Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Beautiful Teapot Story

Every teapot has a story [or stories] to tell, and today's post is a beautiful story about Lina Liu's Blossoms & Butterflies teapot.  The story is just too good not to share. For a visual I photographed the teapot and teacup that's part of my personal collection. 

But first a little background...

Lena Liu is a talented, well-known artist who began painting as a child in Taiwan.  She came to the United States in 1972 and currently lives in Potomac, Maryland.  Her artwork isn't limited to canvas.  She has also done porcelain artwork and partnered with Teleflora Gifts in the 1980's to design teapots and teacups for their Flowers in a Gift.  Lena loves nature, so  her teapots focused on birds, butterflies and flowers.  In a quote at her website she said, "...I let what touches my heart pass through my fingers."

~ Lina Liu ~

Butterflies are recognized as a symbol of rebirth or resurrection due to their metamorphosis process from caterpillar to butterfly.  It's a worldwide belief that butterflies are the most common sign of communication from a deceased loved one.  

Whether you believe the dead can communicate with the living or not, certain things [butterflies in particular] can still remind the living of their departed loved ones.  

The Whitney, where I'm blessed to work, is not only a well-known upscale restaurant, but a beautiful historic mansion and popular wedding site. There's seldom a weekend where there's not a couple of weddings taking place.  

Dave Duey, the restaurant's Director of Operations, enjoys going to estate sales on his days off.  Last year, he found Lena Liu's Blossoms and Butterflies teapot at an estate sale and brought it to restaurant to be put into tea service.  

Fast forward to last Sunday, February 21st.  Steven, a conscientious server, works with me during tea time, and is always the head server for tea when I'm not there.  Since I don't normally work Sundays [religious preference], he was in charge last Sunday.  Yesterday he asked if I noticed the butterfly teapot was missing.   I asked if it had a tea fatality.  "Oh no," he said.  "Something much better!"  Here's the story he told me.

Preparations for a wedding were taking place and the bride was in one of the rooms having her make-up applied.  She asked if it was possible for her to have a cup of tea.  The request was given to Steven, and he steeped the tea in the Blossoms and Butterflies teapot.  He placed it on a tray along with a teacup, and took it to the room where the bride was seated in front of a mirror. As he approached, she could see the teapot in the mirror and burst into tears [unintentionally undoing her freshly applied makeup]. Surprised and bewildered by her sudden tears, he asked what was wrong.

The bride explained her mother wouldn't be at her wedding because she had passed away.  But as soon as she saw the butterfly teapot she knew her mother was conveying the message that even though she wasn't there in person, she was there in spirit.  Purple was her mother's favorite color, the color of the teapot's handle and spout, a symbol her mother was pouring out her love and blessing on her wedding day.  

One can't help wondering why Steven specifically chose to use the Blossoms and Butterfly teapot from the many other teapots we have in service.  It definitely gives credence to departed loved ones using butterflies [in any form] to convey a message.

Steven said news of the incident quickly spread to all the staff members and reached Dave's office.  When he heard it, he told Steven to give the teapot to the bride as a keepsake of her wedding day and a reminder that even though our loved ones may no longer be with us, their love always remains.

I couldn't think of a better post to end the month of February - the month of love - than this teapot story.  I hope it warmed your heart.


Friday, February 26, 2021

As February Winds Down...

On Thursday, my hubby took me to a Henry Ford Health System facility in Detroit to get my first dose of COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.  He got his on Wednesday, but since I was at Independence Village, we couldn't go together.  The clinic wasn't super busy, but there was a steady stream of people who had appointments, and it was well organized.

At first I thought I was going to be rejected for getting a tetanus shot seven days earlier, but after the nurse did some checking, I was given the green light.  It was painless and easy.  

After the shot, I was directed to another area where I had to sit for 15 minutes to make sure there was no reaction, and then I was free to leave.  I'll return on March 18th to get the second shot.  My arm is a little sore at the injection site, but I've had no adverse reactions.  Have you got your COVID shot yet?

My new Polish pottery arrived in the mail today - a teapot, luncheon plate and cup and saucer.  I may get the sugar and creamer later.  I photographed the box with the bashed in corner in case I needed proof for any damages. So much for marking the box with a red Fragile sticker!

Fortunately it was packed very good and nothing was broken. I'm pleased with my purchase.  When 'Fat Tuesday' rolls around next year I'll be able to eat my paczek on an authentic Polish pottery plate.  ;-)  The tea pot is very heavy and durable, and could easily be an everyday tea pot - like the Brown Betty in England.  It's not dainty or delicate, but I'm happy to add it to my collection.  As they say, variety is the spice of life!

A lot of research remains regarding tea in Poland.  They're supposed to be big tea drinkers, but online Polish tea brands seem to be mostly herbals.  I found a couple of black teas, but no greens yet.    

Tomorrow is a work day at The Whitney with 25 reservations for 'Mansion Tea'.  Looks like a busy day is on tap.   The Mansion Teas have been very well attended since we reopened the beginning of the month.  Please come visit us!

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Independence Village - Plymouth, MI

My youngest son works for an investment group that owns several retirement and assisted living properties.  One of them is Independent Village in Plymouth, MI.  When he was visiting their facility he noticed the Executive Director liked tea [by tea pictures and tea memorabilia in her office].  In addition to tea, she's also a beautiful Christian so he thought we'd be kindred spirits. Last November he introduced us via a three-way phone call, and in January I invited Debbie over for a tea luncheon.  You may remember me blogging about it.

Debbie scheduled an Afternoon Tea for the residents yesterday at 2:00 o'clock and invited me to give an inspirational talk about tea.  

When I arrived some of the residents were already seated in the dining room.  The tables were set with white linen tablecloths, and fresh flowers, beautiful china teacups and teapots, and tiered servers laden with yummy tea food graced the tables.

The chef made Earl Grey cupcakes from the New York Times teacake recipe I served when I had Debbie over.

When Debbie introduced me she read my 'tea journey' from my blog post of June 2012, when I first started blogging.  It was fun to refresh my memory as I hadn't read that post in a very long time.  I'm just as passionate and enthusiastic about tea now as I was nine years ago - maybe even more as I've learned about and experienced its many attributes and benefits.

Debbie said it was the first 'real' event since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out almost a year ago.  She was so happy the first activity was a tea event.

The residents were all engaged and responded enthusiastically to questions and comments at the end of my talk.  They mentioned the various brands of tea bags they remembered being available on grocery store shelves in times past, besides Lipton's.  What brands of tea bags do you remember from days gone by?  So many new brands and varieties of tea are available today. 

As you can see by the smiles on their faces, the residents were happy for the tea event too.

There were 8 or 9 tables set up for tea time.  Before I began speaking I passed out tea quotes for them to read at the end of my talk as another means of participation.

Below is one of the sweet residents who came to talk to Debbie and me after the program.  She is a tea drinker and told us about her collection of Royal Albert Petit Point China.

We haven't established a date when I'll be returning, but when I do go back my presentation will be about Detroit's beloved J.L. Hudson Department Store.  It's a place all the residents probably shopped at when it still existed.

~ Executive Director Debbie and Me ~ 

It was a very enjoyable afternoon for the residents and me.  Thank you inviting me, Debbie!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tea-themed Scarves and Pianos

Talbots is the only women's store I know that consistently incorporates tea into their fashions, whether it's jewelry, socks, sweaters or scarves, and I so appreciate them for that.

Recently my tea friend, Angela, from Tea With Friends blog, e-mailed to tell me Talbots had a silk scarf that was on sale 50% off.  She thought maybe I'd need to get myself another birthday present!  I receive Talbot's catalogs, but somehow I missed seeing it. I ordered one and it arrived in today's mail and is lovely [as are all of Talbots' things].  Thanks so much for the heads-up, Angela!  It's 30.5 x 30.5 even though it looks uneven in the photo.  I like how Talbot's shows you different ways to wear their scarves at their website.

This is my only other tea-themed silk scarf.  I need one more to say I have a collection. ;-) Interestingly, they're both navy blue.

On a completely different subject, I saw a repurposing photo on Facebook today that I just love.  An old upright piano that was made into a sewing station, but if I had room in my house I'd turn it into a tea station, with tea storage underneath. Don't you think it would make a unique tea station?  After all, tea makes our lives harmonious, and a whistling tea kettle is music to our ears!  I think it would be a fun project even if I couldn't keep it for myself, and I know my talented woodworker hubby could give it a beautiful new life.

Being the history buff that I am, I couldn't resist researching upright pianos.  In the early to mid part of the 20th century, pianos were a staple in homes all across America.  It was an instrument as well as a social piece, and a main source of home and family entertainment [more good reasons for it to be repurposed to a tea station!].

During this time hundreds of thousands of pianos were produced and one of the most popular was the upright piano. Some uprights were player pianos. Sadly, many upright piano manufacturers went out of business during the Great Depression, and as American homes began getting smaller, so did the size of pianos.  By the 1940's the large full-size upright piano was out of production.

Today most uprights are in need of extensive restoration [with a price tag around $15,000] to return them to quality instrument status.  Unfortunately pianos don't get better with age, so many uprights go to the junk yard.  The photo below made me cringe.  Just look at all those potential tea stations or tea bars!  It gives validity to King Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes 3:1 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven".  It's sad when that 'season' comes to an end.

Did you grow up with a piano in your home?  I did, and both my maternal and paternal grandmothers had an upright piano in their home.  Today, we have a console piano in our living room.  My daughter and I both took piano lessons growing up.

The photo below is my maternal grandmother's upright piano.   My mother is standing on the left, holding me.  Standing by and sitting on the piano bench [left] are my brother and sister and three cousins.

A quick Google search revealed old upright pianos selling for as little as $100 and some owners might even be willing to give one away for free just for removing it from their home. Something to think about.

For a bit more nostalgia, below is the piano in my parents' house.  The one I learned to play on.  The manufacturer was Cable and the letter C in Cable was positioned directly over middle C on the keyboard - very helpful for a beginning piano player!  ;-)

And below is the piano in my house today - the one my daughter learned to play on.  It's a Kimball.  I sometimes play hymns on it for my own enjoyment.  Seeing the picture reminds me it's time to schedule another tuning.

Friday, February 19, 2021

For the Love of Teapots!

Isn't this the cutest teapot?  I saw it on Facebook's Great British Tea Party where it is available for purchase.  It's called Toast Rack Teapot and makes 4-6 cups of tea.  The British made teapot retails for £75.90 or $98.74 in US currency, plus shipping, so I think I'll just admire the picture!

After indulging in a Polish Paczek on Fat Tuesday, it occurred to me that I should have had a Polish pottery teapot to drink my tea from.  I did some online investigation and found a pretty 6-cup teapot from the Mosquito Collection on sale at the Polish Pottery Shop for $35 plus shipping.  It's regularly $70 so that's a very good price.  The teapot went into my shopping cart!  I would eventually like to have a teacup to match and maybe a creamer and sugar bowl.  One thing always leads to ten, doesn't it?  ;-)

The website has a comprehensive section about Polish pottery, which I've never researched before.  The pottery is hand-crafted, painted stoneware from the town of Bolestawiec, Poland where the pottery tradition dates back to the 14th century.  Highly skilled artisans train for years learning to make the pottery.  Do you own any Polish pottery?

There's wonderful polish recipes on the Polish Pottery Shop blog too.  I'm not of Polish descent, but I have enjoyed making Kapusta [cabbage, onions and mushrooms sauted in butter then baked] and Haluski [fried cabbage and noodles] this winter.  These were new recipes to me and are good, healthy comfort food.

Polish people are big tea drinkers.  Tea is the most popular beverage in Poland.  It is drunk all day long, even before sleep.  When I Googled 'Tea in Poland' a lot of interesting articles on the subject of tea consumption in the country came up.  

At the time I was hired at The Whitney, I was developing a program called, 'Passport Teas' where teas around the world would be studied.  The program hasn't come to fruition at The Whitney, but I think it may at another venue soon.  This teapot will be perfect for a Polish tea presentation.  I have no plans of leaving The Whitney.  This new venue will be in addition to my job at The Whitney.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Pre-Lenten Celebrations

Today is another celebration day in the month of February.  Take your pick as to what title your celebration will be called - Mardi Gras [which is French for Fat Tuesday], Paczki Day, Carnival Day, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day.

In Michigan we celebrate Fat Tuesday [the last day to indulge in rich fatty foods before Lenten sacrifices and fasting begins on Ash Wednesday] by enjoying a Polish pastry known as Paczek [singular] or Paczki [plural].  It's a fried doughnut that comes in a variety of fillings and is much richer and tastier than an ordinary doughnut, BUT, depending on the size, they can have as many as 400 calories and more than 20 grams of fat.  Yikes!  

I watched a live demonstration this morning on how to make Paczki, and though a bit time consuming, they didn't look too difficult to make.  But my hubby brought two raspberry filled Paczki home from a bakery this morning so I didn't have to give any thought to making them. I did a photo shoot instead!  ;-)

According to the news, COVID-19, cold weather and a significant accumulation of snow didn't stop Michiganders from making their way to bakeries today to get their Paczki.

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of Shrovetide preceding the start of Lent.  In Old English the word means "to confess." [The repentance aspect of Lent.] In Great Britain, Christians prepared for Lent by making pancakes to deplete their stock of eggs, milk, butter and fat.  Hence the name Pancake Day instead of Shrove Tuesday.  They not only eat pancakes, but they have outdoor pancake races.

As the tradition spread through Europe it became Mardi Gras in France, where waffles and crepes are part of a lavish feast.

Mardi Gras is a day of revelry that includes parades and parties.  It marks the last day of the Carnival Season which is a six-week period of celebrating and partying. It dates back to ancient Roman festivals celebrating the Harvest Season.  European colonists brought the pre-Lenten festivities to America, and French settlers brought Mardi Gras to New Orleans.  The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was in 1837.  COVID-19 cancelled all the parades this year, so residents decorated the outside of their homes instead.  The King Cake is a tradition and symbol of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

I've only tried making a King Cake once, and it turned out well but was a bit time consuming.

I watched a video today by Delish on a much easier version of the King Cake using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.  I think I'm going to give that a try.

The King Arthur Flour website has a recipe for King Cake Scones that looks very appealing too. Will report back after I make them.  Wouldn't Mardi Gras be a fun theme for a tea party?  I have a folder of ideas, but haven't executed them yet.

However you celebrate, I hope today is a good day as we prepare to enter the Lenten season!  I read a thought provoking post on Facebook that said [in part], God is more interested in what we are becoming than in what we are giving up... it's less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrender of our souls.

Pope Francis asked, "Do you want to fast this lent?"  If so,
* Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
* Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
* Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
* Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
* Fast from worries and have trust in God.
* Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
* Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
* Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
* Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
* Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
* Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Happy Presidents' Day!

February is chock-full of special days to celebrate.  Right on the heels of Valentine's Day is Presidents' Day.  The Federal Holiday is celebrated every year on the 3rd Monday in February.  It initially began in 1796 to commemorate George Washington's birthday [Feb. 22, 1732].  It became a federal holiday in 1971.

Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, was born on Feb. 12, 1809, so his birthday was also celebrated in February.  Today the lives and birthdays of all U.S. Presidents are celebrated on Presidents' Day.

My hubby and I [along with our youngest son and family] visited Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota last July.  I'm happy to report all four of the presidents sculpted on that mountainside were confirmed tea drinkers.

George Washington [and his wife, Martha] were documented tea drinkers.  His first recorded tea order to England was for six lbs. of the finest Hyson Green Tea.  After his swearing in as America's first President, tea became the beverage of choice served during all state occasions.  

In 2018 Tea Time magazine printed a wonderful article written by Bruce Richardson titled Taking Tea with Thomas Jefferson.  In the article Bruce declared, "The author of the Declaration of Independence was a savvy tea drinker."  His Monticello home included a tea room and he owned a lot of tea equipage.

Theodore Roosevelt loved Lapsang Souchong black tea and Caravan tea - both hearty teas for the rugged man that he was.  

Abraham Lincoln was said to have been a devout tea drinker until he tried coffee.  ;-)  

The only replica of a presidential cup and saucer that I own is from Lincoln's presidency which I acquired in 2017.  Mary Todd Lincoln selected the official china pattern when her husband was in office.  Today is a good day to drink some tea from it.

We've all heard the well-known legend of George Washington and the cherry tree, so tonight I'll make a cherry cobbler and drink some Hyson Green Tea in Lincoln's china cup in their honor.  I'll try to add a picture of that later, but for now I'm content to eat a chocolate covered cherry in George's honor.

James Buchanan, our 15th president, was a habitual tea drinker and his tea was poisoned with arsenic at the National Hotel in D.C.  Fortunately he knew the symptoms of arsenic poisoning and was able to get medical help in time to save his life.

Being of Irish descent, John F. Kennedy drank tea too. It's fascinating learning which presidents drank tea.  Tea is known to be calming and soothing, but given the demanding and stressful nature of the job, I'm guessing stronger beverages might have been imbibed by some presidents occasionally.  ;-)

Cherry Cobbler Addendum:

The Cherry Cobbler recipe I used was SO good and would have been even better with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, but I was trying to conserve a few calories.  A crumbly nut topping during baking would be good too.  Here's the recipe:

Easy Cherry Cobbler
1/4 c. butter melted
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1 teasp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1 [21 oz.] can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour melted butter in the bottom of a 2 qt. baking dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and milk until combined.
Pour batter over the butter in baking dish but don't stir.
Pour cherry pie filling over the batter without stirring.
Bake 45-50 minutes or until mixture is set and crust is golden brown.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

The Hyson Green Tea I prepared came from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Danville, KY.  It's very good and needs no sweetening [according to my taste buds].  Hyson Green Tea was one of George Washington's favorites and is also the tea that was thrown into the Boston Harbor during the American Revolution, hence the picture on the tin.

Adagio Tea had a short [5 question] Presidential quiz on their website about Presidents and tea this year for Presidents' Day.  I thought it would be fun to share it with you.  I knew the answers to questions 1 thru 3 but didn't know 4 & 5.   I blogged about President Barack Obama on Presidents' Day 2013 and stated that he prefers tea over coffee, and organic green tea is his preference.


1]  The first tea Thomas Jefferson was recorded to have ordered in America was Bohea until he switched his favorite to?  Ans. Hyson

2] President Barack Obama is frequently seen holding a cup of what type of tea?  Ans. Green

3] Teddy Roosevelt was known for his love of American food and had little use for exotic treats, except for Hu-Kwa tea, otherwise known as?  Lapsang Souchong 

4] Which President of Dutch descent was known for adding herbs and saffron to his tea?  Ans. Martin Van Buren

5]  Joe Biden has been known to enjoy which brewed beverage best?  Ans.  Coffee  [I'll try not to hold that against him!  ;-)]

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Valentine's Weekend 2021

Valentine's Day Eve [yesterday/Saturday] was a busy day.  I left home around 8:45 a.m. for The Whitney.  39 guests came to enjoy 'Mansion Tea,' including the owner and his wife.  It was wonderful seeing the mansion bustling with activity again.  We're not open at max capacity yet due to State COVID restrictions, but since we have three floors of individual dining rooms [the mansion's size is 22,000 sq. ft. with 23 large rooms], we're able to accommodate more guests than most restaurants and stay in compliance with social distance rules.  

The entire first floor was reserved for a wedding party, and Mansion Tea was served on the second floor, the location of the bedroom suites when The Whitney was a private residence. Yesterday guests were seated in Mr. Whitney's bedroom, Mrs. Whitney's bedroom and sitting room.

It was my privilege and honor to serve Mansion Tea to owner, Bud [Arthur] Liebler, and his lovely wife, Nancy, yesterday.  Mr. Liebler purchased The Whitney in 2007 and the public owes him a debt of gratitude for preserving the historic and iconic Detroit mansion for all to enjoy.  I'm guessing owning a 127 year old mansion might seem like a money pit at times, to say nothing of the loss from the mandated nine month closure this past year, but he's always pleasant and has a smile whenever you see him.  I really wanted to take their picture to share, but didn't know if asking would be appropriate.  I debated and debated, and finally bolstered my courage and asked. They graciously said yes, and below is their picture.

My friend, Cheryl, [owner of the permanently closed Tea by Three tearoom] dropped off a teacup and several tea books while I was at work.  It was a delightful surprise.  Lots of fun reading for cold wintry nights, and this makes my third 'A Cup of Christmas Tea' teacup, so my collection is growing.  They're very collectible and not easy to find.  Thanks, Cheryl!

There were Valentine gifts this morning.  Seems like the theme or message was 'sweets for sweethearts'! My hubby loves dark chocolate so I gave him a bag of assorted dark chocolates - Sanders Sea Salt Caramels, Godiva Ganache Hearts, Lindor Truffles, and Hershey's Almond Nuggets.  He said it's enough to last him until next Valentine's Day, but I think he'll manage to have it all eaten well before then! I received Chocolate Covered Cherries [a favorite], Revolution Dragon Eye Oolong Tea, and some baking equipment I wanted.  [The cooking shows are always revealing things I think I need!  ;-)]

As wonderful as our gifts to each other are, they pale in comparison to the ultimate Valentine gift from God.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16 NIV

What do you do on a cold, wintry Valentine's Day when it's 18 degrees outside?  Stay inside and make a nice dinner for two at home!  I have both Joanna Gaines cookbooks, and have watched all her Magnolia Table cooking episodes on the Discovery + channel.  One dish that is in her cookbook and also demonstrated on her TV show is Mrs. Gail's Chicken - crispy breaded chicken cutlets.   Today was the perfect day for making them.

Step #1 was setting the table with my Valentine dishes. 

We began with a toast of Sence Rose Nectar that I had been saving for just the right occasion, followed by a mixed green salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette.  My hubby had Hot Cinnamon Spice black tea to go with his meal and I had Citron Green Tea.

Joanna's chicken recipe was easy and superb.  Will definitely be making it again.  In her cookbook she pairs it with Fettuccine Alfredo, but I opted for mashed potatoes and gravy because I didn't want to go out to the grocery store for the necessary ingredients.  Next time!

Dessert was Carrot Birthday Cake that we're still enjoying.

Today's the 2nd Wedding Anniversary of our daughter, Lori, and her husband, Dave.  It hardly seems possible that it's been two years since their wedding in our home.  Happy Anniversary to a very happy couple!

How was your Valentine's weekend?