Pink Fire Pointer November 2012

Time for Tea

"Under certain circumstance there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  There are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not -- some people of course never do, -- the situation is in itself delightful."
-- Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

via here

Tomorrow is the first day of December.  Every year at about this time I realize that December is a month of sweets -- in terms of food and experiences.  There are so many treats along the way during this month that lead up to the big holiday.  For example, many restaurants put out little evergreen trees as part of their decor in December.  They always make me smile. Seasonal foods begin to appear on their menus such as gingerbread desserts and eggnog ice cream. Bakeries begin to feature peppermint chocolate cookies and yule logs.  And people start to invite you to cookie exchange and tree trimming parties.  Another December tradition that I notice are tea parties.  Many people want to celebrate the season with an afternoon tea.

This week I went to a tea party that was held at a friend's house.  She invited a small group of women to get together in the late afternoon for a glass of champagne followed by scones and finger sandwiches.  We gathered together in the living room and sipped steaming cups of tea and munched on cookies.  It was an intimate group and there was a conviviality and warmth that pervaded the conversation.  We talked about many subjects and no one wanted to leave. Outside the rain had started to fall and, as the afternoon darkened, we were cozily ensconced in the warm environment that our hostess had created.  Her Christmas tree had just gone up, though it hadn't been decorated yet.  The expectations for that bare tree filled my head. As I drove away I thought about the ritual of afternoon tea and how charming it can be.  Especially when you get together with a great group of women.  I know that I have said it before, but there is nothing that a group of women can't get done.  I am always impressed by this dynamic group and all that they do.  There was much laughter and many good stories.

The tradition of teatime has long been a cherished one and many of my favorite images of tea come from novels set in England.   The images evoke feelings of tranquility, delicious and old-fashioned foods such as crumpets and scones, and intimate conversations in front of the fire.  I think about characters in the novels of Charles Dickens or Jane Austen who always seem to be toasting crumpets.  Movies and television shows set in England abound with scenes of afternoon tea parties.  "Downton Abbey" rarely has an episode in which the characters are not partaking in afternoon tea.

Around Christmas time there are plenty of opportunities to go to tea in local hotels, all of which feature afternoon tea in a festive setting.  But nothing beats going to a friend's house and drinking endless cups of tea and eating scones with your friends.  The say that tea nurtures the soul and revives the spirit, so whether you get together with girlfriends over a pot of tea or make one for yourself, be sure to put on the kettle and bring out a pretty cup and saucer.  It will make you feel good.   There is nothing cozier on a gray winter day than hearing the whistle of the tea pot, making a cuppa, and delving into that new book.

And speaking of good books, I have been reading The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James which opens with one of the most famous tea scenes in all of literature.

Lady Grantham from "Downton Abbey"

"In nothing more is the English genius for domesticity more notably declared than in the institution of this festival -- almost one may call it -- of afternoon tea...The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose." 
-- George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

Go here for my favorite recipe for Cranberry Orange Scones.  I have made them many times and they are delicious!

Monday Morning Recap

How was your weekend?  Did you relax after Thanksgiving?  We had the pleasure of celebrating with a dear friend in Sun Valley, Idaho.  We had a delicious dinner on Thanksgiving which was followed by a weekend of hiking, shopping (books and holiday linens) and relaxing.  I had a lot of time for rereading one of my favorite books -- The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.  I also found myself engrossed in many interesting magazine and newspaper articles over the weekend.  Don't you just love it when you have all day to read?  Here are a few things I read that got my heart racing...

Winvian Hotel in Litchfield Hills, CT
photo via here

For sheer escapism, I was swooning over an article in the Wall Street Journal on "What are the Coziest Hotels in America?"  You will want to check this out and book your next trip!

photo and one below via here

 In the same newspaper there was an article about Grace Coddington, the inspiring artistic director for Vogue Magazine.  I fell in love with her when I saw the film "The September Issue."  Her fashion layouts in Vogue are beautiful and ethereal, and really works of art.  Remember the recent Edith Wharton spread?  If you saw the movie "The September Issue" you got to know her then.  Now there is more -- she has written an autobiography which has just been published.  I cannot wait to read it!     

 Grace Coddington's memoir Grace 

photo via here

In an article in The New York Times, I learned that Martha Stewart is inspiring young entrepreneurs, 20- and 30-somethings, to develop their craft ideas and turn them into a career.  After all this time, she has something to say to the young generation.

photo via here

And at this time of the year there is always news about Charles Dickens.  In an article in The New York Times, we learn about the revival on Broadway of Dickens' unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  This article is filled with fascinating information on Dickens' life and how it is reflected in his unfinished novel.  Did you know that he was on an exhausting book tour and in poor health at the time he was writing it?  He died before finishing at the age of 58.

All of the December issues of my favorite magazines are out, always an occasion.  Lots of great ideas, stories, and inspiration for the holidays.  It's easy to pore over these for hours with a cup of tea.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

I had forgotten the ending.  Don't you love it when an author surprises you and touches your heart at the same time?

And, of course, all of this reading was accompanied by some really good Thanksgiving leftovers!
How was your weekend?  

Happy Thanksgiving

via here

Most people will tell you that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday.  With no gifts to worry about, it is a wonderful time to gather with loved ones for a delicious meal.  It is about family and tradition.  And it is a time to be thankful. Normally I would be cooking, but this year my family and I are going to a friend's house to celebrate Thanksgiving.  And I am grateful for that.  I am looking forward to relaxing with family and friends and enjoying all the delicious food we are sure to have.

I hope you are enjoying this special day, eating your favorite Thanksgiving foods, and visiting with loved ones.  I also hope you get to spend the weekend afterwards (one of my favorites) taking it easy, seeing some movies ("Lincoln" is on my list) and starting your holiday shopping.  We are about to enter "the most wonderful time of the year."  Not sure I am quite ready, but I will get there.  How about you?  Are you getting ready?   Let's try to keep calm and enjoy every magical moment!

via here

And I am counting my blessings.  Thank you for visiting my blog over the past two years.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to write it and to have gotten to know so many of you.  The writer Anais Nin said "We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospect." I like to think that we are "tasting life twice" when we write about our passions and the things in life that feed our soul.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share them with you.  My life has been enriched by your comments and learning about the things that inspire you and bring you joy.  And to my fellow bloggers, I have learned so much from you.  I am inspired daily by what you write.  Your thoughtful observations and ideas take me on a little journey every day into your world.  
Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

November Afternoons

"Everything in the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary."
-- Aaron Rose, film director

I have always loved the lighting at this time of year.  Late November afternoons grow dark around 5:00 pm and the evenings come upon us very fast.  We are turning on lamps and lighting candles and the glow of evening suffuses our house.  There is something thrilling about this time of the day.  It often sends us searching the bookshelves for a new book to read or perusing our cookbooks for a new recipe to cook.  The fireplace is lit and the house feels like a haven. There is an excitement in the air for fall and winter activities.  Suddenly there are excellent movies to see, great ideas for themed dinner parties, engrossing books to read by the fire, and of course the anticipation of the holidays.

 Many writers have described this time of the day and rooms that are illuminated by soft lighting, candles and fireplaces --

"...a table gleaming with the light of candles, the whiteness of napery, the silver of the samovar and the tea service of transparent porcelain." --  Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The glow of a candlelit dinner
photo via here

"She had forgotten the heavy smoothness with which armchairs ran over the parquet, the sudden muting of steps as one crossed a rug.  The mirrors were bright with reflections of grey-green gardens...Firelight fingered the cups on the tray between the armchairs; arched deep recesses were dark with books...the long pale-green curtains hung from their pelmets like pillars, placidly fluted."
--  Elizabeth Bowen, To the North

The atmosphere of a softly lit library
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"The afternoon had faded but the lamps had been brought in, the smell of flowers was in the air and the old house of Plash seemed to recognize the hour that suited it best.  The quiet old lady in the firelight, encompassed with the symbolic security of chintz and water-colour, gave her a sudden vision of how blessed it would be to jump all the middle dangers of life and have arrived at the end, safely, sensibly, with a cap and gloves and consideration and memories."
-- Henry James, A London Life

The warmth of a fire burning in the fireplace
Photo via here

"We will each write a ghost story."
--- Lord Byron

 The soft illumination of two lamps in an entryway, implying mystery around the corner
I can imagine Byron and his friends gathering here for their ghost stories
Photo via here


Speaking of gorgeous lighting and atmosphere, the new film adaptation of Anna Karenina has both.  It opened this weekend. Have you seen it?  It is a beautiful film with great acting, magical lighting and exquisite costumes.  It takes you away to another time and place, imperial Russia of the 1870s, and puts you directly into the love affair between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky and the drama and tragedy that follow.   I felt transported, as if I had fallen into Tolstoy's great novel.  It was a  perfect outing for a November afternoon.

Photo via here

Now that November afternoons are rapidly turning into dark evenings, how do you spend your time?  Movies, cooking, knitting, good books, holiday planning?  I'd love to hear what you are up to on these cozy nights during late November.