Monday, October 14, 2019

Double the Pleasure

With only two guests coming to Afternoon Tea at The Whitney today, I got the day off and my hubby and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie a second time.  The theater didn't precede the showing with a review of the six series as the advance showing did, but we didn't need it.  

After my research on Royal Tiaras, I recognized immediately the tiara Mary, Princess Royal, and Countess of Harewood [portrayed by Kate Phillips on left] wore in the film.  I glossed right over it the first time.

[Internet Photo]

She's wearing a replica of the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara made by Garrard in 1919 from a tiara [that doubled as a necklace] given to Queen Mary as a wedding present from Queen Victoria.  She gave it to the Queen Mother in 1936 and she loaned to Princess Elizabeth and Princess Anne on their wedding day. Just before Princess Elizabeth left for the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, the tiara snapped and the court jeweler had to be rushed over for an emergency repair.

Much like the Kokoshnik tiara, it was designed to look like a fashionable Russian headdress with 47 diamond bars.  Queen Elizabeth, II inherited it upon her mother’s death in 2002.  

Four generations wearing the tiara.

[Internet Photo]

Princess Mary fascinated me because so little is ever mentioned about her.  I enjoyed reading about her life after seeing the movie.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of tea drinking scenes that took place in the movie.

When I went to see the Dressing Downton Exhibition at the Biltmore Estate in 2015, no pictures were allowed [as was permitted at the Winterthur Museum Exhibit], so I bought the costume book.

The book states the Crawley women, and other aristocratic women of their time, embraced haute couture.  They would have been attracted to the House of Worth, the foremost fashion house established by British designer, Charles Frederick Worth, headquartered in Paris, with a location in London.  

Lady Sybil was attracted to designer Paul Poiret who trained at the House of Worth before branching out on his own.  

In the Downton Abbey movie, Queen Mary's dresser said that she trained under Madame Lucile [Lady Duff-Gordon], the leading British fashion designer from 1893 to about 1922. She was an innovator of couture styles, opening her first shop in London in 1893.  She incorporated as "Lucile Ltd." in 1903 and her business expanded with salons in New York City in 1910, Paris in 1911, and Chicago in 1915, making it the first leading couture house with full-scale branches in three countries.  She was the first British-based designer to achieve international acclaim for a global couture brand.

Titanic buffs know she was a first class passenger on the ship along with her husband Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and her assistant.  They survived in Life Boat #1 with only 12 passengers on board. A lot of scandal surrounded their survival, but in the end they were exonerated. Currently I'm reading the book, The Dressmaker, a novel about her - fiction and fact mingled together and I'm enjoying it.

Have you seen the Downton Abbey movie yet?  Several articles have stated that because of its success a sequel is likely.  We can only hope!

Saturday, October 12, 2019


It's hard to believe a week has come and gone since the Downton Abbey tea at The Whitney, but my research continues on.   One of the guests suggested I do another tea with a more in-depth program about tiaras and encourage attendees to wear a tiara.  The other guests agreed, so we'll see what transpires.

In the meantime, I'm working on my presentation for the October 27th tea at the assisted living facility and using my research about tiaras for part of the program.  

It's said, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," and there's no other piece of jewelry [tiaras are among the largest pieces of jewelry] that can display more glittering diamonds and other precious stones than a tiara.  I've discovered tiaras are usually given a name, so I'm naming my faux tiara The Whitney tiara or should it be the Downton tiara?  ;-)  

I'm in good company with my choice of a sapphire tiara, because Queen Elizabeth, II has one too [with genuine stones, of course!].  Her's is called The Belgium Sapphire Tiara [but it also goes by the name of the King George VI tiara and the Victorian Sapphire tiara].  

When the Queen was married in 1947, her father, King George VI, gifted her with a sapphire and diamond necklace and earrings that were made around 1850.  

[Internet Photo]

In 1963 she decided to supplement her father's gift with a tiara to match.  She purchased a piece of jewelry with royal provenance - a 19th century sapphire necklace that once belonged to Princess Louise of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha [born Princess Louise of Belgium].

[Internet Photo]

She had the necklace turned upside down and set on a frame and has worn it exclusively as a tiara. She also had a bracelet made to complete her sapphire parure.  She celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee [65 years on the throne] in February 2017. She's the first monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee.

[Internet Photo]

Queen Elizabeth is said to have the largest and most valuable collection of tiaras in the world. It includes tiaras inherited from generations of her family, tiaras she's purchased/had made, as well as those given to her as gifts.  I did a Google search to see how many are in her personal collection.  I came up with 18, but that's probably not conclusive.  She also has coronets and crowns/diadems, but they're in a completely different category than tiaras.  A crown is not jewelry, rather regalia associated with sovereignty and nobility.  In the strictest sense only sovereigns and their female consorts wear crowns.

Queen Elizabeth, II's paternal grandmother, Queen Mary of Teck, adored tiaras and couldn't get enough of them. I read she wore a tiara every night for dinner even when she and King George V were dining alone.  Queen Elizabeth inherited several of her tiaras including the Vladimir Tiara that actress Geraldine James wore in the Downton Abbey movie when she portrayed Queen Mary.

[Internet Photo]

The tiara used in the movie was painstakingly replicated since the Queen's original couldn't be loaned out!  ;-)  It is said to be one of her favorite tiaras.  The Vladimir Tiara is a Romanov Jewel that was supposedly smuggled out of Russia after the Revolution by being concealed in a bonnet.  It was commissioned by the Duchess Vladimir.  When Queen Mary acquired it she decided it needed some repair and refurbishing.  She had it redone so that 15 pearls could be interchangeable with her Cambridge Emerald drops that belonged to her grandmother, or it could be worn plain without the pearls or emeralds.  Queen Elizabeth has been seen wearing it all three ways.

[Internet Photo]

Today anyone can wear a tiara, but tradition and etiquette dictates only a bride or married woman should wear a tiara.  The tiara was seen as an emblem of the loss of innocence to the crowning of love. 

Family tiaras represented 'old money' since they stayed within a family and were passed down from one generation to another.

I'll never own a real tiara or crown in this life, but Scripture says there are five Heavenly crowns that believers can receive in Heaven:  The imperishable crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory and the crown of life.  These crowns won't be worn as symbols of wealth, status or achievement, but rather to lay at the feet of Jesus in worship.  I pray my earthly life will be lived for Him in such a way that I can receive at least one crown to lay at His feet.  I'd rather have one of those crowns than one that has to be locked in a vault for safe keeping, and left behind after death.

Enough about tiaras and crowns for one post.  To bring this around to tea... I drank two large cups of Harney and Sons Molly Brown's Special Blend while typing this post and it was good!  ;-)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Whitney Downton Abbey Tea - Part II

Meet the wonderful servers, Steven and Debra.  I trained Steve to do tea on the weekends when I don't normally work, and he is great - very thorough and conscientious.  The day of the event they were named William Mason, second footman at Downton [anybody but Thomas Barrow!] and Anna Bates. 

 Debra, Lady Mary, and me [wearing my one and only imitation tiara!]  ;-) 

~ Some of the guests came in period costume ~

There were three sets of mothers and daughters attending.  One mother and daughter went to see the movie after they left the tea.  The mother in the photo below is wearing the tiara she wore on her wedding day.  Her daughter is getting married after the Christmas holidays and her reception is going to be at The Whitney.  I asked her if she was going to start a tradition by wearing her mother's tiara at her wedding.  She said she hadn't thought about it, but her mother liked the idea.

One happy Tea Lady livin' my dream!

The guests ready and waiting for the event to begin.

The first course - Raspberry White Chocolate and Blueberry Scones with Chantilly Cream and Orange Marmalade - were on the table when the guests arrived.

Two of my friends that attended the tea - Linda and Louise.  A third friend, Barbara, was on the other side of Linda and isn't visible in the photo.

The event began with a Champagne or non-alcoholic Elderflower Cordial toast to Downton Abbey and a fun afternoon together.

A few have inquired separate from the blog comment section, if the restaurant was disappointed with only 18 attendees.  In case you wondered the same thing, they weren't disappointed at all.  Originally the Director of Operations [my boss] wanted to cap the event at 20, but he extended it to 30 at my request.  The count came closer to his desire because it was only advertised for two weeks on the website, and minimally promoted on the restaurant Facebook page.  Since he had never seen one of my events, I couldn't help wondering if he wanted to keep it small until I proved myself.  Another factor was that it came at a time when the restaurant was promoting several City Fest events.  I don't know his exact reasons, and mine is not to question why.  It was a nice intimate group, much like was seen on Downton Abbey when the Crawley family entertained, so everyone was happy. 

The Scone Course was followed by a Soup [Tomato Bisque] and Salad Course, then the Savory Course.  Sorry, no photos of that, but below is a photo of the desserts.

I began the program during the dessert course and gave my presentation on Downton Abbey tiaras and the responsibilities of a lady's maid.  Then we had a fun game of Downton Abbey quotes called, "Who Said It?".   The winner got a bottle of  Elderflower Cordial.  Lastly was a fashion show for those who came in costume and were willing to participate.  There were four brave souls so we didn't have to vote - I declared all four winners and they each took home a floral arrangements.

One last photo on the Grand Stairway before everyone departed, minus seven attendees. The lady in the front row [white dress], was celebrating her birthday, which generated singing Happy Birthday to her.  The guests all said they had a good time, so who could ask for anything more.

I hope you enjoyed attending the tea vicariously.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Downton Abbey Tea at The Whitney

The Downton Abbey tea that I had the pleasure of planning and executing at The Whitney restaurant in Detroit has come and gone.  Today I'm sharing highlights of the event which will be divided into two posts.  

We had 18 attendees and it was held in the Music Room on the 1st floor of the mansion.  I was fortunate that I only had to work one day last week, so it gave me most of the week for preparation, and what a busy week it was!

My first project was to get the gift bags made.  The Director of Operations advertised on the website that every lady would receive an 'exquisite' gift bag.  I told him he set the bar pretty high for me to attain.  I don't know if the guests thought they were exquisite, but I was pleased with the way they tuned out.  I ordered Downton Abbey fabric back in 2014 knowing I'd use it for something some day, and this tea turned out to be the something.  My hubby set up a spot for me on his work bench in the basement to make them.  As you can see, I cut out portions of fabric containing the graphic of Downton Abbey [Highclere Castle] so I could spray glue them on the front of the gift bags.

Then I glued gold glittery ribbon around the graphic to frame it, and in each corner I glued a gold rhinestone.  The bags contained a hand fan in a gold nylon bag [Lady Violet carried a hand fan in the beginning of the series], a 1 oz. bag of Whitney's Lavender Rose black tea, and an event program.  I made 20 gift bags and gave one to my boss when he returned from vacation yesterday.

The fans came from Dollar Tree - an item they brought in for Mother's Day.  I had to go to a few stores to find enough, but they are a nice quality.  The nylon bags came from Oriental Trading [an online business].

Originally I wanted to attach this photo of Lady Violet to the fan, but since it was a paid event and the photo is copyrighted, I decided I better not. 

I designed the program and it's content, and the Event's Manager at The Whitney formatted it and printed it in-house.  Then I brought it home to assemble for the gift bags.  The photo of Highclere Castle is one I took when I visited England in 2015.  The 'watercolor' background [on the right edge] is from an 1894 sketch of the Whitney mansion that I found in the Detroit Free Press archives right after the Whitney family moved into the mansion.  More of the sketch is visible inside the program booklet.

Below, the gift bags all set up in the Music Room waiting to be given out.  I greeted each guest as they arrived and handed them their gift bag.

The next project was folding the napkins into roses.  They were a bit of a challenge because they're stiff, commercial grade napkins and larger than linen napkins for home use, but I think they still resembled a rose.

I wanted fresh flowers on the table just like the Crawley's would have had.  In an effort to keep the cost down I made my own arrangements.  Finding just the right height and size vases was a challenge too.  When I couldn't find what I wanted in the store, I reverted to scouting out Salvation Army thrift stores.  It required going to three different thrift stores to find identical ones, but I happily found them.  What are the odds?  The only answer was the dear Lord was smiling down on the event. I do believe He cares about the little things in our lives as well as the big things.  In the photo below my hubby is spray painting them gold.

Below are the vases after the flowers were divided between them.  This photo was taken before they were completely finished, because I went back to the florist shop to buy ferns and a little more babies breath.  The one on the right was completely taken apart and reassembled.

I made four squares from the Downton Abbey fabric to sit underneath each vase on the tables.  The floral arrangements doubled as prizes to be taken home.

My program was mainly about Downton Abbey tiaras which are technically classified as jewelry, but it included other accessories such as gloves, hats, and necklaces.  I also outlined the daily responsibilities of a lady's maid.  I recycled the framed poster I used earlier to advertise the tea in the restaurant, and made it my display poster with photos of all the Crawley ladies wearing their glittering tiaras, plus the actress [Geraldine James] who portrayed Queen Mary wearing a repro Vladimir Tiara.  The original happens to be one of Queen Elizabeth, II's favorites.

Two uses for the price of one!  ;-)  And I definitely made good use of the Downton Abbey fabric.  It helped tie all the visuals together and carry out the theme - from gift bags, to display board, to tablescape.

I contacted the Detroit PBS station to see if they had any stand-up figures of Downton Abbey characters and they had Lady Mary and Mr. Carson.  Nothing against Mr. Carson, but I preferred Lady Mary! ;-)  They graciously allowed me to borrow her for our event, and even delivered and picked her up.  The guests enjoyed having their photo made standing next to her.

I got permission to go over to the restaurant on Friday evening after most of the guests had left [10:30 p.m.] to set up.  That's normally a job for the bussers, but I'm picky and wanted to be involved myself.  I felt better having everything in place Friday night rather than waiting until Saturday morning.  Experience has taught me the more you can do in advance the smoother things will go the day of the event.

Below is a photo of the table after we finished setting up.  I brought my own amber Tiara teacups and saucers from home because I wanted everything to match, and four of my silver plate teapots.  There were two tea choices - a gentle Earl Grey and The Whitney signature Garden Blend - a very popular tisane of hibiscus, rosehips, Egyptian chamomile, ginger, peppermint and cinnamon.  A pair of teapots were near each end of the table containing both teas.  

Then it was home for the night to rest up so I'd be perky and bright for the tea at 12:00 o'clock on Saturday...  Next post.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Birthday Celebration and Afternoon Tea

They say all work and no play makes a person dull, so after working five days this week and spending evenings preparing for my monthly presentation at the assisted living facility today, I took yesterday off to go to Chelsea, MI for a family celebration.  My youngest son and granddaughter, Isabella, have birthdays today - #40 for Jeremy and #14 for Izzy.  

Lori & Dave, and Steve, Sharon & Brooke came to the party too.  It was a fun afternoon with family.  The guys enjoyed watching Michigan State football together, and the ladies enjoyed catching up around the kitchen table.

It wouldn't be a party without ice cream and candles...

And presents.

Lori brought one of Jeremy's favorite desserts - Apple Crisp, and I brought a new recipe that was recently posted on ATAA [Afternoon Tea Across America] Facebook page - Pumpkin Cobbler.  Poor Landon had his taste buds all set for chocolate cake! ;-)  Everyone else enjoyed the apple and pumpkin desserts though, and I promised Landon chocolate cake for his birthday in November.  The easy and delicious pumpkin recipe is below.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix the following ingredients in a large bowl:
1 large can pumpkin puree [29 oz.]
1 c. brown sugar [lightly packed]
1 large can evaporated milk [12 oz.]
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour pumpkin mixture into dish.
Mix together topping:
1 stick butter, thinly sliced
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 c. chopped nuts [walnuts or pecans]
Evenly sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture.  Top with chopped nuts.
Lay pieces of sliced butter on top of cake mix and chopped nuts.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown.  Cool and cut into squares.
Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

*  *  *

Izzy will attend her first Homecoming Dance next Saturday, and she modeled the dress she bought for us.

Ellie was excited to show off the "Dorothy" dress that she'll be wearing for Halloween.

*  *  *

Today's program at the assisted living was "The Influence of Flowers."  It was about floral trivia and the important role flowers play in our lives.

I always take the residents a treat, but this month I didn't have a lot of time to get my creative juices flowing, so I ordered a cake and had red rosebuds piped on each piece of cake. I also took lavender black tea.  It was a program they could all relate to and enjoy.

Now I turn all my attention to next Saturday's Downton Abbey tea at The Whitney.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Livin' the Dream

When I was hired at The Whitney on August 27, 2018 [and began work a few days later on September 5] it was a dream come true.  I had aspirations of becoming their Tea Director for eleven years before it finally happened.  While I love making and serving tea to the guests everyday and chatting with them, I've also dreamed about planning special event teas in the great mansion.  What better special event tea could there be than a Downton Abbey tea!  I was so happy when permission was granted for the tea, and even happier when the date went up on the restaurant website and Facebook page last Friday. 

For local readers, go to The Whitney website for details and to make your reservation [] or call the restaurant at [313] 832-5700.  They have capped the event at 30 so don't delay.  Below is the poster that's displayed in the Grand Hall. 

I don't normally work on Saturdays, but they had an Apples and Autumn tea at noon yesterday [part of City Fest], so I went in to make three types of tea, all containing apple cider.  

The tea began with Sparkling Apple Pie served in a champagne flute.  It was a combination of concentrated apple cider, caramel sauce, chai tea and champagne.

The tea served throughout the meal [Scone course, Soup and Salad, and Savories - grilled Pork Belly on Apple Slaw, Apple & Cheese Sandwich, and Seafood Tart] was Gentle Earl Grey brewed in diluted Apple Cider.

The tea with dessert [baked apples slices and ice cream in a pastry tart] was chai tea made with apple cider and rum.  I wish I would have thought to take pictures of the food courses, but with all the busyness it slipped my mind.

Below are the two male servers for yesterday's 16 guests.  I trained Steve [on the left] to prepare the tea on the weekends when I'm not there.  Mary Jones [center] blends all the teas for The Whitney, and she sells her other blends at Detroit's nearby Eastern Market.  She hosted the Autumn & Apples tea.  Ricco is on the right.    

~ The Autumn & Apples tablescape in the formal dining room. ~

Simultaneously, the Saturday Brunch was in progress in the Grand Hall and a Bridal Shower in the Receiving Room.  You can see the formal dining room through the large opening on the right.  The opening to the left is the library.

I thought I was going home right after the Autumn & Apples tea, but was asked to stay on through the 2:00 o'clock Afternoon Tea.  My spirit was willing to work 6 1/2 hours non-stop, but my feet weren't too happy!  ;-)

Did you watch the NBC special 'Return to Downton Abbey - A Grand Event' last Thursday?  I did.  If you missed it, you can still watch it at NBC's website.  I just finished watching it a second time.

I've been having fun getting out some of my Downton Abbey memorabilia.  The teacup is from my 2015 visit to Highclere Castle which you can read about here, and the mug is from my visit to Byfleet Manor, the house that was used as Dowager House.  You can read about that Afternoon Tea visit here.

I hope to see you at The Whitney's Downton Tea.  Please make sure to speak to me.