Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TEA - the Beverage

This weeks segment for the Gracious Hospitality Blog-a-Thon features Tea - the beverage, green, black, or herbal - your favorite, and why. We each have our favorites here. Susanna prefers a flavored black tea, such as the Blue Lady featured here. This is the most popular tea that we serve in Sweet Remembrances, and it is the one we sell the most in The Rosemary House. It is comprised of a nice black tea base which has been flavored with strawberry, coconut, and kiwi flavors creating a smooth, naturally sweet tea that could be considered our house blend. It is very fragrant and flavorful, and I enjoy serving it to our customers. However, my personal taste leans more to the plain blacks, a hearty malty Assam, or Keemun with perhaps a subtle hint of smoke. I prefer the natural flavors inherent in the leaf rather than the addition of extra flavors, sweetener or cream. That's not to say I don't enjoy all the other wonderful options available as I've been known to sip Raspberry Vanilla or a Decaffeinated Chocolate Raspberry Truffle if that's what is brewed. In the summer, when visiting another sister and her husband in RI, I enjoy the best mug of green tea simply because my BIL has prepared it. It is a true vacation on those mornings!
Speaking of preparing tea, these are the fundamentals we use to brew our tea. The large white cotton 'sock' can be used and reused making it a great option for the environment. When first purchased, it is pure white, but after only a few uses, it turns a beautiful tea stained shade of tan. It is perfect for either a tea pot or mug, you simply adjust the amount of loose leaf tea used depending upon the size brewing vessel. The small metal tea spoon is a stainer, and can be used for brewing tea, although we don't typically recommend it. Loose leaf tea will triple in size as it brews, and the close quarters of this strainer inhibit the leaf to properly expand. It will make an adequate mug of tea, it's simply not our personal choice. The paper tea sac/filter is another easy option for brewing tea. It holds the loose leaf tea and will allow enough space for the leaf to expand and also provides for easy cleanup.

At the end of a long hard day, my favorite tea is actually a tisane, an infusion of herbs. Rosemary's Relaxing Tea, a specialty blend available at The Rosemary House, that contains such herbs as peppermint, valerian root, chamomile, raspberry leaves, catnip and passion flower in a perfect combination to provide a delightful flavor and therapeutic relaxing benefits. It has become a nightly ritual for me - a mug of Rosemary's Relaxing Tea about half an hour before I plan on going to bed will assure a restful night.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Honor Bus

The Students of Mechanicsburg Middle School recently sponsored "Honor Bus" which was a caravan of 4 buses loaded with World War II veterans headed to Washington DC to visit the World War II memorial. This was the first ever "Honor Bus" in the US. The concept was based on "Honor Flight".
The students raised over $15,000 in cash plus many in kind donations to escort these Vets to the memorial. They fed them breakfast at the school, lunch en route and dinner at the Officer's club at our local Navy Base. Each veteran had a "guardian" to help them on and off the bus, take their photos, and treat them special on this "Day of Gratitude". I was lucky enough to be selected as a guardian for the day and escorted my Marine father Byron Reppert, swabbie Les Reed, and Army man Paul Strock. The middle school students co-ordinated a motorcycle escort made up of Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, and other combat Veteran motorcycle clubs. They also had Senator Bob Dole at the WW II memorial to meet, greet and have photos taken with the Vets. The students and their teacher Becky Lacey planned very special wreath laying ceremonies at the WW II memorial and also at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington.

The WW II memorial is on the Mall in Washington, yet it is sunken so that the vista from the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial is still in tack and even enhanced when you are in the WW II memorial. The memorial honors each state of the union and each theater of the war Atlantic and Pacific. The quote on this photo is from President Harry S Truman "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid they have earned our undying gratitude, America will never forget their sacrifices."

Here is dad, under the Pacific tower pointing to Saipan which is where this 4th Marine Division radio operator was wounded.

Our next stop was Arlington National Cemetery. We had a guided tram tour of Arlington and then stopped for the changing of the guard at "The Tomb of the Unknowns" and a wreath laying ceremony. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Thanks much to the Mechanicsburg Middle School 8th graders for organizing and executing this great day. Thank You Guys for your service and thanks dad for a very special day together. love, love, love, love.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lemon Currant Scones or Where the Action is!

This is where the sweet and savory aspects of Afternoon Tea are created - you will find me tucked in my little corner of the tea room kitchen where everything essential is within my reach, the KitchenAid (both freestanding and handheld), microwave, and Cuisinart. The all purpose utility drawer (measuring cups, spoons, can opener etc.), while the cupboards in front of me hold the basic ingredients (unless they are on the counter in use), the lower cupboards contain the baking sheets and assorted pans vital to creating different shapes and sizes of desserts, the fridge slightly behind me conveniently holds the cold ingredients, and the double ovens are directly behind me. The majority of the activity in the kitchen is located in this heavily used corner. My sister knows to stay out of this corner; when the kitchen is in full operation, it is MY corner! Honestly, she's glad to step aside - she prefers the job of taste-tester.

And out of the kitchen, we proudly serve good old-fashioned homemade food and oven fresh scones at our tea room events, such as these lemon currant scones.

Lemon Currant Scones
2 c. flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, chilled
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
freshly zested lemon
2/3 c. currants
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the currants. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture, stir to combine.

On a lightly floured board, knead the dough until smooth, being careful not to overwork the dough. Divide the mixture into 2 halves. Pat or roll each half into a small circle, about 3/4" thick. With a sharp knife, cut 6 wedges from each circle. Place on paper lined trays, and bake for 13 - 15 minutes. Serve warm dusted with confectioner's sugar alongside clotted cream and jelly and your favorite pot of properly brewed tea.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Sweet & Savory of Yummy - Blog-a-Thon

The Blog-a-Thon continues this week with the topic of foods, either sweet or savory, that you might serve for Afternoon Tea. The request was for favorites.... well, that's a near impossibility! They are all favorites in my book! Each tiny morsel served at tea is unique and special for its own reason, and I find it impossible to pick a favorite! This was supposed to be the easy week for the Blog-a-Thon, but the suggestions and ideas are limitless, making it a bit difficult; so I'm choosing the easy route, and simply sharing what we served for SereniTea Wednesday yesterday. At Sweet Remembrances, we originally opened in 1990 as a private party place, where you had to have 10 guests or more to enjoy the tea room. As Afternoon Tea became increasingly popular, we started accepting reservations on Wednesdays and also the First Saturday of the Month; still by advance reservation, but for any number of friends 2, 3, 5. We vary the menu every Wednesday, and enjoy the changing seasons to provide a variety of flavors and colors.
SereniTea Wednesday - April 23, 2008

Rolled Asparagus Tea Sandwiches
Waldorf Chicken Salad Triangles
Banana Bread with Cream Cheese Filling
Pineapple and Kiwi Rounds
Roast Beef & Cheddar Spirals

Traditional English Cream Scones
Lemon Pecan Scones
Orange Slices & Strawberries
Mock Clotted Cream & Orange Marmalade

Petite Rose Decorated cupcake
Lemon Cream Filled Phyllo Cups
White Chocolate Brownies

Lemon Pecan Scones
2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. pecans
1 Tbsp. lemon peel, freshly zested
1-1/4 c. heavy cream
Combine dry ingredients. Add pecans and lemon peel. Add heavy cream, and mix until blended, but don't over mix. Knead lightly 3 - 4 times. Roll out dough, and cut into rounds. Yield: 12 scones. Bake 425 degrees for 13 - 15 minutes.
(Follow this link for the recipe for the Traditional English Cream Scones )

Pineapple Kiwi Cream Cheese Rounds
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-8 oz. can crushed pineapple, well drained
thin white bread, cut into circles
1 kiwi, thinly sliced and cut into triangles
Blend the cream cheese and pineapple until combined. Spread evenly on the bread circles. Garnish with kiwi pieces. These will keep well if placed on a cookie sheet, covered with a piece of wax paper, and then tightly covered with saran wrap, for several hours until your event.

Hope you enjoyed your Afternoon Tea!

Monday, April 21, 2008

You gotta love 'em!

We're not only herbs and tea around here! This cute little guy, nobody says 'I'm 5' with as much pride as he does, came into my kitchen this past Saturday morning, and queried 'Nin, wouldn't you say it's a beautiful day today?'. As quickly as I concurred with his conclusion, he was back outside enjoying the day and the freedom our gardens allow him. My garden, considered a low-maintenance garden as it has raised beds on the perimeter and a large open area in the center to accommodate gatherings for outdoor events is quite conducive to playing soccer or tossing a baseball. Cedar refers to this open area as 'the field'. I chuckle every time I here him call it that, but thinking as a 5 year old, I understand the reason for the name.

Earlier this week he popped into my kitchen holding two small motorcycles. I happened to be sitting at my desk, where he sidled up to me, presented the two motorcycles and queried 'Nin, can you tell me the differences in the wheels on these motorcycles?' That was easy, one was very fat, the other very skinny, I'm sure there are technical terms and reasons, but my answer seemed to work. Then he moved on, 'can you tell me the differences about the brakes?' OK, I may have stumbled over that one, it's moments like this I wish his father was standing here to provide the answer, but he seemed satisfied as he left one of the motorcycles on my desk and took the other outside to play. The field provides a great area for making roads and mountains, or whatever the imagination requires. One day, sitting at the picnic table, looking at the play fort, he was talking about conquering attacking pirates, looked directly at me and with a smile said 'I'm using my imagination', as if to reassure me that there really weren't pirates preparing to attack us.

Mornings can be interesting around here as I sip my tea, reading emails and various blogs, never knowing what the next conversation might be as that kitchen door swings open with the enthusiasm of a carefree young lad.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Happy Day, Earth!

Today is Earth Day, my husband is out picking up trash along a section of road and we are busy preparing for Mechanicsburg's Earth Day Festival. Our contribution to the festival was to do a program on Leaf Printing for the children and to have an ongoing display of Earth friendly cleaning products you can make yourself. By making your own products you know exactly what the ingredients are and also you can often make these products for a fraction of the cost of commercial cleaners. An excellent book to use to pursue this topic is Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. Here are some of the recipes:

Earth Friendly Scrub
1 2/3 C baking soda
1/2 C water
1/2 C liquid soap (Dr Bronner's is best)
2 T vinegar (add last)
Whisk the first three ingredients together and then add the vinegar. The consistency of this scrub should be so you can easily pour it into a recycled flip top bottle. If it is too thick add some more water. If it is too thin add more baking soda.

Floor Cleanser
1/2 white distilled vinegar
1/2 water
Add a few drops of essential oil to a small amount of alcohol (any type).
Mix all three together.
Note: Essential oils don't mix with water --S0 that is why you mix them with a little alcohol first. Then they will disperse throughout the cleanser.

Do you have problems with Pests?

Basil planted around your porch or tucked behind your ear repels gnats.
Pennyroyal repels fleas
Tansy and also black pepper repels ants
It is easy to make you own Herbal Moth Chaser: Mix Cedar chips, lavender, rue, wormwood and mint together in any proportion. Put the loose herb mix in muslin bags or in nylon stockings and use in place of moth balls in closets and garment bags.

Don't want to make your own Moth Chaser? Don't worry we'll make it for you.
Don't want to make your own cleaning products? Consider using Seventh Generation Brand products. They have a full line of biodegradable, vegetable based products for household cleaning. I use their dish soap and on the back it states: "If every household in the U.S. replaced just ONE bottle of 25 oz petroleum based dish washing liquid with our 25 oz vegetable based product, we could save 81,000 barrels of oil!" Pretty impressive thought if you ask me.

Happy Earth Day to you! Go Green!

Friday, April 18, 2008

All in the Family - 40 Years in Herbs

The May/June issue of The Essential Herbal magazine, a herbal publication that; according to their Mission Statement, disperses herbal lore and uses while encouraging businesses and hobbyists alike to shine by sharing their knowledge, has featured The Rosemary House on their front cover in celebration of our 40 years in business. Editor in Chief Tina Sams and her Layout Director/sister Maryanne Schwartz joined us at the tea room for an afternoon interview. Tina asked questions, we reminisced, and laughed, shared our secrets and more, and she wrote a great article about 40 years in Herbs, All in the Family! It is indeed a family affair, and continues to be that way as we work together sharing our love of herbs and tea. Thanks Tina for all your kind words and beautiful tribute to our mother! Visit the Essential Herbal blog for a peek into their herb world which is known to stray off into Tina's daily life on occasion. We also suggest you visit the Essential Herbal Yahoo Group for great conversation about herbs, medicinal, culinary and more.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Tea Time Dress in this weeks topic for the Gracious Hospitality Blog-a-Thon. This framed advertisement, a page that originally appeared in the Woman's Home Companion magazine, hangs in the tea room. It features the Correct Five-O'Clock Tea Frock, designed by Grace Margaret Gould. With a Copyright date of 1911 noted, they are selling the patterns for this outfit, which includes a Double Waist With V-Shaped Yoke, and a Gored Skirt With Foot Band. The price for each pattern is ten cents.
Noted in the ad... Though this five-o'clock tea costume is most simple in its lines, yet it is the simplicity that stands for correctness. The material is satin, a very soft, very supple quality, and the coloring tan and brown. Also in the picture, is a tea table complete with tea pot and several cups. (In order to see some of the details, click on the photo to enlarge it.) This is one of my favorite framed pieces, and I like to imagine that my Correct Five-O'Clock Tea Frock is at the Dry Cleaners.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Strawberries and Almond Cream

These delightful little plates of fresh Strawberries and Almond Cream will be served later this afternoon. They are garnished with the first available edible flowers of the season - purple violets. Harvested from the garden, they are organic and pesticide free, an important requirement for edible flowers!

Strawberries and Almond Cream

1-3-1/2 oz.pkg.instant vanilla pudding/pie filling
1 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
1 tsp. almond extract
2 pints large strawberries, hulls removed, washed, and sliced or sectioned
Prepare instant pudding as pacakge directs, but use only 1 c. milk. Gently fold whipped cream and almond extract into prepared pudding. Serve with strawberries.
Suggestions: slice berries and place atop cream. Or, score large berry with an X, being careful not to cut thru to the base of the berry. Lightly seperate with your fingers, and pipe in some of the cream. Or, make a trifle using pound cake or angel food cake cut into bitesize pieces, and layer berries, cream, and cake (with a splash of liquer if you like) in a pretty wine glass for a quick and elegant dessert.

This recipe, and many others, can be found in Nancy Reppert's Sweet Remembrances Recipe Collection.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Herb Stitchery - A Variation on the Theme

These herbal stitchery pieces grace the tea room walls. My mother was one who believed you should never have idle hands. She always had a busy work project ready so she could grab and go, doing embroidery while riding in a car or attending a long meeting. Each of these herbal stitchery designs were products we sold in the shop years ago. My mother stitched four of each design, and on several Christmas mornings, presented each of her daughters with the completed framed work of art, signed on the back, 'every stitch with love'.
This lovely Fragrant Herb Garden stitchery was done in 1986, and on the reverse she noted that Scents make Sense! and referring to the herbs, "for use and for delight".

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blog-a-Thon......Tea Stitchery

Since Sweet Remembrances is designated as a 'public eating place and drinking place', (personally, I refer to it as a Tea Room) certain official documents are required to be on display. Fortunately, I have the perfect location to display these important papers and at the same time, am able to tuck in amongst them a touch of handmade stitchery. These old post-Civil War row homes have a bit of personality with hidden storage areas and little doors, where I store my dried herbs and spices. Located in a small passageway between the kitchen and the dining area is a tiny section of wall perfect to hang the important documents, but not glaringly so.
And hanging around the official documents are small framed tea themed embroidery pieces.

A special thank you to Jerry Reid, a long time family friend, who presents these little treasures to me each holiday season. Each piece is initialed and dated, and adds a personal touch to an otherwise important but cold wall. Jerry, a retired Nurse, is active in our local Mechanicsburg Museum Association. She keeps busy as a volunteer for the community, and in the evening is stitching her projects for the coming year.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dundee Cake - A Scottish Teatime Favorite

We recently held a Scottish Tartan Tea at Sweet Remembrances in anticipation of the publication of Celtic Teas With Friends written by Elizabeth Knight, author, speaker and consultant. We welcomed Elizabeth to the tea room where she explained the customs and teatime traditions from Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Her newest book features thirteen new tea party plans, complete with menu suggestions. We centered our menu for the evening around her book. The featured menu included Cock-a-Leekie Soup*, Shepherd's Pie*, Minted Buttered Peas, Oatmeal & Currant Scones, True Devon Cream and Orange Marmalade, Rosemary Shortbread*, Scottish Dundee Cake*, and Mixed Berry Fool. (The recipes marked with an asterisk can be found in her book.).The Dundee Cake typically holds a place of honor on the Scots table either during tea, as a birthday cake, or in celebration of a holiday. Although most recipes feature assorted candied fruits, it is more than just a fruit cake. For a unique presentation, it is decorated with blanched almonds. Recipes are easily found on the Internet, but for a tried and true recipe, I suggest the one included in Celtic Tea With Friends, which also incorporates orange marmalade and a touch of Scots whisky, creating a nice moist cake with a unique flavor. It was a lovely end to a truly special evening.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Herbal Bonsai

My friend, Sylvia Braderman is a clever Herbal Bonsai Artist. She has patiently explained to me and her students that her Herbal Bonsai is a a creation of culinary, fragrant and medicinal herbs designed in a Jingzhi Penjing style. This Chinese Penjing style can be divided into two groups depending on the different types of scenery represented: Jingzhi Penjing or miniature landscapes featuring plant life, and Shanshui Penjing or miniature landscapes featuring rocks and water scenes.

The main feature of Jingzhi Penjing is plant life such as trees or bamboos or in this case our favorite, herbs. They are set off by stones or rocks of various sizes or terra cotta miniature pavilions, pagodas, bridges, boats, or figurines for ornamental purposes.

Sylvia continues with "A bonsai is a living work of art, a live 'sculpture' that never stops growing or changing. Such a piece of art is never finished. It is passed on from generation to generation, friend to friend. It becomes an extension of its owner."

Of course, herbal bonsai is also very useful because the cuttings can be used to season dinner, or even to propagate new plants. Interested in owning your own herbal bonsai? Contact Sylvia Braderman at

Thursday, April 3, 2008


The Susquehanna Bonsai Club recently had a display at the Pennsylvania Garden Expo. Bonsai is a living art form that has been practiced and perfected by the Japanese for more than 2,000 years.

Bonsai (pronounced bone-sigh) means "plant in a pot", but over centuries it has come to refer specifically to the art of creating living trees and landscapes in miniature. A bonsai is not a particular variety of woody tree or shrub into a miniature work of art.

Some of the styles represented in these photos include a "group", "slanting style" and an "individual upright".

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Decora-TEA (Part Two)

The tea room, located on the first floor of my home, is of course decorated with tea pots, tea cups, tea frames, tea collections and on and on, several of which have already been posted on our blog. As was shown earlier, our garden also features whimsical tea related objects. I love looking out my kitchen window to see the tea pot and cup planter set (a Big Lots find a few years ago) and the tea pot wind chime (from an Arts & Craft show). But today, let's take a look in a corner of my private world! Amazingly, decorating with tea has managed to work it's way upstairs! This is a corner of my living room, and if you look closer....
you'll notice two antique tea chests. The larger chest, labeled Choicest Hoo Chow, Gunpowder Tea, Produced in China, 80 lbs. net. was spotted in an antique mall by my mother while on a Rosemary House Traveling Bus Seminar. Since the bus was full of herb enthusiasts and their luggage headed to herb farms and gardens which sell plants and other fun herbal souvenirs, she felt she couldn't purchase it as any available space on the bus should be reserved for our travelers souvenirs. But, when she returned home, she promptly asked if I would return to WV and buy that tea chest. One Saturday afternoon, a friend and I headed back to Berkeley Springs, WV and tracked down the tea box she so anxiously wanted. I'm glad I did, as I now enjoy the chest as much as she did!

The little Tulip box is also a wooden tea chest, however, this is from Japan. The writing on the box reads Choice young leaf, pan fried, 20 lbs. It was in my mother's collection, and now resides in my home. It is loaded with smaller tea tins, boxes, and other tea stuff that just hasn't found the perfect location to be displayed providing even more opportunity to decorate with tea, all throughout the house!