Friday, 15 August 2014

Elizabeth Craig's Thimble Tea

A recent post on a favourite blog Shelf Appeal featured the illustrator Herry Perry in Elizabeth Craig's book on Entertaining.  I just had see more and found a reasonably priced copy on ebay.  What a delight!  Published in 1933 it's full of advice for "The Modern Hostess", whether entertaining "with the help of one maid, of a staff of servants, or single handed"!

 There are dozens of entertaining occasions covered by Elizabeth, from "A Bride's First Dinner" to "Tea for Two in Wintertime" and everything else in between.  But my very favourite has to be "Just a Thimble Tea".  Here is just some of Elizabeth's advice:

"Every little while I give a Thimble Tea, to which I ask a few chosen friends.  In the summer-time we sometimes hold it in the garden.  In winter it is held in the cosiest corner of the room close to the fire with ship logs ablaze in blue and purple and fiery red........If you want to start Thimble Teas first count over your friends who are interested in needlework, whether it be simple knitting or embroidery, or fine sewing.  It matters not what their taste is so long as they are of the Sister Susie sisterhood (I've tried to look up what this means with no success).  Then send out invitations to come to tea and bring their work along with them.  I would not invite more that half a dozen at a time.  For a Thimble Tea I usually write "from 2.30 to 6 pm" on my invitations..........As this is a Thimble Tea she (the hostess) must produce her daintiest tea cloth, doilys and tea serviettes.  If she has a hand-worked tea cosy it is a good idea to have a teapot rest to match - a strip of knitted wool stuffed firmly with cotton wool and sewn lengthwise to form a woollen roly-poly.  This must be invisibly joined at the ends to form a circular roll which in turn must be firmly sewn to two rounds of plain knitting with a round of stiff cardboard slipped between to form a stiff base for the nest.......... Boil the water for the tea at table with the aid of an electric kettle or a spriit lamp, have your tea caddy ready beside the teapot and a little plate containing slices of lemon in case some guests wish their tea a la Russe.  Have milk as well as cream for lots of people do not care for cream in tea (too right - yuk!).  Then arrange little plates of dainty sandwiches, shortbread fingers, or jam-jams, almond or coconut macaroons, spiced rock cakes, and anything else you care to have within reach of all.  Provide at least one muffin dish of hot scones and have what is the very latest idea, a plate of tiny canapes of bread rounds the size of crown pieces spread with savoury paste and kept carefully out of sight till everyone has finished with cake, and then brought out and offered as a savoury finish......

.......No matter your menu, tea over have food cleared away if teaing in the sewing room and settle down again to work and gossip.  In the summer-time serve tea when possible in the garden.  If raining have it indoors with the fire lit.  Decorate the room with glowing plants.  In winter-time decorate your room with red flowers or berries and red or white candles, serving tea when possible in a different room to that in which you work or in a room opening off your working room."

Phew, I haven't done that much copy typing in a long time!  Good job I proof read it!  I'd hadn't heard of jam-jams before but there are lots of recipes on line.  Here's a nice one.


And this is Elizabeth's 1933 recipe:

Rub 4oz butter in 7oz flour, stir in 4oz castor sugar, half teaspoon baking powder, half teaspoon ground cinnamon and moisten to a rollable dough with yolk of egg.  Roll out on a lightly floured pastry board, cut into rounds with the top of a wineglass or a fancy cutter, bake till crisp and golden and if by any chance through incorrect management of the oven the cakes spread out of shape you can recut them again with the same cutter as soon as you take them out of the oven.  But don't wait till they cool at all or they will break in the cutting.  Put two rounds together with jam then sprinkle with castor sugar.  Apricot or raspberry jam is best for jam-jams.  If liked you can use ground Ginger for flavouring instead of cinnamon. 

Of course there were no oven temperature gauges then - today bake at 190C (375F) for about 12-14 mins.


Lastly, these are Elizabeth's suggested Tea Menus:

SUMMER THIMBLE TEA
Bread and Butter
Cucumber Sandwiches
Layer Cake, Strawberry Filling
Strawberries and Cream
Petits Fours

AUTUMN THIMBLE TEA
Raisin and Nut Bread
Cheese and Pimento Sandwiches
Hot Buttered Tea-Cakes
Spiced Fruit Cake
Iced German Biscuits

WINTER THIMBLE TEA
Bloater Cream Sandwiches 
Ham and Cress Rolls
Buttered Crumpets
Chocolate Eclairs
Tangerine Layer Cake
Tea

Note - Make Bloater Cream Sandwiches with brown bread.  Use bridge rolls, split for Ham and Cress sandwiches.  Hot buttered teacakes can be substituted for Crumpets and Cream Buns for Chocolate Eclairs.  Fill Tangerine Layer Cake with tangerine honey and cover with tangerine icing.

If you enjoyed this I might share a few more gems in future posts.  What about "Tea in Heather Time" or "A Scramble Party" ?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

In the Good Old Summertime......


Its hard to keep blogging at this time of year.  And with so much good weather this summer I've found it difficult to make myself sit down and share what has been occupying my days over the past month or so - apart from work of course.  Fingers crossed there will be more happy excursions to enjoy before the shorter darker days arrive, and before Summer 2014 blurs into one sunshiny memory, I thought I'd share a few photos with you.


Last Monday was a glorious day here in North Wales and my sister and I were lucky enough to have picked that day to go shopping in Llandudno.  We were tempted to linger on the promenade on our way back to the car and decided to take a walk on the pier.


As you can see above, the pier is of typical Victorian design and with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background, in the perfect setting.  We took our time enjoying a bag of fresh donuts and a stroll to the pier end - it was almost 8 o'clock before we got home!


The week before had been occupied with my usual last minute frantic preparations for the Vintage in the Vale Fair at Trelawnyd Memorial Hall.  As always "it was alright on the night" and I had a happy day catching up with old crafty friends and being inspired by the craftsmanship of the stallholders both old and new.  I'm already thinking about plans for the next fair at the beginning of November - did I really say that!!!


In July I'd been lucky enough to grab a bargain offer on this beautiful cottage near Dolgellau - Tyn y Simdde (booked through Under the Thatch).  Three of us spent three happy days pretending we lived in this heavenly spot deep in the forest, high up on a hill - if that makes sense!



The simple cottage interior has been beautifully restored, providing every comfort you could wish for and the wonderful views from the garden, and indeed every window, made for perfect peace and quiet to read, watch the birds in the garden or, as in my case, get crafty.


Located only an hour or so from home, I'll definitely be keeping an eagle eye out for further bargain offers.


And finally, you might remember a few weeks ago I was making preparations for my sister's fund raising afternoon tea party.  I'd like to report a resounding success with about £480 being raised for the Oswestry Bone Cancer Centre Appeal


My sister took the prize as star baker but my small craft stall proved popular too and I was very happy I could add a good bit to the total raised.


And everyone liked the pompom 'thank you blooms' they were presented with to take home.  We're planning another event in the future.


Well I think I'd better stop here!  There have been other pleasant days out and hopefully I'll be reporting on a few more before we have to start hunkering down to preparations for autumn and Christmas.  I do hope all my readers have enjoyed their summer so far - I think it will go down as a good one here in the UK even if there have been a few wet days here and there..... apparently there's one on the cards for tomorrow.  Keep dry all!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tea or Coffee?


I'm making lavender stuffed sleep inducing pillows/sachets using some of my doily collection.  Inevitably old table linens and doilies will have stains - especially tea stains, so I thought I would try dying a few using tea.


Its an easy process - find a suitable dish or baking tin to fit the doily, add tea bag or bags, and pour on hot water.  Swish about a bit to release the tea from the bag.  Leave until you have the colour you like.  I left mine about 45 minutes then squeezed out the tea and rinsed them a couple of times.  I dried them flat on kitchen paper towel sheets, finishing off with my iron to keep them nice and flat. 


We only use loose tea for drinking but I had a gift box of Harrods English Breakfast teabags in the cupboard and as you can see the colour has turned out rather more of a pretty coffee shade than tea.


These two are hand crocheted - such very fine work!  They must have taken hours to make and really deserve a second life on show.  They are next to be transformed into pretty lavender sachets.  I hand stitch the doilies onto squares of suitable fabric, add a plain back, machine stitch into a square and fill with dried lavender and polyester filling.  Although rather a long process, its best to stitch down as much of the doily as you can so that it doesn't catch on something and tear.

My room is filled with the scent of lavender - lovely..... zzzzzzz!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Pink Gooseberries


The soft fruit season is in full swing in gardens all over the country and I picked a small crop of gooseberries yesterday - I have only one small bush.  They looked so pretty in this vintage Pyrex Cinderella bowl.  The pattern is called Pink Gooseberry! 


I've been enarmoured with my new stamp set Bowl of Sunshine recently arrived from Papertrey Ink courtesy of my very good friend Yuki over there in The States (a million thanks once again Yuki!).  I just love the little bowl that looks like vintage Pyrex and thought I'd try to reproduce my gooseberries in ink.  However there's no gooseberry stamp in the set - do they even have them in North America?  I tried a bunch of grapes stamp instead, masking along the bowl's rim, and I think it does very nicely. 


I can't stop making cards with this set - its so cute.  Here's a few using the fruits that are in the set - apples, lemons and oranges.  I used vivid dye inks from the Adirondak Brights and Earthtones ranges on 3 inch square card blanks. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Gift of Friendship


The festival season is in full swing and brings to my mind all those hippy-type crafts I used to do in my younger days.  Friendship bracelets were very popular in the 70s and I remember making lots of different designs using all sorts of materials - coloured cord, macrame string, leather, glass beads, crochet yarn, safety pins, etc, etc.  I thought I'd make some for selling at my sister's fund raiser next Saturday.


I found an easy how-to for these pretty woven bracelets here.  They are much simpler to create than they look and all you need, apart from the cord, is a circle of cardboard.  I made one in about 20 minutes.  Traditionally friendship bracelets are tied onto the wrist but I wanted to make them get on and offable and experimented with fastenings.  I used some jewellery findings and added little lobster claws with jump rings but I also like the button fastening I adapted from this tutorial.   


As you can see I added little 'made with love' charms too and packaged some up ready for selling.  Blogger Michael Ann has used embroidery silks for her bracelets but I've used 1mm nylon Chinese Knotting Cord which is easy and cheap to buy on ebay.  You can melt the ends of the cord carefully with a lighter or tealight to stop them fraying and I also slightly melted the end knots to stop them loosening with wear as the cord is quite slippy. 


I originally bought the cord to make these traditional macrame friendship bracelets for my great niece's birthday the other week - how-to here.  She'd seen older girls in school making them to raise money for charity and wanted a few more to add to her wrist.  I made this little zipped pouch for her too as some gorgeous woven ribbons I'd ordered on Etsy finally arrived from China!  They were worth the wait of 3-4 weeks - so pretty!  I might just have to order some more! 

If you haven't made them before I hope you'll try some friendship bracelets - they are an easy portable project and just right to keep hands, young and old, busy whilst sitting in the sun. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Its good to stamp!



I loved Melissa Bickford's series of little flower stamp sets when they were introduced by Papertrey Ink a few years ago and collected the whole set of 12.  I remembered them when I wanted to make a stack of cards for my sister's tea party fund raiser next month.  I decided to just go with each little set, simply stamped directly onto small plain 3 inch square card bases and using the sentiments that came with each flower image.  Quick and simple - just the way I like it! 


Of course I'll need to have more than 12 cards to offer the tea party goers so I carried on stamping.  I quite liked the idea of using every stamp set in my collection and here are some more cards for the pile - the same size as before and again just one layer of ink and cardstock.

 

And yet more..... these use 4 inch card bases.  I've not far to go before I reach my aim of using every stamp set - but I think I'll have to draw the line at Christmas cards.  No one wants to think of Christmas in July!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A Great Age Reached



Its a very long time since I made a special card, let alone blogged about one, but this week I had to create something for my Mum's 90th birthday - which is today!  In our local shops the "90 today" cards were uninspiring or just plain unsuitable so I got out my favourite Fresh Cut Floral sets from Wplus9 and came up with this.


At 90 my Mum's interests in life are few as she in not in the best of health but she does like flowers.  I suspect today the house will be rather short of vases to hold birthday bouquets - two large boxes of blooms have already arrived from distant relations.  I just had to have 90 on the card but as I don't have any number stamps or dies I printed out large numbers in a suitable font on plain paper, cut them out, traced round the shapes onto masking paper, cut those numbers out and arranged them on my card base.  Then all I had to do was fill the front with stamped images.  I love the layering opportunities of the Fresh Cut Florals sets and spent a happy hour stamping away before carefully peeling off the mask.  I'm pleased with the result.


Here's the birthday girl at her party in another age.  Mum's the little girl shading her eyes from the sun in the middle of her friends.  Probably 6 or 7 years of age in her back garden in Knighton in Mid-Wales.


And another photo includes her Mum (in the centre), the midwife that brought her into the world (left) and their little "mother's help" dressed in her lacy maid's cap for the occasion - I understand quite ordinary folks had a "treasure" to help in the house in those far off days.

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