Thinking of Tea & Literature
Most of us Victoriana lovers do not realize that the passion for the 19th century partially began with the renewed interest in the almost unknown women writers of the Victorian age.
In the 1970s and 1980s, scholars were looking for a feminist approach to literature. Once writers such as Annie Besant, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Ann Bronte, Ella D’Arcy, and Harriet Martineau, to name only a few, were rediscovered, the door opened wide.
Now scholars wanted to investigate the rippling effect of women’s writing – women editors, women’s newspapers, murder trials of women, New Women literature, attitudes towards marriage and divorce.
This trend of studying the social history of the 19th century in order to understand its women writers ultimately opened a room with a view not only for scholars, but also for the modern magazine industry, the interior design world, and savvy entrepreneurs. And then, as you might say, “We were hooked.”
These facts combine with my love of books to lead me to my real point. An occasional book or story discussion is a perfect teatime activity!
While the possibilities are endless, I would like to suggest a particular story for a beginning book group or for a one-time event – The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Written in 1899, it is the story of a woman’s descent into madness. Now, I know that does not sound especially tea-ish, but wait! Let me tell you why I like this choice:
It’s short! It will take less than one hour to read and so does not require the commitment of Gone With the Wind or George Elliot’s Middlemarch. Even the busiest of women can fit this short story into her schedule.
It is easy to find. It can be read on-line at womenshistory.about.com/library/etext/bl_gilman_yw.htm. An audio version can be found at www.scribblingwomen.org/cgwallpaper.htm.
It was considered to be incredibly controversial in its time, possesses tremendous symbolism, and always elicits strong thoughts and emotions from readers. It’s perfect for discussion!
There are many sources that can provide you with the details of how to run a book discussion. I would suggest The Reading Group Handbook, by Rachel Jacobson. Charlotte Perkins Gilman authored a helpful, short piece on why she wrote the story that can be found at the same location as the readable text. An extensive list of discussion questions can be found at www.runet.edu/~rvannoy/rvn/203/Gilman.htm.
Basically you must remember that a successful book discussion needs a leader who has researched a bit of background information about the book and the author, who has chosen specific questions, and who is comfortable leading the group and keeping it on track. It is not important that you are an expert on the book. What is important is that you encourage an atmosphere where all ladies feel comfortable voicing their thoughts and opinions. Disagreements are fine and can foster stimulating conversation.
I would suggest a book discussion be tied into a dessert tea. Have tea available during the discussion and serve the desserts once the discussion has been completed.
And, if your ladies enjoyed the discussion and are pleased to keep on the path of controversy in vintage literature, you can suggest Kate Chopin’s The Awakening as further reading.
In the spirit of true tea adventurers, I urge you to give a book discussion a try!
This is the byline you must include if using this article: Laurie Nienhaus is the Director of The Ladies’ Tea Guild and Editor in Chief of the Tea Guild’s monthly publication, Sweet Willa’s Review. To learn more about this unique social club and tea society or to subscribe to Sweet Willa’s Review, visit www.glily.com.


Dilly Over Darjeeling
Darjeeling has always been one of my favorite teas. As a matter of fact, it is the tea responsible for the parting of ways between Lipton and myself.
Darjeeling’s signature muscatel quality makes it a perfect match for pairing with mild, creamy cheeses. Dill is a herb that also pairs well with mild creamy cheeses, and the combination of all three makes a fragrant and savory tea experience.
Most large grocery stores carry dill Havarti and what can be easier than to bring it to room temperature, slice it thin, and pop it upon your favorite cracker or a piece of hot buttered toast?
Do you need a little crunch with your Darjeeling? Fill celery sticks with a mixture of cream cheese, dill, and a pinch of white pepper.
If you’re in the mood for a little more fuss, have a cup of Darjeeling waiting for you as your Havarti dill and asparagus quiche comes from the oven. It’s easy to substitute whatever cheese your quiche recipe calls for with Havarti dill (I sometimes also add a bit of fontina).
Do you need to be fancy? Make crab salad with dill and fill miniature Sally Lunn rolls to serve with your second flush Darjeeling.
And we can’t forget dill bread! Sliced hot from the oven and spread with butter, it can easily stand alone with the finest of Darjeelings.
Oh dear, is it tea time yet?
This is the byline you must include if using this article: Laurie Nienhaus is the Director of The Ladies’ Tea Guild and Editor in Chief of the Tea Guild’s monthly publication, Sweet Willa’s Review. To learn more about this unique social club and tea society or to subscribe to Sweet Willa’s Review, visit www.glily.com.


Garnishing Tea Sandwiches
Simple has an honored place in tea, but on occasion we look for lavish and so must turn to the topic of garnishes. I offer you ten of my favorite ways to fashionably dress a tea sandwich and I promise that each will elicit delight from your guests. Except where noted, these garnishes can be used on both open faced and filled sandwiches.
Flowers: Consider pansies, violets, Johnny-jump-ups, nasturtiums, and marigolds. All are edible with interesting flavors. Use flowers that have not been sprayed with pesticides.
Shaved Cheese: Hard cheeses such a parmesan or pecorino Romano take on an attractive lacy look when shaved paper thin and placed upon an open-faced sandwich.
Rolled Cheese: Cut cheese into ¼” squares. Put one teaspoon of olive oil on your hands and roll cheese squares into balls. Then roll in cumin, curry, or finely chopped herbs.
Piped Herbed Mayonnaise or Crème Fraiche: Use an icing flower tip. Then place a fresh or thawed frozen pea atop the piping.
Layer It: Place a small spinach leaf, with stem, atop an open-faced sandwich. Place a thin slice of hard boiled egg on top of that and sprinkle with either nutmeg and sea salt, pickled ginger and a dot of wasabi, or a combination of crushed herbs.
Chopped Egg & Asparagus: Finely chop hardboiled eggs, using only half as many whites as yolks, and press onto an open-faced sandwich with a mayonnaise based filling. Upon this lay a short piece of asparagus.
Citrus, Herbs, & Spices: Cut small triangles of fresh lemon or orange, removing peel. Sprinkle lemon triangles with fresh basil or parsley and orange triangles with cinnamon or curry.
Grilled Vegetables: Grill red and green peppers, zucchini, or pearl onions. Cut peppers into strips, zucchini into squares, and leave pearl onions whole.
Hearts: Use a very small cookie cutter to cut hearts from thin slices of pickled beets. Or, cut small hearts from bread, dip in butter, and sprinkle heavily with curry before toasting in a 350 degree oven.
Herb or Nut Dip: Cut filled tea sandwiches into triangles and butter the long cut side. Press this buttered side into crushed herbs or chopped nuts.
This is the byline you must include if using this article: Laurie Nienhaus is the Director of The Ladies’ Tea Guild and Editor in Chief of the Tea Guild’s monthly publication, Sweet Willa’s Review. To learn more about this unique social club and tea society or to subscribe to Sweet Willa’s Review, visit www.glily.com.


Day ten of November’s

I am a Woman of Simplicity!

Have you seen this meme circulating around blogland?***

Where is your mobile phone? hubby has

Where is your significant other? at the pond

Your hair color? dark brown

Your mother? heaven

Your father? an hour away

One favorite thing? antique’s

Your dream last night? forgotten

Your dream goal? finish the remodel of our home

The room you’re in? family room

Your hobby? weaving, spinning, knitting,

Your fear? heights, snakes

Where do you want to be in six years? kickin’

Where were you last night? snoozin’

What you’re not? shy

One of your wish list items? Colorado to see sheep farm

Where you grew up? Mississippi, family of 7 children

The last thing you did? look at homemade bread books

What are you wearing? black shirt & pants, colorful jacket

Your TV? on, hubby is in and now watching

Your pets? Komodor dog, chicken, goat

Your computer? pc

Your mood? happy since, I may have found a rug

Missing someone? yes, family and friends,working

Your car? I wish, not driving at the moment

Something you’re not wearing? makeup

Favorite drink? tea

Your summer? watching the plants grow

Love someone? yes, hubby, famiy and friends

Your favorite color? blue

When was the last time you laughed? Saturday

When was the last time you cried? Friday

***Why not join in and play along?

Let me know….I’ll come over to your place and learn more about YOU!

11 thoughts on “A LITTLE FUN

  1. Hi Katherine,
    It is like Christmas as a kid. Oh what a joy. I open the mail and you sent me another gift. Big hug. Thank you. Sorry I had not kept up on you blog. Thank you for posting your joy too. My daughter has now moved this way and I was busy trying to help as much as I could. And I am working on trying to get healthy enough to get my home clean and rehab done so we have walls and a ceiling in kitchen before winter is to cold.
    Thank you for bringing joy to my life.

  2. Hi..thanks for stopping by. I have seen that meme and I think it is a good one. I am so far behind, but i will let you know if I do it! Have a great weekend!

  3. ooh, thanks for telling me about the flower! i wasn’t sure if i should copy it or not, lol. but since you said i could, i edited my post and added it!

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