O – Oh, Beautiful Tea Cups For Flower Arranging

Welcome to letter O and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

The walls behind the counter had deep floor-to-ceiling shelves for vases and jam jars and scented candles, and there was an old wrought-iron revolving stand for cards. But most of the space in the long, narrow shop was taken up with flowers and plants. Today there were fifty-two kinds of cut blooms, from the tiny cobalt-blue violets that were smaller than Lara’s little fingernail to a purple-and-green-frilled brassica that was bigger than her head. The flowers were set out in gleaming metal buckets and containers of every shape and size. They were lined up on the floor three deep and stacked on the tall three-tier stand in the middle of the shop. The plants, huge leafy ferns, and tiny fleshy succulents, lemon trees and jasmine bushes and freckled orchids, were displayed on floating shelves that were built at various heights all the way up to the ceiling. Lara had spent weeks getting the lighting right. There were a few soft spotlights above the flower displays, and an antique crystal chandelier hung low above the counter. There were strings of fairy lights and dozens of jewel-colored tea lights and tall, slender lanterns dotted between the buckets. When they were lit, they cast star and crescent moon shapes along the walls and the shop resembled the courtyard of a Moroccan riad- a tiny walled garden right in the middle of the city.”
                                        ― Ella Griffin, The Flower Arrangement

This post is for my dear friend, Taimi Anderson, garden designer, floral arranger, travel companion, the eye of an artist, a tea drinker!







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N – Napkins for Tea

Welcome to letter N and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny


It’s a shame really, all the beautiful linens languishing away in sideboards or table cloths, rarely disturbed, hanging on poles in a closet. Women of my generation, gifted with their grandmothers and mothers beautiful things wonder what will happen to these treasures. It is a rare daughter, daughters-in-law, or grandchild who has any interest in handwashing crystal, and sterling silver. With linens, it all comes down to the ironing, doesn’t it? The days of irons slapping away at linen napkins seem a lifetime ago.  Wedding gifts have given way to washable, shake the wrinkles out and go table coverings. But today, having tea with Stepheny, we will use our pretty things, crisp, ironed, and old. Enjoy!

 Napkin Use and Etiquette

Small napkins are used for tea. After sitting, unfold your napkin and place it in your lap after the host or hostess has placed his or her napkin in their lap. Use the napkin to blot your lips as needed and before taking a drink. Place your napkin in your chair if leaving the table during the meal. When the meal is completed, the napkin is folded loosely and placed to the left of your plate or in the center of your place setting if your plate has been cleared.  Some etiquette tips talk about setting a table with the napkin under the forks rather than to the left of them. I was raised in the Madeline Thompson Forgue, school of setting tables. (My mother.) In that school, the guest never has to remove the forks to get to the napkin. I was taught that the hostess must begin first, lifting her fork so that her guests may then start their meal. In turn, the hostess finishes last never leaving her guests feeling hurried. And! the napkin edges are always facing the silverware/plate.

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M – Miniature Tea Sets

Welcome to letter M and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

It is the strangest thing that while researching miniature antique porcelain tea sets, I found nothing. I entered the search with different combinations, but it kept taking me to sites that sell these beautiful little treasures and zero information about the how and why of them. We are not talking about dollhouse miniatures; that is for another #Blog Challenge theme. What to do? Skip the subject or use images to represent the subject?

My parents in about 1945 began to collect beautiful antique Misien china and other china by manufacturers, the names you would recognize. Among these lovely things, a miniature collection of tea sets and individual cups and saucers began. I apologize for the lack of information, but I can’t imagine you won’t be captivated by their beauty and charm, nonetheless. These images are pinned to my Pinterest Board named Collecting Miniature Tea Sets. I am blessed to have my parent’s collection, not unlike these. My mother used to say that she knew a little bit about a lot of things. Adding this subject to this theme is so you too can say, I learned a little bit about a lot of things while having tea with Stepheny.

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L – London Tea At Its Finest

Welcome to letter L and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny


I’ve had tea in Harrod’s Department Store on the 4th floor, near the luggage department if my memory serves me right. It is a place meant for shoppers to tuck into and refresh themselves and then continue their shopping. There is no fine china on hand but plain white pots and cups and saucers selected for their utilitarian purpose.




I have stopped as well in a tea shop across the road from Harrods. Plain and simple, yet it made me feel I was a woman who had come from a Cotswold Village to shop for the day and was having a cuppa before catching the train home.



When it came time to write a third novel, A Garden of Sweet Disorder, all but finished, the main character comes to London with a friend for the weekend. After researching, I selected the Savoy Hotel for the scene where the women have tea. Below are a few lines from a chapter.

When it was time, the two women stood in front of the reservation desk for their 3:00 reservation in the Thames Foyer of The Savoy Hotel. Sarah took in the surroundings with the hope that she would remember every detail of this light and bright Edwardian salon with a garden gazebo at its center, and an ornate glass cupola overhead. She knew the Foyer had been added to the original hotel in the early 1900s.                                                                       

Following the hostess to their table, Anne said quietly, “Geoffrey brought me here for one of their fashionable ‘Art-Deco’ dinner dances. They hired live orchestras like the legendary Savoy Orpheans that were once the hotel’s resident musicians in the roaring 1920s.”  

“It must have been fantastic.” The women were seated.

Anne said with a straight face, “Geoffrey is a terrible dancer.” Sarah stifled a laugh. Here in this rarefied atmosphere, at a great cost, Anne’s memory was of her partner’s ineptitude.

“The Salon Couture High Tea is the best event they have ever held. Guests enjoy afternoon tea and a 1950s style fashion show like the iconic couture shows held at the hotel in that era. Christian Dior debuted their collections then.

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K – Polly Put The Kettle On

Welcome to the letter K and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

“Polly Put the Kettle On” is a nursery rhyme originating from England. Sources indicate that it was first published in 1797, although its tune is known to have been used in the 1770s. In Ireland and the USA, in earlier versions of the song, the name Molly was used instead of Polly.

The song’s lyrics most probably tell the story of 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys) who were continuously fighting over the games they should play, as the girls preferred house, while the boys preferred to play “soldier”. Thus, the girls pretended to have tea together, and one of the girls, Polly prepared the kettle for it. As soon as their brothers left, Sukey (old name for Susan) took the kettle off and the girls began to play house.

Here is a common version of the song.

Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on,
We’ll all have tea.
Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again,
They’ve all gone away.


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J – Tea A Drink To Go With Jam and Bread

Welcome to letter J and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

An endearing song that we learned while watching The Sound of Music, how many times?

While having tea with me today, I think we should all line up and sing with the short video above. If all else fails, we can take our act on the road. Afterward, I hope you will tell me which jam you prefer with your tea. Raspberry is my favorite. Homemade jam is a treat, but the famous companies that made jams and curd, are delicious to0. A beautiful cup, a choice of tea, a scone, clotted cream, and jam. Isn’t it lovely to be together and enjoy?

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I – Two Famous Inns for Afternoon Tea

The Carolina Inn-Chapel Hill, NC

Welcome to the letter I and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

By my calculations, all together, I have lived in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Nashville, North Carolina for 27 years. I have traveled across the state, up and down, and continue to marvel at its topography, regional offerings, and its people, many of them transplanted like myself, along with the spectacular folks who have been born and raised in the state. I grew up on the North Shore of Chicago. The area with its many facets: different food, architecture and a cultural scene helped form who I became. Carolina is different than Kentucky, the place I went to college, married a Kentucky boy, had my children there. Kentucky is in and of itself deserving of all 26 letters of this Blog Challenge. (Maybe next year.)  During this 2020 Blog Challenge, I have deliberately written about North Carolina afternoon tea destinations in hopes of luring you here for a visit. There are many possibilities for your itinerary throughout the state that foster a sense of place, history, and southern hospitality that will serve you tea with a scone, raspberry jam, and clotted cream.

Washington Duke Inn Durham, NC

I have selected two North Carolina Inns for afternoon tea that are both ‘bucket list’ worthy. Both places have left me with lasting fond memories and with the desire to go back. There is a  prestigious hotel near Duke University, The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club that opened its doors in 1988 to serve the needs of the University and Durham’s growing business community. The hotel was named for Washington Duke (1820-1905), who from modest beginnings as an American Civil War soldier in 1865 went on to become an industrialist and philanthropist, as well as a classic example of the American dream. I have been seated at the round table in this elegant room many times. One of my favorite walks is from the front door of the Inn past portraits and busts of the Duke family to tea with my long time writing group. Afternoon tea there is divine!

Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn

I first stayed at the Carolina Inn in 1992 when considering a move to Governors Club in Chapel Hill, NC. It is a quintessentially southern experience, gracious and welcoming. The hotel was built in 1924 by UNC alumnus John Sprunt Hill, a major benefactor of the university and designed by award-winning architect Arthur C. Nash, who designed a number of other university landmarks. Hill gifted the hotel in 1935 to the university. uncpostP077-11-597_768

The Carolina Inn is architecturally significant, blending elements of antebellum Southern plantation homes with Georgian and neoclassical features. The building’s original front was modeled after George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon on the Potomac River. Nash’s design brought to fruition Hill’s dream of an inn that resembled Mount Vernon with its long portico, cupola, and roof balustrade. The inn continues to serve as a meeting place and hostelry for friends of the university and guests who stay awhile. Any meal, but afternoon tea is wonderful.

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H – Hotels For Tea

Welcome to letter H and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

Taking afternoon tea at a luxurious hotel or inn is a wonderful way to enjoy the ambiance of the surroundings for a few hours. Whether with friends or a grandchild, afternoon tea takes you through the doors of a destination you might not otherwise see on your travels because you are not staying overnight.

There are three basic types of Afternoon Tea:

Cream Tea – Tea, scones, jam and cream

Light Tea – Tea, scones and sweets.

Full Tea – Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert. Most tea rooms today serve tea from three to five o’clock. The menu has also changed from tea, bread, butter and cakes, to include three particular courses served specifically in this order: Savories – Tiny sandwiches or appetizers  Scones – Served with jam and Devonshire or clotted cream Pastries – Cakes, cookies, shortbread and sweets

A few tips about serving tea or being served…
Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount. Remove the tea bag from the cup and place it on a side saucer or in a slop bowl. Do not use the string to wrap around or squeeze the tea bag. When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Either provide a small fork or lemon fork for your guests, or the tea server can place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Never add lemon with milk since the lemon’s citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.

Here are eight hotels listed as best for afternoon teas.(USA Today) I have added the link to the hotels I have written about during the blog challenge. 1) The Jefferson in Richmond, VA.  2) The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. 3)  Park Hyatt Washington in Washington, D.C. 4) The Palm Court at The Drake Hotel in Chicago 5)  Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon at the Inn at Irving Place in New York City 6) The St. Regis San Francisco 7) The Fairmont Olympic in Seattle  8) The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C.

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G – A Place In The Garden For Enjoying Tea

Welcome to letter G and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

To share your garden is a reward for the time, money, planning and work invested in this sacred spot in your world. When designing a garden, you find advice on what to include: whimsey, the sound of water, a surprise around the curve in a pathway, a focal point where an important piece of sculpture or handsome container sits. Provide places to sit and view the garden. If you are lucky enough to have a Borrowed View, take advantage of that.  A garden is a lovely place to entertain. It may be an impromptu set up to sit and eat outdoors or a permanent place.  The following images speak for themselves. I hope they will give you the inspiration to carry your tea things outdoors and experience the piece of heaven you’ve worked hard to create. Enjoy!








A practical tip for enriching garden soil: Teabags enrich the soil by increasing nitrogen levels. Remove the tags first because they take a long time to break down, especially if they are plastic coated. Here is a quick article on how to use old tea bags to the benefit of your garden.



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F – Fortnum and Mason

Welcome to letter F and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny


The Mechanical Clock on the front of Fortnum & Mason

If you drink tea then you recognize the name Fortnum and Mason. I have stood on Piccadilly Street in London waiting for the mechanical clock to strike the hour when Fortnum and Mason come out their two doors, bow to one another, then return indoors.  If you are unfamiliar with this name,  there is always time for a story, don’t you think?


Once upon a time, William Fortnum was a footman in the household of Queen Anne. The royal family’s insistence on having new candles every night resulted in large amounts of half-used wax, which Fortnum resold for a tidy profit. The enterprising Fortnum also had a sideline business as a grocer. He convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to be his associate, and they founded the first Fortnum & Mason store in Mason’s small shop in St James’s Market in 1707. In 1761, William Fortnum’s grandson Charles went into the service of Queen Charlotte and the affiliation with the royal court led to an increase in business.

In 1902, Fortnum’s tea came to boast a Royal pedigree thanks to a blend specially created for King Edward VII. Whether single-origin teas, rare varieties, home-grown blends or contemporary infusions, Fortnum’s tea is still poured today. Today, Fortnum & Mason is an upmarket department store in Piccadilly, London, with additional stores at St Pancras railway station and Heathrow Airport in London, as well as various stockists worldwide.  Today, it is privately owned by Wittington Investments.

“Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.”
― Bill Watterson, The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book



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E – Afternoon Tea Etiquette The English Way

Welcome to letter E and to this year’s Theme:

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

I know I will date myself when I say I am still appalled at the ‘straight from the gym’ appearance people wear on an airplane. It is a far cry from the hat and gloves I wore when  I first traveled. I give thanks that children are still being taught to say, ‘please and thank you.’ I like knowing that my children and a few grandchildren were taught to set a table properly; something that will stand them in good stead long after I am gone. I believe that applying some simple etiquette when having tea adds to the refinement that is another part of the glories of tea. After watching this video, more than once if need be, should the Queen invite you to tea, you will be at your ease knowing how to stir your tea and that you are holding your cup properly. Have a lovely time!

A Short Video with William Hanson, Etiquette Coach and Broadcaster, will put your right.

In giving his etiquette tips, William Hanson talks about using loose leaf tea as opposed to tea bags. Loose tea needs a tea strainer. This suggests another quest, looking for beautiful pieces like these below. I find teabags less troublesome, but still, I have a gorgeous antique sterling tea strainer that my dear friend, Margaret, gave me years ago. It is a treasure that one day will be returned to her children. I have kept it safe and sound and loved it.

Beautiful china tea strainer

A beautiful china tea strainer

Beautiful China Tea Strainer

Antique Gorham Silver Strainer

Antique Silver Tea Ball

A pewter tea strainer


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D – A Downton Abbey Tea

Welcome to letter D and to this year’s Theme:

                                             The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

A hotel with a literary connection interests me. I’m glad the O. Henry Hotel was recreated in Greensboro after the original was raised. The O. Henry is named after American writer and Greensboro native William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry. The original Hotel was built in downtown Greensboro in 1919  ‘A lot of famous writers,’ said one guest, ‘have houses they once occupied preserved in their honor, but O. Henry lived most of his life in hotels.’ The O. Henry was the fall 2019 destination for a Downton Abbey Tea. Three of us anticipated the occasion for weeks.

Through the doors and past the main desk we go. 

The Main Desk

Through the front door








The Menu

Lovely long tables for the guests.


On Display, China and Service Pieces Used Throughout The Series













Delicious tea food




Delicious Selections

Artist in Residence painted Downton Abbey throughout tea and given by raffle

A lovely setting

A lovely cup

Flowers throughout









A tableau of Downton Abbey guests

If you have an opportunity like this, don’t miss it. Plan the occasion with friends who are both the sweet and savory in our lives. This post is dedicated to Mary and Jane in remembrance of the Downton Abbey Tea

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