Saturday, January 31, 2015

Blues of Winter Tea

Here in Northern Michigan, where the winter of 2014 is still fresh in our minds, and the early snow and extreme cold of this winter, has gotten the best of our patience, it was time to celebrate the blues of winter, with a tea.  But isn't it an oximoron to celebrate the blues, like celebrating sadness? unless the blues do not refer to anything negative.  My plan exactly.

Thursday is the day I have free this winter so that's the day I chose for my January tea.  Once I honed in on blue as the color, I was amazed that I found six teacups that all had blue in them, as well as linens and serving pieces.  The cool palette brought in silver chargers, clear plates, crisp white napkins.   Yes, we'd be celebrating blues.

Another focus of my January tea is to use the many gifts I get at Christmas, and this year was no exception.  Besides napkins, name cards and a tea holder, I also got tea, salmon, jam and scone mix from Seattle in a gift box; shortbread cookies and tea, tea, tea and tea.  


Since the fall of 2014, I have hosted a monthly tea party in my home from September through March or April. Over 60 guests have taken tea at my home, and the list continues to grow.

This winter I am working on getting over my fear of working with yeast and not being afraid I'll kill it with water or milk that is too hot.  Chicken salad sandwiches were on my homemade bread. You can find the recipe for beginner white bread here and the rosemary wheat bread here.  There is such an abundance of information on the internet, although I do find myself going back to my Betty Crocker or King Midas cookbooks too.  I really love the YouTube videos and comments that tell how the yeast reacts, what is happening when it foams, and what the dough is supposed to look and feel like.  And by the way, I think I am on my way to being fearless with yeast!

With the smoked salmon, I made a spread by mixing a few tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt, 1 or 2 teaspoons of Worchestershire sauce, some dill and lemon juice.  I have no exact ingredients except "to taste."  For the shells, I made little pastry cups with Jiffy crust mix, cut with a flower cookie cutter.  These freeze well and hold their shape nicely.  Look here for the idea.

I like to serve two different kinds of tea to encourage my guests to try new things, especially if they don't drink tea.  In our area, we don't have any of the shops that sell my favorite teas, so I order them online or purchase them while visiting Virginia or Seattle.  I served "Paris" black tea, and Blackberry Sage. I must admit that the Paris tea is now in the top three with my favorites from The Republic of Tea and others from Tea Forte'.

I have started offering coffee when some people say they enjoy all the special foods, linens, and atmosphere but would prefer coffee.  An afternoon of tea in my home, after all, is about the experience of sitting in a relaxing atmosphere, meeting new people, and sharing a time when we can set the cares and concerns of our lives aside in peace.

As a paper crafter, making the invitation is often something I do, as well as putting together a party favor, bookmark, menu or sweet take home treat box.  Here you can see the blue paper purse, which has two chocolates "inside."

For the scones course, I served Almond Joy Scones from my favorite tea shop mystery series, and Pacific raspberry scones I received in the gift box, along with a bowl of mock Devonshire cream.  It is easy to make with whipping cream, 2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar and 1 tablespoon of sour creme, whipped together.

To conclude my three-course afternoon tea, I served mint truffles, angel food cake and raspberry jam, and teddy bear shortbreads, a gift from my friend Nancy over at Two Cottages and Tea.

I do enjoy sharing my lovely serving pieces, linens, tea cups, tea pots and all the food choices I find on Pinterest (check out my posts by clicking here) and by reading Tea Time Magazine, but by far, the most delightful part of the time around the table is always the sharing and conversation that takes place between ladies who have never met, but soon realize they have many things in common; and my Blues of Winter Tea was no exception.  Together we were three who lived in the neighboring town - about 20 miles away - and three who lived in town; two who had never been to tea at my house; and two that had enjoyed tea with me in the past. Somehow our conversations moved along to sharing a book, person or experience that made a positive change in our lives.  Stories were shared, tears flowed, and the spirit of our Lord and Savior poured out of our hearts.  Books, experiences and testimonies of faith were shared along with all the Blues of Winter. Setting out to create a space free of stress, filled with warmth and sweet surprises, I am still amazed each time by how blessed I am in return.

Thank you Nona, Judi, Phyllis, Cindy and Lee.  This was indeed an afternoon to remember!  May God bless you all!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fancy That Vintage Hats with Flair

Fancy That Vintage by Cindy Hallam, Designer

From a stressful time in her life to a creator and designer of fancy vintage hats, Cynthia Hallam, Cindy, has brought many wonderful memories forward.  Whether she is displaying her creations at a craft show, demonstrating how to remake a drab attic hat into a brand new creation, or encouraging women to wear a hat for tea, Cindy has stirred up our excitement of once again feeling elegant and fancy.

Though not a fashion item in today's society, Cindy's eye for color and beauty invites us to remember a time when a woman's hat was a necessary part of her wardrobe.  Perhaps a woman bought a hat to compliment her dress like a woman of today's society buys a purse and shoes.

On the afternoon of my Blues of Winter Tea, I invited Cindy to bring some of her hats and share her story with us.  She invited us all to try them on and choose one that we felt comfortable in, or one we could have fun with, or most complimented our outfit.  Looking around the tea table, I noticed that nearly all of us had chosen a hat with a blusher veil, and even though some may have protested that (a hat) "will mess my hair,"  we all wore one.  I must admit that taking the hat off, after wearing it all afternoon, made me feel like I was missing something.  

We all want women's hats to be more stylish again.  I guess instead of waiting for the fashion world to grasp it, we'll just have to start a new trend ourselves!

If you want to know more about Cindy's hats and the stories people have shared while trying them on, you can contact her by leaving a comment on this blog post.

Thank you Cindy!   It was a delightful afternoon!