Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Afternoon at Tea

This tea set would be appropriate when the grandsons or young men (or even old men) come to tea. It is from Victorian Trading Company, which has a catolog online.

This afternoon when the beds had been made and the dishes washed, I attended a tea with a friend, at a lovely shop and tea room. We had sandwiches and petit fours, which were just delicious. Things always seem to taste better if someone else makes them, so it is always a treat to be able to go somewhere for tea.

While we were in this beautiful shop, full of antiques and paintings, a woman in a red dress, straight out of a Dickens novel, walked past us. She had a smile like "Miss Flight" in the movie, "Bleak House." . "Are you with the historical society?" I asked. She replied, "No, we are in the Dickens festival." She sang a song for us right there at our tea table, and then told us about the program she and her husband were performing in that night. Her name is Deirdra Doan. Her husband is John, and has a video here

She has a Christmas Video here: and an Art Blog here: my Music MySpace:
In her blog she expresses a truth that Christ is the one we trust in, not others, and that it is His word we abide by.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Evening At Home

We have finished our supper and made some tea. The sun has set. Papa is reading his mail and enjoying listening to our daughter play a medly of piano pieces from a Victorian music book called "Melodies of Days Gone By." It makes me smile to imagine a family of the 19th century listening to the same tunes and thinking how they would have felt. The music is just wonderful. Her husband is tinkering with an architecture project for his class, and their children are inventing games to play with each other. I am relaxing after a few huge cleaning projects (bathroom, laundry room) and thinking about all kinds of glittery things with shapes and uses. I wish everyone was having a happy evening like this, without suffering criticism from others, and with a heart full of happiness.

I recently posted one of the answers to a questionaire I sent out to young women who enjoyed being at home before they married, at If you go and see it I think you will enjoy it.

I Thought That I Might Bring a Basket

Summer Cottages by Gary Shepard

I was amused at the response of the intended recipient of the basket that Margaret Hale, a young lady living at home with her parents, offered to bring. "What would we do with a basket?" she laughed. "We have little enough to put in it!" It might be hard to imagine, but it was actually not so very long ago when women did take food and gifts in baskets when they went out on their regular calls. In Jane Austen's fiction, characters like Emma and Ann were depicted carrying baskets of food and preserves when they made a call.

"Calling" was a normal social event in the past. This was a time when a woman did her rounds of social calls, checking up on widows and mothers with young children, to see if they needed help. Stories of the 19th century often depict young ladies being sent with a basket to someones house. It would be lovely if some of the older girls at home would develop an interest in providing gifts like this. If young ladies would renew an interest in this lovely and worthy custom, we should all be delighted.

Woven wicker baskets are not expensive, and can be purchased at second-hand stores and yard sales. They can then be painted, lined with a towel, and stuffed with a batch of fresh scones and jam.

In a pinch, a basket can actually be made from a heavy brown paper grocery bag. These bags hold up to 30 pounds of groceries, and sometimes more, so they must be useful for other things. I have been enjoying finding different uses for these sturdy bags, and have come up with a makeshift basket, just by cutting along one of the creases on the folded up bag. It will not have to be returned, and it can be made quite quickly when there is a sudden need to make a call on someone, or if someone drops in for a brief visit. Sending something home with a visitor is a real treat for them.

The handle is a wide strip of the brown paper, folded over several times and glued together. There is a strip of paper doily, and the markings are made with the puff paint that has been shown on other craft posts here. This basket is lined with tissue paper for padding, and will hold a few lightweight items. Any number of colors and designs could be used on a paper bag basket like this.

If the paper bags you normally get are not as sturdy as the ones I am using, you can cut a cereal box, cracker box, or any other kind of cardboard box in half and use as a basket. Here is one decorated with little bits of things that you can make yourself. The handle and bow are wired ribbon from the dollar store, threaded through punched holes, but any kind of rope or ribbon will work. It also might be possible to make a handle out of some of the cardboard. The other half of the box can be taped shut at the end, and used for another basket. Fill it with home made baked goods. If your paper bags are too thin, you may find a sturdier type of bag in your kitchen, such as one that holds flour. This can be covered with decorative papers and scraps and made to be quite a stunning gift bag.

These are things in the brown bag basket: an old tea cup, a loaf of scone bread wrapped in a hand made towel, and a box of homemade tea made from fresh spearmint.
A small wicker basket (about a dollar at any yard sale or used store) painted, is just the right size for a loaf of nut bread or a few of your own jams. A gift basket does not have to be food. I have received delightful baskets from people who simply went to the dollar store and got four votive candles for a dollar, added a candle holder, a card (cards are 50c there), a doily, and a few other things, in a gift bag purchased at the dollar store. The ideas presented here are ways to use up what you have, when there is no time to shop, or gas is high and the funds are low.

This is one of those very strong cardboard boxes that Satsuma oranges are packed in. It seems like such a shame just to toss them out. They can be used one more time as suitcase baskets, and they hold far more weight than the paper bag basket.

This one is painted with a craft paint. There are plenty of holes in these boxes to thread wide wired ribbon through them to make a handle. I did not have time to really embellish this box, but someone with a great imagination could pull out all the stops and make one of the mandarin orange boxes look like a suitcase. Try the shabby chic technique of painting it with white folk-art craft paint or similar paint, add some glitter and scraps, and see what you can come up with. These boxes are so durable, made of corrugated card board, that it seems like we could get more uses out of them before they are thrown out.

These examples are just the primitive ideas. I am sure if someone had the time, they could think of all kinds of spectacular ideas for using these kinds of bags and boxes. There are some absolutely beautiful art gift bags at the dollar stores these days. I do not see any point in paying more than a dollar for a gift bag. What if, for some reason, you did not have the money to even shop at the dollar store? It is good to know how to use what you have when you cannot buy something, or when you have nothing on hand to give.

Dollar Tree has beautiful bags.

In a previous post about charity from the home ("Charity Begins at Home") I mentioned how easy it is to for young women at home to be distracted by great ministries and neglect their own homes and families. The gift basket would be a wonderful project for young ladies who, like Margaret, the preacher's daughter, want to make a difference in the lives of others. There is always a need for such sweetness, and a girl at home could build friendships by developing a talent for giving, in this way. This kind of generosity brings out her creative abilities and helps her think outside of her self to the needs of others. If a girl put her mind to it, she could think of a long list of things to include in these benevolence baskets.

Dollar Tree bags are high quality works of art, worth framing. This one features a painting by Richard Burns, a contemporary artist. I have featured some of his cottages in past posts.

My daughter stayed home and had many different interests before she was married. Her time was always filled up, and when she was not working in the home, getting meals or cleaning, she found all kinds of projects to get involved with. Young women living with their parents have a great advantage. They can develop a service to others that will never end, by reviving the idea of delivering baskets to others, any time of the year. If girls ever get to wondering "what they are going to do," they would be wise to remember the opportunity to cast a light toward someone who could use a bit of cheerfulness in their day. Just imagine what colorful things could be done with bags and boxes, and what wonderful things could be tucked inside of them---from handmade stationery supplies, to bath products, to tea cups. I have saved old calendars that have marvellous art that I do not want to throw away, so I cut pieces from them and paste them on gift boxes or bags, along with other decorations. It is also possible to make a pattern on poster board, for a bag the size of your own preference, just by tracing another bag. You then can use scrapbook papers or any other kind of paper, to make your own bags. I am certainly not saying that we should be too absorbed in making every single thing by hand, but I believe our sons and daughters should be able to figure out where things come from, how they are made, and how they can make it themselves. This is one way to be resourceful and rise above any financial difficulties.


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