Posts Tagged ‘beautiful and pratical’

Beyond the health benefits of drinking tea

Indulge me, I know you will be converts already to the health benefits of tea. Indeed, while no other reason is required for the wonderful experience of drinking tea than it is a comforting, calming pleasure, alongside that unavoidable fact that there is a fantastic diversity of flavours to tantalise the taste buds –  I think there is another  addition to the health benefits of drinking tea. As well as inner health, what about the outer benefits?

The Beauty of Tea

The Beauty of Tea - Miss Retro's Blog

Let’s start with the conventional – Beautiful Skin Tea!

A rather lovely blend from Neal’s Yard Remedies. I make no apology of my blazon support for this quintessentially British Institution. Pioneers in natural therapies when most were focused on the chemical & synthetic, its vision was to bring the apothecary back to life – I love the fact that Neal’s Yard wanted to connect with the knowledge of the past – & it is really resonating now more then ever. Drink your way to beautiful skin indeed!

Neal's Yard remedies Beautiful Skin Tea

The Beauty of White Tea – A healthful alternative to Drinking it!

White tea is the precious newest part bud, packed with high quality of antioxidants which can mop up free radicles that damage & ages skin. The lovely part here is that is all smells gorgeous too. My favourites include organic eye make up remover, White tea eye gel, but there is also a white tea enriching facial mask that looks rather tempting. I do think this an alternative for the tea industry of the future. What do you think?

Neal's Yard White tea products - The alternative to Drinking Tea!

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Royal Wedding Bells are in the air

I was very excited to see that a beautifully designed  commemorative China has been  issued to celebrate Prince William & Miss Kate Middleton’s wedding day on 29th April 2011. I love the gold with muted grey & soft blue colours & regal design of doves, hearts & garlands with their initials intertwined, inspired apparently by decoration in Clarence House. And even better,  it is manufactured in good old Blighty in the traditional Potteries town of Stoke on Trent , a splendid touch.

Official Royal Wedding Commemorative Tankard

Beautiful official royal wedding commemorative Tankard


Although the tankard is very nice, I confess though that I am an avid fan of partaking of my favourite brew from a china tea cup.

I live in desperate hope that someone in the Stoke factory will expand the range & manufacture a gorgeous celebratory Royal wedding china tea cup! Quite frankly, I would love to be sipping my tea from a beautiful china tea cup as the day unfolds. It got me to thinking of Mary Kate’s Wedding day and their picture, a wonderfully old fashioned, formal pose & slightly startled expression from them both. I do anticipate that Prince William’s & Miss Kate Middleton’s pictures may be slightly different! Tea with Mary Kate implores you to join the campaign for a commemorative Royal Wedding tea cup!

Mary Kate on her wedding day


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For those of you familiar with the film “The Quiet Man”, you’ll recall the scene when Mary Kate, in her very practical Irish manner, chastises Sean for not growing a cabbage or a potato in the garden of their new home.

But no, Sean was creating the rose garden his mother described, when she dreamed of her Irish birth place from all that distance in Pittsburg, after their immigration to America. Sean wish was to recreate that place his mother had described and still yearned for, the land her heart belonged to.

Tea with Mary Kate has reached a happy compromise in her Kitchen Garden this year

Alongside the onion’s and potatoes, Dahlia’s and Mollucella are happily thriving with the herbs, the kitchen garden providing a supply of both vegetables and flowers, the practical and the aesthetic.

But do remember to take time for a lovely cup of tea

A picnic in the kitchen garden is a wonderful experience, it is just like being on holiday. Flasks of hot water, or a small gas stove to boil water for that all important cup of tea between weeding and digging, just splendid!

Blackfly 3: Ladybirds 0 – An almost disaster with the broad beans!

Organic principles are a guiding force in the kitchen garden. There is a tension here though – my darling other half is all for getting the chemicals out, and I laughed out loud at his football analogy for the broad beans. Of course, he is right but I am trying not to admit it – not since I accidently ran into our resident nest of young beautiful mistle thrushes. They have after all eaten all the snails, the graveyard of shells provide the evidence, and it seems to me a few black flies are a small compensation to see them happily bouncing along.

Back at our old allotment, one of the old boy’s mentioned that to get rid of blackfly, you take off the top part of the plant . I thought he must be joking, playing a trick to see if I actually do it, how an earth is that going to work? But I was desperate, and needs must – and it turned out to be an absolutely top tip! I still have no idea how it works – all I know is that it does, and I hoping it is going to work its magic again. As a bonus though, I do have a rapidly growing ladybird population!

Simple and effective idea to maximise Space with growing Runner Bean’s

Planting the runner beans across the at gap at the end of the rows has meant that instead of using valuable space in the raised beds, it has used only a fraction of the raised bed, with the added bonus of an attractive arbour over the path, can you tell I am quite pleased with it?!

Dare I mention Christmas in July?

I know, it is shocking – it is only July I hear you cry! The strawberries bushes are still in full production……The reason I will beg your forgiveness  for this premature mention is now is the time to plant your festive sprouts. I have planted nasturtiums and marigolds for summer colour –  and as an attempt to keep the kitchen garden organic so that we can have our very own spouts at Christmas

Tea with Mary Kate’s new favourite mint – Basil Mint

A few leaves of this variety steeped in hot water produce a lovely refreshing, minty brew.

Tea With Mary Kate is inspired to Grow your own

Fresh salad, crisp radish, courgettes that you know have never been touched chemicals, all ready to be picked straight from your garden direct to your plate. Weeding and watering the kitchen garden, surrounded by the lush growth and bright flowers, the smell of the earth always transports me back to my grandfathers garden, his patience and attention, the warmth in the green house enhancing the distinctive smell of geraniums, neat pots all organised in rows.

Tea with Mary Kate seeks to highlight the seemingly ordinary events in life, and highlight them for the special moments they are. Feeling the earth between your fingers, watching the kitchen garden grow, taking time for tea are all precious times that allow us to connect, time actually feels like it slows, moments that can encourage us to live life to the full every day, every interaction is important. As someone mentioned to me recently, life is so very precious, do live it.

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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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The sun is streaming through the windows, even through my first bleery blink, I know it’s a glorious day.

The blue bells have finally raised their heads after a long, hard winter. Almost as some kind of compensation, the blossom on the Horse Chestnut trees appears even more prolific, the perfumed lilac blossom drifting in the air, like confetti across the perfect blue sky. Oh, that every morning could be like this.

It’s on mornings like these, while I am a good old fashioned fan of strong tea (usually my favourite Yorkshire Gold leaf tea), I am tempted into an excursion.

I happened to find Tea’s me, drawn by the bright yellow label on funky silver bag. Sometimes though, you see great packaging and when you taste the tea, frankly, it is a bit of a disappointment. I’m delighted to report, this is not the case here. Tea’s Me tea’s are organic,with innovative combinations for non caffeine based teas, with delightfully quirky names. I tried Zestea, full of lemon and orange peel, with lemon verbena for extra zing – think sherbet lemons in liquid form,  Ticklishly Tasty indeed.

Teas me ticklishly tasty tea

As the tea is without milk, a glimpse of beautiful decoration on the inside of the cup is the driving force

So it is an easy decision this time. I chose a beautiful early 20th century cup, made by Cauldon, simply decorated with a swirling gold pattern on the outside, a vivid blue rim, and a profusion of beautiful roses on the inside, the promise of summer yet to come.

tea in a vintage tea cup

Tempted by the bright summer morning, Tea with Mary Kate  encourages you to explore a change from your normal routine, you never know what you might discover!

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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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I was enchanted by a marvellous demonstration on how to make a corsage at the RHS flower show in Cardiff.  I loitered just long enough, and was given a beautiful rose corsage, just the inspiration for a rose inspired Vintage Afternoon Tea.

Make it special – Send an invitation for a rose inspired Vintage Afternoon Tea.

The sheer delight of receiving such an invitation is a signal that it is special. I think 3.30pm is the perfect time, ideal to do your preparations, and still have enough time for you to get ready too.

Elegance Vintage Attire is just the ticket

Your invitation could include a dress code, I would suggest nothing too complex or expensive, but something that will mark the event as a special occasion, which of course it is! I am enchanted by the elegance of a 1940s vintage tea dress, it conjures up waitresses in black and white uniforms serving an elegant clientele, quintessentially the perfect outfit for afternoon tea.

A rose corsage for each of your guests as they arrive is such a lovely gift.

I adore those corsages that are designed to be worn on your wrist, so very vintage! Do choose a perfumed rose, and the smell will be gorgeous. A creative alternative is to make them as part of your afternoon tea event on the day.

What really makes a vintage afternoon tea  is authentic vintage crockery

Of course, lay the table the vintage table cloths. In my imagination, there is chatter and the sound of teaspoons chinking on bone china. Harlequin sets are quite lovely, and you are feeling terribly generous, you could even give everyone their tea cups as a gift from the day. A favourite vintage china tea cup of mine at the moment is this beautiful Wellington china cup –  I love the bright yellow contrast to the stylish pink roses.


Beautiful vintage crockery makes all the difference


Another key element is a vintage Cake stand to display all those gorgeous sandwiches and cakes.

What you choose to serve is of course up to you but delicate sandwiches are a must. It could be a Welsh inspired theme. I look for inspiration in yesteryear cookery books like Mrs Beetons household management. For my rose themed tea, I’m planning on creating rose scented panna cotta.

No ifs, no buts, no maybes, Leaf Tea it must be!

The only rule I have stipulated for this rose inspired vintage afternoon tea event  is that the tea must be leaf tea. But oh, I hear you sigh, hesitating, what about washing out the teapots afterwards? Dismiss that minor inconvenience immediately – it is a vintage tea after all, where there would never have been a bag option – and leaf tea tastes so much better! I’ll be choosing a rose flavoured leaf tea, in keeping with the rose inspired vintage afternoon tea theme. As it’s fairly unusual, I’m looking forward to the novelty in exploring quite a different flavour. And you can always have a less exotic  but gorgeous blend on standby for those that are feeling less experimental. A personal favourite is Yorkshire Gold, a wonderful blend, with a good strong flavour, and to my palate has a gentle aromatic hint of peaches.

No reason is too big, too small, all it takes is the idea and some encouragement to motivate you!

Tea with Mary Kate is all about inspiration for living life, with idea’s for events that provide the motivation to connect with those who are important to us. Your Rose inspired Vintage Afternoon Tea could be to celebrate a birthday, to raise money for a charity event, or just to have a lovely girlie afternoon together.

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