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!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Miss America Afternoon Tea: An Elegant Affair to Remember

An Elegant Affair of Roses and Royalty, even the napkins were beautiful

Still riding the Patriotic theme of Fourth of July, it seems like a great tie-in to a charity tea event  I attended this Spring that featured another of our country’s traditions, Miss America. In May, I went to “An Elegant Affair of Roses and Royalty” featuring Kirsten Haglund, Miss America of 2008.  Held at the Glen Oaks Country Club in Farmington Hills (Kirsten's hometown), and under the direction of tea specialist, Linda Pudlik, guests were treated to an “enhanced” afternoon tea, a fashion show, live music, boutique shopping and a special talk and performance by Kirsten Haglund.  Proceeds went to Kirsten’s charity, “The Kirsten Haglund Foundation”, which provides assistance and financial aid to those seeking treatment from eating disorders.

Kirsten Haglund, Miss America, 2008 starts the event with a song

I sat at a table assembled by another tea specialist and fellow blogger, Phyllis Barkey.   As someone who loves a tablescape almost as much as the food, I found this event scored high on both accounts. Starting with the rose-shaped napkins on each place setting and the fresh flowers on every table, accompanied by a multi-course, scrumptious lunch, it truly lived up to an “elegant affair”.  Perhaps, Kirsten was the official “royal”, but we all felt like members of the court that afternoon.

Linda Pudlik speaks to guests about tea and the Haglund family
I hit the jackpot that day, as not only did I get to take part in such a wonderful event, but was seated next to Chef Anita Kern, the chef at O’Mara’s in Berkley and cooking instructor at Sur La Table.  A discussion that started on the cooking technique of sous-vide, (my husband’s latest passion and more about that in an upcoming blog) lead us on to talking about a lot  more common interests, including Downton Abbey.  (This lead to my attending last month’s Downton Abbey tea at O’Mara’s as well as a “Taste of Tuscany” and, of course, signing up for a personal sous-vide class at Sur La Table with our foodie friends at the end of this month – again, more blogs to come!).

Kirsten poses with fashion show volunteers

Beautiful ambiance, delicious treats, spectacular entertainment and amazing company. To borrow from a classic movie title, it was, indeed, an Elegant Affair to Remember.

Afternoon tea hats off to Linda for putting together such a lovely event and to Phyllis for extending the invite to be at her table.  Great people and  a great cause, too – I think that pretty much captures the American spirit!

Ending on a high note:  chocolate biscuit cake!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Two to Tango and One great party on the Fourth adds up to a big "Ten"!

My Fourth of July started with Tango and ended up with fireworks.  I guess one could say, it was a bit of "Dancing with the Stars. . . and Stripes" for the holiday.

Every year, my brother Glenn hosts a spectacular Fourth of July party at his house. Although he still sends e-mail invites to family and friends, it's just a formality as the "core" group doesn't even question what they will be doing that day and anyone else they want to bring along is always welcome. My "kids" have never spent a Fourth in any other fashion and have never missed a year. With a pool, croquet, badminton, and a picnic feast, it's not difficult to understand why.

Rachel (right) takes her turn holding the City Style Tango banner

But, this year, the holiday morning started out with a twist on tradition with a little dancing on Main Street before heading out to my brother's. My oldest son, Rob, and daughter, Rachel, take lessons at "City Style Tango" in Clawson and they were part of the city's Fourth of July parade. I literally had a curbside seat to watch as both instructors and students performed various dance moves down the street. Festive and impressive, they moved gracefully for the duration of the parade route. I could almost see Bruno Tonioli leaping from his desk and shouting "Ten!"

Rob (left, in red shirt) dances the tango with other City Style Tango folks

And this was just the beginning!

Back at my brother's, we started with croquet, moving on to bean bag toss, barbecue feast and then lawn chair badminton. Cooler temps made for more intense sports participation, but the pool was not utilized much except for serving as a major water trap for croquet.

Pool serves as water trap for this year's croquet

Lawn chair badminton: sitting and rotating

New this year, balloon Russian Roulet. Glenn is about to go out with a bang!

Matt is victorious in this game. Next  year, we're addin' water!

Rachel models fashionable croquet wear.

We indulged in some iced tea conveniences in the bottle and readied ourselves for the evening fireworks.

Enjoying an iced tea break with Rob.
 Another Fantastic Fourth.  Like Bruno, we can't contain ourselves. We give a "Ten!" to the Fourth!!

Our host begins the fireworks.

Crystal fountain never disappoints! Another "Ten" for the Fourth!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Two hearts forever one and one Handsome Devil makes for a tea-rrific anniversary at Torino

Two hearts necklace and flowers for the Lady
Handsome Devil red wine for Lord Gulley

Exactly one month ago today, my husband, Chris, and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. It's been a fabulous journey so far with three amazing kids (all through college - yahoo!), two homes, one cabin up north and a couple of spoiled mutts. This spring we officially became permanent empty-nesters - save the coddled pooches - and we're on to Chapter Two.

The other Handsome Devil and Mrs. Gulley
We celebrated our 30th anniversary last year at Torino, an up-and-coming restaurant in Ferndale. We love this restaurant and brought our friends back to join us for another great dining experience a few months later. We weren't surprised when The Detroit Free Press named it Restaurant of the Year for 2014 and we decided we'd go back for a repeat anniversary dinner celebration.

The gourmet menu changes monthly
Skip the "and movie" part of the dinner date when you go to Torino:  the multi-course meal will be entertainment enough. We also chose the "drink pairing" option where the chef and bar tender work together for optimal beverage accompaniments for each course.
Fourth course:  chicken, truffles, berries

We ended the evening with a few gourmet chocolates and a selection from their tea menu. I chose "starry night", (an herbal decaf), that couldn't have described the evening any better. With one handsome devil and two hearts forever one, may the next 31 years be as wonderful as the first.

Ending with Starry Night - "a calming herbal blend"
A nice finish, selecting from the tea menu

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hello Tea Garden . . . It's been a long cold (although not-so-lonely) winter

In February, I purchased these "TEA" tiles at the Lewiston ACE Hardware
It's actually hot here in Michigan!

Officially on the books as the record-breaking snowiest winter in Michigan, when May rolled around we finally experienced warmer temps.  Seasonal activities have turned from snow shoveling and skiing to deck sitting and gardening - and the latter includes a little plot of land up north designated for just that purpose.

In April, the snow was starting to melt a bit in my designated tea garden

In February, when we were at our place up north for a family ski trip, I accompanied my husband on quick trip to the local hardware store. They had a clearance section and garden tiles were marked down to $2.00 each. Not many letters were left, but I sorted through what remained and found "T", "E", and "A". Thought that would make a nice addition to this year's tea garden.

When I first placed the garden tiles  in the back clearing of our 20 acres in February, the snow was almost two feet deep. They tiles slipped out of my mittened hands and fell like hot toast slices through the snow. Took me a few minutes to recover them, but when I did, I placed them gingerly on what is to soon be this year's tea garden  and waited patiently. By April, we started observing some thawing.

Tea Garden is ready for plants and lots of tea drinking on the deck.

 Now that it's mid-June, the tea garden is open, ready for planting and lots of tea drinking on the deck. This month also signified the season's re-opening of my favorite vintage china store, The Antiques Depot, in downton Lewiston. Owner, Deborah K., says she will be open seven days a week. Each time we go to our cottage, I will be stopping in!

Warmer temps means Depot is open 7 days!
This weekend's purchase!

A lot has been going on since my last blog entry in March:  a birthday, a wedding anniversary, a Miss America tea, a Downton Abbey tea and a tea presentation I put on for the luxurious Townsend Hotel in my hometown of Birmingham (Michigan). I've got a lot to share, so please stop by frequently so we can all get caught up.

In the meantime, I hope you'll join me for a cup of iced-tea this afternoon. With a nod to my all-time favorite band, I join the chorus in singing:

Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting, Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all alright.  .  .!