Friday, April 27, 2012

Celebrating Jane Austen

The Eastern Pennsylvania Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America has designated Saturday, April 28th as their first Jane Austen Day [not to be confused with her birthday of December 16].

When I was in England in May 2001 our tour included a brief stop in Bath where Jane lived for five years when she was 25, but we were there to see the Roman Baths so I didn't get a chance to go to  the Jane Austen Centre.  I'd love to return someday to see the places where England's foremost novelist lived.

I purchased a copy of this familiar drawing of Jane when I visited London's  National Portrait Gallery in 2007.

In March 2006 I attended a Jane Austen tea at Sweet Shalom tea room in Sylvania, Ohio where the book, Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson was featured.  The author states tea was one of Jane's favorite rituals.   She was the keeper and maker of tea in her family.  She began her day with tea and ended it with tea.  It was a vital part of her life and writings. 

A local library hosted a "Jane Austen and Her World" English tea in September 2009, which I attended with two friends.   A member of the English Royal Society of Authors spoke about Jane's world through the letters she wrote to her sister, Cassandra, artifacts of the time, and photos which included St. Nicholas Church and the Steventon rectory where she was born [her father was the parson], and the cottage in Chawton where she lived when she was 34 and occupied for eight years.

The library staff put together a booklet of recipes which I purchased.

Individual hostesses set tables for the guests attending the tea, and there was a prize for the best table.  The photo below is the table where my friends and I sat.


In the states, Bingley's Teas has a Jane Austen tea series, and Gillards of Bath also has a Jane Austen blend.  They ship to the U.S.

In honor of Jane Austen Day, perhaps I'll watch the  DVD  Becoming Jane - "A Magnificent Journey to the World of Jane Austen."   Although she was never publicly acknowledged as a writer during her lifetime, countless people have been enjoying her novels for almost two centuries!  What a writing legacy she left in her short 41 years.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lunch for Two Lovely Ladies

In 2007 I had the privilege of getting to know  a lovely young woman  who is from England, but lives in Michigan because of her husband's career.  Her mum still lives in England but is here  visiting, so I invited them to lunch today.  The welcome flag was hung to greet them.

The table was set.  I had never heard of layering table linens until  2008 when I attended "An Occasion for Tea" sponsored by Tea Time Magazine, and designer April Cornell did a presentation on layering.   She began with a floor length under cloth, covered with a tablecloth, and a mini-cloth in the center [or a table runner], and place mats.   Ever since seeing her presentation, I often layer my table linens.

I used my pink Depression glass dishes.  I only had two berry bowls, so my girlfriend suggested I "re-purpose" my juice glasses [cherry blossom pattern] and use them for fruit. I liked her idea and it worked perfectly.  Pattern of the dinner plates and teacups and saucers is Sharon.

I used my Fenton Epergne for the centerpiece.  It's low and doesn't obstruct vision.

We began with tomato dill bisque.  [Bowls are Manhattan pattern]  I normally don't like to take photos once my guests arrive, but they read my blog and were very gracious about taking photos so I wouldn't have to recreate the lunch afterwards.

Green fruits in jasmine tea syrup [honeydew melon balls, seedless green grapes and kiwi] followed the soup.

I shaped corn tortillas into salad bowls for our southwest chicken salad.

We concluded with a simple dessert of raspberry sherbet.  Our tea throughout the meal was  Lemon Jade Green Tea from Simpson & Vail.

I so enjoyed my guests and our time spent together around the table.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Cotswolds and Shelley China

I knew nothing about Shelley fine bone china before 2000.   My girlfriend enlightened me one day while we were antiquing after she had begun her collection of Shelley teacups and saucers. 

When my hubby and I were in England in 2001, I purchased my first Shelley "trio" set - a teacup and saucer and a dessert plate.   A printout dated 7/21/2001 in my file indicates I began researching the beautiful china after my purchase. The information [which hopefully is accurate] states Shelley was incorporated in 1925, although family members produced pottery much earlier than that. Shelley's popularity peaked in the 1930's and their potteries ceased production in 1966.    Shelley china is popular and very collectible today.  The plate of Queen Elizabeth II in the photo below is a Shelley, but it was purchased after my trip to England at a local antique store.

What fun re-reading my journal of our 2001 trip  to England for this post.  We toured some of the Cotswolds.  Cotswold is an Anglo Saxon word.   Cots = safe haven, and wold = gently rolling hills.   We spent an afternoon in Chipping Camden,  where I purchased my Shelley trio set.   "Chipping" is also a Saxon word for market, and in the photo below a friend and I [from Australia who I met on the tour] were headed off to the antique stores!

These quaint shops beat going to the mall any day!

We had a cream tea at a lovely outdoor Cotswold Tea Room called, "Corner's Tea Room and Garden."  The scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam were divine!  My journal reminded me  that I ate two and had to forgo dinner that night!

It was a beautiful day and we got to eat outside in the garden at umbrella tables.  The photo below is the owner of the tea room and me.

The Cotswold dwellings are beautiful.  Our guide told us they were 16th & 17th century limestone cottages.

My girlfriend gifted me this past Saturday with the Shelley cup and saucer in the photo below.  Previously, she gave me the trio set and ashtray/trinket dish in the Regency White and Gold dainty shape, which is one of Shelley's most popular patterns.  Don't I have a wonderful girlfriend?  [Actually she was wonderful even before she gave them to me!]  She and her husband had a Shelley booth at an antique mall for a time,  and they have a lovely collection of Shelley china in several patterns and shapes.  She can set a complete table using the Regency White and Gold Shelley dainty dishes, and it's beautiful.

The china in the photo below concludes my small Shelley collection.   I acquired the sugar and creamer at an estate sale, and the "Dainty Blue" dessert plate came from an antique store.  The cup and saucer that matches was a gift from a lady at church one Christmas. 

She came to dinner at my house one evening and saw a tray I have displayed in my dining area with the "Dainty Blue" teacup pictured on it, and decided the teacup belonged in my house instead.  I thought maybe she didn't realize what a treasure she had and tried to tell her.  She said she knew it was collectible, but she had enjoyed it for a while and wanted me to enjoy it too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Hydrangea Blue & Plum Rose Tea Party

In August  of 2011 my girlfriend and I traveled to East Lansing [about an hour and a half drive from my house] to attend a tea party in a private home.  Cristy, the hostess, does fabulous theme teas several times a year.   She leaves no detail undone!  Her food is delicious, but it's worth the trip just to see her tablescapes.  I attended four of her teas last year, but the "Hydrangea Blue and Plum Rose" is my all-time favorite, since blue is my favorite color.

Had I seen light blue Depression glass when I first started collecting, it definitely would have been my first choice, although it is much harder to find than the pink.  I saw very little of it at either one of the Depression Glass shows. It's obvious Cristy is a scrapbooker by the placecards, menus and little purses she made for us to take home.  The purse contained a sample of Blueberry Bouquet Black Tea from Tealightful Treasures.

Isn't this a beautiful tablescape? 

Cristy decorates her living and dining rooms to coordinate with the theme of the tea.

Our first course:  Chilled Blueberry  Soup and a Plum and Pecan Scone.

Second course:   Plum Tomato Quiche with Blueberry & Plum Garden Salad and Blueberry Vinaigrette Dressing, and a Summer Cucumber Cup.

Third Course:  Blueberry Charlotte

It was a wonderful tea!  I'm glad I was able to purchase Cristy's booklet of recipes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Great Lakes Depression Glass Show

Last July I began communicating with a lovely lady [via E-mail] who is an antique dealer.  I  had purchased some Detroit department store memorabilia from her booth at a local antique store, and I wanted to inquire whether she had additional items for sale.  Eventually we met face-to-face, first at her house, and then at mine.   During one of our visits she told me about Michigan's two Depression glass clubs, both located in southeastern Michigan.   She is a member of the Great Lakes Depression Glass Club, and invited me to attend the November meeting as her guest.  The featured item that month was handled serving trays.  What fun seeing the collections some of the members displayed. 

My friend mentioned that the Michigan Depression Glass Club was hosting a show in November where Depression glass and other era glassware made in America from the 1920's to the 1960's would be displayed and available for purchase.   My girlfriend and I attended and thoroughly enjoyed the show.

I have a collection of pink Depression glass so I was especially drawn to the pink glass displays.

This past Saturday [April 21] the Great Lakes Depression Glass Club hosted their annual show, and my girlfriend and I went again.  What a fabulous show with even more vendors and glassware than the November show.   I drooled over a few items, but came home empty handed.  There were several pieces of the Tea Room pattern in both pink and green.  Some  reasonably priced, and others pricey.   But there were no "Petals" dishes.


After seeing all the beautiful glassware, I was inspired to come home and bring my totes of pink Depression glass up from the basement that I packed away during a family room renovation.   Over the extended period of time I forgot exactly what I had, so I decided to catalog my collection.  It'll be great  knowing what I have when I attend these shows or go  antiquing.   The photo below shows two totes, with one more to unpack.  I'm having some friends over for lunch this Wednesday.  Can you guess what my tablescape will be?  ;-) 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Daffodils, Teacups and Poetry

Nothing says spring more than daffodils.    Below is a Royal Albert daffodil teacup  titled "Friendship."    It is one in a series of 12 teacups. In the language of flowers, daffodils stand for respect.

Since I don't have daffodils growing in my yard, I purchased  some potted ones  at a garden shop to enjoy.


A few years ago I saw a beautiful set of dishes in an antique store.   They were made in Hohenberg, Bavaria and the pattern was "Daffodil."  I liked them at first sight and bought them.

During a 2001 trip to England, our tour guide took us to Dove Cottage in Grasmere [in England's Lake District] to see the home of poet, William Wordsworth.  He authored  the famous poem, "The Daffodils."  It was written in 1804 and published in 1807.  It is considered by many to be his most famous work, and it has the distinction of being one of the most memorized pieces of poetry.


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;
then 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.

* * *

The day we arrived home our daughter and three grandchildren were at the airport to greet us and drive us home.   One of our granddaughters, who was just six years old at the time, presented me with a welcome home gift that she had made.   It was a large daffodil made out of construction paper.  It was the perfect gift!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island, Michigan

Every state has its "crown jewels," and Mackinac Island is one of Michigan's.  The  island is  located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac between the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.  High speed ferries transport people to and from the island in about 16 minutes.   The island became one of the nation's favored summer resort destinations during the Victorian era, and remains very popular today.

The famous Grand Hotel is probably the first place that comes to mind when you think of Mackinac Island, but there are many other wonderful places to visit while on the island as well.

[Internet Photo]

The hotel was built in 1887, with Michigan white pine lumber, in Queen Anne architectural styling.  It has 385 rooms with no two  decorated the same.   I've visited the island many times, but only stayed overnight on the island twice - once at the Grand Hotel and once at a Bed & Breakfast.   [Typically, we stay in Mackinaw City and ferry across to the island.]  Through the generosity of our son, we stayed in the Grand Hotel's Presidential Suite.   Five U.S. Presidents have visited the hotel.  While reading a framed letter from President Truman following his stay, I noticed an error [long before the days of computers with spell check].  As a secretary myself at the time, I took comfort in seeing even Presidential secretaries make mistakes!   ;-)

[Internet Photo]

The hotel boasts the world's largest porch - 660 feet long, overlooking a large tea garden and an Esther Williams swimming pool.

[Internet Photo]

There are no cars on the island.  Horse-drawn carriages and bikes are the mode of transportation.   My family and I have biked the island many times.  The 8.2 biking and jogging trails run along the perimeter of the island.   On one visit we passed the Michigan governor while he was taking his morning jog.  An official summer governor's residence is located on the island.   We have also taken the guided tour of the island in a horse drawn carriage.

The 1980 movie, "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour,  was filmed at the Grand Hotel.

Any hotel that has an Afternoon Tea program is "grand" in my book!  As one tea director told me, "Tea always associates itself with high-end establishments."  The Grand Hotel serves Afternoon Tea daily from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. in the "Parlor" [lobby].    The price of Afternoon Tea is $25.00 per person now, not $16  as printed on my souvenir May 27, 2002 menu.

Notice the green and red geranium border around the menu.  Carleton Varney was the Interior Designer for the Grand Hotel, and he used floral patterns with vibrant colors.  The carpeting is a red geranium pattern.

Chamber music is played during tea-time.  Below a violinist and pianist are pictured.

Tea-time table and servers are ready.

Our Server

Plated assorted savories [finger sandwiches], scones, fruit, and desserts were brought to our low table next to a sofa and chair.  The most unique food item served was a cup of salted nuts.  I had  never had that offered at tea-time, but I liked the salty option.  The tea served was English breakfast.

Located in the hotel is Carleton's Tea Store. 

They sell wonderful loose-leaf teas. I particularly enjoy a cherry flavored black tea they blend, and on more than one visit a tin of it has come home with me.   It's much more calorie friendly than the island's famous fudge made by Murdick's, Ryba's and others!  ;-)

I'm joining Bernideen's Tea Time blog today for "Friends Sharing Tea."