Let’s have tea – Afternoon Tea!

There’s something about afternoon tea that warms my heart.  Though I drink a dark roast coffee from early morning to late night,  the afternoon seems to call for something else.  It calls for a pretty antique tea cup, a silver spoon and  for me the fragrant brew of jasmine, apricot or earl grey tea.

I might enjoy this tea while alone in my room, all by myself,  enjoying the peace and splendor of solitude.   At other times I might enjoy the company of a letter friend.  I’ll make a pot of tea and pull out a letter to answer, a letter from one of my many delightful pen friends.  And there are the days when I delight in sharing tea with one of my many “dead friends”.  On such days all I need do is pull out a biography and the star of that book becomes my teatime companion.

But once a month I treat myself to the company of living, breathing, in-person friends to join me in the ceremony of afternoon tea.  Though I might fuss a little with the setting and spend some time in the kitchen preparing  edible treats, the real delight at these afternoon teas is in the company.

Sure, I could meet these friends at a tea house, but there’s something special about sharing my home with them. It’s art, the forgotten Art of Hospitality.  Do you know many people who entertain in their homes these days?  Are you such a person?  I hope so.  To open our home to others is a beautiful thing. Home is a reflection of self.  When we invite people into our home we are not only sharing food and drink, we are sharing our private world as we share ourselves.

Entertaining is a bit of work, it’s true, but it’s artful work.  It’s creative work, and all creativity rewards us with a sense of sweet accomplishment.   Entertaining at tea time or any other time is a great way to have a good time. . . at least I think so.

 

The first step in creating my tea is to decide where I will serve.  In Winter months a favorite room is my library because I can have a small fire going in the fireplace to create a cozy setting.

The next step is to choose the linen.  For this tea antique linen found some years ago on an outing in the country seems just right for its golden embroidered edging co-ordinates nicely with the colors in my library.

The china is chosen – once again antique.  Somehow The ancient Art of Tea seems to call for antique accessories – at least in my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House.  If you live in a modern dwelling you might choose very different serving pieces.

FOOD

Lately I’ve been running into a lot of French recipes for cream puffs – puffs filled with cheeses for cocktail time and cream puffs stuffed with all sorts of yummy fillings for dessert. So  cream puffs are made for this tea – such an easy recipe too.

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:  1 cup water,1/2 cup butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 4 eggs

Process:  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat water and butter to rolling boil.  Stir in flour.  Stir vigorously over low heat fro one minute. Remove from heat.  Beat in eggs, all at one time; continue beating till smooth.  Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden.

I like to fill my cream puffs with coconut pie filling into which I add plenty of  whipped cream.

A little chocolate icing and the cream puffs are all set.

Another tea treat for my guests at this tea is pear oatmeal scones.  The recipe comes from my dear pen friend Almita. My tea-loving friends enjoy sharing their favorite recipes with me and I with them ( and with you.)

Pear Oatmeal Scones

Ingredients:  1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3 Tblsp. unsalted butter chilled and sut into small pieces, 3/4 cup plain (or vanilla) yogurt, 1 egg slightly beaten, 3/4 cup fresh pear unpeeled and finely chopped, 1 tsp. vanilla (if using plain yogurt).

Process: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheet.  In large bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, powder, soda, spices and salt.  Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl combine yogurt, egg and vanilla if using plain yogurt.  Add to dry ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are moistened.  Gently stir in pear.  Place 1/4 cup of dough on sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake 17 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Strawberry-Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

I thought one more item might be nice and I chose these tea sandwiches.

Ingredients:  12 slices firm white bread, 2 and 1/2 cup chopped chicken, 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1/2 cup toasted pecans, 1/3 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges, drained and chopped, 1 recipe of Poppy Seed Dressing

Process:  Mix all ingredients and add Poppy Seed dressing to taste.  Fill white bread squares and garnish with a slice of strawberries.

Once all the food treats are prepared they are assembled on tiered cake plates and the only other thing needed  is to put the kettle on for tea.  A few fun hours in the kitchen with lovely aromas floating through the house.  This is fun in itself on a cold Winter’s day, but though creating the food is delightful, then to devouring it,  there’s even more fun anticipating my guests and sharing all this with them.

And here comes a guest now.  It’s Joni.

Joni is a local friend and a regular tea guest who is always bearing gifts.  This time she brought me a lovely Calla Lily.  Joni and I will often go out for coffee or for lunch, but we also enjoy inviting each other for tea.  I hope you have such a fun friend as Joni.

And here’s another guest.  It’s Janet.

Janet is a new friend, a neighbor I don’t know very well – yet!  But what a nice way to get to know a neighbor or anyone else – to invite them into your private world for tea.  I hope I see Janet many times in the future.  The ball’s in her court.

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Another day, another tea.  It came and went in a most pleasant way.  The preparations,  the conversation and the visiting, the nibbles and the tea itself – all delightful.  Now the china is resting back in its cupboard and thoughts begin to tiptoe in regarding the next tea I’ll put together.  Where shall I serve?  What baking will I do?  Who shall I invite?  Maybe YOU!  It’s all fun.

Sharing Tea – Sharing Joy!

Why host an Afternoon Tea? Why not?

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You just baked a yummy cake.  It came out great! Should you keep it all for yourself or share it with others?

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You just cleaned your house. You fluffed the pillows and polished the wood.  The tables are dust free. The place looks as neat as it’s ever going to be.  Should you sit back and take a nap in this clean, tidy place or invite someone over?

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You just bought some new clothes.  They make you feel like a million dollars.  Should you put them on,  sit alone in your clean tidy house having a piece of that yummy cake –  all by yourself – or should you invite someone over for Afternoon Tea?  The answer seems clear to me.  How ’bout to you?  Remember . . .

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

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You may drink coffee by the gallon as I do,  but at four o’clock it’s tea time at my 1853 Jeremiah Brown house.  I’m usually alone for this teatime and I usually keep it simple – no bakery or other savories.  I simply enjoy sipping some Jasmine, Apricot or Earl Grey tea from a pretty china cup. It’s a peaceful ritual that gives me pleasure.  My companions for this daily teatime are usually “dead friends” (that is,  persons of the past who share with me by way of their autobiography or personal letters.)

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Currently my tea time companion is Agatha Christie.  I do so enjoy hearing about her life in England.  What a memory she has too.  Agatha’s been telling me details of her life as a child – how she would play with imaginary kittens and pretend that she herself was a kitten. So many famous authors were like Agatha.  They cultivated rich imaginations from their early years. Children today would do well to put away their technological toys now and then and cultivate their imaginations as well.

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Sometimes God drops in to join me and my “dead friend” for tea.  He does this as I read a few pages from Tea Time with God, a devotional published by Honor Books.  (You see I have an imagination like Agatha.)  Tea time becomes quite the “spiritual” time when spent with these types of companions.

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But once every month I love fussing to create an afternoon tea for living, breathing friends.  I enjoy going off to the local flower market to choose a pretty bouquet for my table.  I delight in selecting just the right linen and china for each gathering.  It’s artistic.  It’s creative. It’s fun! It’s a gift I give to others, but I enjoy this gift right along with my guests.

 So you see I have my daily teas which are relaxing and quite spiritual, but also tea parties which are a bit more fuss, but totally delightful in quite a different way. Variety is the spice of life.

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My guests always seem to enjoy themselves at tea.  What’s not to enjoy?  Look at those smiling, serene faces.

 Tea time takes us into a world of conversation and beautifully-prepared (whether homemade or purchased) food. The tea setting may be simple, but with beautiful flowers at the table, the twinkle of candlelight and the delicacy of  china, it’s easy to create a graciousness that is very out of the ordinary and capable of delighting everyone present. In this dramatic scene the host and guests play roles of equal importance to the  tea and food.  It’s all about sharing.

The Tea ritual helps everyone feel more civilized and in today’s crazy world we need all the help we can get with that.

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So the next time you feel like baking a little something or maybe you go off to the market and purchase some delectable goodies. . .  the next time you get the urge to clean up your house getting it looking quite ready to be photographed for House Beautiful magazine . . .  the next time you pull yourself together and feel like presenting yourself to the world . . . consider calling a friend or two for Afternoon tea.

You can fuss with finger sandwiches, scones and several pastries or keep it simple serving only cinnamon toast and/or chocolate chip cookies.  It’s not the food so much as the gracious sharing in a peaceful pretty setting.  It’s taking the time to be.  It’s taking the time to share – to share your home, to share some tea,  to share yourself.

Because

Sharing Doubles the Joy

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Afternoon tea has the power to transport us to a wonderful state of being.  We leave our work behind.  We enter a gracious state and even when tea-time is over the peaceful feelings linger allowing us to be in a more gentle place.

The “Spirit” of Hospitality

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It’s October and Autumn is in the air.  Spirits are in the air too.  There’s one particular little spirit that flutters back and forth past the porch of my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. It’s a little white ghost. Whenever I see this ghost my thoughts wander off to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The poem is called Haunted Houses.

“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses…there are more guests at table than the host invited…my friend at fireside cannot see the things I see nor hear the sounds I hear.  He but sees what is, whereas unto me all that has been is visible and clear.”

Another type of spirit that is visible and clear to me is the Spirit of Hospitality.  Hospitality.   I think it’s  a wonderful thing, defined as the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests in a friendly or generous way.

Strangers or guests

Do you entertain guests and even strangers too?  I do.  At many of my afternoon teas I ask guests to bring a friend. In this way I have the fun of meeting new people, and this makes me think of those words from the bible talking about the possibility of strangers being angels in disguise.

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We’re always told to love our neighbor, but one can’t love a person they don’t know, and in order to really get to know someone it’s necessary to spend time together… time spent chatting and sharing.  We can do this chatting and sharing in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places.  I get to know many people from all around the world through the art of letter writing,  but I also enjoy getting to know people through in person visits and my favorite place for these visits is in my very own home.  That’s because . . .

 

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Home is where the heart is

Many of us work hard to make our house a home.  We fill our house with things we love.  We clean and polish, decorate according to our own unique taste, and in this way we express ourselves.  Our home captures our spirit.  Even if we’re not present a visitor can walk into our house and get a real sense of who we are.

So

if we’re trying to get to know people better and we want them to get to know us,  I think inviting them into our home is the best way and place in which to cultivate and grow friendship.  I’m surprised so few people share my thinking.  Don’t you enjoy being invited to someone’s home – for dinner, tea, cocktails or anything?   I sure do, and I equally enjoy doing the inviting.

I love to host intimate events where good conversation abounds.  Cooking and baking are two of my favorite things so it’s great fun for me to plan a dinner, luncheon or tea,  but even if cooking and baking are not your favorite things it’s still easy to entertain.   So why don’t more people share my thinking?  I wish I knew.  It’s not so much about food as it is about the sharing of spirit.

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Joy and Carol Ann

Recently I had a delightful day of sharing with one of my pen friends.  Meet Joy.

I first met Joy through The Letter Exchange, an organization for letter writers.  She was living in Switzerland at the time, but later she moved to South Carolina.  Through letters we’ve been sharing for years and getting to know each other very well.  We’ve become kindred spirits entirely through our letters.  But what a thrill when Joy told me she’d be passing through my town and wanted to stop by for an in person visit. How delightful!

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The day of Joy’s visit arrived.  I made  a batch of my cream scones with raspberries and whipped cream, pulled out my Laura Ashley Tea for Two china and strolled around my house and garden deciding where we should settle in to do our sharing.

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The weather has been beautiful this Autumn so I decided we should have our tea and conversation outdoors on the porch and since it would just be the two of us why not choose the small, open porch with a view of nature.

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I set a small cloth on the table and proceeded to arrange the china, going out to the garden to snip a rose and some mint and lavender. Nothing like flowers and herbs.  I wanted everything to be pretty for my friend.

Here, in this peaceful setting, we could talk and listen to each other, deepening our friendship.

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It’s not necessary to fuss with settings – food, china, flowers,  but I think these things are a very nice touch.  They can help in creating a very pleasant situation for a friend’s visit and can only help to make that friend feel special and highly valued.

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I’m a Romantic and beauty in any of its forms delights me.  Though I try to create beauty for my guests I must say I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from this beauty too.  Beauty seems to become us.

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Joy seemed to enjoy the scones – just that simple little food treat, but the real treat (at least for me) was the sharing of our spirits.  Friendship is a wonderful thing.  I don’t believe we’re meant to live solitary lives.  Friendship doubles the joy in life just as sharing doubles the joy.

We can share in a variety of ways.  I love the old fashioned ways – the art of letter writing and the art of hospitality. I encourage you to practice both arts.  They may be forgotten, but both arts are as delightful today as they ever were.

When you give good things come back to you.

Letters, Invitations to tea, friendship,  and more . . .

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I wish for you the wonderful kind of friendship Joy and I share.

Truly.

Carol Ann

Remembering a Summer Tea from Days Gone By

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When birds are singing and flowers are blooming and all of nature is bursting out in lush greenery it’s lovely to move Afternoon Tea outdoors. We in the North have plenty of opportunity to sip our tea in dining rooms, living rooms and libraries during the cold Winter months, but in Summer it’s important to take advantage of outdoor living spaces.

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Nature is so marvelous and here at The Jeremiah Brown House I care about the grounds outside the house as much as I care about the settings indoors.  I try to enjoy and use every inch of the property and sharing it doubles my joy.

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It’s been this way since my husband and I purchased the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House some seven years ago. This house and grounds had good bones but additions and improvements were needed. Way back when I’d look out the kitchen window at a trellis room, old and romantic, and though  I loved it, the years had taken a toll on its untreated wood.  The Trellis  room was beyond repair.

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But I loved looking up in this open-air room that had no ceiling.  There was nothing to block the view of puffy white clouds and blue sky. We knew this room’s days were numbered though.  It had to go in order to make way for the house addition we were planning.

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The old stone patio just beyond the Trellis Room with its view of the side yard would have to go too.  Sad, but necessary. The stone was crumbling and needed too much repair.  The years had taken its toll on the patio too.

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Plans were drawn up for a new addition  and work was soon to begin, but first a few final events were held in these old spaces.

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One such event was a simple tea for two old friends.  The  old Trellis Room teamed up with lovey old friends.  This seemed right.  Afternoon Tea served here was a simple affair.  After all, every tea does not need to be an elaborate event.  I wish more people would realize this for maybe then they would enjoy hosting teas of their own.  The Art of Entertaining seems to be a dying art. (Whoa is me!)  People say they’re too busy, but I think there should always be time set aside for gracious hospitality no matter how busy people may be.  That’s just me.

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After all, how much work is involved in making tea?  Not much work at all.

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And if one is not a baker that presents no problem for super markets and bakeries provide all sorts of cookies that will please guests. Afternoon tea is mostly about intimate sharing.  The food and tea are nice accompaniments to the sharing, but not the most important things.

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Of course if one does enjoy working in the kitchen, baking and cooking up goodies, all the better. Food is art and most of us love it!  I like to experiment with new recipes.  I think it’s fun, but as I said, one doesn’t have to do this. To host a tea one simply needs to tidy up the house or tea setting, set a few refreshments out, and then enjoy the afternoon along with their guests.

The recipe I prepared for my Trellis tea was Chicken Salad Puffs, elegant sandwiches with a crunchy, sweet pecan topping.  If you’d like to make these sandwiches for yourself here’s the recipe.




Chicken Salad Puffs

2 and 1/2 c. cooked chicken; 1 c. celery, finely chopped; 4 small green onions, chopped; 1 c. mayonnaise; 2 tsp. Dijon mustard; salt and pepper to taste; frozen puff pastry, thawed; caramelized pecans, chopped.

Process:  In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, and green onion.  Mix together Dijon mustard and mayonnaise.  Pour this over chicken mixture along with salt and pepper.

For the caramelized pecans: Heat 1/2 c. sugar until melted (about 4 minutes on medium heat stirring constantly).  Stir in the pecans.  Pour mixture onto waxed paper to cool.  Use whole or coarsely ch0pped nuts for garnish.

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Chicken puffs, cookies, and a little fruit –  a very simple and easy menu for any Afternoon Tea.  Just add a warm and friendly spirit, some friends, and all are bound to have a very pleasant afternoon, you especially.

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Caring and sharing with old friends and with new ones,  adding a few tea treats,  some smiles and conversation, all in a relaxed manner, is a surefire recipe for a happy day.   It’s also the recipe for gracious entertaining and gracious living.

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The Trellis Room and stone patio are now gone and in their place is this addition built onto the old house.  New gardens are in the plans. These plans will keep our creativity activated.

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I’m thinking of something like this design set in the side yard.  It was pictured in the February/March issue of “Traditional Homes” magazine.  A stone path could connect the new porch to this wooden structure creating a new and very Romantic setting for future Summer teas. I’ll always miss the old Trellis Room and stone patio but I have my memories and my photographs to remember my fine times there.

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Until the new garden structure is added a Summer tea for three or four can take place on this new porch. Here, with a roof over over heads, we won’t even have to worry about birdies dropping surprises on our chicken puffs as we did in the charming but slightly dangerous Trellis room.

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Yes, I miss the old Trellis Room, but onward and upward we all must go.  Cherish the past but keep looking forward to the future and all its possibility.  I hope you have some nice things to look forward to in your future, maybe a nice tea of your own.  If so, I’d love to hear all about it. Do share.  Sharing doubles the joy.

I love the old world, but I’m glad I was not born before tea.

An Afternoon Tea with some young friends

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I’m very lucky to have friends, friends of all kinds and all ages.  Those who are older than I am make me feel young and those who are very young make me feel young too.  Amazing how that works, but I like it.

 The children pictured above are just a few of my young musical friends, the children who sing in the Church choir I direct.  We  have a lot of fun together making music and sharing our love for singing, but that’s not the only way we have fun.  Sharing afternoon tea is another fun thing we do together.

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Every tea I host is served in different places with different food.  It’s fun to try out new recipes and create a variety of settings.  I enjoy playing the part of innkeeper as I prepare for each tea. My teas are exercises in creativity.  This month I invited seven choristers to tea. The fun began when the children arrived and gathered in the library of my home.  They were excited not knowing what to expect since most of them had never been to a tea before.

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Just as a curtain is closed and then opens at the start of a play, a tea benefits from a little suspense too.  What’s behind the door the children wonder. The anticipation builds.  When the doors finally open I had to say “Whoa, slow down, you move too fast.”  Tea is an elegant affair after all, and rushing destroys grace, but I sure liked the children’s enthusiasm.   I instructed them to find their seat at the table by looking for their name card.

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Everyone enjoyed buzzing around the table looking for their place . . . sort of like an Easter egg hunt, and Jack found his place first.  Because my guests were all part of  my children’s church choir each place card was decorated  with a treble clef and some notes.

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I debated with myself about serving cucumber sandwiches.  I know not all children (or adults) like cucumbers in the first place and in a sandwich?  But I decided it would be good for my young guests to experience this very traditional tea treat.  I encouraged everyone to take at least a little bite promising  there would be other more familiar goodies coming later.  They were great sports.

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Everyone tried at least a bite of the cucumber and they also tried the egg sandwiches although they were a little suspicious of the alfalfa sprouts atop the eggs.  The sugared grapes were a big hit though.

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Evelyn

And a few of my guests actually liked the cucumber sandwiches. Evelyn ate everything!  I was proud of her and her adventurous palate.   She’ll undoubtedly enjoy trying all sorts of goodies along her way and  make a lot of delightful discoveries other children won’t have.  But Evelyn wasn’t the only one who liked the cucumber sandwiches.

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Lily, seen here with me,  was another chorister who will probably become a tea party enthusiast, for she partook in all my treats and drank all her tea and she even asked for more . . . and this always makes a hostess happy.  And the whole time Lily kept that beautiful Shirley Temple smile on her face.  Do you see why I love these kids?

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When it came to the chocolate chip scones served with whipped cream and garnished with strawberries and blueberries I finally had a lot of enthusiastic eaters.

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Especially Jack . . .

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but  Shannon really liked the scones too.  Cute kids, huh?

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Cupcakes were served too . . .

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and brownies,

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Anna liked the brownies.  You see, I had something for everyone.  Anna led the conversation at tea being one of the oldest choristers present.  She is a real choir leader too taking on many musical solos at church.

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And for a little grown up touch of elegance I served sparkling pink lemonade along with the tea.

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I think Sylvia enjoyed holding the fancy glass as much, if not more, than sipping the bubbly lemonade.  Who doesn’t feel elegant holding stemware?

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 Julia was a pretty picture too with her pink eye glasses and her pink sparkling drink . . . and her blue finger nails and her enthusiastic smile.

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I made lots of tea thinking I would need lots of tea for seven children, but I discovered tea was not the favorite drink of this group, but no problem.  Believe it or not, afternoon tea is about more than tea. It’s about sharing with friends and giving them something new to experience and talk about and enjoy.  And I was told by some of the mothers that’s just what the kids did too.  They talked about  cucumber sandwiches,  alfalfa sprouts, sparkling pink lemonade in fancy glasses and chocolate chip scones into the evening. . .the kids had lots of new experiences, giggles, smiles and chit chat and so did I.

I love the ritual of afternoon tea and I love sharing tea with friends –  old friends and new friends and young friends too.  Every tea is completely different because all  guests are different and  wonderfully unique.   And speaking of unique human beings I’m  reminded of a song we sing in choir. Let me share the lyrics with you for sharing doubles the joy.  But before I do let me encourage you to host a tea of your own and if you want a special treat invite young people.  You’ll be glad you did.

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God’s wonderful work of art

(by Carey Landry)

Each and everyone of us is a wondrous work of art

Some of us are masterpieces painted long ago;

on some of us the paint is still wet!

So many different colors, so many works of art,

yet each is the handiwork of God.

Like clay in the hands of a potter;

none of us is finished quite yet!

Though each of us is deeply loved exactly as we are,

there is always more we can become.

Each of us is on a journey started long ago;

a journey full of promise, a journey full of hope.

We seek the way of truth and life that Jesus came to bring

guided by the loving hand of God.”

Tea in the Outbuilding

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Ah tea!  

Afternoon tea is all about enjoyment, relaxation, and taking the time to refresh your spirit.  I love tea and its trappings.  I love to take a break each afternoon enjoying a cup of tea either in my library with a good book, at my tea table with some needlework, or perhaps if the weather is lovely I might take tea in the sun room where I can sip and commune with nature. But once a month I invite others to join me in this gracious ritual.  After all, the 1853 property which my husband and I  call home is “not for us alone”.  Sharing it and sharing tea doubles the joy.

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I like to alternate the location of my tea parties each month because changing locations means different tables to dress with different china. I’ll experiment with different recipes and invite different friends to each tea.  Variety is the spice of life you know.  Entertaining with tea is a wonderful way to reach out to others in friendship while also having the creative fun of designing each event.  My last two teas were held in our Outbuilding.  Come along and I’ll share a bit of those tea experiences with you. Up  the driveway we go…

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 approaching the circle…

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passing the circle…

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and there it is, the Outbuilding, once a chicken  coop back when the estate was a big old farm, but thanks to a few previous owners the building is now  a detached family room where I can get away from it all – or if not everything,  at least I can get away from the house if I need a change of scenery without going too far away..

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We pass the old barn which is now a three car garage and walk around to the front of the Outbuilding…

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and here we are!

Come on in.

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The beamed ceiling gives me the feeling I’m off in the mountains

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and the wood-burning fireplace is especially cozy on a cold or rainy day.

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We have seating close to the fireplace plus two other sofas and there’s a long built-in bench along the wall, plenty of seating in this old Outbuilding if we decide to have cocktails here before a dinner party at the house.  But for a tea I usually serve at the table, a table that was my maternal grandparent’s table once upon a time.  Ah, memories.

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I enjoy coming here on quiet days, sitting in my rocker that also once belonged to my maternal grandparents.  It’s the same rocker that held me on my father’s lap as a child, as I sipped his coffee sweet with sugar and milk, back in the day…  memories and more memories.  I love things old.

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But on the day of a tea there’s no time for daydreaming about the old days.  Instead there’s much hustle and bustle in the butler’s pantry where goodies are prepared and assembled to serve to my guests.  It is a little challenging carrying everything back and forth to and from the Outbuilding, but now and then this extra work is necessary if I’m ever to share the Outbuilding with others.

What will I serve my guests?

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  Meringues with strawberries and whipped cream?

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Shortbread and cookies?

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A simple coffee cake?…

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or perhaps a fancy cake I purchase from the bakery shop?

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I purchased  special antique tea china for the Outbuilding and I like to use a handmade crocheted tablecloth that my mother made a long time ago.

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Or sometimes I use a set of tea china that belonged to my parents.

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Of course we need some tea.  I offer a variety to my guests

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And candlelight is always nice…

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especially on a cool, rainy day.

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When the food is made, the table is set, the candles are lit and everything is ready all that’s needed are some guests…

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be they lady friends, old and new…

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or sweet children who happen to be my music students.

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It’s such a joy to do for others.  I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t enjoy entertaining, especially hosting afternoon teas.

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It is my hope that by sharing my afternoon tea experiences I may inspire you to invite others to your own home and share some tea with them…make it coffee or hot chocolate if you prefer, but reach out to others and share in your own intimate setting.  Make your tea your way, as simple or elaborate as you like.  It’s not the tea, or the food, so much as your  personal outreach and hospitality.

Share Joy.  Share Tea!

Carol Ann’s Recipe for a Sharing Tea

 

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Hi there!  I’m Carol Ann and have I got a fun recipe for you.

Here it is.

Invite someone old, (an old friend) someone new, (a person you recently met and liked a lot) someone borrowed, (ask one of your guests to bring along a friend of their own) or maybe two, (ask both of your guests to bring along a friend).  Add a little tea and lots of conversation and there you have it –  A sharing Tea.

If you have a home which you love and enjoy why not share it?  If you collect pretty things why not invite others to enjoy those things too?  If you like to cook and bake why not share your recipes with friends?  As you reach out to others in friendship you’ll be reaching into yourself and coming up with creative and fun entertaining ideas.

Any Afternoon Tea or Sharing Tea can be as simple or as fancy as you like.  I enjoy hosting one tea every month choosing a different room or setting each time. The room dictates the number of guests I invite,  the type of food I serve and the level of formality.  If I’m serving at a table a high tea could be in order consisting of hot food (savories) as well as desserts. All sorts of dishes and glassware would be used to serve and dress up the table.  Flatware would be needed too, but if I’m hosting in a room without a dining table the food would  be simple and finger-friendly.

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This month my Sharing Tea will take place in the living room of my 1853 home and since this room is small tea will be an intimate affair with only two guests – one old friend and one new friend.  The refreshments will be limited to cookies, and of course the tea, though sherry and liquers might easily be offered as well.

Though I do enjoy cooking, baking, and presenting nice refreshments to my guests, I have learned that food is not the most important thing at a Sharing Tea.  It’s not even the tea that’s most important.  It’s the sharing.  Guests seem to enjoy learning about each other, sharing their stories, passions and ideas.  Guests are delighted by each other, inspired by each other,  and they really seem to enjoy the opportunity to step out of their busy lives and share in a peaceful and  personal setting.  Restaurants have their place, but being invited into someone’s home is very special and doesn’t happen often enough in my opinion.  Refreshments are nice but simply an accompaniment to all the fun we have in sharing.

As hostess it’s my job to see that everyone is comfortable and feeling welcome and relaxed.  It’s a fun job!  I believe hosting a Sharing Tea is a gift of hospitality given with a personal touch… and when you give good things come back to you – friendships.

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So I pull out one of my favorite tea books, “English Tea and Cakes” and look up a recipe for gingerbread cookies which I’ll make for my guests…

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients: 2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour,1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1 stick of butter, scant 1 cup of soft light brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 tsp corn syrup, 4 tbsp royal icing, silver decorations, parchment paper decorating bag.

Process:  Sift the flour, baking soda and ginger into a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub it in with your finger tips until you have a mixture resembling fine bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix.

In another bowl, beat the egg and corn syrup together.  Tip it over the flour mix and stir well.  Keep sprinkling over flour and working until you have a lovely smooth dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave in fridge to chill 30 minutes, but an hour would be better.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets.

Roll the dough out on a slightly floured board to a thickness of a 1/4 inch.  Cut out required shapes and bake 12 to 15 minutes.  Leave to cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring o wire wrack to cool completely.

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 I bake the gingerbread into the shape of the Hudson Clocktower, a famous landmark in my town.

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Gingerbread is also shaped into stars which I decorate.

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Together they make a simple, but pretty presentation.

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I add some frosted molasses cookies…

Molasses Cookies

Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt,1 cup butter, 1 cup dark molasses, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 and 1/4 tsps baking soda

Process: In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender.  In a separate bowl combine molasses and sugar, then beat in the egg.  Dissolve the soda in the 1/4 cup of hot water and add to molasses mixture.  Gradually stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and beat until well blended.  Cover bowl and chill several hours. Turn dough onto floured pastry board and roll to 1/4 inch thickness for a sift cookie.  Cut rounds with a cookie cutter and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  For frosting mix powdered sugar with a bit of water.

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add some shortbread which was baked earlier and stored in an air-tight container

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and select the tea cups and linen.

Sharing Tea is the perfect time to share all those pretty things I love and collect.

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And the table is set and ready for my guests.

And there’s the doorbell now!

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It’s Joni, one of my dear old friends

and she’s brought me a pretty plant.  How sweet of her.

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Minutes later Kelly appears.  She’s one of my new friends.

She too has a pretty plant for me.

Didn’t I tell you? – when you give good things come back to you.

Hostess gifts!

So we all get settled in the living room, the candles are twinkling, I pour the tea

And  the sharing begins!

Now that you have the recipe for a Sharing Tea  isn’t it time you have one of your own?

Enjoy!