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Posts Tagged ‘aesthetic’

When Miss Kate Cranston asked Renie Mackintosh to design the now famous Willow Tea rooms, the marvellous Scottish tea tradition was firmly established. Tea with Mary Kate has taken the inspiration for this tea from that heritage and Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burn’s, to create this Burn’s night tea.

Burns night is all about celebrating Robert Burn’s life and works.

Robert Burns Night Tea

Choose your favourite Robert Burn’s poem and add a few lines for inspiration to your tea menu – finish it off with beautiful tartan ribbon to contrast with the crisp white table linen. My favourite lines are from “to a mouse”:

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

I love the line “best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley” as quite honestly my dears, that so captures life!

Burn's Night Tea

Burn’s Night Tea

Vegetarian haggis with miniature nepes & tatties

Smoked Salmon on wholemeal bread

A generous portion of clottie dumpling served in vintage tea cups

A strong Scottish leaf Tea – Taylors of Harrogate

A traditional Clootie dumpling - Perfect for Burn's night Tea - from Clootie.co.uk

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It’s such a perfect day! Having arrived in some splendour aboard the Northern Belle, the RHS flower show at Chelsea is more than a fitting destination, but how to see it all?! Here are a few of Tea with Mary Kate’s favourite things:

Favourite Stand in the Great Pavilion – Sweet Tea Cafe

I confess to never having heard of Heucheras, but I just fell in love with them, and absolutely adored this stand. I’m reliably informed by Jooles, a self confessed heucheraholic, that the inspiration for the Sweet tea cafe theme came from the names of the varieties – and with names like creme brulee, vanilla spice, strawberry swirl, key lime pie cappuccino, chocolate ruffles, tiramisu, it’s easy to understand why! Of course how could Tea with Mary Kate resist the wonderful green shed and amazing purple tea cups!

These pretty plants are great for shade, and with such diversity of form. Rather worryingly, I am beginning to understand the obsession – Geisha’s fan and blackberry jam just two more gorgeous names for equally gorgeous plants.


Favourite Dragon

The first sight that greeted me at the RHS flower show in Cardiff was an amazing Red dragon, aptly surrounded by the turrets of Cardiff Castle, and I was delighted to find Dragonswood Forge, at Chelsea too. These amazing dragons are designed and created by the blacksmith Neil Lossock. You can see his screens with fern patterns seared through them just behind the dragon, really very clever too. Neil has also made an amazing mechanical water fountain, which as the tuberous flower fill and tip their water, makes a magical bell like sound against the mushroom shaped bells below – just wonderfully creative!

Favorite Practical Gardening Item

Nutscene, gorgeous, practical twine, manufactured in Angus, Scotland. In business since 1922, it has a rather cleaver patented lock tie spool so you never have to get into a knot with garden twine again – and the lovely bit – they are in gorgeous colours – lilac is a personal favourite.

After having read all about the businesss in Country Living magazine, it was an absolute pleasure to meet its inspiring and enthusiastic  managing director Shona Young, who welcomed me into their stall. There was a lovely British flag made out of the round ends of twine. Sadly readers, I neglected to take a photograph, as literally, I stood in front of the stand unable to move, bedazzled by the array of beautiful and practical products. Shona assures me they’ll have the Saltaire when they are back in Scotland! Quite frankly, I was like a child in a sweet shop, I barely knew what to choose, but I plumed for the Tins of twine, with its recyclable authentic vintage label redrawn from the Nutscene archives, just perfect!


Favourite Leaf Tea

Tregothnan – Beautiful tins of leaf tea, grown at the Cornish estate – and who could resist the wonderful giant red teapot!

Favourite  Willow Sculpture

Tom Hares “Tree of Knowledge” skillfully crafted from greenwood willow, is fabulous! The personal pledges to support biodiversity (ensuring that we keep both common and rare species of everything, not only plants!) hug on copper leaves were poignant and very thought provoking, the whole idea really for RHS support for UNs international year of biodiverity.

Favourite Ethical Business

Zimbolic – Jonathan is so passionate about what he does, it is truly humbling. Designs are crafted from recycled oil drums, giving stable employment in Zimbabwe, while creating these beautiful garden ornaments. I adored these wonderful  hogs on the hill, looking quite at home at Chelsea.

Favourite Cottage plant

Blackmore & Langdon’s gorgeous majestic Delphiniums

Favourite Inspiring Idea

Garden organic Heritage seed Library the UKs leading organic growing charity, committed to conserving varieties of vegetables that would otherwise have disappeared – I loved the red flowered broad bean, and my one pot pledge is to grow my courgette organically (Ok, so I already grow everything organically, even though last years cauliflower crop was eaten by caterpillars, it means lots of beautiful butterflies and healthy birds!)

Favourite Moment

………….in the floral marque suddenly hitting HW Hyde’s wall of amazing lily fragrance, breathtaking!

Just like the Chelsea flower Show. If you have never been, promise yourself a visit, it’s an inspiring day out, full of idea’s for your own gardens, absolutely gorgeous plants, all in the grounds of Chelsea hospital, London.

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Tea with Mary Kate is exploring the world of tea

As the day draws to a close, and I contemplate my evening, there is an important decision to be made. Of course, it will include a gorgeous cup of tea, but what tea to choose? And not only the tea, important thought that is, what cup to serve it in? Tea is such a great big exciting world but quite frankly, there are so just many teas out there, it’s almost impossible to choose from!

As well as the tea, the ceremony and aesthetic are all important too.

There is a protocol about brewing tea in a proper tea pot – leaf tea being my preference, and without a shadow of a doubt, serving it in a gorgeous tea cup! Tea definitely deserves a beautiful cup.

Formosa Oolong in a beautiful vintage tea cup

 

I’ve recently discovered that I adore Formosa Oolong – it’s a tea with provenance, almost a personality of it’s own.

In 1867, English tea trader Jon Dodd started a tea company in Wanhua, Taipei  and started to sell Taiwanese oolong tea to the world under the name “Formosa Oolong”. The name oolong tea comes from the Chinese name meaning “black dragon tea”. Formosa Oolong is oolong tea grown and produced in Taiwan. Taiwan is also known as Formosa from the Portuguese Ilha Formosa, meaning “beautiful island”. So, your drinking beautiful Tea!

Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea, Camellia sinensis, that is somewhere in middle between green and black in oxidation. It has neither the taste and aroma of black tea nor the grassy, vegital taste that typify green tea. It is commonly brewed to be strong. I add milk.

Formosa Oolong form Cortney Wagner's 99 kettles

I adore the ceremony of making tea, laying the tray, the expectation of that first sip….

I loved the Oolong tea history but sipping the tea from the perfect vintage cup made the whole experience. The choice of the cup is a very personal consideration. I really enjoy that moment of contemplating the combination of tea and the cup, the expectation of the experience is almost as lovely, almost, as that first warm, amazing sip, smelling the aroma, steam rising as you relax into thinking about your second cup.

Just the perfect Tea tray

Part of the loveliness of tea the contrast with tea and something sweet.

With my formosa, I like sweet walnuts and dates, or gorgeous sushi. Do ensure that everything is there on your tray, so when you sit down, there is no need to move until you have drained the last drop of tea from the pot!

Tea with Mary Kate seeks to encourage you on a journey of Tea, to take time for Tea, and the ceremony and aesthetic of tea, as a way to reconnect and recharge your energies.

I concede it’s an indulgence, time is precious, but dare I say it, tea time is an important time for you – for quiet and contemplation, an escape from this hectic, fast paced world, while you move through the familiar ritual of the tea ceremony that you can make perfectly just for you, taking time to savour it completely.

Take time for tea

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Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always To be Blest.

So wrote Alexander Pope as long ago as 1733. I believe hope is one of the most precious gifts – it can lift us at our darkest moments, it can sustain us, allow us to believe, to continue. Without it, we are utterly lost. I’m not saying that we never lose our way, and sometimes we wonder where hope has disappeared to. What is critical though is to know how to get it back for you.

It may be a great triumph over adversity, it may be the sun on a beautiful day, it may be making the start of a small plan for whatever project you are interested in, it may be seeing that first snowdrop, or receiving a beautiful bouquet……whatever it is, hold onto it, as it is more precious than you can ever know.

I was completely enthralled by the gift of this beautiful spring bouquet

The captivating scent of Blue Hyacinths with the fragrant addition of eucalyptus, blue thistles that resonated with my Scottish leanings, with just a perfect amount of white alstromeria and spider chrysanthemum to capture the essence of spring, all hand tied with a cream satin ribbon and wrapped in power blue tissue.  I adored it completely.

What enthralled me too was the consideration and thoughtfulness that had been employed to create such a ccompletely unanticipated gift – the surprise of it was all the more pleasurable, as there was no expectation, no preparedness for a particular response.

The gift of this bouquet was such a ray of sunshine, a delight, not only in its intrinsic beauty but as a gift in the expression of art in its creation. It was perfectly made for me. The shining knight is sometimes unable to solve everything on the white charger, a wish may not granted but you can always hold onto your inspiration for hope. My wish is that it motivates you to delightfully surprise someone close to you too.

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A special tea shop with its own Legends of Giants

I hesitate to divulge details of this rather special tea room at Bedruthen Steps, but with a generous flourish of my electronic pen, if you happen to be in Wadebridge, Cornwall, do go to this marvelous tea shop and unmissable destination, replete with it’s own legend of giants. “It is the tradition of the country that a much larger race of men stalked over this ground”, writes J. T. Blight in 1861: the vibrations of their laughter shook the cliffs, their footprints marked the solid rocks, they hurled large stones, tossed them in games of quoits, arranged them in peculiar ways, or in the case of the Bedruthan Steps used them as stepping stones.

A sight to behold - Amazing Bethruthen Steps

The joy of the experience is that contrast of the exhilarating sea air with returning to the cosy, intimate tea room

Initially, and this will be very hard, resist the temptation to rush into the traditional building, with it’s inviting lights behind original green painted sash windows (the building is National Trust owned, hence the authenticity, the tea shop a wonderful concession). Instead, take the exhilarating walk to see the ancient steps. Without exaggeration, this is truly an awe inspiring view, and it’s a fair walk, as although it’s downhill to the beach, there is the walk back up! But it is so worth it, one of the most breathtaking beaches that I have ever, ever seen. I can highly recommend walking further round the coast, particularly when the beach steps are shut in Winter ( understandable, as those who have walked down them even in summer will appreciate!)

Gorgeous flavoursome food awaits

Imagine a gorgeous scone, jam and Cornish Clotted cream

Returning, breathless, having lost count of the number of steps that have led you back, you feel like you’ve earnt the embrace of the welcoming tea room. Carnewas lives up to its rather splendid location. The building is cosy, inviting in contrast to the blustery exposed cliffs. Rows of long wooden tables to greet you, large enough to accommodate a big group and to meet strangers if the tables are busy, which they often are. A lovely touch is the special crockery with its jovial seaside inspired theme.

The food is freshly prepared by its friendly crew. I have always been delighted with what I’ve ordered, including lovely touches like diced sweet beetroot and orange on the crisp side salad. No surprise to hear that my first choice are the scones though. Freshly made, light, moist and flavoursome, with a nice choice of jam, and of course, gorgeous Cornish clotted cream, who could resist? And need I add, a lovely pot of tea!

The footsteps of Giants inspire a visit at Carnewas Tea room

Tea With Mary Kate seeks to highlight the heart and inspiration for living – & tea, & the ceremony of tea, as it represents an opportunity to pause, to breathe, to connect with the aesthetic & ourselves that we rush past most days. Carnwas Tea room is a unique opportunity not only to savour the timelessness of the quite splendid and traditional tea rooms but right on its doorstep is one of the most amazing beaches to be seen – visit soon!

Down on the beach at beautiful Bedruthen Steps

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We all need to belong, to connect, to be interested in each other. Easter Afternoon Tea allows the time for exploration of those needs.

It feels like a real treat, it evokes another era when you dusted off your best crockery. There is an intrinsic ceremony to the event and all it takes is a few simple up front preparations (or quite frankly, you can cheat and buy it all in!).

Afternoon Tea with a beautiful retro 1950s tea set

Easter Afternoon Tea is a wonderful indulgence………

I remember as a child my grandmother having a beautiful plate to serve the soft lettuce, and freshly cut bread onto which would be spread lashings of butter – it really did taste like nothing I have ever had since! Afternoon Tea is an indulgence, not only a feast for the appetite – stacks of gorgeous sandwiches, savouries, cakes and tea of course – it also a feast for the eyes – and there is a gift in its beautiful presentation, but the act of just doing it is all important.

Tempting Easter Afternoon Tea Treats

Tempting Menu Idea’s for Easter Afternoon Tea

I recently came across the delightful Mrs Beetons Household Managements book. If you’ve never read it, it a really insightful step back in time, to the issues and challenges that faced the middle class house wife. I admire the inspiration for its creation, namely that Isabella Beeton could not abide to see waste and mismanagement. One of my favorite sections is on sandwiches, and I can honestly say that I have never quite seen as many options for filling that is provided by the resourceful Mrs Beeton. Now, our taste for anchovy & haddock may have waned, but I think it’s an inspiring look at some forgotten options that it would be good to resurrect. My eternal favourite is egg mayonnaise and cress, with the secret ingredient, garlic salt, it makes them divine! The ubiquitous cucumber sandwich is synonymous with all that is afternoon tea, and really easy, so I would include these too (Mrs Beeton even has advice to avoid soggy bread, p945). I also love salmon and I’ve recently discovered trout, with its earthy taste, rather lovely. A few savouries like scotch eggs and pork pies are also good. I do make home made mini quiche, again, if you want to make it really easy, buy in the pastry. I always include onions that are fried in olive oil with salt and pepper,  and a dash of thyme. I adore pineapple and cheese on sticks as well but would include a fresh fruit salad for an alternative to the cakes.

Ok, so I know that it’s traditional to have a simnel cake for Easter, but I’m going to be rebellious and suggest a delicious Lemon Meringue Cake, a Nigella recipe. And although you’re thinking, ooh, that looks tricky, I promise you,trust the instructions  and follow exactly, and it will turn outlook and taste fabulous! I made it this week in a trial run and there was not too much left!

Gorgeous lemon meringue cake from Nigella

Make a Gorgeous Cup of Tea Cake to enjoy for Easter Afternoon Tea

If after all that encouragement you’re still not feeling brave enough, then make “Cup of tea cake”. This is incredibly easy, and I guarantee will work out and taste delicious. It’s from a 1970s farmhouse fare cookbook that I had in my Christmas stocking as a child, and I’ve always loved it, because the receipts were collected from country house wives by farmers weekly and gives such insight to “country life”. I’ll spare you the receipt for Jugged hare, but let me know if you wish to see it and I’ll happily sent it:

Cup of Tea Cake – from Mrs Asquith, Harrowgate

4oz butter

1/2Ib mixed fruit ( currents, sultanas, candied peel)

1 cup tea

1/2 Ib self raising flour

4oz sugar

1 teaspoon each of bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice ( the secret ingredients that make it fabulous!)

1 egg

Melt butter in a pan, add fruit and tea. Bring to boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Cool. Sieve dried ingredients, add boiled mixture and egg, mix well. Bake for 1 1/4 hours at gas mark 4 in a 7in tin. Spread with butter and serve with lashings of hot strong tea.

Enchanting and Connecting Easter Afternoon Tea Inspiration

Tea with Mary Kate is all about inspiration for seemingly ordinary events, and turning them into wonderful connecting experiences. This Easter gives us the opportunity to do just that, time to love generously. My wish is that this has encouraged you to enter into the spirit of the moment, and indulge your creativeness to home bake and create an enchanting Easter afternoon tea.

And Tea with Mary Kate has even more Inspiring Afternoon Tea Ideas:

Agatha Christie Inspired Afternoon Tea

Glorious Welsh Afternoon Tea

Rose Inspired Afternoon Tea

A Quite Splendid Vintage Afternoon Tea

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Delicate snowdrops herald the start of spring

Spring feels finally like it has finally sprung after what has been a long and hard winter. The snowdrops are braving their beautiful heads into the brighter and brighter sun. I love the spring, the light after the dark, everything is fresh and green, full of hope & possibility. It also could be the time to create something rather special – your very own beautiful and productive kitchen garden.

Spring has sprung

Although much has been written on the practicality of growing your own, the reality of a kitchen garden can be overwhelming. I believe this is why many would love the idea of a beautiful kitchen garden but very few act. So here are a few useful pointers to guide your way, with more to follow as the season progresses. Of course, this creation takes time and patience but March and April is the time  to take action!

Environmentally friendly Pots for nurturing your seedlings

Growing seeds has a few simple but critical requirements. Warmth and water of course but essential is sufficient light to ensure the first shoots are not etiolated (all pale, yellow and elongated).  Get that first stage right and the rest is pretty much plain sailing. I love these gorgeous wooden paper pot makers from Cox & Cox, a creative, practical, beautiful, and totally environmentally friendly way of potting up your new and precious seedlings.

Beautiful and practical paper pot maker

Inspiration for growing your very own fresh edible favourite vegetables

Salad is another easy and great crop to grow.  Last year, I used my beautiful Victorian cloche from Crocus, an inspiring gardeners web site. This allowed me to start crops early in the season and effectively monitor the slug situation, as I’m a total organic aficionado. Once you have  had the joy of stepping outside and cutting your lettuce that is minutes later served on your plate, you’ll never be able to taste another leaf without reference to that freshness. Yes, you are utterly spoilt after that experience but the economics of doing it this way are also pretty compelling. All that’s needed is a small area, even a window box, and you can have fresh salad all summer for next to nothing.  You’ll be able to buy seed from many garden centers but my choice this year is from the excellent Sarah Raven with her wonderful vegetable seed collections, and really great practical advise on what to do.

Growing your own can be both wonderfully aesthetic as well as producing a fresh crop of gorgeous vegetables

Beautiful and practical Victorian Cloche

Connecting to the knowledge of the past – your own Kitchen Garden is your own small haven of tranquility

I remember being asked to sign for my allotment in which I planned and created my kitchen garden. When the book was produced, it looked really rather scruffy. The pages were creased and a bit worn, the front of the book a little threadbare. I then  put my signature at the bottom of a long list for plot 14, and noticed that the first signature was dated 14th May 1895. After that, I revised my opinion of the book – it had been kept and cherished in that village parish for over a 100 years. It was wonderful to be part of that.

I confess that it took quire a bit of work to clear the site. I decided that raised beds would be the way forward for optimum production and minimal management. Start small, with a few simple crops. Keep your enthusiasm going by imagining  just stepping outside your door to your very own favourite fruit and vegetables, into a kitchen garden of your own. It’s actually quite like being on holiday, a day out, with a flask of hot water to make tea and a picnic basket full of wholesome goodies to keep you going while you are digging and planting. My advice is to grow what you love to eat, as you’ll have plenty of it from even a little plot.

My wonderful kitchen garden

Growing your own food allows you to witness the time and skill that it takes to produce it.

My wish for this blog is that you are inspired to start your own kitchen garden, even on a small scale. Feeling the earth in your hands and looking out for the weather takes you beyond yourself to ensure your latest plantings will survive. Nurturing a garden connects you to the world in a way that is unique and inspiring. The fresh air, the physical enterprise, and community, especially of the allotment, are wonderfully connecting and healing. Give yourself the time to watch things grow. The slower pace of the garden takes you with it and you are the better for it.

Sean and Mary Kate debate whether it is potatoes or roses

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