Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving weekend full of iced tea, hot tea and lots of "T"'s in between

This year's tablescape inspiration came from my new glass pumpkin
This Thanksgiving holiday weekend started out with freshly-brewed iced tea to go with an unseasonably warm and sunny November Thursday in Michigan.  It ended on Sunday with several pots of hot tea to keep us toasty while snow covered the lawns. And, in between, we “t”-reated ourselves to an alliterative list of food and festivities: tablescapes, turkey, toasting, traditions, and tree-trimming.  Not mutually exclusive, of course, but pretty much in that order.

The inspiration for this year’s Thanksgiving tablescape was my prized glass pumpkin. I bought this at the Arts, Beats and Eats festival in Royal Oak over Labor Day weekend.  I splurged on not just a little pumpkin, but one of the largest.  My brother-in-law persuaded me to go big or go home and I’m so glad he exerted his artistic influence in selecting the gourde grande.

(Incidentally, I didn’t realize how popular these were until I saw there was an entire glass pumpkin event held in the town of Novi (about 10 miles from my house) this October.  I’m a fan, but even that surprised me).

Because the pumpkin was a good size, it made a great focal point and I framed it with two pilgrim candles on brass candles sticks and vintage turkey salt and pepper shakers that belonged to my mother.  I placed a golden-brown tablecloth on the table and layered it with a cream-colored top. Then, I fanned out the matching golden-brown napkins in clear wine glasses to resemble a spread of turkey tail feathers.  All we needed now was a feast worthy of such grandeur!

Rachel's homemade pumpkin and french silk pies
No worries there as my husband and Rachel cooked and baked a fantastic meal. We started with homemade onion soup with gruyere cheese, then moved to grilled asparagus with olive oil and seasonings, stuffing, rolls, cranberries and the ultimate brined roasted turkey with gravy.  That was to be finished off with my daughter’s pie creations: pumpkin and French silk.

Preparing for combat on the game board

We toasted to a great dinner with the family and headed for more traditions of the day:  naps, watching football and playing Risk.  (I only conquered one continent this year but waged a respectable field strategy against my worth opponents.)

Tapping into battle strategy at the mall on Black Friday

The next day, replacing the board game with the mall, Rachel and I ventured out to do more battle at the Somerset Collection on Black Friday. Not our usual custom, but Rachel was motivated by some great deals and free tote bags from Victoria Secret. I have to admit, it was kind of fun to be part of the madness, but after seeing a long line outside of Vera Bradley just to get in the store (!), I knew it was time to go home.

Hot tea got us fueled up for tree trimming
Saturday and Sunday we saw a light dusting of snow on the ground and it created the perfect backdrop and mood for some tree trimming. Rachel brewed up some delicious loose black tea (esp emporium's Assam Mokalbari East) and we strained it with my most recent purchase from Kristeas. We put up two trees this year - one in the front room and a smaller one in the family room -  then filled them with a multitude of ecclectic ornaments, from Muffy Vandebear figurines to finely crafted handblown glass orbs.

Rachel places ornaments on the big tree as Chris consults.

Rachel's "dorm tree" from Uncle Glenn finds a new home in our family room.
My daughter's theme for our holiday decor is "Christmas is Everywhere".  A quick glance around our home, I can tell you she has been successful in implementation.

Thanksgiving started out mild and sunny but even though outside temperatures soon dipped, we kept the inner warmth throughout the weekend with family traditions and freshly brewed tea served hot or cold!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day reaps many rewards

No matter the results, Election Day is exciting. It's a time where we all unite to celebrate our right to have a say in our future and get a sticker for our efforts. In our household, it's turn into a bit of a family event and, like the Superbowl, at the end of the day, we can't wait until 8:00 when the results start pouring in so we can cheer on our favorite team.

This year, there was even more to celebrate, though, than fulfilling our civic duty - there were savings to be had for those who possessed the distinctive "I Voted" badge.

As reported yesterday in The Detroit Tea Examiner, Kristeas tea and accessories store in Berkley was offering 50% off one item in the store with proof you were at the polls (Vote on Election Day and save at Kristeas). Concerned citizen and tea enthusiast that I am, I took advantage of this great offer and bought myself a silver tea strainer. I love the elegant, yet practical, tea accessory and when having afternoon tea at The Westbury Hotel in Ireland last month, the silver strainer spearheaded its way to the top of  this year's wishlist.
Tea strainer discounted with proof of voting
Of course, no trip to the Kristeas is complete without circling the store at least twice. Owner, Kristin Sanders was there to greet visitors and ring up orders of other civic-minded tea lovers.

Kristin Sanders ringing up orders of other civic-minded tea lovers
My daughter, Rachel, and I voted together during our lunch hour and met up at the mall for dinner. She got her bonus, too, when shopping at  Urban Outfitter. That retailer gave 20% off to anyone who showed evidence they cast their ballot.

It's rewarding to vote! Cheers to all who participated in the process this year!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fit for a queen (or three): Afternoon tea at the Royal Park Hotel

Pam and Rachel toast to a royal afternoon tea
If you are ever in Michigan and are in need of a regal afternoon, I've got just the place:  the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester. Just minutes from the busy downtown retail district, the Royal Park Hotel seems miles away from the congested traffic and crowded streets of the city and you feel the difference as soon as you step into the gleaming marble-tiled lobby with its sparkling chandeliers.

In need of a luxurious repast (and aren't we all, from time to time?), I had afternoon tea at the Royal Park Hotel with good friend, Pam, and my daughter, Rachel, this weekend.

Once inside the lobby, we were greeted by hotel staff and escorted to the library where we waited for our tea hostess as we sat in overstuffed leather chairs by the glowing fireplace. Soon, our hostess, Mary, arrived and lead us to our tea table, already set with a three-tiered tray full of goodies, fine china accented with artfully folded napkins and a kir royale cocktail, cherry-red and fizzing busily.

Three-tiered tray filled with delicious sweets and savories
Mary introduced us to the sweets and savories on our three-tiered tray, which included a delicious variety of tea sandwiches, two types of scones (with clotted cream and lemon curd) and a scrumptious selection of desserts. (Of the latter, chocolate decadence was a table favorite!)

Our tea hostess, Mary Kuhn, serves our tea
The hotel serves Mighty Leaf teas and Mary brought out a case filled with a dozen different varieties in small glass vials, so we could inspect and sniff as she gave a description of each. We picked three: Earl Grey, Caramel Pear and Green Passion. Each of us had our "go-to" tea and all were satisfying.

Along with the fare on the three-tiered tray, hot hors d'oeuvres are served with the tea.

The service is excellent and, true to our hostess' word, we sat back and relaxed while she did all the work. Another nice touch is that no two teas will be the same. Mary explained that she keeps notes of guests visits, so when one returns, she might serve different china or make a few other changes to, in her words, "keep it fresh".

Enjoying a cup of Earl Grey and window views of Paint Creek

Tea is served on the lanai, a narrow strip off the dining room that overlooks the hotel's patio and Paint Creek, which makes for excellent viewing from the table.

Ending our royal afternoon in the hotel lobby. We'll be back!
We ended our elegant tea where we started, at the hotel lobby, under the crystal chandeliers and the marble floor below our feet. We plan to be back, ready for the royal treatment, excited to know our next visit will be something new to look forward to.

For more details on the Royal Park Hotel's afternoon tea, see The Detroit Tea Examiner's article, Enjoy Royal Treatment in Rochester:  Afternoon tea at the Royal Park Hotel.