Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Heat is on!
Well, right out of the blue, just like that, summer arrived. And just when I never never thought I would see the sun again. That's how it is in England a lot of the time. The garden centres and DIY stores have adverts that go something like this: "Get your house and garden ready for when summer finally arrives!" Up until now, which is typical of our area, we've been having an extended spring with cooler temps and rain almost daily. You get to a point where you just don't expect it anymore. I overheare a conversation at the market one day when a man remarked, "Mary, is that the sun?" To which she replied "Don't be silly, the sun is just an urban legend."
The past few days have been hot like Ella Fitzgerald's Summertime, slow and meandering. I have the day to myself so I thought I would sit in the shade and enjoy the day writing to my friends. Life is good on these kinds of days enjoy the day writing to my friends. Life is good on these kinds of when “the livin' is easy” and I can take my time.
I took my little table down to by the ha-ha and set up under the old rowan tree that's covered in an endless vine of honeysuckley, in a shady spot so I could enjoy the view beyond the paddock that abuts our garden. The sky was blue and the clouds, puffy white fluffs, drifted leisurely by; it was heaven. Several house went by before I even thought about making dinner, but on a day like today, who cares? It was pure bliss, every single minute I sat there.
The cat soaked up the atmosphere as well, keeping me company while I gazed out over the vista before me and sipped my cool water with lemon and composed my missives. It's funny really how the thoughts and ideas you have can take on a whole new shape when you change the location you write in. Normally I sit at my desk in my bedroom which faces the front of the house and I have much the same view, but sitting out here, I almost felt as if I were a part of the scenery and not just looking at it. My writing came easily to me as I sat there and I answered several of my letters and even wrote a few postcards as well.
A day just couldn't get any better than that, or could it? One by one the cows who'd been grazing in the paddock in front of me, came by, curious to see what I was doing. I found this a bit amusing because usually they don't even notice when I stroll up to the ha-ha to look out over the field, so it was a surprise to look up and realize I was being watched by each one of them at some time or another.
How do you spend your lazy summer days?
PS, I apologize for all the spaces, Blogger isn't playing nice today and at first everything came out double spaced and when I got rid of that it put all the space between the paragraphs.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

  Tea for 2  6


Last month the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday so all around the UK people were hosting tea parties in her honour. I'd wanted to attend one of the many tea parties, but living rurally in the middle of acres of sheep, cows and apple orchards, I didn't have that pleasure. Not for want of trying; I'd even gone out and bought a hat. You probably know that to the British woman, a hat, is still quite a statement of fashion and as I adore hats I was determined.

As time went on, I couldn't manage to find a venue that was hosting a tea party in my area and conceded defeat. Then one day in town, I walked into a charity shop, saw these little beauties and an idea was born.

I decided to host another postal tea party. I'd done this before in honour of her majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. That tea party, although a success, had many wrinkles to iron out. This time there would be no icing melting off the cupcakes and onto the plate in a puddle, nor would my rapt attention in getting everything just right result in my tea towel smouldering on the stove top. Items would not be left out only to be posted separately, causing confusion and finally, all tea party parcels would be mailed at the same time. Sounds simple, but first time around was a bit of a fiasco so this time the incontrovertible list was employed to keep me on track.

I set out to find sweet and savoury treats as well as nice teas to offer my guests; things that would be travel friendly in the post. For example things that would not melt if they were to go to warmer climes. I also endeavoured to have variety of tastes. I decided on two different cakes and shortbread biscuits, as well as savoury crackers in three flavours. Ideally, little finger sandwiches would have been more apropos but sending anything like that through the post would not have worked on any level, so the crackers added a nice touch of savoury to compliment the sweets. Choosing the tea was probably not as easy. I wanted it to be a traditional tea, but also something the guests may not have tried before to give a little mystery. In the end, I decided to include two teas, the first an English tea, appropriately called London Tea and the second a tea, more of a desert tea called Cherry Bakewell, which is reminiscent of a beloved English pudding (read dessert.) Finally, for the tea there were demerara sugar cubes for a bit of panache.

Once the food items were found, I shopped for vintage napkins and made buntings just for a hint of old-fashioned style. Invitations were made from British themed note cards. At first I was going to craft the invites but came across the note cards while searching for something else and decided they were just the thing. Tea towels with scenes of Buckingham Palace added a nice touch too and just for fun I sent Union Jack cupcake papers and cake picks depicting iconic British things. I packaged things with ribbons and lovely stickers and I was very satisfied with the overall presentation.  

My next feat was to set the scene and dress the table. I love linens and probably buy more than I should but when I see these vintage lovelies in the charity shops, things that were cherished by someone, I can't help but buy them and give them new life. I chose a spot in the garden near the wisteria that grows up the side of our house and the scent added another nuance to my tea party. I found a beautiful table cloth, added a small vase of flowers from my garden, and set out the tea things. My chair was cushioned with pretty little vintage pillows that were either crocheted or embroidered, and I brought out my parasol just in case the sun became too hot. It was an absolutely glorious day, the sun shining bright and a gentle breeze blowing. Pictures were taken, by the hundred, to get just the right view to include in my parcels then, finally, I sat down to tea and enjoyed the mid afternoon in such a pleasant way. Like Mrs. Duffy, one of my esteemed guests, I wrote as I savoured my tea and couldn't imagine a nicer way to pass the afternoon.

I hope my guests were as pleased as I was and from their comments, I think they were. Some of my guests, like my dearest friend Limner, have mentioned the tea party on their blog, and I couldn't be happier that she enjoyed it so much. Lady Pamela, another of my honoured guests, sounded delighted when she talked of received her parcel. I aspired to create something that was pretty, and at the same time offer a charming afternoon tea with all the trimmings and I think I may just have got it right this time. Everything went smouldering tea towels or melting cupcakes.

PS.  Since I made this post, another of my lovely guests, Jen, posted about her tea party experience which you can view here.  Lady Pamela has written further on her  tea party too, and it sounds like she had a ball.

Each tea party has a magic of its own and I'm so enjoying reading about them all.  It's amazing how one little idea can blossom into something so wonderful.  It pays to think outside the envelope every now and then, don't you agree?