Saturday, November 28, 2015

Small Business Saturday spent at Antique Depot: My favorite shopping day of the season!

Rachel outside the Antique Depot in Lewiston
In between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there's Small Business Saturday -  my favorite shopping day of the season. It serves as a great reminder to patronize the independent retailers in your town and the reward is the unexpected treasures you'll come across. Unlike the "doorbuster' merchandise that the Big Box stores advertise ahead of time, you won't always know what you'll see at the small, local shops - and that's half the fun. In honor of this designated shopping day, our afternoon was spent at the  Antique Depot,  our choice retailer in northern Michigan.

New Paragon tea cup among my treasures for the day
As we've noted in several of our blogs over the years, starting in 2010 (A short scenic trip. . . to the Antique Depot), we love coming to Lewiston, in northern Michigan,  to meet up with Deborah K, owner of the Antique Depot and view not only her latest merchandise, but her most current displays. Almost every visit is a new experience due to Deborah's keen eye for design. Tea cups, depression glass and crystal are artfully displayed among the antique furniture that anchors each room throughout the store. Other merchandise featured at the Antique Depot include vintage clothing, rustic knickknacks, and estate jewelry. There's a full inventory, but it's incredibly organized and sparkling clean.

Our treasure today was a beautiful pink rose Paragon tea cup that adds to my collection of that lovely English bone china. I also secured another gem, but that one I'll keep secret until after December 25th.

Hot cuppa in my "new" tea cup - a great way to unwind!
In the meantime, I'm keeping in the less hurried, more relaxing spirit of Small Business Saturday with a hot cup of tea in my new china cup. Small wonder why  SBS is my most favorite shopping day of the season!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Afternoon tea at St. Regis New York: Modern luxury with gilded age past

Rachel ready for afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel New York
A trip to New York in July was filled with ties to the Gilded Age, staying at the Waldorf Astoria, visiting the Vanderbilt mansion and afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel.

The Astor legacy still part of Manhattan
Inspired by these historic places, I am now reading up on the one per centers of the 19th century. "When the Astors Owned New York" by Justin Kaplan is an interesting, easy read about this family dynasty that were instrumental in creating the luxury hotel industry. John Jacob Astor IV built the St. Regis in 1904, seven years after the opening of the Astoria Hotel (later to be combined with his cousin's Waldorf Hotel).

Gilded moldings, muraled walls and crystal chandeliers keep the ties to the past
Afternoon tea at St. Regis has been on my wish list since 2007, when I took a one-on-one tea tour of Manhattan with Elizabeth Knight, former tea sommelier of this beautiful hotel. During the tour, we made a quick stop to view the tea lobby, but we didn't have time to partake in a full-blown afternoon tea.

Contemporary and vintage mix well with tasty treats and excellent service
It's been remodeled to a more contemporary decor since my last visit and looking just a little different than its photos in Bruce Richardson's, "The Great Tea Rooms of America",  it still has the familiar and elegant flourishes, with ties to its rich origins, such as the muraled walls, gilded moldings, and imposing crystal chandeliers.
Now the tables are covered in grey tablecloths with sleek, suede cushioned chairs in a matching hue. The table china is contemporary in design as well, white, glossy and unadorned except for the flowery-edged plates of the three-tier serving tray.

Savories include  tea sandwiches along with a mini quiche

But, of course, what makes the afternoon tea exceptional is the food and service and, in our experience, found both scored high. Savories came in a variety of offerings, including traditional tea sandwiches along with a mini quiche. 

Yummy scones were served with cream, lemon curd and jam.
Scones were delicious and served with cream, lemon curd and jam. Desserts were beautiful and tasty with an assortment of cookies, macarons, and chocolate treats.

Tealeaves was the tea that was used. We chose the St. Regis' house tea as well as the organic jasmine pearl. Both were brewed to perfection.

Tealeaves tea is served
Our waiters were most accommodating, bringing us the tea container for personal inspection when we asked about the tea, and sending us home with a St. Regis "doggie bag" of sweets and savory leftovers to be enjoyed later at our hotel.

Showcase exhibits photos from movies filmed at St.Regis
After tea, Rachel and I did a quick tour of the St. Regis, ending up (no surprise) in the gift shop. A showcase along one hallway exhibits photos from famous movies filmed at the hotel, including "The Godfather" and "The Devil Wears Prada".  We say, afternoon tea should receive top billing!

Enjoying afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel

Apres tea, going home with a sac de chien,
An afternoon tea at the St. Regis is a delightful blend of the past and present served up with delicious sweets and savories. Contemporary comfort with vintage flair, you'll feel among the top tier with tea at St, Regis.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tea and Etiquette at Clarkston Independence District Library

Tables set with beautiful china cups and tea accoutrements
Just returning home from London on Labor Day weekend, the Friday of that same week,  I had the great pleasure of presenting "Tea and Etiquette" for a lovely seniors group at the Clarkston Independence District Library.  We had fifty guests in attendance and they were an absolutely fun and delightful  group.

Home baked scones and sweets were delicious.

Invited by Lawrence Marble, head of Adult Services, and aided by fellow librarians Jo Ann Andrews and Beth Grai, the afternoon tea was a beautiful event. And, Beth Grai not only served the tea, but baked the scones and desserts, which were delicious.

Festive place cards added an elegant touch to the table.
A real treat for me came after the program when I was extended an invitation to join the afternoon tea. Festive place cards at each place setting added an elegant touch to the tea tables. I found mine in a hurry!

I was seated with a lovely group of ladies.
I was seated at a table with Darlene Clarno, Kathie Ward and Joyce Mammen, a wonderful and interesting group of ladies.

Kudos to  Clarkston Independence District Library for transforming this venue into an elegant tea room and hosting such a great event!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Catching up: London, Highclere, New York and Cincinnati - (and some fun tea events in between!)


Since August, we've traveled to New York, England (London, Oxford and Highclere!), Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Tampa, and, yes, to top it all off, Cincinnati, Ohio.  We visited five tea rooms, four presidential museums, three castles,  two bed and breakfasts (coincidentally, both named after famous generals) and interviewed one Countess.

Highclere Castle selfie, of course.
In the same time span, we also held four delightful tea events from Tea 101 to Eleanor Roosevelt and put the final touches on our new book (stay tuned!). We were thrilled to be presenters at Clarkston/Independence Township Library, the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, a lovely home in Bloomfield Hills and Socra Tea in Detroit, the latter we journeyed to just  this past weekend to participate in - and celebrate - Michigan Tea Week.

Eleanor Roosevelt Afternoon Tea at the Townsend in Birmimgham
We're catching our breath and taking some time before 2016 to get up-to-date and, also, gear up for the holiday season (can it really be only 7 more Mondays until Christmas as the on-line news headlines cry out??!).

Getting ready for Tea 101 at Socra Tea in Detroit
Our plan here at our blog, is to get caught up and share some of these aforementioned visits and events with you!

Afternoon tea at Claridge's in London
From Claridge's in London to the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, it's been an amazing four months. If we could gain an extra hour every Sunday, like we did last weekend, we could even squeeze in more!

The Taft Museum in Cincinnati