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Pause for a holiday tea

A Christmas tea with light-as-air scones is the perfect way to relax during December.

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Tea Party: English scones and tea make a cozy holiday treat.

Joanne Ciccarello/Staff

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After college, when I wasn't quite sure what to do next, I went to live with a British friend and her family in a London suburb. Tamsin had moved into a flat on the third floor of the house, and I slept down below in the narrow room where she had grown up. We used the flat as a kind of hideaway after supper and on weekends.

Each night, we ate the evening meal with her mom and dad, tucked around the circular table in the downstairs kitchen. The table glowed with decorative oil lamps, and the four of us would sit there long after the dishes had been cleared, discussing our days and playing games. Even the cat, Mouse, had a perch on an old piano stool strategically positioned in front of the radiator. It was a cozy time.

Cozy is important, because what I most remember from my fall in England (besides working as a checkout girl at the local grocery store) was how dark it was. England may have a mild climate, but it is also close to the Arctic Circle, which means that the sun drifts to the horizon by 4 p.m. come late October.

Enter the traditional English teatime.

Between 4 and 5, everyone would begin to arrive home as the streetlights came on. First me, with a half gallon of milk picked up on my employee's discount (the family called me "the milk maid"), then Tamsin, from her day of teaching school, and finally John, her father, returning from the university where he taught.

We'd light the fire in the sitting room, sink into the overstuffed couches, and have tea and cake in front of the television – all this before supper. I felt as though I was in heaven.

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