Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Blessings

Valentine's day! I cannot allow the holiday to pass without sharing bits and pieces of this heart-filled holiday.

February has been cold and snowy. It's been the perfect time for projects and crafting. Even simple projects like organizing a bookshelf can brighten up the day.

Red is the color for tea service in February! It is such a cheerful color and is the color of love.

Valentine's cards and tea samples from friends brighten February days, making a daily walk to the mailbox a rewarding experience.

And pretty in pink, a puppy's visit was so pleasant and sweet. Cuddles and tugs-of-war alternated with this frisky little beauty. Sudo is such a love.

Good morning! Being called "handsome" is a great way for some to start the day!

Flowers. Tulips and lilies.

Chocolates and a tea tasting.

Red roses. Beautiful red roses.

And a Valentine's brunch of crepes, fruit sauces, and Darjeeling tea.

Happy February!
Spring should be here soon!
Do you have snowdrops in bloom yet?
None here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Jazzy Cream Tea

Sedona, Arizona is known for beautiful red rocks and sunshine. That's how it usually is when we pass through, but the last time we were there we were blessed with a sparkling cover of sticky, white snow. What beauty! It was a chilly day, so a cup of hot tea was in order! Following the instructions of Americana (which is whom we call the voice of our vehicle GPS) we found the local tea room.

The Jazz Bouquet is a combination florist shop and tea cafe. It was a beautiful combination of two  delightful things --- flowers and tea! The shop proprietress is Kim, a gifted florist who added tea to the shop after she found some unique tables and chairs at a vendor show. An idea was born and a tea room was added to the floral shop. The aesthetic beauty and aroma of fresh flowers combines in such a charming atmosphere with scones, tea sandwiches, and fragrant hot tea. It is a friendly and relaxing place. It is truly a spa for the senses!

In addition to floral designs and afternoon tea, unique gift items are available throughout the shop. Kim features charming teapots, imported teas, European bath and beauty products, and high quality chocolates.

The decor was inviting, fresh, and clean. Interesting tea-words were featured as an upper border on all the walls. Prosperi-tea, Generosi-tea, and more gave food for thought while waiting for tea service.

Kim features Tea Forte. The presentation was a tea ceremony unto itself. Tea and accoutrement were presented beautifully on a white platter. A special teacup with cover was filled with water of the perfect temperature and set on an absorbant white napkin. A green ceramic stage was set beside the teacup and a packaged, silken pyramid of loose tea was arranged on the other side. A part of the process of enjoying this tea is the act of preparing it. The tea package is unwrapped and the pyramid goes into the teacup. Once steeped for the proper time, the silk tea bag is removed and placed on the green ceramic stage. A tiny, green, paper left works as a handle for the tea pyramid and fits right through the top of the lid. Such a simple detail creates charm and makes everything seem so ceremonious.

I ordered the cream tea, but Kim generously added a lovely tea sandwich on rye with dill and pickles. The scones were fabulous! A hotel chef with exotic training has retired to Sedona and comes in weekly to prepare scones for afternoon tea. They are frozen until ready to bake and serve (a common practice among tea shop owners). This way they are served fresh and hot out of the oven!

I enjoyed the presentation of tea with scones. The raised glass tray added interest and beauty to the table presentation.

According to their website, afternoon tea is served daily, between 2:00 and 4:00 by reservation. They serve "cream tea" which includes a scone with cream and fruit preserves, a "light tea" which includes two tea sandwiches, one canapé, and a scone with cream and fruit preserves, and "full tea" which consists of four tea sandwiches, one canapé, scone with cream and fruit preserves, and a selection of pastries. Additionally, elegant chocolates are available individually. The teas are a selection of many available from Tea Forte.

It was interesting to observe Kim arrange flowers as I enjoyed my cream tea. I felt it was unique and added to the experience.

Chocolates. Cookies! So many tempting, tasty treats!

All in all, this was a wonderful experience! The cream tea was beautifully presented and prepared to perfection. The ambiance could not be beat! It was inviting, modern, and welcoming. If you are ever in Sedona, I encourage you to stop by for a lovely cup of tea!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tea in Bisbee

We found tea in Bisbee!

The thought of tea rooms might seem foreign in a place like the desert southwest, but tea is a beverage that can be consumed and enjoyed wherever you go. But, sometimes it takes a bit of work to find places that distribute or serve quality teas. That makes the search all the more interesting.

Houses built on Bisbee hillsides.

Bisbee, Arizona is a small town of a few more than 6,000 people and it's located in southeast Arizona, not far from the Mexican border. It was founded in 1880 as a mining town. Copper, gold, and silver were largely mined there, with by-products like turquoise, cuprite, aragonite, wulfenite, malachite, azurite, and galena being found as well. The town was named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee who was one of the financial backers of the famous Copper Queen Mine. The town is built on hills, with layer upon layer of houses and buildings gracing all levels of the community. Long sets of stairs are used in many places to reach houses on the higher levels. It seems like Main Street is the only level place in town.

Grandpa walking on Main Street

Main Street winds one-way through town, with Clawson Avenue running back the other way. It's a fun loop to walk, as the buildings are old and quaint. The mines are now closed, although tourists are now taken deep into a mountain that contains the Copper Queen Mine. Each guest is given a hard hat, a miner's headlamp and a yellow slicker before they are set aside small rail carts that go 1,500 feet into the mine. Tour guides are former employees of the now-closed Phelps Dodge Company who owned the mine. It's all very authentic and exciting, especially when the tour guide has everyone turn off their headlamps and you see how dark it really is underground!

Narrow streets and many tourists make walking single-file necessary.

Now days, Bisbee is a haven for artisans and retired folk. It was once named quirkiest city in American, a title that I believe is well deserved. Quaint shops with interesting things to see line the streets. Antique stores, art galleries, small cafes, used bookstores, museums, and quirky clothing stores can be found. Beads, gauze and tie-dye, and flashy cowboy boots all meld together into a fashion-sense that seems completely normal there. Away from the shops of town, beautiful old hotels and homes can be seen and appreciated.

Quaint and pretty southwestern tea shop.

It was along Main Street that Divine Teas & Novelties was found. Proprietor Lilith claims to have the only blending tea store in the state. She creates blends with organic teas and medicinal ingredients. Lined behind the counter are gallon jars filled with these delightful blends of black, green, white, herbal, chai, rooibos, and medicinal teas and tisanes. A spicy fragrance fills the air and customers are allowed to breath deeply of the ingredients in the jars of tea they are most interested in. 

The door is open and invites everyone inside.

Unfortunately, a cup of tea could not be purchased in the shop, as the only teas and tisanes sold were by the scoop, then bagged to be brewed at home.

Tea ware, both old and new.

The novelties were mostly tea related accoutrements, teacups, and teapots. Some were antique and others were new.

The Copper Queen Hotel

A cup of hot water and a tea bag could be found in the restaurant at the famed Copper Queen Hotel. 

Main Street winds through Bisbee.
Our tea picnic.

Or, in enjoyed in the back of our pick-up where thermos' of hot, brewed and decanted tea were enjoyed with our picnic lunch. If you ever have a chance to visit Bisbee, be sure to allow enough time to explore this wonderful little gem!

It was a pleasant day in a pretty town.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Seeking Tea in Tombstone

Grandpa in Tombstone

It's always pleasant to visit friends and family. And it becomes even more fun for me when I have the opportunity to search for tea! Grandpa spends several months of each year in Arizona and invited us to come and be his guests. It was an enjoyable experience and we visited several interesting sites nearby. Today I'm sharing about a stop in Tombstone. Have you ever been there? It is one of my favorite places. While most are interested in the story of gunfights and the wild west, I have enjoyed seeking out little things that interest me, like a museum of historical costumes and clothing, the local guild quilt museum, finding places that sell sarsaparilla so I can bring it home to the (now adult) kids, and browsing the antique shops. Pioneer life and the wild west interests me so.
Tour guide at Bird Cage Theater

Our first stop was at the Bird Cage Theater. A tour guide beckons tourists in from the door and once a crowd has gathered, explains the history of this historic theater. She names famous people who have been guests there in a list that is a mile long! And many of the names are those that are familiar from history books. This small, but interesting theater was opened in 1881 and was named for the fourteen "boxes" that were placed on two balconies on either side of the main central hall. Although there was a stage and an orchestra pit, the theater is best known for its gambling and the ladies of the night who entertained there. It really was a fairly unsavory place, although now it's interesting to visit and see the historical items on display. It's said that the longest card game ever took place in this location, lasting eight years, five months, and three days. The New York Times, in 1882, declared that "this theater was the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast". More than 120 bullet holes can be seen throughout the building, and our tour guide was quick to point out several right there in the lobby. But let's move along, shall we?
Stagecoaches steal the show on Main Street

Tombstone was founded in 1879 and is in the southeastern part of Arizona. It was a silver mining town and grew from one hundred people to 14,000 in a few short years. It was a bustling little town! By 1881 it had not only a bowling alley, four churches, a school, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice house --- it also had 110 saloons and 14 gambling halls as well as numerous dancing halls and brothels. There was nothing quiet, nor proper about Tombstone!
Common attire of the day!

Tombstone is famous for the shoot-out at O.K. Corral. It is an event that is re-enacted daily.  A deadly conflict between a gang who stole cattle from ranchers and law enforcement has given Tombstone a place in history. The Earp brothers all assumed roles as lawmen and ended up in a confrontation with the Cowboy gang. Wyatt is probably the most famous of the Earp brothers. Interwoven into the history of the area is a love affair between Doc Holliday and Big Nose Kate. If you see her picture, you can tell she was aptly named! An interesting and generally unknown fact is that Doc Holliday was a cousin by marriage to Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind. The longer one spends researching the history of a place like Tombstone, the more connections can be made with other famous Americans of the day.
Crystal Palace Saloon

Of the 110 saloons in Tombstone, the Crystal Palace Saloon and Big Nose Kate's Saloon are probably two of the most famous. Both are still a part of the Tombstone scene, open daily and frequented by dozens of curious tourists who visit there. The ambiance and decor of each of them is much the same as it was in the late 1880's. Authenticity reigns in Tombstone.
Cowboy Garb

In the present time, Tombstone holds connections that tie our family together with memories. A cousin of eight years old visited the town on a girls trip with me and my mom and mother-in-law. A few years later, she was married in true western style at a Tombstone church. And an interesting man we knew from a church nearby played an authentic role as an actor in scenes from the town's history. Trips with our kids to this western community have proven fun over the years. Lessons in history are much more easily learned with such colorful object lessons.

Wooden boardwalks line Main Street

But, where does the tea come in? As we walked along Main Street, I was surprised to see a small little shop at the entrance to a shooting gallery. Inside was a friendly woman who was dressed in frontier garb. Teapots and baked goods were displayed at the back of her small eating establishment. Could it be? Would it be possible to have tea in Tombstone? Yes! And she was happy to share about her experience.

Opening day of Buns & Guns

It just happened to be the opening of her very first day in her quaint little cafe and bakery. She'd earned her way, carefully dressing with authenticity and baking homemade treats in a rented space in a commercial kitchen. For two years she was a walking bakery, carrying baskets of her home-baked goodies up and down the boardwalks, selling them to passers-by. A city committee oversees each business, making sure they meet the standards of authenticity that they require as part of the historic portions of their town. She worked carefully to meet the requirements and after her years of hard work, she was finally able to rent a space where she could open her store-front cafe. She told me that she was the first bakery in 100 years in Tombstone.
Favorite teapot
Buns & Guns

I admire her hard work and enthusiasm for her tasks! And I hope that the next time I am privileged to visit Tombstone, that she is still there and that her business is thriving! It's wonderful that a cup of tea can now be found in Tombstone!
The soda bar

I've shared pictures from the bar at a Tombstone saloon, and a bakery bar that serves tea just down the street. It's only right that I share one last bar before the tour of Tombstone is over. Down at the end of the street the soda bar was filled with kids, enjoying sodas and ice cream. It appears that Tombstone has something for every one's taste! If you ever have a chance to visit Tombstone, I recommend it. And be sure to take time to go off the beat and track. Sometimes the best places are those that are not the most touristy places, but rather the nooks and little places along the way. Explore and enjoy!