Sunday, September 20, 2015

Join us for an Eleanor Roosevelt Afternoon Tea at the Townsend Hotel September 26!!

Eleanor Roosevelt Tea as mentioned in OC 115

"A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water". ER

This Saturday, September 26th, join us at the Townsend Hotel, together with the Baldwin Library, as we present an "Eleanor Roosevelt Afternoon Tea".   The program will include a presentation from Barb's Tea Service on the life and times of this fascinating first lady and a full afternoon tea menu from the Townsend.

Outside the Hyde Park home of Eleanor and FDR
Inspired by the release of Ken Burns' documentary, "The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History", which aired on PBS in 2014 and a recent trip to Hyde Park, New York, home of  Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, BTS is excited to share stories of Eleanor and the Roosevelt family.

Eleanor at age 4, shy and timid
Rachel and I both have undergraduate degrees in Political Science - and Rachel also has a B.A. in History - so, aside from our great interest in  tea, politics and history are certainly our passion. In our research, we found so much to admire in Eleanor Roosevelt, but also a few things that really surprised us.  Early on, she didn't support the Women's Suffrage movement, and yet went on to become a leader in the League of Women Voters.

We also found it a bit shocking that Eleanor agreed, while living in the White House,  to carry a gun with her when she wanted to go out for tea with her friends.

The Chintz Room at Hyde Park
The Chintz room at Hyde Park was the bedroom FDR and Eleanor shared when they first moved to Hyde Park. It later became a guestroom and housed such famous guests at the Queen.

Afternoon tea menu and Harney tea from the Townsend
History and politics pair well with an amazing afternoon tea menu from the Townsend served with bottomless pots of Harney teas.

We hope to see you on Saturday. The event begins at noon. For more information, see the Townsend Afternoon Tea page.  Also read more about the event in the OC 115 article, Eleanor Roosevelt Themed Tea Party, published last week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Queen Elizabeth becomes longest reigning monarch in England: We celebrated with a visit to her home and a cup of tea!

Buckingham Palace selfie. This is the home of QE II, now longest reining monarch of England

Today marks the day Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch, surpassing the record of her great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria.  Of course, the Gulleys were at Queen Elizabeth's home, Buckingham Palace last week to pay our regards a few days early.

Hampton Court, home of Tudors, Stuarts, William & Mary,and a few Georges - none who ruled as long as QE II

A little over a week ago, we left Detroit for a week across the pond for adventures in an Anglophile's Disneyland. We visited two palaces (aforesaid Buckingham and Hampton Court), Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame), several museums and two more tea rooms to check off my wishlist: Claridge's and The Wolseley.  Of course, the trip was heightened by the news of the upcoming record- breaking event for the Queen.

Although Queen Elizabeth was not in residence while we were at the palace, we did get to tour the staterooms of Buckingham and experience the grandeur and opulence like any other special guest.

Exploring Royal Teatime in Buckingham Palace reaps great rewards

We also spent a good deal of our time in the Buckingham Palace gift store.  My favorite spot was the tea accessories area where I picked up a royal teapot Christmas tree ornament and a tin of Buckingham Palace tea.

Commemorative mug with Hampton Court and Buckingham Palace teas

Even better, Rachel purchased a commemorative mug which notes inside the rim, "H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, our longest reigning  monarch" and lists all other kings and queens of England on the front.

Cheers to this record day. Gulleys were there to celebrate a week early!

In celebration of the big event, I think we will combine our bounty tonight by brewing a pot of Buckingham Palace tea and serving it in the mug along with a fine English bone china tea cup.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adoring the Waldorf Astoria: History and luxury in New York (we must come back for tea!)

The Waldorf Astoria's beautiful lobby which houses the 9 foot bronze clock
The Waldorf Astoria:  the name is synonymous with luxury and embedded in American history. There are times when we all deserve to treat ourselves to something special and when you are in New York City, we highly recommend a stay at this beautiful hotel.

Located on Park Avenue, the Waldor Astoria is an oasis from the busy Manhattan activity
Located on Park Avenue, anchored by 49th and 50th streets, the hotel is easy walking distance to Saks, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Broadway and yet a very comfortable distance from the bright lights, crowds and noise. It is an oasis of comfort, elegance and tradition and a place we referred to as "home" during our stay in Manhattan the last week of July.

Charming entry to our room, located just off the main hallway

Room is traditional elegance with fireplace, gold framed mirror and overstuffed chairs.
A delightful change from the cookie-cutter brand of hotels, even the entry of our room was unique. Located in an alcove off the main hallway, it seemed more of personal residence than a short-stay inn. The interior had a touch of old-word elegance with a marble fireplace, gilded above-the-mantle mirror and striped,overstuffed chairs.

Fireplace ambiance, no need to utilize in July
Since the outside temperatures hovered in the 90's during our stay, we didn't investigate the warming powers of the fireplace, but it certainly added to the ambiance.

Pretty vanity says "Welcome Lady Gulley and Lady Rachel!"
We found every inch of our room comfortable and charming. The bathroom was an ample size with a vanity sink furnished with the hotel’s signature toiletries set on cut glass trays. Hello, inner-princess, we're having a wonderful time!

Final inspection on theater night in front of lovely mirrored closet door.
Even the mirrored closet doors added a touch of vintage panache. Used daily for inspection, they provided a double-dose of reassurance before heading out to our night at the theater.

Lion King must be remembered fondly with a plastic cup.
Back "home" with our Broadway souvenir. Time to unwind in our room and investigate where it all began. . . 

Site of original Waldorf Astoria, now home to the Empire State Building
The Waldorf Astoria’s origins date back to the end of the 19th century when Astor cousins built neighboring luxury hotels (The Waldorf and The Astoria) within four years of each other. 

Constructed on the families’ former residences on 5th Avenue and 33rd Street, it was the ultimate in accommodations for its era. Eventually, the site was sold to make way for the Empire State Building and the Waldorf Astoria moved to its current location in 1931. Since then, it’s hosted presidents, royalty and Hollywood’s elite for seven decades.

TV drama always better in a luxurious room
Back to the Gulley Girls, circa 2015.  We got so comfortable during our stay, we took a break in our room to rest up and catch up on a little DOOL.  Watching Dr. Daniel express his feelings to Nicole were never enjoyed in a more cushy setting.

Toasting our last night at the Peacock Alley. Must return for afternoon tea!
We toasted our last night in New York at the hotel lobby’s delightful Peacock Alley Restaurant. We were well tended to and not rushed. It was wonderful just to take a few minutes to soak in the regal environs of our temporary home.

Our only disappointment was finding out afternoon tea is not served during the months of July and August. That must mean, we surely have to come back.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Start spreading the news: Tea time fun in NYC!

I'll start spreading the news:  Rachel and I left two weeks ago for a four-and-a-half day whirlwind trip to the Big Apple. Our visit was to include afternoon tea at The St. Regis Hotel, a Broadway show, lunch at Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and a day excursion to Hyde Park.  Like the "Chairman of the Board", we made a brand new start of it in old New York and loved every New York minute.

Our accommodations were at the historic and elegant Waldorf Astoria. The only disappointing part of the stay was finding out that afternoon tea is not served in the hotel's Cocktail Terrace during the summer months. Not to miss out completely, we toasted our final night in the Cocktail Terrace, a beautiful dining area overlooking the opulent grand lobby with its marble columns, mahogany paneling and the iconic nine foot bronze clock.

Our room at the Waldorf Astoria. No need to light a fire with 90 degree temps outside.

First stop,  after checking in and a quick refresh, was the St. Regis Hotel for afternoon tea. I had been there once before - just to view the tea venue - on my New York tea trip with the former hotel's tea sommelier, Elizabeth Knight. It's been remodeled since then with a more contemporary decor. I must admit, I do like the elegance of the previous "Astor Court", but found the updated environs still pleasing. More importantly, the afternoon tea fare was delicious!

Afternoon tea time at the recently updated St. Regis Hotel 
Next day was our tour of  Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We took some time at the latter to do some family research on my family - Engmans that came over from Finland.  Didn't make much in way of  connections but still very moved by the museum and, of course, the Statue of Liberty.

Visitors from the "D" awed by Lady Liberty

Downpour while in NYC bus 
We did several "hop-on/hop-off" bus tours of the Manhattan. While waiting for one bus to pick us up at Battery Park, we and fellow tour-goers were caught in a downpour that was enhanced by rush hour traffic and some angry customers. But, the sun came out, the bus moved on and we got to our Broadway show with 5 minutes to spare.  No worries, or should I say "hakuna matata" in honor of "The Lion King", the musical we experienced that night.
Made it to show, minutes to spare

After a wonderful night at the theater, we were up early for our day excursion to Hyde Park. The purpose of the trip was to visit Springwood, home of Franklin Roosevelt, but, as an added bonus of the tour, we also had a stop at the Vanderbilt Mansion. The latter was also on the Hudson River, and home to Frederick Vanderbilt, the grandson of the Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnate. The homes are within a five minute drive of each other, but  span a great distant in contrasts, showcasing "old money" versus "new". If I had to choose, I'd take either.

Outside the Vanderbilt Mansion

The Vanderbilt residence, although noted to be the home of the most frugal Vanderbilt sibling of his era, is still an ostentatious mansion by any standard and a great example of the gilded-age lifestyle.

So much to see and learn at FDR's home in Hyde Park
Springwood, the home of FDR, by contrast, was understated elegance and, though grand in size, still exhibited a more homey and accessible interior. And, with the Roosevelt Library on the grounds, the visit gave us the opportunity to learn even more about Franklin, Eleanor and the rest of the Hyde Park Roosevelts.

Past the nine o'clock hour, still got a peek inside to see Al!

Easter Island statue at American Museum of Natural History

Back in Manhattan, we ended our day with a night tour of the city. Although in areas like Times Square, there's so much light from marquees and spotlights, you can easily convince yourself it's still daytime.

Iced tea (of course) with lunch at Tavern-on-the Green in Central Park

Other highlights of the trip included a stop in front of the Today Show studios (and spotting Al Roker!), lunch at Tavern-on-the Green, a visit to the American Museum of Natural History  and a late-night dinner at the Stardust Diner, where Broadway-bound waiters and waitresses belt out show tunes in between serving you egg creams.

Recommended egg creams at Stardust Diner

Weren't these guys just serving us egg creams and burgers?

As noted earlier, we did end our stay in the Waldorf Astoria's lobby, toasting our trip with a glass of the bubbly.  It was an exciting trip, but, for now, we're quite content to wake up in a city that does sleep. It's two thumb's up to you, New York, Neeeeeewwww Yooooooorkkk!

Toasting to an amazing trip to New York, the city that never sleeps!

Please stay tuned! More stories on NY to come!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mother's Day: Past, "presents" and future

Six years of celebrating Mother's Day at Goldfish Tea
On Mother's Day we continued with our annual tradition of meeting at Goldfish Tea. This Royal Oak tea room, with its comfy seating, amazing tea and tasty fare is the perfect place for a family gathering and we've been spending our second Sunday in May here for the last six years.

Azaleas, orchid and charming tea bag card.

This year was really a look at past, "presents" and future. Starting our afternoon at Goldfish, we filled up on sweets, savories and pots of Keemun tea. I was the recipient of an enviable treasure bath consisting of an azalea tree bursting with beautiful, bright pink blossoms (Blumz does great work!) from Matt,  and a delicate, very pretty orchid plant housed in an adorable porcelain tiny teacup, courtesy Rachel. Also, a precious tea bag-themed card that is destined to be framed.

Tea Leaf Reading Kit

From Rob, I received a peak into the future - and a whole lot of fun - with a Tea Leaf Reading kit (TOPS Malibu). It has been a lot of fun learning more about this ancient art. I'm often asked about it at tea events, so I was anxious to see what it's all about. For more on this cool kit and what it takes to read tea leaves, please check out Tea Leaf Reading: Meditative, Creative and Fun in The Detroit Examiner.

Partial city view from Matt's balcony
That sums up the future and presents, but the visit to the past came later that afternoon.  Matt recently moved into an apartment in downtown Detroit and he took us all down for the grand tour after tea. He's in the heart of the revitalized city and from his balcony you can get a glimpse of Belle Isle, the Detroit River (if you squint), Ford Field and the Michigan Building. The latter was not only one of the film sites featured in the movie "Eight Mile", but once the home of a credit card processing center where, as a young graduate student/assistant-to-the auditor, I met my husband, Chris, a six-year "veteran" of the business and systems programmer at the senior age of twenty-six.

 Michigan Building where it all began
That was over thirty-three years ago (having just celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary this week) and we hadn't been back to that building in three decades. After soaking in the amenities of Matt's place, we took the elevator ride down to the lobby and made a short jaunt around the corner to the Michigan Building.

Not much had changed in thirty years except it was clearly less occupied. Chris and I were deja-vu-ing in a setting that was a bit surreal. Did Mr. Peabody just hearken us to 1983 in the WABAC machine? Hard to imagine us being that young, let alone thinking that some thirty years after meeting, one of our children would be living across the street.

That would have been one cup of tea leaves to have predicted that!

An enjoyable Mother's Day of past, presents and future.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

BTS Featured Artists Series: Home sewn decor from Renae L.

Beautiful table runner with tea-time theme

Custom table runners, towels, trivets, cozies and placemats - these are just some of the items that my friend, Renae Leggieri, can create for you. You can custom order based on size, colors, patterns and themes. Of course, I am a fan of the tea-themed merchandise!

I am introducing a new feature for Barb's TEA Shop Service blog and putting a spotlight on artists and crafters that I know and whose work is amazing. After writing about my sister-in-law, Sandy, and her knitting earlier this year, it occurred to me that I am blessed with a network of creative women whose talents I admire. I'd like to share these artists and crafters with you as well.

I love this fabric and just happened to have cups to match!

Renae started her sewing business last year. She quilted for a hobby, but quickly found that she was getting requests for items she made for personal gifts, such as towels and trivets.

You'll be taken with the creativity and attention to detail.

Fancy stitching and pretty ribbon trimmings add to artistry

Although I have two table runners suitable for the fanciest of tea parties,  Renae has items perfect for holidays and everyday use.  Check out these trivets that would be great for all your summer holiday entertaining.

Red, white & blue theme is great for summer parties. 

In addition, Renae crafts bowl cozy/wraps. They can be used as a decorative feature or for functional hot pads when heating up items in the microwave. (Set of 3 sizes, 15", 12", 10". Mix & match sizes for what works for you. $30 set.)

Bowl wraps functional and decorative.

Table runners start at $15.00, if quilted, prices start at $20.00.

For more information, contact Renae at

Table runner keeps surfaces safe from drips while adding charm and whimsy to tea time

And, next time you are over for tea, check out my new table runners!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hey Barb's TEA Shop, you just completed 5 tea events in 4 months, what are you going to do next? We're going to Highclere Castle!

We're going to Downton Abbey

Five tea events in the first four months of 2015 and we couldn't be happier. We're also treating ourselves to a trip across the pond to visit the "real" Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle - although we've got a few months before we start packing.

Our events were held at three different libraries and two at the The Townsend Hotel.  Would it surprise anyone that over half the tea affairs were inspired by Downton Abbey?

Rang in the new year at White Lake Library

We rang in the new year at the White Lake Library with a Downton Abbey-inspired evening.  A chilly January evening was warmed by introductions from librarian Denise Harris-Fiems and English Rose tea from  Republic of Tea's Downton Abbey collection.

February at Baldwin Library
One month later, we were at The Baldwin Library in Birmingham, for a Downton Abbey-inspired afternoon tea with librarian Kathryn Bergeron, who decked out tables with linens and beautiful red roses. Rose (aka Rachel) served guests three selections from Republic of Tea.  Scones, curd and cream came from The Townsend Hotel.

Tables set for fun corporate event on Valentine's Day at the Townsend 
Speaking of our favorite luxury hotel, we spent our Valentine's Day at a corporate event held in the Townsend's tea lobby for an absolutely delightful group of women. We presented our Tea Etiquette program while guests dined on a scones, savories and bottomless pots of Harney tea.

Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea at the Townsend
In April, we were back at The Townsend in April for a Downton Abbey afternoon tea. The hotel's tea lobby was transformed into a stunning Edwardian-era dining room where the Crawley family would feel right at home. Rose-Rachel and I so enjoyed presenting to and conversing with all the guests - some of who joined us in dressing in period attire!

What's Cooking with Barb and Loretta
Rachel sets up for tea tasting portion at Wet Bloomfield Library
We finished the month at the West Bloomfield Libary as part of their  popular "What's Cooking" series. Good friend and library committee member, Loretta Harris, joined us in greeting and serving to 80 guests. We presented, "Beyond the Tea Bag: Tea History and Tea Tasting" which included a matcha tea demonstration. Teas featured for our sampling included Ito En, Socra Tea and Elmwood Inn. Also featured were teas from Chazzano and Light of Day.

It was great to see some guests at the library who we saw less than a week before at our Townsend tea!

So, what does one do after all that - go to Highclere Castle, of course! That is the Disneyworld for those of us caught up in the Edwardian-era Masterpiece mini-series. .

Will be back with even MORE stories to share with our fellow Downton Abbey enthusiasts and ready for all a whole new line-up of tea events. Stay tuned and hope to see you at one of our teas soon!

To read more of these events, check out all the details in The Detroit Tea Examiner.