Meeting “real” Beatrix Potter People, as you know, was wonderful, and truly
Of course I put on good old-fashioned English MUSICA for them, and now for you, so you can get the feel of the thing. The talk at Vineyard Haven Library was so interesting; Betsy Bray (and American Trustee ~ the only American ~ from the England-based Beatrix Potter Society) was constantly interrupted by the Beatrix-loving audience who wanted to put in their two cents, so it was really more like a wonderful conversation. Then it was piling into the Fine Romance Van for the two-block ride to our house for a quick tea, because they (including Betsy’s friend Barbara and their friend Suzanne who is also a “real” Beatrix Potter person in the form of North American Liaison Officer for the Society) had to get to the ferry to go home. And of course, as you would imagine, we were ready. Tea for the five of us, the three “real” BP People, Joe and me and of course the two kitties, one of which loved it, the other of which, ignored the whole thing and stayed comfy in her normal spot on her pillows in the Peter Rabbit Room.
First I’d like to tell you my Philosophy on Tea Parties: A formal tea, with starched tablecloths, crochet-edged linen napkins, shiny silver things, dainty china cups and saucers, several kinds of cakes, cookies, scones, four kinds of sandwiches, and two salads is really good for your very best friends (or for larger parties) because all the fou-fou will not put them off, they already know you like to play house to the nth degree, they have forgiven you for it, and now they lean in, they appreciate it and feel perfectly comfortable, not stilted. Then there will be twine, stuffing of themselves, good gossip, and all will be well. But if you go formal with a small group of people you’ve never met before, you take the chance that they may get the wrong idea and think they should have worn gloves, perhaps be uncomfortable, cups could shake and clatter in saucers, and worst possible thing, it could curtail conversation, leaving the room with only fork-hitting-plate noises, and put them off of telling the scandalous things they know which is just unacceptable. What would be the point? Take no chances. First rule of tea party etiquette, unless you are of the Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes ilk, is to have comfortable guests (even those who live “north of the park”) and FUN.
That being said . . .
We went blue. We went mugs, cozy comfy simple, the opposite of intimidating, mugs . . . oh I love to play house . . .
We went with the Lavender~Orange Polenta Cake, because it’s like true English, not quite as sweet or birthday-cake-like as the Orange Cake (with Pineapple filling, which is so beyond good, it almost hurt not to make it), but I thought a plainer cake would be more traditional for tea, delicious with soft and crunchy all inclusive, also not intimidating, and it was in our book too (recipe’s on p. 214 or HERE). It was originally made for me by Siobhan, a real English person, so it just seemed right to do it. Plus it’s gluten-free and you never know these days. (P.S. for our Girlfriend Gina P from NY, Recipe for Milk Cake is on p. 90 of A FINE ROMANCE, or HERE.)
We went with my favorite afternoon tea (actually breakfast too, I’m addicted) Lavender and Roses Earl Grey Tea (the one I took to England and found to put in our web store so the rest of you can try it). More MUSICA?
Joe made soft little smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, I made cucumber triangles and egg salad fingers. I like to use a potato masher to break up the hard-boiled eggs . . .
Such an easy way to do it . . .
You keep going, right in the bowl, until it’s the texture you like ~ so much easier than chopping with a knife. Then you stir in minced celery, minced red onion, celery seed, a drop or two of hot sauce, bind the whole thing with mayonnaise and put it on white crustless bread. Radish sprouts are a nice little garnish with these, but I couldn’t find them at the market.
We set everything up so when we got back with the girls, we could just put a match to the fire and be ready . . . Joe did that, while I took the girls on a little tour through the kitchen . . .
… and up the back stairs to the Peter Rabbit room . . .
On the way up the stairs I gave them a disclaimer, because it’s really a very tiny room, and not even overwhelmingly Peter Rabbitish, because these girls . . .
would be very hard to impress, since I’m sure they have it all already.
Our Peter Rabbit room is just a nice little bedroom above the kitchen.
I’m still not over the fact that I saw this dresser in an antique store somewhere out in Kansas or Iowa or something and DID NOT BUY IT. What an idiot.
My Peter’s were still hanging around the bonfire on the dresser, although it wasn’t lit at the time. After the tour which they seemed to enjoy (which actually took less time then this telling of it. . .) we poured the tea, grabbed our mugs and settled ourselves in front of the fire. And this is when I lost it with the camera and forgot to take pictures! That’s OK. Joe took this picture after we’d talked our heads off and were no longer strangers . . .
From left: me, Betsy, Barb and Suzanne. See the little pins we’re wearing?
They brought me one as a gift . . . Do I love it? Oh, yes I do! I gave them 2014 calendars. We were a mutual admiration society with so much in common.
These two “real” Beatrix Potter People (Betsy and Suzanne) were already familiar to me because they’d gone to Hill Top and taken our book with them and sent me a photo a few months back! Wasn’t that sweet of them? Our book in the Lake District, at the post office box across from Hill Top! ♥ Our conversation never stopped, zero fork-hitting plate noises were heard, and that’s why I forgot all about the camera. We talked about all the going’s on in Near Sawrey, they showed me pictures of the inside of Castle Cottage, the house where BP lived for thirty years with her beloved husband ←Willie Heelis. Which they were saying might be made into a Bed and Breakfast! Be still my heart. We talked about how wonderful the newest Society Journal and Newsletter was (which, if you don’t belong to the Society is SO worth it, so interesting, I know you would love it); that the Society is building a new more wonderful website right now. We talked about Beatrix like she was our friend, and how we each came to find her and that because of the amazing way she lived her life she made the perfect hero for us. (One book that gives the entire story is Beatrix Potter, the Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius, you can read my review on Goodreads.) I’m sure Beatrix would not think of herself as a hero. She was just doing what came naturally. But what came naturally to her was wonderful. There was lots of laughing about how it was for us to drive on the wrong side of the road, there were plans for meeting again. And then, with only five minutes to spare before their boat left, they ran out the door, jumped in the van and Joe ran them down to the dock! That’s when I remembered the camera, and took some pictures of the table, sans lace and fou-fou, but still, there were roses . . .
And lots of good leftovers! Which I always plan for, because, why not? As long as you’re making things anyway.
The Art of Beatrix Potter was with us.
Emma was there ~ and so were YOU, we talked about how much fun we had all going to Hill Top together. ♥
Jack sat here during the whole party, such a good boy, the perfect tea party accompaniment.
And even though the visit is over, I still have my little vase of flowers . . .
And plenty of cake . . . and a wonderful entry in my diary.
This was Jack at dawn this morning . . .
Life is good.
This time of year, with days beginning to lengthen, when the sun comes up it makes long shadows through curtains into my kitchen and living room . . . I thought I’d show you some of them while we talk about Downton.
SPOILER ALERT; if you haven’t seen episode 2, you may want to skip the shadow-pictures part of this post . . .
But, I guess anyone who thought the first episode of Downton Abbey was “slow” is over that now!
Apparently the writer of this show, Julian Fellowes, isn’t happy unless our hearts are beating fast, we’re either crazy happy or miserably sad, or angry like we are right now, wanting to go through the TV screen and get that guy!!! (I’m sure in real life, during that time, with women as important as we can all see that they are, this was something that was not unknown in a household this big. It’s still not unknown.) Now we wait and see what she’s going to do. I have faith in her. (Not so much the writer though, he’s scary). And if Lord Gillingham is going to keep going with Mary, which I hope he does, then this rat, his butler, is going to be coming back!!!! We’ve got trouble my friends, right here in River City.
Then wanting to tell Tom to lock his bedroom door because spider woman Edna is trying to break in ~ how come he’s becoming insecure all of a sudden? Isn’t she hideous? I was glad that O’Brien left, but this woman is even worse! I almost had a heart attack when Mrs. Patmore had that pain, because I really love her. I was thinking that dastardly Julian Fellowes, he’s killing the good people! But whew, she’s fine. I know he has to do this stuff to make a good story and get us going, but he’s sort of asking for it!
Happy to see Mary laughing again ~ but her father should not be allowed around money ever. Could you believe that?? I had huge laughs-out-loud for this one, especially when Lord Grantham after being chastised by Lady Grantham for being such a snob turned to Carson and said, “I blame you.” And Carson, such a snob himself, wondering why Lady Raven would ever be invited to the house because she lives “north of the park.” Too funny!
OK that’s enough! I have two more things to tell you. Number one, I found a wonderful website filled with garden things. It has a hedgehog house and a bee bole like Beatrix Potter’s which even comes with bees. The store is in England, so I don’t think we could get our bee boles sent with bees, but go look, it’s a lot of fun, all wonderful natural garden things at Hen and Hammock. They’re having a sale, but it’s also fun just to look.
The second thing is that Costco is going to carry our book! I don’t know how many of the stores will have it, so you can call yours and check, but I will be doing my first Costco signing ever on February 15, from 1 to 3 pm at the store in Avon (near Stoughton), MA ~ perfect timing, because they have all those yummy free tastings right around lunch time, you can shop, have lunch and say hi to me! I was looking for a way to introduce myself to people who’ve never heard of me . . . and Costco looks like a good way to do it. We are still around #2 on Amazon for English Travel, which is pretty darn good; we have an amazing 238 five-star reviews there, which I hover over happily, and thank you for personally.♥ We aren’t doing as well in England where we only have three reviews, but they are famous for minding their own business over there and there is no complaining from here. You know we always have signed copies in our web store if you need them. ♥
Love you Girls. Hope you enjoyed our tea party half as much as I’ve loved reading your comments about cakes and tea parties and your take on the characters on Downton Abbey. So fun! Byeeee! XOXO
PS Oops, forgot to say, Janie’s Valentine Banners are up! ♥