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Most Delightful Meal

“Gran, let’s play tea,” Ann said. My 4-year-old Grand invited me for tea at her play kitchen table. Carefully, I balanced on the toddler-size chair. “What color would you like?” Ann asked pointing to plastic plates. “Pink? Yellow? Blue? And that’s supposed to be green, but it’s not.” I chose yellow – not the aqua-green plate that Ann put back in the play kitchen cabinet. “Now, what will we eat? We’re drinking tea.”

Ann rummaged through a basket of plastic food and laid a banana and a donut on my plate. She chose a cookie and an orange for herself. She poured invisible tea into our cups and after one sip declared that it wasn’t hot enough so she put both cups in her play microwave, counted to twenty (skipping 14) and announced, “That should be just right.”

We sipped tea and talked about the buzzing bees outside the window. Ann’s older brother Neil left his Hot Wheels cars scattered on the floor and joined us. “Can I play restaurant, too?” With great drama, Ann explained that we weren’t in a restaurant; we were home having tea. “But if you want to play restaurant, bring Mickey and Minnie and I’ll wash the dishes.”

Ann stacked the plates and cups into her play sink. She wiggled all ten fingers over the dishes, hummed, and then sang, “Voila! Done!” Meanwhile, my 5 ½ year old Grand sat stuffed Mickey on a chair beside me and put Minnie in a toy shopping cart and pushed it to the table. “We don’t have a high chair so this works for Baby,” Neil said.

Ann set the table with all four plates and cups and silverware. She held her left palm up and pointed her right index finger toward it and asked, “What’ll you have?”

“Minnie would like strawberry baby food. Mickey and me want rice,” Neil said.

“Oh, good,” said Ann, “I got strawberry baby food yesterday.” She put a strawberry on Minnie’s pink plate. “Baby needs a cup with a lid and I’m pouring her milk because she needs it.”

Neil nodded and we both watched as Ann served a strawberry and poured pretend milk from a carton. Neil surveyed the choices in the food box. “I’ll also have an orange and French fries and everyone want donuts and chocolate for dessert.”

Ann served and added a hamburger to Neil’s order. “Be careful. It’s hot. Do you want ketchup? Would Baby like some chips?”

“Okay. Crunch them so she won’t choke,” Neil said. “Where’s my rice?”

“We don’t have any. The big kids ate all of it,” Ann explained. She put food on Mickey’s plate and mine. “I’m going to make a phone call to Mom real quick,” and my Grand turned her back to us and held a toy phone.

Neil pretended to bite the food and then slid it under his shirt. He whispered, “Gran, don’t tell Ann. I’ll put everything back in the food box, and she’ll think we ate it.”

When all the plates were emptied, Ann pointed to the kitchen sink and said, “This is where the dirty dishes go. Now, where’s my money?” I placed make-believe money in her hand, and Ann announced, “We’re done!”

This was my most delightful meal of the day.

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Come for Tea

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I’m making a tea cozy.  Or a tea cosy, as the Brits would say.  Its history begins when tea was first introduced to Britain in the 1660s.  I like the word cosy – it’s much more dignified than cozy.  This time last week I didn’t even know I needed a tea cosy and just a few years ago, I would’ve said, “A tea what?”

Now I’m a good Southern girl that grew up drinking iced tea – sweet, of course.  My Aunt Doris introduced me to a ‘spot’ of hot tea when I was a teenager.  And I’ve enjoyed afternoon tea at an upscale hotel restaurant.  But I didn’t expect that inviting my out-of-town college girlfriends to join me for afternoon tea would lead to searching through my stash of fabric and learning how to sew a tea cosy.

My friends responded eagerly by email and June agreed to serve as hostess  – she’s my tea party authority.  My friends insisted that they bring the food: cucumber sandwiches, asparagus roll-ups, ham tarts, cranberry scones, and stuffed strawberries.  Fine with me.  I’ll provide the tea and hot water.  But June said we must use good loose tea and she knows exactly where to buy it.  So it seems that hot water is my only contribution to my tea party.

I don’t have a fancy silver tea service, which includes a teapot for keeping water at perfect hot tea temperature.  But I do have teapots.  One that matches my very first set of china.  One that a family friend gave me when I was ten years old.  And one that my brother-in-law bought and brought to me all the way from China.  A real teapot with a loose-leaf strainer and four dainty teacups.  So I’m set or so I thought.

June agreed that the idea of several lovely teapots would be wonderful.  “But how will we keep the water hot?  I wish we had a tea cosy or two,” she wrote in an email.  I think my microwave heats water pretty fast, but since all I’m providing is hot water, I must follow tradition.

A tea cosy is a knitted or embroidered covering (I don’t have time to knit or embroider) or it’s made from heavy brocade or fabric with a lovely design, and it must be insulated and lined.  It fits right over a teapot.  Got it!  A piece of printed floral cotton material that I inherited from my mother’s scrap fabric box.  And for some reason I’ve saved an unused insulated fabric leg covering from when I had knee surgery.  And there’s plenty of solid colored material for lining.

How could I possibility serve hot tea without tea cosies?  One for each of my three teapots.   The tea cosy was invented not only to keep the contents of the teapot hot, but also to prolong social occasions.  And I want to keep my long-time friends sitting around my dining room table as long as possible.

One cosy made.  Two to go.