The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Busy days.

Christina and I making the tea. 
Oh my gosh, it's been something like a month since I last posted!  A lot has been going on.

First, we had our 6th annual Cat Rescue Tea in San Jose, and it was another success!  We served about 120 people over 2 days, and raised close to $10,000 for 13th Street Cats!

I made 8 batches of Meyer lemon curd, and coordinated a bunch of other things, including jam donations, tea donations (from Satori Tea Bar and Thompson Tea Company), and put together 2 afternoon tea baskets for the silent auction, as well as collected a bunch of other tea things for the raffle for both days.  I also helped make tea sandwiches, served the lemon curd, jam, and butter, and with my friend Christina, made all the tea that was served at the event.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish tea and treats for St. Patrick's Day

Well, even though I'm not Irish, how can I pass up celebrating a holiday that honors a nation of tea-drinkers?  My mom always makes a corned beef, cabbage and potato dinner, and has lately started buying Irish beer for my dad and brother.  I, on the other hand, am more a fan of cider and wine rather than beer, and much more a fan of tea and treats.
I've made seed cake, shortbread and soda bread before, but not barmbrack, which according to modern recipes, is a fruitcake where you first plump the dried fruit in hot tea and then add it to the cake.  I may have to try that today for elevenses (morning tea and treat at 11 a.m.), which according to some Irish cultural websites, is as much an Irish tradition as an English one!

I think this is the recipe I used when I made the Soda Bread in the photo:

Irish Soda Bread.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Marilyn O'Reilly's Irish Soda Bread
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. unsalted butter
2 T. caraway seeds
1 c. raisins [soaked in orange juice or tea]
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and set rack in middle position in the oven.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Rub in the butter, as for scones, then stir in the caraway seeds and (drained) raisins.  In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the egg, and add to the dry mixture.  Stir to combine.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead gently for a minute or so until the dough comes together, then shape into a round loaf.  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and bake another 20 minutes or until browned and the loaf tests done with a toothpick.  Cool on a wire rack and serve with butter or marmalade.
-- recipe from
Seed Cake.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

The soda bread and the seed cake were both really good, but different because I'm not used to tasting caraway seeds in a sweet food.  The flavor really grew on me, and caraway seeds were first added to foods (in the British isles, at least) as a digestive aid. The cake and bread were both on the dry side, which made them perfect companions to a good cup of tea, but they didn't go stale quickly and lasted, wrapped in plastic wrap, on the kitchen counter for a few weeks without losing flavor or texture.

Elevenses is such a good idea; I think I need to start bringing more tea things to work, because I don't eat breakfast before I leave the house, and I don't usually get a break for tea and a morning snack until around 11 a.m. ... So join me in a cup of tea and a treat, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Finally finishing a project ...

Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Several months ago I began to make a dress for the museum where I work.  We conduct custom tours for 3rd grade classes in our Victorian house, and the tours include a short dress-up session and photo opportunity.  The girls' costumes that we use are Jessica McClintock and similar Edwardian-inspired dresses from the 1970s through 1990s, that are not only historically inaccurate for the time period of the house (1855 - 1875) but they're getting really ratty, faded, and in need of replacement.  But hey, they were donated 15 years ago (i.e. FREE) ...

Anyway, I decided to use some of the smaller lengths of fabric (under 4 yards) from my stash to make some more accurate costumes to replace some of the ones in the worst shape.  To this end, I bought the two Civil War girls' dress patterns from Simplicity, and set aside a few lengths of fabric to use, and during my time backstage at our last Lyric Theatre production, I got one dress cut out and partially sewn together.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish it, so it remained on my "unfinished project" list for several months!  Lately, though, I've gotten it back out, and finished it by hand.  I had to make a few alterations to the pattern, though, to suit its purpose as a dress-up costume that needs to be easy to put on and take off, and needs to fit easily over a girl's regular clothes.  I chose the largest size the pattern offered (size 8) and then cut it a bit larger -- as much as I could get out of my fabric, which was only about 3 yards, when the
pattern called for closer to 3 1/2!  I saved fabric by making the lining from plain white cotton instead of my fashion fabric, and by making the skirt less full, since it won't have to go over petticoats or a hoop.

I also left the bodice and skirt completely open up the center back, and put in a strip of hook-and-loop tape to close the neck, and made waist ties to close the waistline at the back.  I also didn't put in the growth tucks so the skirt will be long enough to cover the girls' modern jeans.  I hope it's big enough; we get a lot of big girls on our 3rd grade tours!  I'm hoping to take it in to the museum next week.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Upcoming interview and the Cat Rescue Tea approaching!

2013 Downton Tabby Tea place setting.
Photo: Miranda Von Stockhausen.
There are two little tidbits of information to share today:

Tidbit #1: tickets to the Downton Tabby Tea benefit for 13th Street Cats are selling like hotcakes!  Or would that be tea cakes? Or catnip mousies?  Anyway, I understand that Sunday, March 30th is sold out, and that there are only 3 or 4 seats left for Saturday, March 29th, so buy yours TODAY before they're all gone!  It will be a really fun event with delicious food and tea (if I do say so myself ...).

Tidbit #2: I was contacted a few months ago by Stephen Nelson, who produces and hosts the podcasts at Tea Rage.  He wanted to interview me for a podcast, and I thought that would be a great idea.  It's always fun to meet other tea people, and the idea of sitting down and geeking out about tea is just so much fun!  We finally met and recorded the podcast this afternoon at Satori Tea Bar in San Jose, and after some editing (lots of background noise and, I suspect, rambling on my part) the recording will be up on Tea Rage in the next few months!  I'll post the link when it's up, but I encourage you all to pop over and listen.  Despite the "rage" in the title, and the fact that Stephen proudly categorizes himself as a "tea snob" he's not snobby or full of rage in real life, and we had a really interesting "chin-wag" over pots of tea.  We talked, not only about our mutual love of tea, and the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild, but also about ideas for future tea research and projects.  He might be buying a tea plant in the future and experimenting with growing and processing his own tea, so keep your eyes on this blog and I'll let you know when he does!  He also told me about another tea podcast series, called Leaf and Let Die, which I had never heard about; that's more of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 approach to not-so-good teas ... I'll have to give the podcasts a listen and see what it's all about.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cat Rescue Tea 2014 tickets are on sale now!

Downton Tabby Tea 2012.
Photo: Miranda Von Stockhausen 
It's that time again: the 6th Annual Downton Tabby Tea fundraiser is scheduled for March 29 and 30 in San Jose, and tickets have just gone on sale!  They sell out quickly, so be sure to buy yours as soon as you can.  Feel free to dress up for this event, in keeping with the Downton Abbey theme and the opulence of this restored Victorian mansion!

*NOTE: If you have a group of people attending, and you would like to be seated together, you must buy the tickets for your group at the same time (in one transaction), or we cannot guarantee your seating.  If ticket sales go like they have for the past few years, there won't be any available to buy at the door, or in the days leading up to the event!  Only tickets that have been paid for can be considered "reserved"!

Here is the vital information:

Fundraising organization: Friends of 13th Street Cats/13th Street Cat Rescue (

Dates: Saturday, March 29 and Sunday March 30, 2 to 4 p.m.

Location: a restored Victorian home in the Hensley District, downtown San Jose.  The address will be sent privately to those who purchase tickets.

Event details: prix-fixe afternoon tea plate includes homemade scone, lemon curd, jam, tea sandwiches and savories, nut cup and fresh fruit, tea cake and chocolate, as well as bottomless pots of tea (Satori Tea Bar's Earl Grey Creme or Smitten Kitten herbal tisane from Thompson Tea Co.).  There will be a silent auction and a raffle of a variety of wonderful items; in the past these have included: timeshare vacations, to bottles of wine, to tea baskets, to gear for your pets.  Self-guided tours of the mansion may also be available at the discretion of the owners.


  • $40 per person, for a full afternoon tea, Veggie or Regular options; 
  • $50 per person, for the full afternoon tea, Veggie or Regular options, plus 2 glasses of champagne; 
  • $150 for the Countess Package, full afternoon tea (Veggie or Regular) for 2, champagne for 2, VIP table for 2, 2 VIP badges, 2 tea favors, and advance entry at 1:30 p.m.;
  • $300 for the Grantham Package, which is everything included in the Countess Package, but for 4 people.  

Where to buy your tickets: the 13th Street Cats website at   Tickets on sale NOW!

See you there! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge #1 for 2014

Production photo of female
Hobbit for inspiration.
Challenge #1: Make Do And Mend.  So, I thought I would actually finish one of the challenges within a reasonable time period from its due date ... Besides the replacing of the waist drawstring on my hoop petticoat (detailed in the last post), I also spent some time arranging some items to make my 1580s Elizabethan working-woman costume into something Hobbity for the GBACG fashion show on Saturday.  I put my hair in curlers and asked my friend to lend me her pointy ears and everything!  And then ... I read the fashion show script that the narrator would be reading, and had to "make do" to change it back to (relative) historical accuracy!  

Friday, January 17, 2014

New(ish) costumes: mending and adjusting one costume to work as a different one.

vintage 1940s poster.
I've been watching the Historical Sew Fortnightly costume activity for a while; although I've never had the time to finish anything on schedule, it's fun to see what everyone else does.  The current (well, the due date just passed, but you still get full credit even if you finish late) project is a "Make Do and Mend" theme.  I have such a pile of mending, both costume and mundane clothing, so I've gotten out a few projects to work on for this challenge.

The first one was fixing my hooped petticoat.  It's one of the cotton petticoats-with-tucks-filled-with-hoop-wire numbers that have been around for years, and it's served me pretty well for over 12 years.  I had removed the top hoop wire (it's a 5-hoop petticoat) because the petticoat was too long for me, and threaded the drawstring through the now-empty space where the wire had been, shortening the petticoat by about 6 inches.  No hemming -- all was good.  Unfortunately the drawstring was not all that strong, and it broke on my friend, who had borrowed it to wear to the Dickens Fair.  While she was wearing it.  Thankfully, it had been slipping down all afternoon, and she was in a dressing room when the breakage occurred, but we panicked for a while!  She ended up buying a new hoop petticoat at the Dickens Fair, and I brought my old one home, and shoved it in the closet.  Until now, when I looked through my stash and found a length of corset lacing that I had bought years ago, that ended up not being nearly long enough, but was a good length for a waist drawstring.  I promptly took it out, found my bodkin (I love those!), and threaded it in the empty drawstring space.  My hoop is usable again!

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)