Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Hide-Away Moment

Some of my favorite words of wisdom from my Grandma Betty were, "No one's looking at you."


This was intended, I believe, to calm the overly self-conscious teens or young people within her reach, and give them a dose of reality. We are not, in fact, the center of the universe. Everyone else is so consumed with the same worry that no one's looking at anybody - they're just worried about themselves!

As school begins and there is that anxiety of kids wanting to fit in and worried that they aren't wearing the right thing or their hair isn't done the right way, it makes me want to roam random hallways of junior highs and high schools with a bull horn shouting, "No one is looking at you! You're all JUST FINE." Probably wouldn't go over very well.

Despite the truth that no one, in general, is looking at us, the growing reality is that SOMEONE is looking at us at all times. A few weekends ago, the Man o' The House discovered that Realtor.com had a photo of our house on their web site (even though our home is not for sale). The alarming part was that the photo was taken from a slightly aerial view of the alley side of our home (we enter our garage from the alley). Not only was our garage door open at that moment, but the photo had been taken on the day we were cleaning out our garage and staging all of our goodwill items at the mouth of the garage to be loaded into our truck and carted off.  Any casual browser on that website will have no doubt in their minds that we are a family of hoarders. Awesome.

That same weekend, we were visiting a friend's house where we all went to their neighborhood swimming pool. While our two families were enjoying the pool, along with one other couple from the neighborhood, we all heard a faint buzzing sound and realized that a drone was hovering way above us - directly above us - for a full minute. Why? I have no idea. But it was unsettling. When we got home from our outing, we discovered our neighbor test flying his own drone and the neighbor kids were running after him as though he was the Pied Piper.

One day I'm living in a normal world, and the next day I'm living amongst drones.

The next day, I flew out to Houston to teach a seminar, and when I landed I had just enough time to escape to my favorite Texas oasis, McHugh Tea Room. Kim McHugh and her staff were waiting for me, and somehow knew I was in the mood to hide away.


I was escorted to a reserved table tucked away in a corner where I could feel secluded but also have the best view of the house. From my private perch, I could look at the bench made from Kim's grandparents' headboard with a view of the outdoor patio beyond. I could quietly observe the mother and daughter enjoying a special afternoon tea together.


I could soak in the wall of black and white celebrity photos all sipping a cup of tea, and inspect and admire the beautiful hand-crafted chandelier made of glass tea cups. All the while, enjoying perfectly brewed tea and Miss Billie's mouth-watering afternoon tea recipes.

Kelly, my most gracious and accommodating server, started me off with an Irish Breakfast Tea, the perfect thing to give me some pep back in my step after a long morning of travel. The tea tray was brought out shortly thereafter, and though I tried to conduct myself with the best of manners, I'll admit I devoured the Bold Blue scone (infused with Kim's True Leaf Bold Blueberry tea blend) as though I had been raised in a barn. It was too delicious.



Next were the tea sandwiches that have this incredible magic of being both dainty and hearty. I particularly enjoyed the chicken salad with the red and green grapes, as well as the Southwest influenced open faced sandwich. I don't know what all was in there, but the savory bites were finger-licking good!



And then, of course, the desserts. Irresistible. I'm not typically a fan of desserts with nuts in them, but Miss Billie's Pecan Pie bite falls into an entirely different category. Made with local Bellaire pecans, it is a bite of heaven. As a testament to this truth, one of the local farmers traded 5 lbs of shelled pecans for the delivery of just one of Billie's pecan pies. Worth its weight in gold, I'm telling you. Then there was the snickerdoodle cheese cake bite and lemon bar. There are no words.



I did get to enjoy a few minutes of chatting with Kim about the success of the tea room. She opened her doors 2 years ago this month, and I was curious about what was the most surprising part of her business. She said that when she opened it, in her mind it was about the tea. What has happened, though, is that it's about people gathering together. The tea and food certainly keeps people coming back, but it's how people feel comfortable gathering together in this tea room that surprises and delights Kim the most. And I get it. It's a place I want to spend time in.

I wrapped up my hide-away moment with Organic Cherry Sencha. Smooth, with a light sweetness, I felt ready to face the world once more and not think about the Someone's or No One's who were or were not looking at me.


Thank you, again, to Kim, Kelly, Billie and the entire team that makes McHugh Tea Room such a special place.

To Visit:

McHugh Tea

713.218.6300 
5305 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, Texas, 77401


Lunch Served Daily 

Monday - Saturday 11AM–5PM Closed Sundays

No reservations needed for parties of 4 or less
Reservations appreciated for all parties on Saturdays

Afternoon Teas Served Daily 

Monday - Saturday 2PM–4PM*

Reservations required for all parties
2 person minimum, 12 person maximun
*last reservation taken at 4 pm

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Morning Cup Moment

I'm so grateful this morning. Grateful that my girls are healthy, grateful for my husband who makes our lives better and happier each and every day, grateful for the parents I have and for my entire family, for my friends, my home, my work...

This weekend was one full of difficult news from a variety of friends. One friend dealt with a final goodbye to her mom's ashes in a special and intimate memorial. One friend's dad is now in hospice care and the family is faced with saying goodbye. Another friend's son fell from a tree, broke his jaw, his back and partially tore his spinal cord. The family is faced with the reality that they nearly lost their son and due to a miracle, he is alive and now gearing up with a long road to recovery with the hope of gaining any feeling or movement from the waist down.

My #MorningCup of Dong Ding from TeaVivre

With these friends on my heart and mind, I'd like each of my tea friends to take a moment to raise their own cup to those for whom they are grateful. Take a photo of your tea cup and post it to Instagram with what you are grateful for today, as well as the hashtags #MorningCup and #TeaVivre. Tag me (TeaMoment), and your tribute could win one of 4 online gift cards from TeaVivre who celebrates Tea for Life every day, and is celebrating their 4th anniversary this summer.

Thank you to all of you who are a part of my life, and take a moment today to give a loved one a call, a hug, or share a cup of tea. Remember, the best moments are shared.

#MorningCup

Note: Random drawing of eligible entries will take place on Wednesday, August 26th at noon PST. To be eligible, post an image of your cup of tea with the hashtags #MorningCup and #TeaVivre and tag my Instagram account, TeaMoment. Note of what you're grateful for is encouraged but not required.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Some Odds and Ends Moments

Though I have been relatively quiet on the blog this summer, things around here have been decidedly on the go, as have my tea vessels:

In a Lodge
On a trip
In the Board Room
On the Strip.
And while I don't have a picture of it (regretfully), there was the day at the beach that I was sipping a thermos of iced tea and the entire beach population was captivated as a young life guard was faced with one of the oddest moments of his life. His job was to herd the swimmers and boogie boarders toward the northern half of the beach as the surfers were directed to the southern part of the beach. As swimmers complied, there was one strange man (who looked an awful lot like a heavier version of Mr. Bean) with flippers on his feet and a snorkel and mask perched on his forehead. He watched the young life guard like a hawk. If the guard would turn in the man's direction, he would hop backward like an off-balance bird. When the guard tried to approach him to give him the instructions of where to swim, the man turned and ran (ish) with flippers akimbo. The life guard and all of the onlookers looked around to see what or who the man was afraid of. Again, the young man tried to carry out his task of communicating where to swim, and again the man flapped off, yelling over his shoulder in some foreign tongue. It was a hilarious, confusing and bonding moment for everyone at Strands that day.

Who was that flippered man?

Actually, if you want to talk "odd," for the first time in my 20 years of travelling to Las Vegas for business and leisure, I was served tea in a diner in this manner:

A Las Vegas First
Yes. That is loose leaf tea being brewed in a tea pot at a Las Vegas diner. Northside Cafe in the SLS Hotel. (Try their Street Tacos - they are AMAZING!).

So... what's your Odds and Ends story of the summer?




Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Peaceful Evening Moment

I have a confession to make. In the past several months, I've seen my tea blog described basically as a blog about tea and family, and for whatever reason the description kind of irked me. It made me a "Mommy Blogger," (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I had never thought of my writing in that way. When I mentioned my thoughts to the Man o'the House, he pointed out that, well, that's what I tended to write about these days. Tea and Family.

Touché.

So, I'm warming to the new realization.

Right now I'm sitting in my newly redecorated (though, in truth, there's nothing "re-" about it. It's finally been decorated!), and I'm sipping tea, feeling very contented. Maybe a little more so than usual. A lot of it is due to my newly peaceful surroundings: cool blues and greys against dark wood. But a lot of it is due to the fact that we had an unusually peaceful and battle-free evening the night before.



I'm sipping on a cup of Senkada's Dimbula Black Tea. I've recently become acquainted with many of Senkada's Sri Lankan Premium Teas, and this one has become an instant favorite. Pure Ceylon, bold and malty, it's exactly the way I want to ease into my day.

I had just returned from a business trip this week and had landed home in time to pick up the girls from their childcare. They hadn't expected me until bedtime, so it was a very happy surprise. We went home and saw that all the neighbor kids were swarming around one of the dads who recently bought a drone and was doing some test flights down the street. We joined in on the excitement, and then stayed as the kids broke into a game of Sharks and Minnows.

When Dad got home from work, he traded places with me and I got dinner going. Once everyone came inside and ate, Edie challenged me to a card game of War and Anne Marie asked to paint with Dad. It was a very pleasant hour of activities with no TV or electronics to speak of. I loved it.



Bedtime came, and the girls were unusually compliant when it came to putting on PJ's, brushing teeth and picking a story. Even falling asleep took less time than usual. I was actually able to enjoy time with the Man o' The House and catch up on the week's happenings.

Amazing.

And so, this morning I feel refreshed, I feel ready to take on the rest of the week and any challenges that may present themselves.



Let's refill this cup and savor the moment just a little bit longer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Georgian Moment

There's something so comforting about meeting up with old friends after a long absence. Whether a few months have passed or a few years, there are those certain friends who you see and you pick up right where you left off. There are new pieces of news or updates on old news, but the back story is already filled in, the foundation laid. I don't have to explain my utter contempt for this or my wholehearted love of that.

Which is one of the reasons my most recent trip to Seattle was so... satisfying (is the word that comes to mind). Despite my desire to slow down on the travel (see previous post), since I was travelling, I was so happy to be able to share a moment with K, my friend of now 20 years in the city that is now her home. To make it even better, I got to introduce her to another friend, H, who happens to live in the same neck of the woods. I explained to them, "You are two of the smartest people I know on the entire planet. You must meet!"

And so, what better place to host a meeting of the minds and filling of the soul than Afternoon Tea. And what better place to have Afternoon Tea than The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

To begin such a moment, we started with Kir Royale. Fitting, as I was with K in Pau, France when we were first introduced to the aperitif.


With tea selected (I went for the 1907 Blend), 


sugar cubes approved,


tea tray delivered,


and presentation admired,


it was time to enjoy tea and friendship.

There was plenty to catch up on. K just bought her first house, and H is working on a new aspect of her business. We covered the spectrum of conversation from transgender issues to major Facebook faux pas, to my apparent gap in literary education that is Ready Player One (Yes, D, K agrees it is a must-read before it becomes a must-see), to the importance of sugar cubes, to European travel in general and travel to Paris and Pau in particular. 

All the while, we were taken care of beautifully by The Georgian staff. Each scone, savory and sweet described in great detail, tea pots were refreshed regularly, and we were allowed to linger as long as we liked. 

It was the best possible scenario. Soaking in the comfort of spending time with K, enjoying the luxury of learning more about H, feeling chuffed at the opportunity to connect two people I care about and admire, and doing it all over a favorite pastime in the most elegant environments. 



Perfection. 



Friday, July 31, 2015

A Tea Moment on The Lawn

It's the last day in July and this is the first blog post I've written here all month! How can that be?

But, I guess if you consider that since January 1st,  I or the Man o' the House or both have been on the road every week until last week... well, it begins to make sense.

Boise, Napa, Las Vegas, Boise, Richmond, Long Beach, Seattle, Houston, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Boise, Las Vegas, Seattle. And that's just my stuff.

What I've realized in the last several months is that as much as I love to travel, I'm weary of it. To always have a suitcase half-packed  - which used to be a point of pride for me - is now an eyesore and a constant reminder to not get too comfortable.

The blender called, "Life" has been set to "Pulse." And the seconds of peace between those flurries of chaos have become more and more precious. Those are the seconds when I reach for the familiar, the routine, the comfortable. Even on the road, I take the familiar with me. Over the past couple of months, that familiar thing has been tea. Tea from The Lawn, in general. English Breakfast, in particular. And while some hotel rooms require that you get a little inventive to have a civilized cup...

The Lawn - English Breakfast in Las Vegas
this tea blender does a wonderful job in making those precious seconds as full of beauty and enjoyment as possible.



This afternoon I'm luxuriating with a cup of Royal Tea Earl Grey. The delicate sachets allow me to see the soothing colors of the tea leaves, rose petals and cornflowers, as well as inhale the citrus, rose scent.

As it steeps, I can sit and breathe the fragrance in more deeply.



And then there is the first sip. A bold Sri Lankan black tea with the gentlest hint of citrus. The rose scent seems to brighten the citrus notes perfectly. You can tell a lot about a tea company by its Earl Grey. If I detect a soapiness in an Earl Grey, I'm often suspicious of every other blend they have, but when it comes to The Lawn, they exercise restraint in the right areas and the result is a beautiful balance.

Balance. That's what I'm continuing to pursue. Two steps forward, one step back. Not so much a journey, as it is a dance.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Moment with Assam 1860

Summertime, and the livin' is...

CRAZY!

It's been an exciting few months as both the Man o' the House and I have each been travelling extensively for work engagements. We send each other online calendar invitations to ensure at least one of us is home to carry on family life.

But now, it's time to finally slow down, enjoy the summer, enjoy our family and friends. Enjoy some tea.

I was so happy to receive a gift from Assam 1860 of their Assam Combination Box. One side contained a 80g pouch of loose CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl) tea and 10 tea bags. How perfect for my on-the-go present mode! Some loose tea to be brewed leisurely at home, and individually sealed tea bags to carry in my purse or briefcase for those hotel mornings on the road.


But, of course, with both options, one can't help but ask, "Which is better?"

This morning, as the sunlight was barely filtering through the front window, I brewed a small cup of each. The steeping lasted 2 minutes, and then the fun began.

First, the Assam brewed from the tea bag. The aroma is malty with a hint of sun-ripened berries. The first sip is bold and velvety smooth. There's a light astringency, but not at all unpleasant. This is a tea that can kick you into gear and soothe at the same time. I may be in love.

Next, the Assam brewed from the loose tea. The aroma is malty and earthy. The first sip is so bold, my eyes are opened a little wider. This is a tea that will wake you up and boot you out the door! The mouth feel is a little more raw, not as smooth, and definitely has more astringency than the tea bag. Again, not unpleasant to me, but some tea drinkers may want to add a little milk and sugar to mellow it a bit. 

Loose tea on the left. Tea bag on the right.

I also found the tea bag to brew a clearer tea, while the loose tea was just the slightest bit cloudy (unnoticeable if they had not been side-by-side).

My conclusion: they both win in my book! This is what  I love about Assam teas. They ARE bright. They ARE bold. They feel substantial and sustaining. The color is deep and rich. It's a feast for the eyes as much as my taste buds.

On this pleasant, summer morning, I'm sitting back and enjoying the view, cup of Assam in hand. I think summer vacation has finally arrived.