Thursday, January 29, 2009


When it looks like this in the garden outside....

(The old iron rose arbor)

( St. Francis is hidden among the arching ice laden branches of the tall asters-cocooning him in a natural protection from the elements)

( All the while, Gabriel stands guard over the courtyard as the cardinals flutter about looking for seed...)

.....It is of the greatest comfort to know that inside, along with a blazing fire, and pots of hot black tea, I will spend the evening in front of the television watching this man, Mark Walberg, host of one of my favorite PBS shows, Antiques Road Show...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


That's what I'm hearing outside my window... We are being hit yet again in Central Kentucky by another treacherous Ice Storm...We're praying that our old trees don't all come down in mass and that we don't lose power...Tonight will be the perfect night to gather in the parlor beside the fireplace with husband, children, dogs, cat, and a nice cuppa tea....Stay safe and warm dear friends...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


( The charming Rupert Friend as Ludovic Meyer)

One of my favorite pastimes during these cold winter months is exploring great movies. Just this past Sunday I decided that I wanted to revisit a charming film that I first watched last summer. This delightful film, starring the wonderfully elegant and talented Joan Plowright and the incredibly handsome and magnetic Rupert Friend( He portrayed the mysterious Mr. Wickham in the more recent version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley), is called Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. This movie, directed by Dan Ireland, did not receive massive attention or fanfare from Hollywood and that is no wonder because it has no trace of vulgarity, gratuitous violence, controversy or sensationalism.

The Synopsis:

The recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey moves to London with the intent to live in luxury at The Claremont Hotel. The Claremont’s brochure promises elegance and fine cuisine but when Mrs. Palfrey arrives she finds a very different place, one that is more of a retirement home than a luxury boutique hotel. The hotel is filled with a cast of lovable and eccentric aging citizens who are all too eager to pry and inquire as to why Mrs. Palfrey never seems to receive visits or calls from her "mythical" grandson, who happens to work in the archives at the British Museum. However, a twist of fate when she takes a fall on the sidewalk outside the flat inhabited by a charming writer named Ludovic, changes her rather uneventful and lonely life at The Claremont into one filled with joy and true friendship. We should all be so fortunate to have a Ludo ( as he’s called) in our lives! What follows is a charming tale of a wonderful bond that develops between an aging widow and a warm caring young man.

Make a nice pot of Earl Grey, grab a box of Kleenex and enjoy this wonderful little film. It is highly recommended by the Tea Society!

You can preview the trailer from youtube here:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


( Lady Donna and Miss Spenser Hardin enjoying a hot cuppa)

Dear Tea Society Readers,

It is with great pleasure that I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people whilst becoming a tea director. When I first began this adventure some years ago, I did so with a national group called The Ladies’ Tea Guild. After that group dissolved and many directors started tea-related business, I continued with a guild/society and that is in essence what the Ladies Historical Tea Society has become.

One delightful director, whom I have had the wonderful good fortune of getting to know, is Mrs. Donna Hardin. Donna has continued her tea business by opening a special occasion Tea Room out of her home in Iowa called Miss Spenser’s Special- Teas. Donna has graciously agreed to answer some questions about her tea business and her fascination with all things tea related.

Rebecca: Hello Donna. Thank you for sharing your time with me for a little conversation at the Tea Society.

You and I have discussed, on a number of occasions, what a unique passion tea is for us. Would you share a little about when you first became passionate about tea?

Donna: Well, I have always admired the "pretty" things associated with tea time...however; I would have to say that my real passion for the “art” of taking tea began in 2000 when my husband moved this "cityslicker" to the country!! After being married 20 years, he came home from work one day and informed me that he wanted to move our family to a farm where we could raise a few chickens, horse and cattle! You can only imagine my surprise with those words, but...being the dutiful wife, I soon found myself living on a 140 acre farm about 30 minutes South of Des Moines, Iowa. Now...some people might be thrilled with this type of adventure, but for me, it was very isolating and lonely. However, life does have a way of surprising us, for it was during the first long winter in the country that my daughter, Spenser, then 13, and I began the art of taking afternoon tea together. I have to admit, in the beginning, we were extremely uncultured, using soggy tea bags you find from the local grocer, not to mention consuming large amounts of Little Debby Fancy Cakes. However, over time, we began to refine our tea taking skills by reading and learning all kinds of information on the subject of how to prepare a “proper” English tea; sampling and tasting the many different varieties of loose leaf teas; and collecting various tea accoutrements which added much enjoyment to our tea time gatherings. Over time our little flame became a roaring fire, one of which we have not been able to quench!

Rebecca: What inspired you to delve deeper with tea and to actually become a Tea Guild director? What did you enjoy most about that time?

Donna: Well during our tea experiences and studies concerning tea, we discovered that we both had a desire to travel to England. Now hubby thought that was a great idea, but he wondered how we would get there…and he wasn’t talking about whether or not we would take a boat or fly…he wondered how we would get there financially. So, that’s when we decided to use our passion for tea to help pave the way to England. The Tea Guild provided us an opportunity to host teas and share our passions, as well as the ability to make a little bit of income. We enjoyed hosting our guild events every month and sharing our passions for tea and history while making new tea friends along the way. I also enjoyed chatting with other tea directors via e-mail.

Rebecca: When did you first entertain the idea of opening a special occasion tea room? How has your lovely daughter Spenser, the tea room's namesake, enhanced the tea experience for your guests?

Donna: After the Ladies Tea Guild dissolved, we went on to continue hosting our tea society every month. “Miss Spenser,” which she is fondly known by in our area, would always perform a little bit of drama for the events in historical costumes which she had created. From there, libraries, churches, Old Settler Events, retirement centers, tea rooms, etc. began contacting us and hiring us to perform our historical programs. Word got around, and people began calling and asking if they could come to tea at our home so that is what prompted us to create our special event tea room.

Rebecca: Which tea rooms do you find most inspiring?

Donna: I enjoy tea rooms that offer a traditional four-course tea served on beautiful china in relaxing and pretty environments, and of course, ones that serve “real” tea made from loose leaf tea, not tea bags. I prefer this over to a restaurant-style tea room which just serves lunch foods.

Rebecca: I couldn't agree more! It's horrible to venture into a "tea room" and find that they only serve 1 blend of loose leaf tea or worse yet, all tea bags!

You also offer special tea blends for sale. Which is your most popular tea?

Donna: Our most popular tea is our “Miss Spenser’s Special-Tea.” This is a wonderful Ceylon tea. We have found this tea is perfect for those who have never tried a cup of “properly” brewed loose leaf tea before. It has a full-body smoothness with an equally pleasing taste without any astringency; it’s really delicious and can be enjoyed any time of the day.

Rebecca: Do you also have a cook book available and what types of recipes do you provide?

Donna: Our cookbook contains everything you need to prepare a simple tea, cream tea, afternoon tea, all the way to a delicious high tea, which consists of a meal. It has over 90 tried and true recipes and sells for $16. It has been extremely popular; we are on our second printing and are almost sold out again!

Rebecca: There has certainly been resurgence in the interest in afternoon tea over the past few years. There are many groups, like the ones we both directed and ones attending your Special-Teas, which congregate specifically to enjoy afternoon tea. With the Tea Society it has become a time of bonding with other women who share similar interests. I try to always keep the conversation positive and not too controversial or political as to make all feel welcome. What do you attribute to the desire for groups like ours? Do you believe there is a void of a more ʽgenteelʼ way of life in our society which the art of tea fulfills?

Donna: People today are just so busy that they don’t take time to rejuvenate their spirits…one way to do that is by creating a relaxing and soothing environment, with pretty table settings, delicious foods, fine quality tea, good music, and great fellowship. This is what we try to provide here at Miss Spenser’s; we love to pamper our guests. Interestingly enough, although most people think of tea time for women only, we have found that the men-folk enjoy it as well!!

Rebecca: Miss Spenserʼs Special Teas has been in operation now for nearly a year, correct? What has your first year been like as a tea room operator and how does your tea room differ from others in your region?

I would have to say that this first year of business has been one of the best years of my life…to be able to share my passion for tea, history, literature, foods, and to work alongside my daughter, in our home, is truly a dream come true! It’s been a very exciting year…we have the best customers, a/k/a tea friends!!

Our tea room is very unique…actually, our motto is: “A unique tea experience off the beaten path.” You have to remember…we are 30 minutes from civilization, with 2 miles of it on gravel!! At first, I didn’t think any one would come…but they do. We have had people all the way from Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska…as well as all over the State of Iowa…it continues to amaze me. I guess we are like the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Ha… What makes our tea room unique is that it is just that, “a tea room” which offers the traditional four-course tea, with ‘real’ tea served, not hot water and a soggy tea bag. On top of that, our programs are very unique, they’re one-of-a-kind as they are written and researched by us and performed by the amazing Miss Spenser! People always leave here with full tummies and a little more information/education.

Rebecca: I read your reviews at Teamap and they are extraordinary. To say they are overwhelmingly positive would be an understatement. Did you imagine that you would receive reviews like this after such a short time in operation?

Donna: Thank you Rebecca for your kind words…we have been amazed at the reviews, and we give God the glory for them all…we feel so blessed to be able to share our passions with others…it has been beyond our scope of imagination for sure!

Rebecca: Donna, thank you so much for taking this time with me. I have no doubt that your guests have been spoilt beyond their wildest dreams with the availability of such a wonderfully creative destination to take tea. I wish you the best of luck with your tea room and I can't wait for the chance to get to attend one in the future.

Donna: Rebecca, It was my privilege to talk with you today…I always enjoy our chats. Thank you again for all your kind words…I do hope that we can take tea together sometime in the very near future!! And, congratulations to you on your beautiful blog site and your future AnTEAquity endeavors! I am looking forward to seeing your “wares” for sale!

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Donna and please do visit Miss Spenser's Special-Teas if you're interested in the cookbook, tea, or an incredible Tea experience if you happen to find yourself in her neighborhood.

Most Teafully,

Monday, January 12, 2009


(Holly Hill Inn- Midway, Kentucky)
(Interior of the Inn- photo from Holly Hill Inn Website)

On Saturday I had the most wonderful visit from a dear old friend whom I have known for 17 years. We met in a college writing class and she was a bridesmaid in my wedding. We had lost touch for a while but reconnected last year and it has been the most wonderful joy having Kimberly back in my life again. She is a treasure and we will never lose touch again. Friendship like ours should never be allowed to fade.

We had a day filled with three of my favorite pleasures in life; antiques, food, and wine. We began the very rainy morning with destination, An Antique Affair, a wonderful warehouse filled with over 100 booths of antiques and collectibles. We found everything from Majolica and Royal Doulton to vintage fashions and Wurlitzer Victrolas.. We spent a couple of hours there and though came away with no purchases this time, the browsing was sublime and did I mention that dogs were allowed? We will be back for sure!

Next, we continued on to Midway, Kentucky and brunch at my favorite restaurant, The Holly Hill Inn. This place is absolute bliss to me. No matter what mood I am in, the minute I see that great Greek Revival Manor amid the Holly trees, my spirits are elevated to a sublime plane. My husband can attest to this. The ambiance here is unequaled and the food is absolutely amazing. For brunch we started with a cup of potato leak soup, then an entree of shrimp and grits served with perfectly prepared asparagus, a side dish of potato cheese casserole, and delectable airy biscuits and corn muffins with fresh butter and honey. We ended with Jamieson's chocolate bread pudding in a whiskey sauce for me and Kimberly had the Cranberry Bavarian cream. Both were heavenly. With satisfied taste buds, we journeyed on to Equus Run Vineyards. Here we had the wine tasting and parted with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for me and Chardonnay for Kimberly.

Our outing ended shortly afterwards and my friend made her way home but oh, the great memories we made and the wonderful conversation was exactly what I needed on such a gloomy day. We are already planning our next adventure!

If you are ever in Central Kentucky, I would highly recommend checking out the above destinations mentioned. They are all delightful.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

(Best Blog Award)

( Award By Proxi)

Janeen at chachaneen has been so kind as to give me a couple of awards. Thank you so much for thinking of the Tea Society...These awards are so charming and how fitting is it that this Best Blog Award has a dog featured...Love that...The other award is so thoughtful and is called a By Proxi Award. This is how it is described:

This is the special "Proximidade" award. This award is a fine one because it focuses not on the glory and fanfare of blogging, but in the PROXIMITY to one another through this on-line world (kind of a Six Degrees of Separation sort of thing).

"Blogs who receive this award are 'exceedingly charming' say its authors. This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. T hey are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

So, over this weekend I'll pass this one along to eight more wonderful bloggers.....

Thank you Janeen....

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tess of the D'Urbervilles on PBS

(Gemma Arterton as the new Tess)

(Justine Waddell in the A&E version)

Well, I regrettably missed the first episode of this new version of the Thomas Hardy classic( part two airs this Sunday, Jan. 11) but thankfully, Janeen reminded me that it is available to view online at PBS so that is certainly what I'll be doing this evening. The last version I saw of this tragic tale was the 1998 offering from A&E starring the beautiful and talented Justine Wadell as the tragic heroine. Her performance was wonderful and so very moving.

The new version stars a beautiful Gemma Arterton,a modern Pre-Raphaelite vision if I've ever seen one, as the ill-fated Tess. Mary Lou from the Tea Society( and my lovely Mother) highly recommends the PBS version as well so I have no doubt I will be enthralled.

So, tonight, I'm off to transport myself to Thomas Hardy's world thanks to the wonder of the Internet. Anyone care to join me? I'll put the kettle on.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

BOOKS...BOOKS...and more BOOKS!

The Essential Tea Caddy

'Your Tea-Leaf tho' never so good when you buy, will lose itself, being of a very volatile Spirit, unless carefully preserv'd in Silver, Pewter, or Tin Boxes, shut close from the Air; and above All, kept from the Damps, and Neighbourhood of strong Scents, whether sweet or offensive.'

From A Treatise on the Inherent Qualities of the Tea-Herb, Compiled by a Gentleman of Cambridge 1750~

If you've been perusing some of my favorite blogs of late then you will no doubt notice a certain theme going round. This would be one of literary treasures and of receiving the wondrous gift of books. It is truly a delight to receive such a carefully selected item. When someone chooses a topic that they believe fits your interests and personality that shows that they have spent more than the proverbial five minutes on a gift card or certificate. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy receiving gift certificates, I do. However, It's just not the same as a personal selection just for you.

My birthday was in November and I received a delightful book from my Inlaws. It is called The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea. For anyone who knows me, they would know that this book has almost everything that I love like; a recommended Tea guide, vintage illustrations, delectable recipes, and wonderful literary quotes about tea. The only things missing are bone china selections, gardening tips, and Greyhounds..If it contained information on them, then it would truly be the perfect book.

Below is a wonderful description of this enchanting book( from the book sleeve). I highly recommend anyone who has more than a passing interest in tea to add this little treasure to your library.

Afternoon tea is the English meal-time institution, a social as well as a culinary event.

It is precisely this atmosphere which is embodied in the Palm Court Tearoom at the Ritz in London, which for many years has been one of the most delightful and traditional places to take tea.

The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea captures the essence of this traditional British occasion and provides the reader with all the Ritz expertize in the ceremony as well as over 50 recipes, illustrated with passages from Dickens to Oscar Wilde and charming drawings.

About the Author
After five years at Oxford, where she gained a M. Litt. degree for a thesis called Unreasonable Laughter in Restoration Comedy, Helen Simpson won the Vogue Talent Contest. The next five years have been spent working at Vogue, writing about travel, shops and food, as well as interviews and fiction.