Well, after many false starts, the Valentine Tree is up and sparkling. To be honest, this year it was almost a no-show. Struggling as I have recently with ill health, I attempted to put the lights on the tree to no avail..,
Nothing seemed to look quite right..,
My dear husband is a consummate tree-decorator who can string a full-sized tree in less than an hour, and my tiny Valentine version would take him less than 20 minutes, but his discretionary time is at a premium, so the tree stood desolate for well over a week. Finally, this last Saturday, we tackled it together; Eric strung the lights and I arranged the antique Valentines, blown glass hearts, and jewel-toned feather-festooned birds.
Much as I was tempted to pack the entire idea in for the season, I am so glad I didn't! Along with the fireplace mantle which now displays antique Valentines, burgundy glittered hearts, frosted fruit and white lights, "the little tree that almost wasn't" lights up its tiny corner of my world with warmth and welcome.
Canadian winters , and dull, rainy, long British Columbian's ones in-particular can dampen and depress even the bravest heart. The bustle and stress of Christmas preparations and entertaining is such that a person barely has the time or energy to really enjoy and embrace the beautiful holiday decorations that traditionally bedeck our homes.
In a thrice, all is packed away, and the house seems bereft. While December seems to fly by, with all its retail, social and religious busy-ness, January and February are the longest months, and are therefore, (in my humble opinion) much in need of a special touch. ~ I can think of nothing better than the anticipation of celebrating the relationships that make our lives worth living....relationships of love.
To that end, it has become a tradition with me and my dear friend, Wanda Lee to celebrate the patron saint of love, by decorating a tree in his esteemed honor, and entertaining the people we love at a Valentine Tea.
Initially for me, decorating the tree was simply a matter of taking all the overtly-Christmas type ornaments from the traditional taunembaum, and replacing them with hearts and Victorian-inspired paper ephemera. ~ However, when Wanda Lee, (a.k.a./Paper Princess), started to decorate her own Valentinestree; she began by creating her own, Valentines paper ephemera collection of pretty Valentines Tree ornamentsand invited me to do so as well;a new idea and tradition was born !..,
As the years went on though, we felt that we both needed to take down the larger one in favour of something a bit smaller that would allow me to restore our living rooms somewhat, to it's pre-holiday order.
The Valentine Tree in its present form took shape on my beloved Grandmother's oak occasional table. Without exception, my guests remark on its inviting beauty.
They are all so delighted to be invited to a lovingly-prepared afternoon tea resplendent with savory sandwiches, and decadent sweets, accompanied by chocolate-dipped strawberries, clotted cream, lemon curd and raspberry preserves. Pleasant conversations over steaming bowls of aromatic tea and coffee become the stuff from which fond memories are created and treasured. Now, dear reader, perhaps you are thinking that all this sounds just a bit far-fetched and (heaven forbid!) time consuming, but as the old saying goes, "what is worth doing, is worth doing well." The meagre time spent in preparation yields a multitude of fortuitous dividends.
While Valentine's Day is often accused of being a holiday invented by Hallmark, I believe that , like everything else, it is what you choose to make it. I have decided to bask in the warmth of love and friendship through offering my home as a place to serve those who are dearest to me, and those whom I hope will become dear to me in time. Valentine's Day gives me this opportunity and I gladly embrace it.
~Below, are some pictures of us as we played games and enjoyed our Valentines afternoon tea..,
Tea guests Dorothy (chintz polo shirt) and Kathleen (black cardigan and chintz blouse) survey the desert table...,
Directly in front of the ladies on the tea table are chocolate-dipped shortbread heart cookies alternated with decadent chocolate-dipped strawberries. Toward the front is clotted cream encircled by freshly baked English Scones accompanied by Raspberry Jam. At table center is a heavenly Chocolate Pound Cake and Skor-Bar Trifle.
At the back of the table sits the meticulously-polished Silver Service ready to dispense two types of delicious tea, the ubiquitous Orange Pekoe, and a new favorite, Chocolate Dessert Tea ( a perfect accompaniment to all things Chocolate!)as well as a rich, dark brewed coffee. (Lower-Upper Left)..,
The first course in an afternoon tea is a variety of savouries, consisting of sandwiches (egg salad, curried chicken, cucumber with cream cheese and dill, and for those with a sweet tooth, the ever-popular cherry-cheese sandwich.) Also served was a spinach dip accompanied with rice crackers and miniature toast-point ramekins., as well as tuna mushroom toastades. Each dish was garnished with a variety of crudites and/or grapes).
(Lower left), More desserts are featured on a lovely silver tray. Starting from the left are butterscotch squares, followed by chocolate, oatmeal and coconut macaroons, lemon-curd shortbread tartlets and Nova Scotia's famous Cape Breton Pork Pies (not REALLY made of pork but a to-die-for puree of cooked dates, demerara sugar and lemon ensconced in a shortbread tartlet, and topped with a diminutive dollop of maple syrup butter cream. My husband's hands-down favorite!)
(Below) Elisia can always be depended upon to help out in the kitchen. What a gem of a friend!
(Immediately above):Rose,a.k.a./ Scone Queen, ( me), putting the final touches on the tuna-mushroom tostades.
Rose's Tea Scones
Set oven to 375 or 400 degrees F. (depending on how hot your oven bakes)
Please read through the Complete Listing of Ingredients before you start!
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking POWDER
1 teaspoon salt
Add One of the following four options
1/2 c. currants soaked in hot water and drained once they are plumped
1/2 cup raisins ( if they are really dry you can soak and drain these as well)
1/2 cup dried apricots cut into the size of raisins, along with 1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup (one stick) extremely cold butter cut into eight pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg (room temperature)
1 teaspoon real vanilla
enough homogenized milk or cereal cream to make 1 cup of liquid when combined with the egg and vanilla
Combine the following ingredients using a wire whisk.
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Reserve 2 tblsps of the flour mixture.
Then, using a pastry cutter, cut into the remaining flour mixture 1/2 c ( 1 stick) very cold butter (which has been cut into eight large pieces) until it looks like coarse oatmeal.
In a small bowl, add the 2 tablespoons of reserved flour mixture to one of the OPTIONAL ingredients, making sure to coat them thoroughly.
Add the optional ingredients gently to the rest of the flour and butter mixture.
Gently add 1/4 cup granulated sugar
In a 2 cup measuring cup, lightly beat one room temperature egg. Add to that 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and enough homogenized milk (or cereal cream) to make one cup of liquid.
Using a fork, add 1/3 of the wet ingredients to the flour,butter, optional ingredient, sugar mixture, blending gently, but thoroughly. Add the next 1/3, blending gently, but thoroughly.and the final 1/3 blending gently until it incorporated. You should still be able to see small bits of butter in the dough. Do not over mix!
Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 4 or five times until it just holds together. Use a VERY GENTLE HAND when kneading the scones. Pat gently into a 1 1/2 high rectangle and cut into 8 large rounds or 12 smaller rounds. Place scones in a 9x9 ungreased square cake pan. Bake until the scones are a medium golden brown. (Larger scones take longer to bake than smaller ones!) Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes, before turning them out and separating them Serve warm with clotted cream and jam., or at room temperature later in the day. These are best when they are eaten on the day they are made. ~ Bon Apetit!
Are you hungry yet?.., Yum!
Warmest regards,Rose, (a.k.a./ Scone Queen)
Thanks for visiting! ~ Kindly leave a comment because I so very much enjoy hearing from you dear blog friends! ~ ( I have been unwell and also as I have been recovering, exceedingly busy, so I apopolgize for not having been able to blog and /or visit as of the last while).