Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ruby Red

For her worth is far above rubies...

Welcome to my first (and only) July post to celebrate the gemstone of the month (for a couple more hours at least)...the ruby!

Now I was thinking about what would be the best cup and saucer to set off my ruby and white topaz ring, and immediately thought of an old favorite--Old Country Roses.  But to spice it up a bit, I didn't go for a "normal" OCR...instead I pulled out my 25th anniversary OCR set...

The roses bloomed
An arbor filled
with deep ruby
fragrant yellows
and soft blushes
of pink petals.

accompanied by the OCR hat I made a couple of summers ago.

I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday, sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.
~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island.

(This is how I feel every time a find a lovely L.M. Montgomery quote--so many great childhood memories among the pages of her books!)

O For a garden of the olden time
 Where none but long-familiar flowers grow,
 Where pebbled paths go winding to and fro,
And honeysuckles over arbors climb!
There would I have sweet mignonette and thyme,
 With hollyhocks and dahlias all arow,
 The hyacinth inscribed with words of woe,
The small blue-bell that beats a dainty chime
For elfin ears; and daffodillies, too,
 The sleepy poppy, and the marigold,
 The peony with petals manifold,
And ragged-robins, pink and white and blue.
 All these and more I'd have, and back of all
 A thousand roses on a mossy wall!

~John Russell Hayes, An Old-Time Garden

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Roses and pearls

“After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”  

~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

And precious the tear as that rain from the sky,
Which turns into pearls as it falls in the sea.
~Thomas Moore

Wow, June has just flown by!  I figured it was now or never for June's gemstone of the month post guessed it...pearls!

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in--what more could he ask?"
A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”

~Inspired by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

A string of pearls is:
The simplicity and ease of begonias
but  the beauty of the capricious rose.
The pure white of  bone china
warming like a cup with tea
when pressed again skin.

When I was trying to think of what I was going to match with the pearls, I figured what would be better than my pretty new Royal Albert teacup with roses (June's flower of the month).  This is one of those very lucky finds when you are in a random antique store and you find a cup for only $5!  That is definitely within my budget :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hydrangea woodlawn parlor

I'm on year three of my potted hydrangeas--and this year they are looking extra big and beautiful!

I took them away from their normal spot on my portico, and set them out around back for picture taking purposes.  I think this is the first time I've set a tea in my backyard that was not on my deck, so you can see better the "woods."

Hydrangeas adorn
the little woodland garden –
a splendid parlor!

 ~Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉:  1644-94)

So here is my hydrangea parlor.  I'm sure you can tell the theme for this tea--blue for the lovely lacy hydrangeas!


 And here are closer (and somewhat artistic!) pictures of the sets I choose for today's tea:

Royal Albert's Caroline with blue forget me nots,

and Royal Albert's Inspiration.

And one last attempt at an artistic picture inspired by last night's bedtime tea, which had a great quote on the teabag tag:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods.
~Lord Byron

I'm so glad you could join me!  I'm linking to the following parties:

Monday, May 30, 2016

New Basement!

I meant to share this over the weekend, but better late than never!  I'll try and post this week's party tomorrow, but first I wanted to share my new finished basement.

First the large "rec room" area (i.e., where I had the Tour of Italy tea):

(By the way, the table is just a 6 foot folding plastic table.  With a long tablecloth, it isn't even that noticeable!)

My plan is to eventually put up a photo collage on a part of the wall for each country I've been too.  I'll have to do an update post when I'm done (or hold another basement tea!). 

As you can see, there are two doors to the left of the picture.  The door on the right is a bedroom/office:

(I know such exciting décor--two whole flower pots in the window!  The door in the corner is to the closet)

Next up we have the other door--the bathroom:

A closer picture of the glass tiles in the bathroom:

This bathroom is fancier than my master bath!

Finally, what is probably my favorite room, my storage closet room!

My Christmas and Halloween decorations are semi-organized!  There is room for some of my tea stuff too--I moved my tiered trays to their new home down here, so I also had the added bonus of organizing my kitchen cabinets to flow a bit better too! 

I even have room for more shelves! 

Just so you know, the floor isn't wood or laminate.  It is actually a vinyl flooring that I picked out because my parents have had some flooding problems in the past in their basement, and their vinyl floor always made clean up just a bit easier, so I thought vinyl would be a much safer option.  Doesn't it look like wood?  I am very happy with how it turned out.

Friday, May 27, 2016


Finally, on to the desserts! 

First up, tiramisu trifle!

These were so easy!  I just put them together the night before, and they were good to go!  I used the recipe here at Yummy Tummy.

Ladyfingers (I found some from Italy at Homegoods--the ones I got were not soft at all)
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups mascarpone
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups coffee (*see instructions below)
Cocoa for topping

1.  *The night before, boil 2 cups of water and add instant coffee (at least 2 tablespoons).  I used International House hazelnut flavored instant coffee.  I ended up using probably about 4 tablespoons to get it to the right flavor, so make sure to try it and see if it is too watery.Store in fridge.  (or make it the day making the dish, but let cool).   
(picture from internet)

2.  Beat cream until it is thick.  Set aside.

3.  Take mascarpone, powdered sugar, and 4 tablespoons of coffee and use a mixer to mix together.  Be careful!  Don't over beat the mascarpone, or it will turn lumpy (and gross).

4.  Fold in the whipped cream.

5.  Take whatever glass you are using (I used crystal teacups), and put a layer of cut up ladyfinger on the bottom.  Cover with a tablespoon or so of coffee (really enough coffee so that ladyfinger is completely covered).  Put a layer of cheese mixture on top.

6.  Repeat.

7.  Put in refrigerator and let sit overnight.

8.  Before you serve, cover with cocoa using a small sieve. 


Next and final recipe, Limoncello cupcakes. 

I found the recipe for these cupcakes here, and did not change anything about the cake, so I won't copy it again here.  I did have some problems with my bake time and they ended up a little dry, but I think that was my execution and not the cupcake, especially since these cupcakes had lemon pudding mix in them, so they should have been moist! 

I did change up the frosting so I will share it below.

White Chocolate Limoncello Icing
2 sticks softened butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted white chocolate (a good baking bar with real cocoa)
2 tablespoons Limoncello
1 teaspoon Lemon Extract
Some cream if needed.

1.  Beat butter until pale and creamy,
2.  Add other ingredients and beat to combine.  If need more liquid add a little bit of cream.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pane del Pescatore

We have arrived at the scones portion of the tea!  I based my recipe on one found in my Simply Scones book by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright called Scones a la Florence.  The book explains that these scones were "inspired by Pane del Pescatore (bread of the fisherman), a scone-like bread from Fornaio, a bakery off the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy." 

(Ponte Vecchio itself!)

After a little internet research, it seems like this dense cookie-like bread was traditionally sold to fisherman who were going out to sea, thus the name "fisherman's bread." 

Pane del Pescatore

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter
zest of 1 large lemon
zest from half of a medium sized orange
1 cup golden raisins
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water for glaze
sliced almonds

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.
3.  Cut in butter until resembles coarse crumbs.
4.  Whisk in zest and toss in raisins.
5.   Combine eggs, cream, and vanilla extract and add to mixture. Add extra cream a tablespoon at a time if needed to combine.
6.  Divide dough into roughly 12 round pieces.  Brush with egg yolk and top with almonds.
7.  Bake for 20 minutes.

I served these scones with faux clotted cream made with mascarpone (a soft Italian cheese, somewhat similar to a sweet and lighter textured cream cheese) and blood orange marmalade imported from Italy.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Italian Savories part 2: Primo

On to the cutest of the dishes I served (or at least I thought so) was spaghetti and meatball cupcakes! 

I found the recipe for these at a blog called By Stephanie Lynn, via pinterest.  I boiled the noodles (1/2 a box) the night before and added 2 tablespoons olive oil, then put it in a bowl in the refrigerator.  The morning of the party, I got out the noodles, mixed in marinara sauce and shredded parmesan cheese (a lot of cheese) to where the noodles looked well covered, then added 2 eggs (beaten).  After mixing everything together, I got out a normal sized cupcake tin and sprayed each well with butter flavored no-stick spray.  I used a fork to swirl noodles on and then place in each well, filling it pretty much to the top.  I then used the back of a spoon to put in an indentation for the meatball.  I then set them aside until right before the guests were due so that they would be warm.

They bake for 20 minutes at 350, so time budgeting was an issue.  I also microwaved the frozen meatballs I had bought based on the package directions and then added marinara sauce and microwaved a bit more, until the sauce was warm.  After the noodles were done, I picked them out of the well, and placed them in doubled cupcake liners (to adsorb some of the sauce and hopefully not show through).  Then topped each noodle cup with the meatball and a little bit of sauce (cheese too if you like, but I didn't think it was necessary--and I forgot.  I also put a LOT of cheese in with the noodles, so I probably had cheese covered).     

They had gone cold by the time I was ready to serve them (which I had been afraid of) but luckily they microwaved up fine.  I just stuck the serving place with them in the liners and everything in the microwave for a couple minutes, and they were good to go!  You could make them the night before and just microwave right before you plan on serving them, but I thought they didn't taste quite as good the next day, which is why I baked them the morning of the party (because normally I'm all about doing as much stuff ahead of time as possible).
I really lucked out with the white and red liners--I found them in the cheap bins near the front at Michaels.  They even had mustaches on the bottom! 
Check back in tomorrow for pane del pescatore!