Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween from BTS' northern Michigan Tea Garden (enter if you dare!)

The misty, moody feel of the Pemberly Pines tea garden, captured by my photographer husband, Chris

Tonight at the Pemberly Pines tea garden, tea may not be the only thing brewing. Lurking in the fog-filled woods, bats may fly, owls may screech and witches may brew, but, it's still a beautiful spot to sit, reflect and sip tea . . . any time of day, any time of year.

The P. Pines tea garden is home to perennials, herbs and teapots. 

Our "formal" tea garden started four years ago at our northern Michigan retreat, Pemberly Pines. The garden is set in a large clearing where we've cultivated flower beds that are home to perennials and herbs. It  has proved to be a natural gathering place for tea time with friends and family during all four seasons.

In the winter, we cc ski to the garden, covered in a blanket of snow

In the winter, we cross-country ski to the garden and in the spring, we watch the snow melt around the  welcoming "T-E-A" letters, literally set in stone.

In the spring, we eagerly await the great snow melt

Summer brings more visitors and more afternoon tea parties. At our annual family reunion, along with paintball and boating, afternoon tea has become a requisite event. And, the fancy affair in the woods is not just for the ladies, as my brother proved this year.

Family reunion tea time tradition, crashed by my brother, Glenn

In the fall, our friends join us at Pemberly Pines for a walk in the woods, where the leaves of the oak trees among the pines turn a harvest-hued rainbow, and we sit for a cup of tea.
Our friends join us for a fall retreat at Pemberly Pines and tea  in the garden

Pemberly Pines tea garden is a lovely place to sit during any of the seasons, but tonight, it captures an eerie beauty, perfect for Halloween. I must credit my photographer husband, Chris, for the misty, moody, October tea garden picture at the very top. He captured the "fall feelz" of our northern Michigan retreat.

Black teas pair nicely with  cookies and Kit Kat's no matter where you celebrate!

Although, we're not actually at Pembery Pines this haunted holiday, we are there in "spirit". Tonight, we're enjoying a cup of Venetian Rose tea and Halloween sugar cookies, baked and decorated by my daughter, Rachel.

In the woods, garden, or a  wonderfully, densely populated neighborhood block filled with trick-or-treaters, enjoy a cup of heartily brewed tea paired with a sugar cookie, Kit Kat or Almond Joy and from BTS, have a happy, happy,  Halloween!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Celebrating National Chocolate Day in northern Michigan

Doing our part for National Chocolate Day at Alpine Chocolat Haus in Gaylord

According to National Day Calendar, October 28th is National Chocolate Day. Here at BTS, we welcome any day that celebrates our favorite confectionery treat no matter where we are. This weekend, we're in northern Michigan and fortunate to find a lot of great palaces to honor this special day,

Alpine Chocolat Haus in downton Gaylord is filled with tasty treats: ice cream, hot cocoa and, as the name suggests,  lots and lots of chocolate treats.  They offer  what you are sure to expect, truffles and caramels, along with the not-so-standard fare, including chocolate covered potato chips and apples. The latter are decorated for the season (this weekend we found some black cats and Spartan apples).

Chocolate covered apples, including black cats and Spartan "S"

A short drive from Alpine Chocolat Haus, there's double-the-fun at The Old Spud Warehouse and The Bearded Dogg Lounge, a gift shop and gourmet restaurant, respectively, all under the same roof.  We found some wonderful treasures inside both to honor National Chocolate Day. 

Tea towels at The Old Spud Warehouse

The Old Spud Warehouse is always filled with great finds, no matter what time of year. But this weekend, we keyed in on a new selection of tea towels embellished with wise and witty prose.

The towel versed with a rationale for chocolate as salad inspired us a little bit later as we dined at the adjoining Bearded Dogg.

If chocolate is a salad, could carrot cake be considered a serving of veggies?

Here we indulged in the Bearded Dogg's dessert menu and chose carrot cake served with a chocolate garnish.  We had to eat our vegetables before getting to the chocolate!

After vegetables (carrot cake?), you get chocolate!

If you want to enjoy the taste of chocolate, but skip the candy and the calories, we recommend Light of Day's (northern Michigan Tea Room and Farm in Traverse City) Cacao Mint.  A black tea blend with peppermint and chocolate, it serves up a satisfying dessert in a tea cup.

Save on calories with a cup of Cacao Mint from Light of Day

May we add, this may be enjoyed in the northern woods, next to a cozy fire served in a vintage tea cup from Lewiston's own Antique Depot.

Chocolate tea tastes even better in a tea cup from Antique Depot

However- or wherever, - you celebrate National Chocolate Day, it's sure to be delightful.  Here at BTS, we don't necessarily need a reason to partake in chocolate, but we'll never turn down a day to honor this decadent treat!

Truffles from the Alpine Chocolat Haus

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ciao Bella! Italy is a beautiful place to visit

Coffee in Florence. When in Rome. . . 

Ciao Bella!

Italy is beautiful, inside and out. Graced by nature, with sloping verdant landscapes and scenic coastal shores along turquoise seas, this country also houses some of the most spectacular architecture and artistry in the world. It's also home to amazing food, wine, coffee and, yes, even tea!

Last month, I visited Italy along with my husband, Chris, and daughter, Rachel. We spent time in Rome, Venice and Florence, making our way to all the "must-sees", like the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and David, and taking part in all the "must do's", gondola rides, pasta dinners, and sampling every flavor of gelato.

Parting in the "must-sees", the Colossuem tour at night


In our travels, we also paid a visit to two amazing tea rooms, but more about those in upcoming blogs. Aside from those lovely afternoon tea venues and our Venetian hotel, we mostly drank espressos and other coffee drinks because when in Rome. . .  (couldn't wait to use that!)

What I loved the most about Italy was the passion of the people and the artistry they bring to everything,  whether it's a small outdoor cafe tablescape or grand hotel lobby. Old mixes with new to make ordinary things extraordinary:  a chipped teapot filled with fresh flowers, bold blue plates accompanied by bright red napkins and ornate chandeliers illuminating centuries-old stone walls all work together to enchant and charm. Even the McDonald's, with it's glass counters filled with trays of multi-hued macarons looks like a high-end pastry shop,

Rachel and Chris at McDonald's in Rome, we're not in Kansas, Toto!

Our hotel in Rome, Hotel Manfredi,  was on Via Margutta, a short walk to the Spanish Steps, and home to Gregory Peck's character, Joe Bradley, in the movie "Roman Holiday".  (We learned this  later in our stay and finally understood why so many people were taking pictures of the address, '51 Via Margutta').

Charming Cafe, with beautiful tablescapes on Via Margutta

Italy is also a place where anything can happen and it did! We met up with our good friends from Michigan, Rik and Carol, while in Rome. (Their vacation intersected with ours for one day (!) and we met up for lunch at a quaint restaurant near the Spanish Steps.). 

Meeting up in Rome with friends, Rik and Carol, from Michigan

We also crossed paths with a celebrity while in Venice, and we're part of his entourage for an exciting 15 minutes of fame.

Part of of celebrity entourage for 15 minutes of fame, with Nick Reynolds

So, that in a hazelnutshell, is our trip to Italy. In upcoming stories, we'll dedicate one blog for each of the great cities we visited: Rome, Venice and Florence.

Pasta dinner in Rome. Ciao Bella, Italy!

Ciao Bella, Italy!