Friday, October 31, 2014

A delightful tea with the Sisterhood of Beth Shalom

Getting ready for afternoon tea on the road.
Last month, Barb's TEA Shop served up tea and a tea etiquette presentation to one of the most delightful group of ladies we have had the pleasure to meet, the Sisterhood of Beth Shalom. At the invite of member, Linda, and held at the beautiful home of another, Marylyn, the venue was wonderful and it felt to us as though it was designed purposely for such an affair. Rachel put together tea preparations in the large kitchen while I was directed to a corner between the living and dining room for my presentation set-up.

Rachel setting up tea in the kitchen. We served earl grey, green and herbal.
 While Rachel and I brought the tea and prepared it, the afternoon tea fare was a group effort from the members of the Sisterhood and it was as pretty as it was delicious. Tables were set in the dining room and living room with ample extra seating in couches near the fireplace.

Great set-up for afternoon tea. Ladies gathered in living room and dining room.
The afternoon kicked off with a membership meeting and a summary of their impressive philanthropic efforts.  To be part of this afternoon was truly an honor as well as a lot of fun!

Lovely tablescape  in corner of large dining room.
We even met up with an old friend, Lisa, who along with husband Frank, owns Chazzano Coffee (where I had my absolute favorite cup of puerh tea ever!) as well as making new friends, including Bobbie Lewis who writes a blog "Feed the Spirit". She captured the afternoon tea event wonderfully in a recent blog entry.   Here's a link to her article, which includes not only a scone recipe, but a bit of controversy about "milk in first" or "milk in last":  Tea Time with Scones.

A portion of afternoon tea fare including essential scones.
An amazing afternoon tea with an amazing group of women. Thanks for letting Barb's TEA Shop be part of your day!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Packing up the Tea Garden for another year

In February the TEA garden is planned
Back in June I wrote about what was to be the beginning of my tea garden at our place in northern Michigan, Pemberly Pines. In an area that is in a Plant Hardiness Zone of 4 (for comparison purposes, northern Alaska is Zone 1 and southern Florida is Zone 11), the gardening season isn't very long, but what time we do have, we certainly make the most of it. The tea garden flourished this summer and provided some very enjoyable tea times with family and friends.

My husband, Chris, built planters to be placed in the tea garden.
We planted herbs and flowers and added some teapot decor.
I labeled most of what I planted except for whatever was in the
big redwood planter. The seeds grew like crazy, but I was never
quite sure what they were.

Chris made the planters and transports plants in the tractor

Planting herbs, flowers and mystery seeds.

Tea garden tiles bought in February look lovely without snow

Not sure what I planted in here, but it really took off.

By August, the tea garden was in full bloom - just in time for our family reunion. In between paintball, outdoor movies, and golf, there was still time for a tea party.

Mystery plant? It's like a chia pet!

Herbs held on and hoping they return next year.

Having tea with Rachel and sister-in-law Cara in August

Pemberly also treated us with a bumper crop of blueberries - great with tea time

Last weekend, we were back up to Pemberly Pines with good friends, Rik and Carol, for our annual color tour of northern Michigan. We also walked the grounds of Pemberly and it was clear it was time to put the tea garden to bed. Rik took this picture which best captured the end of the tea garden for another season.

Seasons changing at Pemberly and the tea garden will take a hiatus.

It's time to switch from iced-tea by the pond to earl grey by the fireplace.  I'll have a few months to figure out what to add to next year's tea garden and maybe figure what's growing in the redwood planter.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cowabunga! Life begins at Thir-tea

Prince Harry turns thirty today and less than a month ago, my own Lord Gulley the Younger, (aka, my oldest son, Rob) turned that same magical number. It's easy to dismiss it as being "soooo young", but when the Younger sank into a bit of a funk a week before his birthday, I tapped back into the long- ago and remembered having to come to grips with that age myself -  the somewhat arbitrary society-imposed demarcation between "young & carefree" and "responsible adult". Like most things, the dread is worse than the even itself and, as most of us discover, those milestones are really worth celebrating.

The Younger enjoying the first iteration of TMNT
Thirty is a great number. It's three decades of something and if the trajectory was mostly good, it's commendable.

Other recent 30 year milestones for 2014:

Thirty year tea commemorates three decades of Harney tea

  • Harney & Sons celebrated 30 years in business with a commemorative tea and it quickly became one one of my favorites after personally receiving a tin from Michael Harney.  (See our review in The Detroit Examiner column, Harney & Sons 30th Anniversary Blend: A lot to celebrate.)
  • Apple introduced the Mac., and that seems to have turned out pretty well.
  • Chrysler brought the world the mini-van. (seems like I drove those for years)

Celebrating 30 plus 1 years in May

  • Lord Gulley Senior,  and I celebrated our 31st anniversary (taking liberties, here, 30, plus 1).

The Younger is actually old enough now to see the recycling of some childhood favorites. Our family room used to be filled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines, villains and vans. Last month, he saw the recent TMNT movie opening night. He may be a responsible adult, but "turtle power" says, you're still young & carefree. In fact, you're downright awesome, dude!

Old enough to see Turtle Power return & pair it with  adult favorite Breaking Bad
A self-help book written in 1932, gave way to the well-tread phrase of the Twentieth Century, "Life Begins at Forty". In 2014, it's fair to say life begins at thir-tea. In this new(er) millennium, where everything is fast-tracked, it's time to start the fun even sooner and it will be totally tubular.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Seventh Annual Jane Austen Festival - another exceedingly good time!

The third weekend of July, my daughter, Rachel, and I, eschew the conventions of the new(er) millennium, after a six hours south from Detroit to Louisville, and treat ourselves to a few days devoted to the Regency period and all things Austen.  This year, the Greater Louisville Region of the Jane Austen Society (JASNA), under the direction of Regional Coordinator Bonny Wise, hosted the 7th Annual Jane Austen Festival at the historic Locust Grove in Kentucky and, after attending five of those, we agreed - this was the best one  yet!

Archery demonstration at the Jane Austen Festival

This year's festival was a perfect blend of traditional favorites, such as Dressing Mr. Darcy and the Regency fashion show, along with some exciting new features including back-to-back presentations of two British authors (John Mullan and Jo Baker, see July blog story, What Matters at the Jane Austen Festival. . ."), archery demonstrations and several period living vignettes dispersed throughout the grounds. And, we found that even the afternoon tea was better with a delicious and filling menu, including Bingley's Teas, and the service was exceedingly good.

Our day started gathering with a crowd over the hill to watch a women's archery demonstration. Literally aiming to please, this athletic display was captivating as ladies, dressed in Regency attire, pulled back their bows and shot arrows at their target. This proved women of the 1800's weren't all about needlework and filigree.

Next up was the authors' lectures under the big tent, followed by a book signing. Mullan and Baker were as captivating on stage as they were meeting up-close and personal. We were thrilled to see the Festival bring back the author presentations that had been missed in recent years.

Bingley's Teas
After the guest speakers, we headed to Meryton, where we shopped for tea and other Austen-related items. We filled our cart with a variety of tea from Bingley's Teas, including our favorite for any time we're feeling a little under the weather, Compassion for Mrs. Bennet's Nerves.

Rachel holds the walking stick purchased in Meryton
We also picked up a fancy walking stick for a certain Lord Gulley waiting back home.

Regency picnic
Many in period attire including toddlers

We watched dueling gentlemen on the green which, despite a few misfires, was suspenseful and entertaining. We strolled the grounds and took in several displays of Regency period picnics and gatherings throughout the village. We were caught up in the sheer number of guests decked in Austen-era attire, including toddlers and infants in strollers, and we proclaimed we must be part of the fun next year.

Rachel in sedan chair. May use this next year to avoid gridlock on I-75

Although walking was our primary method of transportation, we did take a break and treated ourselves to a sedan chair demonstration. We learned that gentlemen and ladies need not bow to enter in order to accommodate any large hat they may be wearing. Our kind escort showed how the top of the sedan chair was hinged and could be lifted to make way for any headdress while one entered. We agreed, this would be our choice to get passed gridlock on the bridge from Cincinnati to Kentucky, chapeau or no.

Tea time was our final activity before heading north and 2104. We were seated with another mom and daughter and talked over Earl Grey and scones. Although we deigned not to partake in the au courant selfie-craze, we were much amused by the afternoon tea time photo bomb.

Delightful afternoon tea and fun photo bomb
Our bonnets are once again off to Greater Louisville Region, Bonny Wise, and her team of volunteers who put on another amazing Jane Austen Festival. We'll be back next year, in costume, and if there's any construction along I-75, we'll see if we can't reserve ourselves a sedan chair. We won't want to be late for the Eighth Annual JA Festival!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Barb's TEA Shop's Tea Etiquette at The Townsend Hotel

The September/October issue of Tea Time Magazine features Michigan tea rooms and one of my favorites was among the eight venues selected - The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. The article notes some of the special events  held recently at the luxury hotel:  tea tastings, Derby Day and tea etiquette classes. The last one would be us (!) at Barb's Tea Shop.

The first of June, Barb's TEA Shop presented "Tea and Etiquette" at The Townsend Hotel's beautiful tea lobby. (For a more detailed account of the event, see The Detroit Tea Examiner, 'Etiquette, scone finesse and treats delight at Townsend tea')

When Rachel and I arrived, the tables were already set with lovely china and fresh flower centerpieces. The screen for our presentation covered the fireplace, but since it was in June, and not the rather chilly Michigan winter we experienced a few months earlier, its warm flames were not required.

Although, the fireplace was hidden, all other treasures of the tea lobby were in full sight including the stunning crystal chandelier that illuminates the tea tables below.

Rachel and I did some last minute preparations before the guests arrived.

The tea history and etiquette talk featured a short list of recommended tea rooms in New York, Paris and London. Part of our program included a tea room guide book (published by Elmwood Inn) of said cities for each guest who attended.

We were thrilled to see some of our dear friends come to the tea as well as delighted in meeting new ones.


It was a great afternoon and we were glad to see everyone! The Townsend Hotel offers afternoon tea seven days a week and it is a wonderful experience any time of the year. Check out the write up on The Townsend Hotel in Tea Time Magazine, but better yet, call and make reservations and experience it first-hand!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making Friends Over Teatime - Barb's TEA Shop in September/October Tea Time Magazine

The Tea Diaries features Barb's Tea Shop blogger

The September/October issue of Tea Time Magazine hit newsstands yesterday and we confess, this is going to be one of our all-time favorites. Not only does this issue feature Michigan tea rooms, but also a contribution to "The Tea Diaries" from the writer of this blog. I feel very fortunate to be included in this prized magazine along with some of my favorite tea rooms in my home state, including Birmingham's Townsend Hotel and Ann Arbor's TeaHaus.

 Although the highlighted tea venues in this edition are those in the Mitten state, my article is about said blog writer and a meet-up with a Denver tea lady that I met through an earlier issue of Tea Time that featured historic places in the west to have tea.

Townsend Hotel is in Tea Time. Rachel & I presented a tea etiquette program there in June

The Molly Brown House in Denver was spotlighted in last year's March/April edition of Tea Time and Penelope Carlevato, author of "Tea on the Titantic" was to be a guest speaker at the Denver historic home the weekend I was visiting family in Colorado. (See my blog entry "Gracious Gift of Hospitality: Afternoon tea with author of 'Tea on the Titanic'"). A few phone calls and emails later, I was invited to afternoon tea at Penelope's home and became fast friends over scones and earl grey.

Afternoon tea with Penelope Carlevato (center) & sister-in-law, Cara

I've been subscribing to Tea Time Magazine for years and I can't wait until it shows up in my mailbox every other month. I get inspired by the beautiful, glossy photographs of  tablescapes and tea-travel destinations and my daughter delights in recreating the many delicious recipes. I've used this periodical as a resource, a motivator, an escape and a connection to the tea community around the world. It's nice to be included in an issue of my favorite magazine that focuses on tea places in my own backyard - and I hope it opens doors to others who may want to "make tea friends" in Detroit.

We'd love for you to visit our new website -

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Matters at the Jane Austen Festival? . . . Everything (!) including British authors Jo Baker and John Mullan

To paraphrase guest speaker and British author, John Mullan, who asks "What Matters in Jane Austen?" (and then provides us with the answer: "everything!"), it's easy to apply that same dialogue to the topic of the 7th Annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville and arrive at the same conclusion. Everything matters when putting together an event of this magnitude and, like an Austen novel, exceptional execution delights all who are exposed.

Rachel with John Mullan, author of "What Matters in Jane Austen?"

Last weekend, my daughter, Rachel and I made our annual trek from Detroit to Louisville to attend the Jane Austen Festival hosted by the Louisville Chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), under the direction of Regional Coordinator Bonny Wise. It was our fifth time attending the Festival and with a perfect blend of event favorites (afternoon tea, Dressing Mr. Darcy) and new components (presentations from two British authors, more Regency-period activity demonstrations), we felt this was the best one yet.

John Mullan asks could the apple tree in "Emma" really have blossomed in July?

And, of course, when everything matters, it's hard to pick favorites, but truly a highlight was held under the big tent with visiting British authors, Jo Baker and John Mullan, the latter of whom I referenced back in January's blog An Austen-tacious Tea at Troy Public Library, Chilly temperatures not so important.  This was before I knew he would be part of this year's Festival. Once that was announced, I felt like I was eighteen again and biding my time before seeing Peter Frampton -  another charming Brit - at the local Harmony House (back in the day when there were stores devoted to selling record albums). 

Animated and engaging,  Mullan  rattles off Austen character names (major and minor), destinations they have visited (specified or inferred) and weather conditions of the day, like a favorite uncle who can recite details of  the family's history and connections - from first cousins to fifth - all from memory.

With Jo Baker, author of Longbourn
Jo Baker, author of Longbourn, and equally captivating, spoke about the  "downstairs" members of the Bennet household in Pride and Prejudice on which her book is based. Baker studied English literature at Oxford, and, if she hadn't mentioned having two children and having written four other books, you would easily think she's still an undergraduate. 
Jo Baker reading from  her book, Longbourn
Baker dissected Pride and Prejudice chapter by chapter to note any references to servants and created an entire new story from the members of the downstairs staff's point of view.  It's a fascinating perspective on the Bennet household, a family who lives on the periphery of wealthy society and laments their poor connections, yet seems to pay little attention to those who must really work hard for a living.

Another exemplary Jane Austen Festival, where everything mattered, and everything was wonderful!