Monday, December 30, 2013

Just for You, Joanne!

My sister is one of a few new employees in a prominent law office in our town.  She has retired from years of service to the County's juvenile court system, and now works part time as a legal secretary.  Recently she told me that one of the long time legal secretaries was retiring at the end of December (the end of the year).  She wondered if a retirement party would be planned for Joanne.

That gave me a bright idea!  I had invited Joanne to tea on November 24, but a Green Bay Packer game took precedence.  Joanne had asked me to keep her on my teatime invitation list.......I would be doing far more than that ...... I would be bringing the teatime celebration to her and this time, it would be a retirement surprise.

And so I did just that.......

 Pumpkin Scones with spice glaze and Chocolate Chip scones

What a special moment it was!  I packed up the scones and Devonshire cream, and mincemeat tarts, a note about the experience of teatime pleasures, and contact information should anyone like to come to tea.
My sister and I had arranged the best time for me to go to their office, and I arrived carrying armfuls of goodies.  I had planned to set up the food and then lead Joanne into the conference room, but she was already there, taking a break with her new trainee.  "Hi, Joanne.  I've brought the tea party to you, in honor of your retirement," I said.  I set up the food, and looked up to find the entire female staff gathered in the room.  I introduced myself and told them I would be happy to talk with them about coming to tea, or serving tea at their own home. 
As I have said before, I love to share my baked goods with others, especially those that least expect it.   As I was getting ready to leave, Joanne said to me, "This is the nicest things anyone has every done for me."  Happy Retirement, Joanne!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bedtime in Galilee by Bernice Rice

When the little Jesus had been fed
And warmly covered in His bed,
I wonder, if like other folks,
His mother told Him little jokes.

Or if she washed His little shirt
All soiled from playing in the dirt,
And smoothed it out with loving care
Before she hung it on a chair.

Then, after she had fixed a latch,
Sat quietly and sewed a patch.
Perhaps she tiptoed with the lamp
To see if Jesus' curls were damp.

I wonder if she knelt and prayed
About the bills that were unpaid.

These precious bedtimes Mary had
Before she lost her little lad.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mother and Child by Patricia Soud

I felt twinges and tightenings throughout the day, but I kept on baking and cleaning for a Christmas Eve get together at our little home. No point postponing life for a baby who's already a week late, I reasoned. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents were all invited for a last party BB (Before Baby). At supper, my husband asked, a little nervously, if it was time to go to the hospital.

I shook my head firmly. "I still have a lot to do." As the former head nurse at the hospital's coronary care unit, I was determined not to entertain my colleagues by showing up in false labor.

I continued getting ready for the party.....but by 11:00 that night I gave in.  "I think this is the real thing," I told Larry.  "You might as well take me to the hospital so you can get some sleep" - which in the early 1970's, was what husbands did while their wives delivered babies.

I, on the other hand, was ushered through heavy metal doors to the Sacred Refrigerator room designated for labor and delivery in the days prior to birthing suites.  Six hours later, shaking and shivering with exhaustion and exhilaration, I called Larry to tell him we had a son.  A Christmas Eve son.

I'd missed my own party and would spend Christmas in the hospital. And my son would celebrate all his birthdays in the shadow of the holidays.  My prayers to the contrary had been divinely dismissed.  I could almost hear God chuckle.  Nothing had happened the way I had planned.  Yet, as I rested quietly in the maternity ward, I experienced Christmas in a fresh, new way.

Mary and I had already become close friends on the pilgrimage of pregnancy.  When I first felt the flutters of life, I reflected on how Mary must have felt, knowing she was carrying God's Son.  When I grew enormous with child, I gained a new appreciation for the eighty-mile walk she made right before giving birth.  Now, when I thought of going into labor without a room in the inn or a midwife, I suspected she may have wondered why God hadn't made better arrangements.  Did she hear the echo of that same divine chuckle I thought I'd heard?

As I held my son, I marveled at the grip of tiny fingers winding themselves around my heart, filling me with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and a fierce maternal love.  Like Mary, I pondered  the mystery of life and incarnation.  Why would God pour Himself into a helpless human infant who entered our world through the perils of birth in a cave where animals were stabled? I fought back tears as I sang quietly to my baby.  "Silent night....holy night....all is calm....all is bright..."

The words made me pause.  Things couldn't have been silent, holy, and calm that first Christmas night.  Not as a mother and child labored and struggled and fought for life.  And yet, somehow, having just gone through the process myself, I understood a deeper holy silence and a brighter calm than anything I had ever known.  Somewhere beneath the obvious, beyond the visible, in the realm of the eternal, I could hear God orchestrating an oratorio that would forever celebrate His joy in birth....the birth of His Son....the birth of our sons and daughters....our rebirth as His children.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The true gift of a teatime celebration

For the third year, I have discovered there are many people who have longed for the foods served at their family table at Christmas.  Each year I have added something new to the menu, as well as invited people who haven't attended in the past. Besides sharing our childhood Christmas traditions and memories around the foods that invoked these thoughts, the goal is always for each guest to experience the true gift of a teatime celebration.

Realizing my gifts are baking, preparing, hosting and serving, holding a tea is a true joy for me.

My Christmas favorites, traditional foods according to my own nationality are these: 

Pork Pies (French)
Mince Meat Pie
Plum Pudding (Cornwall, England)

This year I made mini pork pies by using a combination of our families' recipes and those I read on the internet.
Having found a recipe last year for mince meat, I was proud to serve my own in the form of mini pies or tarts.

The Plum Pudding and white sauce is the traditional food that my Christmas teas revolved around.  Either the family member who had always made it had passed away, or no one ever attempted to make it themselves. The recipe I use is my own version of our family recipe.  And this year I made two since I had so many requests.

Just the aroma of each of these three favorites, would send anyone who had once experienced them, into childhood memories...... visions of plum pudding danced in our head!

No teatime celebration is complete without sweet treats, new recipes for me this year.

Chocolate Fudge (low sugar)
White Chocolate Cherry Fudge
Cathedral window cookies
Linzer cookies

The teas were Youthberry, a white tea from Teavana, and my standard black tea, PG Tips.

In my dining room and living room, 11 people were served, some who were my long-time tea party friends, and some who had never met each other.  That is the most I've ever served at one seating.

Two things I did differently made serving and enjoying the tea a great success: 
making the tea in the urn so it would be ready and hot as needed; and
accepting the offers of help from friends, Suzie and Kathy (thank you so much!)

The guests looked at the ornaments on the tree, and found their places at the tables.  In no time the hum of women visiting and enjoying the moment was a wonderful sound.

I also shared some of my favorite tea time resources as six had never been to tea:

Tea Time Magazine
Laura Childs' Tea Time Mystery Books
A Cup of Christmas Tea and other tea books
My scrapbook of teas and tea presentations, dating back to the early 1990's
Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

My cousin, and tea loving friend, Wendy, shared two beautiful readings which I will put in my Christmas post.

To quote Emilie Barnes:
"Perhaps that is the true gift of a teatime celebration:  It fills our cups with joy and warmth and friendship.  May the echo of the teacups' message be heard not only at Christmas, not only on special occasions, but anytime friends come together."

Thank you to everyone who attended, enjoyed an afternoon of traditional foods, and friendships over a cup of tea!  Sue
















Thursday, November 28, 2013

Calm Enjoyment, much needed!

I've really been challenged with finding time these days to do the things I enjoy the most.  My life has taken unexpected turns, though enjoyable they are.  Now I am where I haven't been since I was working: making time for self with rest and relaxation. 

I knew I needed to sit with friends over tea as much as I longed to plan one.  I set the date for Sunday, November 24, the weekend before a big holiday meal and gathering, at least for most people here in the U.S.A. and the wild frenzy of shopping many take part of the day after.  Here's the menu I planned.  The recipes came from Tea Time Magazine or Pinterest.

To plan, I usually start with the seating, and how many I could fit comfortably and conversationally, so I started off inviting six guests.  Two cancellations created two more invitations, with one accepting.  The more I planned, the more I liked the idea of five at my dining table.

My granddaughter, who has become a willing server at age 9, enjoys greeting the guests and taking their coats. She is acquiring a love for the teacups, and serving pieces, as she sets the table.

She serves the plated sandwiches, then sits at a side table, a "sit and sip" table, where we sit in between courses to enjoy a bit of the food and tea ourselves.  It is impossible to sit with friends at tea, and serve it at the same time!

This afternoon tea would be unique in that three of the guests had never been to tea at my house, and possibly had never been to a "tea."  Two of them had been to tea before, who I knew I could count on to be great conversationalists.  They each introduced themselves, and how they've come to be invited to tea.

The favors, are made of recycled cardboard tubes, and filled with a tea stick, candy kisses, and fancy paper clips, and are from my favorite site, Pinterest, Serenitea-sb

It is truly a joy to bring people together who may have never met; who haven't seen one another for a long time; who have things in common that they may not be aware of; and who enjoy sharing some time of calm enjoyment.  Conversations shared crafty past times, like that of Marian who is a tatter.  (Her tatting was featured on this blog in December of 2012).  Sue has just become a grandmother.  Mary's granddaughter was traveling to Dubay; another was looking forward to moving closer to her grandson; and one taught their children. Family connections, generations of stories, and personal survival from accident and disease brought the women together as they shared a cup of tea.

Thank you for sharing tea with me, and coming together to join an afternoon of calm enjoyment!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Teaching the Ritual of Tea

It's two years since I retired and began holding monthly teas in my home.  My three youngest granddaughters have all experienced a personal tea with me.  It is most gratifying when that's what they request when they come to visit or stay overnight.

Just as I never tire of baking and preparing specialized foods, I believe they do not tire of choosing their own teapot, tea cup, and eating at their own tea table.

If you have little ladies in your life, invite them to tea; share your good china dishes, specialty table cloths and napkins with them.  They will learn to enjoy the ritual of tea at a young age.  It will warm your heart, like a hot cup of tea!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Goodbye, Splendor!

Where I live in Northern Michigan, not Northern Lower Michigan, but the Upper Peninsula, it is hard to say goodbye to the warm fall breezes that give way to the cold brisk winds that bring on the snow. This year in particular, it seems that the cold brisk winds and snowflakes have come way too early.   I'm not ready for this, but then maybe I say that with each passing year.  It is time to say goodbye to the splendor that fall brings.
On Tuesday, October 22, one of my cousin's was having surgery.  Though we don't live close to each other, he was still on my mind.  Actually, he was on all of our minds.  So I gathered my first cousins, aunt and my mother together, and had lunch.  We prayed for Bob, enjoyed a light lunch, and great conversation, amidst the snowflakes that blew around outside.
My brown-eyed Susan did not bloom till late this year, so I rescued it the night before from the snow that was forecasted.  It looks so lovely here, but I don't think it does well as a vased, indoor flower.

October 22 seems awfully early to be measuring the white precipitation on the ground, which really had accumulated in my sister's neck of the woods.  There's only one thing that makes the change in weather more tolerable, at least to me.  That is a nice hot cup of comfort - tea!

Here's the menu I chose for our lunch, all of the recipes I found on Pinterest.

French dip crescents (I did not make the au jus)
Butternut Squash salad
Crock pot apple sauce
White grape/peach juice
Tea, Coffee, or water

We certainly enjoyed our afternoon of catching up and sharing some fall foods, and we always part with this age-old message, "Till we meet again."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tea and Teeth

Yes, you saw that right - tea and teeth.  While sharing my love for all things tea with my dental hygienist/friend (while at my semi-annual dental appointment), she shared some information about the acid in tea and teeth. I hadn't heard this before so I wanted to pass it along to you.  If any of you know more about this, please share back.

When your teacup is empty, there is often a brown color left.  That is the acid from the tea (black tea).  Acid from tea doesn't affect the surface of our teeth while we are eating along with drinking the tea.  But if we are just drinking tea, the acid remains on the surface of our teeth. After several cups of tea, the surface of our teeth is softened, so that when we brush them, the brushing actually causes more of a problem.

My hygienist suggested that if I am only drinking tea and not eating along with it, I should rinse my mouth out with water when done; and that I should do this some time before I brush my teeth.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Heart for Handwork

It was a beautiful fall day, on October 9 - the birds were chirping, chipmunks scurring, and the sound of the waves meeting the shore of Lake Superior would invite any one to be outdoors.  Because the weather could be cold by this time, or could change to pre-winter cold at any moment, we are compelled to make the most of every warm day we are blessed with.

On this day, my friend Vicki brought me to visit with her friend Roberta, who's front windows overlooked this very scene.  What would be so interesting that we would want to pass up this afternoon of sun?  Roberta.  God has certainly blessed Roberta with a creative mind and soul - she has a heart for handwork.

When we arrived, Roberta was beading, working on a necklace from a kit.  Her room spoke to my own creativity: a long arm quilt machine, quilted pieces hung on the wall; painted shells, felted banners, craft books and patterns, and many boxes and organized shelves of an abundance of craft supplies.  Roberta, in her gracious, quiet way, demonstrated the how's  in response to my many questions. I wanted to try it all, even though in my own craft room I had started to limit what I got involved in so I wouldn't have too many UFO's (un finished objects)!


If this was the only room we visited, I would have stood in awe of such a talented soul. We went upstairs where she showed some of her many quilts hanging over the railing, the placemats on the table, and her collections behind glass doors.  I noticed as I was taking in this room of creativity that a spinner's wheel stood in the corner with balls of wool yarn.  For a split second I caught a glimpse of the beautiful view of Lake Superior out of her windows, the birds, chippies, and warm sunny sky - I reeled in my eyes so that I could refocus on Roberta's handwork. For the first time, a beautiful day was a distraction!

From here we went to another room, where more than one sewing machine was set up.  This room was sewing only, except for a laundry area tucked in the corner.  Fabric was stored in folds and piles on shelves, with ideas for projects, and projects in the works here and there.  Roberta showed many quilted wall hangings and table runners that were priced for sale, though I never once felt she was giving us a sales pitch.

We left this room to go into her husband's craft room - no, I guess he didn't call it that - his workshop.  He is an avid collector, writer, and artist, and just as humble as Roberta.  After marveling at the talent in this room, Roberta asked, "Are you ready for some tea?" Vicki has attended the Christmas teas that Roberta hosts, which was the first connection that we made when we met a month prior.

I've been on "overload" from too many things to do, and too few hours to do them in.  But it had been awhile since I was on overload from too much inspiration.  As we sat down to tea, Vicki and Roberta and I shared the cranberry orange scones and saffron tea cake I  had made.  I told Roberta about the tea parties I've held and some of my favorite recipes.  As we relaxed and talked, the next area of her creativity was shared. 

She showed us a loom for making socks, as we talked about learning to tat, and the bag she made using Hardanger embroidery stitches.  Yes, she crochets and knits; and she also sleeps, cooks, and travels.  She's a student and a teacher, telling us that she taught herself to quilt when her children were young because a quilt from her grandmother was wearing out.

As we parted that day, I was reminded that God gives us all gifts and blessings.  It was so nice to meet someone who was using hers.  By the time we reached her garden projects outdoors, I was thinking about my own gifts and blessings, and praying that God would continue to lead me to use them to the fullest. Our parting conversation, Roberta said, "When you're up this way sometime, stop in and we'll just play."

Thank you, Vicki, for bringing me to meet Roberta, and for the "color" tour within her walls.

Roberta, may God continue to bless you as your heart soars into your next handwork project! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

SILVER WEDDING ANNIVERSARY - it wasn't like that

It seems I've been preparing to celebrate our Silver (25th) wedding anniversary for the past year.  My imagination brought me to so many places that we could travel to for a couple of days. But reality reminded me that it was just that - imagination, not because we don't have the time, it wasn't like that.  It's because my husband doesn't travel.

When our friends, who live in Ontonagon, a two-hour drive West North West from us, mentioned that they had a small summer home that was vacant and available, along the shores of Lake Superior, I hoped this was the place for an anniversary get-away. We go to visit our friends, Ron and Vicki, at least once a year, so I hoped this would be a place my husband would agree to go.

Yes? You'll go? October 8, 2013 was the day.  We started our anniversary trip at 10:00 a.m.

We packed for an overnight, a dinner out with friends, and brought fresh goodies to share.

Along the way, we saw many beautiful views of the changing fall leaves. This is an area of our Upper Peninsula that my husband once worked in, and so the 'travelogue' began.

When he wasn't telling me about where he worked or cruised timber or fished, there was a nice quiet.  It's not that there wasn't anything to say, but the quiet moments were so enjoyable.

Would you like to get some lunch?  At a quaint little shop, with a table for two?  No, it wasn't like that. We picked up some food at a gas station-grocery store-deli and sat in the warm sun in the car. The food was wonderful, but not as enjoyable as the moments spent with my husband, away from daily responsibilities and distractions.

The closer we got to our destination, my imagination took over my thoughts again. A story-book romantic get away for two; a cozy fire to relax by, with the wind whirling outdoors; or a hand-in-hand walk along the beach at sunset or sunrise; chocolate strawberries and fresh coffee for breakfast in bed.  But it wasn't like that. It was so much more.

We drove right to their house and visited. We made plans to pick them up for dinner, then went over to the little house near the lake. We knew we should take advantage of the unusually warm afternoon. We took a walk to the shore, being drawn by the sound of the waves, and the fresh air.  He sat on the bench while I looked for rocks and walked along the beach. 

Soon it was time to get ready for dinner. Was it a sit-down dinner for our silver wedding anniversary? it wasn't like that. In our blue jeans and casual attire, he with his tuxedo tee-shirt, we picked up our friends and drove over to Henri's Bar where we had had fun nights and awesome food. We're not drinking people - it's the homemade food  that makes you think you were at a sit-down dinner in a 5-star restaurant. We've had the 'build your own pizza' when it was so busy we nearly walked out without a check; or their 'all you can eat' buffet. We ate on the deck and the wasps nearly drove us in. 

The Tuesday night special was wings. But we discovered that the construction workers ate them all, so we ordered off the menu; and visited, laughed, and remembered that 25 years ago, my husband and I combined two families and started on a new adventure.

We spent a quiet evening alone - no sports on TV, no switching between channels, no radio, no conversation.  I read and he relaxed.  A romantic night in front of a cozy fire?  it wasn't like that, it was so much more.  This quiet had given us time for reflection, for peace, something we probably didn't realize we needed.

I'm an early riser, so took advantage of the warm fall morning, and walked down to the beach. Again, I was lured by the sound of the birds, breeze in the trees and this time, the waves, crashing to the shore.  I was not disappointed by anything.  This morning on Lake Superior was so refreshing, and rejuvenating!

When I returned to our little house, my husband was still sleeping.  A cup of tea, a magazine and quiet. Thank you, Lord, for this special time.  After breakfast, my husband and Ron got together and Vicki and I went to visit a friend of hers.  I'll tell you about that in a future post.  We enjoyed a nice lunch with our friends, thanked them for their generosity, and headed on to the next place on our anniversary get away. 

We traveled up the shoreline to Lake of the Clouds, where the view was so amazing.  Though the colors were a little beyond peak, the warm sunshine, breeze and peaceful nature surrounding us, was just wonderful!

The roadway back down was so beautiful, we were just in awe of all the surroundings.  We took another highway back home, watching for deer, and so the 'traveloque' began again. 

A few days later we gathered with close family at one of our favorite restaurants, then were treated to cake and refreshments at our daughter's house with more family and friends.

Our silver wedding anniversary - full of beauty & awe, peace & quiet, warmth, love, family & friends - who could ask for more - we are indeed blessed!