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April 30, 2011

Project Tea Party

The best thing about being married to me is that you get to spend whole mornings up to your elbows in marzipan. Because I was determined that we would make a battenberg cake for our royal wedding tea party. And today we discovered that just how Queen Victoria got so fat– it’s because you have to trim top and sides off the cake before you ice it, and it takes inordinate willpower to not eat the scraps–they were delicious! The marzipan too, even though it was too sticky. I got Stuart to construct the cake once I’d baked it, because I’m terrible at things that require attention and patience. He did a bang-up job, and the cake was delicious (then devoured). We also served these strawberry jam tarts, which were incredible (and easy). And scones shaped like teapots, which is the best thing I have ever imagined. This photo was taken before we took the sausage rolls out of the oven, and they were delicious too, although store-bought. Tea was served in the big, beautiful teapot I received as a wedding gift and that spends most of its time getting dusty on the shelf because I fear breaking it. So it was nice to use it. I also liked an excuse to pull out my teapot table cloth from Honest Ed’s, and I think the Queen probably has one similar.

And then Nathalie Foy took the (battenberg) cake for hostess gifts, bringing me actual perfume scented like a Barbara Pym paperback: “sweet, and a bit musty, a lot like Pym’s world come to think of it.” I read in the papers that the Duchess of Cambridge was wearing an identical scent yesterday.

April 1, 2011

A teapot for Harriet

Our friend Genevieve Côté sent us this picture today, to satisfy Harriet’s love of teapots. (Harriet is a teapot tyrant. She will hand you a crayon and say, “Teapot, happy” and you have no choice but to comply, to draw that teapot, and don’t even try to forget the happy smile.)

We were excited to see Genevieve’s new book yesterday at Book City. Without You is the sequel to her acclaimed 2009 book Me and You, and I will be buying it for Harriet for her birthday. Genevieve has a thing for teapots too, and Harriet loves finding them in her gorgeous illustrations.

February 28, 2011

We love Ilkley. Thank you, Jackson Brodie.

Today Harriet stayed home with her grandparents, and Stuart and I drove to Ilkley in Yorkshire (which is very close to Burley Cross country). I wanted to go to a Bettys Tea Room after reading Starting Early Took My Dog (which should probably receive a commission for our visit). Jackson Brodie certainly did not mislead us: if the Bettys girls ran the government, indeed, there would not have been recent economic disasters, or disasters of any kind. Tea was completely delicious, definitely the best we’d had since Saturday, and I was particularly in love with the woman having her breakfast at the table across from ours’ (“Anything else for ye, Vera?” they asked as she was preparing to go, as she tied a kerchief around her hair).

We had fun exploring the town afterwards, visiting the best butcher in Britain, and the Grove Bookshop, a fabulous independent bookshop whose business was booming. We got a steak and kidney pie at the former, and at the bookshop, I got a Penguin 75 tote bag, and Old Filth by Jane Gardam (which I’ve had out of the library twice, but have always had to return before I’ve had a chance to read it).

January 6, 2011

A Poem: Tea words as appropriated from Oxford Canadian Dictionary

tea. tea bag. tea ball. teaberry. tea biscuit. tea bread. tea break. tea caddy. teacake. tea ceremony. tea chest. tea cozy. teacup. tea dance. tea garden. tea house. tea lady. tea leaf. tea party. tea plant. teapot. teapoy. tea room. tea rose. tea service. tea shop. teaspoon. tea strainer. tea table. tea time. tea towel. tea tray. tea tree. tea trolley.

September 18, 2010

Dear Graphic Designers

Dear Graphic Designers,

If you would like to buy your product solely based upon its packaging, please create a package that looks like the Clipper Tea tea box. I will buy it. I don’t care what you are selling, but I will buy it. And then I will bid you a “Well done” for creating a cardboard box that makes me feel like a better person for simply possessing it.

Love, Kerry

August 25, 2010

Hardly a good advertisement

“I’ve just made a cup of tea,” said Miss Caton, who was crouching near the gas-ring. “This will do you good– a strong cup of tea with plenty of sugar. I learnt that when I was doing first aid during the war– treatment for shock.”
Humphrey glanced distastefully at the tan-coloured liquid in the think white cup and waved it aside. “No, thank you, Miss Caton– I really couldn’t drink it– and where did you get that terrible cup?”
“It’s the one I have my elevenses and my tea out of every day,” she said briskly.
Humphrey took his mid-morning coffee elsewhere if he was not at a sale and was seldom on the premises in the afternoon either, so he had probably never noticed his typist drinking from the thick serviceable cup.
“Well, Miss Caton,” he said. “I can only hope that nobody has ever seen you drinking from such a monstrosity. It would hardly be a good advertisement, would it?”
“I take my tea in the back,” she said, on the defensive, “so no customer could have seen me.”
“And you, James– do you drink from such a cup?” asked his uncle sternly.
“I don’t know,” James mumbled. “I suppose I may have done on occasion.”
Humphrey exclaimed in horror.
“Perhaps a cup of China tea,” Miss Caton persisted, “though it wouldn’t have the same reviving effect, and without milk or sugar it might be too acid for you in your present condition.”
–from Barbara Pym’s The Sweet Dove Died

August 22, 2010

Cups and saucers

Today we not only hopped in the car, but we went to the mall, both of which are novel experiences for mall-hating folks such as ourselves, who don’t even own a car. But it was raining outside, and Harriet needed new pajamas, and our dinnerware also needed replacing after more than five years of being chipped and broken. Due to financial reasons, I couldn’t get the dishes I really wanted, but I do like the ones we settled on instead. The teacups in particular, and how lovely to have a saucer for each one to rest upon.

August 20, 2010

If all else fails

So it turns out that I have a motto after all, because surely I’ve been saying this for years, but then Barbara Pym had been saying it for longer, so I read in her collected letters and diaries. The motto is (and it’s a good one, I think): “…if all else fails, we can always start a teashop.” Indeed.

July 28, 2010

You've got to court delight

You’ve got to court delight, I think. By which I mean that things don’t just turn up in the post. You’ve got to send small gifts across the country to get a thank-you note in return, and subscribe to literary journals and magazines, and have a friend who lives in Antarctica who sends a postcard from time to time. Or rather, you have to go out of your way to buy a red teapot so that you can be a person who has a red teapot (unless you’re a particular fortunate person for whom red teapots arrive in the post).

Anyway, the point is that I received two letters in the post today upon whose envelopes my name was inscribed by hand. (And it wasn’t even that deceptively handwriting-like font that Bell Canada puts on all their envelopes when they send missives begging for the return of my custom.) Two handwritten envelopes is practically unheard of! I tore them open in a hurry and was not the least bit disappointed by what I found inside.

But let me backtrack. I joined The Barbara Pym Society earlier this year, because it seemed a strange, funny and Pymian thing to do. (I was inspired by this article.) And I also made friends with a brilliant writer/almost birdwatcher, and had her over for tea last week. As a result of these two things, I today received a lovely letter from a fellow Pym Society member who is looking for a Canadian meet-up*, and an absolutely beautiful thank you note from my birder-writer friend (who is truly as master of the form). Both of which made me exquisitely happy.

So you do have to court delight, I think. Though there’s also the point that if you wish to be perpetually delighted, just look for the pleasure of tiny, wonderful things. (Or perhaps I need to get out more…)

*Fascinatingly enough, the Pym Society member had sent me this letter unknowing that we’d corresponded in the past! Three years ago, she published a beautiful essay in The Globe, and sent me a note after I’d mentioned it on my blog. And now we find ourselves two of the very small population of Canadian Barbara Pym Society members! How marvelously tiny the world truly is…

May 9, 2010

I'd rather lick a garbage truck

It was a year ago that we discovered just how immovable our child was, though I wouldn’t comprehend just how much until she was born. And now she’s eleven and a half months old, we’re planning her first birthday party. She sleeps all night almost every night, which makes me feel that wonder and amazement you’re supposed to feel when someone hands you your newborn for the first time. That this enormous blessing could be mine. (Other mothers say, “We’ll see how long it lasts” and then I want to hit them.)

I had a splendid Mother’s Day today, beginning with six and a half hours sleep (and it’s only that because I stay up far too late), then a lie-in, breakfast in bed (croissants! yoghurt! fresh fruit! tea!). Harriet was thoughtful enough to buy me Darwin’s Bastards (which I didn’t think I’d want to read when I first heard about it, but the more I read about it, the more I longed to). This afternoon, my own wonderful mom came into the city and accompanied us to afternoon tea at The Four Seasons. Scones were so fresh. Harriet was an angel, and the staff were so nice to us even though they had to vaccuum grapes and cheddar cheese off the floor after we had gone. (Interestingly, they remembered Harriet from our last tea in February. I am not sure whether that’s a good thing or not.)

Also, asparagus is in season, so all is well.

In really stange news, my maternity leave ended on Friday. In an alternate universe, I’d be going back to work on Monday, but as working full time and being a mother would cut into my tea breaks, we decided it would be best if I stayed home for a while. Also, my husband begins a new day job in two weeks, leaving his Bay Street office behind for work at a non-profit. I’m very proud of him, excited for him, and relieved that if I get to be home all day, at least he’ll be working somewhere that makes him happy.

And I do mean that, “get to be home all day”. Can I just say that staying home with a small baby sucks like nothing else in the world? I’d rather work in a glass chewing factory or lick a garbage truck. Staying home with a one-year-old, however, is pretty brilliant and gets better all the time. It’s also a great excuse to spend sunny afternoons outside in the park. Even though her naps are often fleeting, I get to curl up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea. When Harriet is awake, we hang out together. She is beginning to show her understanding of language in ways that fascinate me, we can share jokes, she is a pretty happy kid and very affectionate, and I really do like her company. So I feel lucky that we get to continue our days together, that spring is here and summer is coming, and I look forward to exercising feats of financial acrobatics so that our little family can get away with having our income cut in half. (There may have to be less afternoon tea. This is sad).

Anyway, all of this is to say that I am grateful for my good fortune (especially the asparagus) and that I’m very happy that I’m a mother today.

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