Sunday, February 28, 2016

Camellias and Chocolate Cake

Happy Leap Day!

We are experiencing spring like temperatures and I believe our gardens are confused. All of my daffodils have withered and the tulips have sprouted but not bloomed. While I adore the sunny days, it's not so lovely to experience this in the midst of a drought. We need more rain!

While we are on the subject of gardens, I have been fixated on my camellia bush. It bloomed profusely every December for the first three years we moved here. Last December we didn't have a single bloom. As you can see in the photo above, we have only one flower that bloomed last week. 
Gardeners, any ideas what is causing the lack of flowers? The bush itself is healthy with new glossy green leaves. Camellias are such a treat to enjoy in winter as they are my only cut flower.

Well, since I can't have camellias in vases I will enjoy them on a teacup. 




Come join me for tea and a piece of chocolate pudding cake.


Today's featured teacup is one that caught my eye on ebay. It is a signed Paragon called Reine des Beautes from the 'Camelia Series.' 







The large flowers have many details and I adore designs in the inner cup. After Shelley, Paragon is a favorite English bone china pottery of mine.

Paragon produced bone china teaware from 1919 to 1960 in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. It was previously known as the Star China Company and was granted royal warrants by the British Royal Family.

 from Replacements.com

On a side note, Paragon was commissioned to produce the nursery china set for Princess Elizabeth now known as Queen Elizabeth ll. This pattern is called Two for Joy and features magpies. Legend states magpies were seen at the christening of Princess Elizabeth.

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Our tea wouldn't be complete with something sweet.
This weekend I made this cake for the first time and enjoyed its moistness. Reminded me of a molten lava cake. I found the recipe in last month's issue of Southern Living magazine. It's from a new Cooking Light cookbook titled Incredibly Decadent Desserts.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

4.5 oz (about 1 cup) all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Baking spray with flour

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/4 cup of strong hot coffee

Cool Whip thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.

3. Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp cocoa, baking powder and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk, butter and vanilla, stir until just combined. Scrape batter into a 9x9 metal baking pan coated with cooking spray.

4. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp cocoa and brown sugar, sprinkle mixture over top of batter. Carefully pour coffee over top. Do not stir in.

5. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until just set. (Do not overbake.) Let stand 10 minutes, top with whipped topping.

**I don't have a 9x9 metal baking pan. A ceramic one of about the size worked just fine. 






Whether you are experiencing spring or winter weather, enjoy your tea times!
All the best,
Nora

Bring your favorite teacup to the following parties:















Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Valentine Friendship Tea

Happy Valentine's Day!
I hope all of you had a weekend where you were able to celebrate something or someone you love!

Enjoying tea time with my friends is something I really cherish. Yesterday I invited some close friends from college over for Afternoon Tea.

For some reason this year, I was really excited to celebrate Valentine's Day. I finally finished the heart wreath I was making for the front door. Found the idea on pinterest.



I sent a proper paper invitation as I'm really tired of evites and started planning the menu. Since all invited are very health conscious, I ended up tweaking the menu a bit so the food was a tad bit healthier.
I was so excited to use some new tea ware and linens.





 One of my favorite things is setting the table. (The morning light was beautiful in person but not in photos.) I wanted to create a soft feminine look with pinks and a bit of red.



I chose a hydrangea for the centerpiece using a glass teapot as the vase. The small table runner features Valentine cards. I'm fanatic about candles and adore using them during all occasions.


Since I have only one true teacup trio, I married a Royal Patrician cup and saucer with a Royal Albert dessert dish. The other sets were Royal Patricians with Royal Albert dishes. I have very few pink or light colored teacups so I had just enough for everyone. 


I wanted to add a bit of a modern twist to the table for contrast. I found these red paisley napkins at World Market.


Menu

Traditional Raisin Scones
Stem Ginger Cake
(Downton Abbey product)

Grilled Chicken Breast Salad
with mandarin oranges, strawberries and almonds

(Recipe featured in Tea Time Magazine- March/April '16)



I was prepared to serve three different types of tea (one for each course), but everyone loved the White Christmas tea so much I served it the entire day. This is a white tea I purchased after enjoying it at Tea's Tearoom in Hillsboro, Oregon this summer. Perfect amount of sweetness! I must order more.

I finally used my set of tea strainers.



I became so caught up in conversation that I forgot to take photos of the salad and tartlets. I would use these same recipes again and but add a tablespoon of sugar to the tartlet recipe. The cream cheese and whipping cream base was not sweet enough in my opinion.




Certainly the best part of the day was after lunch, we brought the tea and tartlets outside and sat under the pergola. The weather was in the 70s and we chatted for three hours. My type of day!

The importance of quality conversation between friends is invaluable.

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte.
"That in itself is a wonderful thing."
E.B.White

                          from one of my favorite books: Charlotte's Web

Let's continue with the tea party at