Serious lack of pretty tea cups here

Well, I do miss Earl Grey tea. Not a single tea bag in sight, let alone a pretty cup.

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However, we found this lovely peppermint tea. Lagg’s…ever heard of it? I haven’t. It’s seriously yummy and minty.

I’m sorry but this sturdy, white restaurant cup is about the best I can manage this tea cup Tuesday. But the fruit is super sweet and yummy!

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This little female Brewer’s blackbird doesn’t care about my tea, as long as there’s some crumbs for her.

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But I guess…when in Mexico…these girls were waiting on their drink. They negotiated a price of $5 and two straws for…

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…this coconut! Must have been so fresh. I watched the fellow use his machete to chop the top off. I looked at the girls and they gave me a smile and said, “His fingers! We can’t watch!”. But his fingers were fine.

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But the three parrots, who love peanuts and shouting just outside the hotel, say…

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“Stop your whining about tea and go smell some plumeria…

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…and then have a pina colada…you’re in Mexico, you don’t drink tea in Mexico!” Lol, OK then. :D

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Sharing with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen.

Bit of a mixed up tea this Tuesday

I guess by now you all may have heard that Vancouver is under a bit of snow.

I KNOW! RIGHT!?! My poor little garden flowers…which might be made for the snow…but still.

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There really wasn’t anything to do about it but go shopping and have some tea.

Actually, I should have been working and Clover should have been studying for her midterm…but whatever. :D

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You all probably noticed that my child has been looking a bit blonder lately. She’s got that ombre thing happening, you know, where she looks like an alien with tin foil all over her hair and can listen to BBC Radio thru her teeth for 30 minutes, and now, the side effect of all that free broadcasting thru teeth, is that she looks completely washed out in my Chanel Coco Rouge lipstick, which she loves to nick for an evening out.

So high on C’s priority list was finding a red lipstick for evening which actually looks good on her. And for C, it has to be organic, cruelty free and affordable. So we did the lipstick run-around and when she was finished trying seventeen different shades and five different brands, she ended up looking very pink around her chin and cheeks from the Kleenex and lipstick smears.

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By the end of the lipstick adventure I was dying for a cup of tea and C was feeling starving so we stopped at a new cafe called Faubourg Paris Café and I ordered my Earl Gray and C a ham and cheese croissant.

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This is a lovely cafe with a patisserie where they make fabulous pastries, but the Mariage Freres Earl Gray tea they served was just way too weak and flavourless for me. And I did let it steep for a long time.

On the other hand, the cafe is lovely and bright and twinkly with loads of crystal drop chandeliers and pendant lamps, there is a gently projected movie on one wall and the chairs, with the Lucite centres and painted feathers, are lovely.

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So back at home, I still wanted my lovely, fragrant Earl Gray and so brewed myself a cup from my super secret, only for me stash of loose tea from Fortnum and Mason and I chose this sweet little cup to have it in.

I love this frosty rose from Royal Southerland and it seems like a fine homage to this ridiculous February snow.

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So I had my tea and C got into her sweats and her cue cards and I sat down at the kitchen table to think about my personal journal and see if I could come up with a page.

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You know, this page was so hard won. I loved the words “experimental genius” and tried to form a thought from among the other words on the page but it just wouldn’t come and wouldn’t come…and I’d been staring at it off and on for about a week now.

So I sat there and had a little meditation over the page and suddenly there the words were! Right there all along!

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The words say: “await the experimental genius in the magnificent fabric of the mind’s eye today”

I saw the experimental genius as swirling colours. Bold and bright colours, mixing and rushing in, taking over an empty space.

But I also saw the experimental genius as small and shy and quiet and softly moving in on silent wings, and you turn around and there he is. So suddenly I was painting an owl. A Little Owl. One of the smallest owls out there.

And then I dulled down the magnificent fabric with a little bit of soft, white tissue paper, a little imperfection, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously as artists. :D

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Sharing tea with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernedeen, and, just after I drive C to the uni to take her midterm, I’ll be around to catch up with everyone.

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Tea for Tuesday. Winter’s last Hurrah!

In one way, we are lucky here on the West Coast that we very rarely have a winter wonderland and our flowers come much sooner than anywhere else across the 49th parallel, but on the other hand, there’s all this rain!
I swear that some years it rains for most of the year.

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So when the rain actually stops and the sun comes out between the clouds, no matter how brief it is, we usually find the sunniest spots to hang out in and stay there a while.

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You really can’t blame us. :D

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This morning, C’s boyfriend Bryson texted from his hill-top university to tell her it’s snowing at his campus! What?

So in honour of our winter’s last hurrah, I chose to have tea in this sweet, little Royal Standard storybook cup.

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I was inspired to pick it because it is the only cup I have with winter blooming flowers on it.

Don’t you love winter blooming flowers? I’m always so impatient for winter aconites and snowdrops and iris stylosa and crocuses.

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Last year I lifted hundreds of snow drops from green spaces where people have dumped their garden waste and this year they are rewarding me with a beautiful display in the shade garden.

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So I will have my tea in the sunshine while it lasts and look at my beautiful book of macro snow flake photography, by Libbrecht and Rasmussen, (how do people do such wonderful things like photographing snow flakes?), and say “good bye winter; hello spring.”

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And then we will both get back to work.

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In the sunniest rooms of the house.

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Sharing with Terri and Martha and Sandy and Bernideen, and wishing you all a swift end to winter.

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Tea on Tuesday and reflections from the weekend

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We had some friends come for Sunday supper. It’s always so lovely, to catch up with friends.

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These days I’m thinking that spring can’t come too soon.

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Sunday morning, while I was shopping for groceries, I bought some tulips and daffodils to “spring the house up”. Later, I used my colourful and crazy Bopla plates on the table. Enough of the sombre winter hues.

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In the garden, the only fresh green is the ivy and the rosemary. I keep looking into the shade garden for signs of snowdrops and crocuses. They’re coming. :)

Today Chloe and her school mate Brianna had to work out a business proposal for a client and I offered to make us a big, sunny salad nicoise for lunch.

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As I was boiling the beans grown in Mexico and tearing up the hot-house grown lettuce and spinach, I thought back to our Sunday supper and tomatoes imported from California. It’ll be good to have some fresh greens growing in the cold frame and in my garden.

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To that end, I brought out some of my vintage gardening books while I had a cup of tea.

I chose this sweet, little Lady’s Slipper cup. Doesn’t it look so very sophisticated and exotic? It’s Merlin Ware by Royal Stafford china.

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And opened some of my books to the coldframe pages. My ancient coldframe needs a bit of repair because the wooden sides are rotting and I’m going to have to do that rather soon because I couldn’t resist buying some seeds from one of my favourite seed supplier, the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I suspect that veg and flowers seeds are probably the same from one supplier to the next, but you’ve got to love a company who hires artists to design the seed packets, don’t you?

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I was thinking that it would be lovely to grow a lady’s slipper orchid in the shade garden. There are seeds available on line actually. I wonder how hard that would be. I have seen some orchids in the forests around my cabin, but not this one.

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So I’m sitting here sipping some Lady Gray tea, (because which other tea would one have in a Lady’s Slipper cup?) and listening to a finch singing outside in the dreary, foggy coolness that is our last few days of January, and willing spring on.

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Oh, and I remembered that I promised a post of the new springed-up living room mantle. Post coming tomorrow then. :)

Sharing with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen.

Tea in Wallingford

Well, all the wind and rain has resulted in some localised flooding. I joked that now we live in The Lake District, because all the fields are lakes! The Thames and Windrush have resulted in some sewer and drainage problems in Northmoor and so what are we going to do?

This:
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We went for the day to a lovely market town about 23 miles away to have a mooch in the antique arcade and a bit of lunch.
The first thing I saw was the stall with this shelf. OMG! I loved everything on it! I loved the dog and the funny harlequin cat, that weird…thing in between, and I love the paintings. Wanted to buy it all. Ok, let’s just get something straight right now. I actually wanted to buy 75% of everything in the arcade…lol.

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But I wanted to have a look at some lovely tea also. What do we all think about the tiered plates/cup/thing? I kind of like it. The cup might hold some flowers while the plates hold the goodies. (Assuming the water doesn’t run out thru the hole.)

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You know, I really would love to learn how to carve wood because these funny ducks would be the first thing I’d carve. Love how they sit in this basket.

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Look at this! Here is an exquisite hand-painted Victorian tea service.

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And Robbie found a friend! This is Milo, the same name as one of our Vancouver cats and so we loved him right away. He was such a soft, foxy, friendly little thing.

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And then this! The next tea tray I make will have a friendly pig in the centre.

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After we had a good look around, we went to find a lovely spot for lunch. At first we thought about a pub, but then we found this lovely, friendly, yellow cafe called Catherine’s cafe, which had a great view of the arcade.

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We chose this little table upstairs in the tea rooms, with turquoise seats, flower pots and a reading angel. Catherine is a retired English teacher and has brought her classic book collection into the tea room for customers.

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I bet you’re all wondering what I bought. I wanted to buy absolutely everything, but I bought this little green hat pin and this lovely old Christmas bobble.

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AND ALL THIS EPHEMERA! Not sure how these things will end up being used, but it’ll be great.

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Thank you so much for this lovely day Robbie…PS. I’m going back for that painting. :)

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Sharing with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen.

Reflections and tea on this last day of 2013

I’m watching two blackbirds chasing each other in the garden. The tree where the bird feeders are hung has three blue tits and the garden robin on it waiting their turn. Tomorrow will be a new year for us all, but not for my birds. They will continue to live, to thrive, to survive, to grow.

Sometimes I think we should be more like the birds. Not set endings, beginnings, values on life.
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I made a cup of tea for myself in this little Victorian cup. It’s a little old, a little bit worn, and a little bit tired…but isn’t that true of us all? Aren’t we all a little bit old and worn and tired? Some of us might be tarnished and even cracked or broken.

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But then we learn and experience and grow. We grow and we bloom and we shine even if we are broken and tired and old.

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So our time goes by and we make another cup of tea and have the last mince pie and wave the old year goodbye and greet the new, and a new beginning so we can all grow and blossom.

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I wish you all a blessed and happy New Year dearest hearts. I’d like to leave you with some profound thought or some quote, but I keep staring at the sign in the pantry here in West Cottage. It belonged to Robert’s father and hung in his naturopathic surgery.

I wish you all focus and happiness and joy and growth for 2014. Thank you for being here for me, with me, holding my hand and supporting me in the things I do. I offer you my support and love whenever you need me. I’ll be there.

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With Terri and Martha and Sandi.

Doing my patriotic duty for Britain

Do you know what I found out today? One hundred and sixty five million cups of tea are consumed in Britain every day!!! And, I had five of those myself. :)

This morning I had my tea in one of my sweet little bird mugs hand painted by the artists at Aston Pottery.

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And this afternoon I made myself a cup of Earl Grey in the second of my very old Victorian tea cups.
(the first one is here)

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I love these old cups. I love the wonkiness of the saucer, and the pits and imperfections of the crockery and painted design. This is also one of the “drink it from the saucer cups.” I suppose these cups were every day, made for the plebs. They are some sort of crockery but not porcelain and were probably used a whole lot because it was every Englishman’s patriotic duty to drink tea rather than alcohol or coffee because tea supported British trade, the colonial plantations and the Empire. Amazing that they are not chipped or cracked. Obviously they were well loved.

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The best treatie to have with Earl Grey tea while doing my patriotic duty are Jaffa cakes. Do you know Jaffa cakes? Almost 100 yrs in production, they are the loveliest blend of cake, marmalade and chocolate. Oh, I have a funny story to tell you. When Chloe was about 9 yr old, she decided she didn’t like the taste of marmalade and ate the biscuit and chocolate part all the way around the marmalade centre and then, somehow, it became de rigueur to stick the left-over marmalade circle on your forehead and look very pathetic ever since. :D I know! No idea what that’s all about.

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Actually Jaffa cakes are really easy to make. I’ll find you a nice recipe.  And while I’m at it, I’m linking with Terri and Martha and Sandi. :)

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Here is BBC chef Simon Rimmer’s recipe:
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Ingredients
For the cakes
• 2 free-range eggs
• 50g/2oz caster sugar
• 50g/2oz plain flour, sieved
For the filling
• 1 x 135g/4¾oz packet orange jelly, chopped
• 1 tbsp orange marmalade
• 125ml/4½fl oz boiling water
• 200g/7oz good quality dark chocolate, minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids, broken into pieces

Preparation method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. For the cakes, bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl and beat continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale, fluffy and well combined.
3. Add the flour, beating continuously, until a thick, smooth batter forms.
4. Half-fill each well in a 12-hole muffin tin with the cake batter. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake the cakes for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown and cooked through (the cakes are cooked through when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.) Remove from the oven and set the cakes aside, still in their tray, until cool.
5. Meanwhile, for the filling, in a bowl, mix together the jelly, marmalade and boiling water until the jelly has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour the filling mixture into a shallow-sided baking tray or large dish to form a 1cm/½in layer of jelly. Set aside until completely cooled, then chill in the fridge until set.
6. When the jelly has set and the cakes have cooled, cut small discs from the layer of jelly, equal in diameter to the cakes. Sit one jelly disc on top of each cake.
7. Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate and stir until melted, smooth and glossy, then pour over the cakes. Set aside until the melted chocolate has cooled and set.

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A couple of days ago it snowed.
It was completely expected because the temperature was down to below something ridiculous for Vancouver and the upcoming snow was all anyone was talking about. It was on the news, on the radio, people were taking about it at the stores, neighbours, Chloe, my mother…snow plows were beign deployed, salt was being spread at an alarming rate, everyone was up in arms about the upcoming snow. Believe me, snow in town is a special thing because, after all I live on the West Wet Coast. And then it happened. I woke up to a centimetre of crystaly powdering over the garden and streets. It was so pretty. It was so perfect. It was as if overnight Christo and Martha Stewart got together and said, “Come on, you and me, let’s do this!” :)

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Yesterday I drove down the hill to pick up C from her work and to run a few errands and then, drove back up the hill again. It was only about 4:30pm but by that time the ground began to freeze and pulling my heavy 4runner up the steep grade made the front wheels dance like crazy from the pushing of the back wheels. Robert said that perhaps I should have engaged the four wheel drive and I said it wasn’t that bad. He said, “what do you consider ‘that bad’?” I said, “when it scares me…this was fun…a challenge.” He said, “what are you like?” :D (By the time I got home mom had already called 17 times because she was convinced I had spun off the road and was dead in some ditch in Richmond. I’m telling you, we Vancouverites take our snow seriously.)

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But mainly Vancouverites know better and tend to stay off the roads till everything melts, which is usually the very next day, so C and I decided to stay at home this afternoon and have tea and decorate the gingerbread cookies we baked.

Don’t you love the smell of gingerbread?

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We had our tea in these very special cups C bought recently. They are designed by Parisian artist Florence Balducci. She fell in love with them at Anthropologie and, when they were in the sale section, and it was Black Friday, and she just happened to be there to have supper with her father…well, what do you call it when everything comes together? The Bermuda triangle. But don’t you love them as much as gingerbread? There are birds on the cup. There’s a pheasant, a magpie and a woodpecker and an owl on the inside saying “me too”, and a fox wraps herself around the bottom of the cup from the plate.

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So we sat and drank some tea and watched this insane video of crazy winter driving, and decorated snowflakes and snowmen and raindeer and moose and gingerbread men and candles and Christmas trees and maples leaves, and sprinkled sugar and dragee balls and coconut flakes on our cookies, and now we have plenty of beautiful, fragrant cookies for everyone on our lists.

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It’s a good thing too because I’m off to England tomorrow. C is staying here though :( but we will speak every day. (Shh…Please don’t tell C that she’s 21 and actually doesn’t HAVE to call me every day; she hasn’t figured that out yet.) Also, because it’s so much work to get the Vancouver house arranged before I leave and to get everything sorted for my flight, I might not be able to visit my tea lovelies for a couple of days…but I’ll try to do my best.

Linking with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen and Kathy and also Kathe with an e :)

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Hot chocolate for this Tuesday

I had this vision of gathering some branches and hanging some origami shapes from them and placing them on the mantle, so I invited C to make some origami with me. The only trouble is I wanted to use some old music sheets for this, but boy is that paper tough to fold.

We decided to try for some simple rabbits.

Epic fail bunnies…lol! :D :D

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We decided that what we needed was some hot chocolate.

Now there is a Barista in my kitchen, a wonderful gift years ago from my children, and that Barista rarely gets used as I really don’t drink coffee. But it’s a dynamite way to steam milk! So I took it apart and cleaned out the dust, the dead moth and the spider’s web, filled the chamber with fresh water and steamed up some lovely hot chocolate; Sbux peppermint hot chocolate for C and Maxim’s for me.

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We poured our hot chocolate into my French Cafe au Lait bowls. These poor bowls don’t get much service since I bought them in Paris years ago, and it’s lovely to get them out once in a while.

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I threw a small handwoven cloth on the ground and we reevaluated our bunnies.

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Chloe ran to the studio and brought down some real origami paper and folded the sweetest little fox! See? Everything’s better with chocolate!

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Next she used the epic fail bunny note paper and folded a larger fox. (And look who found a lap)

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Maybe my vision of lovely origami shapes hanging from branches might come true…stay tuned. :)

Sharing with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen,  and wishing all my American friends a happy Thanksgiving. :)

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Tea cup Tuesday with a friend

Here is a treat for C and me, we had my friend Diane drop in for tea with us and, because she’s a reader of my blog, she kindly agreed to having my camera in her face for a while and I photographed our lovely elevensies for tea cup Tuesday.

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So since I declared it winter yesterday, I wanted to bring out some of the wintery cups and chose these little cups for today. They are made in the former USSR and have that mark plus the county Vladivostok printed on the bottom. Interesting.

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Here’s Diane holding one of the cups. I’m not even sure where these came from, but am fascinated by the rich history of tea in Russia.

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Water for tea was boiled in samovars all the long winter and people would gather around it to make their tea. I think I’d love to have one of the old kettles and turn it into a modern day use for my morning tea.

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I guess no mater where home is the temptation to gather in the kitchen on winters is the same. Speaking of temptation, suddenly there was a big white paw reached up and over the edge of the table. And then that was it. Morgan decided she was missing out on the tea and conversation and jumped into C’s lap.

And made herself at home. :)

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Diane asked me about my smuggled San Franciscan jade plant, and I was happy to report it’s sending out some lovely roots and doing extremely well.

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So we chatted and drank our tea…

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And had some yummy sweeties.

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But before you know it, two hours had gone by and it was time for Diane to get on with her day. It was lovely catching up after a few months and finding out what’s new with my friend. Now we’re determined to get together more often. :)

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Sharing with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernideen and Kathy, and looking forward to catching up with all my tea time friends.