Sunday, March 29, 2015

Celebrating Easter

Please join me for a morning Easter Tea alfresco to celebrate new beginnings, the welcoming of spring and many other blessings.

Since the weather has been so warm, we'll have the tea in my backyard. The word "alfresco" sounds more appealing than backyard. (In reality the weather was too warm and I had to move the tea inside.)

The table is full of tea, food and Easter decor. I get so much happiness from setting holiday and themed tables. Don't you?

Here is your card holder filled with jelly beans.

Vintage porcelain bunny napkin ring 

Painted paper mache carrots in a Mason jar

Easter Egg Vase from Villeroy and Bach

Today's featured teacup is a brand new Royal Patrician from England. The pattern is Aurora. 

The soft pastel flowers on the teacup are perfect for an Easter tea.

Images on the Pottery Barn table runner

Orange Beehouse teapot made by Zero Japan

(courtesy of Republic of Tea's website)

The Republic of Tea's Downton Estate Blend will be served. I prefer loose tea over bagged tea, but have to say this is one of my favorite black teas. The vanilla softens the bergamot in the early grey for a unique taste. This tea can be purchased at Cost Plus World Market stores and unfortunately not online. This tea is also a fun conversation starter for Downton Abbey recaps.

Scones and croissants along with fruit salad will be served. I like to add golden raisins to my buttery scones.

" 'Twas Easter-Sunday.
The full blossomed trees filled all the air with fragrance and with joy."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Have a beautiful Easter weekend and thank you for joining me for tea.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lilac Spring Tea

Welcome Spring!

Yes, it's officially spring! I just love this time of year. The anticipation of the buds opening and the myriad of colors that are about to appear always puts me in a optimistic mood.
Here is my lilac almost in full bloom in the backyard. The color is amazing and the scent is so fragrant. Since the flowers don't last very long, I really cherish them. I'm always sad to see them go. Do any of you have the Bloomerang Lilac that blooms twice a year? I'm curious about them.

Please join me for tea and cookies in the garden.

Today's featured teacup is Lilac from Royal Albert's Blossom Time Series. It is in the Shelley shape and I inherited it from a great aunt. 

These cups were produced from 1966-1970s.

There are six cups in the Blossom Time Series: Apple Blossom, Hawthorne, Laburnum,
Lilac, Orange Blossom and Wisteria

I really love this series and I think the cup designs will go well with many spring and summer tea party themes. I've been on a quest to collect the other teacups in the series. So far Laburnum and Orange Blossom are my "vintage" newcomers. 

For you, I have prepared a small pot of organic ginger-pear white tea along with some cookies to celebrate the start of spring. In honor of all of the bees' hard work, I baked honey peanut butter cookies for our tea. 

"The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them."
~Saint Francis de Sales

Here are some other signs of spring and new beginnings in our backyard:

 Grape Leaves 
Estella Rijnveld tulip 

 Meyer Lemon Blossom...incredibly fragrant

Ranunculus reaching for the sun

"Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment."      ~Ellis Peters

Have a lovely week!     ~Nora

Monday, March 16, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Tea~ Brown Bread and Belleek

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Please join me for tea as we celebrate this special day.

 Barry's tea will be served in vintage Belleek tea cups (featured on my blog two weeks ago).

This pretty tablecloth was an early St. Patrick's Day gift from my mom. I really like the sweet details and the lace-like cut outs. Thanks Mom!

I love how there are lavender flowers among the shamrocks. It's not over the top St. Patrick's Day. I plan to use this tablecloth for spring and summer teas as well.

Help yourself to sugar from a Belleek Neptune sugar bowl.

Fourth mark (first green mark) circa 1946-1955

 Please enjoy some gold covered chocolates in a basket of Belleek along with tiny erysimum flowers from my garden.

My last pieces of Belleek to share...both were gifts from my uncles. The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and this vase is special to me because it holds soil from my first trip to Ireland. (I know, very sentimental.) I hope a trip to Ireland is in my near future.

And finally no Irish morning tea would be complete without brown bread. When I visit my family in Ireland, I literally wake up to the smell of delicious brown bread or sweet tea bread (somewhat similar to American-like soda bread but sweeter). My aunt has made this bread since she was a child and doesn't use any measurements. Between no standard measurements, different brands in Ireland and the fact my aunt is a far superior baker than me, let's just say my brown bread has been a disappointment. I've tried to watch her make the bread and copy the recipe, but it never comes close to comparing to hers. 

Through Ruth's Antiques and Teacups I saw a recipe for clotted cream which led me to Jean's slow cooker Irish soda bread recipe on Delightful Repast. Yes, you read correctly...a slow cooker brown bread recipe! I had to try it!

It was hearty and delicious. Thanks Jean! Since each slow cooker's temperature is a bit different, next time I will check the bread at the three hour mark. (There was some hardening at the bottom and edges.) I also hope to make the clotted cream as well.

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of St. Patrick's Day behold you.
~Irish Blessing

Monday, March 9, 2015

Forty Shades of Green Teacup Party and Cake

Thank you for joining me today as we continue to "pre-celebrate" St. Patrick's Day with a Forty Shades of Green Teacup Party. 
Forty Shades of Green is a common phrase used to describe the fields and landscape of Ireland. When you fly over parts of Ireland, you see a patchwork of beautiful green squares of land. Johnny Cash is the mastermind behind this phrase, and it was the title of his 1961 hit. He was so inspired after a trip to Ireland that he penned the lyrics to the song.

(image from internet: free clip art)

Here is your teacup which will be today's featured teacup. Our forty shades of green tea party will begin with my one and only green teacup.

It is a beautiful mint green Paragon bone china teacup that I inherited from another great aunt. My interest in collecting more Paragon teacups has peaked. I think their patterns are very classic. I thought this was the perfect teacup for St. Patrick's Day as well as welcoming spring with its daisy design.

I'm drawn to teacups that have designs inside the cup. 

I like that the saucer also has the same design.

Paragon back stamp: 1939-1949

(image from

Even though it is a "green party," we will drink Barry's Tea which is what my family in Ireland drinks on a daily basis with a generous helping of milk. It is a very strong Assam black tea that can be purchased at British goods stores and Cost Plus World Market. It accounts for 40% of tea sales in Ireland and began in 1901 in Cork.

When drinking a strong tea, I like to serve mild flavored sweets and savories. I found this cake recipe below online and thought it would pair well with Barry's Tea. I don't think there is anything remotely Irish about this cake, but it certainly was a winner in my household.

Irish Tea Cake fresh out of the oven

Next time I will serve the cake with fresh fruit.

Irish Tea Cake Recipe
from Ireland Family Vacations

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees C) and grease and flour a 9 inch round pan.
In a medium bowl cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, stir in vanilla extract
Combine the baking powder, salt and flour; stir into the batter alternating with milk
If the batter is too stiff, a tablespoon or two of milk may be added.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire rack, then turn out onto a serving plate.
Dust with confectioners' sugar right before serving.

I look forward to celebrating St. Patrick's Day with you next week!  ~Nora

Monday, March 2, 2015

Belleek Teacup Celebration

Cead Mile Failte....One Hundred Thousand Welcomes
in Irish

Welcome to my Belleek Teacup Party! 

St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching and it's a special day indeed for me. My mother is from scenic West Cork in Ireland. Visiting my aunt, uncles and cousins in Cork has provided me with some of the most memorable trips and experiences of my life.

Growing up there was Belleek and Waterford crystal in my home as these pieces were much more affordable years ago in Ireland.

I'll share some of my favorite Belleek teacups along with a few images of West Cork.

This teacup is a birthday gift from my sister in law. The woven textured body and shamrocks make it quite endearing. It has the Eleventh Mark back stamp from 2001-2006. All Belleek pieces have back stamps which give you an estimate of the production date. If you're interested, you can use this link to date your pieces:

This is my oldest piece of Belleek and today's featured teacup...a Third Black Mark (1926-1946) Limpet cup. I purchased this at a local antique shop and definitely wonder about its original home and the tales it could tell. What makes Belleek so unique in my opinion is its translucent quality. The pieces really do seem to shine due to their luster and extreme thinness. Belleek is produced with a significant amount of frit. Frit is a calcinated mixture of sand and fluxes ready to be melted in a crucible to make glass.

Third Black Mark (1926-1946)


I held this saucer a couple of feet away from the window. Look how transparent it is. Needless to say, I do not serve tea in these older cups. They will remain safe in my curio chest. I hope to add some more black mark teacups to my collection.

Inside glaze of the cup

My next teacup looks very similar to the Limpet but is not quite as old. (I'm not exactly sure of its pattern name as there are two Belleek patterns that look quite similar. I would love to learn what it is if you know the pattern name. Thanks!)

It is a Sixth Mark with a long production line of 1965-1980.

This is the "work horse" of my tea drinking. I use this mug almost every day. My mom's cousin is a member of the Belleek Collectors Society and received two of these mugs.  I enjoy its thin rim and its sturdiness compared to the older Belleek teacups. It has the recent dark brown backstamp (2008-2010).

Before you leave, let's take a quick virtual trip to West Cork.

Blarney Castle


West Coast

My favorite- the acres of land and the farms
I can never tire of this scene.

Thank you for traveling with me today and enjoying a cup of tea!