Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BTS featured artist: Cara, embroidery specialist

With sis-in-law, Cara, wearing our BTS aprons in Birmigham

From time to time, our blog features artists that we find of special interest. This month our focus is on an artist that is both special and interesting, my sister-in-law Cara. She excels in sewing, for years an avid and talented quilter. Recently she turned her attention to machine embroidery and  Barb's Tea Service has been the happy and grateful recipient of some of  Cara's personalized products, including stylish tea towels which we use at many of our tea tastings.
BTS tea towels embroidered by Cara - used at many of our tea tasting events

When Cara started machine embroidery, BTS was not the only beneficiary of her "handiwork". Pemberly Pines, our up north cottage, received customized towels as well polo shirts for the gentleman of the estate, Lord Gulley of Glencoe.

Pemberly Pines bath towels 

Our customized Pemberly Pines towel set features embroidered deer and evergreens and hang in the main bathroom of our cottage. Gives P. Pines the air of a tony B & B.

Plush blankets with "wood" letters for the gent of P.Pines

The latest Pemberly Pines items from Cara are plush blankets with themed applique letters for the Lord and Lady of the manor. For, Chris, the wood-look letters, for me, tea cups, of course.

Tea cup letters for the ladies of Pemberly Pines

We're really excited about last month's BTS products from Cara - aprons! Now we all have beautiful matching black aprons with our signature logo and pink teapot. 

Rachel dons one of Cara's BTS embroidered aprons

Rachel and Pam look fabulous in their latest Cara creation and will be stylin' for the next BTS event.

Toasting mutual birthdays with Pam while wearing new BTS apron.

Of course, Cara couldn't leave Lord Gulley out the apron collection. She made a special one for Chris with Pemberly Pines branding.

Lord Gulley gets a personalized apron, too.

All of Cara's embroidery products show amazing detail and color coordination. The needlework is true artistry. It's a wonderful combination of practical and pretty.

In case you missed some of our previous BTS featured artists, here's a chance to get caught up:

Home Sewn Decor
Tea and Knitting
Michael Aram

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tonia's Victorian Rose Tea Room: New owner and updates to a Rochester favorite

Tonia's Victorian Rose has a new owner: Tonia!

For two decades, the Victorian Rose Tea Room has been a familiar fixture on Third Street in downtown Rochester. Known for its handsome vintage parlor rooms and delicious lunches, it was owned and operated by Loretta Curry for over twenty years. It changed hands last December when Tonia Cartson purchased the distinctive tea venue. After a visit this week, I'm delighted to say, with a refresh courtesy Tonia's touch, the tea room maintains both its charm and truly scrumptious menu offerings.

Victorian Rose holds a special place for me - it was where I had my first tea presentation outside of home parties over ten years ago. (I have a picture from a newspaper article that I will share, once I find it. We recently moved and everything is in boxes!)

Over the years, I also came with friends for afternoon tea. The food was always amazing, including Loretta's legendary chicken pot pie with its generously stuffed savory goodness and gravy wrapped up in a delicate, flaky crust.

Asparagus soup, creamy goodness in a cup.

Frequent guests of the Victorian Rose will be thrilled to know, the chicken pot pie is still on the menu and it's still amazing. On my visit with my favorite cousins, Dianne and Kathy (aka, my "sistahs"), we sampled pot pie, cream of asparagus soup and chicken salad, the latter served up  with fresh fruit and a just-baked cranberry scone. Everything was superb!

Scrumptious chicken salad with fresh fruit and scone.

There were so many tempting items to choose from, it was hard to select just a few. But, we'll be back to try the crepes and afternoon tea offerings very soon.

Victorian decor with a French provincial touch

The tea is served in tea bags, but steeped in teapots brought to the table. We had our afternoon-tea go-to, Earl Grey, which worked well with our scones.

Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and on the wall.

The decor is still Victorian, but with a fresh, French provincial flair. Elegant chandeliers hang from the ceilings and the theme continues with a sparkling chandelier picture mounted on one of the lavender hued walls.

The sistahs in one of the three "parlors" in the tea room.

Each table has a unique centerpiece made of teapots, tea cups and silk flowers, which adds a bit of fun and whimsy to the setting.

Each table has a unique centerpiece.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Tonia's Victorian Rose. Not only is the food and decor something to talk about, but you also meet the nicest people to talk to. We got to know  Candy and Peggy who were at a nearby table. They, too, were out on a "girls afternoon" and are great fans of Victorian Rose.

Tonia's Victorian Rose in downtown Rochester

Tonia's Victorian Rose (tea room and more!) is located at 118 W. 3rd Street in Rochester. Tea room hours are Tuesday - Friday, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 am - 2:00 pm (call ahead to be sure no events are going on during the weekends). Reservations are strongly encouraged.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An Austentacious Tea with the Storytellers Guild

With members of the StoryTellers Guild and winners of centerpieces 

A most agreeable morning was spent with the StoryTellers Guild last Thursday at our "Austentacious Tea". We presented to a most delightful group in one of the elegant "assembly rooms" of The Community House in Birmingham.

BTS An Austentacious Tea program and display

In partnership with The Community House, the StoryTellers Guild promotes literacy in schools with a team of volunteers who visit classrooms and read to young students. They also raise money to purchase and donate books to these same schools.

The StoryTellers Guild promotes literacy in schools

An exceedingly amiable and handsome assemblage, it was an honor to be part of their esteemed company for the day.

Judy Walsh, Guild committee member raffles off prizes

I was invited to present at the Guild's May event by committee member, Judy Walsh. When she contacted me last year, I learned about this wonderful organization and all they do to encourage and support reading in schools. In turn, it was an easy choice which BTS' program to select for this group - I wanted to share my favorite teller of stories: Jane Austen.

In one of the cozy rooms of The Community House, the meeting space was transformed into a fancy tea venue, not unlike the Pump Room in Bath, where society gathered in Jane's day.

Tea Time and raffle greet guests outside the "tea room"

Guests were greeted with a "Tea Time" theme and book drawing in the lobby outside the "tea room".

Each table was set with pretty teacups and a program of the day's event. The centerpieces, which were raffled off to several lucky guests, were an assortment of tea cup planters set on glass pedestals. (something for our pinterest accounts!)

Beautiful tea cup centerpieces at each table.

In Jane's words, "if a book is well written, I always find it too short". To paraphrase, I'd add, "if company is so agreeable, time spent with them is way too short". Such is the case with the Storytellers Guild.  We'd like to thank them for letting us be part of their special May event.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Icelandic Herbal Tea from Reykjavick

Iceland is filled with natural beauty. Geyser near Reykjavick

One of the perks of having a daughter who loves to travel is the different teas she brings back for me to sample. Last year, it was some delicious chai from India, this month, it was herbal tea from Iceland.

Icelandic Herbal Tea is made up of moss, birch and angelica

In April, Rachel spent a week in Iceland - a country that, despite it chilly temps, has become the "hot spot" for tourism.  It has a population of just over 300,000, but 1.7 million come to visit annually.

Herbal tea fully brewed in front of a Puffin wine holder, also from Iceland

The country is known for its natural beauty. It's terrain is comprised of volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. It's not a stretch to conclude that in a country with an abundance of natural resources, it would have an amazing herbal tea. And, it does!

Icelandic Herbal tea from Islensk Hollusta is made up of Iceland moss, birch and angelica. The latter, as I learned from Wikipedia, is an herb native to temperate and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere and is used for flavoring and medicinal purposes. It's also referred to as "wild celery".

Icelandic Herbal Tea leaves  ready to be brewed

According to the Icelandic Herbal Tea package, the moss is nutritional and has soothing and stimulating properties. It's also an antioxidant.

Overhead lighting in an Iceland cafe. (my cup of tea!)

The birch leaves make it a diuretic tea and the angelica is said to aid with digestion and promote energy.

Aside from the health benefits this tea proclaims, it's a delicious non-caffeinated drink - earthy and hearty, but no bitterness. It's got a little mix of northern woods with grassy tones,  slightly reminiscent of a green tea but with a forestry kick. Two mittened thumbs up to Icelandic Herbal Tea and an appreciate warm hug to Rachel for bringing this tea home.

Rachel, with her Mitten State hat, in Iceland