Handpainted tea cozy, tray cloth, crocheted doily with beads to cover creamer (to keep the bugs out), and lovely pewter sugar spoon
The Irene Village Market in Centurion, Gauteng is a wonderfully fun place to shop. It’s a grand craft fair with African artists selling their wares. The first time we went, we bought paintings, carvings, artsy stuff. The next time, I set the hospitality theme with the first purchase of a hand painted tea cozy and tray cloth. Steven continued the theme with his purchases of a cutting board and salt & pepper grinders made from the wood of indigenous trees.

But back to me. People here still “serve” tea. They have beautiful tea sets with matching plates and tea cups. They take their time savoring their coffee or tea as they dunk their biscuits (cookies) or rusks and enjoy them to the fullest. Sarah uses a beautiful tea set left in her cupboard by the owner of the house they’re letting (renting). My owner left a very utilitarian (by that, I mean ugly) insulated stainless pot, sugar & creamer. So I bought my own cheerfully round white teapot, sugar & creamer.

And when I saw the pretty pink roses painted on the tea cozy and tray cloth, I knew they would complement perfectly my tea set. Then, when I saw the pewter sugar spoon, spreading knife and olive fork – that was too perfect and completed the service. Until I saw the crocheted and beaded doily that you lay over top of your creamer to keep the flies out. That really was everything I needed. It’s all quite lovely together.

I smile when I see the tea cozy because it brings to mind a long-ago Christmas in Pottstown, PA. It was 1982. Sarah was only a few months old and Steven had just gotten out of the Navy. We had a huge mortgage ($600/month) and a car payment on top of that, which is to say there wasn’t much money for purchasing gifts. I decided to make gifts, which started the tradition of making Christmas decorations for the siblings. But that year, I had the perfect gift in mind for my Mama.

While I was still living at home, Mama would make us a pot of tea and we would sit and visit. Not just any old tea would do, it had to be Bigelow Constant Comment tea, a wonderful blend with orange and spice that smelled as wonderful as it tasted. It was a great memory, and I wanted to show Mama how special those times were for me. So I decided to make her a tea cozy.

For the uninformed, a tea cozy is an insulated blanket for your teapot, to keep the contents warm between pourings. I had the perfect plan – I bought two of the solid colored oval quilted placemats with a ruffle along the edge (think 1980s), folded them in half and sewed them together. Perfect! I was very pleased until Steven saw it and asked “Why did you make your mother a toaster cover?” I assured him that Mama would know it was a tea cozy, and then I hedged my bet by inserting a box of Constant Comment before I wrapped it.

Christmas morning came, and we were all happily exchanging gifts and expressing gratitude at how perfect each gift was when Mama opened her present. She pulled it out of the box and without hesitation said, “Well, thank you for the toaster cover!” Steven busted up laughing, fell off the hassock he was sitting on, rolled on the floor and all the while Mama is getting louder and louder, saying “Tea cozy! Tea cozy! I knew it was a tea cozy!”

Just typing the story has me laughing out loud. 

Isn't Sarah's teaset pretty?
Don't you agree that utilitarian is the right word?
Last Thursday, Steven woke up with a nasty lesion on the calf of his left leg. It had a black center and he thought it was a spider bite, but he couldn’t feel a “core” to pull out. Friday he had two more: one on his left forearm and one on his neck. He wrote me a note asking me to field strip the bed, as he was not interested in getting bitten again.

I stripped the bed down to the mattress, washed all the linens in bleach, and put the mattress pad outside on the line – I even pulled the bed out from the wall – no spiderweb, no indications of spiders anywhere.

When he came home Friday night, he felt awful. He thought he had the flu, so he started taking flu medicine. Saturday and Sunday he still felt awful, and had bad headaches. Monday morning he woke me up to ask me to schedule an appointment with a doctor. He had a rash from the top of his head to the tips of his toes.

The doctor let him share his tale of spider bites, but after an examination and a couple questions, she asked “Have you been recently to the lowveld?” He said, “Swaziland, but that was two weeks ago.” She told us it often takes 10 days for the symptoms to show up. And he had all the symptoms.

Tick fever (rickettsia) is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. They pick it up from animals in the wild, then transfer it in their saliva when they bite people. African tick bite fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are caused by the same bacteria, but I’m happy to say, the African tick bite fever is much less severe.

Once he started telling people about his experience, he’s heard lots of stories about what they went through when they had it. It’s not uncommon here.

Fortunately, the sickness responds well to antibiotics. The doctor started him on those and pain meds. A testament to the severity of the headaches is that Steven took the pain pills. Before we left Nebraska, I threw away bottles of pain killers from the time of his back surgery because he refused to take them, choosing instead to just deal with the pain.

Another good thing is that there is no recurrence of symptoms; once the meds work their magic and eradicate the bacteria, Steven will be well. Praise God for modern medicine!

In all our married life, I have been the one who attracts the ticks. Steven jokingly told someone the other night that when we were warned about the ticks in Swaziland, he had counted on the fact that his personal tick magnet would spare him the agony. Not this time!

If you want more information, this is the website we used to confirm the diagnosis: