“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.“————–Marcus Aurelius
I love to host an afternoon tea each and every month. Have you ever hosted such a party? I hope so. Every tea party I host is set in a different location in or around the grounds of my home. In October I always choose to serve in my outbuilding. Why? It’s because this small building at the edge of our property has a wood burning fireplace and entertaining here on an Autumn day makes me feel all cozy, as though I’m far away off in the mountains.
This builiding is my little getaway place. It has two dutch doors, the five windows you see, baseboard heating and a beamed ceiling.
The outbuilding is always a great escape for me. I love to read in the wing chairs or in the rocker that belonged to my maternal grandparents, but now the rocker belongs to me.
Any time of year I love to escape to this building. Though there’s a house right next door the bushes keep my view out these windows quite private. It’s really a great escape when I yearn to get away, but haven’t the time to go off very far.
I love our outbuilding and because I know sharing doubles the joy I’m happy to host my October tea parties here. Of course the building is great for cocktails before a dinner party too. It’s just a fun place. We would’ve never thought to build such a structure, but some previous owners created it and I’m so glad they did.
For this October tea I decided to serve three items – a blueberry tea cake, pear scones ( the recipe given to me by my dear pen friend, Almita) and egg and watercress sandwiches. The party began with a little champagne. Campagne is always a nice touch.
This tea party began as we sat before the fire toasting our champagne. We sat, we chatted, we watched the fire crackle and burn, but then we were ready for some tea so off to the table we went. The table in this outbuilding first belonged to my maternal grandparents as the rocker did. I was so happy to inherit it. I was happy also to have a good place for it in this building where it could be used and enjoyed by me and others. My grandparents and aunts and uncles who once used this table are now gone, but now the table has new life and new people all around it. It helps me share joy and love with others over tea. Sharing joy and love is what it’s all about, don’t you agree?
My mother created the tablecloth. She was so good with a needle as were many of my female relatives. I have fond memories of us getting together chatting and stitching. I still love to knit, embroider, and do needlepoint. Do you enjoy needlework too? It’s a lovely art form.
I thought the outbuilding deserved its own set of china so I went off shopping at some antique stores and found this pretty pattern.
For tea at an antique table with antique china and antique table cloth I needed to use some antique napkins and I found some in my cupboard. I’m always collecting pretty things for the table. You too?
Every afternoon tea needs flowers and I was delighted to find some orange tea roses which matched the outbuilding china perfectly.
The roses also matched the hair of my “mystery guest”. Look and see Maura’s lovely orange hair.
You may be wondering why I call Maura my “mystery guest”? Well, you see, Maura read one of my past tea posts and she left a comment saying she would love to be invited to a tea. I wrote back to her asking where in the country she lived and I was delighted to learn she lived very near to me … so I invited her to this tea. I never actually met her until she came to my door but she proved to be a lovely lady and delightful guest. What is it they say about strangers being angels in disguise?
Of course I had other guests too – my good friends Lori and Joni were invited. Because I had taken a few hundred trips back and forth from the house to the outbuilding preparing for this tea I was very happy that the ladies helped me carry the last of the food to our little party in the ourbuilding.
There is nothing like afternoon tea. To enjoy tea alone while reading a book or writing a letter is delightful, but to invite others to share in the tea ceremony is double or even triple fun. I certainly hope you are partaking in this simple but most delectable pleasure.
What better way to suggest friendliness – and to create it – than with a cup of tea? ———————–J. Grayson Luttrell 1930
“The elegance and natural hospitality of the past are preferable to the sloppiness modern society has slipped into. It is one reason I host so many dinners and parties and it’s a great way to showcase culture and manners without saying a word.”
And so every month I too enjoy inviting friends and would-be friends to my home for the lovely ritual of afternoon tea. These teas can be as simple or elaborate as time permits. The most important thing to me is taking time off to share good conversation with others in my private world, my home.
If my antique tea cups could talk they’d have all sorts of stories to tell, stories that my friends and I share. Sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow. As hostess I delight in being of service to others. Some people volunteer at homeless shelters, schools or hospitals. I’ve done some of those things in the past myself, but these days my manner of service to others happens when I take their comfort into my own hands and provide them with food, drink and pretty things.
Things like flowers
I can’t imagine any party without flowers.
For years I’ve been collecting china. Some women love shoes. I love collecting china, crystal and table linen and unlike some people I use all of my collections. I use these pretty things on ordinary days when I’m alone or when it’s just my husband and me so of course I would use these pretty things when I have guests too.
Each party gives me the opportunity to set one of my tables in a different way using different items. There are those who create with oils and watercolor paints, but I create with my table designs and the menus I choose for my teas or dinner parties. Years ago when I lived in Boston I loved strolling through Bloomingdale’s china department for there I saw many tables set in many different ways with a variety of china and crystal. Now, all these years later, I have almost as a large a collection of these pretty things as Bloomingdales. (Not really, but almost.)
Today’s china is Bavarian. The pattern is called Old Meissen. I decided to use a lace tablecloth to compliment its graceful old world style.
The menu for this tea consisted of spicy chicken sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, orange raisin scones, chocolate bread served with vanilla butter and cake which I purchased from a neighborhood bakery.
Of course there was tea – 3 kinds of tea. I served Earl Grey (my favorite), Jasmine and Apricot. After tea I offered my guests a house favorite, CarolAn’s Irish Cream. This seems only right for one of Carol Ann’s teas, don’t you think?
I decided to use a lot of crystal items for this tea so the sideboard would have a uniform theme.
The room was now set, all ready for guests. Food was placed on the sideboard. Small candles were placed on the table ready to be lit.
Now for the guests
First Celeste and Sandra arrive
And then Noreen arrived
The rest is tea history.
Another fun afternoon tea with friends. I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did.
A Country Inn Day is a day to escape from life’s routines and step away into a world of beauty and adventure or rest and relaxation – whatever is needed at the time. For me, it’s a day where I imagine and then create delightful moments much like the moments I’ve enjoyed at beautiful country inns. My 1853 home becomes my inn and on a Country Inn Day I can stay at this inn, stay close, or take off to a distant city. Some Inn Days are full of imagination and others not so much.
It is my custom to enjoy one Country Inn Day each and every week, but now and then I make an exception to this rule and enjoy a string of Country Inn Days as was the case recently when I visited my son Patrick in New York City.
Patrick lives on the upper east side of Manhattan, very near Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art so while he was busy at his job I had great fun at both of these wonderful places.
There is nothing quite as wonderful as a stroll through a lovely park – spoken as the true Romantic that I am. Back home I love my Country Inn Nature days and I’m sure New Yorkers love their nature days at this lovely park too. So much beauty . . . take a peek for yourself.
And I never tire of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There is so much to see at this museum, but I most love the period rooms because I absolutely love old houses.
These are just three of the many lovely rooms from great houses in Europe and America.
One can spend hours roaming the rooms of this museum and when tired and hungry you need not go very far for refreshment. There are two very nice restaurants right in the museum. My favorite is this one with its walls of windows looking out onto Central Park. Art, yummy food, and nature, all together in one place.
Between Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art I was kept pretty happy while my son was busy at work. But once his work day was over I could enjoy his company as we did the town. Patrick works on Park Avenue. He’s a data scientist for a company called Dstillery. Don’t ask me to explain the technical work he does but I loved visiting the company’s offices.
And the view of Park Avenue from these offices was quite impressive
Gee, if only I studied statistics instead of music I too could have worked at a snazzy New York city company like this one. Oh well, my Romantic spirit does love the music work I do.
Back at the inn in Hudson I usually have cocktails with a “dead friend”, – Lord Byron or Ralph Waldo Emerson via biography, but while in New York Patrick and I visited all sorts of snazzy places.
Every place we went was buzzing with life.
I enjoyed lots of outings to places I had never been before. Two of those places were Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. I was surprised that Brooklyn Heights looked a lot like the Beacon Hill area of my beloved Boston. Old brownstones lined the streets there and most of those brownstones were gorgeous with fancy iron fences and lovely stonework.
Then Patrick had a surprise for me. We walked down one of the lanes and came to a sort of park.
And what did I see?
I saw the Brooklyn bridge.
On my next visit when the weather is a little warmer we’re going to take a walk across that bridge. That will be fun!
The view from this park was really amazing. There was Manhattan in all its glory and off in the distance I could even see the Statue of Liberty.
All that walking, and we did a lot of it, all fast, for no one walks slowly in New York, made me very hungry each day. I’m a foodie anyway and so is my son so we had a lot of interesting meals. I’m especially fond of French food so one of my favorite meals was enjoyed at Cafe D”Alsace.
I had read about this establishment in one of my New York travel books and it didn’t disappoint me. It happened to be quite near my son’s apartment so I hope he pops into this place often. I would. Lovely they have outdoor seating for warm Summer days.
But another restaurant that really delighted me was very Polish. I happen to be 100% Polish you know. Both sets of my grandparents lived in Poland until adulthood. Patrick loves the food of all sorts of countries. We ate Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese food on my visit, but he thought it only right a Polish girl like me experience real Polish food in a place where other real Polish people live and speak Polish. This place was back in Brooklyn.
Not quite as elegant as the French place, but a really fun experience none the less.
What to order?
And for the main course
Buttered potatoes, blood sausage, kiebasi, pork, chicken, salmon and cabbage.
I hadn’t had blood sausage in years – dark, crispy and yummy.
In between eating there were more museums.
This museum was actually the home of the Frick family and I was as impressed with the building as with the extensive art collection inside. There were no pictures allowed except in the garden room so I can’t show you the lovely windows and draperies which I found to be exquisite. Oh, to have millions of dollars before taxes were invented.
Here you see the Garden Room at the Frick. Now that I’ve been to the family home I must get the biography of Mr. Frick and get to know him. He just might become one of my “dead friends”.
Are you tired yet from all the outings? I definitely had a lot of adventures and saw a great many new and interesting things on these Country Inn Days, so many that when I returned to Hudson I didn’t venture out for two weeks. There was a lot of walking and sometimes there were road blocks making us go out of our way to get where we were going.
Road blocks happened this day as we walked along the New York streets. We couldn’t help but notice lots and lots of policemen gathered together. Was someone important about to exit the building they were facing? No.
They were getting instructions for the parade that was about to happen – something about a national holiday in Greece.
When streets are blocked, or any time you need to get from here to there, you can always take the subway. We did that a lot, and today we had a date, a date for tea.
Whenever I’m in a city I like to take tea at a fine hotel. This Country Inn Day Patrick and I enjoyed afternoon tea at The Pierre Hotel on E 61st Street. Our waiter was quite dashing and the food was quite dashing too, a bit fancier then the tea treats I offer when inviting guests to my inn back home.
What do you think?
Well, I know this post has gotten quite long, but that’s because my Country Inn Days were quite long, and quite full, and quite wonderful thanks to my charming son who played the part of Innkeeper as I stayed at his place for nearly a week. Now that’s a good son for you.
Flying home was quite bittersweet because it’s always hard leaving Patrick, but I needed a rest! And luckily I have another son by the name of Rory who I can dote on once home.
And as I write this post in my butler’s pantry I am resting and enjoying another Country Inn Day, but this one is quite different from the last one. I may not even leave my Jeremiah Brown House because balance is important and I’ve had quite enough excitement for the time being. Rest and relaxation is the current word for this Country Inn Day.
Next up is tea in the Sun room with “dead friend” Agatha Christie.
I’ve really enjoyed reliving my New York Country Inn Days with you because I truly believe sharing doubles the joy and we can never have too much joy in our lives. I hope you’re making joy happen in your life as well. It’s up to you to do it. There are so many ways. So till we meet again . . .
It’s October and Autumn is in the air. Spirits are in the air too. There’s one particular little spirit that flutters back and forth past the porch of my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. It’s a little white ghost. Whenever I see this ghost my thoughts wander off to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem is called Haunted Houses.
“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses…there are more guests at table than the host invited…my friend at fireside cannot see the things I see nor hear the sounds I hear. He but sees what is, whereas unto me all that has been is visible and clear.”
Another type of spirit that is visible and clear to me is the Spirit of Hospitality. Hospitality. I think it’s a wonderful thing, defined as the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests in a friendly or generous way.
Strangers or guests
Do you entertain guests and even strangers too? I do. At many of my afternoon teas I ask guests to bring a friend. In this way I have the fun of meeting new people, and this makes me think of those words from the bible talking about the possibility of strangers being angels in disguise.
We’re always told to love our neighbor, but one can’t love a person they don’t know, and in order to really get to know someone it’s necessary to spend time together… time spent chatting and sharing. We can do this chatting and sharing in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places. I get to know many people from all around the world through the art of letter writing, but I also enjoy getting to know people through in person visits and my favorite place for these visits is in my very own home. That’s because . . .
Home is where the heart is
Many of us work hard to make our house a home. We fill our house with things we love. We clean and polish, decorate according to our own unique taste, and in this way we express ourselves. Our home captures our spirit. Even if we’re not present a visitor can walk into our house and get a real sense of who we are.
if we’re trying to get to know people better and we want them to get to know us, I think inviting them into our home is the best way and place in which to cultivate and grow friendship. I’m surprised so few people share my thinking. Don’t you enjoy being invited to someone’s home – for dinner, tea, cocktails or anything? I sure do, and I equally enjoy doing the inviting.
I love to host intimate events where good conversation abounds. Cooking and baking are two of my favorite things so it’s great fun for me to plan a dinner, luncheon or tea, but even if cooking and baking are not your favorite things it’s still easy to entertain. So why don’t more people share my thinking? I wish I knew. It’s not so much about food as it is about the sharing of spirit.
Joy and Carol Ann
Recently I had a delightful day of sharing with one of my pen friends. Meet Joy.
I first met Joy through The Letter Exchange, an organization for letter writers. She was living in Switzerland at the time, but later she moved to South Carolina. Through letters we’ve been sharing for years and getting to know each other very well. We’ve become kindred spirits entirely through our letters. But what a thrill when Joy told me she’d be passing through my town and wanted to stop by for an in person visit. How delightful!
The day of Joy’s visit arrived. I made a batch of my cream scones with raspberries and whipped cream, pulled out my Laura Ashley Tea for Two china and strolled around my house and garden deciding where we should settle in to do our sharing.
The weather has been beautiful this Autumn so I decided we should have our tea and conversation outdoors on the porch and since it would just be the two of us why not choose the small, open porch with a view of nature.
I set a small cloth on the table and proceeded to arrange the china, going out to the garden to snip a rose and some mint and lavender. Nothing like flowers and herbs. I wanted everything to be pretty for my friend.
Here, in this peaceful setting, we could talk and listen to each other, deepening our friendship.
It’s not necessary to fuss with settings – food, china, flowers, but I think these things are a very nice touch. They can help in creating a very pleasant situation for a friend’s visit and can only help to make that friend feel special and highly valued.
I’m a Romantic and beauty in any of its forms delights me. Though I try to create beauty for my guests I must say I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from this beauty too. Beauty seems to become us.
Joy seemed to enjoy the scones – just that simple little food treat, but the real treat (at least for me) was the sharing of our spirits. Friendship is a wonderful thing. I don’t believe we’re meant to live solitary lives. Friendship doubles the joy in life just as sharing doubles the joy.
We can share in a variety of ways. I love the old fashioned ways – the art of letter writing and the art of hospitality. I encourage you to practice both arts. They may be forgotten, but both arts are as delightful today as they ever were.
When you give good things come back to you.
Letters, Invitations to tea, friendship, and more . . .
I wish for you the wonderful kind of friendship Joy and I share.
There’s snow on the ground and the temperature is 16 degrees. It seems like a good day to stay all cozy and warm indoors, a good Country Inn “in” Day.
“Of all the places I’ve been to wine in, to dine in to have a good time in you can’t beat an old Country Inn.”
This poem was found in an old Red Lion Inn scrapbook penned by an anonymous guest and I quite agree. I’d love to enjoy today’s Inn stay at my favorite Red Lion Inn, but alas, it’s 500 miles away and I just can’t zip over to Massachusetts – so the next best thing is to experience an Inn stay in my very own historic home, the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. Here I will step out of regular routines just as I would do at The Red Lion Inn and I’ll treat myself to a nice escape. Everybody needs a break from routines now and then. Don’t you?
My day begins with breakfast in bed.
If you plan ahead as I did the Inn kitchen is stocked and the breakfast tray is standing ready. This morning it’s set with Laura Ashley ‘Tea for two’ china, a warm croissant, raspberry jam, orange juice and coffee. My husband was invited to join me, but today I’m on my own here at the Inn.
When my husband does join me for breakfast in bed he can order off the menu which the Inn cook (me) created for him. Little touches like this menu are fun to create and make Country Inn “in” days special. I like nothing more then taking an ordinary day and dressing it up with little treats. To me this is more enjoyable then elaborate holiday festivities.
After a leisurely breakfast I make my way to the dressing room and put myself together for the day. I may not have a lady’s maid (though that would be nice) but just to take my time with a little primping feels delicious. No rushing – for rushing destroys grace, just time to sit quietly and think about the day ahead as I put myself together.
Once dressed I leave my room and go downstairs to the public areas of the house. A walk would be nice. I usually take a walk when I stay at The Red Lion Inn, but looking outside at the snow on the ground and remembering the 16 degree temperature I decide on another favorite activity.
There’s never enough time to read and one of my New Years resolutions is to read much more this year so now is the perfect time to get comfy by the fire in the Inn library and honor that resolution. In preparation for my Country Inn Day I visited the Hudson library yesterday even though the Inn bookshelves are bursting with my own books. Oh, so many books, so little time, but if we take control of our schedules, step out of our work routine, we can find at least a little time for favorite things – things like reading, and reading is a perfect Inn day activity.
I love all things English so today’s reading consists of back issues of “The English Garden” magazine. Perhaps the Inn gardener in me will discover some great ideas for the grounds around the Jeremiah Brown House. And Country Inn Days are the perfect days to dream of such things. You know what Oscar Hammerstein II said, don’t you? He said, “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true.?”
After a little garden dreaming I’ll then push on to begin reading the novel, “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte. I’m very fond of all the Bronte sisters. I met Emily first when my dear pen friend, Bruce Youngblood, sent me one of her poems at the time of my father’s death, but eventually I got to know Emily’s sisters, Ann and Charlotte, also great writers in my opinion. I consider all three women to be favorite “dead friends”. What is a “dead friend” you wonder? They are people of the past who I get to know through their letters, their biographies and/or their works.
Charlotte wrote “Villete” when she was at the height of her artistic power. She drew on her loneliness after the death of her three siblings. I’ve heard this book is her most accomplished and deeply felt work even though it’s not her most popular creation. You’d think reading about the struggles of Charlotte’s heroine would be depressing to me, but somehow it’s not. In fact, I gain strength from Charlotte’s characters who persevere through tough times.
But time flies when one is having fun and reading on a Country Inn Day or on any day is my kind of fun, still I must leave the library now because it’s Tea Time. And what a wonderful invention Tea Time is. P.G. Wodehouse, an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which … I particularly enjoy.”( and that goes for me too!)
If you have a tea table there’s not much to setting it up for a daily afternoon tea – a cloth, some flowers, a candle, a pretty tea pot, china, and of course the tea. The food need not be fancy. Today’s afternoon tea treat consists only of cinnamon toast, but “The mere chink of cups and saucers turns the mind to happy repose”. That’s a well known tea quote from George Gissie. And yes, that sound is music to my ears too.
On Country Inn Days I like my house, my Inn, to be filled with guests. Sometimes I host teas or dinner parties for my personal friends and relatives, but other times I fill the Inn with other sorts of guests, my “dead friends”. It’s very easy to come up with these guests for all I have to do is use my imagination. I have so many great “dead friends”. I never know who will be popping up next. Guess who is seated at my tea table waiting patiently for me to join her?
It’s Mrs. Emily Whaley formerly of Charleston, South Carolina, but now residing in heaven. Emily’s spirit will be joining me for afternoon tea today by way of her book entitled, Mrs. Whaley and herCharleston Garden. I’m absolutely delighted she’ll be sharing her stories with me because I remember touring her garden and other gardens in Charleston some years ago. Now thanks to her book I’ll not only learn about her garden but also about her life, a life lived in a grand house of the old South. What could be more fun at tea?
Emily’s garden was famous. Back in the day the New YorkTimes sent reporters to interview her. Southern Accent magazine did a layout. Two or three thousand visitors toured her garden during Charleston’s garden festivals and as I said I was one of those people. I have a feeling Emily enjoyed lots of afternoon teas at her own historic home and now she’s here with me all through the magic of books and a little imagination.
But time moves on as it always does and I must morph from Inn guest into Inn chef because my husband will be joining me for dinner at the Inn before long and someone must prepare that dinner and that someone is me. Luckily I love to cook. The menu is set. Leek and potato soup, simple chicken tenders prepared in olive oil, butter, herbs and white wine, fresh green beans and a special Red Lion Inn rice.
I’d love to share the Red Lion Inn’s rice recipe with you because sharing doubles the joy and I think you’ll like it as much as I do.
Red Lion Inn Rice
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter, 2 stalks celery, finely chopped, 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, bay leaves, dash of salt and pepper, 4 cups chicken stock, 2 cups white rice
Process: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the vegetables and seasonings, and cook for 7 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables are wilted. Remove the bay leaves. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, and cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and it has absorbed the stock.
And here it is – Red Lion Inn Rice.
with Potato Leek Soup
and Chicken tenders accompanied by fresh green beans.
Oh yes, and a dessert of Grand Marnier Crepes.
The Inn cooks job is done. Now it’s back to being Inn guest.
It’s now time to enjoy that dinner by candlelight in the Jeremiah Brown House dining room.
It was fun creating tonight’s Inn dinner but even more enjoyable devouring it and I am not ashamed to admit it for as William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in his Memorials of Gormandizing, “If you like your dinner, man; never be ashamed to say so…remember that every man who has been worth a fig in this world, as poet, painter, or musician, has had a good appetite and a good taste.”
And what to do after dinner?
I’ll settle in here. The Inn recently added new rooms to the old house and this is one of them. It’s a pleasant place to watch a movie, entertain other guests or in today’s case, sit comfortably doing needlepoint with a good classic movie. Country Inn Days are all about simple pleasures.
I love needlework and it’s time I finish this needlepoint design picturing a crossing guard on the streets of Bermuda, a design I purchased there and started years ago. Needlepoint and most types of needlework are very relaxing and relaxing activities are just right for a Country Inn Day or a Country Inn evening.
And after an hour or two of needlework the evening turns into night and before bed I think a bubble bath would be just the thing to end a lovely Country Inn Day. Bubble therapy I call it, another simple pleasure that is not to be underestimated for the delight it offers.
And so this Winter’s Country Inn Day ends where it began.
I would’ve enjoyed a visit to The Red Lion Inn today for sure, but this faux Country Inn Day was quite delightful too for I accomplished most Country Inn Day goals, the goals being: To refresh body, mind and spirit; To relax; To enjoy favorite things without interruption; To exercise imagination; To take time to dream; To focus on beauty in all of its forms; To enjoy spa activities; To read fun materials, watch interesting films and spend time with interesting people; and To capture Inn Day images for my own future reflection and for sharing because…
Sharing Doubles The Joy.
Thanks for coming along. I hope you had half the fun I had today.
“Our life is nothing but a winter’s day; Some only breakfast and away; Others to dinner stay and are full fed. The deepest age but sup and go to bed. He’s worse in debt who lingers out the day. Who goes betimes has all the less to pay.”
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.
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.
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…
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.
I bake the gingerbread into the shape of the Hudson Clocktower, a famous landmark in my town.
Gingerbread is also shaped into stars which I decorate.
Together they make a simple, but pretty presentation.
I add some frosted 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.
add some shortbread which was baked earlier and stored in an air-tight container
and select the tea cups and linen.
A Sharing Tea is the perfect time to share all those pretty things I love and collect.
And the table is set and ready for my guests.
And there’s the doorbell now!
It’s Joni, one of my dear old friends
and she’s brought me a pretty plant. How sweet of her.
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.
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 Teaisn’t it time you have one of your own?
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 Artof 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.
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.
And I’m happy to say the pan worked very well. Aren’t these brownies cute?
A little powder sugar to dress them up and a very simple recipe can look quite snazzy on the tea table.
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.
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
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.
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…
as did little phyllo cups of egg salad.
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!
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.
These little touches make an afternoon tea special.
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.
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.
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.