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!

Afternoon Tea on the Porch

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Afternoon tea is all about relaxation, enjoyment, and taking time to refresh the spirit.

Creating a daily tea ritual is one way to bring a little grace into modern life and sharing our tea ritual with others only doubles that grace.  Everyone seems to be busy these days but how nice it is to stop the comings and goings now and then to spend time around the tea table with friends and family.  This is a most simple but elegant way to entertain.

We have the telephone, e-mail, text messages and social media, but to sit across from our guests, listening and sharing in person… that’s special.  Hosting afternoon teas is one very nice way to celebrate the importance of relationships.

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And so today I’ve invited three dear friends to join me in my afternoon tea ritual.  The door is open ready to receive my guests.  We could be meeting at a tea establishment, but I think there’s something special about sharing tea in a home. After all, we work to make our homes cozy and comfortable.  These efforts should not be for ourselves alone.  Sharing our home doubles the  joy our home gives us. Sharing anything and everything doubles the joy. Sharing in life is important. What have you shared lately?

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Each of my teas is served in a different setting.  Creating these different sets in different rooms is a large part of my fun.  I choose different linen, different china, different flowers and at least one different food item at each tea.  Today I’ll be serving  on the porch, but as guests arrive, one by one,  we’ll gather in the library, then go out to the porch all together.

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An afternoon tea party is a little like a theatrical presentation.  Having details in place and a plan of action helps to make things run smoothly.  Also it’s nice to have pretty things for your guests to enjoy –  music, fresh flowers here and there, fragrance… These and other little niceties may not be necessary but they will delight your guests and make their visit more enjoyable.

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Earlier in the day I made scones, my basic recipe.  Over the years I’ve learned it’s not  important that the food served be elaborate or very plentiful, just that there’s something to nibble on. The most important thing at tea is the tea itself and the sparkle of joyful eyes as they share, listen, laugh and enjoy each other.

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Raspberry preserves and clotted cream are a perfect accompaniment to the scones and really all the food one would need for afternoon tea is not only about the food.   It’s about the sharing and relaxing together.  Simple and easy does it.  But if you do enjoy cooking and baking the sky is the limit.

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I decided to add some Caper Deviled Eggs and Cucumber Canapes

with Lemon-Pepper Aioli to today’s tea menu.  Something old, something new.

The ingredients for the eggs are: 6 hard-boiled eggs, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon very finely chopped celery, 1 tablespoon very finely minced capers, 1/8th teaspoon salt and a garnish of parsley.

The aioli is made by combining 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, 1/8th teaspoon of pepper with 1/8th teaspoon of salt.  This aioli is piped atop a thin slice of English cucumber which sits on a thin slice of white bread.

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Scones, deviled eggs, cucumber slices,  simple items, quick and easy to make, but pretty finger foods to present at table.

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And though the food is simple I try to make the place settings special by adding flowers. Simple but lovely, flowers create magic with their beauty and grace. Of course if you love to collect pretty things as I do now is the time to use the embroidered linen napkins, the silver, the cutwork tablecloth and the antique china.  These things shouldn’t be collecting dust in the cabinets.  They should be used and enjoyed regularly.

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Without very much work at all  the table is ready to receive my guests.

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And here they are.  Terri, Carol and Joni, three lovely ladies who make my day and my tea a very enjoyable experience.

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The porch got a going over before the girls arrived… a little dusting and polishing.  Cleaning is never my idea of great fun, but when company is coming I  have a good reason to do that cleaning and then not only is the house nice and shiny for the company, it’s also nice and shiny for me and my husband.

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So I encourage you to host your own afternoon tea. You may think tea parties are a thing of the past, but you’re wrong.  There’s something about an afternoon tea that makes it seem just right for us now.  It’s a complete treat – a physical pleasure.  a social gathering,  a chance for  intellectual exchange and  a spiritual  experience for  we’re sharing  plenty of spirit at tea.

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Most of all the afternoon tea experience enriches everyday life by gilding the moment with importance.  It celebrates life in a most genteel way.  When your tea is over you’ll sit back on your porch remembering all the fun you had and you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction knowing  that you and your creativity brought people together sharing joy.

Only you can loosen your day’s demands.

Treat yourself and your guests to the old world pleasure of

Afternoon Tea.

It’s another Afternoon Tea

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For thousands of years people have been drinking tea and enjoying the tea ceremony, but I think there’s something about afternoon tea that makes it just right for us today as well.  The health conscious should approve of tea’s natural goodness and those of us who are busy, busy, busy should enjoy the restful interlude it offers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  A tea ceremony has the ability to enrich everyday life and create  gilded moments.  Creating a tea ritual for ourselves is a very lovely civilized affair. but it’s also very nice to share the experience with others and though we can meet those others at elegant hotels or charming tea shops there is something very special about inviting people into our own homes.  It’s The Art of Hospitality,  an art (like the Art of Letter Writing) that is beautiful and should never die.

But who to invite?  We can invite anyone and everyone, old friends, new would-be friends, the young, the old and the in- between.

It’s easy.  Afternoon tea can be as simple or elaborate as you choose – a pretty china tea cup with a few slices of cinnamon toast would work just fine, but today I feel like fussing a bit.

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I recently bought a neat pan from William Sonoma that makes brownies or other simple cakes into interesting elongated shapes.  Today seemed like the perfect day to try out this pan.

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And I’m happy to say the pan worked very well. Aren’t these brownies cute?

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A little powder sugar to dress them up and a very simple recipe can look quite snazzy on the tea table.

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I always like to experiment with at least one new recipe for my tea parties so today that recipe is for a carrot cake and the recipe is a keeper.  Let me share the recipe with you.

Carrot Cake

For the cake:  2 eggs, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 5 tbsp. vegetable oil, generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour, 1 and 1/2 cups grated carrot, 1 tsp. cinnamon and scant 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the topping:  1/2 cup cream cheese, 3/4 stick butter,1/2 cup confectioners sugar, grated rind of 1 lime,toasted coconut and grated lime

Process:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and line a 2 lb. loaf pan or a 7 in round cake pan.

2.Beat together the eggs and sugar until very creamy.  Add the oil and beat hard.  Fold  in the remaining ingredients and turn into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top,  then slightly hollow out the middle to avoid a very domed top on the finished cake.  Bake for 35-40 minutes   until golden and well risen and a skewer comes out clean.

3.  Remove the cake from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  To make the  topping beat the ingredients together until light and creamy and spread over the top of the cake.  Make a pattern with the prongs of a fork.

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In addition to the brownies and carrot cake I also whipped up two other goodies to serve to my guests.  These chicken salad sandwiches served on wheat bread provided a little sustenance to the menu…

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as did little phyllo cups of egg salad.

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I also served my stand by recipe for scones.  I like to serve the scones with Devon clotted cream but today I decided to whip up ordinary heavy cream instead …and I always serve the scones with Bonne Maman’s Raspberry preserves.  Yum!

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Now it’s time for a little art play.  I dig out my watercolor pencils and create place cards for myself and my guests.  I’m matching the flowers on the name tags to the flowers on the table.

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These little touches make an afternoon tea special.

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So the food is prepared and the table is set and now all that’s needed are my guests. Today those guests are of the younger generation for as I said before afternoon tea is for everyone and if we adults don’t expose children to the finer things in life (like afternoon tea) who will?  Besides, I believe it’s important to have friends of all ages.  My older friends teach and inspire me and they make me feel young and my younger friends help me lighten up and remember what it was like to be young. Diversity is important, all kinds of diversity.

Well here they are now.

All these young ladies are angels and singing angels at that for they all sing in the Church choir I conduct.  How lucky I am to meet so many sweet young people (and they’re not all girls either). My next children’s tea will hopefully have a few boys attending for as I said before, afternoon tea is for everyone!

I can remember being eight or ten or 13 years old, can’t you?  I appreciated adults taking me seriously, talking to me and listening with interest to what I had to say. Afternoon tea is a great time for friends to share and get to know each other better.  Taking time, in person, with people we care about becomes its own reward.

I find creating the afternoon tea ceremony for guests lets me offer my friends and acquaintances what often seems in short supply these days – attention and the wish to please. Sure, it’s a little bit of work, but tea can be infinitely variable in style and complexity.  The food served can be simply made or for that matter even purchased.  As in so many things it’s really the thought that counts most.

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The time flies at my tea party and before I know it the party is over.  There’s a little washing up to do, but not much.

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And as the last tea pot is set on a towel to dry I’m left with a warm, satisfied feeling.  This feeling comes over me whenever I dabble in The Art of Hospitality. I’ve had such fun today.  I can’t help but start wondering about my next tea.  Who shall I invite? What shall I serve and where shall I serve it?  There’s much fun to anticipate.

So enjoy your daily afternoon teas but  I hope you invite others, young and old, to share the experience now and then.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles he joy.

It really does!

“I say, old chap. you’ve been invited to join me for tea!”

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On this Country Inn Day I, the Innkeeper, will be hosting a high tea.  As usual I invite someone old, (an old acquaintance) someone new, (a person I like but don’t know very well, (yet) and someone borrowed maybe two (one or both my guests may be asked to bring along a friend. And of course I’m now inviting you to come along and join in my fun.

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My guests today are Andy, an old friend, Mary Fran in the flowered jacket who I met recently at a most joyful funeral and Robin who is   Mary Fran’s good friend.  A more spirit-filled threesome would be hard to find.

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As Innkeeper I rose early and began setting the stage for tea.  After all, staging a high tea is very much like staging a theatrical production.  The setting is most important if we expect our guests to feel serene and special.  I decided this particular tea will be served in the formal dining room.  As Innkeeper I enjoy presenting tea in various locations in and around the Inn.  On a beautiful day it could be tea in the Secret Garden with the birdies singing for everyone’s enjoyment or on an  Autumn’s day I might serve tea in the Outbuilding with a fragrant wood fire blazing in its old fireplace.  Variety adds spice to life and to the Inn’s entertaining.

There’s much to do in order to be ready for my guests.  As Innkeeper I’m in charge of choosing the china, crystal, linens and menu.  I’m also in charge of the flowers.

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Flowers are a must at tea.  Their beauty soothes the savage soul and we all have those savage moments in modern  day life. Roses are my favorite and very nice in the formal dining room.

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I’m also in charge of polishing the silver.  Every tea need not use silver, but high tea in the Inn’s dining room requires nothing less.

Though I’ll be serving three different teas today – Darjeeling, Oolong and Apricot tea I do enjoy serving a glass of Carolans Irish Cream as a postlude treat.

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How many Innkeepers have a luscious blend of Irish cream, honey and mellow Irish spirits named after them?  My name is CarolAnn, CarolAnn McCarthy  – very Irish (though I was born 100% Polish) so it’s rather nice to serve a beverage made in Ireland at this “CarolAnn’s Country Inn.”

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I, the Innkeeper,  can’t do everything for this tea.  I turn the food over to the Inn cook. Of course the Inn cook also happens to be me, but whatever.  Cook planned three courses for today’s tea – first a plate containing chicken salad in puff pastry, broccoli salad and fruit.

In case you might like to whip up the chicken salad here’s the recipe.

Chicken salad

2 cups cooked chicken, cubed, 1 cup celery, finely chopped, 4 small green onions, chopped, 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, frozen puff pastry, thawed and baked and caramelized pecans chopped.  (To carmelize pecans simply heat 1/2 cup sugar till melted stirring constantly, then add the pecans.  Turn the pecans out onto wax paper and then chop).

The second course is Scones

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The scones were baked and then cut into squares.  Scones are simple to make and usually loved by all.  Here’s Carol Ann’s recipe:  Mix 2 cups flour with 1 T. baking powder, 1/4 t of salt and 4 T of sugar.  Cut in 6 T of butter and then combine 2 eggs with 1/3 cup of cream and mix into the dry ingredients.  Shape into two round or square large scones, put a bit of cream on top and sugar, then bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Cook loves to use the French Bonne Maman’ preserves with  English Double Devon Cream atop the Irish scones making then an international hit.

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This tea cake is the thrid course.  It is a new recipe Cook made for today’s tea. It’s nice to try out one new recipe at each tea keeping the rest of the menu tried and true.  Luckily this cake came out beautifully and was quite yummy.  You ought to try it yourself. I think you’ll like it.

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The recipe comes from this book called “The Great Tea Rooms of America”. It’s written by Bruce Richardson.  Let me share the recipe for today’s tea cake with you.

Ahrens Tea Cake

1/2 up butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla,2 cups all purpose flour,2 tsp. baking powder,1 tsp. baking soda, 1 cup sour cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together and add eggs and vanilla.  Combine and mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture.  Fold in sour cream.  Spoon half of the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.

Filling

1/2 cup sliced almonds toasted, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine almonds, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Sprinkle onto the middle of the batter.  Cover the filling with the remaining batter and bake for 35 minutes.

If you bake this tea cake you can serve it at your very own tea. You are planning to have a tea of your own soon, aren’t you?  I certainly hope so.  Tea is all about enjoyment, relaxation, and taking the time to refresh your spirit and the spirit of others.  Like letter writing it’s a beautiful and gracious art that must not be forgotten.

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So the food is prepared and the table is set.

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The buffet holds the tea cake and the Irish Cream.

The guests arrive and the next few hours are a wonderful time where joy is shared, old friendship is nourished and new ones are cultivated.  Work and worry are sturdy weeds you know, but joy requires cultivation. Sharing tea is one wonderful way to cultivate joy!

It’s been such fun talking, nibbling and sipping tea as I was transformed once again from Innkeeper and Cook into just another Inn Guest.  Quite magical how this happens on my Country Inn Days. But all good things must come to an end.  The guests leave reluctantly and I’m transformed one last time, now into Inn Maid.

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The dishes need washing.

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 The crystal too must be cleaned and made ready for the Inn’s next entertaining event.

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And the linen used today is washed and hung to dry.

The tea party now exists only in my memory and in this blog, but I’m left with a lovely afterglow.  What a nice experience it was.  Yes, there was some work involved, but that work was actually fun and well rewarded.  Not only did I have the chance to exercise my creativity and use those things I collect and love, but I gave of myself to others and everyone knows…

When you give good things come back to you.

That’s for sure.  The glow of friendship is like nothing else and my guests at this tea were so full of spirit and love I came away feeling blessed, in fact, at one point they actually placed hands on me and prayed that my cancer treatments go well .  When was the last time your friends prayed over you?  Like I said, these were very special guests.

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And besides the glow of friendship (as if that’s not fabulous enough) Mary Fran and Robin sent me a present, ordering it from their smart phone right at the tea table.  It was a cd, “Music from a Secret Garden.”  You see,  I mentioned my Secret Garden to them and they told me they had the perfect thing for the next tea I host there.  How sweet is that?

Very sweet indeed!

So that’s about it for yet another very blessed and wonderful Country Inn Day.  My next Inn Day may take me off to a spa or out into nature or perhaps on an adventure or two, but whatever the Inn Day I know it will be wonderful fun and I hope you come along.  So till then be sure you live abundantly.  That’s what God has in mind for all of us and it’s up to us to make that happen.

Go to it!