Meetup Report: Tea at the Langham

Meetup Report: Tea at the Langham

Champagne Tea
I have such fond memories of this tea experience~ I hope to go back sometime.

In early February I went to tea at The Langham. I adore having tea service at hotels, and this was one I had not been to before, so I was very excited. (Also, it had been quite a while since I had tea at a hotel, as my financial situation has changed and I have to take care in regards to this kind of extravagance.)

The Langham serves their afternoon tea in the “Pavilion” space. This was a lovely dining area with large windows and bright design. With off-white chairs and couches, marble tabletops, and lots of shiny chrome, it looked very open and illuminated.

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Meetup Report: Formal Tea

Meetup Report: Formal Tea

Whoops! It’s been a while~ My school and my job appear to have been conspiring to keep me quite busy, and whenever I have some free time I cannot put down Pokémon White! (I’ve literally spent hours wandering around Route 6 trying to catch Emolga. I haven’t even seen one. My husband thought I was being overdramatic until he tried to help me. After fighting the tenth Audino, he exclaimed, “Alice, what have you done to piss off Emolga?!?!” I’ve logged seven more hours of gameplay than he has, most of those hunting for that flying electric squirrel.)

I’m sure it’s already very apparent that I looooooove tea. I don’t just like buying and drinking tea, but I also like going to other locations to partake of tea–particularly afternoon tea. (Afternoon tea is often called “high tea,” which is incorrect. High tea is an early dinner with meats, cheeses, and breads. Afternoon tea is an late snack with daintier fare and pastries.) I particularly enjoy afternoon tea at fancy hotels. They have such wonderful ambiance; I adore the beautiful settings and china. There are several hotels in the city that offer afternoon tea, all for roughly the same cost, and this time I opted for The Drake.

Flowers
The enormous bouquet at the hotel’s entrance was so beautiful that I thought it had to be fake until I saw someone water it and trim off a few wilting blossoms!

The lolita community in my area tends to prefer long meetups–rarely does anyone really want to say goodbye. The reservation was made for the earliest available time; it wasn’t a very “authentic” time for afternoon tea, but it gave us the most time to sit around, chit-chat, and enjoy each other’s company. (We probably would have stayed even longer if the hotel hadn’t needed that area for another large party.)

Everyone assembled right on time~ Several girls came into the city from suburbs or other more distant areas, so they were early thanks to the train schedule. I was quite happy that no-one was lost on their way to the hotel! I tried to arrive early, but I was actually one of the later guests to arrive. I didn’t even realize it until someone came and told me, as I had been waiting by the door so I could spot people coming in from outside, while those who were already there were waiting in the lobby.

One of the things I particularly enjoy about the Drake is that they have a large complimentary coat check situated conveniently near their Palm Court, where the tea is served. It was so much nicer to have everyone’s heavy winter things and large bags checked rather than piled up at the table with us. (Especially for me–I move around too much and I’m always knocking my coat off the back of my chair and onto the floor! It’s safer when kept out of my way.)

Teacups and More
I like the china at the Drake–the design is very classic.

Everyone ordered their tea individually, and thankfully the list of available teas was long enough to allow everyone a choice of something they’d prefer. I chose Pear Caramel, which I really enjoyed~ It had a strong pear taste with a smooth sweet note of the caramel, backed by a rich black tea blend. It thought it went quite nicely with scones and desserts, and it wasn’t overpowering with the savory sandwiches.

Food Service
I think tea-trays are so pretty and elegant! If I had more kitchen storage I would own one for my own use.

The full service consisted of scones and banana bread on the bottom tier, a selection of tea sandwiches on the middle, and an assortment of miniature desserts on the top. The sandwiches were very good–I particularly enjoyed the pear and watercress with bleu cheese mousse even though I normally dislike bleu cheese. I also rather like that the Drake doesn’t only serve scones, but also fruit bread. The miniature desserts were adorable–there were miniature tarts, cheesecakes, cakes, and (my favourite) cream puff swans~ ♥

There was plenty of food, which I was thankful for. Afternoon tea is supposed to prevent that “sinking feeling,” not make you wish you had something else to snack on. (Aaaaaand I was able to sneak a few more abandoned desserts and scones after everyone left the table to take pictures. Waste not want not, right?) One member of the party arrived after we had already been served, and our waiter re-appeared shortly with another plate of offerings so that she would have the full menu of options. I thought that was very good service.

The Crowd
I wish this hadn’t been so blurry, but my camera doesn’t respond well to low light. It’s very old and quite finicky.

As the tea came to a conclusion, most of the group went into the lobby to take pictures. I didn’t get to take many pictures of everyone at this point–I stayed at the table because I was paying the bill; I didn’t want the hotel to think I had disappeared. I did hop over after settling, but I was too distracted talking to people I hadn’t sat near to really be that interested in pictures.

Soon it was time to part ways. Several girls headed out to catch their trains back home or hurry off to meet other obligations. I originally planned to head home, but I was having a nice time with everyone. A group decided to go to a vintage fair in a different part of the city, and I was easily persuaded when I realized it was near an ice-cream shop that I adore. (I’m unable to resist the siren’s song of sweets…even if I’ve just had some. u_u)

Ghost of Lolita
I thought this picture was very neat–it’s a reflection in the train’s window.

So we hopped onto the bus (after giving brief directions to others who would be meeting us via car) and headed over. It’s always amusing to travel on public transportation with several lolita. Everyone on the bus was very confused, and everyone on the L was very suspicious. No-one was brave enough to talk to us on that trip, not even to ask if we were in a play or crack a “Little Bo Peep” comment.

At the Market
It was fun to browse through everything at the market, even though I don’t know much about vintage and wasn’t really looking for anything in particular.

The vintage fair was upstairs in a large area above a furniture store. It was filled with lots of different people selling clothing and accessories. One of my friends knows some of the sellers, so she had suggested that we stop by. Most of the sellers were in awe of seeing a bunch of girls all dressed up like we were, and lots of cameras were brandished and pictures snapped. It was fun~

I spent some time running up and down the stairs to try and find the others that were driving to the area. When I finally headed back upstairs with them and was looking around again, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder. She told me that she had seen me around and followed me “like the white rabbit” into the sale. I always think it is neat when random people comment that they have seen me elsewhere in the city. I’m sure it’s kinda confusing to see me once, but I wonder what they think when they notice that the girl in weird clothing wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

Science Ice Cream in Action
This is a shot of the mixers as they prepare the ice cream! The billowing fog is from the liquid nitrogen.

When we were done with the vintage sale, we headed over to iCream. It is an ice cream shop that makes your ice cream from scratch while you wait. When you order, you select the type of milk you want used, pick your flavour(s), colour, and any mix-ins or toppings. Then, the liquid mixture is added to a standing mixer that automatically dispenses a quantity of liquid nitrogen to insta-freeze the milk into ice cream. I like to call it “science ice cream,” and I think it is amazingly fun to watch!

Everyone who ordered chose a very interesting and personalized combination of flavours and colours. I’m predictable and unimaginative, so mine was pink cake ice cream topped with rainbow sprinkles~ ♥ It was wonderful. I’ve tried quite a few combinations at their shop, and I think some of the flavours are not very accurate,
but the cake flavour really does taste like cake. Mmm, cake~ ♥

Lolita Take Over iCream
The front of the shop was very full of lolita trying crazy ice cream. (There were other people behind the girl with my camera–there were maybe ten in our group, total.)

After that it was getting late and time to head home. I was really sleepy when I got back to my house, but I was also very happy to enjoy such a wonderful day. I’m hoping to organize another formal tea later in the year–maybe it will be even better!

Sweet Treats: Wintery Teas

Sweet Treats: Wintery Teas

In preparation for my holiday gingerbread party, I bought more tea. I love drinking tea, but more than simply drinking tea I like to drink the right tea.

What is the right tea?

It’s a tea that seems perfect for the occasion at hand! Tea that compliments the flavor of any food being served alongside it, tea that appeals to the palette of those partaking of it, and tea that provides a nice aroma and atmosphere. In the wintertime, I particularly like spicy dark teas that smell like the holidays. When I went to my favourite tea shop, Tea Gschwendner, and I picked out a few teas that I hoped would satisfy my hopes of “winter” coziness.

Baked Apple Tea
A warm cup of tea is even better when the weather is chilly and wintry–or at least, I think so!

No. 908 Gwendalina’s Baked Apple Tea
Apple Flavoured Black and Green Tea

This is a truly fantastic fall and winter tea. I buy this in fairly large quantities as soon as the weather starts to cool. This is like having apple pie in a cup, but is most certainly a tea and not a cider.

The use of both black and green teas in the blend creates a rich tea that has somewhat sharper notes (from the green tea) and a full body. Pieces of dried apple add a distinct apple flavour. You can smell the apple very strongly when the tea is brewing or sitting in the cup, and the apple hint is very distinguishable as an aftertaste with each sip. Almonds add a pleasant nuttiness, and cinnamon accents the apples superbly. This tea is good served black, but becomes even more dessert-like when served with sugar and cream.

White Christmas Tea
White tea is much less dense and less heavy than black or green tea, so the same weight of white tea fills a much larger package!

No. 998 White Christmas
Vanilla-Almond Flavoured White Tea

This white tea has a fresh hint of lemon, paired with vanilla and almond. The package states that it is reminiscent of sugar cookies, and I agree. As this is a white tea, the much less intense flavours of lemon, vanilla, and almond can really stand out. The tea itself lends a pleasant backdrop to the other flavours. It’s a very nice tea for when you want something that isn’t very heavy~

Winter Magic & Banana-Choco
I originally wanted to brew each of the teas, to show them in the cup, but that’s a much more time-consuming project~

No. 1320 Winter Magic
Cinnamon and Cardamom Flavoured Rooibos

This tea has an intense blend of spices that seems to be amplified by the rooibos. Although rooibos is not technically a tea, I still very much enjoy it. It has a rich, earthy flavor that is already fragrant and aromatic. I always think of this red “tea” as spicy. When cinnamon, cardamom, and sandalwood are added, it becomes a blend that is filled with spices without having any of the “heat” traditionally associated with spicy things. I think it feels very warming~ The sandalwood is one of the more interesting tastes in the tea, because it’s very woodsy and smooth.

No. 1588 Banana Chocolate Crêpe
Choco-Banana Flavoured Black and Green Tea

This tea isn’t really holiday-ish, but it’s pretty amazing–so I wanted to mention it anyway. I bought this tea because it sounded like a neat concept; I do very much like the banana and chocolate flavour combination. The tea contains dried banana–not “banana flavouring”–and bits of actual cocoa, so the smell is heavenly. It doesn’t have any of those odd smells that tend to accompany artificial flavourings. (I think that most of the time those don’t taste anything like the real thing, anyway.) The blend of black and green teas is a very enjoyable one–not so strong as to overwhelm the banana, but strong enough to support the cocoa.

With a little bit of sugar added, this becomes even more amazing. Everyone who tried it at the party was very surprised to find that it did really taste as good as it sounded like it would taste. I consider that a success!

When loose leaf tea isn’t practical, for whatever reason, there are a few inexpensive bagged teas that I’ve really been enjoying–those sold by Trader Joe’s. I normally drink their Duchess Earl Grey, a lemon-accented Earl Grey, as my bagged tea of choice, so I was interested in trying their new winter teas when I spotted them in the store. At an incredibly affordable price–roughly $2 per box–I’m not heartbroken if they don’t meet my expectations.

2 Winter Teas
I think these have some of the cutest box designs that I’ve ever seen. I particularly adore the polar bear~ ♥

Vanilla and Cinnamon Black Tea
This is a warm, spicy black tea with a hint of sweetness. The “sweetness” is actually vanilla, and thus it isn’t truly sweet, but it adds a nice high note to the tea. The black tea is laced very heavily with cinnamon; it leaves a “warming” sensation with each sip, but the tea itself is strong enough to avoid being overwhelmed by the spice. The combination of flavours is exactly the sort of thing I hope for in a winter tea.

Candy Cane Green Tea
When I first went to the store to pick up new teas, I passed up this one. The flavour combination seemed strange and perhaps unpalatable. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized I wanted to try it. Green tea, when brewed correctly at a lower temperature than boiling point, has a very refreshing taste that sometimes seems to have notes that remind me of freshly-cut grass. Peppermint is also refreshing. Thus the two would have that in common. Additionally, green tea doesn’t have the same tendency towards astringency that black teas can have, so there would be less chance for a sourness to compete with the peppermint.

I went back and bought a box, and I’m very glad that I did. This a very cooling, soothing tea. It’s the sort of thing I want to drink when I have a headache or an upset stomach. The peppermint is strong, but not too much so. It blends nicely with the leafiness of the green tea.

I do so love tea! ♥

Charming Activities: Tea Party Planning

Charming Activities: Tea Party Planning

Rather or not the activity itself is suitable to lolita fashion, I adore tea. Through the adoration of tea, I also love tea parties! Everything from casual intimate tea parties with snacks for a few friends to formal afternoon tea served by white-gloved waiters at fine establishments. I often invite people over “for tea,” which usually means hot tea and some snacks. For other occasions, I’ve planned more elaborate tea-focused, events.

The true beauty of a tea party shines in the highly customizable nature. It is very easy to adjust different aspects of a tea party to suit many different types of events!

You Are Cordially Invited

When planning a tea party, the simplest place to start is your guest list. The people that you are inviting to your party should provide a guideline for how you shape the rest of the party. (This is much easier than planning a party to suit your tastes and then figuring out who you’ll ask to attend. That’s like putting a square peg through a round hole.

The number of attendees will often dictate your budget. With a guest list of only four, it wouldn’t be troublesome or terribly expensive to have a shopping list full of new teas and exotic sweets or savories. If your guest list has twenty or more guests, it will cost a pretty penny to focus on luxuries for everyone.

While it is possible to host a large and elaborate tea party by charging guests a fee for attending, I find that it can be difficult to ask for money to attend a private party–and friends that you may be longing to see might not find the cost within their budget. The situation is different if you are arranging a public event, but if the party is to be personal, attaching a ticket price is not usually a grand idea.

Beyond the budget, guests lists are important so that you have an idea of your guests tastes. If your guests are friends, and everyone (or nearly everyone) wears lolita fashion, the dress code is rather obvious. If several names on your list are vegetarians, you know you’ll want to provide options within their dietary constraints. If the guests are of legal drinking age, you may consider hosting a champagne tea.

What’s This All About

Some tea parties are themed. Other tea parties are formal. Still more tea parties are casual. Afternoon teas typically consist of three courses–scones, savories, and sweets. High tea (often improperly used interchangeably with afternoon tea) is an early dinner, providing a meal rather than light snacks.

You may have decided to host a tea party to celebrate a birthday or other special event. In that case, the “theme” of the party is probably related to that celebration. A tea party thrown just for fun has many options. If you think your guests would appreciate the elegance and refinement of a formal afternoon tea, you could craft an event with fine china, flower vases, and tiers of treats. If your friends have other interests, you could add a less often considered element–such as a buffet-style tea while watching a favourite movie… or participating in a video game tournament.

I believe that it’s essential to consider the preferences of your friends during the planning of a party. This ensures that everyone has a much better time–and parties are most enjoyable when everyone is sincerely cheerful and no one is forcing a smile. A theme that suits the natures of the attendees will be warmly received and more successful on the whole.

On Tonight’s Menu

When a theme is decided on, the menu may simply fall into place. For example, a formal afternoon tea traditionally consists of scones (served with clotted cream, lemon curd, and jam), savories (bite-sized sandwiches or tarts), and sweets (cookies, petit fours, and other miniature desserts). A summer garden tea may call for lemonade to be served alongside the tea and a tossed salad with fruit to accompany light sandwiches.

If the general setting of the party doesn’t bring specific edibles to mind, following the general guideline of afternoon tea is generally useful: a non-dessert baked good, something savory, and something sweet. Unless the tea is served as a meal, sitting at a table as different courses are brought in and removed, it’s best to choose items that do not require the use of utensils–particularly if some guests may be balancing their plates and teacups on laps as they sit on armchairs or sofas.

Consider any dietary restrictions of your attendees. If you know there will be a few vegetarians, make sure that at least one savory option is meat-free. It is also helpful to inquire about friends’ allergies in advance. (I often ask people to let me know of any allergies when they R.S.V.P.) Very severe allergies can sometimes be triggered merely by being in the same room as an allergen, while others could become life-threatening if the person doesn’t realize that the must-be-avoided ingredient is unseen in a baked good or a sandwich’s filling.

Those are some of the most basic hints and suggestions for hosting a tea party. There’s no strictly “right” or “wrong” way–after all, as long as tea is provided in some capacity and a party is going on, it’s technically a “tea party.” No one will bang down your door if your pinky is raised too high or your scones were swapped out for muffins~

Regardless of the type, I really do love tea parties. I think they’re a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the company of good friends. And after all–there’s nothing like a cup of hot tea~ ♥

Meetup Report: Dolls & Tea

Meetup Report: Dolls & Tea

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I consider a meetup to be any occasion where I am spending time with someone else and we both intentionally wear lolita fashion. If I had more days to my weekends, I’d try to spend as much of it as possible with friends! Schedules change and people move away, and I don’t want to wish I had gotten to know someone better.

Besides lolita fashion, I’m almost interested in ball-jointed dolls. Whenever I meet other lolita who also like dolls, it’s fun to get together to see each other’s dolls and talk about related subjects. Not every lolita likes dolls, and I don’t expect the two things to go hand-in-hand, so I try not to talk about it too much to avoid driving everyone else crazy~ However, I rarely get to local doll events (they are often too far for me to travel and conflict with my schedule), so I try to create my own with the friends I’ve made. ★

Nono Nono
Two dolls, both of which are the same but also different~ Neither of which are wearing lolita fashion, although both are frilly!

On Friday, a friend of mine came over with a few of her dolls. We had originally talked about making plans so that I could see her newest doll in person, as it was a doll I have liked for a while. I wanted to see how it looked in real life compared to promotional and hobbyist photographs. However, I wound up purchasing that doll at the event I went to in NYC, so we actually got together to compare dolls and talk~

My home is very tiny, but I really love having friends over! ♥ Someday I’ll have to get a bigger place so that I can do more entertaining. I was also glad to have a chance to introduce my friend to my husband, as she hadn’t met him yet. It’s nice when he can connect a face and personality to the name of whomever I’ve been talking about.

We went out to lunch at my favourite bakery~ The weather was perfect for sitting inside, enjoying the air conditioning while the sunlight streamed in through the windows. The menu was full of light and summery dishes–I ordered chilled cucumber-mint soup that was absolutely amazing! ♫ My husband and my friend each ordered a berry lemonade, one of the beverage specials of the day. It was deliciously homemade–so much better than bottled flavoured drinks!

On the walk back to our house, I showed my friend the “secret” Japanese market. It’s not really a secret, but it’s very unobtrusive and many people don’t even realize it’s there at all! She’s didn’t realize she’d walked past it so many times~ It’s not an extensive market along the lines of Mitsuwa, but they do carry an assortment of food, toiletries, dinnerware, traditional clothing, garden supplies, books, origami paper, caligraphy supplies, and more! However, since there isn’t a lot of foot-traffic they don’t do much business, and thus they don’t always have very new stock. However, it’s still convenient to have nearby. I bought some sweet rice; I’m hoping to make mochi~

Double Nono
My doll, still unnamed, is on the left. My friend’s doll, Hotaru, is on the right.

When we returned to my house, we talked about dolls and I unboxed my new doll. It was a lot of fun to have the same doll! They’re literally identical, except for the fact that we’ve each dressed ours to suit our tastes. (I was very amused to see that we had both almost immediately swapped out glass eyes for the default acrylic eyes. It was so nice to have someone to talk to while I changed those in my doll. The company that makes our dolls uses hot glue to secure the eyes, and getting that hot glue out can be very difficult!)

ElleJay and Hotaru
ElleJay and her doll, Hotaru. Don’t they look alike? ♥

I’m sure my husband appreciated that I had someone else to talk about doll-things with instead of him! (Although he’s a sweetheart and doesn’t mind, anyway.) Inevitably our conversation darted back and forth from dolls to clothes and back to dolls again. We enjoyed some tea, as well, although I think the weather was so warm that we kept forgetting about actually making the tea we had previously discussed! I think we both really enjoyed ourselves; I can’t wait to plan something else.

I want to do something creative and entertaining, but I haven’t focused on exactly what yet. Maybe a doll photoshoot, or an actual doll tea party… Hmm… Or some kind of craft… I think we could have a lot of fun! ♫

Meetup Report: Housewarming Tea

Meetup Report: Housewarming Tea

My favourite meetups aren’t giant events with lots of pomp and photo opportunities–my favourite meetups are intimate events with lots of conversation. I feel bad whenever I realize that there was someone I didn’t get the opportunity to know. Sometimes I get so excited about seeing old friends that I forget to take enough time to meet those I don’t already know~ With a smaller group it’s easier to hold a conversation that includes everyone, come to a decision about what to do next, and generally make everyone feel welcome. That’s not to say that such a thing can’t happen at a larger event, but it takes a conscious effort to do so.

Thus I was very excited to go to a small tea party at a friend’s new apartment; she hosted the event as a housewarming. Hosting parties provides the planners with almost endless room for creativity, but it can get expensive very quickly! Doing something on a smaller scale, where you decide the guest list, allows you to do things elaborately without going broke. Fancy ingredients can be very pricey, especially if 20+ people are supposed to come…and if guests cancel at last minute you might be eating those leftover tea sandwiches for a week! If you want more control, less attendees makes it easier.

Tea Time
The table was elaborately set by the time we arrived, with flower petals and beautiful blue and white china.

I arrived a bit too early (which I have a particular knack for), but already the table was set with china and flowers. Cucumber-mint cream cheese and plum & prosciutto sandwiches were cooling in the refrigerator while scones baked in the oven. I brought a loaf of pumpkin tea bread, which is essentially a loaf of sweet quick bread made with strong brewed tea instead of other liquids. It tastes mostly like pumpkin spice, but I like to think the tea makes it more suitable for a tea party~ Another friend brought a lovely summer salad with avocado and strawberry. My little sister brought jalapeno cheese spread, which she and my husband tried on nearly everything else on the table.

Tea Time
The cucumber and mint with herbed cream cheese on whole-grain bread tea sandwiches were so pretty~ Very vibrant and green. Warm scones are lurking in the background near Devon cream.

The weather was almost unbearably hot, partially because it’s summer and partially because the apartment was on the top floor of a building and lacked air conditioning. Some of my smarter friends had brought collapsible fans, while those of us who hadn’t had that foresight (aka: me) kept ducking into the air-conditioned bedroom. It didn’t prevent us from enjoying ourselves, however! It was a lot of fun to sit around the table and talk~

Eventually we decided to take a walk, so we headed out to meander around the neighborhood. I had forgotten my parasol, but my little sister kindly lent me hers. ♥ I tried to hold it to provide some shade for her, as well, although I don’t think I did a very good job…

On our walk we passed a very cute candy store: Suckers Candy! ★ I saw the penguin first, to be honest. I love penguins, so when I noticed a big penguin on the sidewalk my first reaction was to squeal, run up to it, and please-please-please-please get someone to take my picture with it. I noticed the penguin’s “Ice Cream” sign, and turned around to see a candy store!

I peeked inside to see if they had candy cigarettes, which I really love, and luckily they did! My husband was very sweet and bought them for me! ♥ Not only did I get to hug a giant penguin, I also wound up with candy! It was great~

Penguin Love ♥
I really fell in love with this penguin. He’s so big AND he’s advertising ice cream!

I enjoyed walking with my friends and taking part in conversations. Eventually the heat and humidity got to be a bit much, so we ducked into an air-conditioned coffee shop. I didn’t get home until a bit late, but I had such a wonderful time! I hope that my summer is full of more of those outings~ I want to spend and enjoy time with my friends as much as possible~

Meetup Report: Pinecone Cottage

Meetup Report: Pinecone Cottage

This weekend I had the good fortune of being able to attend a birthday tea party at the Pinecone Cottage. I had missed a previous meetup at that locale and very deeply regretted it. I love going to tea, and from what I heard it sounded like the tea service at the Pinecone Cottage was very enjoyable! Now that I’ve attended and experienced it myself, I quite agree. I had a wonderful time and am really looking forward to going back.

We met at the train station, which is right across from the tea house. Once we determined that everyone had arrived, we headed indoors.

The tea house is incredibly charming. ♥ The tables are covered in white cloths and set with mis-matched but complimentary place settings. Everything has a shabby, romantic, antique sort of ambiance. I particularly liked the mis-matched ornate flatware, which I suspected to be old pieces of silverplate. Each table had a small pink candle and a beautiful white and pink rose as the centerpieces. They were a lovely touch, and not so bulky as to get in the way of conversation. The chairs look as though they’re made of branches, and the backs are decorated with a swath of coloured tulle and flowers.

Quaint Teapot
This was the tea pot that we were started out with~ It wound up being too small for us to share without many refills, since the tea we chose was wonderful!

When we were all seated, tea menus were brought out. The tea selection was varied, with something for everyone between the black, green, and herbal options. (I’m sure there was white tea as well, although I don’t remember it distinctly and thus think there was a smaller selection of that type.) I chose a flavoured black tea called “Russian Renaissance,” which the girl sitting next to me also selected. It was delicious and exactly what I was hoping for. I’m sure she felt the same way, as together we drank several teapots of it!

The Pinecone Cottage has a different menu for each month. Our theme for June was “Sun Porch and Roses.” The first course was a refreshing salad topped with a Vidalia corn chowder. The second course of savories consisted of asparagus pinwheels in a flaky crust, tomato-cucumber crostini with mozzarella, and zucchini bread with prosciutto and cream cheese. All were very good, although the crostini was rather hard to eat in a ladylike fashion–perhaps if the bread had been sliced thinner or more toasted it would have been less difficult. The zucchini bread was my favourite; I would have gladly eaten a slice of it sans meat and cream cheese~

Sandwich Course
I ate most of the courses without taking pictures, as that is the sort of thing I am known to do, but I did manage to take a picture of the savory sandwich course.

After the savories we were brought cherry-lavender scones with raspberry-rhubarb jam and lemon Devon cream. The lemon cream was absolutely heavenly! I would have eaten it with a spoon had I not been seated at a table with other ladies and supposed to be behaving myself. :3 The raspberry-rhubarb jam was made by the tea house itself (they also sell preserves) using Elizabethan methods. I love rhubarb anything–it immediately makes me think of summer! ☆ It was delicious on the scones.

The dessert course consisted of peach Bavarian cream and strawberry-blackberry cobbler. Both were delicious! My only qualm was the way it had been plated–the Bavarian cream was in a cool glass dish standing on a plate, with the cobbler heaped beside it. This led to cobbler sneaking under the glass dish or wandering elsewhere; it would have been better on its own plate. The peach Bavarian cream was absolutely delicious. Now I have dreams of a creamy pink lemonade gelatin dessert…

Inside the Cottage
I tried to get a picture of the beautiful decorations inside of the tea house; it was very woodsy and romantic.

Inside, we were seated at tables of three or four. Although that did prevent a lot of mingling, it made for easier conversation. I really enjoyed talking with everyone at my table! I hope the other tables were having as much fun as we were. (Although hopefully with less mishap… I got a bit overexcited at one point and broadsided a new, larger teapot all over the girl to my left. ;___; I still feel so stupid about it even though she was so gracious and assured me that everything was okay. I can’t even imagine how mortified and guilty I’d have been if she had been injured–thankfully the tea was not scathingly hot! I’ll have to find a way to make it up to her.)

I rather suspect that the other tables did have as much fun, or at least that’s what my husband reported. He sat at a different table–we don’t need to be glued at the hip, and he doesn’t attend meetups as my accessory or pack-horse. Despite the fact that he doesn’t dress in an aristocratic style, he likes the socializing aspect and comes for the conversation. It’s quite amusing, because he seems very shy–but he was the one insisting that we would go! (I’m very thankful he did–I would have missed out on a lovely time and it wasn’t at all as terribly expensive as I initially feared.)

Our Table
The birthday girl’s boyfriend was kind enough to take a picture of our table, although it was rather difficult.

One of the most exciting things for me about this meetup was that I had the opportunity to meet a few lolita I hadn’t met before! There are lots of girls interested in the fashion around Chicago, but we don’t always wind up together in the same place. Now that the weather is warmer and most people aren’t in classes (myself included), I’m seeing lots of participation from people I’ve never met before~ This always makes me cheerful. ♥ A community cannot continue if it become stagnant. Eventually people will stop wearing the fashion or leave the area, and the numbers of the group would dwindle away. I also like meeting new lolita because I remember being new to the community and what an important role it’s played in my life. I hope other people can grow to feel the same way~

(I suppose that was the little part where I stand on my pedestal and cry sparkling tears from star-filled eyes as I passionately rally the troops of frills and lace. XD It seems very silly and melodramatic, but I truly and sincerely mean it! ☆ My ultimate goal is to meet and spend time with everyone in area. I’m always working on it.)

Tea Group
After tea, we took a picture outside of the tea house~ We had to hold still for a while so that everyone could get a picture.

When tea was over, we paused to take some pictures outside and then wandered around the area a bit. The tea house is in the downtown area of that suburb, so there were some cute little shops to investigate. We enjoyed looking around the local toy store; it made me feel nostalgic to see things like wooden food that velcros together and Playmobil castles and dragons. I almost had a fluffy-flustered-enthusiasm attack when I spotted a wall full of Calico Critters!

My husband was kind enough to buy me a set of bunnies when I bounced over and tried to explain that oh-my-goodness-there-are-tiny-animal-figurines-wearing-clothes-and-doing-human-things-I-need-some-in-my-life. He even helped me figure out which box of critters to choose. We decided on bunnies, and right when I was wishing there were brown bunnies or white bunnies, someone moved a box of gray bunnies and uncovered white bunnies with brown-tipped ears! ♥ They’re wonderful! I thought I was going to purchase said bunnies, but my husband surprised me by sneaking off to the cash register while I was convincing a friend to buy the gray bunnies. (Isn’t that what friends are for?)

Bunny Family
These were my “spoils” from the trip–Calico Critters! I’m so excited to own them.

I had an absolutely wonderful time! (I hope the birthday girl did, too!) Everyone was so sweet and friendly, and the tea service was better than most I’ve had at hotels recently. I can’t wait to go back~ I’d love to convince others who couldn’t attend this time to come to a future tea party. There’s something particularly intriguing to think that each month there will be a different menu–I’m sure they’re all delicious~

Sweet Treats: Clean Cup Move Down–More Tea

Sweet Treats: Clean Cup Move Down–More Tea

Although my kitchen has a drawer dedicated to and overflowing with tea, I’m always on the lookout for something new. I drink tea on a constant basis–at home, at work, at restaurants, and at the homes of others. My closest friends tend to put the kettle on when they know I’m heading over, even when the summer sun is blazing. ♥ Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat bored with my current options. Mentions of small tea companies producing quality teas have been cropping up in every publication I’ve come across lately. I suspect it’s related to the Alice in Wonderland fever from the recently-released movie.

For Christmas a few years ago, my grandmother gave me a box of Tea Forté. The tea itself isn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it isn’t bad–and the packaging is so adorable! The tea “bags” are little narrow pyramids with a small green leaf atop a green wire, as if a small plant is sprouting from the tip of the bag. The rigid structure is very useful–it won’t slip into the cup like a teabag’s tag-on-a-string might, making it simple to remove the teabag later. Part of my grandmother’s gift included a set of little stands, perfectly suited to resting one of the tea bags. This prodded me towards purchasing another set of their teas when I found some at a store I stopped in for thank you notes.

Dolce Vita Collection
With flavors like raspberry and chocolate, I could not leave this in the store. It had to come home with me.

As I am myself, I selected the “dessert tea” Dolce Vita set. The six flavors are Belgian Mint, Coco Truffle, Orchid Vanilla, Raspberry Nectar, Vienna Cinnamon & White Ambrosia~ The tea is fairly good quality, although not as good as, say Tea Gschwendner, my all-time favourite company. ♥ Although the tea isn’t sugary, the flavours are sweeter than a harsher tea yet also very intense. They’re intended to pair well with very sweet desserts, so they have to avoid being overpowered.

Raspberry Nectar Tea
This was the raspberry nectar teabag~ It brewed a beautifully dark pink cup of tea and was VERY raspberry-ful. If I were going to tea-dye, this is the kind of tea I’d use!

That didn’t quite satisfy my desire for trying something new, though~ I poked around at local stores, but didn’t spot anything that really caught my attention. In an old-lady way, I save magazine and newspaper clippings; I recalled that I had a few for teas I wanted to try. Sure enough, I found one I had removed from a Martha Stewart Living magazine for Steven Smith Teamaker of Oregon. I browsed their beautiful website and placed my order, wishing that I could have smelled the teas in-store before purchasing.

There were so many things I wanted to try, but I didn’t want to overwhelm my already-stuffed tea drawer. I settled on all black teas, as that’s what I primarily drink; white and green teas could wait for a future order, if I place one. I ordered No. 23 Kandy because I couldn’t resist the name, No. 9 Yunna because I thought my husband might be intrigued with the description of “spice & leather,” and No. 64 Ceylon Dimbulla BOP1 because I like Ceylon yet rarely buy it and it’s a common base for Earl Grey, which I adore. (BOP1 is part of the grading system for Pekoe tea. It’s used for broken/fannings/dust teas–there’s a different system for crush/tear/curl teas. BOP1 means “broken Orange Pekoe first grade,” containing roughly 40% full leaves and 60% broken leaves.)

Steven Smith Tea Assortment
The wonderful assortment that greeted me when I opened the small box that arrived to my doorstep~ The thank-you note is a charming touch.

Ordering from Smith Tea was very simple. The website is beautiful but uncomplicated, and the ordering process well-organized. My tea shipped the day after I ordered it and arrived when estimated. The box was a little crushed at the corners, but the tea was well-packed and even the shipping invoice was unbent.

As soon as it arrived we opted to try No. 23 Kandy, obviously because of the name. It’s a smooth, mild black tea without bitterness. I liked the faint floral notes. It was very good, overall, and I can think of a lot of circumstances that it would be perfectly suited to~

No.09 Yunnan
I brewed it a bit darker than recommended, but it didn’t become bitter. I liked the colour–it does have a red tint.

No. 9 Yunna was the second to be tried. It did have a smoky flavor, as listed in the description, but not very intense. Usually, when I think of smoky teas I think of Lapsang Souchong, which is intensely smoky. This had a much more subdued flavor, and the taste of spices paired with it well. It went very well with the mini stroopwafels I had picked up earlier in the week~ ♥

Some other tea companies I hope to try include Damn Fine Tea, Tea for All Reasons, Portsmouth Tea (particularly because they make a blend specifically for Milk Tea), and Serendipitea. Maybe after Dolpa–if I keep buying tea it will interfere with my budgeting!

If you know any others, recommend or suggest something to me! ♥ I’m always looking to try something new~

Daily Life: A “Momoko” Moment

Daily Life: A “Momoko” Moment

In most ways, I’m not much like Momoko of Kamikaze Girls (original title Shimotsuma Monogatari)–and I think that’s a good thing. Her personality isn’t exactly the best–she’s rude, selfish, untruthful, and conceited. She isn’t even in denial–she readily admits that beneath her beautiful clothes her soul is rotten. Despite my disapproval of her personality and actions, the way she lives is very intriguing, if unattainable. I’m sure I wouldn’t really want to lie around all day reading about embroidery and eating sugar-coated cereal for dinner, but sometimes when work or class is exhausting me I daydream about how relaxing it would be once in a while.

The scene from the film where she shows her sugary and insubstantial boxed lunch~

I particularly think of the food she’s always eating–always sweets, never anything else. I like sweets very much myself, but I keep it balanced with lots of vegetables and grains~ That wasn’t the case for her. I always wondered if she secretly ate other food, but she seemed the sort who would rather get scurvy than do something she disagreed with, so perhaps she just took really effective vitamins.

Since my husband isn’t here I haven’t really felt like cooking dinner. I don’t eat very much and I’m not very hungry, and it seems like a waste to make something if I don’t particularly care either way–and then I might hope those ingredients are still here for a future meal. (As if I’ll never get to a grocery store again–it’s completely irrational.) I did make a cheese soufflé the other day, but this evening I didn’t want to eat it again after having some for lunch already. I remembered that we had some strawberries that absolutely must be eaten or else, and thus my dinner was decided: tea and strawberries & cream.

An Alice Dinner
The evening meal of champions very silly girls who absolutely know better. A honey & butter sandwich was made later and not pictured.

It was just one of those silly things that brightened my mood a bit. My husband hasn’t been gone for very long, and I’m sure he’s having a wonderful trip. I kept myself busy over the weekend so that I wouldn’t miss him too much, but I miss him just as much regardless of how many other things I’m doing to keep myself occupied. Sometimes doing something that you know isn’t necessarily the “right” thing to do, but is absolutely-completely-undeniably the “fun” thing do–the fun thing is the better choice. (And one non-nutritious meal is harmless. If I made a habit of this I’m sure I’d be quite sick!)

I’m also getting acquainted with my beautiful-wonderful-amazing new computer. ♥

My computer is rather old, and it’s been giving me trouble for quite a while. So much, in fact, that before I graduated from university my father told me that he would get me a new computer as a graduation present. (Yay!) And then I graduated, and heard nothing of the computer for months. When it was finally brought up again, the new computer was suddenly surrounded with red tape and more delays. It had gotten to the point where I thought I’d have to start saving up for the new computer myself–especially because my former computer has been continuously making suicide attempts. I haven’t actually been able to use it in over a month, but I thankfully my tiny pink netbook has been pulling me through! Tiny pink netbook is really not a permanent replacement, however: he runs Linux and has an itty-bitty screen.

My Baby ♥CANDY♥
Mallow and the computer. Both are cute, but Mallow’s still cuter. I think he can take solace in that. He hasn’t been forgotten even though Monsieur Lait has been prominently featured as of late.

The best part about my new computer is that it’s new. The second-best part of my new computer is that it’s PINK~ ♥ I love every centimeter of it’s textured pink Windows 7-running self. ♥ It has well over ten times as much hard disc space, much more RAM, doesn’t do crazy things for no reason… And it’s pink. Did I mention it’s pink? It’s pink.

My brother and father argued over the computer, apparently. I told my brother that I wanted a pink computer that wasn’t just junk, since whatever I get will have to be my internet-and-other-stuff terminal for a long time. I am not very swayed by new technology, preferring instead to buy frills and tea. My brother declared that this was the best pink computer in the given price range, and then my father looked up every review he could find and brought up whatever negative points others had found, for my brother to rebut them. I really appreciate both of their hard work! ♥

My father very seriously told me I should immediately tape my business card to the bottom of my laptop, so that I don’t pick up someone else’s when we go through the security checkpoint in the airport. Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem.

Meetup Report: Tea at Chalkboard

Meetup Report: Tea at Chalkboard

I will admit right away that this doesn’t actually count as a meetup report. I didn’t actually go to a meetup over the weekend–but I did spend a lot of time running around with my little sister, both of us in frills; enough time that I wanted to write about it. Particularly because we went to tea on Saturday and she prodded me to actually take some pictures there.

Beautiful Sconces

There are a lot of nice places to go for tea in the city. Most of the major hotels downtown have afternoon tea services in gorgeous settings–with a price tag that can be $40 or higher. As much as I enjoy indulgence (I do wear lolita fashion, after all.) sometimes it just isn’t realistic to spend so much for one person. I particularly love drinking tea, regardless of its association with the lolita stereotype, and am always hoping to find a nice place to relax and enjoy a few hours with tasty tea-time snacks and good conversation. The release of the new Alice in Wonderland movie has prompted a lot of focus on tea, and I’ve read reviews of teas and tea services in places I’d never spotted them previously.

After seeing the restaurant’s name several times, I decided to try Chalkboard. The price is very affordable in terms of afternoon tea–$19 per person for the service. We discovered upon arriving that it is best not to come too hungry, however, as the service includes two finger sandwiches, one flat scone, and four bite-sized desserts–a slightly smaller assortment than I’m accustomed to, although completely understandable for the price.

Afternoon Tea Menu

The sandwiches, one egg salad and one salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese, were certainly good but not astounding. The cranberry scone, which I can’t help thinking of as a “scookie” due to its flat nature, was very tasty–particularly with the strawberry preserves. The sweets consisted of a brownie, lavender cookie, yogurt-filled tart, and cookie dough eggroll. The cookie dough eggroll was my favourite, but so messy! Thank goodness for forks; it wouldn’t have been polite to scoop up fallen dough with my fingers, but I would have done it. The yogurt-filled tart was least impressive, as the blackberry topping it wasn’t sweet enough to stand up to the sourness of the yogurt.

My little sister ordered Upton Tea Co.‘s “Sweet Almond Green,” which was exceptional. It was smooth, without bitter notes, with almond bouquet and a slightly spicy cinnamon finish. I chose the “Honeybush Superior,” also Upton Tea. It had a light, slightly-woodsy taste and went very well with sugar.

Ah, Afternoon Tea

The real star of our tea was the house-made pâté. My little sister spotted it on the dinner menu, and since I hadn’t eaten anything else that day the suggestion was irresistible. The pâté was chicken and duck liver…with bacon. It sounded good. It tasted fantastic. It isn’t typically a part of afternoon tea, but I have a weakness for well-made pâté, and the tea was a good accompaniment for it. It was served with toast squares and white beans, an onion relish, avocado, wholegrain mustard, and olives. We enjoyed it so much that I’m toying with the idea for returning someday for pâté and two pots of tea–as long as pâté is still on the menu, which changes frequently.

I think that Chalkboard would be a nice place for a meetup, especially now that I know what to expect. (And now that I know where it is and won’t get lost, as my directions there were not the best and we were saved only by my little sister’s magic phone of fanciness.) I enjoyed the atmosphere and the service–I can only wish it was closer to my house! …Okay, and I can also wish that afternoon tea included pâté. (Although I don’t think most of the other lolita in my area would share my wish!)