A Last Fruits of Summer Tea

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Come in!  Our summer travels are over, my oldest is safely ensconced in college, and I’m ready to celebrate this slower season with an Indian Summer Tea.  TeaCanSizedPlease, help yourself and tell me what you think of the berry trifle flavor.  Do you like Spode’s Blue Chintz pattern?  Unfortunately, it’s no longer in production.  To find old discontinued china patterns, check out Replacements Limited at http://www.replacements.com .  I especially enjoy perusing their Vintage Finds pages.

 

 

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My summer seems a blur and I cannot believe October is in full swing.  One of our sons graduated from high school, and from that point on, I cannot remember much!  Oh, the trip to the Midwest when we caravanned in three cars — that I recall.  If you’ve read my bio, you know I enjoy a good road trip.

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Keeping everyone together over hundreds of miles proved no easy task.  We had one speedster (my-soon-to-be college freshman), a moderate driver (my husband), and a slow moving lover of Route 66 (my brother).  The Mother Road fan took us on a detour through an ugly, industrial section of Flagstaff, Arizona.  Yes, Flagstaff has at least one unappealing area.  We were hungry and short tempered, but everything turned out all right in the end.

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Speaking of hunger, please sample the fresh herb tea sandwiches, strawberry rhubarb pie and chocolate dipped strawberries.  I grow my own herbs in pots just outside my kitchen, so these were a breeze to put together.  Have a seat and enjoy!

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We stayed a few days at the Grand Canyon.  Miraculously, a cabin at the Bright Angel Lodge became available.  I’ve visited the Canyon many times and it’s always spectacular.  Both my boys hiked down to Indian Gardens with my brother while my husband and I played on the rim.  Did you do anything special this summer?

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My tea stash has grown to epic proportions.  Part of the reason is that kind people keep giving me tea!  Not a bad problem to have, right?  I’ve discovered many ways to store these gifts.  Aside from stacking boxes in my pantry, I often utilize pretty ceramics — as long as they have an airtight rubber ring attached to the lid, like the ginger jars featured here.  These work well for loose leaf teas.

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If you’ve got a cool dry spot, a pretty glass chest like the one I found at World Market makes a lovely display case.  By the way, these items sold out quickly from my local store!

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Of course, the wooden chest (a present from a sweet friend) is still a wonderful solution for sealed bags such as these and also provides a smart way to offer your guests their choice of brew.  Pretty airtight tins also make a colorful storage option for your stash.  What do you think of this unique cabinet I spotted on the Facebook page of Tea with Charlotte & Lucy?  Is it a doll house or a place to keep tea accoutrement?  Either way, it’s adorable!

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Recipe:

Herb Tea Sandwiches

Several slices of bread, frozen
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
2 Tablespoons Fresh Herb of choice (I chose basil), chopped.  Watercress is also a great option.

Cut frozen bread into desired shapes with sharp knife or cookie cutter.  Set aside & allow to defrost in Ziploc bag.  Beat together cheese and cream.  Gently stir in herbs.  Spread on one side of bread shape.  Form sandwiches.  Serve.  Makes 12 tea sandwiches.  NOTE:  bread shapes can be prepared in advance as can herb spread, if refrigerated.  Assemble before your guests arrive.blogscan050REsized

 

Thank you for joining me.  May your transition from summer to fall be peaceful and glorious!

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COPYRIGHT 2017. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Tea and Elephants

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Hello! So glad you could pop by.  I’ve set our tea things in the foyer, and I’ve already poured everyone a cup.  So, come on in and find a comfy chair.  Is the weather dismal where you’re at or unseasonably warm?  It’s been crazy this year, hasn’t it?

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I don’t really believe the quote above, but it does sometimes seem plausible, especially if uttered from the back of an elephant — think the Carthaginian general, Hannibal.  Whether excited over a success or depressed regarding a bad experience, tea seems to help.  The phrase, “Let’s have a cup of tea,” can add to an impromptu celebratory gathering amongst friends, or bring a small dose of comfort when soothing a companion.   Teatime is also the perfect opportunity to share a few secrets.

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My husband and I had been married at least ten years when, over a cup of tea, I casually mentioned that I had ridden elephants.  At the time, it seemed an appropriate comment given the direction of our conversation.  He almost spewed a mouthful of hot liquid all over the table.  I didn’t realize most people hadn’t had the opportunity to ride one of the enormous creatures.  When I revealed that I’d been on camels too, well, he nearly fell over!

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Money was tight growing up. My parents, children of the Great Depression, believed in living frugally.  That being said, my mother was prescient enough to splurge when a golden opportunity arose, and I’m grateful for her wisdom.

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I could only have been about two or three years old when I first encountered an elephant up close and personal.  In the parking lot of a local grocery store, a man showed one off, along with a camel.  It goes without saying that government regulations then weren’t what they are now.   I don’t know what Mom paid, but I paired up with a young boy and rode the elephant, fed peanuts to the animal, and petted his trunk.  I will never forget the experience, especially what it felt like to move with the beast and have the pachyderm’s hose-like snout gently caress my hand and carefully remove the nuts.  He wasn’t threatening in the least, in spite of his size.

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Not long afterwards, it was my mum who informed me of the emotional nature of these magnificent creatures. When she was a child in Montreal, it seems a jealous one stomped a woman to death during a parade when its trainer stopped and paid a lady in the crowd too much attention — gruesome, I know, but true.

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Years later, after other fortunate meetings with more elephants, I attended Circus Vargas with a date. This wasn’t my first trip to the big top, either.  The man I went with insisted we ride on the elephant available for short forays around the grounds.  I wasn’t so excited about the prospect.  The animal was enormous — we had to climb atop a platform and walk a rickety plank to get on its back — and frankly, grumpy looking.  I think the fellow (my date) just wanted the chance to get up close and personal with me.  Everything turned out fine in the end.  We had a pleasant trip around the lot, and we broke up a short time later!

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When I recently read that Ringling Brothers was closing its tent, I felt terrible. I know there are those who dislike circuses, and I can respect their position.  Over the years, I’ve been to all kinds of these performances, ranging from the most famous operations to small boutique outfits.  I also will never forget when we took our own children to see Ringling Brothers.  My oldest, then about five, turned to me at intermission after confetti cannons had gone off raining thousands of bright paper strips down on the audience and said, “It’s just like a dream!”  He seemed in a wonderful, happy daze as he experienced the unique magic of a circus for the first time.

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Since then, I’ve since discovered many interesting facts and theories regarding elephants, who continue to hold a soft spot in my heart. Some of these are incorporated into my new book, The Pernicious Pachyderm, available now as a pre-order on Amazon (to be released March 25th).  The story also features a small circus.  I cannot believe this is the seventh novel in the Duncan Dewar series.  If you think you might enjoy reading about this unusual case, please click on the cover image below.

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How are you enjoying your tea?  Today, I chose to brew a simple, naturally decaffeinated blend, Red Rose.  Three bags make the perfect pot, steeping for just three to five minutes.  Do have two or three Swedish orange ginger snaps with your cuppa.

What do you think of these darling cups and saucers?  When I first spotted them, I immediately thought of my childhood.  They’re from British designer Cath Kidston (check out her webpage at http://www.cathkidston.com/).  While no teapot was available, I did manage to pick up the matching dessert plates.  I adore the pretty floral pattern, and the rickrack border made me think of days gone by.  So, I incorporated a quilt made from 1930s fabrics as my tablecloth.  I love the cheerful yellow!

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Thank you for coming.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our chat.  Have you had any unusual animal encounters?  Please share them in the comment section.  I’d love to hear your stories!

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It’s so grand,
The biggest thing to live on land!
Can use its trunk,
To smell and eat,
To rip off branches,
Taste so sweet!
A herbivore,
Eats trees and fruits,
Will not hunt meat,
But might like roots!
Flapping ears,
Like birdies wings,
Used for fans,
And hearing things!
Has a very,
Special nose,
Kind of like,
A garden’s hose…
Trunk holds water,
Like some sinks,
Sprays in mouth,
For cool, wet drinks!
And if you look,
Lined up in rows,
You see toenails,
But not its toes!
Elephants have,
Thick gray skin,
Both Asian and the African!
Two types exist,
Can walk at birth!
Biggest mammal,
Roaming Earth!
~Via Mr. R’s World of Math & Science http://sciencepoems.net/sciencepoems/elephantsbordersized2

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COPYRIGHT 2017. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED