The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Get out the croquet set and enjoy these last days of summer!

"A Game of Croquet" by Winslow Homer, 1866. Wikipedia.
Croquet is a vintage game that can be very formal and complicated, or it can be played in a much simplified manner that is perfect for home and public park games. You need a croquet set -- and these can sometimes be found at places like Target and Wal-mart, as well as specialty sporting-goods stores -- and you need a medium-sized to large grassy area. If you have a back or front yard that is covered in grass and fairly flat, and at least 20 feet long, that will work. If you don't have enough space at home, you can try a local public park. Bring your croquet set, plus a rubber mallet for tapping on the stakes and wickets (wire hoops) to stick them in the ground, as well as any picnic stuff you like. Shade canopies or umbrellas, beach chairs, picnic blankets, and Thermoses full of iced tea and lemonade are particularly recommended! English croquet lawn. Image from

While proper croquet has its set of rules, including the size of the court, and the spacing and placement of the wickets and stakes, if playing for fun at home or at the park, you can set it up in whatever space you have. Try to space the wickets and stakes at equal distances from each other, with one stake at each end of the court and one in the center. The traditional layout for the wickets is a figure-8 design, with the stakes making the ends and center of the "8" and the wickets making the sides, with one wicket also in front of each stake at each end of the court.

The object of the game is to be the first one to hit their ball through the last wicket and hit the last stake. Each player has to hit their own ball through all the wickets in order, hitting the stakes at each end and in the middle, first going one direction through all the wickets, and then going back through them all in reverse order. Each player gets one swing, or "stroke" for their turn, and if you swing and miss your ball, it still counts as a stroke! The only time you get more than one stroke for your turn is if your ball hits or touches another person's (or team's) ball as it moves after you hit it. In that case, you get to pick up your ball (you can't touch it at any other time unless you hit it out of bounds), put your ball right next to the ball that it hit or touched, and then hit your ball with a second stroke. The idea is that as you hit your ball, it hits the other one and knocks it out of the way. Then you get to take a third stroke (without picking up your ball) and hit just your own ball. Then your turn is over. All other rules are to be decided by all the players voting on whether or not to allow a certain thing in their game.
Croquet mallet, balls and stake. Image from
Since you have to move around the court so much, it would be helpful to bring some different colored ribbons or clothespins so that each person can mark the next wicket or stake that they are aiming for, after they finish each turn. There are a lot more rules, as well as special croquet terms, that apply to the full, "official" version of the game, but the American Backyard version preserves the essence and fun of the game without all the complexity.

If you're in the San Jose area next month, come on down to Overfelt Gardens and join the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild at their Croquet Picnic! Here's the info:

Date: Saturday, September 11, 2010 @ 2 pm
Location:Overfelt Gardens, 368 Educational Park Dr., San Jose
Cost: $25 per person
Suggested Costume: summer afternoon wear from 1870 through 1930, or modern “garden party” wear in pastels or white, with hats and/or parasols. Vintage picnic gear like blankets, umbrellas, etc. encouraged!

Gentlemen and children welcome! Iced tea and picnic refreshments will be provided, along with a printed copy of the American Backyard Croquet rules. If you have your own croquet set, feel free to bring it along. Bring a camera for great photo opportunities!

R.S.V.P. and send food fee by Thursday, September 9. You can send payment by PayPal or by mail. E-mail for more information.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

'Teens costume for late-summer!

Getting ready for two local events coming up: a croquet picnic with the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild, and the Antique Auto Show at History Park, both in September. A group that I volunteer with, Portraits of the Past, attends the Antique Auto Show in costume to provide ambiance, and coordinates a costume contest there each year. Usually I wear 1920s frocks to the Auto Show, because they're easy to wear and cute as all get out, but this year I think I'll do mid teens, say around 1916 or so. I have a dress, but I need a better hat, so here is an image from my antique print collection that I am thinking about using:
antique fashion print ca. 1913.
I think I have a modern sun hat in a similar shape that I can use, and I have a lovely vintage lace scarf that I will probably drape over the brim like some of the examples in the print. My dress is a sheer white with a woven windowpane design, and I wear it with a wide blue ribbon sash that I found in my grandmother's sewing box (which I inherited) after her death.

Here are some other Edwardian, 'teens and 20s costume images for my inspiration and your enjoyment. They include various members of Portraits of the Past at past Antique Auto Shows as well as the historic fashion shows that we perform in each month.
catalog image ca. 1915. From the Costumer's Manifesto.

Sears catalog image ca. 1917. From Costumer's Manifesto.

At the Harris-Lass House, June 2009.

photo ca. 1918. From the Sense & Sensibility website.

at the Antique Auto Show, September 2006.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yerba mate tasting in San Jose!

Yerba mate gourd with straw. Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation.
Join the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild for their August event, which will be a tasting class featuring different kinds of yerba mate, led by local tea expert Stephanie Thompson. Yerba mate and other refreshments, and all brewing and tasting equipment will be provided. Here's the event information:

Date: Saturday, August 14, 2010, 2 p.m.
Location: a private home in the Berryessa area of San Jose.
Cost: $25 (Ladies' Tea Guild members)/ $30 (non-members)
Suggested Costume: modern dress, or South American-inspired.

Contact the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild at for more information or to buy a ticket. Credit card payments accepted through PayPal (e-mail and the Director can send you an invoice), until Friday, August 13th!

So what is yerba mate anyway? Yerba mate is a South American herb that has come onto the North American beverage stage within the last 10 years. It is one of the three known plants to be natural sources of caffeine, along with tea and coffee. It has been enjoyed by the Gurarani people of Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil for centuries. The plant’s Latin name is Ilex paraguariensis, also known as the yerba tree – and a relative of the holly -- and it is native to a small area of South America. It produces leaves which are cut, dried, and infused similarly to true tea; the infusion is served in a special gourd cup – called a cuia or guampa -- and is drunk through a straw – or bombilla -- which contains a strainer to remove the leaf pieces.

As with tea and coffee, yerba mate tends to be an “acquired taste.” It is said to resemble green tea in flavor. Proponents of the beverage sometimes claim that yerba mate is caffeine-free, but that is not really true. The energy-increasing substance in yerba mate is called mateine (i.e. the energy stuff that’s in yerba mate), but it is another form of caffeine (i.e. the energy stuff that's in coffee). However, yerba mate is said to be less addictive than coffee, less likely to cause the “jitters” from over-consumption, and it shares over 100 of the almost 200 beneficial chemical compounds in true tea. It is also touted as an appetite suppressant. Come and see what it's all about!

“Tea 101: yerba mate tea”
“Know your yerba mate” by Chris Cason, Fresh Cup magazine, July 2010 issue,
“Yerba mate History and Culture”
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)