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.

The Letter Writing Ritual

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What is a ritual?  The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines ritual as an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.  Wikipedia tells us the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety.

Well, I find letter writing in general  to be a great anxiety neutralizer because as I step off the fast track, sit myself down, reflect on my life situation and share that reflection with a friend in a slow careful manner, I become more calm and at peace.  And in this calm thoughtful state it’s easier to focus on the positive, fighting off the negative.  Rushing destroys grace, but mindful relaxation cultivates grace and when I’m in this ‘state of grace’ life seems more manageable and more beautiful too.

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 But with all there is to do how do we make time for writing letters?  The answer is simple.  We decide to make letter writing a priority and we create a letter writing ritual.  After all, life is a series of choices and we are the creators of our life, the ones who make those choices.  Though modern life can easily fill up our day with a swirl of “to do’s” we have the power to say STOP if we choose to use that power.

But what exactly is a letter writing ritual?

A letter writing ritual is the carefully planned approach we create in regard to the who, what, when, where  and how that’s involved in our letter writing process.

When we pay close attention to all the details of our ritual, making these details orderly and pleasing to our sensibilities, we then elevate our letter writing activity into the realm of a peak aesthetic experience.  So let’s talk about how one would create such a ritual.

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THE WHO

In order to get right down to writing when the time comes it helps to know just who will be getting the next letter.  Having a list of letter recipients in place helps with this matter, and only you know who should be on your list.  As you receive letters you can certainly enter the names of these letter friends  – and favorite friends might be put on a priority response list.   But you might also like to add the names of others – your children, elderly friends and relations – anyone you care about, people who may or may not write back to you.  Your list could include the names of people who need a get well letter or birthday letter. Think through all the people you know.

You can begin a new correspondence by writing a first letter to someone you know and like asking lots of questions so they have reason to write back to you.  Be creative.  There might be people you know who need a little encouragement, deserve a little praise.  Write to children.  Everyone loves to get a personal letter.   Give a little creative thought to the matter and design a system that will help you know just who is to get your next letter automatically.  This systematic list created by you will  truly make it easier to get right down to writing when you finally have the time to write.

I like to keep a special list containing the names of  people who send me a Christmas card each year.  I might not have the time in busy December to send all these people a card with a personal letter inside, but if their names are on my list I will get around to them sooner or later.  Lists are helpful.

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THE WHAT

What kind of stationery do you like to use?  Maybe you always send greeting cards with letters inside those cards.  Maybe you use monogrammed stationery.  You might design your own papers.  Perhaps you create photo note cards.  There are so many wonderful types of stationery for our letters.  If you’re like me you enjoy using all sorts of materials.  In order not to spend a lot of time deciding just what papers to use each time you write it is helpful to have these choices organized in some way.  Maybe the decision is easy for you because you always use exactly the same light blue paper with dark blue ink, but if you’re like me, you’ll need to decide in advance what approach you’ll take in using your materials. It’s fun to take stock of the possibilities and design your own approach for then when it’s time to write a letter you’ll go directly to the paper, postage stamps, sealing wax and inks without time spent deliberating the choices.

THE WHEN

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The Bible says there’s a time for all things under heaven, but unless we set appointments for these things they often get pushed back, pushed in, and sometimes pushed right out of the picture.  In order to guarantee regular letter writing it helps to have a  set time each day, or at least each week.  Just as we brush our teeth each morning or cut the grass each Saturday, having an appointment set with pen and paper makes letter writing happen.

I write one letter first thing every morning as I enjoy that first cup of coffee.  I rise early to be sure I am undisturbed. Then later in the afternoon when I’m ready for a break, I know it’s time once again for a little letter writing.

Some people with full time jobs enjoy writing their letters after dinner when their day is winding down. It doesn’t matter when we write, but it does matter that we have a regular time for writing.  Without a set time established other tasks will try, and usually succeed, in squeezing themselves into the picture as they squeeze  your letter writing  out the picture.

THE WHERE

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I think it’s important to write our letters in a pleasing location.  I can’t imagine enjoying my letter writing time as much as I do if I were sitting before a sink full of dirty dishes or in a room that’s messy. In order to encourage peaceful uplifting thoughts a peaceful uplifting setting usually works best – at least this is true for me.

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My morning letter writing time during warm months is enjoyed on my porch for it’s here I have a view of nature in all it’s glory.  I find trees, birds, green grass and skies fine companions for letter writing. They keep my thoughts fixed to the lovelier things in life.

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But when the weather turns cold  writing  letters in my library with a fire burning in the fireplace feels cozy and comforting.  My good friend  Bruce  always lit a beeswax candle at the start of his letter writing.  He also sat before a window so he could focus on the sky. He would describe its beauty at the start of each of his letters.   Putting yourself in a place that soothes the savage beast in you (and we all have those little beasties unnerving us)  will undoubtedly make your letter writing time more pleasurable.

THE WHY

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Why do we write letters?  Well, as we reach out to others we’re reaching into ourselves.  Flannery O’Connor, the Irish novelist, said she doesn’t know what she thinks till she sees what she writes. Writing is like that.  It helps us think.  Until we sit ourselves down in quietude and reflect a lot gets past us.  Most of my creative ideas occur to me while I’m writing.  As I share my enthusiasm for projects, appreciation for favorite things, as I react to my friend’s enthusiasm and appreciations, I feel energized.  But writing also helps us relax.  Writing helps us share.  Writing exercises our intellect.  It is art.  It can become a ministry as we show that we care about others.

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To write any  letter is a complete treat, a treat for the writer and a treat for the lucky recipient.  But to have a  letter writing ritual in place not only safe guards our letter writing time making it automatic, but it also makes the process richer and more satisfying because  all the details are worked out in advance and designed exactly the way we like them.  Paying close attention to these details involved in letter writing truly elevates our activity to the level of a peak aesthetic experience.

Yes it does!