Friday, October 30, 2009


From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

~Traditional Scottish prayer

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tea, Ch’a, te, thee, or Chai? Oh..My!

Have you even wondered where tea got its name or why it wasn’t named something else like Camellia? After all, it is made from the dried leaves of Camellia Sinensis plant. Tea is the English name that we are all familiar with, but at one time it was called tee or tay. In India, it is actually called cha or chai. The name varied depending on which trade route was taken when the product was brought into a particular country. For instance, when it arrived in Russia and Arabia, from China, it was given the Mandarin word, cha. The word cha was used in India, Persia, and Japan with the Arab nations deciding upon, shai. Tibet used, ja, and chay was the Turkish word applied. Furthermore, when the Portuguese purchased tea from China, the trade came through the port of Maoco where the Mandarin word cha had developed into a Cantonese version of Ch’a. Dutch tea ships frequented the port of Amoy in China’s Fujian Province and therefore adopted the local word, te, which is pronounced tay. It was then changed to thee. Since the Dutch were the chief traders of tea to Europe, among other countries, the peculiar drink became known as tea or tee in England. In France it was called the`; thee in Germany; and te in Italy, Spain, Denmark, Norway, and Hungary. The word continued to vary and alter from country to country.

Just a bit of tea-trivia for you.....

Monday, October 26, 2009


(Jennifer Miller and Laura Edwards)

Early Saturday evening, 7 members and guests of the Ladies Historical Tea Society gathered at the home of Natalie Ferguson for high tea and tales of the bizarre and unexplained. We served a meal of Creamy tomato basil soup, herb and cheese pie, ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches, and English custard-filled tea cake. Our teas were the tea society’s Lavender and Black Ceylon. All ladies in attendance dressed in reproduction or period- inspired clothing, some resurrecting Edwardian attire, while others revisited the 1860’s. This event is truly one of the few where all attendees are urged to dress in period clothing. Though period dress is always encouraged, it is by no means a prerequisite for events. I have found, however, that doing so creates a nostalgic atmosphere, and serves to fashion the perfect ambiance for a Halloween event.

The theme of the evening, being of course ghost stories, stems not from a particular fascination with Halloween per se, but out of a fascination with how the Victorians were very much intrigued with Spiritualism and the paranormal. It is interesting to note that this fascination was indeed widespread and not at all confined to the lower classes or poorly educated. A great number of periodicals of the day centered on spiritualism, reaching a vast learned audience. The interest was not isolated to modest country dwellings; it extended into grand parlors of the most highly respected families, challenging the “intellectuals”, who prided themselves on their superior sophistication as advocates of industry and modernism. Ironically, it was within the homes of the elite, where most of the dabbling transpired. For they had the wealth and social standing to attract the most prestigious Victorian citizens into their grand homes where they would solicit the services of spiritual mediums to conduct experiments in contacting the dearly departed.

(Polly Singer and Natalie Ferguson)

(The Fox Sisters of New York- From left to right: Margaret, Kate, and Leah-Image from Wikipedia)

The new ‘conjurers of the dead’ came to England in the 1850’s by way of America. Three sisters in particular, the Fox sisters, were perhaps the most well known mediums of the era, having given birth to the movement at their New York home in 1848. They became known for their great abilities to communicate with the deceased through spiritual messages and summoning spirits through table turning and spiritual rapping. This practice became a huge phenomenon in England, inspiring social events around practices in spiritualism. Even grand tea parties, where a séance was the theme of the afternoon, would not have been all together unheard of.

(Jenni,Polly, Rebecca, and Laura)

Happily, there were no séances at the Tea Society’s event but we did share many tales of the paranormal including some eye-witness accounts of the unexplained. Member, Polly Singer shared a wonderful historical overview of Loudon House in Lexington, Kentucky, whose sister house in New York, served as the backdrop for the Dark Shadows series. She shared a detailed map of hauntings from the house, along with personal experiences when she worked there: Radios turning on by themselves, the sounds of a party when no one was in the house, the sensation of being watched, and images of spectral ‘statues’ appearing in windows for select passersby to see. Others read tales from Dickens and some more obscure authors, while I shared the tale of Lord Rossmore’s Banshee, from a collection of stories compiled by Reverend John Seymour, found in a compilation of Irish Ghost Stories. Two members shared of their own personal accounts with levitation. I also shared of the sometimes peculiar things that have happened here at our house. I, and others, have smelled roses and lilac water in the dead of February. My husband smells cigarette and cigar smoke. We had a visitor see an apparition of a woman in white in our stairwell, and I once heard running upstairs when my son was fast asleep in his bed, and I was the only one in the house. All made for a splendid evening to leave each guest pondering the unexplained things that go bump in the night.

I wish to thank Natalie Ferguson for hosting the event and making the delicious custard-filled tea cake. I also want to thank all in attendance for making the evening so much fun. Without each of you, I would be left to dream away and merely fantasize about sharing my rather peculiar interest in tea culture. Thank you for the gracious indulgence!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This is shaping up to be a busy week for me with preparations for our Victorian Ghost Story Tea event. I have nearly completed the menu and have finalized my Edwardian-inspired touring ensemble. I am now putting the finishing touches on my hat. For this event, members have been asked to not only dress in Victorian or Edwardian-inspired attire, but to also share a ghost story with the group as we share ‘high tea’ on Saturday, October 24th. Natalie, from ZipZip’s Vintage sewing blog, will be allowing use of her beautiful home in Lexington for our evening of tea and reverie, as my house is under renovation and restoration, which will be continuing all through the winter months as well.

I have read a number of interesting ghostly accounts on many blogs which I frequent. Willow certainly has oodles to share at the manor. If any fellow bloggers and frequenters to the Tea Society would like to share some of their stories in the comments to this post, please feel free to do so. I am always eager to hear of a good ghostly story. I am not much on gore, but I delight in a good re-telling of a spectral encounter.
Ta, ta!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Have you ever had one of those rare friends with whom just being in their presence made you a better person? Someone who listens to you so intently, truly valuing your opinion and interested in what you have to say about a myriad of topics? Well, I have such a friend, and I count myself among the very fortunate to know this wonderful woman. We first met nearly 17 years ago as undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky. We connected almost immediately and would become very close over the next couple of years. She was also a bridesmaid in our wedding, and a cherished friend through a devastating loss that I experienced. After losing touch for almost 10 years, we at long last reconnected last year and reveled in our mutual love of, you guessed it, tea. Though we drank it in college we never seemed to understand its powers to heal, unite, and comfort. It was truly as if no time had passed at all between us. Our conversations seemed to pick up where we last left them, as if no life experiences had happened to either of us.

We now endeavor to get together once a month so we seized the moment on Saturday and took advantage of the sunshine and drying weather. We bundled up in our coats and scarves, as the projected high for the day was a chilly 40 degrees. We met that morning (she coming from the west and I from the east) and ventured North, just beyond Louisville, into Indiana where we spent half the day at Huber’s Orchard and Winery. As we drove along the winding passes we first came upon a beautiful old Catholic Church, St. Josephs Hill. The church stood in all her glory, steeple-adorned cross extending high into the heavens, with a church cemetery resting in front of the structure.. As we rounded the corner, I caught a glimpse of a marker with a Celtic cross and felt a tingling inside of me. I so firmly believe in ancestral ties and perhaps mine were nudging me at the moment. Then I glanced up on the hill as a priest was leading a procession from the entrance. What the event was, a funeral mass perhaps, I can’t be sure, but it took my breath away. We continued over hills, down into valleys, surrounded by an autumnal palette of crimson, rust, and golden yellow. I felt jovial that October was shining in all her glory, and that we were a part of that. As we arrived, we decided to make our way to the winery first. It was much larger than most of the wineries I’ve been to, save the Biltmore Estate, and was getting quite crowded. After we took the tasting we explored the grounds and the many farmers’ market type facilities with a plethora of pumpkins and apples to choose from. We sampled delicious apple cider and some of the bakery’s jalapeno cheddar bread, and perused the seemingly endless shelves of relishes, herbs, spices, curds, preserves, marmalades, and jams. I also discovered a lovely little cookbook on cooking with herbs which I decided to add to my cookbook collection. Much of our afternoon was just spent strolling over the vast farm, having a late lunch, talking, and laughing, lots of laughing! I highly recommend a day like this with a close friend. It’s wonderful for the soul to laugh until you nearly cry, to feel so excited to be in the company of someone with whom you share so much in common, but above all, someone with whom you respect beyond words...

With all the waxing poetic, dear Kimberly, if you are reading this entry, thank you for being a wonderful friend. I am so grateful that it was you sitting in front of me in our writing class so many years ago. Thank you for being who you are- a lovely wonderful person with whom I am so very honored to know.


(Kimberly and me- 1994 at my Bridal Shower)

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today is the perfect day here in Central Kentucky for a hot cuppa tea and a bowl of hot soup. The rain has passed but the cold chill of autumn remains.

I thought the Churchill Blue Willow cups would make this delicious soup, look even more appetizing. It's fun to serve soup in teacups, especially when children are at the lunch table. My two young ones lit up with excitement when they saw me bring this to the table.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
(4 servings)

4 tomatoes - seeded and diced
4 cups tomato juice
14 leaves fresh sweet basil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
pepper to taste
teaspoon of sugar if using Roma Tomatoes

1.Heat tomatoes and juice in a pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the pot.
2.Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with pepper and add sugar for a sweeter soup. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil. Serve with crisp crackers.

*Salt may also be added, but the tomato juice that I use is salty enough*

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Last evening I had the pleasure of speaking on the art of tea blending to the Bluegrass Herb Guild in Lexington, KY. Their graciousness and hospitality so delighted me, as at times I am pressed to find those with true interest in the wonderful benefits both mentally and physically of tea. The evening began with a splendid sampling of delectable herb and spice filled- dishes and the most wonderful conversations. Polly Singer then introduced me to the group, and I began the program where I shared information on the most common types of tea, the differences between true herbal tea blends (They must have a black or green tea base.) and Herbal tisanes and infusions (There is no true tea base, but merely a liquid rendered through steeping the herb...), and the joy of concocting your own brews in the comfort of your own kitchen. I shared some blend and infusion recipes with all in attendance, then selected four attendees to receive samples of my own blend of lavender tea. My eleven year old son referred to the blend as a “drink from heaven”. With a grand endorsement like that, I felt confident in sharing the blend! I want to thank Polly for inviting me to present the program to this wonderful group of gardeners, herbalists, and hopefully, soon to be tea enthusiasts. I am excited to be a new member of this guild and look forward to getting to know this wonderful group. What a perfect way to spend a cold rainy night in October!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Oh, My!....Am I ever glad that I agreed to attend the ball with him!!!

At long last, the social event of the season has arrived! The Ball at Willow Manor is here and I finally narrowed down my dress selection....This is the lovely ensemble I selected..Someone told me that actress Jennifer Garner had her eye on it, but I managed to get first choice...

I am delighted that the stunningly handsome and roguish Gerard Butler kept calling me until I finally agreed to attend with him...

Thursday, October 08, 2009


February 6, 1947-October 3,2009

In memory of Mrs.Paula Burris Porter,dearest friend and cherished Tea sister. Tea Society members have been invited to honor Paula on this blog during the coming days. To begin our tribute, I wanted to share the following poem which was read yesterday at her funeral.

The Dash
by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

© 1996 Linda Ellis

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Many of the readers of this blog have followed past entries about my trips to Franklin, TN. I try to make it to this charming little town at least twice a year. As I am a staunch traditionalist, I have a great fondness for ritual, and I certainly have some personal rituals that I practice in regards to my excursions. This could include which shops to frequent first or which day to plan tours and sightseeing excursions. However, Mother Nature had better plans for my Mother and me on our last visit this past weekend. We encountered substantial amounts of rain which indeed resulted in our canceling a cemetery walking tour as well as a tour of the Historic Lotz House and Franklin battlefield. Nevertheless, we were determined to spend our weekend scouring the many antiques and specialty shops that draw us to this charming little Southern town. I did manage to find a lovely Tea Cup and saucer that I have tucked away for the Tea Society’s Christmas exchange. Therefore, I must refrain from posting details or a photograph as to not spoil the surprise, should any of the members read this entry. We can use some pleasant surprises in this troubled world and well, as mundane as this may sound, seeing happiness over a small surprise like a tea cup brings great joy to me.

In addition to blogging about some terrific finds over the last two years, I have also written a cautious warning to never let a treasure pass you by, for if you have the finances with you and walk away you will certainly regret not grabbing hold of the golden pot when you had the chance. Unfortunately, I did not heed my own advice last weekend and passed up the most smashing piece of millinery that I have seen in some time, a lovely wide brimmed Edwardian-inspired hat covered in sheer gray/blue and black fabric with feathers and a fabric bow embellishment. Not a day has passed, since our return, when I have not reflected on that lovely headpiece and how it framed my face perfectly. In fact, I have taken to naming the missed purchase. I have begun to think of it as “Elizabeth”, as calling it “the hat” seems so inappropriate for such a lovely creation. That’s also my daughter’s middle name so it seems beyond debate. I have looked at the clothing in my closets and found at least three outfits that would have paired perfectly with “Elizabeth”. I began to visualize wearing “her” to tea events as well as to church and many other outings. The torture is consuming me. My dear husband has repeatedly asked why I did not purchase the piece when I had the opportunity. The only response I could muster was that pure guilt prevented me from doing so; guilt of the expense to some degree, but also guilt that I would be spending the money on something that only I could utilize. I also began to rationalize all the repairs before us at this old house, holiday shopping, and anything else one can think of. Then, I began mourning the piece. Trivial? Perhaps, but I have fallen in love and there is no logic where love is concerned. So, I have decided to contact the antique shop and inquire if I might be able to purchase this wonderful gem, and have it shipped to me as a 40th birthday present to myself. Perhaps the one that got away might yet be within my grasp ....

To be continued......