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“I have to be seen to be believed.” ~ Queen Elizabeth II

Roll out the red carpet and practice your curtsies. Polish your tiara if you like.

A very special guest is joining us for tea today!

Mr. Cornelius has been a fan of Her Majesty the Queen for a long time. He likes that she loves animals and chocolate, lives in several beautiful royal residences, always wears the best hats, and has reigned for an amazing 60 years!

A tea party lover from the start: Princess Elizabeth with her parents Queen Elizabeth and King George VI.

Needless to say, he was beside himself when she accepted our invitation. We spiffed up the dining room, stocked up on Earl Grey and Darjeeling (reputedly her favorite), and made finger sandwiches and cake.

She’s so photogenic!

We were a little nervous but she immediately put us at ease. Imagine our great surprise when she brought Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry with her! They were such a jolly group and didn’t seem to mind dipping in hot water. :)

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“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.” ~ Mary Elizabeth Braden (Lady Audley’s Secret)

“Tea” (George Dunlop Leslie, 1894)

I’ve been having fun looking at late 19th and early 20th century paintings depicting people drinking or serving tea. Most of the subjects are beautifully decked-out, in-the-garden or fancy-sitting-room women who seem to have all the time in the world.

I love imagining their intimate conversations — secrets shared, pride in their children, juicy gossip. I also like the women taking tea alone in quiet contemplation, and covet the lovely tea sets and table settings.

“The Tea Set” (Claude Monet, 1872)

I had to look harder for male subjects, since when it comes to tea drinking in fine art, women reign supreme. What would the great artists of the world do without us to sit for them? It’s not easy lounging about and looking gorgeous all the time. :)

Hope you enjoy these different settings, social and cultural contexts, and thinking about how the ritual of sharing tea fosters a special brand of intimacy. It’s always fascinating to try to read different personalities via facial expressions and posturing. Since there are so many good tea paintings out there, it was hard to pick just 40. Each of these tells a wonderful story.

“At the Tea Table” (Konstantin Korovin, 1888)

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What are you looking at?

You’ve been here almost three seconds and you still haven’t complimented me. Does silky grey fur mean nothing to you? Ill manners are terribly middle class.

*tail swish*

Mr. Cornelius humors Jellylorum.

Oops, how did Jellylorum get hold of my laptop? Mr. Cornelius invited him over for a kitTea so we could discuss Chris Kelly’s  Downton Tabby (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

I hate tea. Give me milk.

We had fun noshing on this whisker-twitching 80-page parody about the upper clawst Clowder family and the downstairs cats who work like dogs waiting on them.

Everyone knows cats are the aristocrats of the animal kingdom. Downton Tabby offers us the privilege of seeing them in all their stately splendor, doing what they do best — looking good, ambling around, being fed, setting a fine example, being admired.

But alas! Their traditional role in society — providing work for others — is being threatened by the “tides of history.” Yes, fur will fly.

Wait, I’ll take tea. No, milk. No, tea. Tea with Milk!

Check out these feisty felines: Robert, Earl of Grimalkin; his beautiful Chat-elaine, Korat; their three daughters, Minxy (the pretty one), Serval (the prettier one) and Lady Etcetera (the other one); heir presumptive Matthmew; and of course, the one and only Dowager Catness, Vibrissa. Let’s not forget Catson the Butler, Mrs. Mughes the Housecreeper, Thomas Farel (Evil Foot Cat), Tom the Chau-fur, Laisy (Kitchen Maid) and Mrs. Catmore the Cook.

Got bacon?

It’s all here, every joy and catastrophe:

Their lives, loves, births, deaths, marriages, affairs, prides, prejudices, senses, sensibilities, mills, flosses, cakes, ales, high teas and fun fairs, car accidents, scandals, bouts of Spanish influenza, and war with Germany.

I will now proceed to languidly shred your upholstery.

We daintily nibbled on our tuna sandwiches as we chuckled over the whole kitten caboodle: the non-stop tom foolery, witticisms, sight gags, revised “history,” bon mots — all essential advice for preserving the gentry’s “Golden Age.” After all, any one of us may someday find ourselves among “Those Who Have Things Done for Them,” and we must follow a solid Code of Conduct. What is the proper way to sleep, feed, groom, feed, loaf (“in a decorative and highly charming manner”), feed, cast a withering glare (to communicate both affection and disapproval)?

Why aren’t you withering?

 

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Good Morning!

You’re just in time to join us for some freshly baked rock cakes and a bracing cup of Downton Abbey® Grantham Breakfast Blend. Would you like yours with a splash of honey and almond milk?

Better to stay indoors and chat about Downton than brave the winter of our discontent, which just keeps “gifting us” with more snow, ice, bitter winds, traffic snarls, school closings and slushy messes. We are definitely NOT amused.

Tea and Downton, Downton and tea, what would we do without you?

So, what do you think of Season 4 now that we’re about half way through?

I know some Downton fans have jumped ship — angry and disappointed with Julian Fellowes for the shocking storyline about Anna. Words like “exploitative,” “gratuitous,” “implausible,” and “manipulative” have been bandied about.

For those who have viewed Downton as a means of gentle escapism, this was simply the last straw, some saying the attack on Anna was an assault on the series itself, definitely marking a turning point for better or worse. A devastating turn of events to be sure, with Joanne Froggatt turning in a brilliant performance. It’s interesting how this plotline is unfolding — Bates must temper his smoldering rage with genuine care and concern for Anna. What repercussions? Will justice be served?

© Carnival/ITV

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TODAY’S MENU

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Enjoy a warm sip or two with these lovely ladies.

How many of them do you recognize?

juliecarol

kateblanchette

twiggy

ingrid

hedylamar

winona

bardot

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Tour Southeast Asia - Day 3

renee

nataliescarlett

helena

julia

Photo by Jeanloup Sieff Dimensions du scan 865x1300 150pp

anais

barbra

hepburn

womanquote

The gents are up next!

* * *

ETA: Per special request by Renée LaTulippe, here’s an Answer Key (didn’t think it was necessary, but I guess some of you young ‘uns might not know all the old timey actresses).

Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett

Cate Blanchett

Twiggy

Ingrid Bergman

Hedy Lamarr

Winona Ryder

Brigitte Bardot

Kate Middleton

Renée Zellweger

Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson

Helena Bonham Carter

Julia Child

Catherine Deneuve

Anais Nin

Barbra Streisand

Audrey Hepburn

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wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy visiting all the blogs to see what’s cookin’.

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