Saturday, May 31, 2008

Reflected Family

Please excuse me while I think about the past. It seems that I've come to a time in my life when I'm valuing and cherishing 'roots' and 'heritage' keenly. I have always been one of the family 'memory-keepers', but this trait has become stronger as I've grown older. Although I'm not a genealogist, the interest is there and many facts gathered together, just waiting to be organized and studied with care. It's so interesting to observe how families interact and how their values are established. The things they enjoy in life, the hobbies they participate in, and the talents they share all work together to weave into threads of wholeness. Together it creates a complete picture of who a family is.

These facts have come together in my mind more fully recently, as I visited my Grandma, auntie, uncles, and cousins. Observing family traits as they have fully developed in individuals is an interesting thing. My mother's family's English heritage is fully expressed through their love for gardening, writing, painting and drawing, and needlecraft. Even their eating habits remain similar after all these years! My grandmother, and each one of her children share these interests and abilities --- and it's so interesting to observe. Uncle's beautiful vegetable garden is weedless and abundant in fresh greens. Needlepoint and oil painted pictures are beautifully framed on the walls of his living room --- hobbies he developed after his retirement. Auntie has abundant flower gardens in true English style. She loves to write and is published frequently in "Creation" magazine, usually on topics related to nature. A poetess, her verses relate to nature themes. Mother shared all these abilities and I sometimes wonder if the talent stopped there. When we compare ourselves to those who have matured and developed their interests, it seems our own are feeble and lacking, but I do realize that we do grow by God's grace as we mature and develop the talents and abilities He gives to us. Watching my own children as they work to discover their place in life shows me a reflection of those generations before, and I see that the talents and abilities must be passing along through me to the next generation, as those talents are reflected in them, just in their own unique and different way. Their media may be computer, the printed page, and film, but the artistic need to create and the ability to do so is evolving and developing as my sons explore new avenues of creativity. The inner need to create beauty is strong; a part of who we are. Although no one in the family is famous or even sells their crafts or wares, it brings personal enjoyment and satisfaction. . .and that is what it's all about. The fulfillment and expression of who we are and how we enjoy the life God created us for.

Uncle's needlepoint abilities have inspired me. Tried by me once years ago, I gave up in frustration because my completed project was misshapen and greatly lacking in style. I threw it away, but mother rescued it and it hung in her dining room forever after. It's now come back to me (I have it stored away in a box; still out of my sight!). It's time to try again --- so the tools and materials are gathered and I'm ready to start my first stitch in the thread of family history. Thank you, Uncle, for your example and inspiration.

The picture above is of my mother and her younger sister and brother. They were avid gardeners, even at the tender age shown in this photo, and had won a community gardening contest and were awarded trophies for their efforts.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A New Attitude

The freshness of spring and summer always inspires me to 'clean things up'. Sometimes it's the house, or maybe the yard, and sometimes it's even my blog! You may have noticed that the 'key word' section is gone (for now) and that my blog roll has been changed to a more compact edition. My blog friends are still listed on the right along with a special listing of hospitali-TEA participants. Please check out the new system and let me know if it 'works for you'.

With my new attitude, I'm gearing up for some new things. There's a blog event going on at Quill Cottage that Miss Sandy is conducting "I Remember Laura". Be sure to check it out and maybe I'll see you there. I hope so!

Grandma's Love

I would love to share this beautiful picture of my Grandma. It was taken last Sunday when I visited her. We went for a walk in the garden, as Grandma loves flowers and has always been an avid gardener. She was obviously very influential in the lives of all her children, as my mother and her sister and brothers have all loved gardening and kept (or keep) extensive gardens as well. Grandma will be 99 years old this June. She's mentally alert and with it, but her body is growing more frail as time goes on. She directed me to a walk-way with rails on each side. Once we got there, she got out of the wheelchair, took two steps hanging onto the rails, and then walked the rest of the length of the walk-way with 'no hands'. She was so pleased, and so was I! I cheered her on! I love you, Grandma!

Teas Galore!

Anyone who loves usually enjoys tasting and trying new teas. Fragrance varies from leaf to leaf. . .and flavored teas with their bits of flower petals, fruit pieces, and dried herbs are interesting to behold. Pretty packaging draws one to them, and before long. . .there's more tea in the house than you can drink in a year! Storing teas can become challenging. Clear jars with a tight lid work well, but take up space. Plastic isn't useful, as it absorbs flavors and changes them in the tea as well. Tea tins are pretty, but each comes in a different size and shape, making them difficult to store in one place. And little foil packets with pretty labels on them look so appealing, but are sometimes difficult to reseal and then they easily get lost in a drawer. So. . .how have you resolved the tea storage problem? Leave a comment. . .and share ideas with others here. Inquiring minds want to know.

Enjoy a lovely day!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quiet in Blogland

It's a little difficult to get back into the swing of blogging again after all the fun of the blog-a-thon. I think some of the rest of you are feeling that way as well. I've noticed that some of you have written on your blogs that it seems very quiet in blogland. Inspiration will hit again soon, and we'll be off and running again. In the meantime, I've been reorganizing my blog roll and added all the participants under their own heading (see on the right-hand side). I've also enjoyed visiting many blogs today that I haven't had time to browse through for awhile. It was a relaxing experience. Now. . .if I can just think of something to write about tomorrow. . .

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gracious Hospitali-TEA Winner!

I'm delighted to announce that we have a winner! Every time someone posted to the Gracious Hospitali-TEA blog-a-thon, their name was eligible for an entry into our drawing. Today I'm happy to let you know that Mogs Book Blog and. . . is the winner of our drawing. From Mogs Book Blog she writes about books, poetry, and life in general. Zetor's profile tells us that she lives in the United Kingdom is a wife, mother, and keen reader. She has three beautiful daughters, all over twenty-one, which allows her more time to read (since they are grown up). She loves fiction and poetry and her beloved pet cat. Her cat, Mog, is a beauty --- just scroll down to the bottom of her blog page to see a prize winning kitty with a 1st place ribbon! Additionally, today is Zetor's birthday! Please stop by her blog to wish her the best for the year ahead and a happy, happy day!

Congratulations, Zetor! Thank you for all of your posts in our blog-a-thon. You have won all the items displayed on the chair above.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thanking You!

Thank you for all the wonderful, informative, interesting, friendly, tea-filled posts during our ten week blog-a-thon. I've enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends. Please come back and visit Gracious Hospitality again! When time permits, I will be linking all participants in my blog roll so we can continue to comment and share together. The blog roll will make it easier for us to continue to find one anothers blogs. Although the blog-a-thon is over, I will be posting other sharing events as time and inspiration allow. Please check back again and post in other events if you can. Bless you!

What is tea?
Noun 1. afternoon tea - a light midafternoon meal of tea and sandwiches or cakes; "an Englishman would interrupt a war to have his afternoon tea"

A Cup of Tea

When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.
There is magic in its' fragrance,
There is solace in its' taste;
And then laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.
And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There's beauty as you'll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.

The Drawing

Here's wishing you a safe and happy week-end! Our Gracious Hospitali-TEA Blog-a-Thon drawing will take place on Tuesday morning, May 27. Please be sure to stop by again to see if you are the winner! Those elegible are individuals who posted in the blog-a-thon and one entry for each post will be entered.

Have a fun week-end!

Photo: The Tea Party tea room in Newport, Oregon

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Caring for Silver for Tea

Caring for tea things takes time, but can be a soothing and relaxing experience. There's something about gently handling fragile teacups, pretty teapots, and fancy silver that helps one change their pace from the rushed and mundane to more tranquil and relaxed. I can remember my husband's grandmother on visits to his parents home. She walked with a cane because of arthritis, and although that kept her from some family activities, she always found another to keep herself busy. A morning polishing the silver was something she enjoyed and did well. The satisfaction of all the gleaming silverware in the drawer was appreciated by everyone! This morning as I prepare to polish some old silverware, I thought I'd take a moment to share some ideas for cleaning silver and polishing it to a fine patina. Each of us will have a different technique, I'm sure, but here's mine:

Wash silver with a mild, liquid dish soap and hot water. Set on a fluffy tea towel to drip dry. I always wear surgical gloves to protect my hands from chemicals for the next steps. Using a small sponge or terry cloth dishrag, use a product like Wright's Silver Cream to clean off tarnish. For small cracks and decorative spaces you cannot reach with the sponge, use an old soft toothbrush to get in all the little spaces. Sometimes it takes lots of rubbing to get the tarnish off! Rinse well and dry. Sometimes I stop with this step, but I've learned that a beautiful, high polish can be achieved by next polishing with MAAS polishing cream. It gives everything a beautiful patina and high polish, making most silver good as new again. Actually, silver becomes better with 'age', have you noticed? The patina produced by using silver makes it become soft and beautiful. Years ago I took a class in meal management and table-setting and our instructor frequently reminded us that silver was meant to be used and only became better because of it.

Sometimes there are silver pieces that are so tarnished and blackened that they become overwhelming to tackle with the silver polish. Emilie Barnes has a technique in her book, IfTeacups Could Talk, that works very well and helps to streamline the process. She says to place a large sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a sink or dishpan. Fill with warm water and add one cup of Tide detergent (not any other brand). Stir the mixture up and then add your silver pieces. Allow them to sit in this liquid mixture for eight to twelve hours and then remove, rinse, and dry. The tarnish should be gone. . .and if not. . .soak them for awhile longer. I've used this technique with success, but am very careful not to do it very often, as I think it is quite strong for favored silver pieces and over time and frequent use of this method, they could deteriorate. Emilie also suggests rubbing silver with toothpaste to polish silver. I haven't tried this method, but it sure sounds like it would smell better than some of the silver polishes out there!

Once your silver is cleaned, it can be stored by wrapping in specially treated flannel that will prevent it from tarnishing. This works especially well for silverware, as you can line the drawer with it or make silverware a silverware caddy to slip individual silverware pieces into. But, the best way to store silver is on display where you can enjoy it on a daily basis. A crystal vase with a selection of interesting shaped silverware pieces in it is beautiful on a hutch or counter. And a silver tea tray with tea set upon it is lovely on a tea table in a special room in the house. They tarnish slowly over time with all the exposure to air, but fortunately the tarnished, shabby chic 'look' is very popular and still beautiful on display. If only I could convince grandmother of that. My verbalization of such thoughts has been met by much skepticism by the previous generations!

Do you have other ways of cleaning and polishing silver? Please leave a comment, sharing with others your secrets for silver care.

Please scroll down for this week's Mr. Linky and posts by others on the topic of teapots. Enjoy a lovely day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crazy for Teapots

Teapots are wonderful, not only because they can contain tasty teas and tisanes, but because each one is a unique work of art that reflects the moods, tastes, and sometimes even the dreams of the one who serves from them. Teapots range from the very small to large; from plain simplicity to the very ornate; and from English to Asian and more. Someone asked me how many teapots I have, and I don't know. My mother and I both enjoyed teapots. I was quite young when she took a ceramics class and made a teapot, creamer, and sugar with pansy decals on it. A few years later I took the same class and made my own set in blue and white. It was the start of many happy hours of 'searching' for the ideal teapot for our mood and budget. Thrift shops, yard sales, and outlet malls were places we enjoyed visiting together as we searched for them. My sister had her own bonding-themes with mom, but teapots weren't one of them. Sis isn't a 'tea lady', so when it came time to divide mother's things up between us, the teapots and teacups became mine. Due to a kitchen remodel in progress, most of my teapots are packed away right now where I can't photograph them, but I decided to look through my picture files to see what I could find to share. I think the collage does a pretty good job of depicting my moods, tastes, and dreams. . .as they reflect moments in my daily life. . .which is what taking tea is for me. . .moments of everyday life.

I would like to share a story about the blue and white teapot in the fourth row down. My mother passed away nearly four years ago, and in her things I found a beautiful blue and white teacup. I fell in love! It was mom's and I thought it so beautiful! Missing a saucer for it, I inquired on a chat list for tea lovers about finding a saucer for my lonely teacup. One of the ladies in the group had one without a teacup (her's had broken when a shelf fell; she was heartbroken and had scooped all the pieces into a bag and put the pieces away). When she realized I was looking for a saucer, she found the bag of broken bits and pieces and discovered that one saucer was there in one piece. She kindly sold it to me for $5.00 and it married perfectly with my teacup. The first Christmas without my mother was an emotional one, and it became more so when I opened my packages Christmas morning and discovered what my sons had done. They were in their mid-teens then, and had taken time to research on the Internet, finding where they were able to obtain a teapot to match my teacup. I'm sure they spent a fortune (for them) and when I opened the sweet gift I could only cry. Since then I've been able to find three more cups and saucers, giving me a set of four. I am so sentimental! I cherish this sweet gift from my boys so very much!

I hope you enjoy my teapot collage. Each one has a story and is meaningful in some way. For some, it's the experience of the hunt (finding an old, mini teapot at Goodwill for 50 cents) and for other's it's the memory of a time spent with a loved one. The little green teaset in the second row was purchased for me in Japan by the boy's Suzuki piano teacher. The white and green teapot is a Susan Branch that has the words "When the tea kettle sings with happiness, that is home." If you have questions about a specific teapot, I'm happy to answer them. Just leave a comment and I'll amend this post. :)

I know this is a little bit 'long', but I'm waxing eloquent because I don't want our blog-a-thon to end. I've enjoyed meeting so many lovely people; kindred-spirits who share so much in common. I've enjoyed reading your comments to one another and have appreciated how you are making new friends as well. I hope we can continue to stay in touch --- and plan on posting each week yet (if I can keep up) with Mr. Linky and other themes related to gracious hospitality and friendship. I hope you continue to join in! I look forward to seeing you then!

Be sure to check back next week for the 'winner' of the participants drawing. It will be so difficult to choose 'just one', but fortunately there is no 'decision' to make with a drawing except for which name tag to pull out of a teapot! The winner will be featured on my blog next week --- with their permission, of course.

Enjoy a lovely day! It's raining here --- I think I'll go make myself a cup of Chocolate Raspberry Bliss Tisane!

Please scroll down for links to this week's theme: The Pouring Teapot

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Pouring Teapot

Links this Week: Mr. Linky is not being very sociable this week, and anyone who has linked after #14 may not be seen by all readers. I have posted a "new" Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post. If your link is #15 or beyond, would you please repost to the second Mr. Linky? I will then 'try' to delete your original link so as to keep 'the house in order'. I'm sorry for the extra time and effort this takes, but I don't want anyone to miss a link because they can't read it on their computer screen. Thanks so much!

May 18 - May 24

The Pouring Teapot

This week is all about sharing about teapots. Do you have one? two? or three? maybe more? Is it for display only or do you use it for tea? What is the tea server you use most? Your favorite teapot (or is it something like a quart jar?). Tell your teapot story, give it's history, and tell what it means to you. You can share more than once if you'd like. Antique, new, Asian, English, or something in between --- we'd love to know!
Photo above: this teapot was given to me last Christmas by my son, Rylan. He shopped carefully for this lovely little teapot from St. Petersburg, Russia. I love the translucent glaze on it and the beautiful hand-painted design.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Favorite Tea Rooms

Selecting a favorite tea room is difficult, as each one has it's own unique and interesting traits. I'd like to take a walk down memory lane, sharing thoughts on several of the tea rooms that I think are most delightful!

My first tea room experience started several years ago when both my sons were small. There was a small tea room in the town where Grandma lived, and we enjoyed visiting there and having afternoon tea with her. After Grandma retired from teaching, she worked there during lunch hours, helping serve lunch and afternoon tea. The boys enjoyed the afternoon teas because the food was delicious --- but I told them it was so they could learn good manners in case they ever had the opportunity to be invited to have a meal with the President or the Queen of England. They thought I was funny, but obliged me and learned their manners anyway. BJ's Cottage was a lovely little tea room (shown above) and although now closed, was instrumental in developing my love for afternoon tea.

* * *

Another favorite tea room is LaTeaDa Tea Room. Not mine (LaTeaDah. . .a different spelling with a story behind the name) it is a tea room which I was only able to visit recently. Every other time I have tried to have tea there --- it was closed or had no reservations available. This tea room is owned and operated by best friends who are married to dairy farmers. They wished for a place to bake and cook and serve their fresh and delicious milks and cheeses, so opened a tea room that is pure perfection! Every detail remembered, service is well-done and their emphasis on excellence is evident. I can only describe tea there as 'perfection'. In addition to their tea room, they have an extensive gift shop with many lovely gifts and china.

* * *

Nestled along the shore by a busy harbor in the Puget Sound, Twigs tea room is a fine example of fine English casual-style. A well-equipped and cozy kitchen is set right off the tea room where all that happens there can be viewed if desired. Delicious pasties and cakes and scones and cookies are prepared in this comfortable, windowed kitchen. The dining room is surrounded by windows that open right off to the shore and yachts, sailboats, and ferries can be observed while sipping on tea and eating delectable treats. Each table is set with a different colored and patterned linen. . .and the eclectic and mis-matched china add charm to the ambiance of this lovely place. By the way, Twigs is actually called Dame Agatha Twigs Tea Room.

* * *

Tea at the Painter's Cottage is a cozy affair. Beautifully color-coordinated rooms are packed with beautifully appointed tables and many pieces of porcelain and china for sale. Jars of loose teas are displayed and tea can be purchased by the ounce or bag. Other rooms are set up with displays of gifts items for sale: a children's clothing boutique, jewelery, fancy women's wear, stationary, cards, and home decor items. The food is always delicious at the Painter's Cottage! A professional chef owns the shop and willingly prepares tea foods not only for her themed teas, but accommodates those with special dietary needs with yummy alternatives that she makes specially upon request.

* * *

Anna's Tea Room fills a cozy Victorian house on a quiet street. Fresh lavender blooms along the sidewalk entrance and a quaint sign greets guests as they come for tea. Open even on Sunday's, this tea room offers a quiet comfort with a variety of seating options. Tables or low sofas and chair provide choices for seating. Fine china, vintage teacups, beautiful linens, and delicious food are all available here. Tea is properly decanted here, making the tea experience most enjoyable.

Tea books and small gifts are available for sale and are set around the tea room.

* * *

The Victorian Garden is a small and cheerful tea room, filled with beautiful art and much lovely china. Glass toppers are placed over beautiful tablecloths and English-style notecards and pictures are placed under the glass for interest and viewing enjoyment. Very dainty sandwiches, scones, and desserts fill the three-tiered tray and delicious soups or salads are available as well. Loose tea is placed in teapots that are brought to the table and guests are each equipped with a tea strainer so they can decant their own cups of tea.

* * *

In another coastal town, Lovejoy's brings charming English perfection to the tea table. Wait staff who are interested in their customers and in educating them of the charms of tea are appreciated. Delicious foods are served, but when I think of this tea room, I think especially of their wonderful tea selections and the perfection they offer in tea service.

* * *

The last tea room I mention today is not one I've been to, but one that my sister visited last year in Sri Lanka. After a lovely day visiting tea plantations high in the mountains, she found The Tea Cup along the road and was kind enough to stop and take a picture for me. With wide veranda's, one can sit and view the tropical foliage or distant plantations while they sip on a cup of tea that is as fresh as they come. How I wish I could have joined sis in sipping a cuppa tea there!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thank You & Ideas

A quick note to say 'thank you' to blog-a-thon participants, for such interesting, informative, and creative posts on our 'tea' theme. I know this week's topic has been quite difficult (as can be observed by fewer participants this week). But, next week's topic is much easier: teapots. I'm sure things will pick up again with the more user friendly topic. Thank you for the supportive and encouraging comments from participants and those reading the blog-a-thon posts. Some of you have expressed a desire to continue on with a new topic once the tea event is done. I'm willing to host another theme, but would appreciate feed-back on topics you might enjoy. If you could just drop me a quick comment here with your ideas, maybe we can collectively come up with something as interesting and as fun to blog about together.

Thank you, all, for being such an inspiration to me!!!!

The teatime pictured is one from a tea Aunt Cella hosted on her front porch on a sunny day last December.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Teafully Yours from LaTeaDah

Thank you, tea friends, for all the contributions to our Gracious Hospitalit-i-TEA Blog-a-Thon. You've worked so diligently and with faithfulness in producing interesting and informative posts. Your creativity and love for afternoon tea shines through! I look forward to your future posts and like many of you, wonder what to do that's nearly as much fun when the blog-a-thon ends. Enjoy a tea-lightful day!

*Were your speakers turned on? If not, please view again so you can enjoy the soothing tea-time music. Is your hot cuppa with you to sip as you view?

Victoria Rose

Diary of Victoria Rose

Years ago I found a solitary tea cup at an antique shop with a gorgeous rose pattern. I fell in love with it on the spot. From then on, I searched high and low for the rest of the set in china shops, at auctions, flea markets, rummage sales.... Alas, without success! Not even a saucer!! Just as I was beginning to suspect that the cup wasn't part of a set at all, but a one-of-a-kind, never to be found again treasure, I was served tea on the very same china at the home of a friend! Well, I stared with wide eyes until my friend said, "Isn't it beautiful? I found it at an estate sale. Unfortunately, one of the cups is missing." With a twinkle in my eye, I knew that my precious cup would soon have a new home.

Source: A Greeting Card

Please scroll down for my "Tea Table" post for this week.

Mother's Day Tea Table

Afternoon tea is a wonderful way to create memories and happy moments with those whom you love. And since tea tables are such a part of the tea experience, I always love to take pictures of the tea table, as it helps to visually record these special times with loved ones. As I went through my tea table pictures today, trying to figure out which one I would like to post as my blog-a-thon post for this week, I found a very special picture from a sweet afternoon tea from a Mother's Day past. Four years ago, this Mother's Day, my sister and I shared the day with mom, knowing it would be our last Mother's Day together. Mom had cancer and was very ill. Many duties called for our attention, as mom wasn't able to care for things on her own any more, but we all halted our chores and instead worked together to set an impromptu tea table with things mom loved. Mom was always partial to the color lavender and loved violets. We chose her violets tea set, teacups, and plates. A quick scurry in the kitchen resulted in savory sandwiches, blueberry scones, tarts, cookies, brownies, and baby cakes. With more than enough, we sat down to share tea time together, happily chatting, visiting, and sharing together. Sis and I worked hard to keep mom's spirits up, and she savored each day as a blessing. Flowers from her garden surrounded us (she loved her garden) and friends from the neighborhood dropped by for a visit (we poured them a cuppa as well). Mom said it was the best Mother's Day ever. . .and as Sis and I cleaned up the dishes. . .we were happy that Mom felt blessed and was so content because of a special day doing special things with her special daughters. Mom passed away two months later, but Sis and I will always look back on our last Mother's Day with her as a special blessing to us all. I miss Mom especially on Mother's Day. . .and always.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Soft Influence, Social Joy

"I am so fond of tea that I could write a whole dissertation of is virtues. It comforts and enlivens without the risks attendant on spirituous liquors. Gentle herb! Let the florid grape yield to thee. Thy soft influence in a more safe inspirer of social joy."

-- James Boswell (1740-1795)

Tables Settings
Themes from Teas Gone By
Special Memories
Beloved Friends
Cherished Moments

Please scroll down for this weeks blog-a-thon theme and links to other blogs on Mr. Linky.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Set the Table, Tea is On!

May 4 - May 10

Set the Table, Tea is On!

Share a creative afternoon tea table setting. Linens, serving pieces, teapots and teacup, tea accoutrement's and accessories, centerpieces, tea trays or three-tiers, and more. Show one way you enjoy creating a memorable tea experience. This is your opportunity to show the world the fun you have when you create your own special tea experience. Then. . .invite over a friend or neighbor and share some tea together. That way all your work is not for ought.