Friday, December 19, 2008

A No-Fuss Christmas Tea Party For Exhausted People


Whenever I'm in England (which isn't often enough), I spend half my time looking for out -of-the- way tearooms. Because of this minor obsession, I came up with a tea party that I can throw together in 15-minutes. So, when I start pining for Double Devonshire cream, I don't have to fly across the pond. I just drive to Publix.

True, my tea party involves store-bought goodies and minimal fuss--and bakery scones are simply not as ambrosial as homemade, but when your bones are aching and the days are short, there's nothing like a bracing cup of hot tea and a scone with double cream to revive your spirits.

The most time consuming part of the tea is assembling the dishes (joy, joy, joy) and serving pieces--this is most definitely NOT part of the 15-minute preparation. The night before the "party," I set the table, and Dr. Gollum and I "tested" the tea; but idea was so abhorrent to Little Gollum, he fled to the basement with a bag of Reeses Cups.

I'd planned to make scones (from a mix), but bursitis put a crimp in my plans, so the next day, my sweet husband stopped by Publix for the goodies.

While he drove down to the barn, I put two cake plates together. The fruit went on the top, the pastries on the bottom, along with a few berries and the chocolate mice.

While I've never seen a petit four in a British tearoom (and a Scottish High Tea is even more savory--robust, smokey, and masculine--without prissy food), I dearly love them.


Then I poured the tea--Dr. G calls this "The March of the Teacups."


The pottery is "Desert Rose," mixed with Johnson Brother's British Castles, and odd little pieces that make me smile.



My husband found the scones at Publix--two blueberry, two cranberry.


I made the finger sandwiches at warp speed (actually, I stacked the bread and cut off the crusts--and Dr. Gollum took them to the chickens).
I spread the bread with a thin layer of *real* butter, then I cut the bread into squares. Next, I put a little Dukes Mayonnaise on each square. I peeled a cucumber and sliced a Roma--then I divided the slices evenly among the bread. Finally, I seasoned them with sea salt, pepper, a bit of Hungarian paprika, and chopped dill, chives, and Italian parsley.


I cut up a miniature mushroom pizza from the bakery and sprinkled it with parsley.


Raspberry jam was scooped into a little jam pot and Devonshire double cream went into a glass hen. I'd never heard of "double cream" until I went to England--and I was instantly hooked. It is far thicker than whipped cream--the consistency is about like mashed potatoes. The Brits have several types of cream--and it's far, far richer that what's available in the U.S. This is because the cattle graze on a delicious type of grass and clover that flourishes in Devonshire, and it contributes to the complex flavor. Double cream is light and savory, not sweet--and the spreading consistency is perfect for scones. Just look at that spoon standing at attention.

By the time Dr. G returned from the barn, tea was ready.


I love to put mismatched flatware in glass candy jars...

but they also look beautiful in iced tea glasses.


We had to push back the chairs to prevent Mister from leaping onto the table and making off with the goodies. Last year, Dr. G. got up from the table to answer the phone, and when he returned, his steak was missing. And so was Mister.


Since Yorkies are from the UK, I can only assume that Mister is Highly Miffed about this High Tea. If you look closely, you will see a green McCoy frog planter, which I've piled with grapes. (It was just too cold and foggy to go cut pine boughs.)

Now may I have a biscuit? Mister asks.

Dr. G bought the double cream and the tea biscuits at Publix. (Kathy, this is for you, my dear!)

So, it only took 15 minutes, and that includes washing the fruit and peeling the cucumber.
Here's Dr. G. coming back for more sandwiches.

I'm repeating this menu for Christmas Day, adding smoked salmon and blinis, along with a salad, homemade croutons, and Tabasco Garlic Pecans. When I sat down with my plate, Dr. G said, "Is that all you're eating?"

"Mmmhum," I said, deciding on the spot not to mention the petit fours I'd scarfed down earlier. But that will be our little secret. ::wink::

Suggested Reading:

  • The New York Book of Tea by Bo Niles & Veronica McNiff
  • Biscuits and Scones by Elizabeth Alston
  • The Perfect Afternoon Tea Book published by Lorenz Books
  • The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea: The Art & Pleasures of Taking Tea by Helen Simpson
These books are old favorites and may be hard to find. If you're interested, That Bookstore in Blytheville will have recommendations for divine books about tea.

62 comments:

  1. You have such beautiful dishes. Where do you store them all? I'd come to tea at your place anyday - even if it was a 25 minute tea!

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  2. I don't have a clue about storage. I am what's known as a "sticker and a stuffer." I have items stashed everywhere. This spring, I hope to get it organized.

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  3. The tea was lovely. On my to do list for this summer is some real organization for dishes and many other household items. We will have to check back when it gets warm again.
    Roberta Anne

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  4. Came to thank you for yet another delightful read, the yummy eye candy & to tell you that I immediately noticed, & greatly appreciated, the classic beauty of the "mismatched" spoons~~~ I adore the unpretentiousness of that! I'm soooo "WITH you, Sista'", on "sticking n' stuffing", as you answered to Mari!!! Now, I have a question, IN ALL SINCERITY (!), to ask, if I may~~~ How DOOOOO you "DO" so MUCH in a day, Michael??? It just BOGGLES my MIND how MUCH you can accomplish while I'M still THINKING about doing HALF of the things you've ALREADY done!!! (I mean, really!!! I seem to ALWAYS be playing tag with "yesterdays"! I'm only "FAST" at setting a table, saying "charrrrge!" and tending to the dog's many "requests/demands" to be spoiled rotten!!!)~~~ Envy is not a word in my vocabulary (it's just not healthy!), buuuuut "CURIOSITY" and "ADMIRATION" ARE!!!~~~ Soooo, may I ask, WHAT IS YOUR SECRET, my friend??? Hugs, Linda

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  5. Please don't open any closets or look under any beds here - I stick and stuff everywhere. I so enjoyed your tea. I just returned from Christmas shopping with Jacob and my dogs are barking. I'm just trying to get my second wind to wrap the new packages. I'm now craving a scone with double cream but I guess a mini cheesecake with a shot of Reddy-whip will have to do...BTW I picked up that Steven King book from B&N tonight. ~ Robyn

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  6. Robyn, I'm so glad--the King book is my favorite.

    Linda, Young Gollum helps tremendously. He cooked supper tonight and cleaned the kitchen.

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  7. Gollum, you sure know how to throw a party! And I miss Publix - we don't have those in NC, but we did in SC, at least near Columbia. You do receive A Southern Season's catalogs, don't you. I say that, but I haven't received them since I have lived here. I assume they still send them out...but I'm sure there's plenty to see online; still, it's not as good as in person! If I don't "talk" to you, have a wonderful Christmas.
    P.S. Didn't know little Gollum lived at home - thought he was in college or beyond.

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  8. Gollum, Is there anything you can't do?? You amaze me!! I just love all of your ideas. I wish I could join you for tea!!
    Hugs, Terrie

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  9. It is after midnight and I am suddenly hungry (again). Your post brought back wonderful memories of my grandmother and I shopping in NY and stopping so she could get her tea and scones (sigh). I might have to stop at Publix tomorrow and gather supplies to re-create your tea party (thanks for photos so I know what to look for when I go!).

    Raspberry jam also wonderful with Monte Cristo sandwich (which I fixed last night...yummy)

    Thanks for sharing your tea party!

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  10. I don't have a ready source for double devon cream but I did make your recipe for pineapple upside down cake tonight and I must say it was fabulous. Your directions didn't say what to do with the 1/4 cup of reserved pineapple juice so I put it in the batter and it turned out beautifully. I was thinking that next time I might add a little dash of run into the brown sugar/butter mixture before I bake it. Tipsy Upside Down cake!

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  11. Oh Gollum !! I so enjoyed this tea Par-ty with you and the Doctor of the house..it all looks just yummy..of course you know I just adore Mister..I love the fact the steak was missing and him also..they are the smartest little bugger around them Yorkie are..if one of mind would potty in the house they would all hide afraid they would all get in trouble..
    We have an English tea room in town and they use all mismatched China and flatware...its so lovely.
    another great books about english teas are "If tea cups could talk" by Emilie Barnes and "the Charms of Tea" by Hearst books..I have and used both..Emilie Barnes came to our Tea room and even signed it for me !!! that was in 1997 both have wonderful recipes in them even on how to make Devonshire Cream..great post as always...give that Mister some love from me...hugs and smiles Gloria

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  12. What a lovely visit I had here this evening. Thank you for the quiet, luscious ambience and tea.
    Lisa & Alfie

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  13. I've led a sheltered life...I've never heard of Double Devon cream. Publix is about 1/2 mile away...that will definitely go on my next shopping list! What a nice tea party! Yum! Susan

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  14. Yes, Tablescape Tuesday is definitely on! Gotcha down for it. :-) Susan

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  15. Wow! A very beautiful table and delicious foods. I love hot tea, my grandmother use to always fix it for me and herself, but we only had saltine crackers with butter. But is was tasty! Thanks for stopping by to hear my song, and thanks for the compliment. Deb

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  16. Did you do a book signing in Chapel Hill? There use to be a wonderful bookstore there - and I can't think of the guy's name, a Carolina alum, Charles Kuralt?, maybe (I can see his face, but I'm blanking on his name) but his brother owned the store, and they moved from Franklin Street down to near the mall. All I can think of is The Regulator bookstore, and that's in Durham (just saw they have a blog when I googled them). It's tough getting old & not being able to remember! I hope you make it back one day. Try to come in the Spring...that and the fall are the most beautiful times of year in Chapel Hill.

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  17. Mister's FACE!! My goodness how cute! This was a totally enchanting and ENGROSSING post!! But Please!~~I just GOTTA KNOW about the Tabasco Garlic Pecans! That sounds HEAVENLY!! I want a signature "something"..and salty and spicy is right up my alley!! :-)
    L~

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  18. I took some photos of the Tabasco pecans tonight--I didn't add enough Tabasco. I would post it, but I don't EVER use recipes (just ask Bridget!). Basically, melt a stick of real butter over a medium flame, then add a whole bunch of pecans (I used 5 smallish bags of pecan halves). 1/2 bottle Tabasco wasn't enough for me, but it may be over the top for others. Add 1 packet of Good Seasons dry Italian Seasoning mix and stir. Then add garlic and keep stirring until the pecans are nicely coated. Sometimes I add Hungarian paprika, and lots of minced garlic.

    It helps if you sautee the pecans in a large, oven proof pan. I use copper. Then pop the pan into a 350 oven for, oh, about 20-25 minutes. Stir every few minutes.

    I also make croutons with leftover French bread--cube, put into a skillet with 1 or 1 1/2 sticks real butter, lots of garlic, sea salt (or Kosher). Sautee. Then turn out into a baking pan. Bake 325 degrees till brown.
    These are so good I eat them like popcorn and give them for gifts.

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  19. That looks so lovely!!! That soup tureen is gorgeous!!!

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  20. Gollum - I have come to think that you are I are night owls. Your posts are added as late as most of mine. :-) I am my most creative at night. Do you find that to be true?
    I loved this tea. I did not drink tea until we moved to Europe. I learned to drink "proper" tea from a British wife who's husband worked with mine. She taught me about adding the cream first and foremost. LOL I will have to share with you my ebay piece I just rec'd in the mail today to hold a small collection of butter knives. You will love it. I don't have a Publix. sigh! Hugs, Barb

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  21. Oh YUM! Both sound delish!! I am off for TWO WHOLE WEEKS and can't wait for a "seasony diverson"! This will be better than cleaning for company! :-) And dh loves Tabasco too! :-)
    Thank you for the recipe!! L~

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  22. everything looks amazing. i would have a tea party every day if i could!

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  23. My friend and I found this scone mix at TJMax. You just add water and milk, and bake. They are wonderful. We just made some this week. Apple and cinnamon. They had some other flavors too. We had ours with butter and jam. I love the clotted cream too. With hot tea ,it was wonderful on a rainy day. Kathy

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  24. Hello Gollum...What an enchanting time to spend with a loved one... I think I'll do this for my DH & myself...he'll think I've lost my mind more than likely since I've never done it before! But, I keep reminding him "these are the days of our lives" and we must enjoy every moment of them. Your High Tea looks magnificent! ;-) Bo

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  25. The tea was lovely and the way you described made me almost be able to smell the wonderful aroma of it all. I love having tea and taking the time to pause and reflect on the beauty and taste of that moment. Thank you for sharing. Hugs, Bobbi Jo

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  26. As I'm now snowed in, reading your blog is a "vacation" for me.
    Little Mister always makes me smile.

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  27. You have amazing talent. I love it all, the dishes, the wonderful food and of course your photography. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Have a wonderful day,
    Tam

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  28. Beautiful tea party! That soup tureen with the fruit in GORGEOUS! I have just woken up this morning and your pictures of delicious treats have made me hungry :-)

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  29. Loved this post Michael! I so admire the way you spoil Your Man! The Desert Rose was one of my mother's china patterns. This makes me feel as if I'm having a tea party with her. I'm definitely trying those Tabasco Pecans. And I'm adding a little more tabasco. I love to "smoke my lips". I rarely complain about anything being too spicy.
    So, what majic are you creating for your family today? I sure hope that Mister eventually got a 'biscuit" or two.
    love, Carol

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  30. How delightful! I've never thought to combine my Dessert Rose with my Old Britain Castles before, but it looks wonderful together on your tea table. Have a great weekend. Sally

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  31. Isn't Publix just the best? I had no clue I could buy yummies like the double cream though! I'll have to try that some time soon. Of course, I can't have much sugar, so instead of the scones I might have to spread it on a damn carrot or something.

    Justine :o )

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  32. I remember the day I experienced (and it IS an experience!) my first cream tea in London. Nothing could have prepared me for the taste sensation. I have tried to duplicate it on USA soil many times .. but it's never quite the same. That first tea was followed by many others during our UK trip, each a pure delight. Needless to say, I returned with an expanded waistline. Oh, Gollum .. there is a story attached to Mr. Rocky which I will "tell" soon. Happy Saturday!

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  33. This looks simply superb!!! How do you do it all so easily??? It looks truly beautiful!!! French;)

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  34. What an enchanting tea party. Sure wish I could have been there. We don't have a Publix here. And lately we're lucky to have anything other than Walmart to shop for groceries. However, I will put a few of these things on the list. I believe this would be fun to do for New Year's Eve. I sure hope Mister finally got his little bite. hugs ~lynne~

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  35. Gollum, I came searching for pictures of your yard and landscaping. I am just wondering if you have enough places for the little song birds to feel safe. I'd love to see pictures. Do you use photobucket? Could you drop me a link to your yard if you do. Hey, I added your widget to my blog. I just love that idea!
    Hugs, Terrie

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  36. This is all so lovely
    ~Beautifully done. :)
    Thanks for the inspiration.

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  37. Well, that does it! I'm NOW "officially depressed"!!!... Yep, look at all YOU've done, and here I sit, STILL in nightgown, at almost 10:00 on the Saturday morning before Christmas...oohhhh, but I DOOOOO have some great "IDEAS" for "creating" some pretties!!! (We need a "young Gollum" around here, that's what WE need, and that's "all I want for Christmas..."!!!)~~~ Huge grins n' hugs to you, the family and allll the gals/guys who visit here!!! Linda

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  38. Thank you for inviting us to your tea! It looks lovely and the fact that you prepared all the goodies in lickety split time helps us think we might really be able to do this!!

    I came back from helping a friend clean and decorate her home for a gathering and knew in 45 minutes I would have 20 carolers who were cold and hungry coming over for goodies and hot cocoa- I had baked some things the day before- but much of the food was like yours- from the bakery- placed them on pretty glass pedestal cake plates and some candlelight and everyone thought I had been working on the presentation for hours!! For once I think I pulled it off! (of course as usual, too busy to remember to take some pictures to share!!)

    blessings
    mary

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  39. All such a feast for the....spirit!
    What a fabulous TEA par-tay!

    Loved those little mice you posted yesterday. Now will have to see if I have the ingredients, and find some stemmed cherries and give them a try. What a great motivator you are..... :)

    Thanks Michael for sharing all these delights.

    In case I am not back online before Christmas day, I just want to wish YOU and those who you hold close to your heart; A VERY JOYOUS SEASON and MERRY CHRISTMAS. Be safe and take care Hugs, hugs
    -Brenda-

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  40. Carrots might actually be good with double cream--it's not sweet and would be like a buttery dip.
    If you want something sweet, put a little Splenda into the double cream and serve with strawberries, peaches, blueberries, etc.

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  41. Oh Gollum I am feeling so home-sick right now (warm smiles :)) and ROFL at the Jammie Dodgers pic, if you add a couple of spoonfuls of Devon custard to that double cream (which you described perfectly!) your tastebuds will explode!. Raleys (here in CA) have both clotted/devon double cream and devon custard (but it's $5 a can) YIKES, luckily Stephen Brought some over. Your 'Dessert Rose' looks wonderful with the 'Castles' and Misty looks so cute trying to get at the scones, (much easier than making off with a large piece of steak, I'm sure). This is so delightful Gollum, forget the Ritz I think you should have regular cream teas down on the farm. Your tureen and glass platters are wonderful. I know you enjoyed your evening, hugs, Kathy.


    Heehee, perhaps you should have called the teeny rooster something other than Romeo, he has a lot to live up to!, and how does Gertie feel about all this??.

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  42. Yum, yum I will have to try some of these item. And the presentation of it all is so wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
    Just the right afternoon for a tea party.
    Blossom

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  43. Romeo will run to one side of the barn and start clucking to all of the hens (as if he's found a stash of food), and they'll race over. But it's a trick--he's just looking for love. :-0
    But most of the time he sticks right by Gertie and "shows" her grapes and bread crusts. I wish I'd named her Juliet, but we'd already named her Gertie.

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  44. Kathy, I have a can of Ambrosia Devon custard in the pantry--I didn't knot to add it to the double cream, and I can't wait. Thanks so much for the tip. I wish you would blog about cream teas.

    I also have a can of Heinz Treacle. I love what it says on the can (the Brits are so eloquent):
    "If you are not delighted with this product, simply contact us, quoting the quality code on the can end and we will refund your money in full. Your statutory rights are not affected."

    :-)

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  45. So pretty..and everything looks tasty too. Although I kind of miss the little tea mouse!

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  46. You sure know how to throw a fabulour tea...everything you do looks so top-notch...I love all your talents.
    love, bj

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  47. Gollum, thank you for some of the suggestions for Mr. Blossom.
    I did get the Zicam and it didn't help. That was the first thing I got. I am going to try the items in the soup and see if that works and I am going to GNC and get the other item. Thank you again.
    Blossom

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  48. Such a beautiful tea party, and how nice to see TBIB mentioned. I'm afraid that, in our little town, we would not be able to find these wonderful treats you mentioned. Loved your stacked cake plates with all of the pretty food on them. laurie

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  49. Well well Gollum... First the romantic dinner for two and now a lovely tea for two... You are the forever romantic one aren't you darling... Loved all your ideas and that would make a nice get together in the afternoon for the ladies.... Great ideas... Thanks

    (((HUGS)))
    Donna

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  50. Oh I did want to say that I make those little cucumber sandwiches but I use the cocktail bread... or tiny breads... They are scrumptious

    Bye again
    XOXOXOXO

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  51. Okay, now you are just showing off! You call that "no fuss"? Goodness, girl, if that's what you can do in 15 min. I would like to see what you would do with a whole hour!
    Elegant and scrumptious and Duchess is just peeved that she wasn't invited... afterall, her family is British and she IS royalty!
    Loved the bit about the Gertie and Romeo....I'm thinking it would be fodder for a great children's book!

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  52. such a cute little tea party~ long live petit fours, i have never been able to swallow a scone in my life, and i am from an english family... someone forgot the sugar, cream filling and chocolate topping to make them, umm, more enjoyable! can you tell i have a palette of 5 year old?

    love the visual details you share, as one with dishease, its always a treat to peek at others bountiful treasures~

    and sadly now i am hungry for a little cucumber sandwich...

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  53. Gollum~~I made the Tabasco Pecans!! They are SCRUMPTOUS!! And they taste even better today! I'm going back for more pecans today since dh liked them so much~~he said to tell you "Thank you"! :-)
    I too added a little more than half a bottle..but for the next batch I want to add more garlic. :-) The first time I opened the oven to stir, I nearly keeled over from the Tabasco fumes! LOL I learned after that to stand to the side of the oven..haha!
    Thanks so much for the recipe!! Tomarie/Laura

    PS~Oh, I must make a confession to anyone who makes these..don't eat too many at once or you will have a slight Tabasco tummy ache. I had no will power. :-(

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  54. Good morning cutie.. glad to see the "mice" are under control at least for another day. :-)
    We start with family dinner here today.. wondering if I might borrow some of your beautiful cake stands.. girl they are sooooooo on my list to get.. I am over the top for anything crystal, glass, etc... well you know what I'm talking about.. just wanted to pop in and say hello.. sure hope Mister gets his little bite..
    hugs ~lynne~

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  55. Everything looks so beautiful and scrumptious! Wish I could come over for tea!

    Would you mind sharing the manufacturer and pattern of your tureen?

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  56. Oh La!! What a lovely tea!! It would take me four times as long to produce 1/4 as much!! You have it down to an art! And gollum girl that fruit tureen is gawgy!!Me likey, me wanty!!*winks* Vanna

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  57. Your dishes are lovely! I adore the square crystal dish! The round one too! Better what out! Mister just might jump up and get your mice! lol They are too cute. I love your feeding the chickens crumbs! My rooster, Mr. Red, calls all his hens, at feeding time! Hoping to have a baby goat around Christmas. I love sheep and angora goats. Took a job out of state traveling with an aviation company for five years. So we sold off the flock! But back at home and want them back! I spin on the spinning wheel and weave on the loom. I am watching out for your mice, but I think they may be a few in the corn field, gathering left overs! Oh, but I think they have found greener pastures at your home and Susans!

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  58. Love your tea! No Pubix here! I order my scone mix from Victorian House of Scones, Debbie is the owner and she is great. Last month she was awared the best scone mix in USA! All my friends and family beg for them! If interested let me know and I will get you her web site address.

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  59. I want to come to one of your teas! lol

    I am so far behind on blog visits! Thanks so much for all the well wishes as I've been recovering from surgery!

    Your blog is always such a treat to visit!

    Kady

    P.S. I have bandwith hogging young men in my house too!

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  60. BEAUTIFUL,QUICK AND I'LL BET DELICIOUS...ANN

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  61. I have grown to love "teas", just went to a wonderful new Tea house last week with friends. Had wonderful tea sandwiches, scones, cream and jam...it was heaven in this BUSY, hectic season!!!! Thanks for posting this, I have NO CLUE how you do all you do!!!!!! Pinky

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