Another Afternoon Tea

In the words of my dear pen friend, Michelle Gil,

“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.

Spicy Chicken Sandwich containing curry and mango chutney

 

Peek a Boo Cucumber Flower-like Sandwiches in the round

 

Turkey Sandwiches with Cranberry Orange relish and Boston lettuce

 

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Light and fluffy ‘melt in your mouth’ Orange raisin scones

 

Chocolate Walnut Bread served with Vanilla Butter

 

A Chocolate Vanilla Cake from the Bakery because sometimes a little help from a bakery is called for

 

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?

Nice of them to name this Irish Cream after me

 

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.

The “Spirit” of Hospitality

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

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

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

Strangers or guests

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

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

 

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Home is where the heart is

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

So

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

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

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Joy and Carol Ann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you give good things come back to you.

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

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

Truly.

Carol Ann

Remembering a Summer Tea from Days Gone By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Chicken Salad Puffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve got Mail

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Yes, I’ve got mail.  I’ve got letters.  I’ve got lots and lots of letters –  letters that come in the mail every day, letters to answer, letters reaching out to new people encouraging friendship,  letters all set to go just waiting for the postman to pick them up and carry them off to places far and near.

It’s funny, but whenever I tell people I’m a letter writer the first thing most of them say is, “Oh, letter writing.  Nobody writes letters anymore.”  Of course they’re wrong.  Lots of people are still writing letters.  They’re just not talking about them.  I’m talking about them because letters and letter writing brings me joy and sharing doubles that joy.

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There’s nothing like making a cup of something delicious (for me it’s a cup of dark roast coffee or Earl Grey tea) and getting all cozy with paper and pen.  I’ve been told I must be an introvert for introverts receive energy from solitude, and letter writing is a solitude-type thing, but I must also be an extrovert for I enjoy people very much.. . so  it’s no wonder that I love letter writing.  In letter writing we have solitude and society simultaneously.  We sit quietly relaxing in our house or in a pleasant coffee shop while at the same time we’re sharing with others.

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But it’s not just the writing and sharing I love.  I also love the art play involved in creating my own stationery. Some papers turn out pretty, while others are just playful.   But all art play is fun.  I’m not the only one enjoying art play either.  Have you been to a bookstore lately to see all the many adult coloring books?  Adults must really be enjoying coloring by the looks of all those books for sale and why not?  Kids mustn’t have all the fun, but letter writers have a purpose for their art play.  They can share their art as well as their words – a double sharing proposition.

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Creating  letter papers and writing letters are  wonderful activities, but only half the fun.  The other half of the fun comes when we go out to our mail box and find more than junk mail. Finding personal letters addressed just to us is wonderful fun!  Heartfelt messages just for us.

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The best of these letters share the personal life and the unique spirit of another.  How often do you have chats through the day with people who reach deep into themselves to share the good, the bad, and that which is the essential essence of themselves?  Well, most every day I have these sharing sessions because I’m blessed to have a great number of wonderful pen friends.  You can have wonderful pen friends too.  All you have to do is write letters for good things come back to those who share –  good things in the form of more letters.

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Today I got a letter from my penfriend A.J. who lives in Arizona.  This dear man is hurting because he lost his wife two years ago but he still misses her terribly.  He told me he thinks of her every day because  she was a wonderful woman and a wonderful wife.  A.J. truly was a lucky man to not only have a good companion, but also a wife who cooked delicious meals every day and  took great care of their house. My heart goes out to him.  A lot of people are hurting in this world, but sharing in letters , (and sharing in other ways too) not only doubles the joy, but also divides any sorrow.  I care how A.J. feels. Wouldn’t you care too?  I plan to write him soon and encourage him to tell me more about his wife.  I’m sure he’d like that.   It’s not just A.J.’s spirit that came through in his letter.  I also got a sense of his wife’s spirit as he shared a list she kept on their fridge, and now I’m sharing that list with you.  Here it is.

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Ingredients for a Happy Life

Develop a spiritual outlook on life – Matt. 5: 3

Be content and avoid “the love of money”  1 Tim, 6: 6-10

Keep pleasures in their place 2 Tim,3: 1,4

Be generous and work for the happiness of others Acts 20:  35

Be thankful and count your blessings Col. 3:  15

Have a forgiving spirit Matt. 6:  14

Choose your associates wisely Prov. 13:20

Take care of your body and avoid bad habits 2 Cor.7:  1

Rejoice in the hope set out for you in the Bible Rom. 12:  12

This list is good advice for all of us and it gives me something good to think about today as I’m thinking about A.J. and his wife.

Thinking and caring about people is not a frivolous, unimportant thing and therefore letter writing is more than just a fun hobby. It’s an excellent way to reach out to others in love.  Our letters can make a big difference in someone’s life if we’re thoughtful and careful to address their feelings.  It’s not always easy, but well worth the effort.  Besides, when we take the focus off our own life and focus our attention on other people we often feel all the better for it.

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The next letter that comes to me may be full of joy, or it may come from some far off place and introduce me to  new and  unusual things.  Every letter is different just as every letter writer is different. My life is richer for having lots of pen friends. I hope you have lots of pen friends too.

“Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.  For, thus friends absent speak. —John Donne

Tea in the Outbuilding

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Ah tea!  

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

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

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 approaching the circle…

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passing the circle…

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

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

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and here we are!

Come on in.

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

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

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

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

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

What will I serve my guests?

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  Meringues with strawberries and whipped cream?

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Shortbread and cookies?

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A simple coffee cake?…

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

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

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

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

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And candlelight is always nice…

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especially on a cool, rainy day.

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

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be they lady friends, old and new…

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or sweet children who happen to be my music students.

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

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

Share Joy.  Share Tea!

Carol Ann’s Recipe for a Sharing Tea

 

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

Here it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gingerbread Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gingerbread is also shaped into stars which I decorate.

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Together they make a simple, but pretty presentation.

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I add some frosted molasses cookies…

Molasses Cookies

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

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

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

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and select the tea cups and linen.

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

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And the table is set and ready for my guests.

And there’s the doorbell now!

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It’s Joni, one of my dear old friends

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

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

She too has a pretty plant for me.

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

Hostess gifts!

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

And  the sharing begins!

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

Enjoy!

Let’s talk about Christmas Cards

It’s the middle of December and the Christmas cards are starting to arrive.  Goodie!  I love them. I like to display the cards we receive on  our library shelves  amidst the books.   They’re great, one of my favorite things about Christmas.  Sure, I like the Christmas music and I get plenty of it teaching piano and directing a Children’s Church choir.

And I enjoy all sorts of  other Christmas things…

things like baking Christmas cookies and decorating the dining tables with crystal reindeer and Pomegranetes.  I like pulling out a Teddy Bear in his December sweater, decorating the Christmas tree and setting out another lit tree to brighten up the foyer.  I enjoy all sorts of Seasonal plants, setting paper whites on my secretary desk and  trimming the mantels with fresh greens, but being a letter writer there’s nothing I enjoy more then  sending and receiving Christmas cards.

When I’m ready to write out our cards I put some Christmas music on, make a cup of coffee or tea and spread out the cards I’m planning to send so I can hand pick different cards for different people, but I can get a little frustrated because I know I’ll never have the time to write everyone I care for at Christmas … not in the busy days of December… not writing  cards with personal messages the way I like to write them.

I remember watching my Mom write out her Christmas cards.  Mom was a lovely and very caring person, but the task of sending out lots of cards to a huge family put her in an efficient work mode not a holly jolly Christmas mode.  She approached the job in an assembly line manner. Mom first signed her name to all the cards, she then stamped all the envelopes, then  penned all the addresses.  Her heart was in a good place but not with each person she was writing.

I can’t write Christmas cards or any cards that way.  To me each card is an opportunity to think about the person I’m writing.   This takes time, but it’s delightful time spent!  It’s not a job to me.  It’s pure fun!  I like to write a note inside the card or maybe a long message.

Sometimes I like to draw a little something on the card and if I’m writing to one of my friends I always use sealing wax with my personal “C”stamp for Carol Ann. If the card happens to be from both my husband and me I’ll use a stamp with our “M” initial for McCarthy.  Christmas cards going to my pen friends rate a letter inside the card (and I have a lot of pen friends) so unless I go off to our outbuilding and hide away for a few weeks everyone I care about can not possibly get a Christmas card.  Oh dear.

What to do?

I guess we all have to come up with our own solutions.

Some good people, like my dear pen friend Greg, take the time to write a holiday letter to everyone on their list.  It’s typed and copied. I’m sure composing this sort of  letter takes a lot of time and I’m honored to be on Greg’s Christmas list and the list of other people as well. I really am, but I’m not fond of most Christmas letters.  Greg’s letter was different, better, because he wrote a paragraph in that letter about me and our pen friendship.  That personal touch left me with a smile and a good feeling. Greg’s Christmas letter brought me joy and isn’t that what we want our Christmas cards and letters to do?

Unfortunately many Christmas letters fail to offer any kind and loving words to their recipients. They’re filled with me, me and more me.  I may care about the person who is writing this letter to me (and a million others), but such Christmas letters don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy in any way. In fact, if those letters are filled with only the great accomplishments and good fortunes of the writer’s last year, well, they can be a little depressing. I can begin to wonder how my year measures up to their year.

So how will I handle the subject of Christmas cards?

There’s no way I can send  a personal card or letter to everyone I care about in the  month of December and I’m not about to create Christmas letters all about me and my family.

But this is what I can do.

I can enjoy making a list (and checking it twice) to be sure everyone I care about gets their name on that list.  Next I will declare one day each week as the day to send a special card containing a letter (or at least a special note) to someone on that list.  I’ll keep a log of who gets what when.  In the course of a whole year I should be able to reach 50 to 100 additional people.

Each week a  card may go out to someone with a birthday or anniversary.   I may hear of a friend or relative who is feeling poorly, someone who has had an operation or lost a loved one, someone who needs encouragement or congratulations.  These would be the people to get an extra card or  letter that week.

 A holiday may be approaching – Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day.  Why not send a few greeting cards for each holiday?  Why should Christmas be the only holiday when cards are sent to friends and relatives?  That’s silly.  We can care about people all through the year not only in December, the busiest month of all.

And even if there’s no special day coming up who needs a special day to send a card and letter?  Any time is a good time to think of others and let them know we care about them.

So

Though I wish I could send a zillion Christmas cards out this month, I can’t.  I will however enjoy writing and sending cards and letters all through the year.  I have my regular pen friends, but so many other people are also important to me and deserve to be remembered.  Spreading joy and love is a twelve month proposition.  And when we give (love) good things come back to us. (More love).

We all have our own approach to Christmas cards.  I don’t expect everyone to do as I do, but I hope you enjoy spreading the cheer by sending some cards out to those you love.  It would be a shame if this gracious old world custom went by the wayside.

May I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

(just in case I don’t get a card off to you this month)

But maybe  a card  will arrive when you least suspect it. 

Till that time

Cheers