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.

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.

Magazine Monday

Mag Cover-Primtv Qlts-Wntr 2017While I was busy hosting Stitchin’ Camp this weekend, the winter edition of Primitive Quilts landed in our mailbox. Anxious to look through it, but at the same time wishing to be able to give it my full attention, I decided to wait until Sunday afternoon, after my nap of course, to look through its pages.

Sometimes, magazines will offer several projects within their pages, but only one or two that will tickle my fancy. In this case, my wait was welcomed with a magazine brimming with projects that I wanted to do. Mag Cover- Primtv Qlts-TabsI use sticky flags to mark the projects that interest me, so my copy now sprouts nine colourful flags, each marking a must-do project, out of the 16 projects included within its covers. Not bad! In addition to the projects, there are many other useful tidbits included in each issue. I was pleasantly surprised when I read the books reviewed in the Book Nook section as the shop has, or has had, all but one of the ones listed, and I have a special order request for that one book which I’ve not yet had in the shop. Needless to say, I’ve already sold out of a couple of the books that were reviewed, yes, they are that good, but I can always “buy more” as Nathanael used to say when we’d tell him that we’d run out of something, including money.

Now, you might say that “primitive” is not your style. Well, it’s not really mine either. I’m a Victorian kinda girl. But, thankfully, I had a grandmother who was a seamstress by profession. She taught me at an early age to ignore the fabrics used on a pattern, usually dress patterns, and to look at the bare bones drawing at the bottom of the catalog page instead. From her I learned that while I might not like the fabric shown on the cover of a pattern, all I had to do was change the fabric in order to have something that better suited me. She taught me how to visualize the dress made in my choice of fabric(s) instead of the fabric used in the cover photo. At the time, I didn’t realize just how valuable that lesson was. Now, as a shop owner, and creative person in general, I would say learning to look beyond the visible and being able to visualize the possible is a lesson we all need to learn as it can help in so many areas of our lives with one of the most important areas being personal relationships, where looking beyond the outside covering of a person into the depths within can mean the difference between being saved from a bad relationship or making a forever friend.

As one might guess, the colours used in the projects of this issue are mainly warm, cozy colours. While I might make one or two of the projects using similar colours, I will most likely brighten them up just a tad. Instead of using dark greens, browns, and navy, for example, I will probably use bright reds, turquoise, and lime greens. Who knows, I might even throw in some purple along the way because I do have purple ornaments for the small tree that sits on the library table in our hallway. In my book, purple is a valid colour for any time of the year. Of course, there are all those variations-on-a-theme possibilities as well. I can see extracting parts of projects to make a smaller version, especially for gift giving, or mixing and matching bits and pieces to my heart’s content. Oh, dear…here we go…

If you’ve never looked through a copy of Primitive Quilts you can visit their website and see the projects included in the winter issue. You can either order a copy online or visit your nearest bookstore for immediate satisfaction. I really think you’ll be hard pressed to ignore this issue once you’ve taken time to look through it and imagine the projects in your own favorite colours. As always, feel free to share what you’ve made with us. I’ll do that myself, once I decide on just which project to do first. Those who know me well know that decision making is not my strong suit, so it might be next Christmas season, or winter, before I actually have anything to show. Remember though, patience is a virtue. Knowing me will no doubt help make you a very virtuous person indeed.

There’s Still Time!

Proj-2015-RudyNeed a really quick and cute project to make before Christmas Day? We have just the thing for you then. This little stuffed reindeer can be made in just a few hours, and you probably already have everything you need on hand.  Is he not the cutest thing?!  And at about 6-1/2″ tall he’s small enough to fit into a little a little basket or on the branches of your tree.

As with most projects I do using someone’s pattern, I don’t follow it to the letter. In this case, rather than using freezer paper to make my template I just made a copy of the pattern and cut the reindeer out on the outside edge of the black line. I placed my fabric with right sides together (or print sides together for those who know there is no wrong side to any piece of fabric as both can be used equally well by those who are willing to do so) and pinned the pattern to my fabric. I then sewed along the edge of the paper pattern, cut away the excess fabric ¼” from the stitching, and snipped the curves so it would lay well once turned inside out. There were a couple of places where I stitched through the pattern, but I was able to pull the edge of the pattern out from under those stitches and can use it again to make more reindeer if I so desire.

I gave my little reindeer button eyes and a ribbon that was a bit narrower than the one specified by the designer. The designer by the way is none other than Miss Anne of Bunny Hill Designs. The little snowman in the mitten that I shared in a previous post is also from Bunny Hill Designs. Yes, you might say we like her designs quite well and have lots of her patterns in the shop. Not all have been made into samples mind, but we do love her work.

Proj-Snowman Candle MatWhile I was stitching my little reindeer by machine, Miss Martha was stitching a candle mat in wool felt by hand. It turned out quite nicely, but I’m not sure I want to hide the snowman’s face in the Proj-Snowman Candle Mat CUmiddle by actually putting a candle on it. It might just have to lie around and decorate instead of making itself useful being what it’s supposed to be.  I mean, look at him, would you want to cover up that cute, cute, cute smiling face?   This mat is a nice size, around 11″ give or take.  It still needs three little buttons going down the front of the center snowman according to the pattern by Penny Lane Primitives… or does it?  Our wool felt is the good kind and comes from National Nonwovens.  We love this product so well that we have close to 50 different colors on the bolt.

We will be making kits for the snowman candle mat and could easily put one together for the reindeer as well if you need it.  Patterns at present are limited, so let me know if you want one, or both.  Since you’re coming down to the wire where making handmade gifts is concerned, a kit will make it much quicker to accomplish your goal of giving nothing store boughten, as the old folks around here use to say.

 

 

The Grinch – Don’t Miss It!

Get your date book out because you don’t want to miss this performance!  On Saturday, November 20, at 2:00 p.m., Ballet Huntsville and the Academy of Classic Arts will present “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” in The New Building at Trinity United Methodist Church on Airport Road in Huntsville.

Don't Miss It!

Tickets are $15.00 for general seating and $12.00 for children ages 4 through 12 years. Children 3 years old and under are FREE but do need a ticket. To order your tickets please contact Michelle Bendickson via e-mail, michelle.bendickson@knology.net or call her at (256) 325-4787.

This is a great ballet, newly choreographed for the 2009 Christmas season by Clinton and Carrie Rothwell. The kids who danced in it last year had a blast. The coveted part for this ballet seems to be that of the little dog that the Grinch used so badly. Victoria will be a Who again this year, a part she greatly enjoyed dancing last year.

This is only the second time that this ballet has been performed in Huntsville, and as far as I know right now it will be the last. Do not put off going because you think you can see it next year. Sadly, the Rothwells are moving back to California and Ballet Huntsville/ACA will no longer exist. That means that you’ll need to take something else off your calendar that you know will happen again next year and come watch this lively and fun performance in the wonderful facility at Trinity. You’ll laugh quite a bit, and you might just cry a little, and you’ll be so glad you made this one of the to-dos on your list this holiday season.

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