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:

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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

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A Good Home, Art, Artesans, Artists, Authors, Birdfeeders, Birdhouses, Books, Handmade porducts

“The Blog Shop”: Great Gifts by Creative People

My blogging community is brimming with ultra-creative people.

They’re remarkable. They make beautiful things with their hands, hearts and minds.

Or support projects that help talented artisans to make a living.

Blog Photo - Lotus Wonders Clutch

So today I’m celebrating these creative types and highlighting some of their products/projects that would make great gifts for loved ones.

  1. LOTUS WONDERS, made by women in a Cambodian village, in partnership with other women in Canada.  Order products and read their story at: http://www.lotuswonders.com/collections/all

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Lotus Wonders Products

Thanks to consultant Stephanie MacKendrick,  former head of Canadian Women in Communications, for bringing Lotus Wonders to my attention.

   2. MICHAEL’S WOODCRAFT. Michael lives on a mountainside in S. Carolina. He carefully chooses the wood and makes each beautiful object himself: cutting boards, ice cream scoops, and other useful items.  

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Michaels birdseye-maple-cheese-boardgif

 Visit his blog and online shop at:  http://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com/shop/

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Michaels wood-cheese-boards

 3. JEAN LONG AND JESSICA CHARNOCK’S CREATIONS.  In their gorgeous log cabin east of Toronto, this couple is always creating beautiful objects.

The Log House - Photo by H. Grange
The Log House – Photo by H. Grange

Jessica hooks original wall-hangings using recycled wool, and makes large teddy bears using recycled fur. 

Blog Photo - The Red Barn copy

Grey Bear made of recycled Persian lamb

Jean works with wood. He creates large pieces of furniture and unusual birdhouses and feeders.  

See: https://cynthiasreyes.com/2014/01/11/youve-never-seen-birdhouses-like-jean-longs/ – or email: jenjes@mac.com

Blog Photo - Birdfeeder 2

4. SIMPLY SPLENDID VICTORIAN AFTERNOON TEAS by Marilyn Mirabelli. Check out the gift packages including the Tea and Cookie of the Month Club.

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Simply Splendid Tea and Book

http://www.splendidafternoonteas.com/services/TeaAndCookie.html

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Simply Spldendid Bespoke Tea Tray

 5. SARAH VERNON’S FIRST NIGHT DESIGN. Blogger Sarah produces beautiful art prints.

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Sarah Vernon Pears

See Sarah’s website at: http://www.firstnightdesign.co.uk/

Blog Photo - Great gifts Sarah Vernon 1

  6. BOOKS BY GIFTED AUTHORS:

  • MT McGUIRE’s award-winning K’Barthan Trilogy series isn’t just for young people. She’s a very good writer,  with a wicked sense of humour. Who else would write a trilogy made up four books?  For more about her new release and the series, visit her blog: http://mtmcguire.co.uk/

Blog Photo - KBarthan Trilogy 2

You can also read about MT at:  https://cynthiasreyes.com/2014/04/02/author-mt-mcguire-at-home/

  • SK NICHOLLS’ writing has also been highly praised. Her new novel, a roman-a-clef, is titled Red Clay and Roses. 

Blog Photo - Great Gifts SKNicolls

Visit her blog for more: http://redclayandroses1.wordpress.com/redclayandrose/

  • WHEN CONCHI BLOWS, by Omar Sheriffe Vernon El Halawani. It’s an interesting book, based on the author’s own interracial family history in Jamaica.  He died before the book was published, and asked that proceeds from it be used for a worthy cause.  His cousin Robert Vernon carried out his wishes.

Blog Photo - Great Gifts When Conchi Blows

http://www.amazon.ca/Conchi-Blows-Sheriffe-Vernon-Halawani/dp/1463712235/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1382PA7Z0Y7T30Z9AWZ3

Blog Photo - Great Gifts Tumbledowns cottage

 7. And, finally, from New Zealand, Quarter Acre Lifestyle has just launched their online store of handmade soaps and other products. I know this couple is still setting up some payment options, but thought I’d give their products a mention now. Visit:   http://www.tumbledowns.co.nz/for-sale
Blog Photo - Great gifts tumble downs1

As my blogger friend Gallivanta (whom I’ve never met in person) did for my book, A Good Home, I’m shining a little light on the good work of others.

**Dedicated to everyone who creates something, hoping that someone else will value it.**

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.

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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.

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Blog Photo - Mandeville view

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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.

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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