The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Costume movie on PBS tonight!

Check your T.V. listings for tonight, everyone! PBS/KTEH has been re-broadcasting the _Cranford_ series every Wednesday at 8 p.m. for the past two weeks. I think the last installment is supposed to be tonight, so if you can, stay home to watch it, or record it for later.

If you love period costume and classic literature like I do, I am sure you'll like the BBC serial _Cranford Chronicles_, better known as _Cranford_, made from three of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels. Set in a small town in England in 1842, the story is a charming and personal look through a window into the past, at the effect of the Industrial Revolution on Englishmen and women of all classes, especially women. Some really funny scenes are included as well, such as Mrs. Forrester gushing about her favorite cow, whom she loves "almost as a daughter," who then gets out of her pasture in the middle of the night, wanders into a lime pit, gets all her hair burned off by the lime before she can be rescued, and has to wear a suit of grey flannel long-johns until her hair grows back, to the great amusement of everyone.

Starring a TON of fantastic BBC actresses and actors, both established and new, including Dame Judi Dench and Dame Eileen Atkins. The casting and acting have been so well done -- just perfect for the "feel" of the time period, even for those who haven't read the books (and I haven't, yet, but I will!). The costumes have also been so well done, not only historically accurate, but appropriate for the setting, the social class of each character, and the character of the town itself as described in the novel (independend-minded, genteel, but not fashion-forward). I currently have at least one of the dresses in mind for one of my own costume projects, and I will be looking for this series on DVD at the library very soon.

I encourage you all to check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple Butter Tarts

Here is another recipe I am thinking about using for our November tea: No-Bake Apple Butter Tarts. The original idea came from Tea Time Magazine's January/February 2007 issue.

No-Bake Apple Butter Tarts:

1/2 cup apple butter
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp.
1 package mini tart shells, prebaked
toasted chopped pecans (optional)
cinnamon graham crackers or ginger snaps, crushed (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, blend the softened cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the apple butter until the mixture is smooth. Fill the baked tart shells with the mixture and top each mini tart with 1 teaspoon of the plain apple butter. Sprinkle with toasted pecans, if desired, or cinnamon graham cracker or ginger snap crumbs. Refrigerate until serving. Makes 24 mini tarts.

It sounds easy and tasty!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Turkey and Stuffing Tea Sandwiches

The idea for this recipe came from the book _Special Teas_ by M. Dalton King, which is a great book with lots of beautiful photos. The original recipe had you simply using regular Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing to fill sandwiches, but I do it slightly differently. I will probably have these at our next Guild meeting which, by the way, will be on November 15th *instead of* November 8 as I mistakenly wrote in yesterday's post.

Turkey and Stuffing Tea Sandwiches

sliced whole wheat or a firm white bread or herbed bread
thinly sliced turkey (deli turkey, and dark or white meat as you prefer)
jellied cranberry sauce (few or no whole cranberries -- they tend to fall out of the sandwich)
your favorite cooked stuffing, chopped finely and moistened with a bit of broth
butter (salted or unsalted)
fresh or dried sage, onion and thyme, minced

Soften the butter and stir in the minced herbs. Season with pepper, and a pinch of salt if you used unsalted butter. Spread thinly on one side of half of the slices of bread. Spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce on one side of the other slices of bread. Top the cranberry-spread slices with one or two thin slices of turkey, over this spread about a tablespoon of stuffing, and top with the herb butter-spread bread slices. Press each sandwich flatter with the palm of the hand to keep it together, trim the crusts off and cut into quarters, triangles, "soldiers" or use a decorative cookie cutter.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Some plans for the Victorian Hairwork Tea

Well, after having had a cup of assam (Trader Joe's, I think) and another cup of lemon ginger tisane (Twining's), I am still awake ... even though it's past my bedtime. Time to make myself useful until I fall asleep! Right now, that's going to mean: work on the plans for the next meeting of The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild (which will be on November 8th. Ahem.).
The title and theme for this meeting will be "Victorian Hairwork", as in, the sentimental and sometimes morbid, but always elaborate and amazing form of art and ornament made from -- or using -- human hair. According to my research, more than half of the stuff was sentimental in nature, and was not made on the occasion of someone's death; it was popular as a gift between lovers (Jane Austen has Edward Ferrars wear a ring with a lock of Lucy Steele's hair in it, in "Sense and Sensibility"), parents and children (especially when sending a son off to war or a daughter off to marriage), spouses, intimate friends (Queen Victoria is said to have been given a bracelet by Empress Elisabeth of Austria, made from her hair), and other people joined by bonds of affection. A common form of hair art was the wreath, tree, or horseshoe shape, composed of flowers and leaves made from the hair of different members of the same family, meant to be framed and hung on the wall in the way we would display a family group portrait nowadays.
Simpler designs, like braids and coils enclosed in glass-fronted brooches, could be formed easily at home, but the more ornate creations were often done by professional hair artists who advertised their services in ladies' magazines. Elaborate items of jewelry could be made at home, however, using directions and drawings printed in ladies' magazines, and some specialized tools. These tools are difficult, if not almost impossible, to find these days, but there is a Victorian Hairwork Society that helps to keep the art form going. A few artists practice this art, and there is also, apparently, a town in Sweden where hair art is said to have originated, that has never given it up. I'll have to get back to you on the exact name of the town ...
Anyway, why are we going to be looking at this for our next meeting? Well, it's unusual, it's so very Victorian, and I think some remnants of this "women's work" folk art have been adapted and are still with us in America, today. I am thinking of those embroidery floss friendship bracelets that everyone was making when I was in grade school and high school, and that are still being made today, as evidenced by the stack of them on the wrist of a teenage friend. I have a book in my bookcase called _American Children's Folklore_, and it contains a chapter on those very friendship bracelets, although the author doesn't speculate where the idea originated, just records their existence and meaning from a sociological viewpoint, from reasearch done in the 1970s and 1980s, judging from the accompanying photos. What if those bracelets are the descendants of Victorian hairwork, created because the sentimental idea was worth keeping, but embroidery floss and safety pins are much easier to use than human hair, weighted bobbins, hairwork tables and the other tools? Just a thought.

Keeping a Gentle Hand on the Past ...

Welcome to the newest part of The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild: a blog! I intend to post weekly (approximately!) about guild events I'm planning, recipes I'm testing for our teas, and other related things. Feel free to join the fun!
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)