Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ninth Annual Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove: Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, can't wait to go back!

Regency ladies gather for a cuppa at Bingley's Tea tent

Last weekend, my daughter, Rachel, and I entreated our carriage to transport us across state lines and a few centuries past, to once again attend the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky.

Hosted by the Jane Austen Society of North America's (JASNA) Lousville chapter and held at Locust Grove, the historic site once again became transformed into Meryton, the country village where the Bennet sisters would be at home. Retailers of tea, fashion and curios dotted the well-manicured grounds amid Navy men and ladies attired in long gowns, bonnets and parasols.

Regency military men in attendance at Locust Grove/Meryton
The Jane Austen Festival in Louisville celebrated its ninth year this past weekend. We've attend six of the nine and find each year there's more to experience. And, even thought it's grown in numbers and vendors, it's so well organized, it runs seamlessly - with the help of a  wonderful group of volunteers and Festival Chairman, Bonny Wise.

This year, the Festival honored the author's life and death, with emphasis on the latter, as this month - and today specifically -  marks the 200th anniversary of  Jane Austen's passing.

Dr. Kinney gives the eulogy Jane Austen should have had

Guest speaker, Dr. Cheryl Kinney, a medical doctor and JASNA board member, presented "The Eulogy Jane Austen Should Have Had".  An interesting talk on the theories of what caused Jane's death along with how her image was quickly reshaped by family members to make her more in sync with Victorian virtues. (How glad we are to know from subsequent research, she was as spirited and irreverent as Miss Elizabeth Bennet!)

The highlight of the Festival, however, is attending all our favorites:  Dressing Mr. Darcy, Afternoon Tea, strolling the grounds of Meryton and stopping for tea at Bingley's Tea.

Brian Cushing, once again, delighted us all with his "Dressing Mr. Darcy", better known to all serious Regency Period fashion enthusiasts as "UN-Dressing Mr. Darcy". A Festival crowd-pleaser, Mr. Cushing keeps the event fresh every year by adding new elements and commentary. This year, he came dressed as "casual" Mr. Darcy. wearing longer pants and shoes, rather than the evening attire of breaches and boots. He has our utmost approbation any time of the day.

Watching the UN-dressing of Mr. Darcy

We visited Bingley's Tea's distinctive white tent and met up once again with owner and operator, Julia Matson. As pretty and inviting as her artful tea packages, we stocked up on a few "books" of tea. Among our favorites:  "Mr. Knightly's Reserve", a superb Earl Grey blend and "Compassion for Mrs. Bennet's Nerves", an herbal tea that is sure to help ail any malady, real or imagined!

With Julia Matson, owner of Bingley's Teas

New this year at Bingley's Tea were a line of syrups made from their tea. We purchased a few of those, too! I purchased the "French Lavender" and Rachel selected the "Naughty Nun". I am so looking forward to adding these to a fresh batch of lemonade or a chilled glass of Prosecco.

Bingley's Teas were also served at Afternoon Tea and we enjoyed our elegant repast in the Visitor's Center tea room.

Afternoon Tea at the Visitor's Center tea room

Another exceedingly good time at the Jane Austen Festival. We really did buy the T-shirt and we certainly plan to be back next year for more Festival felicity!

Got the tea and the T-shirt. We'll be back for more!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Royal Treat Tea Room is Just Delicious

The Royal Treat Tea Room in Roseville,  elegant and comfortable

A tea room and bakery that are most suitably named:  you will get the royal treatment at The Royal Treat Tea Room while partaking in just delicious sweets from Just Delicious Scones. 

The Roseville tea room and bakery are housed under one roof on a stretch of Utica Road between Gratiot and Twelve Mile. The burgundy and white awning that spans the length of The Royal Treat Tea Room sets it apart from neighboring buildings and announces to patrons that there are great things inside.

My friend, Christine and I visited The Royal Treat Tea Room last week and found it to be a lovely venue to catch up while enjoying tea time fare.

A variety of scones are served and, yes!, the are delicious

The tea room and Just Delicious Scones are the creation of owner, Jennifer Stockwell-Colombo, who has been in the catering business for over twenty years. Inspired by the high-end pastries of Europe she enjoyed when she set out to travel the world at nineteen, she learned to recreate those specialty treats back home. By her mid-twenties, she had her own coffee shop and continued to grow her catering business.

Sharing a cup with owner, Jennifer, as warm & welcoming as her tea

Jennifer switched to wholesale baking a few years back, supplying retailers with her tasty desserts. Working from a small shop in Roseville, people would stop in to pick up their scones and chat. That lead to serving guests tea with their goodies and soon afterwards, searching for bigger digs to accommodate the growing number of visitors.

Chicken salad, scones and a pot of tea for $15.00

The Royal Treat Tea Room is furnished with Jennifer's antiques and collectibles in addition to furniture and china donated from guests. It's a charming, eclectic mix of tea cups and dining tables that make it an elegant, but comfortable, tea room. 

Tea cups and other furnishings come from Jennifer's collection and guests

And, that's just the decor.

The scones come in a variety of flavors, many with a light icing on top, and are, well, just delicious! The lunch menu offers chicken salad and a selection of quiches. Your choice of either salad or quiche, a plate of scones and a pot of tea, costs only $15.00.

Mini scones purchased at the bakery to enjoy at home

The service is as warm and welcoming as the freshly brewed pots of tea. After the meal, take-home bags with pretty ribbons are supplied to wrap up any leftovers. There's also the bakery to stop at on the way out which provides the opportunity to stock up on more scrumptious treats. We purchased a half-dozen mini scones to take home.

Tablecloths not only don dining tables, but hang as wall decor

Reservations are highly recommended. This tea room fills up fast! To find out how you can get the royal treatment and indulge is delicious scones, visit Just Delicious Scones and The Royal Treat Tea Room on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dinner and a movie? How about lunch and shopping at The Show, Leon and Lulu's newest store and cafe

Cara and Rachel outside The Show, complete with updated marquee

Leon and Lulu, the incredible retail store in downtown Clawson, is filled to its high ceilings with upscale home furnishings, fashionable women's clothing and unique and quirky gift items. In its former life, it was the Ambassador Roller Rink. Knowing that, it's not a stretch to imagine how the owners of Leon and Lulu turned the neighboring building, once the Clawson Theater, into a fun shop featuring Michigan-made items, specialty greeting cards and a delightful cafe. 

We visited Three Cats Cafe, the bistro within The Show last month and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Lunch is served daily from 11:00 to 3:00 and there's a long list of specialty drinks to accompany one of the cafe's soups, salads or sandwiches. There's also a nice variety of cookies and other sweets.

Dining on chowder and chicken salad i

The tea is all from Tea Forte, the company that specializes in the pyramid-shaped tea bags.

We ordered chicken salad and chowder (and tea) and everything was tasty and nicely presented.

The cafe has bistro tables set at the front of The Show, so you can soak in all the fun merchandise, artistically displayed throughout, while you dine and drink.

No Ragrets soap, this weekend's theme and gift soap!

We visited The Show while my sister-in-law, Cara,  was in town for my daughter, Rachel's, graduation from MSU (for her Masters in Market Research). We were treating ourselves to a girl's "no regrets" weekend.  This store is SO unique, they even sell a hilarious line of soaps with various goofy slogans, and I found one for my sister-in-law to take back home, "No Ragrets". 

Teaspoon and teacup chandelier at Leon and Lulu's

Once you've supped and shopped at The Show, it's just a short trip next door to continue the fun retail experience at Leon and Lulu's. We were especially fond of their teaspoon/teacup chandelier.

When you return to The Show, you will be greeted by a permanent ticket taker. Admission is free and you won't be disappointed in what's playing. It's all good, all the time. 

Surely, "No Ragrets" to seeing this show! 

Leon and Lulu and The Show are opened seven days a week. For more information, visit their website:  http://www.leonandlulu.com/

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

One hundred things (and a few more) to do in the Upper Peninsula with Kath Usitalo

Meeting author, Kath Usitalo at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord

One hundred things to do in the Upper Peninsula? Ya, you bet!

As a daughter of a Yooper, and one who made annual treks over the bridge for over 50 years, I can tell you "100" doesn't cover all the great adventures in the UP. That's why I think Kath Usitalo may already need a sequel to her recently published book, "100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die".

Lots to do on the other side of  Mackinac Bridge (62) - at least 100!

We met author Kath Usitalo last weekend at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Michigan. (This book store is a real gem - bright, cozy and filled to the brim with great reads.).

Kath Usitalo knows the northern Michigan territory well. Although she grew up in a suburb of Detroit, her parents were from the Keweena area in the UP where she visited frequently. Now, she lives in the Upper Peninsula year round where she writes her blog, GreatLakesGazette.com.

Just breathe (#41) "scenic beauty & clean air" ( looks like Finland)

Many of the residents of the UP have family ties to the Nordic countries. Usitalo is Finnish and, similar in roots, my Dad's parents immigrated from a Swedish settlement in Finland back in the early 1900's. (We visited Helsinki and Vaasa in 2001 and, aside from the pleasure of meeting many other "Engmans", we could not get over how much the terrain, with it's plentiful pines and pristine natural lakes, resembled northern Michigan).

We even have our own UP body of water, Engman Lake
Engmans in Finland and UP

Of the one hundred things to do in Kath's book, I've personally done 34. My Dad being from Baraga, it's no surprise that I've been to the Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest - aka Bishop Baraga -  (#52), a number of times. It's the towering bronze statue that overlooks the bay between L'Anse and Baraga.

Visiting some of the UP's best kept secrets -  beautiful waterfalls (#23)

However, we didn't limit ourselves to just my Dad's hometown to experience other "things" to do in the UP.  We've watched freighters carried through the Soo Locks (#72) via the marvels of modern engineering, toured the spectacular Pictured Rocks by boat (#45) and, as recently as last fall, experienced for the first time the amazing beauty of the Upper Peninsula's waterfalls (#23). On the way home from that last trip, we also stopped at Java Joe's (#2) in St. Ignace.

Java Joe's (#2) in St. Ignace

In addition, we've been to Mackinac Island for bike rides (#63), fudge (#4) and afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel (#64).

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (#64)

Fancy tea with  family at the Grand Hotel
Tea with hotel historian, Bob Tagatz

Speaking of tea, one more thing to do in the Upper Peninsula that's not in the book is afternoon tea at Four Seasons in Houghton - perhaps for the sequel?  (It is, however, in my book, Michigan Tea Rooms).

Michigan Tea Rooms sold at Four Season's Gift Shope
With tea room owner, Adrea Schuldt

One UP thing we've tried since last weekend, courtesy of Kath and her book, is Trenary Toast (#5). Kath had samples of this Upper Peninsula taste treat for those in attendance of the book signing event. This toast is twice baked and coated with sugar and cinnamon. It is dunked in coffee or milk and, once softened, adds a sweet and satisfying taste to the liquid it's immersed in. We tried it in coffee and loved it.  Next, you just know we'll experiment with tea!

Trenary Toast (#5) is a tasty treat with coffee

At Barb's Tea Service, we're going to try Trenary Toast with tea!

"100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die" is now available at Saturn Booksellers and other retail outlets. For more information, visit GreatLakesGazette.com.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The British Accents Tea Room in Sarasota: A taste of England in The Sunshine State

The Barb Gulleys enjoy traditional afternoon tea time at British Accents

In an unassuming strip mall in southern Sarasota, there's an aptly named tea room and retail store:   The British Corner Shop and The British Accents Tea Room. In this little corner of the gulf side of Florida, you walk through the storefront doors of an All-American shopping center into a most delightful slice of England, complete with tea time and merchandise from "across the pond".

Burgundy-hued lines cover tables donned with three-tiered trays and fancy china.

Last week, my mother-in-law, Barb Gulley, and I (the other, "Barb Gulley"), visited The British Accents Tea Room, having made reservations the day before for their Traditional Afternoon Tea.   We enjoyed every minute of our stay, from the retail shop's shelves filled to the brim with fanciful English merchandise to the cozy tea room in back, with tables covered in crisp, burgundy-hued linens donned with three tier trays and teapots festooned in hand-knit coverings. A glowing "fire" in the fireplace along the back wall added to the ambiance, feeling much more British Isles than tropical U.S.

Moira Nichols and Arlene Sullivan add to the British connection

But, perhaps most importantly, the food and service are excellent. We were cheerfully greeted by chef and server, Moira Nichols and Arlene Sullivan respectively, and they bring home the British connection. Moira is from England, having moved here over twenty years ago and Arlene did a study abroad in Britain.  Both shared interesting stories of their native/adoptive home.

Delicious scones served with strawberry preserves and Devon cream

The Traditional Afternoon Tea is absolutely delicious, consisting of scones, sweets and savories all served up with a smile and an expertly brewed pot of Earl Grey (our choice, there is a wide selection of teas to choose from).

Tea sandwiches include, cucumber and smoked salmon

Our scones, accompanied by strawberry preserves and Devon cream, were freshly baked and scrumptious -  and just the right consistency, too.

We were given the choice of two sandwiches each and you can easily share their generous portions. We asked for the smoked salmon and cream cheese, the egg and cress and cucumber. All were amazing, but I especially loved the smoked salmon!

Three-tiered tray topped with miniature pastries.

All of this was topped, quite literally, by an assortment of small pastries for dessert. Chocolate-topped tiny tortes and lemon cake were our favorites.

The British Corner Shop shelves are filled with merchandise fro England

And, after dessert, there's shopping to be had. The British Corner Shop carries a wide variety of products from England including tea, tea sets, purses and teddy bears.

Tea accessories, including child tea sets in hampers

The store caries a full-line of assorted teas.

Cute purses and British snacks are also available

The British Corner Shop and British Accents Tea Room is a lovely trip to England without ever needing to cross the ocean.  A wonderful place to enjoy a spot of tea in Sarasota, Florida.

The British Accents Tea Room serves tea Tuesday - Saturday

The British Corner Shop and The British Accents Tea Room are located at 2236 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota. For more information, check out their website at The British Corner Shop.