Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Clayson House Tea

Clayson House Tea

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I attended a tea at the local historical society museum, the Clayson House. It was a fundraising event that included eight seatings over two weekends.

When we arrived, the butler greeted us at the door. What a fun way to start the event!

Clayson House Tea

They had turned the 1874 home into a tea parlor, with guests seated in the two parlors and in the dining room.

Clayson House Tea

Clayson House Tea

We were seated in the dining room near the kitchen. The ladies who volunteered were dressed as servants, with long black dresses and white aprons!

Clayson House Tea

The fine china and silverware was set out. Everything looked so nice!

Clayson House Tea

Each table had a tiered tea tray filled with finger sandwiches and sweets.

Clayson House Tea

There were scones with strawberry butter,

Clayson House Tea

Lemon curd tarts and cream puffs,

Clayson House Tea

And fancy candies and cookies!

Clayson House Tea

I thought these Wedgwood cameo candies were adorable!

Clayson House Tea

Darjeeling tea was served in a variety of pretty tea pots.

Clayson House Tea

One lump or two?

Clayson House Tea

Our table was next to the sideboard. On it I spotted the most beautiful gold cup and saucer!

Clayson House Tea

Needless to say, this set was not being used for guests today!

Clayson House Tea

After the finger sandwiches had been eaten and the beautiful sweets were gone, it was time to have another pot of tea and listen to the presentation given by the volunteers. This year's theme was "Things Found on a Lady's Dressing Table." Items from the 1890's, the 1920's and the 1950's were shown and passed around to each table. It was fun to see how these items changed over the decades.

Clayson House Tea

I didn't get any photos of the presentation items. Before we knew it, it was time to leave.

Clayson House Tea

Have you been to a Victorian Tea lately? If you get the chance, I highly recommend it! You'll be transported back in time to a more genteel era. And it really is delightful if the setting is a beautifully restored Victorian house!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Favorites

Flowering trees in Millennium Park, Chicago

Spring came a month early for much of the country. It was a very mild winter, and I'm really enjoying all the beauty that has opened around me this past month or so!

Redbuds in Millennium Park, Chicago

On my lunchtime walks, I visit the gardens at Millennium Park and take in the beauty of the redbud trees and spring bulbs.

Tulips in Millennium Park, Chicago

And at home, we planted a new baby forsythia in the parkway!


It looks so little and lost right now, but its brilliance could be seen all the way down the street. To me it's not spring unless the forsythias are blooming!

Forsythia "Show Off"

Forsythia "Show Off"

The rhododendron has come and gone.

PJM Rhododendron

But our lilac has never looked better! I've never seen so many blossoms, and they are lasting so much longer than usual. Lilac is one of my favorite of the fragrant flowers, and I just need to smell them as much as possible while they're in bloom!

Persian lilac

Persian lilac

So many blooms have come and gone already. It's still so early in the season, and I barely got out to see the daffodils, hyacinths and magnolias before they finished their spectacular shows.

Scilla, Millennium Park, Chicago

There's nothing like the fresh blossoms of spring. What are your favorite blooms of the season?

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tea Time

Lady Carlyle cup & saucer
My favorite teacup, Lady Carlyle!

Oh, I've been so bad lately! I only pop onto Blogger sporadically to catch up with you all, and haven't posted anything for months! Truth is, I've been hanging out a lot more on Facebook and Pinterest lately. I try to keep my "real" identity private, but my Pinterest boards can be accessed through the link on my sidebar (if you want to see all my Victorian pins!).


Every year, we have an annual tea at Eastlake Victorian! This year, we had it later than most. Our goal is to invite our tea-loving friends over for some lively conversation, delicious teas and scrumptious desserts.


This year, I started baking a week early, and either baked or prepared something almost every evening leading up to the event.


Just before the guests arrived, I set the plates and napkins out on the sideboard.

Sideboard, dessert plates, napkins

I set out the cookies on the center table.


I opened up the old 1908 White treadle sewing machine, and used it as a serving table for the cakes!

White Sewing Machine used as table

I made two varieties of cakes this year. One was a cake I've made many times before, a Tomato Cake. It's quite like a fruit cake, and freezes well for leftovers.


The other cake I tried was from a new recipe I found on Pinterest, a Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake. It was the best lemon cake recipe I've ever made! I'll definitely be making that recipe again!

Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake

I also make 2 different cookie recipes found on Pinterest. The first was a Strawberry Cream Cookie which turned out really well.

Strawberry Cream Cookies

The second were Viennese Fingers, which were a pressed butter cookie dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. Yum!

Viennese Finger Cookies

I also tried these miniature Fruit Tarts from a Pinterest recipe.

Fruit Tartlets

I altered them a bit by filling with a custard I like to make for eclairs, and leaving out the almond meal from the crusts. I wanted the sweets I baked to be nut-free, since a few people who were coming have nut allergies.

Fruit Tartlets

I supplemented the homemade sweets with store-bought orange chocolate Piroulines, which I placed upright in a goblet, some chocolate raspberry candies, and some ginger snaps.


And what's a tea without scones? As usual, I made some scones using the Sticky Fingers brand mixes, and served them with blackberry jam, lemon curd and homemade Devonshire cream. I don't shape them into triangles, but plop them onto the baking sheet like drop biscuits. I always prepare these just before the people begin arriving, so they're very fresh and still a bit warm!

Scones with jam & lemon curd

We had a variety of teas, including decaf and herbal varieties, for everyone to try.


And as usual, we let everyone chose their cup and saucer!

Tea cups

We set up our 42-cup Westbend pot, which made self-serve extremely easy.

Westbend 42-cup

Our tea was an open house, from noon till 5PM. People came and went, and it seemed everyone had a good time!


In all, we had 23 friends stop by to enjoy our tea.

Sweets Table

If you'd like to try any of these recipes, here are the links to them on Pinterest:

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Merely Dee—an Eastland Disaster Novel

Back in September of 2010, I did a post about the Eastland Disaster, a Chicago tragedy that unfolded in 1915. Now, a good friend has written a young adult novel based on this story! Marian Manseau Cheatham's book, Merely Dee, features a teenage girl named Dee Pageau who happens to be aboard the ship on that fateful day. Here is a brief overview of Marian's book:

The 1915 Western Electric Employee Picnic is the social highlight of the year in Cicero, Illinois. Five steamers wait to ferry seven thousand passengers to the picnic grounds in Michigan City, Indiana. As teenager Dee Pageau packs her picnic basket and prepares to board the SS Eastland, she anticipates this will be the best day of her life. Dee hopes to spend time with her best friend, Mae Koznecki—but she also wants to get to know Mae’s handsome brother, Karel, a little better. Dee has no idea that in a matter of hours, tragedy will strike.

Despite her mother’s dark premonition that death awaits her if she boards the SS Eastland, Dee decides the risk is worth a chance for more time with Karel. Dee’s excitement quickly turns to terror, though, when the ship capsizes at the dock, threatening the lives of everyone on board. Rescued from certain death—not once, but twice—by Karel and a mysterious stranger, Dee soon discovers that Mae is nowhere to be found. Dee can only sit back and wait to hear if she is trapped in the flooding bowels of the capsized ship or worse yet, dead.

In this captivating historical tale, Dee takes a coming-of-age journey like no other as she soon realizes that surviving the disaster is only the beginning.

I have been anticipating the release of this book, and have my copy ordered—I can't wait to read it! You can find links to Merely Dee below. It would be a great read for anyone who loves historical fiction.

I've decided to do a repost of my original
Eastland Disaster post from 2010. Enjoy.


Eastland Disaster site 2

While taking one of my lunch-time strolls in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago, I came across the plaque commemorating the Eastland Disaster. It sits along the Chicago River at Wacker Drive and the LaSalle Street bridge.

Eastland Disaster plaque

All my life, I heard stories of the Great Chicago Fire. But I never even heard about the tragic story of the sinking of the Eastland until I was an adult. I bet most Chicagoans still haven't heard about this tragedy.

SS Eastland docked

The S.S. Eastland was built in 1902. It cruised the Chicago area and the Great Lakes as a tourist ship.

1904 image of Eastland where disaster occured

On July 24, 1915, the Eastland docked in its usual place between the LaSalle Street and Clark Street bridges on the south side of the Chicago River. There, over 2500 employees of theWestern Electric Company plant of Cicero, Illinois and their family members boarded the ship for a company-sponsored picnic cruise to Michigan City, Indiana. The ship had design flaws, making it top-heavy. Soon after boarding and before the ship could even leave the dock, it tipped over and sank into the 20-ft. waters.

Eastland Disaster panorama

Chicago police and firefighters quickly rushed to the scene and began rescue efforts.

This is how the site looks today...

Disaster site, looking east

... and how the same view looked on that tragic day.

Eastland on its side

Holes were quickly cut into the hull of the ship to pull people out:

Rescuers on overturned hull

Divers were sent into the waters when the rescue effort became a recovery effort.

Diving to recover the bodies

The Reid Murdoch building on the north side of the river still stands today. This central food-processing plant became the staging area for emergency responders during the rescue.

Across the River

The Reid Murdoch building as the the disaster was unfolding:

The Eastland & Reid, Murdoch & Co. building

Temporary morgues were set up in several nearby buildings. People waited in long lines to come to identify the bodies:

Waiting to identify the victims

Looking west along the river today...

Disaster site, looking west

... and the same view a few weeks after the disaster. Here you can see the efforts being made to raise the ship upright.

The Eastland being righted

After being righted and towed away from the scene, The Eastland was sold to the US Navy, repaired and retooled as a gunboat, renamed The USS Wilmette, and finally dismantled after WWII.

Reid, Murdoch & Co. building

In all, approximately 845 people lost their lives that day, making it the 3rd worst ship disaster in U.S. history and the largest loss of life in the United States from a single event during the 20th century. 22 entire families were completely wiped out.

Eastland Disaster site

Why was this incident all but forgotten? Was the event just too tragic and painful to remember? The first plaque was erected in 1989. After being vandalized and finally stolen in 2000, a new plaque was commissioned and erected in 2003.

To learn more about the Eastland Disaster, visit these informative links:

The Eastland Disaster, a wonderful YouTube video. Very well done.
The Sinking of The Eastland by Jay Bonansinga

Marian Manseau Cheatham's novel "Merely Dee" is available at: