Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Tea Society

Wishing everyone in the Blogosphere a very blessed and Happy Christmastide!

Most Teafully,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December Tea of the Month

The tea for December is one of my favorite teas for winter in general. A couple of years ago when I was visiting Bath for the first time, I tasted a wonderful blend at the Jane Austen Centre. The server in the tea room informed me that it was one of most popular blends there and I quickly discovered why. The blend is called Russian Caravan and is produced through Gillards of Bath. This tea has a magical quality. It transports the drinker to another place and time. This tea is a heavy blend of  black teas with the addition of Lapsang Shouchong to create the delicious smokiness. The aroma conjures the imagery of gypsies and Eastern Mystics. My mind drifts to caravans of nomadic tradesmen and their wagons of perfumes, herbs, spices, and teas. It is a fine tea to sip alone with a splash of milk and a cube or two of sugar. It's equally at home with a savory meal.

Image from Google " Russian Caravan"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is going to be a very busy week but one I have looked forward to for a very long time. I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I love planning the menu and cooking the meal. I thoroughly enjoy the anticipation of selecting a turkey and finding all the key ingredients to make the meal a time honored feast.

I must say that it saddens me to see how this day of gratitude seems to have been delegated to the status of  "that pesky day before Black Friday". What does it say about our culture when a day set aside to collectively honor all that each of us has been blessed with, where no monetary gifts are expected or exchanged, has become an inconvenience to those who would rather camp out in a parking lot to save a few dollars on a television or the latest I-product? Sadly, it speaks volumes of what we have become.

Thanksgiving will get its much deserved attention at our house. I will begin the morning prepping the celebratory bird and assembling the plethora of side dishes that will all battle for the much coveted space in the oven. I will watch the Macy's Parade with my daughter and embrace the warmth of harvest time. And when the table is set and the sideboards are filled with dishes of traditional fare, we will sit down together as a family and give thanks to our Creator for how we have been so richly blessed. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the Blogosphere! May we all have peace and prosperity!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

November Tea Of The Month: Orange and Spice Black

I'm a bit late posting this. It's been such a busy month already and with Thanksgiving getting very close, it's about to get a lot more hectic. I sometimes despair by this approaching frenzy of our own making from Halloween on through Christmas. Sadly, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to everyone's expectations that we lose sight of the quietness that can be found when contemplating what it truly means to be thankful. This year, I simply refuse to miss the deeper meaning. In spite of the seasonal social events and obligations that are sure to be approaching for most of us, I fully intend to enjoy the contemplative moments of this season and to stay focused on the message of peace, gratitude and joy.

To help usher in November, the tea I've selected for this month is Orange and Spice Black.  This wonderful tea instantly conjures the blissful imagery that is the essence of autumn. The comforts of cinnamon and essence of orange invade the air as they marry and release during their steeping dance. A variety of companies make delightful blends of Orange Spice but I would like to suggest the loose leaf blend offered through a Kentucky Tea Shop called Mon Tea. I am especially partial to this blend because it comes from my home state but more importantly, because it was recently given to me when my good friend, Polly, and her husband, Keith, came for a visit last month. I've asked this question many times before but it begs to be asked once again. Is there anything better than good tea from home and friendship? I think not.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wishing One And All A Happy and Safe All Hallow's Eve!

(Nevermore by Rebecca Chamberlain)

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe
(published 1845)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by Horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Ball at Willow Manor

It's that time of year again! I am excited to be attending the wonderful ball at Willow Manor. It's been a couple of years since I attended the last one so I am really looking forward to meeting some new bloggers and their illustrious companions.

As for me, I have the honor of attending the grand event this year with the alluring Michael Fassbender.

Since this year is a masquerade event, I will be adorned with this:

I chose this dramatic gown from Dior :

This should be a most memorable night with "Frankenstorm" looming up here in the Mid-Atlantic!
On second thought, with this guy as my date for the evening, I'll somehow endure a pesky Nor'Easter...
Time to kick off my shoes
and have another glass of Cabernet Sauvignon...

Monday, October 15, 2012

A poem for autumn

( Mums from my containers)

The Last Chrysanthemum

Why should this flower delay so long
To show its tremulous plumes?
Now is the time of plaintive robin-song,
When flowers are in their tombs.

Through the slow summer, when the sun
Called to each frond and whorl
That all he could for flowers was being done,
Why did it not uncurl?

It must have felt that fervid call
Although it took no heed,
Waking but now, when leaves like corpses fall,
And saps all retrocede.

Too late its beauty, lonely thing,
The season's shine is spent,
Nothing remains for it but shivering
In tempests turbulent.

Had it a reason for delay,
Dreaming in witlessness
That for a bloom so delicately gay
Winter would stay its stress?

- I talk as if the thing were born
With sense to work its mind;
Yet it is but one mask of many worn
By the Great Face behind.

Thomas Hardy

Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Good Book and a Cuppa

     What a difference a couple of days can make in Autumn. Friday night I was at an outdoor Oktoberfest, dining on delicious German food, and enjoying great conversation with new friends. It was pleasantly mild enough for us to have dined outdoors by the warmth of an open fire.
     On Saturday, as I spent much of the day indoors working on my book, it was one of mild weather and sporadic bursts of warm sunshine. However, it ended rather dramatically with high winds and a drastic drop in temperatures. This made for a perfect melancholy gray Sunday with sprinkles of rain and a high of 58. It really was an ideal day to cozy up with a hot cuppa and a good read.
      With that in mind, and given that this is the month of ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night; I thought it would be fun to share a Tea Society October Book list of some great eerie reads.

1. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
     This wonderful modern take on the Salem Witch trials is an absolute must read for October: "Salem, Massachusetts, 1681. Fear and suspicion lead a small town to unspeakable acts. Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1991. A young woman is about to discover that she is tied to Salem in ways she never imagined. "A sensational debut novel . . . carries on every page Howe's unique passion, wit, intelligence, and spirit."

2.  The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
         See my review here from a few years ago on this amazingly well written and atmospheric gem.

3. The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
     This is perhaps my favorite of all the Sherlock Holmes Mystries. Dr. John Watson plays a key role in this classic set against the backdrop of a a manor, murder, and the spectre of a mysterious phantom hound. What more could you ask for?

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker

     "A true masterwork of storytelling, Dracula has transcended generation, language, and culture to become one of the most popular novels ever written. It is a quintessential tale of suspense and horror, boasting one of the most terrifying characters ever born in literature: Count Dracula, a tragic, night-dwelling specter who feeds upon the blood of the living, and whose diabolical passions prey upon the innocent, the helpless, and the beautiful. But Dracula also stands as a bleak allegorical saga of an eternally cursed being whose nocturnal atrocities reflect the dark underside of the supremely moralistic age in which it was originally written -- and the corrupt desires that continue to plague the modern human condition. " ( This wonderful description was provided by Amazon)

5. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
     Gothic literature at its most sublime. The Barnes and Noble review below captures the essence of this timeless novel.
     "Last night I dreamt I Went To Manderley Again." So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past the beaches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten...her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant — the sinister Mrs. Danvers — still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca...for the secrets of Manderley."

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
     This book, along with Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, is the reason for my lifelong fascination with Yorkshire. The novel begins with the tormented childhood of the orphaned Jane. It takes the reader through her early life of abuse and cruetly. As she grows up, Jane eventually takes the postion of governess to the ward of Mr. Edward Rochester, a "Byronic Hero" and master of a remote estate on the moors called Thornfield Manor. While at her new position, Jane uncovers her employer's dark history and a devastating secret in the attic. This novel has a permanant space on my home library shelf.

7. The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

     I did see the recent film with Daniel Radcliffe last year and I thought it was very well done and quite eerie. However, I am so glad that I read the book first. The book is frightening and there are of course some marked differences between it and the film. Hill's masterfully written ghost story is one of the few books that left me sleeping with the bedroom light on.

     "Arthur Kipps is a man touched by tragedy, as we learn, following his storming away in a temper from Victorian festivities, complete with ghost stories, on a snowy Christmas Eve. He is fully aware that stories of ghosts may be told in frivolous fashion, but that ghosts themselves -- real ghosts -- rarely manifest in such a mood. Ashamed of his bad behavior and wishing to explain himself and make it up to his wife, he begins to write the story of his own horrific experience following the death of Mrs. Drablow in the remote village of Crythin Gifford. A young attorney, he travels up North to represent his firm at her funeral and clear up outstanding legal affairs. The reader follows Kipps casually but is soon caught up in a fearful exploration of human despair and its consequence." "( Editorial Review- Amazon)

8. The Picture of Dorain Gray by Oscar Wilde
Vanity. Yes, all is vanity...
     "A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man's portrait, his subject's frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray's picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent."( From Amazon)

9. The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

     DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.

Need I say more?
10. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins
     “There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road—there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven—stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments.”

      "Thus, young art tutor Walter Hartright first meets the mysterious woman in white in what soon became one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. Secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelations, amnesia, locked rooms and locked asylums, and an unorthodox villain made this mystery thriller an instant success when it first appeared in 1860, and it has continued to enthrall readers ever since. From the hero’s foreboding before his arrival at Limmeridge House to the nefarious plot concerning the beautiful Laura, the breathtaking tension of Collins’s narrative created a new literary genre of suspense fiction, which profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing." ( from Amazon)

Monday, October 01, 2012

Fall fashion And A Tea Of The Month

With the temperatures taking a dip, it's time for sweaters, scarves and boots to replace linen capri pants, summer dresses, and sandals. It's no secret that I love fall and winter clothing and relish this changing of seasonal attire.  I delight in adding new pieces to tried and true standbys in the back of the wardrobe. As a matter of fact, I got a jump on this a couple of weeks ago with some new brown Equestrian boots.

As I continue to look for key pieces and missing elements, I think of the master of  fall fashion, Ralph Lauren. Does anyone do it better?  Just take a look at the new fall line below.  :)

There's a certain undeniable magic in the air when October rolls around. Being a child of Autumn, I marvel at the rapidly changing hues from deep green to russet, gold, and crimson. Look how perfectly these colors compliment the Ralph Lauren collection above. Marvelous!

Beginning with the month of October, and as a welcome of sorts to the birth of this next season, the Tea Society blog will feature a Tea of the month. This month's featured tea is one that is perfect for fall because of it's comforting taste and hypnotic aroma of heavenly bergamot. I'm speaking of  none other than the favorite tea of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  Earl Grey, of course.  However, I am not recommending just any brew of Earl Grey. The one that I adore is blended by Twinings. I have sampled countless loose leaf and bag varieties of Earl Grey over the years and though I have tasted some very fine blends, I always seem to come back to Twinings. I suppose you could say that Twinings is to Earl Grey what Ralph Lauren is to fall fashion...Hum...That just might be my new mantra...

I'll leave you with this suggestion: For this October, add a new scarf to your fall wardrobe, and make sure your pantries and cupboards are stocked with loose leaf and tea bag varieties of Earl Grey. Cheers!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Tea Society Blog Returns!

It has been nearly a year since I stepped away from the Tea Society Blog( new title :). During that time, I wrote about my artwork at my other blog, Flora Symbolica, and my family and I moved north to Maryland. I left beloved friends and extended family behind in Kentucky to a life of the unfamiliar with the promise of change. Change, as most of my blog followers know, is not something that I generally welcome. I am most certainly a creature of habit. It goes without saying that some change is  welcome but other forms of change removes us from the comforts of the familiar and snatches us far from the places where we feel our happiest and our most content.

It is often said that our circumstances are what we make of them and that we can choose to be happy or not. I believe this, to a certain degree. Yet, I also know that when we are connected so deeply to some places and to certain people that when they are no longer there, we truly grieve their absence. It's very much a spiritual connection. To have that removed or distanced from our lives makes it rather difficult to choose to ignore the loss and put on a happy front.

While pondering all of this, I came to the rather obvious realization that when we are fortunate enough to be able to return to a place that makes us feel content, happy, and peaceful, then we should certainly celebrate that and do so, wholeheartedly! For me, that place, figuratively speaking, is this little corner of my own "virtual reality", right here at the Tea Society Blog. I have greatly missed sharing bits and pieces of Tea adventures along with the joy of connecting with kindred spirits across this vast globe. I honestly did not realize what a huge part of my life this blogging adventure had become, and what a chasm it left within me when I stopped frequenting this realm. This is my sanctuary, my place of bliss. This is a refuge of tranquility and contentment amid the sometimes stressful alternative known as everyday life. It is time to joyfully return to that place where I can escape and delve into the comforts of all things Tea-related and to marvel and relish those charming extra accompaniments to tea-culture. I hope my former blog followers will return for a cuppa with me and for many more tea-filled days of bliss.  How I have missed you.