Garden Party: blending your own tea

A tea lover’s life is not complete until they create their own tea. I’ve tried several times but it was not until attending a blending class at Smith Teas that I made a good cuppa.

It feels like a cross between being a mad scientist and creating your own work of art…

We tasted 14 different teas in various combinations (talk about caffeine jitters!) We learned the correct words, like wine, for tea’s characteristics. Things like astringent, biscuity, strong, vegetative…

As a lover of strong black tea with milk, it’s no surprise I stuck mainly to Assams. I selected a mixture of 3 Assams, a dash of Ceylon Nimbula and a pinch of Nilgiri. With the addition of black currant and peach skin essences, it’s a delicious and strong cuppa for the summer.

I call it “Garden Party” – hearkening back to British summer picnics, croquet, and a beautiful 1920s short story by Katherine Mansfield.

I highly recommend taking a tea blending class, especially at Smith Teas if your plans take you near Portland. ☕️

Advertisements

The ten year party (1920s-1930s interior design)

Our current nostalgia for the 1920s is ironic, considering that style moderne (later known as Art Deco) was all about abandoning the past. After the Great War, interior designers in Paris began to create a style that was modern and geometric. Europe wanted to forget the bloody occupation, years of rationing, and agonizing loss of life, and Paris did it with a bang. Why not throw a 10 year party?

GatsbyMovieBedroom
Bedroom set from the Great Gatsby, photo from Architectural Digest

Designer Catherine Martin’s vision of the 1920s in the Great Gatsby is nothing short of swoon-worthy. Imagine living in this house with its geometric patterns and lavish materials. Each morning I’d go up that serpentine staircase singing like a Disney cartoon character.

b0e19fbf2d143f8308e42b7e213a3208
The Carlyle Hotel in New York, photo from their site

The Carlyle is a New York landmark. Another irony of the decade is that what we associate most with the 1920s was mostly built in the 1930s. The Carlyle was built in the 1930s and has 188 Art Deco-styled rooms and suites. This enormous lobby with glossy black floor, striking orange couches, and glittering gold details must take a small army to keep clean.

1216_buckhead01_efollowill_oneuseonly
Buckhead House in Atlanta, photo by Emily Followill

This last photo isn’t quite historically accurate. This is a 1920s house in Atlanta that was modernized and redecorated in 2016. But look at those tall, elegant arched doorways with glass-doors that open onto a pale green room – that detail is just perfect to me.

I can find something to love about all eras of interior design, especially mid century modern, but Art Deco will forever hold a special place in my heart.

What’s your dream era?

A Touch of Treachery (short story)

I’m very excited that my short mystery set in the 1920s and a mere 700 words was published by Flash Bang Mysteries. The story takes place at the Savoy hotel in London, over a cup of tea. Rose Clarke is a hatcheck girl from Tottenham, who becomes involved with a spy…

img_9152.jpg
The magazine also has lots of great short mysteries, which are fun and quick to read.

Are you a fan of short fiction?

Blyth Grove – a house untouched for 90 years

BlythGroveHouse.jpg

Built in 1905, this National Trust house is fascinating — it’s a time capsule unchanged since the head of household, Mr. Straw, died in 1932. In their grief, the family kept the house completely unchanged until the last Straw died in 1991.

What a rare glimpse of life between the wars, and a beautiful example of interior decoration from 1923. Even the food in the pantry is authentic, including Bovril, a thick, salty meat extract developed in the 1870s.

For more photos and a video tour, check out the Daily Mail article. It’s moments like these that I wish I lived in England, so I could hop on a train and see these amazing pieces of history.

Short story in Mystery Weekly magazine

I’m very excited to share that my first short mystery has been published in Mystery Weekly magazine!

Knightshayes Court, located in Tiverton, Devon is the perfect place for rare books and a spot of murder…

Faith Allington’s “The Death at Knightshayes Court” is a more traditional offering in the style of Agatha Christie. Set on an English estate in the twenties, a rare book dealer must clear his own name in the poisoning death of a young heiress. All of the ingredients for an old fashioned parlour mystery are here: an inheritance, servants, suspicious guests, and a classical denouement where the killer and their motives are revealed.

You can read story previews and subscribe at mysteryweekly.com.

This issue is also available in print and digitally at Amazon.


Happy New Year!

A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

todieforA Proposal to Die For is a combined romance and mystery with the winning Lady Alkmene Callender. It goes quickly and is easy to read, with Lady Callender proving to be an enjoyable narrator. I like that she’s bored and this inspires her investigation, rather than thinking herself special.

From the book’s description: ‘With her father away in India, Lady Alkmene Callender finds being left to her own devices in London intolerably dull, until the glamorous Broadway star Evelyn Steinbeck arrives in town! Gossip abounds about the New York socialite, but when Ms Steinbeck’s wealthy uncle, Silas Norwhich, is found dead Lady Alkmene finds her interest is piqued. Because this death sounds a lot to her like murder…’

It should include the romance angle, since this features quite heavily in the book. There’s a mysterious reporter in the tall, dark and intriguing category. Lots of flashing looks and sizzling arguments.

The mystery of Mr. Norwhich’s death is a prominent part of the story. I love the setup for the crime and the host of suspects. The murder proves to be fairly straightforward and has few twists, but I enjoyed the book and would give the next one a try.

30-day ebook loan courtesy of NetGalley.

Take Six Girls by Laura Thompson

Takesix.jpgIntriguing look at the Mitford sisters in the shadow of WWII

The Mitfords traced their heritage back to the Norman Conquest and it was only due to an accident with the eldest son that their father became a Baron. Six daughters and a son must have been incredibly worrying, a real-life Pride & Prejudice trying to get them all married off. The girls grew up in country houses, barely schooled and disciplined yet always under strict supervision.

The sisters emerge as complicated and immensely flawed humans. Take Six Girls is a great book for anyone wishing to learn more about them or the atmosphere of late 1920s through 1930s England. There are eerie shadows of current affairs; the schism of political leaders, the famous for fame scandals, the plague of racism.

As nonfiction, it pulls heavily from many sources and feels well researched. But the story itself is also enjoyable, as the Mitford sisters emerge one by one — unique, but all with a consistent strain of Mitfordism. You can argue, as the book does, that the Mitford girls are products of their time and rebelled against it in remarkable ways, again for their time. Though they are remarkable, I found them narrow minded and self-centered. (Although I can’t exactly argue with the beautiful writing of Love in a Cold Climate…)

30-day ebook loan courtesy of NetGalley.

Crossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro

cover87970-medium.pngIncredible true stories of the women who dared to fly, fighting for a spot in history.

Inspired by true events, Crossing the Horizon is the heartbreaking and lovely story of women fighting for a spot in history against tremendous odds. In the 1920s, before Amelia Earhart made history with her solo flight, each of these women wanted to be first.

Elsie was the fierce daughter of an English peer who was sucked out of a plane during a loop maneuver and managed to hold on to a wire until the pilot could land. Mabel was the beautiful cigar girl who married into wealth, determined to be first. Ruth was the epitome of the new American girl – brave, cheerful and feminine – saving her beauty pageant earnings to learn flying.

Despite a few bits being dry, the stories captured me and I soon fell in love with Ruth and Elsie. Frances Grayson wasn’t one of the main characters but her exploits were included. I found Mabel to be spoiled and whiny, but I cried as I read about Ruth and Elsie’s daring flights. Inspiring and delightful!

Thanks to NetGalley for the 30-day ebook loan.

Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen

heirsAn entertaining historical romance blended with mystery, very Downton Abbey.

In book #7 of the Royal Spyness series we meet Georgianna (Georgie), 35th in line for the throne and rather hard up for cash. After trying to write her flighty actress mother’s memoirs, Georgie winds up being asked to help the Dowager Duchess of Eynsford.

It seems the current duke is a bit of a man’s man and has no heirs, whereas his sister’s children cannot inherit due to the entail. Eynsford will therefore pass back to the crown as soon as the current duke dies.

But the Dowager Duchess is determined not to let the estate return to the crown, so she finds Jack, a male heir in Australia. Due to his normal upbringing, his manners are clearly not that of a “proper” English duke, so she wants Georgie to help him. Also on the scene is Georgie’s unofficial and handsome Irish fiancé, Darcy.

The murder occurs halfway through the book – overall this is a tad light on the mystery angle. Although there are red herrings a plenty and a case could be made for a few suspects, the murderer is fairly obvious early on. There’s not a lot at stake for Georgie in her personal life nor as a result of the murder. But Georgie is charming and energetic, her narration comes across like the confidences of a good friend a la Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I enjoyed the readability and the bright picture painted of the 1920s.