A Thanksgiving Tea

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Do come in and get warm.  I’ve got just the thing for that chill!  Settle in and have a cup of my Harvest Blend Tea.  Can you taste the rich spices?  I’ve combined a favorite Chai (no longer available in stores, so I’m hording what I have) with a beloved Orange Pekoe.  I hope you like Beethoven.

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As we barrel towards the holidays, I want to pause and say Thank You to all my readers.  I appreciate each and every one of you!  In the States, we celebrate Thanksgiving at this time of year, remembering our heritage and counting our blessings.  Most gather for feasts and special times of fellowship with their families.

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As Oscar Wilde said, summer collapses into fall.  October and November seem like a blur to me.  2016 is going by faster than I’d like.  The past year has been one of loss for our family, but we still have so much to be thankful for.  I thank God for my children, our health, friends, family, our home, our country, and you, dear reader, along with countless other blessings we’ve received.

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So choose a chair, a cup, and a treat, or two! Please, do share some of the things your’re most thankful for.    

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I’ve pulled out all the stops with my fall décor for this tea. Utilizing ribbons, leaves, and ornaments found in discount stores, I adorned glass candle sticks, giving everything a festive air.  The unusual tea service, in fall colors, proved perfect for the occasion.  The candy corn and Indian corn candles remind me of my childhood (my dad always had bunches of Indian corn hanging from beams in his den!).  I purchased them in a specialty shop.  Store bought cookies, flavored with fruit and nuts, fit the theme nicely.

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Tips:

  • If you are short on time, spend your moments on the décor and purchase the food you’ll serve guests.img_2062resizedcrop
  • Use festive ribbon to tie florist picks, leaves, or themed ornaments to candlesticks, serving trays, or napkins.
  • Keep an eye out for bargains that you can use to amp up your décor.  I bought my themed candles while on a trip and transported them home!
  • Pick a tea or create your own (like I did) that matches the season.
  • It’s a busy time of year, so be considerate when scheduling your event.  Invite your friends well in advance.

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May each of you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A Bountiful Fall Tea

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In accordance with the above quote, I’ve made an extra strong brew this afternoon.  Do come in and enjoy a cup (or two) of Ginger Tea from TrueBrit.  It’s a blend of Ceylon and other black leaves mixed with ginger.  I find it delicious!  With the increase in temperatures, we’ll take our break on the porch.

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One of my children will soon be reading 1984 for his English class.  I got excited when I saw it on the required book list.  I’m wondering if it will have the same impact now that the year has long passed and a new generation of readers, unfamiliar with the Cold War, WWII, and largely protected from exposure to tyranny, has come along.  I read Orwell’s classic in high school, sometime around 1980, and found it powerful.  Do you have a favorite book that affected your own young perspective?

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I realize I’m rambling a bit, but has anyone else noticed that tea is just better in England, Orwell’s homeland?  I even prefer the Lipton there!  I returned from my travels this summer with oodles of tea.  That’s how I roll.  My souvenirs consist of tea leaves, tea bags, and a few sweets (those are better in England as well).  So, if you spot any in your local import store, don’t hesitate to indulge.  You might find yourself enjoying the best cuppa ever!  By the way, did you know George Orwell was the pen name of Englishman Eric Arthur Blair?  His sister ran a tea house for a time, and he also lived in India (both adding to his tea pedigree), as well as on the Isle of Jura, Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland.  He died young at age 46 of tuberculosis but lived an interesting life.  He spent time in Paris and Spain, where he was wounded fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

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I’ve kept our food simple today, utilizing cocktail cucumbers and pretzel rolls, along with fresh herbs.  Simple butter cookies complete the table.  I’ve mixed diced honey ham with two different flavors of cream cheese for the fillings.  Everything came together in a jiffy.

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Tips:

  • Keep an eye out for teas imported from England. img_2898resized You’ll want to give them a try.
  • A supply of store-bought butter cookies comes in handy when entertaining.
  • When weather permits, move your gathering outside.  Soon it will be too cold for the great outdoors.
  • Flavored cream cheeses are readily available and add a nice punch to sandwiches or crackers.
  • Check your local grocery for specialty breads.  The mini pretzel rolls I found proved perfect for small tea sandwiches and tasted delicious.
  • Use a melon baller to scoop out soft vegetables.  Stuff with your favorite filling.  Cocktail cucumbers are refreshing and tasty when filled with diced ham and herb-infused cream cheese.
  • Don’t be afraid to include fresh herbs.  They add a great taste to your creations.  Just watch the amount, so you don’t overpower any subtle flavors.

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Thank you for joining me, and do pop by again soon!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

My Favorite European Salon de Thé (Tea)

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I have an all-time favorite Salon de Thé (see September 12 blog, A European Tea Adventure).  No doubt, Angelina remains on the top of my list.  Explaining why isn’t so straightforward.  I really wanted to love Ladurée, another well-known tea room.  I had dreamed of enjoying a cup of tea and a pastry there for so long.  Don’t get me wrong, it proved a nice experience and the brew was excellent.  However, it just couldn’t compare to the Belle Époque café. The staff seemed friendlier at Angelina, the prices lower, and the cheerful ambience just couldn’t be beat.  And, after all, there is just something about being in Paris.  The other tea rooms in Italy and Switzerland didn’t stand a chance.

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To be honest, Angelina had an advantage.  I’d spent many a fall afternoon there twenty years before, savoring all of their delights.  montblancsizedA favorite among Parisians, the 100 plus year-old establishment greets guests like an old friend.  The café is best known for its thick African hot  chocolate and its Le Mont-Blanc, a scrumptious pastry made with meringue and chestnut cream.  For the first time visitor, I’d recommend either or.  In other words, don’t try to combine the hot chocolate and Mont-Blanc at once.  Go for Le Mont-Blanc and a cup of their signature tea.  Not a tea lover?  Sample the decadent hot chocolate.  Then come back the next day to experience a different confection.  If it’s a meal you’re after, anything on the menu will do.  Their salads, omelets, and sandwiches are all delicious, as is the bread and butter you’ll be served.

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The mercury had risen to a beastly hot temperature.  We’d spent the morning at the Louvre, just down the street.  I needed a boost and could think of nothing better than a visit to Angelina.  The café did not disappoint.  Little had changed since my last visit, except their china and the size of the crowd.  We had to wait in line, outside, for the first time—I’m guessing the price of being there in summer.  It was worth it!

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I grappled over which sweet to choose and went with an incredible creation called the Désirée—a combination of raspberry custard, cream puff, cookie, and I don’t know what.   It proved one of the best pastries I’ve ever had and the perfect accompaniment to my cup of tea.  I’m not ashamed to admit my eyes rolled back in my head and my lashes fluttered with each bite!

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Did I mention the salon’s beautiful decor?  The interior transports the customer to another time.  I can’t imagine a trip to Paris without a stop at Angelina.  I was thrilled to discover that it still charmed and refreshed guests, just as it did twenty years ago.

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Everyone seemed happy as they sipped their tea, chocolate, or coffee and indulged in a meal or dessert, and the mood proved catchy.  Families gathered at larger tables, engaging in pleasant conversation.  A grandfather bounced a baby on his knee, while a toddler strolled from chair to chair, smiling at aunts, uncles, and strangers.  A couple to my right, probably newlyweds, doted on each other while sharing their sweets.  My husband held my hand.

Our lovely waitress cheerfully chatted, encouraged, and served us.  She added to the fantastic, lively atmosphere.  I could have sat there for the rest of the day, blissfully observing the clientele and drinking cup after cup.

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There are fancier places to have tea and those more of the moment.  If I have to give one reason why Angelina is my favorite spot, it would be because the place is just so happy.   That’s right.  It’s a happy place, one of my happy places.

So, when you’re lucky enough to be in Paris, visit the Louvre or the Musée de l’Orangerie.  When your feet get tired and your eyes weaken, enjoy a stroll down the Rue de Rivoli, past posh shops and tony hotels.  Or, take a route through the Tuileries.  Just be sure you end up at 226 so you can experience what Parisians have enjoyed for over 100 years!  You can check out Angelina’s delightful web page and video here:  http://www.angelina-paris.fr/fr/

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

An Autumn Tea in the Library

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It’s that time of year again, my favorite season.  At some point after the kids go back to school, we experience the first signs of fall.  We get a day when the temperature dips into the high seventies and the sky becomes overcast.  We convince ourselves the seasons have changed and hope we’ll be in for some crisp weather.  Usually, the mercury sky rockets the next day and we consider heading to the mountains to experience true autumn.

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We were driving through our neighborhood on just such a day last week when we spotted a man high on a ladder, reaching for his second story eave.  “Look!  He thinks it’s winter and he’s putting up Christmas lights!” we laughed.  My husband cracks the same joke, several times, each year during September and October:  “When you see the Christmas decorations appear on the shelves at Wal-Mart, you know Halloween can’t be far behind.”

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I’ve convinced myself that fall is a state of mind.  With all the back-to-school hubbub, university visits, college applications and essays, not to mention cross country meets, team dinners, choir concerts, etcetera, I feel overwhelmed.  So, I’ve decided to crank up the air conditioner, play some Vivaldi on the stereo (am I dating myself by using the word stereo?), and enjoy tea in the library.  Remember the old board game where players guessed whodunit—Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the lead pipe?  Well, it’s sort of like that, except it’s Victoria, in the library, with a cup of Twinings pumpkin spice chai.

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Now, I don’t really have a library in my home, and the community book depots only allow one to bring in bottled water—so they’re out.  I do have overloaded bookshelves where tomes are stacked every which way, several layers deep.  But taking tea near these would ruin the illusion of peace and calm I’m trying to create.  Just looking at that mess brings on anxiety, and Heaven help me when I need to locate a specific title.

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No, I’ll pick a restful spot where everything’s in order, and I can sink into a comfy seat while I enjoy a quiet cup by myself.  I’ll shut the doors to the office and pretend the clutter and jumble doesn’t exist.  Ah, that’s better.

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I encourage you to find your own special little spot where you can relax with a book or just enjoy some stillness while sipping your favorite tea.  Be sure to use one of your best cups.  Even if you’ve only five minutes to spare, it can be a rejuvenating moment to pamper yourself and clear your head before you’re back at it again.

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

A European Tea Adventure

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I recently traveled through Europe.  While overseas, finding fabulous tea rooms became one of my goals.  To my surprise, I found Babington’s Tea Rooms near the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

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Venice boasts the oldest tea room in the world.  If you sit outside in la Piazza and enjoy the live music, that cuppa will cost you about fifty dollars, US!  If you’re on a budget, choose one of the tiny tables for two inside.

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In Switzerland, our quaint hotel served a simple, yet satisfying tea (I noted they had enthusiastic British tour groups coming and going).  The colorfully wrapped Swiss sugar cubes grabbed my attention, along with the charming view.

In Paris, I visited Angelina’s and Ladurée in the same day (time was limited)!  Okay, I shared a pastry at each with my companion, but we ordered our own individual pots of tea.  I’ll reveal my favorite tea room in a future blog.

 

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However, the big shocker became the plethora of coffee houses in London!  We found Starbucks, Café Nero, M&S Café, and Coffee Republic on numerous street corners.  Where were the tea rooms?

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True, I found lovely places to take tea in Bath and small villages.  What the major museums served  wasn’t too shabby either.  But, what about the rest of London?   On foot, we searched and finally settled for Café Concerto, near Trafalgar Square.  This is actually an Italian restaurant that offers tea.  I must say, they put on quite a spread and we left totally satisfied with our cream tea.

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Things change.  That’s a fact I rarely enjoy.  The last time I stayed in London, about twenty years ago, coffee shops did not populate the streets!  I have nothing against those little beans.  In fact, I drink a cup every morning—lovingly prepared by my husband.  It’s how I start my day.  Still, that caffeine-laden drink doesn’t produce the same effect as a cup of tea.  And I find little else nicer than partaking of a pot in the afternoon, or mid-morning for that matter.

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So, go on trendy coffee shops packed with hipsters, try to take over the world.  There will always be those of us who rely on that bastion of comfort and civility, nourishment and nicety, pampering and peace.  Tea, please!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

An Endless Summer Tea

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Please come on back, cool off in the shade and relax!  I’ve prepared something special today to counteract the weather.

While everyone else barrels towards fall, we are facing 100 degree temperatures and non-stop sunshine.  I’m not complaining.  I know plenty of folks would trade places with me in a minute.  I just happen to love all four seasons.  When my boys were small, I bought fake leaves and we played with them in the living room.  fall sizedWe threw them off the stairs, enjoyed watching as they drifted to the floor, and piled them on top of each other.  It’s a memory my children still talk about, even though we only did it once.  That’s how desperate I get for fall!

I had a busy summer, including a wonderful trip to Europe (more about my search for the perfect tea room in a future blog).  I received some disturbing news from a friend recently.  While I know sharing a cup of tea won’t solve anyone’s problems, it remains a good place to start.  A comforting cup, along with caring fellowship and maybe even a prayer request or two, might be just the ticket.

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My children still aren’t back to school, so now my days are spent in preparation for that milestone.  My oldest will be a senior in high school, which includes added responsibilities, transitions, and stress, both for him and his parents!  Tell me, how did you spend your vacation and what challenges do you see on the horizon?

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Let’s start with a taste of my grape slush. You’ll find it refreshing!

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Please settle in while I pour you a cup of my newfound (rediscovered) favorite tea, Lady Grey.  It’s not easy to find in the States, so I loaded up while in England.  I hope you’ll enjoy this bright, zesty brew with a hint of citrus.

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Enjoy a cold sandwich.  The mini squaw buns are filled with fresh pineapple and cream cheese, along with honey-cured ham slices.  Turkey breast, fresh spinach and cranberry jelly fill French bread wedges.  I’ve chilled some fresh fruit kabobs and baked pecan diamonds and coconut cookies.  What do you think of the flowers?  I love apricot roses!

Check out this adorable creamer and sugar bowl.  I got them as souvenirs when I visited the Queen Mary as a child, in Long Beach, California.

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 Tips:

  • Consider using old souvenirs and collectibles to brighten up your table. They’ll spur conversation among your guests!
  • Throw a lace cloth on your table. It will add a special touch to your gathering.
  • If it’s hot, chill as much of your food as possible. It will create a nice balance to the hot tea.
  • In warm weather, choose a lighter flavored brew, as opposed to a heavy, spicy flavor.
  • Keep barbeque skewers on hand from your local grocery for fruit kabobs. I cut the wooden spears in half with pruning shears to keep things dainty.
  • One can’t go wrong with a crisp blue and white color scheme — no matter the season.
  • Utilize interesting glassware, such as cordial stems, for bite-sized portions of custards, ices, etc.

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Recipes:

Grape Slush

This recipe is simple, yet requires some elbow grease.  Your family will love cooling off with the leftovers.  Make at least one day in advance.

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  • 1 large bottle concord grape juice
  • 1 bottle Squirt lemon lime soft drink

Carefully pour above ingredients into 12 x 9 inch, glass baking dish.  Cover and place in freezer.  Check every hour.  As soon as liquid begins to freeze, scrape with spoon.  Continue to scrape during freezing process until entire pan has slushy texture.  Cover until ready to serve.  Garnish with mint leaves and maraschino cherries.

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Thank you for joining my respite from a busy summer.  Do pop by again soon!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Independence Tea

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Hello!  Please come in and join me for a tea in celebration of Indedpence Day.  Yes, it’s hot outside.  But as long as we have a bit of shade, you will find our tea refreshing.  It’s been a while and I’d love to hear your news.  Are you planning a vacation this summer?  How about something special on the Fourth?
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While I was growing up, the 4th of July was one of our “big” holidays.  In other words, cousins, aunts and uncles gathered at our home for unlimited soft drinks (remember bottles of Strawberry, Grape, and Pineapple Crush?), watermelon, homemade ice cream (I, as the youngest, got to sit on the ice cream maker while others turned the crank), and a barbeque.  All of these things would have provided enough excitement, but my father added fireworks in the driveway after dark to complete our event.  To this day, some of my cousins count their memories of the 4th as their best childhood experiences.

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Now, fireworks are illegal in most areas of California, so we stick to viewing the professional shows.  We still do a barbeque and fill an ice chest with soda pop.  The drinks aren’t the once-a-year treat for my kids as they were for us, but I allow them to have as many as they want.  Gone is the large crowd of relatives, replaced by one or two relations.   But, we still have a roaring good time.

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I want to recapture some of that fun with this late afternoon Independence Tea.  In honor of our Founding Fathers, I’ve brewed a pot of blueberry blend from James Madison’s Montpelier, where I visited several years ago.  It smells and tastes wonderful!

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I hope you enjoy our miniature steak and goat cheese salads.  Mixed greens, sliced New York steak, chèvre, and pecans provide a delicious bite.  Cold, roasted red pepper soup with a hunk of cheese and chives will tickle your palate, while stuffed miniature heirloom tomatoes provide another colorful and tasty treat.

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In the spirit of summer, our sweet course includes rhubarb and strawberry jam stuffed lady fingers with raspberry cream cheese filling.

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Tips:

  • Find a shady spot, preferably where a light breeze flows, to serve tea.  Schedule the event later in the afternoon to avoid the day’s highest temperatures.  I chose a covered patio featuring a fountain.
  • Set aside steak from a prior barbeque for use in salad.  I just grilled an extra cut the night before.
  • Utilize a melon baller to remove the insides of mini-tomatoes.  Save the top of each tomato for garnish.  Beat cream cheese, cream, and fresh herbs together for filling, keeping in mind taste and consistency.
  • For cold red pepper soup, drain a bottle of roasted red bell peppers.  Place peppers in blender with a quarter cup of cream.  Blend.  Add more cream until desired consistency is reached.  I add a splash of hot sauce for an extra zing of flavor.  Pour into cups and add a hunk of soft, white cheese (I used chèvre).  Insert two, inch-and-a-half long chive pieces into cheese as garnish.  Serve.
  • I froze the lady fingers back in January and thawed them for this dessert.  If you cannot find lady fingers, you can always substitute sponge cake.  Spread with jam of your choice.  If desired, add mixture of cream cheese, marshmallow cream, and seedless raspberry jam.  Sandwich together and serve.
  • When enjoying hot tea in the summer, consider keeping the accompanying food cold.
  • Add a festive arrangement in sync with the occasion.

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Thank you for joining me. Please share your favorite Fourth of July or summer memory!
Happy 4th to you all!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

A Haiku Tea

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Welcome.  Come in and join me as I brew some tea!  I hope you’ve brought your favorite Haiku poem to share.

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A Haiku consists of three lines.  The beginning and ending verses each contain five moras (similar to syllables), while the middle has seven.  Sometimes this varies after translation, as Haiku poetry originated in Japan.  Kobayashi Issa, considered one of the greatest Haiku masters, penned this:  “Everything I touch, with tenderness alas, pricks like a bramble.”

I was delighted to discover the above Haiku by Shiki.  It reminded me of time spent with my beloved mother.  She grew up memorizing poetry in school–lots of poetry.  I think our modern education system misses the boat by not requiring this of today’s student.  She could recite poems of any length – right up through her eighties.   Some of her repertoire, like those verses passed down from her civil war era ancestors, has been lost to time, but most remains well known and familiar.  I grew up with the words of Dickinson, Coleridge, Wordsworth, etcetera, being spouted at opportune moments!

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What about the persimmons?  you ask.  There are two types of this fruit.  Don’t confuse the large, yellow or orange imposter, seasonally available in grocery stores, with what we had at home.  Our persimmons were harvested in late fall, after most of the leaves were gone from the trees, and baked into highly prized puddings.  There are even festivals dedicated to this wild, small brown delicacy.

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Three large, ancient trees stood on the edge of our garden.  Come fall, we’d lay plastic sheets down around their bases and let the wind do the work, collecting our prizes at the end of each day.  By the way, deer also loved this fruit and would always beat us to what hung from the lower limbs during the night.  If the fall breeze didn’t meet our quota, we’d throw sticks up into the high branches, knocking down more of the loose crop.  Not only did Mom bake delicious puddings, she froze the pulp in order to make persimmon ice cream.  I recently made my way up to the old garden but found that the trees were, unfortunately, no more.  I forgot that over thirty years had slipped by since those crisp autumn days when we collected the tiny treasures.

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Let’s get back to today’s tea.

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A few years ago, I enjoyed a meal in one of our local Chinese restaurants.  The place was a bit hoity toity, but had excellent tea.  I always order hot tea in these spots to accompany the food.  When I complemented the waitress, she was kind enough to give me a stash of tea bags to take with me!  IMG_3677crop sizedRevolution’s Citrus Spice Herbal Tea turned out to be the drink I so enjoyed.  I came home and brewed a cup.  Somehow, it didn’t provide the same experience as in the eatery.  That got me thinking.  The beverage I relished earlier that day came in a small, iron pot.  Could that make a difference?

Christmas rolled around and I let it be known I wanted an iron teapot.  My youngest boy chose one from World Market (see my blog Finding Your Happy Place) as his gift to me (such a sweetheart!).  A few days later, I put my new kettle to the test and, voilà, I had my perfect cup of tea!

 

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Today, I used my iron pot with a variety of loose leaves to brew our tea.  I utilized both the metal and a porcelain teapot for serving.  My brother gave me the floral set for Christmas when I was a young teenager, my very first real tea service.  I doubt he knew what he started when he chose that gift!  I still bring it out when we have Chinese food at home.

To make things easy, I purchased some sushi at a local store and added small squares of yellow cake for our sweets.

 

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   Let’s sit outside and enjoy the warm weather.  Do you have a favorite Haiku or any other poem you’d like to share?  Please do so!

This is my husband’s favorite Haiku:
“Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down”
-Anonymous

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Tips:

  • When using an iron pot, employ a trivet to protect your work surface from the heat.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different teas and pots to perfect your brew.
  • Ask guests to join in the fun by contributing their own favorite poem, story, etc.
  • If the weather is good, move your tea party outside.

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Recipes:

Mother’s Persimmon Pudding

2 Cups wild persimmon pulp                             1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Cups sugar                                                          Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                   1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs                                                                     2 Cups milk
2 Cups flour                                                           4 Tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 13 X 9 inch pan.  Combine pulp, sugar, baking soda, & eggs, mixing well.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, milk, & butter.  Stir.  Pour into pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.  Serve with whipping cream or ice cream.


Mother’s Easy Persimmon Ice Cream

1 Cup frozen wild persimmon pulp
Pet milk

Place frozen pulp in good, sturdy blender.  Cover with Pet milk & blend until consistency of soft-serve ice cream, adding additional milk as needed.  Serve immediately.  NOTE:  this makes a wonderful, smooth treat.  If you find the persimmons not sweet enough, add powdered sugar, to taste, before removing from blender.

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Thank you for coming!  I hope you enjoyed our time together.  If you have a favorite Haiku or other poem, don’t forget to leave it in the comment section.  I’d love to hear from you!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Cinco De Mayo For Mom

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Come in!  I think you’ll enjoy this unusual tea.

A friend recently gave me homemade tamales.  Along with the traditional pork, chicken, and beef, she included delicious pineapple tamales for dessert.  On the West Coast, it seems that everyone loves these treats, and I especially appreciate the work that goes into them.   So, I had to share this unique flavor.  With Mother’s Day approaching, how better to give my guests some local favor and honor the moms amongst us?

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Many people make tamales at Christmastime and present them as gifts to friends and neighbors.  Tamales consist of three parts:  the filling (usually meat, but sometimes raisins for dessert), masa (dough), and corn husks.  The dough, made with corn flour, is wrapped around the filling and baked in husks.  Families often craft them in an assembly line fashion with multiple members participating.

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I’m a gringo and that rare breed, a native Californian.   My first experience with this wonderful ethnic food came as a child.  Neighbors presented us with dozens of tamales, including the raisin-filled dessert variety, as a Christmas gift.  My mother warmed them in the oven, per the given instructions, and served them for dinner.  I’m not sure how it happened, maybe because I was the youngest in a large family and no one paid me much attention, but I ended up eating them with the husks on!  I didn’t know to remove the corn husks first.

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Years later, I returned to California for my first real job.  The holidays came around and people began discussing tamales.  I made the statement, “I like tamales, but eating those husks is just too hard.”  Needless to say, stunned coworkers responded with, “W-H-A-T?”  I reiterated my remark and received an education on how to eat tamales, amid whoops of laughter.

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When my friend delivered the pineapple variety, something completely new to me, I was thrilled.  I’ve added some whipped cream and sliced strawberries to spruce up the plates and brewed a mild pineapple tropical tea to enjoy with these south of the border indulgences.   I’ve thrown some Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass on the CD player to remind me of my youth and add to the fun atmosphere.

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Tips

  • Choose a color palette that will enhance your theme.
  • Flowers always add a fresh and lovely touch, especially when your table is scant.
  • When going an unorthodox route, choose a tea that compliments the food.
  • Remember to include music in your tea party. Don’t forget this important element when setting a mood!

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Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Cinco De Mayo, and don’t forget to remove the husks!
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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Finding Your Happy Place

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I’m not sure I agree completely with the quote above.  Let’s face it, trials can come at any hour.  However, I concur with the comfort and happiness statement.  So come in.  Let’s forget our troubles for the moment, enjoy the French café music playing, and discuss our happy places!

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I’m always telling people, “That looks like my happy place,” or “That’s one of my happy places!”  In all honesty, it doesn’t take much to make me glad.  A stroll through Sur La Table or World Market can do the trick, or a turn with a good book accompanied by a cup of piping hot tea and some quiet.  When we get a spring visit from an Oriole (they visit rarely and only in spring), or some of my flowers are in bloom, a window becomes my cheerful spot.

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I live in a congested area.  The freeways are all jammed and the side streets aren’t much better.  Just getting to the grocery store can be a chore.  Thus, a seaside cottage on a remote Scottish coast often becomes the spot I long for.  A girl can dream, right?  My husband claims it appeals to him, too.  But wait, there’s more!  What about Paris in the spring time — or anytime for that matter?  Oui, j’aime Paris!

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I’ve chosen a Parisian theme for our tea today.  I braved my crowded town for all these store-bought items — still quicker than homemade.

Take a gander and choose what appeals to you from the herbed cheeses, olives, date crackers, croissants, jams, chocolate covered figs, and marzipan.

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Choose a tea.  I’ll brew your preference in your individual pot.   Sit a spell and tell me about your very own happy places, real or imagined!

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Mix-and-match cups, plates, and small tea pots make a fun, casual table.

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Tips

  • When combining different patterns, be sure your colors mingle well together.  I like to keep at least one constant.  Here, my napkins and placemats match with a crisp blue stripe.
  • Creating a theme always adds some excitement.  My French cheese plates and Café Paris teapots create a Francophile atmosphere.
  • Consider utilizing dinner plates as chargers to lend a little drama to your tablescape if your main dishes are on the small side.
  • Pamper guests with individual tea pots and allow them to choose their own brew.  They may even stay long enough for a second pot!

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Thank you for visiting and be sure to let me know about your happy place in the comment section!

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COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED