Holiday Cheer Tea – A Downton Abbey Ltd. Edition

Since the new Downton Abbey movie was released this past weekend, I thought this would be a good time to review a limited edition tea that was gifted to me a couple of years ago. While it was made by The Republic of Tea it was purchased at TJMaxx. Sadly the tea is not showing as a current offering on The Republic’s website, BUT they are showing a Christmas themed tea that you’ll probably want to snag before it’s gone. I’d be surprised if it isn’t just as good as the one that I’m sharing with you today. They’re also offering free shipping on U.S. orders over $25. That makes it a great time to get your Christmas shopping done for those tea drinkers on your list, which includes yourself of course.
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The Holiday Cheer tea of Christmas’s Past is a caffeine-free red rooibos with natural vanilla and cinnamon flavours. While I did not add milk to this tea, it is said, according to the description on the canister, to be lovely when added. The smell that emanates from the container when opened gives you a slight hint at the treat in store for you. Once steeped, it does not fail to deliver a lovely rich flavour that can be savored not only at Christmas time but all year long. The balance of cinnamon and vanilla is just right with neither overwhelming the other. I did add honey to my tea and greatly enjoyed it after a long day. A day when I welcomed cheer of any kind be it holiday or otherwise.

The only other Downton tea that I have on hand is the Bates Brambleberry tea. It is another good choice for those who enjoy a bit of tang with their tea. It’s not too tart but not sweet either. Great for those times when you need to add a little zing to your day without overwhelming your tastebuds.

NOTE: Non of the links given are affiliate links. They are given for the ease of use only.

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Christmas Tea by Darvilles of Windsor

It’s time for another tea review! So far, I’ve given you positive reviews about Christmas tea blends that I’ve enjoyed. Now, however, I am going to give you a review of one that I did not enjoy. It’s only fair that I give you the opposite side of the spectrum since life in general is not always rosy.
Pic-Darvilles Christmas Tea
When searching for Christmas teas a few years ago, I ran across this brand on one of my favorite sites for ordering tea, teadog.com. I decided to give it a try since the description said it was “a very special blend of tea to celebrate Christmas.” At that time, there was one review on the site that said it was “heavenly” and figuring out how to make it last through the year would be a challenge for that buyer. Sounded like a positive endorsement to me so I was all for giving it a try.

It took a couple of seasons of watching the site before I managed to secure a box of this tea since Christmas blends are often made in smaller quantities. I guess some tea vendors think that we who enjoy drinking tea only want to drink Christmas blends around the holidays. How wrong they are, at least where I’m concerned anyhow. Finally my vigil paid off and a box of this tea found its way into my home.

Getting a box of tea selections in the mail is always exciting, and I couldn’t wait to make my first cup of the long-waited for Christmas Tea from Darvilles. I read the information on the side of the box and was thrilled to see that I would soon be enjoying “An irresistible blend of fine black teas flavoured with warming winter spices, orange and cinnamon, creating a truly festive experience.” I’m all for festive experiences and since I like spiced teas and orange flavoured teas I thought this would be a winner.

When I opened the foil packaging inside the box, I was greeted with a mild aroma of spices. Even thought it wasn’t a strong aroma, I thought, “So far, so good.” Once the tea had been steeped, however, I no longer smelled the expected aroma. The first sip took me by surprise. What I was expecting and what I tasted were two totally different things. There was very little spiciness at all. Talk about a let down.

Never let it be said that I give up easily. I decided to try the tea a second time just in case I had done something wrong in making it the first time. I reread the instructions on the box and on the second go-around I didn’t bring the water to a full boil, steeping the tea for less time than the first try. While it was a little better the second go around, it still did not live up to my expectations of a spicy, warm flavoured Christmas tea. In other words, no festive experience for me.

What went wrong? Maybe it’s just my taste buds. Or, maybe the fact that the blend is 98% black tea and 2% spiced orange flavour is the answer to why this blend did not wow me. Needless to say I still have the box of Darvilles Christmas Tea sitting on my shelf even though the “best by” date came and went almost two years ago now. I hate throwing away tea, unless it’s really bad, and this wasn’t a bad tea. It just wasn’t what I had expected it to be. I had thought of throwing one of the teabags in with another spicy tea that I do enjoy to see if it toned down the very powerful taste of cinnamon. A bit of experimentation might be just what this tea needs in order to jazz it up and insure that it doesn’t go to waste. After all, experimentation is the spice of life…right?

NOTE: There are no affiliate links in this post. Links given are for ease of use only.

Photo credit: Teadog.com

Holiday Tea by Harney & Sons

It’s July 25. I know, I’m stating the obvious here, but that means that today is the day I talk about another Christmas tea that I enjoyed this past season. It also means that Christmas is now only five, yes, only five, more months away. That’s not long at all if you stop and think how quickly the first five months went by. As if we needed a reminder, the last couple of days have been pleasantly cooler here than normal for the end of July in the south. Ahhh, if only all of summer could be like that.

The tea I’d like to share with you today is Holiday Tea by Harney & Sons. I discovered this tea a few years back when it was on sale after WP-Pic-Holiday TeaChristmas at Barnes & Noble. At that time, I wasn’t as adventuresome where tea was concerned as I am now, so being able to try a tea that was marked 50% off and use my membership discount as well seemed a safe enough way to try something different. All it took was one cup, and I was hooked. Needless to say, I went back to Barnes & Noble as soon as I could to buy more. That’s not as easy for me as it might be for some folks either. The closest Barnes & Noble to us is in Huntsville, AL. We’re talking about an hour drive one way just to buy this new-to-me tea. That should give you a better idea of how much I liked it. It reminded me a bit of spiced cider without the whang that spiced cider has because of the juices used to make it. Holiday Tea is a black tea which has citrus, red safflowers, vanilla flavour, almond, clove, and cinnamon. The tin contains 30 sachets. This tea is part of their Historic Royal Palaces group. You can read more about that on their site. One of the plus factors with this tea is that you can buy it year round! No need to wait for Christmas displays to be set up at the bookstore. Just order directly from Harney & Sons and start enjoying this spiced tea within the week.

July is the month that many businesses use to get your attention by focusing on Christmas in hopes of boosting their bottom line during the summer sales slump. I thought I’d follow their lead and share with you a special item that I bought myself for Christmas last year. Actually, since Rick’s not much of a shopper I bought it so that he could give it to me and I’d be extremely pleased with “his” choice. I know, what a good and helpful wife I am…

Because I was in need of some replacement teas from Harney & Sons just before Christmas, I sat down one evening and took advantage of that need, coupled with a coupon that I’d received from them via e-mail. As I was looking through their treasures, I came upon a listing for a 12 Days of Christmas gift set. Now, we celebrate Christmas over a 12 day timeframe, so this sounded interesting. You can read about that here. After reading through the list of teas that were included, I was thrilled to see that it contained four of the ones that I needed to replenish and a fifth one that I enjoy drinking. Perfect! I could kill two birds with one stone. The bonus was that the tins were in three 16AAA03F-0C25-494C-B590-1B0513566579different colours, each sporting a different wintery design, and better still, the set was marked down. That made each tin of tea a real bargain. The fact that there were also some that I’d never tried appealed to my now adventuresome side which is still almost always tempered with caution. Since the set was reduced, and I was allowed to use my coupon, I knew I wouldn’t feel too badly if I tried a new variety and determined it wasn’t to my liking.

When the box arrived I decided to actually wait for Christmas before opening it. Oh, yes. That took a lot of willpower believe you me. I also decided that it would 6B3B6848-C6D5-42D1-BDAC-A1B165684212go with me to Fort Morgan, AL for my winter vacation. Since it was so nicely packed into a lovely presentation box which came protected in a sturdy cardboard box I knew it would travel well and arrive undamaged. I must admit that while I was thrilled with the set there was a bit of a let down when I opened the box and found that the lovely wintery designs on the tins weren’t actually printed on the container but were labels that had been placed on plain silver tins. I guess I was so excited with my great find that I didn’t look at the photo on their website very closely. If it was mentioned in the description that the tins only had printed labels I didn’t notice that either. As a tin collector I’d much rather have had the design printed on the tin, but I realize that those tins aren’t cheap, especially if they only offer a limited number of sets which means they wouldn’t be buying in huge quantities to get the price per tin lower. No matter. It was just one little glitch in an otherwise lovely box of teas.

The reason that I’m sharing about the gift set with you today is in hopes of giving you a heads-up so you can be on the lookout over the next few months in the event that Harney & Sons offer this gift set again this year. I have no idea just when it appeared on their sight last year, but I believe I ordered it in November. You might want to check from time to time so you don’t miss it. I’m guessing that this might be a limited selection item too. Even if you don’t like all the teas that are included you can use the ones you know you won’t drink as inexpensive, but impressive, gifts for some of those hard-to-buy-for folks on your Christmas list. Or, maybe you have a friend who loves trying new teas. Any one of the ones I received would be a welcomed addition to her, or his, tea stash. Find a nice basket in which to place the tin of tea, a winter themed mug, some cookies, preferably homemade with recipe written out, and maybe a mug rug. That would be one nice gift that would make anyone’s Christmas merry and bright…not to mention flavourful.

Beating the Blahs

Over the past 15 years of owning this shop, I’ve had several ladies visit during the summer months looking for something to inspire them. Why? Because they have what we’ve come to recognize as the Summertime Creativity Blahs (SCBs for short). Now you might be thinking that that’s kind of an odd malady to have in the summertime when there’s so much to do and so much daylight in which to do it. However, it’s a true enough ailment caused by, in my opinion, the lack of a need for curling up under a cozy quilt, unless you’ve set your AC thermostat to zero. Pair that with the (laughable) idea that the gift giving season is still quite a ways off in the future, or so we kid ourselves into believing. As a result, the ailing creative mind cannot find anything they really want to do. Worse yet, if they do find a somewhat tempting project, finding the motivation to do it is just as difficult if not nigh impossible.

“Is there a cure!?” I hear you asking. I think there is. Yes, there just may be a glimmer of hope in the event that you too find yourself affected by the SCBs. It’s a great solution because it won’t cost you a penny (at least not up front and maybe not at all depending on your stash), and you don’t even have to leave your house in order to partake of this treatment which should thereby put an end to your ailing creative spirit.

I’m sure I’ve realized the advantage of this cure in the past, but, memory being what it is, I’d forgotten all its beneficial aspects. I rediscovered it while trying, somewhat in vain I’m afraid, to organize and clean up a room that we’ve decided to turn into our upstairs den since our downstairs den is still full of fabric. To do this task I had to move a LOT of quilting books as well as a few cross-stitch books and even several books on heirloom sewing. Yes, I love it all!

Once upon a time long, long ago, I’d started making a list of the books which I’ve kept on hand, usually with the initial idea of using one of these books to start a BOM or some such monthly offering. More often then not though I’d set the book aside when the next interesting book came along and start the dreaming process all over again. I hate to admit it, but I tend to do more creating via day dreaming than through actual stitching. Because of that flaw in my character, I have accumulated a ton of books, yes, I mean that literally, over the course of my creative life, most of which preceded the shop.

While going through the books that have been stacked hither and yon in that aforementioned room, I started not only noting the titles, authors, copyright date, etc. but also the projects that were contained within. My original intent was to weed out the books that only had one or two projects/ideas that I thought I’d ever actually execute and rid myself of them. Needless to say, the only books that were weeded out were duplicate ones that I’d brought upstairs with me from the shop a second time because I’d forgotten there was already one up there in a stack. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many duplicates as there needed to be in order for me to trim down the number of books on hand upstairs. Going through the ones downstairs will have to wait for another century.

It didn’t take long for this method to work its magic. By looking through the books to determine their “keeper” status I ended up wanting to do almost everything I looked at. I can only chalk that desire up to a couple of reasons. One, it’s been quite a while since I’ve done any serious sewing/creating, and two, because of my eclectic taste I’m attracted to a wide variety of projects. I’d have to get up before the crack of dawn, start working on a project and not stop until midnight, if then, in order to complete even a fraction of the projects and ideas for projects that I’ve collected with intentions of making. Surely I’m not the only person out there with this affliction, a hope that I’m sure all the book companies and pattern makers are banking on. Oh, yes…patterns… There were a lot of those upstairs as well and I even went through quite a few of those while sorting out and cataloging my books. No, there’ll never be enough hours in the day or enough days in one life to accomplish what my foolish mind tells me I can accomplish. As usual, my intentions are much greater than my accomplishments.

After looking through a multitude of books, I was pumped to get going on projects. I was squirming in my seat! I had to force myself to finish adding the books in front of me to those already in the list. I wanted to run downstairs and start pulling out bits and pieces of fabric right then and there. Then I reminded myself that I already have at least three projects going in various states of progress. The actual number in progress is much larger of course, but those three are the only ones whose location I’m sure of at the moment. So, my common sense told me that I should focus on those projects first. But there’s something about starting something fresh and new that’s always more intriguing and invigorating than finishing something started long ago (and I won’t even mention how long ago on a couple of those three projects lest you think I’m a real dud).

The moral of this story is this. If you find yourself sparkless where creating goes, grab yourself a stack of books or patterns that you have on hand, make yourself a nice cup of tea, or coffee if you prefer, prop your feet up and start looking through said inspirational triggers. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying, “I like that a lot, but I think I’d do this to it instead.” Or, “I think I’d rather do it in these fabrics instead of those.” Or my personal bent is to say, “I think I’ll make that in a smaller size.” Before long you’ll have half a dozen, or more, new projects on your to-do list. Mag-BHG Christmas Qlts n More 2018 Flags Personally, I don’t make a list, but I do flag projects that catch my eye with colored sticky flags. I buy these at Dollar Tree, 500 flags for $1, in eight different colours. The flags tell me that a particular book or magazine (something else I have too many of) has something inside that I’m interested in doing. When I see those flags sticking out the side of a book or magazine, they also remind me that I need to get on the stick if I’m going to make even the slightest ripple in this sea of creativity with which we are so generously surrounded.

Christmas Night from English Tea Shop

This past Christmas season I decided to try some new Christmas teas. While we were back home visiting for Christmas, I had the opportunity to go to TJMaxx with the excuse that I needed just a couple more items to complete my shopping list. That was true by the way, but as I looked for just the right items I ran across this organic tea in its clip-on lidded canister. Sadly, the graphics are only paper, but that might make DDD15282-C013-4A49-BD45-A623F6DC18E5them easier to remove once all the tea is gone, leaving me with the perfect container for another of my loose leaf teas.

According to the description on the front, this particular blend is said to be “bursting with festive cheer” having black tea that has been combined with cinnamon, ginger, and caramel. The back of the label adds to that cocoa, cloves, licorice, and vanilla pods, all of which are organic.

This loose leaf tea has a lovely subtle scent before steeping and an equally subtle aroma when poured into your cup. I add a generous dollop of honey to my tea, so the D914658D-DA82-4F64-9CA2-5307D0130ECBflavour I enjoy might be a bit diffent when a different sweetener, or no sweetener at all, is added. What I enjoy once the tea has steeped is thoughts of a winter evening sitting by a warm fire while having my feet and legs wrapped up in a flannel-backed quilt. No one spice overpowers another, although you can sometimes feel a bite of the cinnamon at the back of your tongue just before swallowing. Best of all, at least for me, is that the taste of licorice is not noticeable at all.

I looked on the English Tea Shop’s website to see if this tea is still available. It shows up under their seasonal offerings in the 3.5 oz. (100g) clip tin like mine. Their site shows that they sell on Amazon, a site from which I never purchase. I’ll just have to look again at TJMaxx, Homegoods, or Marshall’s when I need more of this tea and cross my fingers that they’ll have it. I will definitely buy more when I run out, probably beforehand actually if I can, as I’d rather not be without this option come tea drinking time.

The cup you see here is from the Winter Greetings collection by Lenox. 1DBFA776-56A8-4FB8-AEA6-4E3DBB9C26D1 I’ve been fortunate enough to have added to my collection this year and can’t wait to set a table this upcoming season with this beautiful china. Speaking of the upcoming season, we’re now only six months away from Christmas Day. Hope you’ve been cracking along on your gift-giving projects because the year is half over. If not, get going!

NOTE: None of the links provided here are affiliate links. They are provided solely for your convenience.

Holiday Spice Tea from Tea of Life

The Christmas tea that I’d like to share with you this month is from Tea of Life. This is their Holiday Spice Tea which I purchased from TJMaxx in 2017. Try as we might, neither I nor my girls could find this tea again for Christmas 2018, and we looked every chance we got. We looked at not only TJMaxx but also Marshall’s, Home Goods, and even Tuesdays as they tend to carry a lot of Tea of Life tea varieties.3ACE3D3A-2AD7-4E8C-829A-E4ADD52066E2

When I originally purchased this tea I wasn’t really sure I’d like it, but knew if I didn’t there would be a good chance that either Victoria or Julia would. Why did I think I wouldn’t like it? Because it contains vanilla flavour, of which I’m not really a fan, but even more questionable in my mind was the spice star anise, which to me smells and tastes like licorice, and I hate licorice. That being said, I’ve read that this spice has many benefits which include the killing off of bacteria and fungus, providing a concentrated dose of antioxidants which may aid with heart health, and it keeps blood sugar levels steady. It is also a natural way to fight off the flu. In fact, the active ingredient in flu medications like Tamiflu is shikimic acid which is extracted from star anise. (Source)

I decided that for $3.99 I would take a chance since I liked the other spices in this pure Ceylon black tea which are cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, all of which have their own list of health benefits. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I bought this tea, and although I’ve shared it with my girls, who love it, I didn’t give either of them all of it. Since we were unable to find more this past Christmas, I drink it sparingly, which isn’t hard given all the various varieties of tea I have on hand.

There were two sealed foil bags inside the tin each of which contained twenty teabags. The minute I opened the first foil bag I could smell licorice. While there’s a hint of the other spices as well, the overwhelming scent of licorice hit my nose first. That made me even more skeptical. However, I’m glad to say that once it had steeped I really liked the overall taste of this tea. The combination of spices and vanilla flavour was perfect and the aroma was lovely. Just the thing to have in hand when you’re curled up in front of a fireplace with a roaring fire, a comfy quilt, and a good book. And yes, I like it well enough that I do drink it on even not so cold winter days. It’s such a treat!

Just as a reminder, three months in this new year have come and gone. The gift giving season is only nine months away. If you’ve not started on at least a list of things to make, and people for whom to make them, you’d best grab a cup of tea, a pad of paper, and get on it. Time’s a wastin’!

A Christmas Tea Review

A day late and a dollar short. If I had a life motto that would probably be it. Actually, if I wanted to brutally honest, not to mention accurate, I’d have to say, several days late and several dollars short would fit me better.

Right now, I’m a month late. I wanted to start a series of posts to share a Christmas tea flavour with you and my thoughts about it. Each month, on the 25th, I’d share a different tea that is designated by the maker as a Christmas tea. Why? Well, because I can and because I thought it would be a fun and different thing to do.

I’d wanted to start the series in January because that’s National Hot Tea month, coupled with the beginning of a new year—what better time to start? Time got away from me though, and it didn’t get past the think-about-it stage. The idea sprang from the gift that I gave at our Christmas meeting to the ladies in my quilting circle, which was 12 teas to drink during the 12 Days of Christmas. Our family has celebrated Christmas over 12 days for many years now, and I kinda wanted to share that with my friends. While I didn’t give them Christmas teas exclusively, I gave them a few of those to try and filled in with other flavours for the rest. Then I thought, why not expand on that idea and share with my online friends throughout the year, many of which are tea drinkers too.

So, without further ado, the first tea I’d like to share with you is Christmas Spiced Tea by Marks and Spencer. I ordered this tea from Teadog year before last. After receiving the tea, I realized it was going to be one of my favourites, so I ordered a second tin. Yes, this tea came in a lovely red embossed tin with a gold teapot. I love the tin! I have one for the upstairs kitchen and one for the FFFFE338-A357-4906-85CC-A256CF457B32downstairs kitchen. I’m one of these folks who will buy the tin without really caring about the contents. Tins to me are like pieces of art. So, once I saw this tin up close and personal, it didn’t matter what the tea tasted like, I was in love with the tin. I know…I’m not always as rational as some think I am. Fortunately, when I opened the gold foil bag protecting the round tea bags, I knew I was in for a second treat. The smell that escaped was amazing. Without even tasting the tea I knew it was going to live up to its description as a spiced tea.

This is a black tea from southern India. The ingredients list includes: cassia bark, allspice flavourings, and nutmeg. The tasting notes are nutmeg, clove, and ginger. This is almost like a chai tea, but there’s no need to add milk as I often do with a chai. It’s a very flavourful tea; some might find it a bit strong, but if you enjoy spiced teas then I have no doubt that you’d enjoy this one. It’s a very aromatic, very warming tea. The aroma of the dry teabags reminds me of the smell I get when I make pumpkin bread, but without the added smell of pumpkin. Yum! My only regret is that this selection wasn’t available this past season from my usual sources, so I’m having to drink it sparingly to make it last. That’s something to keep in mind with Christmas teas. They are oftentimes seasonal. If you find a tea that you like, I recommend buying a second, or third, box/tin just in case it isn’t anywhere to be found later in the year or the next time the Christmas season comes around.

My other thought was to show off my Christmas themed teacups. I’m on vacation right now though and didn’t bring one with me. Actually, I don’t have very many that are specifically Christmas, so I’ll be looking to add to my collection this year. I have to do it for you of course. That’s what I’ll be telling Rick anyhow when he asks why on earth I need another cup and saucer. And yes, I do travel with my china as I prefer my tea from china teacups rather than pottery mugs. This cup and saucer set is Grand Tapestry by Gorham. Being a collector of teacups, I find it frustrating when I see one that I like on someone’s post, or in a magazine, but aren’t given it’s pattern name or maker. If you like this one, it can be found at Replacements.

To give you something to do to enhance your tea drinking experience, I found a hand embroidery pattern that I wanted to share with you. The scene is much like that of Blue Willow, which I have loved since childhood and collected over the years. Whether you stitch it onto a tea towel, a napkin, or frame it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy having a piece of handwork to look at during your relaxing tea time.

Until next month!

Christmas Quilts & More

One of my favorite types of magazines is those which focus on Christmas. While I love magazines, I love, love, love Christmas themed magazines especially. If I had the money, and the space, I’d buy every one to be found on the bookstore shelves. That’s how much I love Christmas themed magazines. Unfortunately, I have neither the money nor the space, not to mention the time, for such a large variety of magazines that focus on one holiday. So, I pick and choose very carefully those magazines that come into my home starting around November but staying forever…and I do mean forever. I have Christmas magazines that are more than 10 years old that I still pull out for inspiration or just to get me in the mood for Christmas. These magazines cover the gamut from decorating, party planning, new recipes to try, and crafting of one sort or another. The latter being the ones that I actually get around to using for their intended purpose – more or less. I’m still better at looking at the photos and dreaming about duplicating the projects than I am at the execution process.Mag-BHG-Christmas Qlts n More 2018

The other day I received a copy of Christmas Quilts & More in the mail. This is a special interest publication from Better Homes & Gardens. I knew immediately from the cover that I was going to enjoy looking through this magazine, and I’m here to tell you that I was in no way disappointed by its content.

On the cover it states that there are “25 holiday projects, quilts, décor, and gift ideas.” I’ve gotten into the habit of using colorful sticky flags, that I buy from Dollar Tree, to mark the projects or ideas I find particularly interesting. That way, when I pick up the magazine later, I know which pages to look at and am able to save a bit of time, although not much as I get sidetracked and start looking at everything else in the magazine yet again. Yes, you could say when it comes to time management, I’m hopeless. I enjoy myself to be sure, but I’m hopeless in making the most of the minutes allotted to me each day. I’d like to say I’ll get better at it, but I know myself well enough not to lie about this particular kink in my personality.

Mag-BHG Christmas Qlts n More 2018 FlagsAnyhow, of the 25 offerings in this publication I have 15 of them flagged. When I went back and counted the number of flags sticking out the side of the magazine it made me wonder which projects I hadn’t flagged, and why. So, I went back through the issue again. Of the projects I didn’t mark one was a wreath, which I don’t need at the moment as I have a beautiful one that I purchased several years ago. One was for a tree skirt which I don’t need because I purchased one on sale last year at TJMaxx. Then there was a stocking which I don’t need, but after looking again I decided that the holly leaves and berries would work well on another project, like a hot pad or mug rug. There were four quilt projects that I didn’t mark, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t decide to make them later on. Since my count didn’t add up to 25 I went back a third time to figure out where I’d missed the other three projects. I can only conclude that those three are the evergreen sprays that are shown between sections. These should be easy enough to execute without instructions and would look wonderful on or beside exterior doors or windows to add a bit of festive cheer whether they were hanging inside or outside your home. The one using sewing notions would be perfect to hang on your sewing room door.

I do realize that this publication is a compilation of past projects that have been featured in BH&G publications. That means you may already have the instructions elsewhere, but it’s nice to have so many projects, and a fairly nice mix at that, all corralled in one convenient place. If only time could be so easily recycled I might have enough of it to actually be able to get one or two of the projects I marked completed.

While looking through the issue the third time, I had a thought which is actually one that I’ve thought about before but just never allowed to get past the thinking stage. That thought was this. Instead of just wishing my creative time away only to get to the end of the year with nothing significant to show for the days that have flown past, why not get my act together and force myself to make at least one project, probably a small one, each month that could be used as a gift for Christmas or as an addition to my current decorating items. I know I’d have to make a date with myself in order to do that. I also know that I’d have to work on it the same time each day/week/month in order to remember to do so. Otherwise, time just gets past me, and I find the month to be over before I’ve even realized it began. So, I think that’s going to be my approach to getting past the I-wish-I-hadda stage in order to finally have something to point to at the end of next year, Good Lord willing, and say, “Wow! I did all of that this year?! Who’d of thought it…” It might not be a quilting or sewing project either. Creativity and working with ones’ hands is always a good thing to do regardless of the medium. Now all I have to do is figure out where to store the items I make so that I can find them when the time comes to give or to use them next year. Another kink in my personality to be overcome I’m afraid, but that’s a discussion for another day. Suffice it to say I tend to give gifts all year long as I run across them when moving a bag to find something else that’s lost. My kids know I mean well and still seem to love me anyhow. For that I am grateful.

The Lost Have Been Found! Hallelujah!!!

Last year, or was it the year before that (?), Donna and I decided we’d do a quilt together. She and I have both taken to small, not necessarily mini, quilts and thought that a doll quilt would be the perfect thing to create. Being small the concept was that it wouldn’t take us a whole year, or longer, to complete. What is it they say about best laid plans…?

Deciding just which doll quilt to make is never an easy task, but there was one thatPic-KTracy-Doll Qlt-30s I’d wanted to make for a very long time. I took my book with the quilt design in it to our sewing circle meeting and showed it to Donna. She liked it too (she is so easy going), so it was decided that it would be THE one with which to start. The design was by Kathleen Tracy and was originally in one of her books, which has since gone out of publication. However, Martingale included the quilt in their 101 Fabulous Small Quilts book, a must-have book for those who love small quilts, so you still have the opportunity to make that quilt too if you’d like.

Miss Kathleen’s quilt used heart-shapes to make a flower design which is so sweet. I had already bought the pack of papers that were required (no need going into how long ago that was before Donna and I decided to make the quilt) and while we were waiting for her pack of papers to arrive we set about choosing our fabrics. She decided to do hers in solids while I stuck with my personal favorite: ‘30s reproduction prints. Since I have a LOT of ‘30s prints I thought making each petal from a different print would be good. I’d need 60 prints in order to do this. Nooooo problem. All I’d have to do is decide which print went together with the others. Now, you might think that deciding on how to arrange the prints would be an easy task because I always say you can’t go wrong with ‘30s prints. But then, at this point you really need to take into account who it is doing this project—ME. Nothing ever seems to be so straight forward, much less easy, when I start thinking and putting things together. Those who know me well know that decision-making isn’t my strong suit. This little quilt started giving me a headache from the git-go. For non-southerners that means “from the very beginning” and the word “git” is really the word “get” but we don’t pronounce it with an “e” but with an “i” sound, a particular pet peeve of my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Hardy.

Anyhow, there were questions that had to be answered before I could decide on exactly which prints to use. For example, should I make use of geometric prints only such as checks, dots, or squares in each flower, or should I use only floral prints in each flower. How about using solids in amongst the prints? What about the conversation prints with cute cats, dogs, sheep, children, etc.? At this point my creative mind had created too many choices, too many decisions.

While I love ‘30s prints, I really love the conversation prints, just so you’ll know. They’re the ones that always call to me, “Use me! Use me!!!” Some might think that the conversation prints are for use in a child’s quilt only. I was actually told this several years ago by an experienced quilter when we did a BOM using ‘30s prints because she didn’t want them in her quilt. While I didn’t argue with her, well, not much, I didn’t agree with her then any more than I do now. After closely studying several vintage quilts from that era, I have come to the conclusion that conversation prints were not used only in quilts meant for children. I can’t say that every quilt made back in the ‘30s or that used ‘30s prints, often called feedsacks, have conversation prints in them, but the quilts that I own or have looked at closely have at least one or two floating around somewhere. If they’re not on the top then they may very well have been used as part of the backing. So, I have no qualms about putting conversation prints into projects I make using ‘30s prints regardless of the age of the end user.

OK, back to my decision-making dilemma. Another question that had to be answered was, “How do I arrange the prints in each flower?” Do I make the flowers using the same color, i.e. all red prints, all blue prints, all green prints, etc.? Or, do I make each petal a different color? If I make each petal a different color, do I repeat any color within a flower? Do I use a print more than once? Now are you beginning to see why there was more to making this little quilt than I’d initially thought about when drawn to it several years ago? By now you’re probably thinking I’m a fruitcake or too easily get wrapped around the axle about my fabric decisions. In all honesty, I’d have to plead guilty to being both, usually in tandem.

Eventually, we both had our heart-shaped papers and had decided on what genre of fabric we were going to use. Now came the time to actually work on the project. Donna took a trip and worked on her hearts. She decided that she wasn’t doing a very good job at them, especially at the top section where the heart dips down into a point. When I tried my hand at it, I didn’t have any better results than she had. Then I took a trip. While I was at the beach, thinking about what we could do to make our hearts look like hearts instead of what they looked like, which wasn’t really hearts, the light bulb came on. Why not use hexies instead?! Hexies are much easier and we could make small flowers using ½” hexies. I had some ½” shapes with me, so I laid them out in a flower shape next to a flower using heart papers (not fabric-covered papers by the way, just the papers) and discovered that they were roughly the same size. Viola! Problem solved! When I got home I got in touch with Proj - Doll Qlt - Hexies - VarietyDonna, suggested we use hexies instead because they were much easier, and she agreed that we should do that. So, our version of Miss Kathleen’s little quilt was born and began to take shape. Of course, now I had gone from needing 60 prints to needing 72 prints, but since I have way more than 72 different ‘30s prints that wasn’t going to cause a problem at all. Here are some of the ones that haven’t been made into flowers yet.

Donna and I have known each other for several years now, but apparently, she didn’t know me as well as I thought she did. She was so diligent in getting her hexies covered and turning them into flowers, worrying that I’d have mine done before she got done. Truth was she’d finished several flowers before I’d even gotten started. Imagine that… It was all of those decisions that I had mentioned beforehand that had me stymied. By the time she’d finished four flowers, I’d just decided on what I wanted to use for the center. Originally, I was going to use a print that had several flowers of different shapes. Then I realized that I’d have to repeat some of the flowers so that each of the twelve centers wouldn’t be unique. Scratch that idea. I finally decided on a yellow dot print that I’d use for the center of each flower. That would make life easier and have the added benefit of giving the viewer a focal point, or place for the eye to rest, when looking at the 72 different prints amongst the flowers. With that decision, I got the twelve centers whipped up in no time flat. Of course, while I was doing the center hexies I was still trying to decide what to do about the petals.
Proj-DBennett-Hexis x 3
Donna finished her flowers loooong before I did. Here are three of her flowers. Aren’t they lovely!? In fact, mine are still not finished, but I have a very good reason why. It’s because I lost them. Yes, I lost them. I had kept them in a little tin that I take with me to our sewing circle but took them out and put them by the cash register so I could show them to a lady who said she thought she’d like to start making hexies as she needed some handwork to keep her occupied in the evenings. She didn’t come to visit on the day I thought she would, and my little pack of six completed flowers, centers, and petals was moved. And then they were moved again, and again, and again… Then they were lost, and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I searched in all the places where it would have made sense for me to put them—probably a dumb thang, a dumb thang to do (for those who remember Gomer Pyle). Just so you’ll know, you never look for something you’ve lost in a sensible location. If the lost item was in a sensible location it wouldn’t be lost now would it. I also looked in quite a few nonsensical locations but to no avail. Alas, my little packet of flowers, etc. were nowhere to be found. Bummer…

My adorable little flowers were lost for a good two months or more. I finally decided that they’d gotten buried under something, and since they were so small, fitting inside of a plastic zip-top snack bag, it would be decades before they were unearthed. I finally decided over the weekend to make new flowers as it wasn’t fair to keep Donna waiting any longer on putting her quilt together. Tuesday, while looking for something else that was lost because it had been moved from where I normally had kept it, this time due to the construction in the front room, I found not only what I was looking for but I found my flowers. Hallelujah!!!

Now that the lost have been found you can see what I finally decided to do as a layout of my petals. Do you see any kind of plan going on? There is one, kinda, but I won’t say that I’ll carry it out on all twelve flowers. Time will tell really. Pic-EPP 30s Flowers 2 - 2018
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Opening a Can of Worms…

I know this is generally a blog dedicated to the joys of quilting, but at this point in time I’m going to digress a bit. You may have thought when reading the title that I was going to discuss the great book written several years ago by Debbie Caffrey, but I’m not. I’m going to fill you in on what’s been going on around here with regards to our house, which is where our quilt shop currently resides on the first floor, and part of the reason I’ve not posted anything the past several months.

If you’ve taken a look at our Facebook page in the past couple of months you will have seen a photo or two that I posted when the workmen were addressing the porches on the front of the house. What I’ve not shown yet is where this all began. Since the best place to begin any story is at the beginning, let’s do just that. At this point, you might want to get your favorite beverage in hand and find a very comfortable seat. I’ll try not to get wordy, but you know me…

In the beginning, we contracted with Wes, the foreman, Nathanael, our son, and Billy, the third man of their team, to repair and paint four windows on the east side of the house and replace handrails and spindles on the porch rails of the upperPic-House and lower porches on the front of the house. I’ll refer to these three men as “the guys” from hereon out. Seemed like a relatively small job that shouldn’t have take more than two or three weeks. You know the old saying though, “The best laid plans of mice and men.” Well, so much for our plans. Here is a before photo of our house with said porches.

The east section to be worked on is the oldest part of the house, it is also the outside wall of our dining room to be exact in case you’ve been here and need a reference point. We do not have a definite date as to when the house was built, but Rick did trace the buying and selling back to a sale in 1860 before he ran out of time and the courthouse closed for the day. So, we’ve always said that the house had to be here in the 1850’s for it to be sold in 1860, but it could be older still based on other houses in and around town. While saying it was here in the 1850’s makes sense, it isn’t terribly accurate for those with an historical bent for facts. Anyhow, all the guys were expected to do was repair the window sills, which definitely needed some help, and then paint the windows, two up and two down, on either side of the chimney (we’ll discuss that feature later). It didn’t look like all that much work to me, but then Rick says I over simplify things, which is always a no-no to the mind of an engineer.

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