A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Friendship, Gardens

Wisdom, Foolishness and Joy

Once in a while, I do something wise.

Such was the case when I invited some friends from church to our home.

“Come to afternoon tea”, I said.  “On the verandah and in the garden.”

Blog Photo - Garden - Red Wiegela

Of course, the plan was immediately followed by a piece of brash foolishness.

“I’m doing it all myself,” I proudly told my husband.

Silence.

By myself, I had rarely entertained more than one person at a time, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“Okay,” he finally said.

Blog Photo - Garden - Begonias and Muskoka Chairs 23 006

~~

Carefully, I made a menu, a shopping list and a detailed schedule.

Checked them a million times.

Tidied up the verandah.

And prayed for good weather.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Verandah 1

~~

Daughter and son-in-law kindly took the list and went shopping.

My good man left me alone to get everything ready.

Then he phoned: “Shall I pick up a couple quiches?”

“No,” I said. “I have enough food.”

“Hmmm…” he said.

~~

The garden looked lovely.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea garden with hosta and tree

Flowers bloomed.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Pink Poppies

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea  Clematis Burgundy

Birds sang their welcome.

Blog Photo - Afternoon tea cardinal

~~

I took a deep breath.

Our guests were arriving.

My husband smoothly took over the greetings, drinks and garden tours.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Rev Claire and HG

In the kitchen, I smelled something delicious.

Quiches warming in the oven.

~~

I started out very well.

But before long,  our friends ordered me to rest. I wisely obeyed and everyone helped everyone else.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Group on Verandah1

Everything unfolded according to plan, prayer and an abundance of good sense (not mine).

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea guest in garden

Perfect weather for garden-touring.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Poppy deep pink

Happy and helpful guests and one very thoughtful husband.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Miss G and Me

There was also this frequent visitor.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Cardinal 2

And yes:  the quiches were a hit.

~~

It’s such a great blessing: having a caring church family to call our own.

For years we’d kept telling Claire, our priest: “We’d like to invite you and others to visit.”

But I simply hadn’t felt up to the task. So Claire wisely nudged us and last week, it finally happened.

~~

Blog Photo - afternoon Tea Group shot 1

Watching their happy faces made my husband and me happy.

We ended the party by saying ‘the grace’.

As we held hands and prayed, my cup ran over with joy.

~~

Great thanks to photographer Gundy Schloen.

Advertisements
A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Amaryllis in Bloom, Flowers, Re-blooming Amaryllis Bulbs

FLOWERS FOR MARILYN M.

For Marilyn Mirabelli, tea sommelier and blogger extraordinaire, these Amaryllis flowers:

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms CU1

My way of saying: welcome back!

Marilyn injured her foot last fall, and has steadily been working at her recovery.

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms CU2

Marilyn — you may recall — is the Canadian grande dame of tea and I was delighted that she read my book. Her tea company, Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas even created an apple cake in my honour.

Then, last summer, I fretted about an upcoming interview on national radio to everyone who would listen to my wimpy whining.

Marilyn knew that the interview would likely stir up very painful memories. She kindly offered to be nearby. And she created an afternoon tea party for the CBC Radio team and me after the interview. It was the perfect thing to do.

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms ECU

Marilyn: we have missed your posts about tea and tea lovers, as well as your comments on this blog.

These flowers are to say: we wish you a full return to both afternoon tea and blogging  — soon.

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms MCU1

p.s. The Amaryllis bulbs may re-bloom next winter, if I let the leaves grow after blooming, through the summer months. I stop watering in late August, let the leaves dry, then store the bulbs in a cool dark place for 3 months. Doesn’t always work, mind you, but these enormous flowers are great in the pot or a vase, and are an inexpensive jolt of colour in winter.

Blog Photo - Amaryllis Blooms in Vase

A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Authors, Book lovers, Books, Canadian Gardens, Canadian life, Canadians, Country Living, Gardens, Verandahs, Victorian Teas

A Cup of Comeuppance

I grew up in the tea-drinking capital of Jamaica.

Mandeville.

Mandeville was a mountain resort town. The air was cool, the sweaters were thick and some of the oldest homes were built with multiple fireplaces.

google images
This and the  next 3 pictures are via google images

It was a snobbish society back then, and more British than the British. The denizens of Mandeville included the titled, the somewhat aristocratic, and those who wished they were.

google images

Blog Photo - Mandeville view

google images
Bloomfield Great House, Mandeville

Afternoon Tea meant dressing up; cucumber sandwiches prepared by a servant; tea served from heirloom teapots into dainty cups.

I looked down my nose at these customs.

**

Fast forward a few decades, and I’m at home near Toronto, when a friend serves me my comeuppance. A cup of comeuppance, you could call it.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Garden

Marilyn Mirabelli, owner of Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas, catered an afternoon tea for my visitors. As you can imagine, Marilyn is passionate and knowledgeable about tea.

Guests included Shelagh Rogers, the celebrated and beloved host of the CBC’s author-interview program, The Next Chapter. Shelagh had read about our old house and garden in my book, A Good Home, and I was pleased to invite her and her colleagues Jacquie and Erin to visit.

Marilyn and Shelagh
Marilyn and Shelagh

We sat around the verandah table, drinking tea from colourful cups.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea pink cup and saucer

We enjoyed delicious freshly-baked scones, fruit preserves, Devon clotted cream, and smoked salmon.

The tea was called Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Teapot

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea in Pot

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Ladies

Marilyn regaled us with tea-tales.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Cup and Saucer 2

Contrary to popular belief, Marilyn said, it was Anna, Duchess of Bedford – a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria – who started the afternoon tea tradition.

Anna had dizzy spells in the afternoon, so the doctor prescribed tea with buttered bread. Soon, the other ladies-in-waiting joined Anna in her chamber for tea and toast. Queen Victoria liked the  ritual so much, she joined the tea party too.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea and Cup Ear

We also learned that a teacup handle is called an “ear”. Guess why?

Marilyn explained the markings on the bottom-side of our saucers, which give clues to the origins of each set. We eagerly held out our saucers to learn more.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Saucer markings

My husband dropped in to say hello. He said we were all grinning like girls at a tea party. Which I guess we were. Kinda.

Fact is, for one afternoon, I’d become a lady who does afternoon tea. 

Blog Photo - Afternoon Teacups

I imagined that my teenage self would have been horrified.

“But we’re not snobs!” I told her.  “And we don’t wear hats! And the teacups don’t match! And there are holes in the old chenille spread – – er, tablecloth!”

But she was not amused.

So I didn’t dare tell her that I could get to really like afternoon tea.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Shelagh and Cynthia in Garden

Just as long as the cups don’t match, the tablecloth has holes, no-one has a fancy title, and everyone knows how to giggle.

A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Cakes, Celebrations, Christmas, Christmas Tree Trimming, Entrepreneurs, Following your dreams, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Tea lovers, Tea Sandwiches, Victorian Teas

The Tea Lover

“Simply Splendid” 

As Christmas approaches, Marilyn Mirabelli is a very busy woman.

Marilyn, the person behind one of my favorite websites, has a tea catering company called Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas, you’ll find her filling clients’ orders and preparing  to cater afternoon teas for tree-trimming or other Christmas parties. Marilyn Mirabelli knows her tea. And, since 2004, she’s been living her dream of having a thriving tea business.

Tea Table by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas
Tea Table by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

As you’ll see on Marilyn’s website, she’s revived the afternoon tea in classic style:

A Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Tea unfolds with the well-appointed tea table: Crisp white tablecloth and tea napkins; china teapot and cups and saucers; freshly-made tea sandwiches that are trimmed and quartered, small cakes, biscuits, and of course, classic English scones with imported Devon double clotted cream. This is accompanied by the choicest loose leaf teas.”

Sandwich Tier - Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas
Sandwich Tier – Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Marilyn is also a talented writer who produces a series of high-quality, interesting stories on her website. It’s like having some tidbits of history with your afternoon tea, and enjoying it too! Here’s something I learned from Simply Splendid:

Queen Victoria made afternoon tea popular, very ‘it’. But she did not invent the tradition. That honour goes to Anna, Duchess of Bedford, a Lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and prone to fainting spells in the afternoons. The royal doctor was called; he diagnosed Anna’s fainting spells as hunger from the long stretch between lunch and supper and prescribed a cup of hot tea and buttered bread whenever a fainting spell was coming on.

Anna found this so agreeable, she invited other Ladies-in-waiting to join her. Pretty soon Queen Victoria cottoned on to a good idea and she asked for afternoon tea too. The rest as they say, is history!”

Cup of Tea by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas
Cup of Tea by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

As well as bits of history, you’ll find interviews with interesting personalities on the website.  It makes you realize that the person behind the site and the company is both extremely knowledgeable and passionate about afternoon tea.

But you won’t find a great deal about Marilyn herself on the website, so here’s a tidbit about her:

The former journalist and communications consultant says she read a book called Dreams Don’t Have An Expiry Date by Deanna Rosenswig in the early 2000’s and decided to start her tea business. She was determined that her cakes, sandwiches and other offerings would all be made to order from fresh ingredients and she’s kept that commitment. Her tea selections come from estates monitored by the Ethical Tea Partnership.

As the company’s fame  spreads, a wide variety of clients – individuals, families and corporate workplaces — have asked Marilyn to cater afternoon teas for special occasions. Former broadcaster/politician Isabel Bassett described the tea Simply Splendid prepared for her daughter’s baby shower as “exquisite… the guests are still talking about it.”

Tea and Cookies by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas
Tea and Cookies by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

I was raised in the tea-drinking capital of Jamaica – Manchester.  Afternoon tea wasn’t just a hot drink: it was an occasion, and for some, an almost-sacred ritual.   (See  “Afternoon Tea”, Ch. 10  in A Good Home.)  So I was thrilled when the Simply Splendid website chose A Good Home as its favorite book for the month of July.  It was a great boost – the book had only been released weeks before.

Then,  this autumn,  Simply Splendid gave me a delightful surprise when they created a special apple cake which they named Lady Cynthia Cake”.

Within days, friends, acquaintances and strangers alike were trying out the recipe, to oohs and aahs of delight.  The cake was served at an afternoon tea in Whitby, Ontario, where it was declared “delicious”. Then, a friend  invited me for tea in her home, and surprised me by serving the Lady Cynthia Cake she’d just made. Again, delicious.

Lady Cynthia Cake - Photo by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Tea
Lady Cynthia Cake – Photo by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Marilyn’s tea blends, cakes, sandwiches and other creations are, simply, splendid. Congrats on living your dream, Marilyn, and we wish you well.

For more information about gift packages, special tea blends or to book an afternoon tea –  do visit:  splendidafternoonteas.com

Tel: 416.658.5518  or email: marilyn@splendidafternoonteas.com