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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration for living’

Tea with Mary Kate dares you to take action to create a wonderful, connecting Easter experience this year.

Easter is all about connecting with the celebration that is Spring

First of all, I’m all for bringing spring indoors (it’s still a little chilly after all!), and fresh spring flowers are such an easy way to enhance the aesthetic & connecting experience of Easter. A very easy trick is to lay freshly picked ivy from the garden all around the cutlery too – it makes you feel like you are having your lunch in the freshly sprung leafy & green spring. I adore daffodils, displayed in a simple vase, it’s impossible for them to fail to cheer. I also love this basket with its green satin ribbons & imaginary spring forest floor to showcase the very edible chocolate bunny, inspiration for creating your own centre piece for your special Easter celebration.

There’s nothing more welcoming than a beautifully decorated Easter Table…..gorgeous ribbons and chocolate filled buckets

For a beautiful Easter table, you could tie your cutlery with beautiful Easter ribbons, gingham’s & polka dots are my favourites which I order from Crafty Ribbons. They are passionate about ribbons & I have found this company to provide a great product of excellent quality, at good value for money, with a great service. Their web site also provides really lovely ribbon seasonal ideas. I also use their ribbon to wrap all my presents. It is such a simple thing but makes all the difference – there is such pleasure given by wrapping gifts in lovely ribbons. There was even an Easter Ribbon challenge. Although too late for this year, I’m hoping this will be an annual event! I love their chicks & eggs from their Easter treat ribbon range.

Another idea is to use children’s miniature buckets as a take home present for everyone. These can be filled to the brim with Easter goodies like Cadbury mini eggs & placed on everyone’s table setting. I did this last year and it instantly transported everyone back to their childhood, thrilled to indulge child like in sweets & chocolate as a total treat at the end of Easter gathering. It’s a simple but lovely way of getting into the Easter vibe and getting the Easter proceedings underway.

Personalised name place setting with an Easter theme to delight this Easter……

Alongside the Easter ribbons & miniature Easter buckets, I lay the table with an Easter card for everyone. Each is personalised with their name, its first purpose being as a seat planner, but it provides a beautiful theme for the table, at very little cost & it gives everyone a beautiful momento of Easter lunch.

One theme I have used is the very cute and engaging Chick & Easter Egg cards from Rachel Ellen Designs. For our table, the girls were “chicks” & the boys were “Eggs”, but of course there were desires to be the other one on both sides!

Rachel Ellen Easter chick & egg place cards

I have also found a very stylish Easter bunny card from BellyButton designs. This is an inspiring company too, initially funded by a grant from the Prince’s Trust, ideas’ from fashion & art are the inspiration that has now led to a shop in Didsbury & a thriving business. I also applaud the fact that BellyButton are being nice to trees, an occupational hazard when you manufacture cards, however, it’s good to hear they are working to be more environmentally friendly, very encouraging news for those of us who still like to send & receive cards.

BellyButton Bunny

Another really wonderfully inspiring Easter theme I’ve found is from  Belle & Boo, a collection of artworks from the imagination of illustrator Mandy Sutcliffe. Belle & Boo are two of Mandy’s favourite characters, Belle with her bobbed hair, bright eyes and vintage clothing, is insistently curious about the world  around her. Boo is Belle’s adorable bunny rabbit companion and confidant. I think these designs are amazing & so evocative of Easter, they could not fail to provide an inspiring table place setting.

Beautiful image for Easter from Belle & Boo

For those with a talent for serviette folding, go for a bunny inspired fold for each of your guests.

Creative Idea’s for a very special Easter

The world is your Easter oyster! Even if you get half way down the page & think, oh, gosh, I’m never going to do all this, just choose one thing – lay a beautiful tablecloth if you don’t normally, use your lovely crockery, light a few candles and find some cards you love to make everyone feel especially invited. My wish though is that this has inspired you to unleash your creativeness and connect with those that you love – have a wonderful Easter!

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A vital clue is missing, urgent news that has to be communicated without delay………………

For sheer nostalgia and quintessential elegance, nothing can quite replace the charming ring of a GPO bakelite telephone. This always makes me think of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, the famous Belgian detective, who often receives news of the latest crime, or facts that support the theory of his “little grey cells” that are busy solving the latest mystery.

Poirot receiving vital news on the beautiful bakelite telephone

I adore these Bakelite telephones, the sound of the bell ringing, the feel and weight of the receiver, the flex cord.

Quite honestly, they look beautiful, sound beautiful, and are beautiful! On my hunt for a vintage telephone of my own, I discovered Antique telephones, run by the very helpful Neil and Alison Carpenter. The passion for the restoration of these lovely telephone is palpably expressed on their web site, the admiration for the art and elegance of these lovingly restored telephones – it emanates from every description, and the quality shines through.

Perhaps you’re thinking that these telephones are now unpractical, redundant, as you have to sit when you are speaking to someone.

I would argue that this renders the case to be quite the opposite – it’s why we need more of these beautiful telephones back in service. The sheer joy of using these antique telephones renders you unable to do other things, the mere act of being required to sit, and ahem, shock, listen to the caller……means that you’re having a genuine interaction, one where you are focussing all of your attention on the discussion, creating an authentic conversation that is meaningful, that’s a gift indeed.

Top of the list for my next purchase is this is a very beautiful ivory GPO 1/232 with drawer.

I have purchased several of these telephones. Neil creates your own personalised dial label if you wish, with your number and town location that is just so lovely.  Ivory is Neil’s favourite colour, and I have to confess, mine too. The model is just pure elegance. Each restored phone is fitted with an electronic microphone for perfect modern use. This model has no internal bell and was designed for an external bell. I just love that fact – designed for an external bell!

And Neil and Alison Carpenter give you a lifetime guarantee, it’s difficult to better that offer. Do mention Tea with Mary Kate if this is how you were inspired to contact antique telephones. They are a wonderful and original gift for any occasion.

Beautiful and practical original GPO bakelite Ivory telephone

Now here’s a bit of history and the original Bakelite technological innovation……

Ericsson’s bakelite telephone, launched in 1931, was primarily known for its trend-setting design, but it also contained an important technical innovation called anti-side tone coupling – for the first time, a differentially coupled speech transformer was used that reduced interference from the microphone, resulting in a significant improvement in speech quality. In addition, the dial, the microphone and the earpiece were of a new design.The bakelite phone was also produced as an extension phone, which had a smaller case, since it did not include a bell. The extension phone was very popular in offices, two-story homes and bedrooms, where people did not want to be disturbed when the telephone rang but still wanted to be able to make calls.

Engage in listening on your bakelite telephone

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Margaret Mead’s statement is a very powerful one “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world – Indeed it is the only thing that ever does”.

The Basra memorial wall, recently transported from Iraq, has been unveiled today, coinciding with the repatriation of 5 brave soldiers, the latest fatalities in the war in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to all those families grieving, but it reminded me that there are other casualties who are still with us and need our support.

Help for Hero’s is a very worthwhile charity that provides practical support for those soldiers who return from military conflict seriously injured and need to rebuild their lives. I have discovered that Saturday 13th March is an important date – it’s the Colossal Cake sale. The Help for hero’s charity provides some really helpful handy hints on how to set up a successful event, but if you can’t do that, then do support an event near you.

Help for Hero’s current appeal is for funds to establish Personnel Recovery Centres across the UK. These centres provide targeted convalescence, and are attached to a garrison, to take advantage of the support that can be provided from a structured miliary environment.  Do support this very worthwhile event as best you can, bake some cakes and organise yourself a little sale or do find one near you.

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Now, Mary Kate is Irish, through and through, so I thought it would be fitting to share a few thoughts about St Patrick’s Day, on 17 March to celebrate the day. St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland of course, but for me, the day is all about celebrating your Irish heritage, and testimony to the scattering of the Irish are the parades  that have taken place for centuries in countries all around the world. I can trace my own roots back to a potato famine, where my Irish relations fled to Wales rather than starve.

Bright green shamrock biscuits

The tradition and celebration of this day and the time of year did put me to thinking of other Irish traditions. I know many of you familiar with the film “The Quiet man” will recall Michaleen Oge Flynn, the “shocklhorn” or matchmaker, who formally introduces Sean to Mary Kate. Sean just planned to “honk his horn” to have Mary Kate a running but Michaleen advises that there is a route that needs to be taken, customs that need to be followed.

Mary Kate & Sean are both impetuous, and having waited for the approval of Mary Kate’s brother, a tricky and lengthy negotiation, the pair escape the eagle eyed gaze of their watcher, and end up in an old church yard in the rain, with a shared passionate kiss that is for me the most romantic scene of the film, or any other film for that matter.

Passionate kissing in the rain - Sean & Mary Kate

No St Patrick’s Day would be complete without a song, and I admit a romantic bias for my absolute favourite Irish song in all the world “O Danny Boy”. I have such strong childhood memories connected with the singing of this. “Danny Boy” was originally said to be intended as a message from a woman to a man but has been interpreted by some listeners as a message from a parent to a son going off to war or leaving as part of the frequent massive Irish emigrations that took place. The song is widely considered an Irish anthem, and trite as this may sound, I confess I can never quite make it to the end without a glimmer of a tear in my eye.

Danny Boy

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling
Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.
And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be
For ye shall bend and tell me that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Have yourself a very special St Patricks Day – and see the opportunity of celebrating the day as a gift. Find a parade, go to Dublin Saint Patrick Day on Wednesday 17th March, London St Patricks day celebrations takes place on Sunday 14th March, the Manchester Irish Festival also looks great fun. Dress up in green, make a cake decorated with shamrocks, sing a few songs, have afternoon tea, with a strong cup of your favourite Irish blend, invite some friends around to celebrate.

Above all though, my hope is that this blog gives you the impetus to change your plans for 17th March, and provides you with the motivation for you to connect with those who are important to you, to celebrate your friendship together, to create your own traditions, to remember that part of you that is forever Irish.

Irish celebrations for St Patricks Day

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

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Inspiration for Easter gifts

If, like me, you’re sitting at the kitchen table, planning your Easter weekend menu & egg hunting activities, your thoughts may too have wandered onto the topic of what to buy as a gift that is both thoughtful & has meaning as a present for Easter, one that you can feel good about as well as being beautiful and aesthetic in its own right. Well, I’m glad to let you know your search is at an end – look no further than purchasing a lovely Zimbolic Easter Bunny!

Zimbolic Easter Bunnies

A Zimbolic Bunny cleverly combines both ethics and aesthetics

You’ll perhaps know already that I’ve written previously about Jonathan Eaton’s excellent company Zimbolic in my recent blog Tea with Mary Kate is inspired by how Zimbolic does business. Zimbolic creates amazing sculptures for the home & garden from recycled metal, harnessing the talents of artists’ from Zimbabwe and Kenya, which is where the strong ethical side of this inspiring company originates. You’ll also be able to see Zimbolic at the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show.

Tie gorgeous Pastel Gingham and Polka dot Ribbons to enhance the Easter Bunny theme

I’ll be tieing pastel shades of gingham and polka dot ribbon around my bunnies to enhance the Easter theme from Crafty Ribbons. Another idea is to have an “Easter Bunny hunt” rather than the traditional Easter Egg hunt, although I have to confess, the sheer joy of hunting and finding chocolate eggs is such a treat that I would not wish to dissuade from this more traditional route, perhaps the Zimbolic Easter bunnies are an addition! Enjoy viewing the excellent Zimbolic website for further inspiration.

Ribbon Inspiration from Crafty Ribbons

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Tea with Mary Kate is all about inspiration for living & appreciating the beautiful & the aesthetic. Zimbolic is a wonderful example of both.

At  a recent RHS garden show at Tatton, there was a flock of the most gorgeous ducks & I just about managed to secure a single duck purchase. This was followed rapidly by purchase of a flock of ducks – everyone got their own duck for Christmas. They turned out to be everyone’s favourite gift, each treasured where they are now all over the country. Mine are out in the frost & snow, but not the ones given to friends & family – oh no, they are warm, indoors, with their own names!

Gorgeous ducklings

The aesthetic & quality of the product is  clear – the designs are beautiful & clever, coupled with a very reliable service & delivery. What I discovered later though is the other aspect of this business, a very strong ethical basis. Established in 1998 by Jonathan Eaton, that use recycled metal materials and providing stable long term employment for their workers in Africa. It is symbiotic relationship that really works. Used steel oil drums are burnished and cleaned before the artistic work begins. The metal is then cut by hand operated guillotine into the different components of the sculpture. Then on a large wooden tree stump, they are hammered into shape.

I love the product but what really motivates to keep coming back to Zimbolic is the strong symbiotic & ethical heart of the business. You can feel genuinely good about the purchase. The latest friend to join us is owl. Owl has made it indoors you’ll be pleased to hear. In the summer, I think the quite lovely Zimbolic daisy flowers will join the ducks.

The wise old owl

When phoning for my lovely owl, I had the good fortune to speak with Jonathan who was just on his way to deliver the huge consignment of shoes that Zimbolic have collected in their shoes for Africa campagne. This recent shoe drive is just one example of the strong ethical connetions that Zimbolic have made. An inspiring way to conduct business. I hope that went really well.

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It’s Tuesday, you seem to have used up all your motivation just for Monday & even though it’s only the second day of the working week, you’re running out of energy with a list of things that you wished you’d found a spare moment to sort over the weekend.  It’s later than you’d hoped, you’ve had “one of those days” & the last thing that you feel like doing is, well, actually anything at all!

But what will you choose to do on  Tuesday 8th March?

Many of you will know this is Pancake Day, or otherwise know as  Shrove Tuesday. The day has its origins in religion…but that’s far from the reason I mention it here.

wonderful Pancake tossing 1950s pictures are by Micheal Greatorex Winster Derbyshire.

As a child, I remember the whole night being devoted  to making our pancake creations – no “proper” tea, it was all pancakes until you couldn’t fit anymore in!

I’ve realised that our pancakes were a bit different too – they had currants included! Yes, you put them in when one side was still cooking so they ended up as part of the pancake. & you’d never volunteer for the first one out of the pan, as more than likely, the cook would not have their hand in at that stage, it would be too thick, or broken. It was such a competition to make the best, the most perfect pancake! But here’s the thing – I remember those nights from my childhood as special, & it was such a simple thing that will be part of me always.

Pancake day- Wonderful 1950s pictures are by Micheal Greatorex Winster Derbyshire.

Tea with Mary Kate seeks to inspire using seemingly ordinary everyday activities as the portal to connect us to those that matter & to what can give us purpose & meaning.

So, if you’ve come this far & are wondering what this has this to do with a Pancake tea, then you may as well read on……instead of thinking – oh why would I do anything at all? I’d like to paint another picture, to inspire you to another vision of what joy, what fun, & how lovely  & memorable that Tuesday Pancake Tea could be.

Make it special, lay the table with a beautiful table cloth, use your favourite crockery – what else are you saving it for? & bring out your favourite tea cups. Ok, so I will concede, it is far from the healthiest of tea, but  the feel good that it is generating will do everyone the world of good. And if you are feeling totally adventurous, have a tossing competion…or go for it, and have a race!

Pancake Tea Fruit special

While you are whizzing the milk, eggs & butter to make that all important batter in the mixer (or hey, cheat & buy a packet to mix), because you’ve decided that the joy is in the doing, the excitement is in creating a bit of a mess when you are tossing. You can employ the rest of the party to create a gorgeous fruit salad that you can graze on while the serious stuff of pancake mix creation is going on.

But here’s the really lazy method – buy them already made – I know, it’s amazing that you can do this & they are quite nice…….. & if you are near Stoke or the Nantwich Saturday Market, you can buy some from the London Road Bakehouse, a really wholesome bakery that has brought back to life it’s coal-fired ovens. The bread is absolutely gorgeous too!

And of course, hot, warming tea! With pancakes, I really recommend Lapsang Souchong, a gorgeous smokey tea, with a dash of honey, or Pembrokeshire Tea company’s Rose tea (see blog article also), as you want something that is full of flavour but without the milk, as you’ll get more than enough from the pancakes!

Family & Best friend Approach

If whizzing up some eggs, flour & milk to create your Pancake mix even at this point is seeming like a step too far, rush to inspire a friend whose more adept on the cooking skills front – & invite yourself around with your other skills in tow. Although I would say that DOING IT is half the fun, I concede that you all may not be on the page of that’s going to be a great idea, but perhaps you can be the catalyst for the opportunity to pause, as these are the times that can nurture our spirits and give space for knowing & healing.

The wonderful 1950s pictures are by Micheal Greatorex Winster Derbyshire. What will you plan to do for pancake day?

Racing along on Pancake Day

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