will appear, but for now --- welcome autumn!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In His Hands

"Your business is the present;
leave the future in His hands
who will be sure to do the best,
the very best for you."

Priscilla Maurice

Cashew Gravy

New potatoes are available in our community, as the harvest is in full-swing. Potato trucks are on the highways, delivering to potato sheds that are rapidly filling up with this staple and hearty root. Baby reds, Yukon Gold's, and the ever popular russets are readily available and so delicious "new" and "fresh". With them, I like to serve my favorite gravy --- made from cashews and without wheat or free fats, this is a vegan, gluten-free, and heart-healthy recipe I think you'll enjoy. It's a family favorite at our house!

Cashew Gravy

2 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup raw cashews, sorted and cleaned
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. onion granules*
1 - 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. chicken-style seasoning**
1/4 cup parsley flakes
1/2 onion

Place all ingredients except parsley in blender and whiz until smooth. Add parsley flakes and mix until just blended. Pour mixture into saucepan and heat until mixture starts to bubble. Stir constantly with wire whisk and continue heating for 2 - 3 minutes (until mixture thickens). Remove from heat and serve.

Both the cashews and the cornstarch act as thickeners in this recipe. To create a nutty flavor, roast cashews in oven before using.

*Sometimes I add garlic powder as well.

**Chicken-style seasonings can be purchased at most health food stores. Bill's Best Chicknish' or McKay's Chicken Style Seasoning are two brands that are excellent. Both are available in vegan versions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Autumn Organizing

Spring and autumn, the two times a year that the nesting instinct moves one towards sorting and organizing. Whether it's spring cleaning or autumn organizing, nothing is safe from this instinct! I'm in the midst of a task that seems daunting and overwhelming. But, that's because I'm in the middle of it! Upon completion, it will feel so good to have it done. The task? Cleaning out the closet in the spare room.

This closet is the overflow for seasonal clothing, items that don't fit, and an assortment of other things that don't seem to belong anywhere else. It's so much easier to close the closet doors and just leave these things --- but when the autumn organizing bug bites, it's time to sort! Rubbermaid bins, laundry baskets, shoe caddy's, and piles of clothing are spread in intervals around the room.

Decisions must be made. I know the rules say that if you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it. But it's not a rule I like to abide by. "Some day" I might need it again. "Some day" I might fit into it again. "Some day" I might have a special occasion to wear this to again. And then there are the special outfits; my wedding dress, the formal from the high school banquet in 9th grade, platform high heels from the 70's, and the dress I wore to my mother's funeral. Each piece brings back a memory. . .and although they'll probably never be worn again, they help create a visual picture in my mind of something memorable that took place in my life. It's these things that the 'closet organizing experts' tell you to 'get over' and to 'move on'. But it's so hard! I must say, though, that I am doing a pretty good job!

Over the summer months I went on a weight loss program and lost 27+ pounds. That means I lost two clothing sizes! Out went everything that is too large! Goodwill can deal with them now and maybe they'll serve another again someday soon. There is suddenly enough room in my closet, and the more pleasurable part of closet organizing begins. New shoe bags hold shoes in place. Enough hangers are now available to hang things up. Sweaters for winter are ready to launder and refresh. The closet is lighter and brighter. . .and the incentive to keep loosing weight has just been reinforced. Somewhere in the back of my closet are some pretty dresses three sizes smaller than I am now; motivation to keep on going. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have the opportunity to lighten my closet again for spring cleaning.

Pep talk, pep talk, pep talk. . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy Times

"Happy times and bygone days are never lost. . .In truth, they grow more wonderful within the heart that keeps them."

Kay Andrew

Monday, September 17, 2007

Autumn Rose

The cooler autumn air gives vibrancy and reprieve to the roses in the garden. For the next month, I will enjoy them greatly, knowing that the first frost will take away their beautiful blossoms until spring. The bright colors inspired me to create a centerpiece with roses as the focal point.

Old Embroidery

A bouquet of an assortment of colorful roses created the quirky and unusual centerpiece. They are placed in a floral, water-filled 'ring' that is set upon a cake plate. It's covered with an antique embroidered doily I found at a thrift store recently.

Candle Ring

A candle set in the middle adds an autumnal touch.

Friends for Lunch

This week-end the weather was perfect. It provided just the kind of day you'd like to spend with friends. So, we called up Quentin and Tari to see if they would like to come over for an impromptu meal together. Tari brought salads and I provided favorite family casseroles. In no time, a autumn buffet was set. I couldn't help but think of Sandy of The Reluctant Entertainer. Her influence inspired me to host this last-minute meal. The house wasn't perfect, but the companionship was!

Autumn Buffet's Fare

From scalloped cabbage --- to polenta with adobe chipotle gravy --- hearts of palm salad --- new potatoes --- broccoli spears --- and more --- everyone was satisfied with the simple autumn fare.

Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole

I had sweet potatoes in the house, so thought I'd try a new recipe. This one is definitely a 'keeper'! A take-off from the traditional sweet potatoes and pineapple casserole, this one uses apples to compliment the sweet potatoes --- and it does it very well.

Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 - 3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2/3 - 1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place sweet potatoes in a prepared baking dish. Top with apples. Mix the maple syrup, oil, and salt together. Pour over apples. Sprinkle with coconut. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Then, remove cover and bake for an additional 20 - 30 minutes. Apples and sweet potatoes should be tender and coconut lightly browned.

*For a fat free version, substitute apple juice for olive oil.

Autumn Desserts

What to have for dessert? I decided to work with whatever was on hand. Fruit with honey glazed on top went well with mini muffins I had purchased at the grocery store as a treat for the boys. They were blueberry, poppy-seed, and orange. I topped them with some plain frosting and decorated them with the sugared flowers I'd made in the spring. Do you remember this post? They held up well and were as fresh and vibrant now as then. I decided that impromptu menus can be challenging, but a great deal of fun!

Happy Autumn!

God's Shelves

"I find that God's gifts are on shelves --- one beneath the other --- and the lower we stoop, the more we get."

P.B. Meyer

Photo: Purple Haze Lavender

Sunday, September 16, 2007

And the Winner Is. . .

We have a winner! Becky of Carolina Journal is the recipient of the framed rose cross-stitch. Thank you to everyone who commented this week. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and ideas. It was a great week!

In a day or two I will be announcing another cross-stitch give-away. So, please check back again soon! Thanks for visiting Gracious Hospitality.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Be Alive

"Life is what we are alive to. . .
Be alive to. . .goodness, kindness, purity, love, history, poetry, music, flowers, stars, God, and eternal hope."

Maltbie D. Babcock

Photo: Elm Street Antiques

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Autumn Bliss

Clarice at Storybook Woods is having a special blog-party to celebrate autumn and to express her delight that Victorian magazine will soon be published again. Autumn Bliss has been going on all week and I've enjoyed visiting her blog every day, reading about the autumn ideas that other bloggers are sharing there. I think you would enjoy visiting as well --- please stop by Storybook Woods and see what's going on there. I think you'll enjoy the autumn crafts, recipes, and other ideas shared.

Because I enjoy Clarice and her blog, I wanted to participate in her special event. But, I will admit that I have struggled all week with the idea that autumn is near. We are having a perfect "Indian Summer" --- blissful days with warm temperatures, puffy clouds, and sunshine. These are the days that I wish could go on forever and ever. The flowers in the garden are vibrant again after the intense heat of August. The family is busy with their late summer jobs and hobbies. School has not yet started for the college set, and life is comfortable and good. Autumn means shorter days and boys back to college. That means sending off one to the university, which means I have to struggle with the 'partially empty nest' thing all over again this year. Maybe it will be easier than last, I don't know. But what I do know is that I have enjoyed the summer months and having the family together again so very much.

But autumn will come, whether I want it to or not. An optimist, I will adjust and even enjoy the fall of the year. Thanks, Clarice, for the gentle prod to get on with the seasons and enjoy what life brings.

Cabin-Woods Tea

In honor of Storybook Woods Autumn Bliss, I decided to prepare a Cabin-Woods Tea. Brent and the boys took some time off work this week to go to the cabin and spend some days building on the new woodshed and bunk-house. As I packed the ice chests with food for the family, I tucked in some treats that I thought would make a rustic tea party for everyone to enjoy during a work-break.

Wholesome Woodsy Menu

Wholesome treats were chosen with a fruit and nut theme. The menu included:

prunes with roasted cashews
walnut whole-wheat bread with cashew butter
caramel rice cakes
apple cinnamon scones
cheesy corn dippers with lavender sprigs
blueberry muffins
lemon cake with strawberry jam
cinnamon-raisin cookies
hot tea

Teacup and Saucer Marriage

The cabin teacups are a set of six that I found at a yard sales years back. I fell in love with them! The lady selling them didn't cherish them at all --- so sold them for a quarter apiece. But she did value the saucers. Those she kept because she might need them some day. I will admit that I tried to get her to keep the teacups (I thought it a shame that they be separated). But she felt I was silly to even suggest such a thing! Instead, I purchased the teacups and have enjoyed them these years without saucers. This summer I decided it was time for a teacup and saucer 'marriage' and I've kept my eyes open for saucers that fit the color scheme and china-type of the teacups. The teacup and saucer in this picture is the result of the 'marriage'. I think they look quite nice together --- and there's equilibrium in the teacup and saucer world again!

Nature's Centerpiece

It's fun to create centerpieces out of whatever is on hand. Simple and fun, this centerpiece consists of two napkin rings (the evergreen with small pine cones), some large pine cones I picked up off the ground, a few dried flower stems picked from nearby, and blooming lavender from the cabin garden. The tablecloth is actually the yardage I purchased for the cabin wall-hanging quilt I'm planning. I'd taken the fabrics along with me to check out the color scheme with the cabin decor. I was pleased they were able to serve a double purpose.

The boys enjoyed the tea tray treats. And I double-enjoyed the sweet cantaloupe! Yum!

Seeds and Berries of Autumn

You know I think spring is beautiful! I love the tiny flowers, vibrant colors, and fragrances in the spring. But autumn isn't too bad either. Aren't the berries and seed pods pretty? Each season speaks of it's own unique beauty. God is so good!

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Late Afternoon Tea

Welcome to Gracious Hospitality!

I am delighted to join in the "Make Mine Pink" virtual tea party. Please pour yourself a cuppa your favorite tea and sip along with me as we browse through the tea party participants at
Make Mine Pink.

On a recent late afternoon I prepared my tea tray and went to the garden to enjoy a platter of fruit and pot of tea. I took a cinnamon-raisin cookie along for Tia and Coco, my devoted schnauzer pals. While sipping my tea I thought about the upcoming virtual tea. So many ideas! So little time. And then Miss
Jenny Craig has been keeping me diligent for the past four months and every bite that goes into my mouth is measured and counted, or so it seems. Except for a delightful deviation or two, I've kept right on track to my goal of reaching my right weight. So that I might stay on track, I decided the best course of action would be to share with you, dear readers, about some of retro-posts (aka re-runs) of some of my favorite teas. If you check the blog archives, you'll find --- the adorable tea house of my 80-year-old friend, Margaret. . .and an afternoon long high tea with dear Aunt. . .a Victorian Rose birthday tea for my friend, Karleen. . .and a Bed and Breakfast tea served to my friend Bonnie who was visiting and staying in the motorhome. A tea party wouldn't be complete without sharing pictures of authentic tea ladies --- the ones who pluck the tea leaves in Sri Lanka. My sister visited several tea plantations past February and generously shared her pictures with me along with stories of these women's lives.

So, y'all come back now. This tea party will last all week long!

Please read down to the announcement of Gracious Hospitality's first 'give-away'. You are welcome to sign up!

The cookie's for Tia and Coco, but the tea is for me! When sipping either Jasmine or Oolong teas, I like my 'plain' or served with some of the sweet herb, stevia. The cup and saucer shown here are a 'marriage'. In other words, they are not a set, but one I made from two lonely pieces that were missing their teacup and saucer mates. I love them together and really enjoy the translucence of these porcelain pieces.