Chambers Book of Days

bodfp_smallWhenever I’m at a loss for a topic for this blog, I take a peek at Hillman’s Hyperlinked and Searchable Chambers Book of Days. The Book of Days (or, if you like, the real title: The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character) was published in 1832 by Robert Chambers, a prolific writer particularly known for his reference books.

The Book of Days is arranged around the calendar, and contains interesting essays and trivia. The original work was printed in two volumes, each 840 pages long. It is an incredible feat of research.

Today’s date in the book contains who was born this date, who died, and the saint whose feast day it was. There was an essay about mermaids and about the “Circe of Carlyle House, Soho Street,” Teresa Cornelys. Mrs. Cornelys ran an upscale Assembly Room where great balls and masquerades were held.

The last essay of November 24 was this one:


The great social and religious festival of New England, from which it has spread to most of the states of the American republic, is a legacy of the Puritans. They abolished Christmas as a relic of popery, or of prelacy, which they held in nearly equal detestation, and passed laws to punish its observance; but, wanting some day to replace it, the colonial assemblies, and, later, the governors of the states, appointed every year some day in autumn, generally toward the end of November, as a day of solemn prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings of the year, and especially the bounties of the harvest.

Thanksgiving day is always celebrated on Thursday, and the same day is chosen in most of the states. The governor’s proclamation appointing the day, is read in all the churches, and there are appropriate sermons and religious exercises. Families, widely scattered, meet at the bountiful thanksgiving dinners of roast turkeys, plum pudding, and mince and pumpkin pies. The evenings are devoted by the young people to rustic games and amusements.

The subjects of the thanksgiving-sermons are not infrequently of a political character, and in the chief towns of the union, those of the most popular preachers are generally published in the newspapers. The thanksgiving festival, though widely celebrated, is Not so universally respected as formerly, as the influx of Roman Catholics and Episcopalians has brought Christmas again into vogue, which is also kept by the Unitarians with considerable solemnity. As a peculiar American festival it will, however, long be cherished by the descendants of the Puritans.

Not a mention of shopping in Chambers’ essay. When you shop on Black Friday, don’t forget to put Megan’s The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior and Susanna’s A Christmas Reunion!

How many of you are planning plum pudding and an evening of rustic games and entertainments this Thursday?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior Out 11/25!

GraphicPursueFinally! Woot! The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior, the first book in the Dukes Behaving Badly book is out Tuesday, and I am so excited.

Here’s the synopsis:

 All of London knows the Duke of Rutherford has position and wealth. They also whisper that he’s dissolute, devilish, and determinedly unwed. So why, everyone is asking, has he hired a governess?

When Miss Lily Russell crosses the threshold of the Duke of Rutherford’s stylish townhouse, she knows she has come face to face with sensual danger. For this is no doting papa. Rather, his behavior is scandalous, and his reputation rightly earned. And his pursuit of her is nearly irresistible—but resist she must for the sake of her pupil.

As for the duke himself, it was bad enough when his unknown child landed on his doorstep. Now Lily, with her unassuming beauty, has aroused his most wicked fantasies—and, shockingly, his desire to change his wanton ways. He’s determined to become worthy of her, and so he asks for her help in correcting his behavior.

But Lily has a secret, one that, if it becomes known, could change everything…

I got some great early reviews already:

“Frampton superbly balances passion with humor, avoiding cliché through rich characterization. The result is warm, kindhearted, and utterly delightful.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Frampton’s romance has charm to spare, and readers will find it impossible to resist her flawless characterization, fanciful plotting, and deliciously fizzy wit.” —Booklist

“Frampton’s enchanting tale of a lively governess and desolate duke is just what historical readers cherish-a humorous, touching, fast-paced and sensual love story. Frampton has what it takes to become a fan favorite.” —Romantic Times (4 Stars)

I love the notion that I have a “deliciously fizzy wit.”

And I’m off writing more in the Dukes Behaving Badly series, this time with a very proper duke, one who knows precisely how to behave–until he meets the heroine.

Hope everyone has a great short week ahead, with plenty of reading to go along with that turkey!


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Introducing A Christmas Reunion!

This coming Monday, November 24, is launch day for my latest novella release, A Christmas Reunion! is available for preorder now at all the major ebook retailers.

ACR cover

Gabriel Shepherd has never forgotten his humble origins. So when he discovers a war orphan at Christmastime, he resolves to find a home for her—even if that means asking help from the very family who found and raised him, only to cast him out for daring to love the wrong woman.

Lady Catherine Trevilian has spent five years poring over the British Army’s casualty list, dreading the day she sees Gabe’s name. She’s never forgotten him, and she’s never forgiven herself for not running away with him when she had the chance, though she’s agreed to a marriage of convenience with a more suitable man.

When Gabe returns home on Christmas leave just days before Cat’s wedding, a forbidden kiss confirms their feelings haven’t been dimmed by distance or time. But Cat is honor-bound to another, and Gabe believes she deserves better than a penniless soldier with an orphan in tow. How can Cat reconcile love and duty? She must convince Gabe she’d rather have him than the richest lord in all of England…

Here’s an excerpt I hope will whet your appetite. Cat’s fiance Anthony has just witnessed her reunion with Gabe, and he has questions…
“Catherine,” he said abruptly, “what is Captain Shepherd to you?”

“What do you mean?” She strove for a light, steady voice. “He grew up with Richard and Harry, so I think of him as a cousin, even though we’re not of the same blood.”

“No.” He huffed out a breath and stepped away from the hearth, watching her carefully. “You don’t fidget and breathe faster every time Richard comes within a yard of you. You and Harry don’t dart glances at each other and turn red every time you happen to look at the same time.”

Cat sighed. Curse Anthony’s perceptiveness. If only Gabe had arrived an hour or two before him, she would’ve had time to school her face and body to calm in his presence. “Very well,” she said. “The reason my uncle sent Gabriel into the army is that he kissed me under the mistletoe, and we were caught at it.”

“Five years ago. That would’ve made you eighteen and him…?”

“Twenty. He’s a few months younger than Harry.” She wished Anthony wouldn’t loom so, but she refused to stand up, lest this conversation become even more of a confrontation.

His eyes narrowed. “Sending him off to war for a mere kiss seems rather extreme. Surely a pretty girl of eighteen and a good-looking lad of twenty under the same roof exchanging a kiss isn’t so shocking, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.”

His tone and a certain ironic lift of his eyebrow suggested suspicions the kiss had indeed got out of hand. Cat took a deep breath and considered her next words. She was not going to tell Anthony where she and Gabe had been when they were caught, nor how they’d been touching each other.

Instead she turned to one of the lectures her aunt had given her when she’d wept over Gabe’s exile. “That’s just it, you see. Some of my Trevilian relations hadn’t liked it when I came to Edenwell after Papa died because there were three young men in the household. They thought it too dangerous, that I might end up compromised or maneuvered into marrying Richard or Harry whether I freely consented or not. They weren’t so very far wrong, after all. My uncle wouldn’t have gone so far as to force my consent, but he certainly used every lawful means at his disposal to try to convince me to wed Harry.”

“He must’ve been mad. Anyone could see the two of you are entirely unsuited.”

Cat bit her lip and traced a pattern in the rug with one slippered foot. Anthony was so alert to all the little games people played within society. If she claimed that her—call it her infatuation—with Gabe had begun as a game, would it deflect him from suspecting it had become far more? She lifted her chin and met her betrothed’s eyes. “Ah, but Gabriel was much worse in everyone’s eyes. He was entirely unsuitable.”

Anthony studied her in silence for a moment. Then he visibly relaxed, and one corner of his mouth twitched in amusement. “Why, Catherine! You deliberately struck up a flirtation with him to defy your uncle. You did.”

She shrugged. “Uncle Edenwell might have been my guardian until I came of age, but I wanted him to know he couldn’t rule my heart or my mind.”

“Ha! Well done. And a lesson to me never to allow myself to become a dictatorial sort of husband.”

“You’d do well to remember that,” she said archly, then shook her head. “Though it wasn’t well done of me at all, when you consider the consequences. Before that night my uncle had intended for Gabriel to become steward of the family properties when he was a little older. No one had ever thought of the army for him, and I’ve spent the past five years in fear of seeing his name in the casualty lists. If Uncle Edenwell had been in less of a temper, he might’ve sent Gabriel away for a few years to one of his more distant estates to practice his profession, but that wasn’t my uncle’s way. He was never one to be satisfied with merely doing enough, when a more extreme solution was available.”

“Hmph. So Richard often gave me to understand.”

Cat suppressed a sigh of relief. It pained her to speak so lightly of Gabe, who had been her dearest friend even before he became her first love, but at least she thought she had calmed Anthony’s suspicions.

“But he must have meant something to you, beyond a means to annoy your uncle,” he probed, “or you wouldn’t be so—so struck by his presence now.”

Or, perhaps not.

Another excerpt and buy links for A Christmas Reunion are available at my website. And if you’re looking to fill your virtual stocking with festive reads, my short holiday novella from 2013, Christmas Past, is still available too.

Posted in Regency, Risky Book Talk | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Welcome to the Self Publishing Rookery

(Only) historical note: The Rookeries were the notorious, filthy, crime-ridden slums of London, cleared by the Victorians, whose notorious, filthy, crime-ridden slums were cleared by the Blitz and mid-late 20th century city planners.

rookeryKeep a careful eye on your billfold. You will be assaulted by various crooks and villains intent on getting your money.

  • Hundreds of brilliant reviews? Certainly, follow me into this dark alley.
  • Make the amazon/NYT/USAToday lists? Absolutely, just let me look after your cash for a moment, be right back.
  • Copyedit your book? I’m fully-qualified, but what does it have to do with Chicago?

But here is some real advice I have received from experts who shall remain nameless (and who’ve sold much better than I have)**:

  • Write a series with at least three books every year. What they’re about doesn’t really matter, but for heaven’s sake, don’t try to be original or complicated or funny.
  • So long as one or more of the words duke, Navy Seal, alpha male spring to mind, you’re fine.
  • You don’t need to have your book copy edited or line edited or have a professionally-designed cover. You have spellcheck and photoshop, you’re ready to go.

I take the view that readers deserve better. Have we really been brainwashed to that extent by the big however-many-are-left NY publishers that that’s all we’re worth? It seems that there are writers (notoriously EL James) who have somehow tapped into the zeitgeist and who sell and sell and sell. It has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the storytelling (or notoriously, the editing or lack thereof).

[**Yes, my sales suck. But I’m also very disappointed as a reader too, and I don’t think I’m the only one.]

I’m ending this rant with a word from the great Ursula K. LeGuin, who was honored recently at the National Book Awards.  (You can read a whole transcript of her speech here):

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.


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A Post of Some Substance

Ahhh…. The joy of vacation.  I’m just back from NYC where I was able to meet up with Risky Megan which was loads of fun. I am assuming she will have excellent news to share with us soon.  My trip to NY was writing business related as it turns out I got elected to the RWA Board of Directors. And yes, for those of you wondering, my tiara was a perfect fit. (grin) I looked very spiffy.

I’m home now and on vacation for the rest of the week, which is lovely and so far I have done an epic amount of not very much at all.

I am going to share an interesting thing I came across the other night as I was procrastinating, beginning my vacation doing important research.

This pdf about medieval pigments is my favorite thing ever  just about since that time I was working with my son on the Roman wax tablet project.

Don’t be fooled by the rather boring B&W cuneiform tablet photo on the first page. The rest of this document discusses pigments and bonding agents identified from the beginning of human history through about 1500 and talks about how to make them. With pictures.

This is fascinating for history geeks. And how did I find this you might ask? Because of twitter. Someone remarked on a story in which the author compared the heroine’s breath (or something) to cinnabar. And there was a WTF discussion and much wondering about cinnabar in food. And one person said the most they could find was some medieval references to recipes.

And I thought, huh. This cannot be right. If cinnabar was safe to eat we would be eating it now. And if it was not safe to eat, we would have stories that listed poisonous food people ate in times past, and we do not have such stories involving cinnabar. So I Googled the subject myself and found that first off, cinnabar is toxic. And second off, cinnabar and recipes occur in the context of recipes for paint.

And that lead me to the medieval pigments pdf which I read from start to finish with much excitement because that’s how we roll here at the Riskies.

It’s not much of a surprise to learn that modern chemistry has taken some of the vibrancy out of paint pigments. Some modern colors don’t have the iridescence of pigments that were once made from organic minerals or metals.  OK, yes, also much of the poison (but not all). Don’t distract me with product safety arguments. Orpiment, by the way, is actually arsenic. Who knew? Certain colors and their composition are lost to us. The ingredients point, as well, to the importance of world trade. Ear wax, my friends, reduces froth in a binding agent. I did not know that either. Nor do I know who dug around in their ear and said, huh. I wonder what happens if I put this in the binding agent for my paint?

Now I am sharing this information with you. Because that’s how I roll.

You’re welcome.

Posted in History, Research | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Accession Day 1558–And Winners!

First of all, the winner from last week’s Andrea Pickens post is…Linda!!!  Congrats, and please email Andrea at Italicscript AT to claim your wonderful prize.

I can (almost) see the light of day at the very end of this tunnel of a WIP, but I had to mark a very important day in English history.  November 17, 1558 marked the accession to the throne of Elizabeth I, and the start of one of the most remarkable periods in history!  (At the end of my Amanda Carmack book, Murder at Hatfield House, I loved writing the scene showing the legendary moment when she received the news!).  Here’s a repeat of a blog I did way back in 2007….

This is also how I know that November 17th was a Very Important holiday in the England of the late 16th century. It was Elizabeth I’s Ascension Day.

Queen Mary died at St. James’s Palace early on the morning of November 17, 1558, and members of the Privy Council immediately set out for Elizabeth’s residence at Hatfield House (where she was practically under house arrest) to tell her the news. They carried Mary’s betrothal ring from Phillip of Spain, to prove to Elizabeth that the queen was dead, so long live the queen. The legend is that they found her sitting under a tree, reading a Bible in Greek. On hearing the news, she proclaimed, “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Now, I am not at all sure someone would just “happen” to be sitting under a tree reading in November! Maybe she was just out for a stroll, maybe the story is apocryphal, or maybe she heard they were coming and stage-managed the whole thing. She was one of the great stage managers in history). On a side note, the original tree is no longer there, but one was planted in its place by Elizabeth II in 1985. On another side note, when Elizabeth I died in 1603, after a reign of 45 years, she was buried with Mary in Westminster Abbey. The inscription reads, “Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection.” Kind of ironic, but I admit I got a little emotional when I saw the tomb (or maybe it was jet lag?)

Anyway, thereafter November 17 was a Big Party at court, and around the country. The big event was always a tournament, with a joust and sports where all the men vying for the queen’s attention could show off. Pomp and chivalry were paramount–all the men carried banners and shields adorned with symbolic images of the queen and their devotion to her. (Jousts, of course, were not all Renaissance faire-ish fun–Henri II of France died in one, and there were always injuries at Ascension Day tournies. No fatalities that I could find, though).

The jousts would be followed by a banquet and ball, maybe a play or tableau celebrating the glorious reign of Elizabeth. At one banquet, the court polished off an ox, 40 sheep, 12 pigs, 132 capons, 5 swans, several pheasants, partridges, herons, pigeons, peacocks, and calves, not to mention fish, chicken, barrels of wine, vegetables and eggs, and sweets. Subtleties made of sugar and almond paste, shaped into castles and other fanciful things, were great favorites on such occasions.

Some of the best-known Elizabethan dances were: pavanes (a stately processional), usually followed by a lively galliard. There were gavottes (a circle dance to a medium tempo), sophisticated courantes and sarabands from France, and almains. The Volte was one of the of only dances that allowed couples to closely embrace (the man showed off his strength by lifting the woman high in the air–this is probably why it’s used so often in movies! See Shakespeare in Love, both Elizabeth movies, and probably various Masterpiece Theaters).

Celebrations were not just held at court. There were bonfires, dances (maybe not pavanes, but bransles and Morris dancers), games, lots of wine and ale, and illuminations all across the country.

So, happy Ascension Day, everyone! We might not celebrate with a Volte and a barrel of wine, but we can toast Good Queen Bess. And look forward to our own bacchanalia–Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a great one. Any big plans? I’m very, very thankful for the Riskies and our friends this year.

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Reading Abbey

One of the unexpected treasures from the Duke of Wellington Tour was seeing the gatehouse of Reading Abbey.

Reading Abbey is a set of ruins in the center of Reading in Berkshire founded by Henry I in 1121. It was destroyed in the 1500s when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, but a few buildings remained, including the gatehouse.

The gatehouse is noteworthy in “our” era, because Jane Austen, around ten years old at the time, and her sister Cassandra briefly attended boarding school within its walls. The girls were instructed for only an hour a day in dancing, drawing, French and needlework. In contrast, boys would spend hours studying the classics. Jane’s father took them out of the school after 18 months and Jane never returned to formal schooling again.

Here is a print of the gatehouse around Jane Austen’s time:
This is a photo I took on the trip:

On the facade of the gatehouse were stone faces. Certainly these must have dated back to the early days of the Abbey. Here are a few of them:

Other walls of the ruins of the Abbey were visible, but we could not walk to them. Across the street from the gatehouse was the lovely Forbury Gardens, but that is a topic for another day.

(I certainly hope you are not sick of my Duke of Wellington tour blogs!)

Posted in History, Jane Austen | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Musical Men

Frederick playing viola da gamba by Philippe Mercier
Frederick playing viola da gamba by Philippe Mercier

We often see young ladies at the pianoforte in our books, but musical men appear so infrequently as to make one think that music was strictly for the ladies.  Today, let’s take a look at men making music.

To begin, there were musical male members of the Royal Family, and they had a tradition of performing in private: George III’s father, Frederick, Prince of Wales was a noted viola da gamba player.  On the left is a painting of him playing the instrument with his sisters at Kew Palace.

George III's transverse flute

George III was a noted flutist, having received instruction from Carl Friedrich Weidemann, and  was also an harpsichord player. The image to the right is a picture of his transverse flute , now in the Royal Collection.

William Wollaston and his Flute by Gainsborough
William Wollaston and his flute

If you look at Gainsborough portraits, (a little early for our period proper, but still relevant) you will find many men of the gentry class of England in the 18th century, pictured with their musical instruments: for example the portrait of William Woolaston shows him pictured with his flute;he was a landowner in Suffolk (he owned Finborough Hall and also became a local Member of Parliament).

Glee clubs were also very popular during the 18th century and early 19th century, with both the aristocracy and the gentry, not to mention the lower orders. George IV was a member of the Noblemen and Gentleman’s catch club, which was originally formed in 1761 at the Thatched House Tavern in St James’s Street ,London. These glee and catch clubs tended to be men only institutions, and were very social occasions with simple food /porter etc. served to the participants.

Rev. John Chafy Playing the Violoncello in a Landscape circa 1750-2 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788
Rev. John Chafy Playing the Violoncello in a Landscape circa 1750-2 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788

In 1811, Jane Austen writes to her sister:  Eliza is walking out by herself. She has plenty of business on her hands just now, for the day of the party is settled, and drawing near. Above 80 people are invited for next Tuesday evening, and there is to be some very good music — five professionals, three of them glee singers, besides amateurs. Fanny will listen to this. One of the hirelings is a Capital on the harp, from which I expect great pleasure. The foundation of the party was a dinner to Henry Egerton and Henry Walter, but the latter leaves town the day before. I am sorry, as I wished her prejudice to be done away, but should have been more sorry if there had been no invitation.

Henry Austen’s apothecary, Charles Haden, was also an accomplished amateur musician. But he did not appear to wish to “perform to strangers” according to this letter from Jane Austen in 1815: But you seem to be under a mistake as to Mr. H. You call him an apothecary. He is no apothecary; he has never been an apothecary; there is not an apothecary in this neighbourhood — the only inconvenience of the situation perhaps — but so it is; we have not a medical man within reach. He is a Haden, nothing but a Haden, a sort of wonderful nondescript creature on two legs, something between a man and an angel, but without the least spice of an apothecary. He is, perhaps, the only person not an apothecary hereabouts. He has never sung to us. He will not sing without a pianoforte accompaniment.

Just a few examples of Georgian and Regency musical men. It would be fun to find more of them in what we read. I’d love to hear more examples.

Posted in Jane Austen, Regency, Research | 2 Comments

Sparkly shiny things

snowflakes2When I need a lift, I’m drawn to sparkly, shiny things. I like making them (here are some beaded snowflakes I made for a church fundraiser). As an author, I also like surfing around and looking at sparkly things, calling it research.



Here are a few amberearringsitems I love. This pair of amber earrings from Ruby Lane is just lovely. At $3500 they are a bit out of my budget, of course. So now I’m fighting the temptation to go browse Fire Mountain Gems (my go-to jewelry makers’ porn) to see if I can get findings to create my own version. If I do that, I’ll report back on how it went.

One thing that has always fascinated me is Georgian era paste–you know, the stuff that the aristocrats in our stories use to create replicas of the heirloom jewelry they sell to pay gaming debts. To me, it always sounded like something inferior, but having seen some examples, I think it’s lovely. I’ve been infatuated with this paste parure from Georgian Jewelry for a number of years now, sadly sold but I can still admire it from afar.


The happy news is that there are jewelry makers out there creating lovely and affordable designs that can mimic favorite Georgian and Regency styles. One can find a number of them on Etsy.


These “emeralds” from Sacred Cake look as lovely as those in the parure. Maybe I need a new Regency gown to go with them.




And how about these girandole earrings from Dames a La Mode: Accessories for the Lady of Quality? (Don’t you love the store name?)

Do you enjoy sparkly things? Have any favorite period or period-inspired accessories? What are your favorite sources for them?


Posted in Frivolity, Research | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Household crisis

On this, my alleged writing day, I have important business.

Yesterday morning, the teapot broke.

Fortunately I have some emergency teabags to hold me through until I have bought a new one, but this is a big issue. Particularly after my husband served me a cup of tea made from Earl Gray teabags that are at least ten years old, although I should be grateful he didn’t use the teabags that are so awful I reserve them for cleaning purposes (mainly the kitchen floor).

The shopping process has begun. Its appearance, really, is not important. I mean we’re not talking about a romance hero here. Size, however, is (so I guess we are talking about a romance hero after all). I need a large teapot. To me a cup of tea means not one, but several. It must be resilient. My departed teapot, made of metal and glass (with some very dodgy looking solder that I suspect may have been lead-based, acquired at the Indian grocery store that keeps me in Brooke Bond export tea and mangoes) lasted me a couple of years. So it has to be cheap.

And it has to pour well. I have a vintage Royal Doulton  teapot I bought at a yard sale that I called into use yesterday and it was awful–an  English made teapot that didn’t pour!! I’ll give up the gilding any time (besides, if you do want to throw it into the dishwasher, the decision will be made for you). Sadly, when you buy a teapot you can’t always guess how well it’s going to pour.

So here are my top choices so far:

The UK Tea & Infusions Association (check out that site, there’s  a great section on the history of tea, and a counter for how many cups of tea have been drunk so far today in England, currently at well over 128 million. How do they know??) commissioned Bodum to make teapots. The advantages are that they make a 34 oz size and they seem fairly tough.  Bodum introduced the coffee press concept to tea making. Advantages: tough. Disadvantages: Expensive and do I trust the press method??

$_57A fairly cheap ceramic pot with infuser. Advantages: looks pretty, looks as though it will pour ok. Cheap. Large. Disadvantages: I know that if the infuser is not stainless steel as soon as I receive it I will drop it and break it. It happens every time.

And here are a couple of purely silly items. A shark infuser and (oh I want it so much, but I’ll never use it and I know this shape is pretty much unusable),  a Tardis teapot!!!

Are you a tea drinker and how do you like your tea? Teabags or are you a loose woman? (For which terrible pun I thank Bingley’s Teas).




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