B – Bone China

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

 The Glories of Tea With Stepheny


Tuscan Vintage Tea Cup & Saucer Gold Border

The main difference between porcelain and fine bone china is the inclusion of up to 50 percent bone ash in the porcelain mixture that makes up bone china. China is also typically fired at a lower temperature than porcelain, which is double-fired at very high temperatures. Bone china has a warmer off-white color than porcelain. The words bone china are often marked on the underside of a piece of bone china. Porcelain looks bright white to the naked eye and it is more durable and weighty when compared to bone china. Recognizing the difference between bone china and porcelain is all about the ingredients in the ceramic mixture and its firing process. The first firm to develop a reliable recipe was Spode in 1799. It is specifically an English development. Germany, France and the rest of Europe stuck to their older, more traditional Chinese porcelain recipes (no animal bone).

Some people bet on a horse because they like the name or think the horse is pretty. In collecting china, you may feel the same way. As long as it is pretty, that’s what matters. To others, the manufacturer of china is as important as the pattern. There is a way to verify the authenticity of a piece of bone china. Generally, bone china is registered by the manufacturer and you can find its trademark, number, and pattern name under each piece. Over time these can become difficult to read.  If you hold a piece of bone china up to a light and place your hand behind it, you should be able to see your fingers through it.

Select one of these lovely cups and let’s pour some Lady Gray and enjoy it.

Vintage English SHELLEY Fine Bone China Tea Cup & Saucer

Vintage Tuscan Fine Bone China Tea Cup and Saucer, Naples …

Antique Aynsley bone china tea cup set red

Vintage Shelley Violets Fine Bone China Tea Cup by …

Elizabethan Fine Bone China Tea Cup and Saucer Green Gold


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A – Afternoon Tea

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

                                                          The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

Tea – Washington Duke Inn – July 2012

Consider this your invitation to join in the glories of tea during April, the month of the AtoZ Blog Challenge. Using the 26 letters of the alphabet, you will find that our time together will cover different aspects of the long tradition of drinking tea. Art, china, recipes, hotels, mysteries. Even if you prefer coffee, I hope the breath of the subject will bring you back while out blog hopping. I’m delighted to entertain you with information, friendship, and lovely tea parties. Let’s begin by remembering our first teacups as little people, be they tin like mine or china that was hard to break.

Afternoon Tea


Afternoon tea is not the same as high tea. “High tea was what servants of a large house ate at around 6pm after the upstairs had been given their afternoon tea. The servant’ s menu would include a large joint of meat, slices of thick bread, potted shrimps, a big cake to share, and ale. It was eaten at a proper table, rather than a lower, coffee table, and so it became known in the servants’ hall as ‘high tea’.” You are familiar with an afternoon tea that has a variation of tea sandwiches, scones, and something sweet.


To this day I drink my tea with milk and sugar as I did when a child. In England, this is known as ‘white’ tea. We will learn more about Etiquette in a few days,  but while on the subject,  do you add milk in first or last? The proper custom is to add the milk last, although the servants of a large house who used to drink from unrefined clay mugs which could crack when hot tea was poured, added milk in, before the tea was poured to act as a coolant. Those above the stairs of the house drank from fine bone china or porcelain so the hot tea wasn’t a problem. For the letter, B we will talk about bone china. Do join me.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea


“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

Henry James              The  Portrait of a Lady


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2020 A to Z Blog #Challenge – Theme Reveal

The Glories of Tea With Stepheny

The Downton Abbey Tea in Greensboro, NC with Friends. 2019

My first cup of pretend tea was from a child-size tin teacup that included a teapot, creamer, and sugar, and three more cups and saucers. It was the right number to serve tea to my dolls while jabbering away to them as any three-year-old might. Playing ‘tea party’ led to giving larger tea parties when I grew up. I’ve had tea in lovely hotels known for their service and delicious offerings, in tea shops dedicated to this tradition. I’m about finished with a third novel where a famous tea room in New York and London are featured.  I’ve taken granddaughters to tea, go out with friends for tea.  I have been invited to friend’s homes with table settings and food that Queen Elizabeth would pronounce charming and delicious. While in England I vowed that once home I would continue to make tea each afternoon. Like a lot of my good intentions, that didn’t last long.

Throughout April,  I will use the 26 letters of the alphabet to write about the glories of tea. It will include posts on collecting china teapots and teacups, tea locations, art, recipes, etiquette, books, and other surprises. In years past I have written about gardening, historic inns, and hotels, bookstores in the world. I loved every minute of it. For a year I have been researching, tucking photos, artwork, quotations away in order to write about the glories of tea for this year’s #Challenge. I hope you will find it a pleasant spot in your day while blog hopping, making new blog friends, learning new things.

My first A to Z was in 2013. I have only missed one year since. It has made me a better writer and blogger because the #Challenge exposed me to how it is best done featuring interesting information, with uncluttered, easy to navigate sites.  Keeping the posts short has made my word selection keener so that now I say more with fewer words. (Not in person, however.) I still follow and enjoy the blogs I’ve discovered during the #Challenge.

It is my hope that taking tea with me in April will enrich your appreciation on the subject beyond a cup of Earl Gray! Consider this your invitation to join me for the glories of tea.

This little girl reminds me of a time when my tin tea set was in use.

The Tea Party

I had a little tea party
This afternoon at three.
‘Twas very small-
Three guest in all-
Just I, myself and me.

Myself ate all the sandwiches,
While I drank up the tea;
‘Twas also I who ate the pie
And passed the cake to me.
― Jessica Nelson North

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Mary Poppins: Then and Again

The movie, Mary Poppins came into the lives of children in 1964. It was the first movie I took my son, Bo, to see when he was deemed old enough to sit through and enjoy the magic of the story. We drove from Cadiz, Kentucky to Nashville, TN (84 miles straight down I-24) to see the film for the first time. I wouldn’t expect him to remember, but I have never forgotten this trip or many times thereafter I have seen the film.

Mary Poppins is a 1964 American musical fantasy film directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney, with songs written and composed by the Sherman Brothers. It is based on P. L. Travers’s book series Mary Poppins. The film, which combines live-action and animation, stars Julie Andrews in her feature film debut as Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, and Glynis Johns featured in supporting roles.  It received a total of 13 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture – a record for any film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five: Best Actress for Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”.  Mary Poppins is considered Walt Disney’s crowning live-action achievement and is the only one of his films which earned a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime.

I met the announcement of the new release of Mary Poppins Returns with uncertainty, but faith. How could any attempt at recreating this charming and delightful film be possible? But what if it is as good? Netflicks was as far as I traveled to finally see the second film. Set in 1930s London, twenty-five years after the events of the original film, the film sees Mary Poppins, the former nanny of Jane and Michael Banks, returning one year after a family tragedy. Released in the US, December 19, 2018, it one of the longest intervals between film sequels in cinematic history, at 54 years.

It isn’t my age that worked against the film because the little girl within is alive and well, still able to suspend belief in order to believe. Anyone introduced to Mary Poppins and her world for the first time will be pleased. But I was sorry to feel that the animated scenes weren’t as much fun. It’s hard to beat having tea on the ceiling! or riding your merry-go-round horse off into the countryside. By comparison, there weren’t as many ‘if only this was possible’ moments. However, I will remain forever grateful for the music.  It received four Academy Award nominations, two for Best Original Score, Best Original Song (“The Place Where Lost Things Go”)

We all must learn to hold the losses and changes in our lives. It is with great thanksgiving that I now know where lost things go. I am immensely comforted and touched to have found this out because Mary Poppins Returned.  I forgive any difference I may have with the second film and you will too.






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Where Have You Been Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?

I have not been idle only absent from posting on this blog while writing regularly on  Mainstreetrockymount.com,  about architecture and preservation, the revitalization of Rocky Mount, NC. that includes the Saving of Main Street. The theme of this blog is Honoring the Past, Building a Future. It has been a wonderful experience that has enriched my life. I’m also finishing a third novel – A Garden of Sweet Disorder. I never forget you, and appreciate that you continue to keep reading what has already been posted. I’m going to renew my efforts to come back ‘home’ to you. Hold that thought and go and enjoy your books. What would our lives be without them?


I wanted to check in with a Churchill quotation that you will enjoy too. It was posted on a Facebook page I follow, The Queen’s English. I am going to follow through with Churchill’s suggestion. As I cast my eyes across the titles and where my books reside, they form the backdrop of my life and tell you a lot about who I am. You will know me by my books!



“If you cannot read all your books…fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.”
~Sir Winston Churchill.



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Giving Books for Christmas – Don’t Forget You!

There are a lot of cold nights ahead. A good book and hot chocolate sound right to me. I can suggest two books to give for Christmas or add to your own pile of books to read this winter. I have written a sequel (A Garden of Sweet Disorder) to Greening of a Heart, which will be published in the New Year. Greening is only available as an e-book on Amazon books, where you can find reviews and a great price. Facing East is only available in paperback and available on Amazon as well. I think the reviews will help you decide if either of the novels are for you. I hope so. Buying books this time of year is a great present and treat yourself while you’re at it.

If you look on the ribbon at the top of this blog page, you can click and hear me read from Greening of a Heart and also read the synopsis for both books


You can click on the books on the sidebar and it will take you to Amazon. Hope you can take a minute and check the books out. Many Thanks!

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Let Me Tell You a Story about Senator Mitch McConnell – Part 2

Maybe it was because I knew some of the people and places Senator McConnell writes of in the early pages of his autobiography, The Long Game, or that to this day I am a political junkie, but I found the book of great interest, well written, and at moments, good-humored. I know I share his Republican view of the world, but you have to admit the description of Al Gore having the personality of a cardboard box is amusing. There is Professor Obama who lectured people rather than listen and good old Harry Reid (what can I say) who will bring a smile to your face even if you would rather not admit it.

It is a Henry Clay quote from the book that expresses the accumulative legislative experience of the Senate Majority leader that I seize upon, to sum up, the crux of the book.“All legislation, all government, all society, is founded upon the principle of mutual concession, politeness, comity, courtesy; upon these everything is based…let him who elevates himself above humanity, above its weaknesses, its infirmities, its wants, its necessities, say, if he pleases, I will never compromise; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromises.”

The Senator goes on to explain that it requires deep understanding, an ability to listen, great patience, and a willingness to subordinate one’s own idea of perfection for the moment in the interest of achieving long-term goals later on. It means viewing the legislative process as the best means we have for making good decisions collectively. These few lines are taken from the book. It explains the measured continence of a leader who looks at the long game as a reasonable and right approach within the Senate body.

Mitch McConnell points out that there are two kinds of politicians. Those who wish to make a point and those who wish to make a difference. I have no doubt that when it comes time to reckon the successful accomplishments of Senator McConnell, his mentor, John Sherman Cooper, will whisper in his ear, “A job well done, son.”  My whisper is less eloquent but nonetheless heartfelt…..”As Kermit, the frog says, ‘It isn’t easy being green.’ and you have worn that burden well!”

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Let Me Tell You A Story About Senator Mitch McConnell – A Proponent of the Long Game – Part 1

Kentucky Senior Senator, John Sherman Cooper was a statesman, a quiet, unassuming southern gentleman, and a leader of his day in our American political system. He was a member of the United States Senate, a deliberating body in those days, respectful of one another, conducting themselves with decorum. Cooper, from Somerset, Kentucky, was an honorable man grounded with a sense of place and our history. Already involved in Republican politics in my late twenties, Senator Cooper and Senator Thruston Morton, Kentucky’s junior senator, inspired these early years of my involvement. Senator Cooper also set a high bar for a young man recently finished with law school with his eye on a career in politics. This was my friend, Mitch McConnell. We were both involved in Young Republicans on a statewide level and worked on the Senate race of Marlow Cook, which brought us together. I flew to Washington, DC to hear Marlow Cook’s maiden speech on the floor of the Senate and it was Mitch who picked me up at the airport for that occasion.

Here is the young man of those days. Oh so bright, articulate, with a love of the game called politics, who had the right instincts, personality, and leadership skills to become a player. This was the competitive side of Mitch McConnell, but his contemplative side was that of a historian, a voracious reader, the posture of a student always willing to learn. With his mentor, John Sherman Cooper to direct his early years, he learned from the best and became practiced in the unflappable, poker-faced man who gives nothing away, regardless of his irritation, exasperation or darn right anger. He is made fun of as you recently heard during the Kavannah hearings – – “That’s about as emotional as we’ve ever seen Senator McConnell.”  This demeanor is intentional and reasoned, built upon experience that shaped his belief in The Long Game, the title of his autobiography published in 2016


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Death of a Busybody – George Bellairs – WHO?

“There really must be a murder or at least a major
felony — otherwise, what’s the point? Who’s ripping
off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly
the business of a mystery novel.”

I  didn’t begin reading mysteries until my early 40’s. Not even an Agatha Christie. My mother was a mystery reader, a Sherlock Holmes aficionado. It is one of those ‘if only’ moments in my life that I would have loved to share with her, but it took me a while to become something of an aficionado myself. We didn’t get to share the conversations I have with my own daughter who loves mysteries too. I have written that book jackets are the first thing that must pass my test. Then there is the blurb that must speak my language, with keywords like ‘village,’ ‘Vicar,’ ‘Inspector.’

One of the most fabulous series of book covers belong to the British Library Crime Classics, crime fiction published during the first half of the 20th century from Sherlock Holmes to the end of the Golden age of mystery writing, Poisoned Pen Press has reissued these classics and  introduced a new generation of readers to these mystery writers and their work. I, for one, am delighted!

George Bellairs was a crime writer and bank manager born in  Lancashire, who settled in the Isle of Man on retirement. He wrote more than 50 books, most featuring the Detective Inspector Thomas Littlejohn.  His first novel Littlejohn on Leave was published in 1941.  His books are regularly set on the Isle of Man and portray the topography of the Isle in great detail.  Many of the later books are set in France, usually in the Provence and Alps-Maritime area. Otherwise quiet English country villages are the most common with Bellairs.

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs was his 3rd novel first published in 1942. It was my first introduction to Inspector Littlejohn and I look forward to spending more time with this highly likable man.
Death of a Busybody is about Miss Ethel Tither. She has made herself deeply unpopular in the quintessentially English village of Hilary Magna, since she snoops on people, and interfere with their lives. By the end of chapter one, this unpleasant lady is found floating in a cesspool, having been bludgeoned prior to drowning in the drainage water. The local police call in Inspector Thomas Littlejohn from Scotland Yard to help with the case. We have a well-written mystery with characters that engage, especially Constable Harriwincle, the local man who dreams of earning his Sargent stripes by solving this case. A good mystery, well drawn and satisfying.

This post is written with my mother in mind who probably read most of these British Library Classics when they were first published. She gave me the love of reading for my entire life – Madeline Flora Thompson Forgue

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Hallmark TV Movies – How Life is Supposed to Be!

Forget the violence, the long car chase scenes, the F-word, blowing up people and things  -Turn immediately to either of the two Hallmark TV channels. (One is a mystery channel.) I say this knowing that the men that follow this blog just groaned and clicked off. Such a shame, since Hallmark movies, regardless of the theme, give us a world we wish were still true.

Take the Christmas movies: You can count on Carol singers at the door, gingerbread houses made in the kitchen,  a Christmas tree with ornaments that go back to a Santa popsicle stick made in the first grade. There is fresh and fluffy snow on the ground and a Main Street that looks like a fairyland. Of course, there must be a problem, perhaps the Christmas Tree farm will have to close, the very one that provides the tree for the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony in the square. We must have a high powered woman who comes to town from New York or someplace equally far from this idyllic setting. My favorites are when the roads are closed and she can’t leave.  Then there is a wonderful family with a handsome son who is widowed, raising a charming child. Of course, this beautiful woman is in a committed relationship, or worse, is engaged. I mean, these movies are wonderful! You can absolutely count on the fact, that in the end, they KISS.  Ah, happily ever after!

Hallmark movies are a grand escape from things like the advertisement that is running about the one you love smelling up the bathroom. Really? They are a throwback to the movies I watched growing up in Evanston, IL. at the Varsity or Valencia movie theaters — Doris Day and Rock Hudson, twin beds, with a nightstand between. Robes carefully laid at the end of the bed. The truth is I love a good movie. I don’t count these Hallmark movies in the same category as my favorites: Anthony Hopkins in 84 Charing Cross Road, Russell Crowe in A Good Year, Diane Lane in Under the Tuscon Sun. Except that you mix up the Hallmark actors occasionally because they are interchangeable, playing one part here, and another in the next, you can shed a tear, find yourself smiling, and saying, “Nice!”

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I Hope You Made Time to Read This Summer

We are all asking the same question — where did the summer go? I hope my summer books, which I have recommend to you, where suggestions you took me up on.  This is my last review in this series – Summer Time and the Livin’ Is Easy.  I’m sure you read  “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”  The story of a clandestine book club living on the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands during World War II.  Mary Ann Shaffer, the author, fell ill before the book was ready for publication. Her niece Annie Barrows, a children’s author, completed it. I just watched the movie on Netflicks and loved it too.  Drawing inspiration from her late aunt’s home state of West Virginia, Barrows has written her first adult novel, “The Truth According To Us”

The story takes place in 1938 in the fictional town of Macedonia, W.Va. It’s a novel about a family with well-written characters, an intriguing plot set in the south with its social sensibilities. The one problem I had with the book was reading it on the last hot and humid days of August, combined with the oppressive heat in Macedonia, the book became a sweet tea must.

Layla Beck, daughter of a U.S. senator, is exiled to rural Macedonia by her father after she turns down a marriage proposal he thinks is suitable. She finds employment through the Federal Writers’ Project, which creates jobs for historians, librarians, and writers during the Depression.  She’s there to write a history of the town in honor of its sesquicentennial. While collecting material for her book, Layla revises her opinion of what small-town West Virginia people must be like; the story unfolds in a satisfying and well-written fashion. I highly recommend you add it to your late fall reading after things cool off.


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Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy – Making Time to Read- Alan Bradley’s The Dead and Their Vaulted Arches

I’ve been reviewing books that I have loved reading this summer. August days are dwindling down and my summer reading has been more than satisfactory. The highlight of ‘making time to read’ is a trip planned with book club friends to Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Bookstore this week. Click Here for more about Quail Ridge.  I consider Alan Bradley a writer’s writer always demonstrating how it should be done. Hence, I’m recommending another book in his series. (Book jacket on right.)No one writes a setting- a time, a sense of place into a story better than Bradley. Here is an example:

Mrs. Mullet had fetched out and cleaned one of the mothballed school uniforms that Harriet, when she was my age, had been made to wear at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, Canada: a black-belted horror worn with long black stockings and a white blouse that made me look like one of those grotesque but amusing creatures from Ronald Searle’s St. Trinian’s cartoons. Like Father and Dogger, Mr. Searle had been a prisoner of the Japanese in Singapore, and his work was much admired by some of us at Buckshaw. 

Here is the blurb about this story, which will give you a peek into the world of Flavia de Luce. On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her lost mother, Harriet. Upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and the usual village characters, another well written, wonderful story unfolds.


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