Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The British Aisles

 60 Years a Queen!

I received a "hot tip" today that there's now 
 (on this side of the Pond)
 at Cost Plus World Market.
So this afternoon, I made a mad dash and hit the 
"British aisles"

 Long May She Reign

I spotted the Queen Elizabeth II tea mug right away.
Cost Plus did a nice job with this lovely Jubilee keepsake mug 
and it's hand finished in the UK.

 Devonshire Cream

Nothing goes better with tea and scones than Devon Cream!
I'd already stocked up on this tea party necessity 
and can't wait to see if it tastes as good as 
Devon Cream in England!

 Digestives Anyone?

It's always nice to have digestives on hand 
in case some "pops" over for a cuppa!

 Scottish Tea Cakes

I've spotted these cute little Scottish tea cakes by Tunnock's 
in Emma Bridgewater's Diamond Jubilee photo styling.
I bought them awhile back for the Jubilee Weekend...
but they didn't last a day in our house!
They are "ooey-gooey" good!
Best way I can describe them is, they're  like a chocolate, 
marshmallow covered biscuit.  

 Scottish Shortbread

Well, the Queen loves Balmoral Castle, Scotland and her Corgis 
so these little Scottie Dogs are perfect for a Jubilee Celebration!
They're not Corgis but they're sure cute!

 Spot of tea?

What's your favorite cuppa?  
There's plenty of good British brand tea 
to stock-up on in the tea aisle. 

I enjoyed visiting the
British "aisles" today but left empty handed since I'm already 
stocked up for the big Jubilee weekend.   
It was fun to see a Diamond Jubilee display though 
on this side of the pond!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jubilee Countdown

 Jubilee Dress Rehearsal

 is now just days away 
so I'm in dress rehearsal mode 
trying out a few new recipes for my 
Jubilee tea party.

 Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes

My Jubilee tea party menu is very traditional 
and includes both sweets and savory.
are sure to be the "star" of the celebration!

 The Ingredients

It's always good advice to buy the best ingredients you can.
With this recipe, 
you really want to splurge and buy the best strawberry jam 

I went with Wilkin & Sons Ltd. 
They hold a royal warrant...
so if it's good enough for the Queen
it's good enough for me!


The mini cakes are made in a British mini-sandwich tin.
Here in the States, 
you can use a mini-cheesecake pan for the same results. 

Don't worry if your cakes bake too high 
and you end up with muffin tops.
Just take a serrated knife and cut the tops off and then you'll have 
the perfect shape and size.

Mini Sponges

You'll end up with perfect little sponge cakes
(like these)
thanks to their baking pan's design with straight sides. 

Mini Victoria Sandwiches

After the cakes have cooled on a rack, 
you cut each cake in half 
and layer on buttercream 
and then a teaspoon of strawberry jam.

Fit for a Queen!

The last step is to lightly dust the cakes with icing sugar 
and they're ready for your tea table!
And yes,
this recipe truly is
"fit for a Queen"!

(In the photos:  Emma Bridgewater Diamond Jubilee & Union Jack Pottery and Betty and Barclay Union Jack Bunting.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fit for a Queen!

Victoria Sponge Anyone?  

It's Queen Victoria's birthday today...
so I think this calls for some Victoria Sponge!

 Queen Victoria

Yes, Victoria Sponge is named after Queen Victoria
and it was her favorite cake!

Whenever I visit London, 
I love to walk the grounds of Kensington Palace and see the 
Queen Victoria statue.  

Last year after tea at the Orangery
I could not find the Queen Victoria statue.  I discovered after our trip that the statue 
was being re-stored during Kensington Palace's two year refurbishment. 

The Queen Victoria statue was erected in 1893
The statue suffered shrapnel damage during World War II 
and has been now restored to her former glory.  
 I will look for her again on my next trip to London!

 Victoria Sponge 

On our trip to England last year,
I tasted Victoria Sponge for the first time at
 The Orangery at Kensington Palace 
(photo above)
and  at 
in the Jane Austen Center in Bath, England
(top photo).
Both Victoria Sponges were
 "fit for a Queen"!

Did you know that,
Queen Elizabeth II 
is Queen Victoria's great-great-great granddaughter and 
 Victoria Sponge
 is one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite cakes, too!

I'm off now to my kitchen to practice making 
Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes
for my upcoming Diamond Jubilee tea parties!  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Raise the Buntings!

Celebration Time!

Every Diamond Jubilee celebration needs a 
and I've got mine!

Whenever I travel to England 
I love seeing Union Jack buntings everywhere 
from the "quaintest" tea rooms to the most regal "high street" shops.
Last year in England, I almost bought a Union Jack bunting until I read the package and saw that is was out-sourced and made in China.  I just couldn't bring myself to buy it.  I'm so glad I didn't buy it because I recently discovered a brilliant bunting shop on Etsy called, 

The moment I saw Betty and Barclay's buntings, 
 I knew the owner had to be British.  
Sure enough she is and Carol James is a retired Brit, 
now living in France.  
When Carol's not busy sewing her adorable buntings 
she's out scouring the French countryside for vintage treasures 
to sell in her other Etsy shops,  

Betty and Barclay

Since most Americans are not that familiar with buntings
I asked Carol to explain what buntings are and tell us a bit about her buntings. 
Here's our chat:

Carol, can you explain what a bunting is and how they are used?
CJ)  Buntings originated in Suffolk, England in the mid 1800s and were traditionally used by the navy for signalling purposes and even today the ship's officer in charge of communications uses flags known as a "bunt".   As time went by the flags then moved on to being a decoration for boats and yachts with colors being red, yellow, blue and green. Buntings then became popular with patriotic celebrations, moving on to home party decorations and now today to being home decorations for use all year...celebrating or not!
I had not thought of hanging bunting myself until last year when I was hosting a family birthday party.  It was October, full of the colors of Autumn and so I decided to hang two of my "fall buntings' and seven months later they are still hanging because I find them most cheerful and mesmerising...maybe it's time to change to summer ones?

 How did you become interested in making and selling your signature line of buntings?
CJ) Just over a year ago my niece was getting married and commented that she would like to have bunting but it is so expensive....I like sewing so thought I would make her some as a surprise. I looked on the Internet and was surprised at just how expensive buntings can be so thought I'd have a go at trying to sell some. 
One of my first buntings was my Nautical Navy and White Stripe Bunting.   I thought as bunting has its origins with a naval theme this would be a good one to start with and it has become my most popular bunting...I don't know exactly how many I have sold but I have used about 50 yards of fabric now so it is quite a lot!  Three orders have been for "nautical themed" weddings and my nautical buntings have been featured in over 100 Etsy Treasurys. 

Do you have any tips on how to decorate with buntings?
CJ)  In my experience, I always think that buntings look better when hung in a space as opposed to being flat against a wall...say from one wall to another across a corner, not flat against the wall.  The uses for buntings are endless but I always say that "less is more" if you choose colors correctly.   You don't need loads of bunting to make an impact in rooms where you might need a lot of buntings.  For example, say if you were going to fill a marquee for a party, decorate a shop, a tent stall, across a street, etc.  then certainly bunting with spaces in between the flags is so much better...not so much like shark teeth!  Also, fewer flags are needed and the cost of the banner should be less expensive.  I've made all sorts of buntings from a New York fashion show with 300 yards down to a string of five little flags for a baby's  room.  I make many customized buntings which is always a pleasant challenge!

Because I always have to ask, are you a tea drinker?  If yes, what's your favorite "cuppa"?
CJ)  Yes, I am a tea drinker...although since living in France I have become a coffee drinker, too.  Coffee or tea, it has to be made in the correct way.  Coffee is always freshly percolated and I am still experimenting and trying new flavours and densities.  But tea, well I'm English and have always been a tea drinker.  I have English Breakfast in the morning and in the afternoon Earl Grey.  Tea is most definitely the most refreshing drink...only in a cup and in a pre-warmed pot!
Love that!

Betty and Barclay

Who are Betty and Barclay?
CJ)  Betty and Barclay are the names of my vintage Teddy Bears!
Barclay was found at an antique fair in England.  He was under a stall with his head in a polythene bag...we had to rescue him!  A year later we found Betty with a broken neck and torn ear...another rescue and a mate for Barclay!

Carol, what a pleasure getting to know you 
and "thank you" so much for taking the time to chat about buntings.  
I can't wait to get more of your buntings for other celebrations! 

(In the photos:  Betty and Barclay Union Jack Bunting, Emma Bridgewater Union Jack and Diamond Jubilee pottery and Spode Blue and White china)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fit for a Queen!

 Diamond Jubilee Tea Party

It's countdown time...
Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebration 
is just a little over two weeks away now.  

I wish I could be in England 
attending some fabulous village street parties 
but since I can't
I'll be celebrating here in the States all Jubilee weekend long
with parties of my own. 

My Diamond Jubilee celebrations will be mostly tea parties 
since I am a huge fan of British afternoon tea. 

 British Tea Mugs

To set the stage for my tea parties
I've been collecting British Union Jack and British "themed" china. 
Thanks to my "very kind and thoughtful" British knitting friends,
(Thank you Jo and Teresa!) 
I've even had wonderful tea mugs sent to me all the way from England
for my Jubilee celebrations!

Union Jack pottery

No Jubilee celebration would be complete without 
Emma Bridgewater's Union Jack pottery!

I've began collecting Emma's Union Jack pattern
ever since I visited the Emma Bridgewater factory last year. 
I knew it would be perfect for my Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Emma also has a limited-edition Diamond Jubilee range 
which has been a smashing success!
I love this range and special-ordered a few mugs and plates.
Many of the pieces can be personalized and hand painted by artists 
at Emma Bridgewater.  I had my tea mugs personalized with 
"cuppa" on them since that is so "British" to me!

 Queen of Cakes

Besides china, 
I've also purchased some new British cook books
 to make authentic British tea party treats. 

I recently discovered Britain's Mary Berry who is known as the 
"Queen of Cakes"
so I had to buy her book called, 

I also adore the book Vintage Tea Party which is filled with tea party recipes 
and encourages us to bring out our treasured vintage tea things for our tea table.  
The author Carolyn Caldicott owned the World Food Cafe in London's Convent Garden.  
She has been collecting tea recipes ever since she was a child.  
I'm so glad she is sharing them in her darling book! 

So now, I'm off to finalize my Diamond Jubilee Tea Party plans.
On the menu already are:

Scones with Devonshire Cream and Strawberry Jam
Coronation Chicken Sandwiches
Cucumber Sandwiches
Egg and Cress Sandwiches 
Victoria Mini Sponge Cakes
Lemon Tarts

I think her Royal Highness,
would approve!

(In the photos:  Emma Bridgewater Union Jack & Diamond Jubilee pottery, Mason Cash Knitannia Mug, Waitrose Tea Mugs, Vintage Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Mug