Monday, March 18, 2013

Toile Tea Time (or Wishlist, Too)

Bella ceramic tea kettle at Macy's
Today my daughter and I met up at Somerset Mall for a little shop and talk. Our meet-up place is Starbucks, third floor at Macy's. Here, as our tradition dictates, Rachel treats us to a caffeine drink to fortify us for the journey ahead. Today, I had a "skinny" chi latte (which we have found are bit heavy on the peppery spice - it hits you the more you drink).

Anyway, before we even left the third floor to the grand entryway into the mall, Rachel pointed out this magnificent toile tea display. Front and center - a Bella ceramic teapot. It's absolutely adorable and combines two of my favorite things - tea and toile.

But wait! there's more. Macy's had additional black-and-white toile tea accessories alongside the Bella tea kettle. There were toile teapots and mugs  from Certified International Drinkware. To borrow a line from the movie "Funny Girl", my first response was "hello gorgeous!"

  Certified International Drinkware has matching toile teapot and mugs

Rachel asked, "Do you need to make a new wishlist?"  I responded that it might be necessary. As if on cue, she recalled that my birthday is next month. "Would you like something like that for your birthday?," she added. I took that to be rhetorical.

So, when I got home, I searched for "Bella ceramic teakettles" and found reviews on both Target and Macy's websites, all primarily favorable with the most often cited "con" attributed to the weight of the kettle. But there was a consistent message in all the reviews, saying the positives outweighed the negatives. Hmmm. Looking even better.

I also searched a little further on  Macy's site and found the same matching tea toile accessories - the black and white patterned teapot and mugs from CID - that were at the store, but with a bit larger selection. There's also another brand, Homewear, that has similarly patterned tea towels, aprons and tea trays (all on sale right now).

"Hello gorgeous, you are now on my wishlist"
When tea and toile unite, it really is a lovely pairing - and worthy of  inspiring yet another wishlist. Coincidence that my birthday is less than a month away? (I believe that's another rhetorical question).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day with memories of last Fall's trip to Ireland

Leprechaun Mickey at Dublin Disney store

Last October, my husband, Chris, and two of our children, Matt and Rachel, took a week long vacation to Ireland. In our short stay, we covered a lot of ground via planes, trains and automobiles, sampling a bit of  everything Ireland is famous for:  crystal, woolens, rainbows, stout, whiskey and most certainly tea.

The latter we enjoyed every place we stopped, from the Waterford crystal factory to the Kilmainham gaol (jail) and everywhere in between.

In Dublin, we hit two great tea spots in the tony shopping district along Grafton Street. On our way to afternoon tea at the Westbury Hotel, we stopped at Bewley's Cafe to stock up on my favorite hearty Irish teas. (Bewley's teas can be found here in Michigan at the Irish Rose store in Lexington -see The Detroit Tea Examiner's Dublin's Bewley's tea at Lexington's Irish Rose on St. Patrick's Day and all year for more information)

Westbury Hotel in Dublin

Afternoon tea

Rachel and Matt partaking in tea and savories

Afternoon tea fare at the Westbury Hotel

We also shopped at some familiar stores in the area like Swarvoski and Disney, which added their own unique Irish flair to set it apart from what we see at home.
Outside Bewley's Cafe on Dublin's Grafton Street with bag full of tea

Once at the Westbury, we enjoyed a delicious and refined afternoon tea. In the following days, we had tea in Waterford, Cork, Monaghan and Dublin's most famous prison. When you can find a tea room in a jail, you know you have found a truly civilized country.

St. Patrick's Day is a fun day to think back on all we saw in Ireland last fall and an opportunity to celebrate all the Irish influences and traditions we've embraced - Irish ancestors or not. And, a day to pay tribute to a country that has brought us some of the most delightful tea blends to start our mornings throughout the year.

One of the many beautiful rainbows we saw in Ireland. A treasure for all.

Happy St. Patrick's Day and may you find the treasure you are looking for at the end of the rainbow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gone with the Wind Tea Time or in a weak moment I wrote a blog. . .

GWTW room features the front door of Tara from the movie set 
In my recent visit  to Atlanta - for the very first time - it was essential to walk one of the most famous streets of the city, Peachtree, and connect with its most celebrated author, Margaret Mitchell. It's here that one will find the Margaret Mitchell House where the author wrote most of Gone with the Wind. My family and I took part in the guided tour of Mitchell's apartment as well as the museum's exhibit dedicated to the GWTW movie.

I thought we might see a tea service of Mitchell's or even a "Gone with the Wind" tea in the gift shop (in my defense, there was even a Marie Antoinette tea at the gift shop in Versailles - I know because I was there and bought some, even though I have never found an occasion suitable to serve it). Unfortunately, as the museum's docent explained at the beginning of our tour, very few of Mitchell's personal belongings were at this historic site (no explanation about the gift shop tea, however).

Rachel outside the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum
After some on-line research of tea connections to Margaret Mitchell, I have since learned that many of her furnishings and possessions were bequeathed to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, including a silver tea and coffee set. (Mitchell Heir Leaves Estate to Archdiocese). The benefactors are considering putting this private collection together for special exhibits. I hope that these lovely items get to be shared with the public.

Portrait of "Scarlett" from GWTW movie set. (too much velvet for the Waffle House?)

Another tea connection I found on-line was a legendary story about Clark Gable having some fun with Hattie McDaniel on the GWTW movie set. According to many film sites on the web, including movie, there's a scene where Rhett hands Mammy a glass of whiskey and, although it was supposed to be just tea, Gable put real liquor in the glass. The scene had to be reshot. Note the next time you watch the movie as McDaniel takes a whiff of the contents of the glass before she drinks from it.

In the courtyard between the museum and the GWTW exhibit
Although the Margaret Mitchell House does not have much in the way of tea, it's a great way to spend a few hours on a lovely weekend afternoon. We toured the apartment where Margaret Mitchell lived with her second husband and, while convalescing an injury from a minor auto injury, she typed up the tome that told the story of a strong-willed heroine during the Civil War.

Like another of my favorite authors, Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell was a woman who carved out a writing career despite conventions of what a proper woman should do and is also very quotable. In the Margaret Mitchell House gift shop, among the items I did purchase was a handsome bookmark with the following Mitchell quote:  "In a weak moment, I wrote a book."  (With greatest affection and humblest apologies, I borrowed that line for the blog.) Incredibly, Mitchell was reluctant to give her book to a publisher. Fortunately, she was persuaded to do otherwise.
Staircase outside of Mitchell's apartment. It is said she rubbed the lion's nose every day for luck.

Encouragement for all pursuing our dreams. After all tomorrow is another tea!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Great tea time in Atlanta

Tea time at Atlanta's Swan Coach House

The last weekend in February, my husband, Chris and I spent a mini vacation in Atlanta with two of our kids, Matt and Rachel. The original purpose of the trip was to see Matt’s good friend perform at the Aurora Theater, a charming venue in Lawrenceville, just outside of Hotlanta. Of course, I wanted to seek out a wonderful place for tea –which I found at the Swan Coach House (see Detroit Tea Examiner's article:  Swan Coach House: Southern dining with tea house feel). 

In between tea and the performance, we also squeezed in a visit to The World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the home of Margaret Mitchell, the restaurant JCT for a sampling of Southern Cooking and one breakfast at the Waffle House. (There are no WH’s in Michigan, so my daughter requests a visit anytime we’re within driving distance of one).

At the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville next to stars' billing
Set of  the play is South African tea room

 I suppose when your sensitivity is raised for a particular theme, you find it, but it was fun to see where tea showed up – expected and unexpectedly - along our travels.  It was clear we’d have tea and tea sandwiches at the Swan Coach House, but I didn't know the scene of the play we were seeing Saturday evening took place in a tea room in South Africa. “Master Harold and the Boys”, which featured my son’s friend, Hazen, is a gripping drama about the pains of dealing with a dysfunctional family, the comforts of a surrogate family and the clashing of the two under strict apartheid rules of the 1950’s.  I won’t give anything away, except that you might want to come with a few extra tissues in hand.  I will add, for this adaptation, the acting was superb!

Inside the World of Coca-Cola's tasting room
Tea, fruit and Beverly drinks 

We arrived late Friday night, but packed in a lot on Saturday. Aside from the Swan Coach House and the play, we went to the World of Coca-Cola and, it too, had an element of tea.  The Coke museum is a bit of a living commercial for the iconic American soft drink, but there’s a lot of interesting displays and memorabilia. One of our favorite exhibits was the tasting room. Here there were several kiosks that allowed guests to help themselves to a variety of soft drinks from around the world. And – yes, indeed, there were a few that fell under the “tea” category.  Nothing there lured me away from my favorite cup of hot tea, but some of the fruity beverages were pretty good. Word of caution, however - stay away from Italy’s “Beverly”. Don’t know what’s in that drink, but it’s not one you’ll want to take savor for long.

Necessary visit to the Waffle House

Walking along the path of celebrities outside the Aquarium 
Inside Atlanta's Aquarium

 Sunday, we hit the Waffle House for breakfast then headed to the Aquarium on what was the most beautiful day of the weekend – sunny and upper 60’s.  After 20 degree temps in Detroit, it was a refreshing change to walk around without a jacket.  From the amazing exhibits at the Georgia Aquarium, we took a short drive to the Margaret Mitchell House, where the famous author wrote most of Gone With the Wind. Now, of all the places we hit that day, I thought there might surely be a Southern tea connection to Margaret Mitchell, but we found more tea at the House of Coke than the home on Peachstreet.  However, Rachel and I did get to practice on a typewriter, circa Mitchell’s time. And, I can tell you, tea blogging on one of those would have taken a lot more time and erasures than my cherished laptop will ever know.

Blog will be late today due to slow typing

Margaret Mitchell House where most of GWTW was written

After that, the kids went one direction and Chris and I went another, specifically to JCT Kitchen and Bar for a taste of regional cooking. Although the tables were packed like a European bistro without a lot of personal space, it has a pretty interior with great food and service. We ate more than just deep fried this and that, but, of course, we had to sample southern fried chicken.  Naturally, it was delicious!

JCT Sunday dinner selection of fried chicken and collard greens

Our last night in Atlanta ended at our hotel lobby in front of  a big screen TV seated on leather couches watching the Oscars where we reconnected with Matt, Rachel and Hazen. 

Back at our hotel to watch the Academy Awards
If I were giving awards out, I certainly would bestow one to every site we visited in Atlanta, but sorry, Beverly, nothing for you.

Great time in Hotlanta!