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!

It’s a Country Inn Day – Sharing Tea Day

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Here I am on another wonderful Country Inn Day.  I’m so glad you could join me.  What do you do first thing every morning whether you’re at home or off on holiday at a gracious Country Inn or snazzy hotel?

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My idea of fun is to write a letter with my first cup of coffee every day and that’s exactly what I do here at the Inn this morning.  I’m writing to Erika, a professional chef who lives and works in the state of Washington, but as I read her letter and respond I feel as though Erika is here with me at the Inn.  Letters are like that.  They help friends transcend the miles.  John Donne, the late sixteenth early seventeenth century English poet, put it this way – “Letters mingle souls.”

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But I could use more than Erika’s spirit and soul here at the Inn today.  I could use her professional expertise because on this Country Inn Day I will not only be playing the part of Inn Guest, Innkeeper, and Inn Maid, but I’ll also be playing the part of Inn Chef.   I’ll don my special coat and cap in preparation for a Sharing Tea.  I bet if Erika were here in person she could help me whip up some extraordinary tea treats.

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I do have these guys to inspire me.  They “hang out” (literally) in my kitchen, but though they look pretty cute they’re not a lot of actual help.  I get my help from cookbooks, and do I have cookbooks, only about a million of them.  At each Sharing Tea I like to experiment just a little, so I always choose one new recipe and today that recipe  comes from a little historic book.

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The book is called “Victorian Parlors and Tea Parties”.  It’s written by Patricia B. Mitchell.  After reading and enjoying notes on the tea meal and how it came to be, along with information concerning the role of the Victorian wife and details of the Victorian parlor, I settle down to find that new recipe which I can make for and serve to today’s Inn guests.

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High Muck-a-Muck Crabmeat Spread

I look through all the recipes and decide on this simple crabmeat spread which is served on crackers. The little green pepper garnish is my idea.  You might like to try it yourself.  Here’s the recipe.  It’s quick and easy.

High Muck-a-Muck Crabmeat Spread 

Ingredients:  1 lb. crabmeat, chopped, 1 c. Cheddar cheese, grated, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 2 green onions, finely chopped

Process:  Mix.  Spread on toast rounds, triangles, or crackers.  Heat 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees until hot and bubbly.  Serve hot.

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Today’s tested recipes come from a favorite little booklet called “Tea Time”.  This booklet is created by the Gooseberry Patch people and I’ve discovered many tasty treats within its pages as well as amusing general information concerning the tea ceremony.

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Today I make  “Tea Time’s” Caramelized Pecans.  These sweet nuts are a great garnish for chicken salad puffs ( another recipe in the “Tea Time” booklet), but they can stand on their own quite nicely.

Caramelized Pecans

Ingredients:  1/2 cup sugar  3/4 cup pecan halves

Process:  In a heavy saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat ’til melted (about 4 minutes.)  Stir constantly to avoid burning sugar.  Stir in pecans until well-coated.  Remove pan from heat.  Pour mixture onto wax paper.  Cool.  If stuck together, break apart.  Use whole or coarsely chop is using as a garnish.

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But now as Inn Chef it’s time to do some baking.  How about some Cream Scones?  Scones are  always perfect for a tea party and my “Tea Time” book has a good recipe for them.

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Scones are yummy, generously topped with Devon Cream (imported from England) and jam.  Here’s the recipe.

Basic Cream Scone

Ingredients:  2 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1/4 t. salt, 4 T. sugar, 6 T. butter, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/3 c. cream, milk or half-and-half

Process:  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  With a pastry blender or Cuisinart cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a separate bowl, combine eggs and cream until well blended.  Stir cream mixture into dry ingredients until they are moistened.  Divide the dough into two 8-inch rounds on a greased baking sheet.  Cut the dough with a sharp knife into 8 wedges.  Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or till scones are golden brown.

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Tips for tender scones

Rule No. 1  Thoroughly mix dry and liquid ingredients in separate bowls before combining together.

Rule No. 2  Don’t over-mix when adding dry and liquid ingredients, and don’t over-handle the dough.

Rule No. 3  Over-baking will result in dry scones.  Oven temps may vary so check your scones every 5 minutes before baking time is up.

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The only other tea time treat I’ll be serving today is a chocolate covered apricot which is topped with crushed pistachios.  There’s nothing to this recipe.  All you do is melt semisweet chocolate chips, dip the apricots into the melted chocolate and then roll them in crushed pistachios.

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These apricot nibbles are a yummy snack anytime you crave something sweet, but they’re also a nice addition to the tea table.

Today’s  recipes are all simple to make and require little preparation time.  Of course, if you happen to be a pastry chef you can go all out and dazzle your guests with impressive creations, but if you’re not, the idea is simply to have some little treats for your guests to enjoy.

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My work as Inn Chef is now complete.  I feel a magical change coming over me.  I am now being transformed from Inn Chef into Innkeeper and as Innkeeper I have other duties.  I must assemble the tea treats onto a tray…

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and I must light the fire, fluff the pillows, turn on the music and stand ready to welcome the Inn guests.  This is the moment I’ve been waiting for and voila…

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The Inn guests have arrived!

Did I tell you how a Country Inn Day Sharing Tea works?  There’s always someone old invited (an old friend), someone new (a new acquaintance on the way to becoming a friend), someone borrowed maybe two (old and new invited guests may be asked to bring a friend).

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Joni is today’s someone old for she’s been a friend for ages.

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Carole is the someone new.

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And Carol brought Lynn along so she’s the Inn’s borrowed guest, just one today, not two.

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The tea is poured and this Country Inn Day Sharing Tea Party has begun.  Once again I am transposed from Innkeeper now to Inn Guest.  This is  the magic of a Country Inn Day!  I can now relax and enjoy.  I wish you could be here with us for there’s nothing quite like taking a nice break every now and then to relax and visit with friends in a serene setting over a cup of tea.  Our worlds are so full and our tasks can be very demanding.  It seems to me relaxing break-times are not only nice, but a must.

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And when the Inn guests take their leave and the Inn Maid (me) does her magic, cleaning up the dishes, I’m left with a feeling of sweet satisfaction, for Henry James had it right when he said,   “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”, except maybe the hours of preparation leading up to afternoon tea.

It’s all fun – Country Inn Days, Sharing Teas, Imagination, Creativity and Play.  These things are great escapes from ho hum ordinary days.  Don’t take my word for it.  Indulge, and you’ll see for yourself.  Go ahead.  Have your own Country Inn Day and/or Sharing Tea and …

PLAY

Afternoon tea on the patio with friends

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Almost all of us

Greetings everyone!

I don’t know what I love more – afternoon tea,  a beautiful day outside near the garden, or getting together with friends.  Well, this day I was enjoying all three of these things at once for I was serving tea to some of my friends on the patio with my garden in full view. I suppose I like the idea of afternoon tea so much because it’s such a gracious old world pleasure and I find old world pleasures  delightful. They help in offsetting the stress and pressures of  modern life.

So I pulled out one of my many tea books for inspiration – this one is called Tea Party by Tracy Stern, and I got to work.

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Since I had some cream and buttermilk scones leftover from my last tea, tucked in the freezer, I decided to make tea sandwiches for this tea.  So to work I went!  First to cut the bread into rounds,

IMG_3588[1]then to insert a chicken salad mixture and decorate each tea sandwich with a sprig of mint from the garden.

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That was quick and easy.

Next to whip up some cucumber sandwiches –

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a little cream cheese, salt, white pepper, thinly sliced cucumbers and a sprig of fresh dill, and another sandwich was complete.

IMG_3591[1]The sandwiches were placed on a tray, covered with a damp tea towel, and were placed in the fridge where they would stay fresh until my guests arrived.  That was easy, wasn’t it, and it didn’t take much time at all.

So I had scones and tea sandwiches and also a cake which was purchased – something  savory and something sweet for my guests to enjoy.

IMG_3610[1]My only contribution to this cake was the flower from my garden which I placed on top of it.  There’s really so little work involved in having guests in for tea I wonder why more people don’t enjoy this celebration more often.

If a person feels like going all out they can prepare elaborate hot food for their tea and call it a high tea.  If they feel like taking it quite easy, they can serve only cinnamon toast or bread and butter as certain  characters in Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” stories do.  As in the Art of Letter Writing there are no hard and fast rules.  The Art of Tea allows us to do our own thing – all sorts of our own things.

I set everything out on the counter in my kitchen, so everything would be ready, just to be carried out to the patio at tea time, and then I could relax and anticipate a fun afternoon doing other things till my guests arrived.

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 Besides the necessary glasses, sugar bowl and silverware, there’s

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strawberry jam and Devon cream for the scones,

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mint and lemon for the tea,

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 the cake, and a selection of plates I needed to choose from,

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 the flowers for the table

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and  of course the tea, plenty of tea, ready for ice cubes.

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I also enjoyed a little art play by creating place cards for each guest which would be set into these cute little silver tea pots at each guest’s place.

Everything was now ready except for me.  Time to dress and make myself presentable.  It was also time to walk through the house and do a little fluffing and polishing, but not too much because my guests and I would be outside on this beautiful day.

At the appointed hour I carried all the ingredients out to the patio.

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The potted geranium was removed and set at another location, and the tablecloth  came out.

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I’ve been collecting vintage tablecloths for years.  They make a table look so happy.

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The scones and tea sandwiches were set out on the tea cart along with the cake

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and the scene was set.  Now all I needed were my guests

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And here they are!

We may not be ladies of leisure all the time, but this afternoon that’s exactly what we were!  We sipped, we munched, we chatted, we breathed in fresh air and enjoyed the sweet sound of birdies and the scent of  old roses.  Was this heaven?  It was heaven to me!  I hope it was heaven to my guests too.

Tea has a long history of being associated with the finer things of life and today vestiges of extravagant associations remain. Having tea is such a simple thing, but such a luxury!  To invite friends to tea  is a fine way to pay them a compliment.  It means  you want to spend time with them.  It means you relish their company.   And just as the gift of a letter is an old world nicety,  forgotten by many, but still capable of creating delight for the writer as well as the receiver, so too is the Art of Afternoon Tea – especially afternoon tea shared because…

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

It’s Apple Blossom Time for Sharing Tea – Visiting Day!

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There’s a time to work and a time to play.

Today is a play day.  Today I’m  going visiting.  Today I’m not playing the part of hostess.  Today I am playing the part of guest!

Today it’s my friend Andy who is playing the part of host.  He’s  invited me to tea.

Andy has also invited my friend Evelyna to tea.

When was the last time you were invited to tea?

When you give, good things come back to you.  If you entertain now and then, chances are,  from time to time you will be entertained as well.

It’s another beautiful day in my neighborhood, a grand day to go visiting, but then any day is a grand day for friendship and visiting.

Evelyna and I arrive at Andy’s house and we are greeted by a glorious apple tree bursting with color.  It is apple blossom time you know!

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 Evelyna  is so delighted with this tree she runs up to it and caresses its  blossoms  I can’t blame her.  I want to do the same thing.

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The beauty of nature is all around  us here in Andy’s yard.

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There are all sorts of  romantic, old fashioned garden structures at every turn.  They  enchant us.

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We approach the wisteria-covered arbor and slowly make our way to the door , all the while admiring the beauty of nature on this lovely Spring day.

When finally at the door we knock and…

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Andy appears – all smiles.  “We’re here”, we say.  “And we’re bearing hostess gifts.  Evelyna brought one of her famous pumpkins rolls  and I brought Andy one of my favorite  books of spiritual meditation.

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We sit relaxing like ladies of leisure,  talking to Andy from the next room while he  fusses in the kitchen with last minute details…

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and then it’s off to the tea table which is set beautifully just for our pleasure.  How wonderful!

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More fresh apple blossoms grace the table and Andy has set  little boxes of chocolates at  our plates.  They serve as sweet  favors.

Lunch is simple, but delicious – chicken salad croissants accompanied by fresh fruit.

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Andy even decorated our plates with apple blossoms.  What a guy!  When it’s apple blossom time we should all take advantage of the splendor and bring those blossoms in to be enjoyed up close.  That’s true of all the lovely flowers blooming in our Springtime gardens – lilacs, lily of the valley… Everything!

The ice water on our table was garnished with orange slices and the tea was cherry flavored.  There was also a delicious broccoli soup.

 Our tummies were happy and full, but there was more.  Evelyna,  being a master baker, decided to bring  a bit of dessert,

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It’s nice to have friends who are master bakers… masters at anything, especially if they share their mastery with  their friends.

Evelyna brought us two goodies.  She made  raspberry lemon tartletts.  They consisted of a butter cookie shell filled with lemon curd and garnished with fresh bursting  raspberries and  mint.  She also made walnut mocha squares.  These squares are a Croatian recipe.  They consist of brown sugar pastry topped with espresso infused mocha cream  (YUM!)  and garnished with chocolate beans.

Evelyna  tells us the delicious chocolate beans are  hard to find, but she has a source –  shops called  “Earth Fare”.  They carry the luscious little gems should you want to buy some for yourself.

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Evelyna’s goodies

We ate.  We drank. (tea)  We chatted.

 Though all of us are  busy, it is so very nice, and quite civilized,  to pause now and then  taking time for tea –  taking time to appreciate  nature –  taking time to foster friendship.  Two hours of this repast and off we went… refreshed!  We returned to our lives  with renewed contentment and the  warm fuzzy glow that only beauty and friendship can provide.

So

Take Time!   Take Tea!   Take Joy!

Emerson, Tea, Nature and Me

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
Are you familiar with the life and work of Ralph Waldo Emerson?  I met Emerson some years ago when I lived in Boston.  Because I’ve always  loved old houses and historic towns I spent a lot of time in Concord where  Emerson lived.  Concord  is a charming town just outside of Boston proper.  I’d pop over to Emerson’s house often, stroll through his rooms, look over his books – why I even was in his bedroom many times  where I saw quite a few of his personal things, like the actual dressing gown he wore most  evenings.  I’d walk around his garden and spend time with him, pondering his shrewd observations and penetrating perceptions.

Now you may wonder how I could do that.  After all, Emerson was born in 1803 and  I’m not 210 years old as Emerson is.  Well, if you know me at all you know I have lots of friends – some local,  some letter friends far away, some living and some who are what I call “dead friends”.  “Dead friends” are people from the past who I get to know through their writings, accomplishments  and other work.  Emerson  is one of those “dead friends”.

Emerson was not only a fine and popular lecturer in his day, but lucky for us he was also a writer, capturing his thoughts on paper.  It’s so important we all do this, write,  or how will people of the future know we ever existed, not yet understand what we were all about?

We should all keep journals and write letters.  I write one letter every morning.  This morning’s letter went to my good friend Evelyna.

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Evelyna’s letter
Though Evelyna  lives nearby allowing us the pleasure of in-person get-togethers  our letters provide us with extra opportunities to share, and this sharing is lasting.  My great grandchildren will be able to get to know me and my friendship with Evelyna some day thanks to those letters – just as I have gotten to know Emerson thanks to his writing.

By the way, Emerson thought letter writing was a very good thing as I do for he felt it helped people communicate gentle thoughts to each other.  In his essay on friendship he wrote:  “Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection.  The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter to a friend, — and, forthwith, troops of gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.”

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Then there’s the subject of nature.  I love nature!  Emerson loved nature too.  How about you?    Do you take the time to wander fields and streams, hill and dale?  I do hope so.  Nature is so refreshing.  Though my friend Emerson values friendship as I do, we both have felt the need to escape  from society at times and enjoy the solitude and beauty that nature provides.  Emerson put it this way:  “Society (sometimes)  seems noxious.  I believe that against these baleful influences Nature is the antidote.  The man comes out of the wrangle of the shop and office, and sees the sky and woods, and is a man again … But how few men see the sky and woods!”

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A walk in nature can refresh us like nothing else.  To focus on the details we see, like a patch of pretty daffodils… improves us somehow.

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Perhaps this is because,  as Emerson states in his essay on nature:  “Every moment (in nature) instructs, and every object:  for wisdom is infused in every form.”

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Instruction can be had at tea time too.  If I pull up a chair, open a book ( maybe one of Emerson’s books) light a candle and pour a cup of tea, new ideas come forth.  So many ideas –  for so many wonderful “dead friends” are there for us to enjoy.  They have so much to share with us.   But living, breathing friends make wonderful tea guests too, sharing their ideas.

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I prepare a tray of goodies,  invite a friend or two, and we take a break from our busy lives.  Just as a stroll through nature can relax and refresh,  so too can in-person sharing , especially if the setting is calm and peaceful.

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I was pleased that the day of my last tea was cool and rainy for I was able to light a fire and fill the room with the twinkle of candlelight.  In this setting time seemed to slow down and my friends and I could enjoy each other’s company – talk of our current interests and inspire each other with our joys.

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Joni spoke of her love of baking,  and in fact she brought me a beautiful box of her homemade cupcakes and fudge.  She’s such a wonderful friend and such a culinary artist, not only whipping up luscious goodies in her kitchen, but  packaging them so beautifully  and sharing them with others – others like ME!

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Joni’s pretty box of goodies
My other guest was someone new to me,  Mary.  I love to invite new people to tea, people  I like but don’t know very well – YET!  Tea can help  transform acquaintances into friends and who doesn’t enjoy having lots of wonderful friends?

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Mary spoke of her love for tennis and  her work for our community foundation.  She was a lovely guest – and not only because she also brought me  homemade goodies, goodies that she baked just for me.  Sweet, sweet, sweet!

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Mary gave me  lemon bread which I promptly wrapped in freezer paper so it will be fresh and ready for Sunday brunch.  Yum!  Oh to know ladies who have domestic skill and a generous spirit.

Another “dead friend” , Robert Louis Stevenson, said “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings”.  I’m happy.  You happy?

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There’s tea.   There’s nature.  There are  new, old, living and “dead friends to keep us company… and there’s so much more.  I hope you are focusing on all that good, and I hope you’re sharing your joy.  Why?  You know.

Sharing Doubles the Joy

Till next time then.

Be Happy!

Baking Day and Tea for Two

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Ready, Set, Bake!

I’m in the mood for a little tea party – this time a Tea for Two.  Of course this means I need to whip up a little something  to serve my guest.  Come join me in my kitchen.

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Ingredients are at hand, along with a few decorations to inspire me.  There are the two French chefs sitting in the window

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and

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eggs ,  rolling pin,

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milk,

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and  wisk  with a serving tool.

Now for the recipe

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I think I’ll try something new today.  This Apricot Swiss Roll looks yummy.  I found the recipe in a National Trust book called Tea- time-Recipes by Jane Pettigrew.

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 So let’s get started!

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I mix the eggs with the sugar

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Gently fold in the flour

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Finally placing the sponge into the prepared pan

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I probably should have mentioned the apricots earlier.  They were sliced and placed in a dish to marinate.  The recipe called for brandy, but I had cognac on hand and cognac works  just fine.

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While the sponge bakes I prepared the dish towel by coating it with super fine sugar.  As soon as the sponge comes out of the oven it is rolled in this towel with the help of a rolling pin, and set aside to cool.

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So while the sponge is cooling let’s go out to the porch and set the table

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On this early Spring day I think I’ll serve at a table tucked in the corner so my guest can enjoy a little nature while she sips and chats with me.

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You’re looking at a big old Buckeye tree and wonderful little white flowers that pop up in the lawn every April.  But back to the kitchen for us.  The sponge is now cool and ready to assemble.  (It actually takes at least 30 minutes for the sponge to cool but we’re dealing with the magic of blogging here).

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I got a little carried away with whipping cream using more than twice as much as the  recipe called for, but what can I say?  I love whipped cream.  After spreading  the cream over the sponge I applied the apricots and untoasted almonds.

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Then came the moment of truth.  Time to turn this concoction into a roll.  I take a deep breath and ROLL AWAY!

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And “Ta Da”!  Here it is

Apricot Swiss Roll

Time to take it to the table

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The table is set with my Laura Ashley Tea for Two china.  Now all I need is my guest.  I’ve invited my French friend Stephanie.  She is an excellent cook and baker so I wonder what she will think of my Apricot Swiss Roll.

And she’s arrived with one of her children – little Arpad.

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Arpad is neither interested in tea nor Swiss Almond Rolls.  He is interested in the great outdoors – so off he goes to play amidst the forsythia.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch, I mean porch, it’s time for Stephanie to taste my creation.  Will she approve?

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YES!

Stephanie gave me her culinary stamp of approval and this coming from a French woman made me proud.  Of course she would have only a small piece of my Swiss Roll.  The French are very good at appreciating and enjoying their food, but in small portions.  Besides, Stephanie is an athlete, a runner.  She wouldn’t dare overeat and get chubby!  Just look at all the medals she’s won at various marathons in the United States and abroad.

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Stephanie and I sipped, nibbled and chatted.

It was a delightful Tea for Two

and a successful Baking Day as well.

I hope you take the time for both now and then.

And just in case you’d like to make a Swiss Apricot Roll for yourself I’ll share the recipe.

Why?

You know.

SHARING DOUBLES THE JOY

Swiss Apricot Roll

For the Sponge: 2 eggs, 3 oz. super fine sugar, 3 oz. self-rising flour, sifted

For the Filling: 14oz. apricots, drained and juice reserved  1 oz. untoasted flaked almonds

                                1-2 tablespoons brandy, 1oz. toasted flaked almonds, icing sugar

To make the sponge, preheat oven to 325F.  Grease and line 7 x 11 in tin.  Beat the eggs thoroughly.  Add the sugar and continue beating till frothy.  Fold in the flour and turn into the prepared tin.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until sponge springs up when lightly pressed.  Remove from oven and invert the tin on to a clean tea-cloth dusted with fine sugar.  Roll the sponge immediately round a wooden rolling pin and leave to cool.  Meanwhile slice the apricots and soak in brandy.  Just before serving, carefully unroll the sponge and spread with the whipped cream.  Arrange the apricots over the top and pour on the brandy.  Sprinkle with the untoasted almonds and carefully roll the sponge up again.  Place on a serving dish, pour a little of the reserved apricot juice over the sponge, sprinkle the top with toasted almonds and dust with icing sugar.  Serve immediately.