Monday, April 20, 2015

My Snowball Tree and a Tea Recipe

My snowball tree is filled with an abundance of pristine, white blossoms. They grow in beautiful, clustered orbs. Each branch is heavily laden with snowballs.

My tree was a gift from Karleen. Each spring when it blooms, I think of her and appreciate my tree {and her} even more. Just seeing it reminds me of early childhood memories. My family lived in a barracks that had been converted into an apartment for university married students. Units were small and close, but the back lawns were all connected and all the neighborhood children had a wonderful time playing together outside. When the snowball bushes bloomed, we had wonderful snowball fights with the soft, pristine blossoms. 

The floral snowballs also remind me of real snowballs! The kind that are hard when they hit you and that melt when you try to bring them inside! And they remind me of the quintessential Hostess Snowball. Do you remember them? They were a concoction of chocolate cake covered in marshmallow and rolled in coconut. So tempting in the package at the store, but mother would never buy them {they are "just fluff" she'd say and "not good for growing kids"}. But how pretty they were! Instead we'd use the idea to make homemade truffles at home and sis and I would roll them in unsweetened, flaked coconut until they were as dense and pretty as the blossoms on the snowball tree!

And you can make some too! Here's a recipe I enjoy. Find the coconut and you can roll to your heart's content. The recipe even includes tea!

  • 2 cups heavy cream (or SILK soy creamer)
  • 1/2 cup packed, fresh basil
  • 2 tea bags, Earl Grey tea
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lb. chocolate, bittersweet, chopped
  • Crushed cookies (gluten-free if necessary), toasted chopped nuts, shredded coconut or cocoa powder, for rolling.

Bring the cream to a low simmer over medium heat. Then remove from heat and add tea bags and basil leaves. Steep for 15 minutes. Then strain mixture and discard the solids. Return the pan of infused cream to the heat and simmer for five more minutes. Then, stir in chocolate until melted and combined. 

Cover mixture and place in fridge. Cool completely (2 hours or overnight). 

When ready to create truffles, place the topping or toppings of your choice in bowls. Use a spoon to scoop by teaspoonful and make a rounded 1 inch ball. Then roll in one of the toppings listed above. Each truffle should be well coated. 

Store truffles in a covered container in the fridge until ready for use.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Tea of Easter

"For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."  
~ Alice Freeman Palmer ~

"'Twas Easter-Sunday. The full-blossomed trees 
Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~
Spanish Student

 "Ye sleeping buds, break 
Open your green cerements, and wake 
To fragrant blossoming for His sweet sake." 
~ Margaret French Patton ~

 "Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time." 
~ Martin Luther ~

"Well pleaseth me the sweet time of Easter 
That maketh the leaf and the flower come out."  
~ Bertran de Born ~

"The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.
~ Henry Knox Sherril ~

The tea today is Adagio Darjeeling Sungma Summer
The teacup and saucer are Noritake Blossom Mist.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Your Cupan Tae from the Ould Sod

The Irish love their tae! In fact, some accounts reveal that the Irish drink more tea per capita than any other country. Tea is a beverage of hospitality in Ireland. The Irish are known for their strong tea blends that are served with plenty of milk. It is not uncommon that the ratio of tea to milk be two-to-one. Irish Breakfast blends are known for being strong and robust, whereas an Irish Afternoon blend mellow out as the day goes on. A common Gaelic expression for "cup of tea" is "cupan tae", a quaint and enchanting expression.

Enjoy your cupan tae today!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tea-Soaked Raisin Tea Brack

Ireland is known for their wonderful tea breads. Sometimes we call them tea cakes. Whatever the name, they are delicious and perfect to accompany a cup of tea. This recipe for tea-soaked raisin bread is called Irish Tea Brack. The Irish word 'breac' means speckled. So, you can just imagine what this delicious tea bread must look like! It's a simple and quick recipe, as long as you remember to start your raisins soaking the night before. Serve with butter and jam.

Tea-Soaked Raisin Tea Brack

  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup brewed tea, strong and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg or 1 vegan egg substitute
  • Rolled oats

Brew one cup of tea. Pour over raisins in a bowl. Cover and place in refrigerator for 8 - 10 hours.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir together until well mixed. Then, create a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the egg, raisins, and tea. Stir until just combined. Then, pour into a loaf pan that has been buttered and dusted with flour. Sprinkle rolled oats on the top of the loaf. 

Place loaf in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake until the top is browned, about 1 1/2 hours. When done, cool slightly and remove from loaf pan and allow to complete cooling on a wire rack. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Sweet Colleen

My Sweet Colleen
An Irish Melody

Near Banbridge town, in the County Down
One morning in July
Down a boreen green came a sweet colleen
And she smiled as she passed me by.
She looked so sweet from her two white feet
To the sheen of her nut-brown hair
Such a coaxing elf, I'd to shake myself
To make sure I was standing there.

From Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay
And from Galway to Dublin town
No maid I've seen like the sweet colleen
That I met in the County Down.

As she onward sped I shook my head
And I gazed with a feeling rare
And I said, says I, to a passerby
"Who's the maid with the nut-brown hair?"
He smiled at me, and with pride says he,
"That's the gem of Ireland's crown.
She's young Rosie McCann from the banks of the Bann
She's the star of the County Down."


I've travelled a bit, but never was hit
Since my roving career began
But fair and square I surrendered there
To the charms of young Rose McCann.
I'd a heart to let and no tenant yet
Did I meet with in shawl or gown
But in she went and I asked no rent
From the star of the County Down.


At the crossroads fair I'll be surely there
And I'll dress in my Sunday clothes
And I'll try sheep's eyes, and deludhering lies
On the heart of the nut-brown rose.
No pipe I'll smoke, no horse I'll yoke
Though with rust my plow turns brown
Till a smiling bride by my own fireside
Sits the star of the County Down.


Photo: antique and curio shop in Tombstone, AZ

Welsh Brew to Warm the Soul

We're having chilly spring weather. The wind machines in the nearby apple orchard are very noisy as they work away. Their motors and the noise of the blades as they cut through the air make a rumble throughout the nights this week. Slowly, but surely, nature is braving the chill enough to show beautiful buds and blossom faces.

Even the lawn is starting to green up. It won't be much longer before everything erupts!

The daffodils bring cheer; a solid mass of light yellow ruffs and lemon yellow faces! You can just about hear them roar!

The weeping flowering cherry is the only flowering tree that is in full bloom. It's pretty with its single, white blossoms, but it makes me miss the double, pink blossoms from a cherry tree that grew old and had to be cut down last autumn.

After a morning walk around the yard, where I was seeking signs of spring, it's time for a hot cup of tea. Today's tea is Murroughs Welsh Brew, a traditional blend of African and Indian teas. The tin says that they were selected for their strength, colour and smoothness of flavour. The manufacturer is located at Mumbles, South Wales (Mwmbwis, Abertawe). It was won in a give-away that Bernideen conducted last month. Thank you, Bernideen!

The teacup is a  Colclough, made in Longton, England.

All of this talk of spring, flowers, and tea reminds me of my mother and one of her favorite spring poems. It was one she recited from memory on many a spring day!

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

William Wordsworth

Friday, March 6, 2015

Tea for Two

Have you ever noticed that sometimes things you observe while shopping remind you of a friend you have? Does it make you smile? The cute little pigs above remind me of my friend, Pinky! Aren't they cute? 

Sometimes some unusual things can be seen while on a shopping trip. This is especially so when visiting quaint little tourist-type towns at the beach.

But it you look carefully, you will be sure to find things that make your spirits soar! How about an antique shop called "Made in England"?

Or a sign that says "Tea for Two". Now, doesn't that sound nice?

Now --- is a good time for a cuppa!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Blessings

Valentine's day! I cannot allow the holiday to pass without sharing bits and pieces of this heart-filled holiday.

February has been cold and snowy. It's been the perfect time for projects and crafting. Even simple projects like organizing a bookshelf can brighten up the day.

Red is the color for tea service in February! It is such a cheerful color and is the color of love.

Valentine's cards and tea samples from friends brighten February days, making a daily walk to the mailbox a rewarding experience.

And pretty in pink, a puppy's visit was so pleasant and sweet. Cuddles and tugs-of-war alternated with this frisky little beauty. Sudo is such a love.

Good morning! Being called "handsome" is a great way for some to start the day!

Flowers. Tulips and lilies.

Chocolates and a tea tasting.

Red roses. Beautiful red roses.

And a Valentine's brunch of crepes, fruit sauces, and Darjeeling tea.

Happy February!
Spring should be here soon!
Do you have snowdrops in bloom yet?
None here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Jazzy Cream Tea

Sedona, Arizona is known for beautiful red rocks and sunshine. That's how it usually is when we pass through, but the last time we were there we were blessed with a sparkling cover of sticky, white snow. What beauty! It was a chilly day, so a cup of hot tea was in order! Following the instructions of Americana (which is whom we call the voice of our vehicle GPS) we found the local tea room.

The Jazz Bouquet is a combination florist shop and tea cafe. It was a beautiful combination of two  delightful things --- flowers and tea! The shop proprietress is Kim, a gifted florist who added tea to the shop after she found some unique tables and chairs at a vendor show. An idea was born and a tea room was added to the floral shop. The aesthetic beauty and aroma of fresh flowers combines in such a charming atmosphere with scones, tea sandwiches, and fragrant hot tea. It is a friendly and relaxing place. It is truly a spa for the senses!

In addition to floral designs and afternoon tea, unique gift items are available throughout the shop. Kim features charming teapots, imported teas, European bath and beauty products, and high quality chocolates.

The decor was inviting, fresh, and clean. Interesting tea-words were featured as an upper border on all the walls. Prosperi-tea, Generosi-tea, and more gave food for thought while waiting for tea service.

Kim features Tea Forte. The presentation was a tea ceremony unto itself. Tea and accoutrement were presented beautifully on a white platter. A special teacup with cover was filled with water of the perfect temperature and set on an absorbant white napkin. A green ceramic stage was set beside the teacup and a packaged, silken pyramid of loose tea was arranged on the other side. A part of the process of enjoying this tea is the act of preparing it. The tea package is unwrapped and the pyramid goes into the teacup. Once steeped for the proper time, the silk tea bag is removed and placed on the green ceramic stage. A tiny, green, paper left works as a handle for the tea pyramid and fits right through the top of the lid. Such a simple detail creates charm and makes everything seem so ceremonious.

I ordered the cream tea, but Kim generously added a lovely tea sandwich on rye with dill and pickles. The scones were fabulous! A hotel chef with exotic training has retired to Sedona and comes in weekly to prepare scones for afternoon tea. They are frozen until ready to bake and serve (a common practice among tea shop owners). This way they are served fresh and hot out of the oven!

I enjoyed the presentation of tea with scones. The raised glass tray added interest and beauty to the table presentation.

According to their website, afternoon tea is served daily, between 2:00 and 4:00 by reservation. They serve "cream tea" which includes a scone with cream and fruit preserves, a "light tea" which includes two tea sandwiches, one canapé, and a scone with cream and fruit preserves, and "full tea" which consists of four tea sandwiches, one canapé, scone with cream and fruit preserves, and a selection of pastries. Additionally, elegant chocolates are available individually. The teas are a selection of many available from Tea Forte.

It was interesting to observe Kim arrange flowers as I enjoyed my cream tea. I felt it was unique and added to the experience.

Chocolates. Cookies! So many tempting, tasty treats!

All in all, this was a wonderful experience! The cream tea was beautifully presented and prepared to perfection. The ambiance could not be beat! It was inviting, modern, and welcoming. If you are ever in Sedona, I encourage you to stop by for a lovely cup of tea!