Michelle Helliwell

Fairy Tale Inspired Historical Romance

Tea and company

I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

I am not a collector of teapots, but I own eight or so - a couple of single cup ones, and those so big I save them for large family gatherings. I have lusted over far more, including a double-spouted one I saw at a craft sale in New Brunswick years ago and have never forgotten--it looked like something that belonged in Bilbo's kitchen. 

I also have a fair number of teacups--about 50 or so I think. (To put this in perspective, I think I own about six pairs of shoes--and that includes my sneakers). Some are sets, and some are one-offs. One of my favorites is a little Limoges cup I bought at a yard sale for a dollar. It's a dainty little thing, and I have yet to take a sip out of it - something that will have to be rectified very soon I think.

My 'looney' Limoges - a dollar find.

My 'looney' Limoges - a dollar find.

I have always dreamed of holding tea parties, but the truth of the matter is, I'm a very lazy entertainer. A proper tea party embodies a certain daintiness and exactness to detail that, while I adore as an ideal, isn't quite me. I've never had the opportunity to participate in one of those gorgeous tea ceremonies from Japan or China (I need to put that on a bucket list). Those aren't parties, but extremely meditative to watch. There are also, if you pardon the pun, steeped in ritual.

Everything involving tea, for me anyway, involves a certain level of ritual. I grew up on what I would call "east coast tea" (and by east coast, I'm thinking Atlantic Canada). Tea, boiled on the back of the stove most of the day, in a pyrex tea pot, into which more water, and maybe more teabags were added as it was poured out. By the end of the day I am reasonably certain you could walk on the stuff, it was so strong. Definitely not the stuff of dainty tea pots, nor the elegance of tea ceremonies, but a fixture none the less. 

Pyrex Flameware - a fixture in Maritime kitchens of my youth

Pyrex Flameware - a fixture in Maritime kitchens of my youth

But as much as I am not one for fuss, I do have all these lovely cups and teapots. And, as dainty as they are, I want them used. Otherwise they simply become a knickknack. For me, teacups are meant to be used, and I've used them in the spur of the moment even with my kids. My philosophy is pretty straightforward--if it breaks, it gives me the opportunity to hunt down another. So far though, they've all remained intact.

I have had people over for tea before, but they have been irregular happenings. This year, I've started inviting a few writing friends over on the odd Sunday afternoon for tea, brainstorming, and company. The tea cups come out, I bake something simple, and we sip and laugh for a few hours while sharing frustrations over plot holes, book cover art, and the regular ups and downs of confidence that I think most writers face.

Teapots, notebooks and chocolate. Photo courtesy of @tarynblackthorne

Teapots, notebooks and chocolate. Photo courtesy of @tarynblackthorne

My goal is to make this something of a monthly thing. In the winter, when it's cold, damp and dark so much of the time, I find alot of comfort in these simple little rituals that involve, at it's core, hot water, dried tea leaves, and a little bit of company. What I love about it is what I love about fairy tales, myths, and even romance - they weave their way through time, surface in different cultures, and bind us all.

These days--perhaps especially these days--I take a great deal of comfort in that.