There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi

Friday, 24 July 2015

National Cream Tea Day

"The most trying hours in life are 
between four o'clock and the evening 
meal. A cup of tea at this time 
adds a lot of comfort and happiness."
~ Royal Copeland

Today is National Cream Tea Day in Britain, the first of its kind.  The day has been set aside to highlight and celebrate the love of baking, the art of laying out a beautiful tea table, and the joy of companionship over tea and scones.  Many people are celebrating the day by holding cream teas to raise money for charities, or it's just a way to stop during the middle of a busy day, breathe, sip tea, and enjoy a quiet conversation with someone, made all the better by scones and clotted cream.

Afternoon tea is a long-standing English tradition going back to the 17th century, and was a way to bridge the long gap between luncheon and the evening meal, which was served elegantly late. Cream teas became popular in the mid-19th century, when tourism in Cornwall began to flourish. Hotels, guest houses, and bed and breakfasts offered cream teas to tourists, which featured local Cornish scones, clotted cream and jam, along with pots and pots of tea.

"Never trust a man who, when left alone in 
a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on."
~ Billy Connelly

Afternoon tea at the Ritz, London.
A cream tea is a simpler affair than a true afternoon tea, which is rounds of sandwiches, cakes, petit-fours, as well as scones, jam and cream. It can take several hours to work your way through the tiers, but that is the point of it. Afternoon tea is meant for settling in, savoring, relaxing, stopping, and breathing. Americans have come to call this kind of elegant tea, "High Tea", but it's never called this in Britain--just Afternoon Tea.

The Randolph Hotel is our favourite
place in Oxford to enjoy an afternoon tea.


My favourite places in London to have afternoon tea are Brown's Hotel, followed by the Savoy, and a trip to London isn't complete without afternoon tea at one of these lovely hotels.




But back to cream teas, the quieter cousin of the elegant afternoon tea.  A cream tea is simpler and centres around a big pot of tea and scones -- fresh, crumbling, hearty yet delicate scones.  The cream comes from the clotted cream served with the scones.  There are two schools of thought in eating scones--and they're Cornwall and Devon.  The Cornish way is to put the jam on first, followed by a big dollop of clotted cream.  The Devon way is clotted cream first, then jam. Stuart's Cornwall and I'm Devon--I think mostly because I like more jam than cream and Stuart can't get enough clotted cream on his scones.  Either way, we always ask for extra jam and cream--and we load our scones with reckless abandon.

Even though cream teas and afternoon teas are for relaxing and slowing down, there are a few rules of etiquette to follow:
*No hats--hats are worn at weddings in Britain, not teatime.
*No raised pinky finger; the proper way to hold a teacup is between your thumb and forefinger.
*Relax! Settle in to your chair, take your time. That is what teatime in the afternoon is about. Stop and breath, smile and eat.
*Use loose leaf tea whenever possible--one teaspoon per person/cup, and one for the pot.
*Only clotted cream, no whipped cream; clotted cream has the consistency of soft butter, but the taste of whipped cream, it's the perfect thing to crown a scone with.
*No knives for cutting the scones; scones should be split by hand to preserve the delicate crumb.
*No talking about calories or cholesterol; "Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty." ~James Pratt ; it's a time to only savour and enjoy.

So on National Cream Tea Day, even if you don't have access to clotted cream and have never baked a scone before, no worries.  You can still stop for tea.  Find the most comfortable chair in your house, brew yourself a pot of tea and set a beautiful plate next to it of something sweet and delectable--and then sit back and enjoy. Take the time, do nothing else. Sip your tea and eat something sweet--slowly and relaxed, remembering to breathe, remembering to smile--then I promise you will find the gift of afternoon tea and why it's something to be celebrated.

"There is no need to have any special
attitude while drinking (tea) except
one of thankfulness. The nature of
tea itself is that of no-mind."
~ Pojong Sunim


Thank you so much for taking the time to be here and I always enjoy comments, reading what brings joy to your life.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Out and About in Oxford



You might remember wee Jack's sadness at not being to go out and play or walk the streets of Oxford.  Until his vaccinations kicked in and he was fully protected, he was confined to our back terrace and our garden. But those days are officially over, and Jack has now bounded onto the wider world.




At first Jack was very, very unhappy with his collar, and extremely unhappy to be confined to a leash. But it's a process, teaching a pup to get used to leads and collars and being reigned in, and patience is key.  Luckily, with those big, brown, puppy dog eyes, patience with Jack comes easily.





We chose Holywell Cemetery as his first real walk, since it's far from traffic, not many people around, and there's lots to explore and smell.  As we slowly wound our way around the paths, Jack would do OK for a bit and then decide enough was enough, lay down, and look at me with eyes that said,"Why have you brought me to this strange and scary wilderness?"





There was a lot of stopping and starting, whining and crying, but we persevered.


 By the time we left Holywell Cemetery and reached Jowett Walk, Jack was feeling more comfortable and curious.  Then when he realized there were people about who would talk to him, pat him, and tell him how cute he was, he really hit his stride.  He pranced down the street like he'd been on walkies for years.  There's absolutely no doubt that Jack is utterly and completely a people dog. He even made friends with two lovely first-year Biology students, who had just finished their first exam.  His career as a Goodwill Ambassador for Oxford had begun.



Max has been with Grandad in Bicester until Jack was a little older, but he returned home last night, so now Jack has someone to keep up with on our walks. He's taking to it all much better and doesn't look up at me as though I've betrayed him. It didn't take long last night and again this morning, before Jack was running along to keep up with Max, and was brave enough to start exploring a little more on his own.



Once we're back home, we have one tired puppy.


Max had a tough time adjusting to Jack at first, but again, patience is key, and they seem to have reach a tentative detente.  Our next step?  Getting two dogs adjusted to a Lady Catherine de Bourgh and a Mrs. Havisham, our Burford Brown hens set to move into their luxury suite next month.  Stay tuned................


Thanks for taking the time to stop by and I always appreciate hearing from you.  Jack and Max would love to hear about your furry loved ones in the comments below.........