Have you wondered why I’ve named this blog ‘Tea, Toast and Travel‘?  Well the ‘tea’ seems fairly obvious as does the ‘travel’, but ‘toast’?  I’ve had that question asked more than once. For me ‘toast’ is a warm, crunchy accompaniment to a hot cuppa tea … slathered in creamy, salty butter and, most often, a thick, sweet, fruity jam.  As a child, whenever I was sick … cold, flu or just a belly ache … my Mother would make me “toast” which now epitomizes comfort food.  I also use ‘toast’ as a category for recipes that I feel pair well with a cuppa tea … whether hearty soups or quick and easy desserts.  And this blog is meant to be about me sharing what I enjoy, so “Tea, Toast and Travel” suits me to a ….. T.

Years ago, I mentioned to hubby that I would love to open a small restaurant called “TOAST” and just serve just that – ‘toast’.   High-quality, loose leaf teas would, of course, be served too, but it would be ‘toast’ with all kinds of specialty toppings from savory to sweet.  How about bacon, avocado and poached egg on toast … or a garlicky ricotta cheese and English peas spread with a hint of lemon … or a thick slab of roasted turkey breast smothered in pan roasted drippings (yes, I used to have that same lunch sitting at the Kresge’s counter with my grandmother) … or Nutella and banana slices, a sprinkle of pecans and topped with Marshmallow Fluff under the broiler all melted and gooey?  My ‘toast’ would not be thinly sliced, pre-packaged white bread. It would be crusty, thick slices of artisanal breads from sourdough to whole grains.

When I mentioned my idea to hubby little did I know I was a few years ahead of a trend.  Today it seems ‘toast’ has already become the latest fad among foodies.  There are restaurants named ‘TOAST’ in New York City, Los Angeles, Long Island, one in Michigan, another in Charleston, and there’s even one here locally. They’re all over the country and they are all individually owned … not a chain, each one with a different image and menu.  There’s even a point-of-sale system for restaurants called “toast”.

I know trends are short-lived, but how fun to ride the wave. We’ve survived the freeze-dried coffee era, the fondue dinner party fix, the ubiquitous seven-layer dip which appeared at every social gathering.  Then there were bagels:  breakfast bagels, pizza bagels, dessert bagels, bagel chips, bagel bits.  And, of course, thanks to Oprah, the never-ending parade of cupcakes.  From smoothies to sliders, mac ‘n cheese to short ribs, we now have ‘toast’.

The word ‘toast,’ in fact, comes from the Latin word tostum, meaning to scorch or burn.  It is believed that 5,000 years ago Egyptians used ‘toasting’ bread was a way of preserving it.  (Not quite sure how researchers have been able to determine that time line.) Romans also preserved bread by toasting it, and this continued to be spread throughout Europe.  The British really took to ‘toasting’ (what goes better with a cuppa?).  And, of course, anything that was popular in Europe found its way to the Americas.  Cutting slabs of bread and roasting them on an open fire sounds intoxicating and romantic to me.

Although its only been around for about 100 years, the most common household item is the electric toaster.  Doesn’t everyone have one?  The invention of the electric toaster in 1893 by a Scotsman was thought to be the greatest invention of all time, although sliced bread wasn’t invented until 1928.  I’m not sure how popular it was, having to lay your bread against the coils and and watch it, quickly taking the bread off before it burned.  It wasn’t until the 1920s when the electric toaster as we know it today was perfected, evolving into a two-slice, pop-up device with a timer.  And with the invention of pre-sliced bread, the world was changed forever.

As a child isn’t toast the first thing you learned to make?  Ask someone who may not know how to cook if they know how and you’ll probably hear “I can make toast”.  So now how do you feel about slicing bread, toasting it under some type of heat source, spreading your favorite topping on it and then sitting back and savoring its sweet, crunchy goodness?  Serve that up with a piping hot mug of tea, and I’m yours!

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References:  Thoughtco, H2G2, Today I Found Out

Armed and Ready

We just returned from a week in northern England.  During our quick visit, we attempted to consume as many calories from English sweets and savories as we possibly could manage.  From Cornish pasties to Eccles cakes, we sampled, critiqued, analyzed and devoured all our favorites (and some which weren’t).  Now armed with quite a few interesting English bakery cookbooks, I am ready to proceed.   Cheese and onion pasties here I come!



Yes, I’ve been “practicing” making the many recipes I want to share.  I don’t want to appear as completely incompetent when posting a recipe.  I do have some pride.  I want my final product to not only taste good, but to look good too.  It doesn’t have to look professional, but it certainly has to look appetizing.

Don’t bother scrolling down or checking out the “recipe” page just yet.  Many are tried, but few are chosen!  So far my Welsh Tea Cakes, Maple Bacon Scones, Irish Soda Bread, Chicken Leak Pie, and traditional Irish Stew were absolutely delicious …… but not very pretty!

Be patient (I tell myself).  It will come together.  I’m not quite sure anyone wants to see picture after picture of ‘not so pretty’ stuff to make.  The other thing I have to become a bit more proficient at is taking pictures.  I have a simple auto-focus Olympus Stylus camera.  No close-up lens.  As a result, most things look a little fuzzy when I zoom in.  Little did I realize what a process this would be.  I love it!!

???????????????????????????????Welsh Tea Cakes

Welcome to Tea, Toast and Travel

A  blog?  Really?  Never did I ever think that I’d be sitting down at a computer to put my thoughts, ideas and opinions on a public forum.  But, here I am.  So why AM I doing this?  Hmmm ….. good question.  I am doing this to sort out where I’m going.  Hopefully, this will be fun (and therapeutic).  Let’s see where it goes ….

For the past 15 years, I’ve been a retailer and wholesaler of a specialty tea company.  I started the company after owning and operating a full-service day spa for 15 years.  The day spa was very successful, but it wasn’t my passion.  I loved my employees and the customers, but not the business.  It was only after realizing that the Universe was trying to tell me something did I find my true passion – tea!

An impulsive trip to China after selling the day spa brought it all into focus.  Yes, I wanted to be in the ‘tea’ business.  But, I didn’t know the first thing about tea, nor about what kind of ‘tea’ business to be in.  Lots of research and rewriting business plans made me realize that I wanted to be an online merchant.  It was 2001, before the explosion of online tea businesses.

I read everything I could find on tea, from its very beginnings to present-day trends while tasting every tea that I could.  I went to seminars and conferences.  I joined ‘tea groups’ and met the ‘movers and shakers’ in the tea industry.  And so Notting Hall began.

Now its 15 years later and the Universe is supporting my decision to do something else.  But what?
…. I’ve been a business owner most of my adult life.
…. I LOVE to travel.
…. I am passionate about tea.
…. I am married to a wonderful Englishman, who just happens to be my soul mate.
…. I have four adult children of whom I am very proud and who have blessed me with 16 loving grandchildren (and one great grandchild).
…. I am a true Sagittarius – honest, creative, energetic and fun loving.
…. I’ve traveled to many fascinating places.  (Tripadvisor actually says I’ve been to 178 different cities in 18 countries!)  The country visited most often is, of course, England.
…. I’ve eaten some of the world’s most exotic foods, met and traveled with some fascinating people.
…. and I’m a darn good cook.
So ….

I’m actually thinking about opening a British-themed bakery café ….. something very small serving scones, meat pies, tea, etc.   I’ve certainly traveled throughout Great Britain, know quite a bit about British lore and traditions thanks to “tea”, am married to a wealth of information with my ex-pat husband, know a bit about food, and am a pretty darn good cook.  Hopefully, this blog will allow me to test recipes, share ideas, and gather information.

I invite you to join me.