Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tea for Two

There is nothing quite like afternoon tea. How this lovely Victorian ritual disappeared from afternoon tradition I will never know. After discovering a Tea Room in Monrovia, I am convinced that we are definitely missing out.

It all began with the approach of my dear friend, Joyce's birthday. I wanted to do something different that year (1993); something that maybe would be new to her. I had learned about a vintage clothing shop that had a tea room in Monrovia called Frills. Intrigued, I decided to take a drive and check it out.

The shop was jam packed with all sorts of vintage clothing, hats, button-up shoes, jewelry, greeting cards and gifts. I wandered through the aisles, taking it all in. Nestled at the back of the shop was this charming tea room.Of course, nothing matched anything and each table had it's own shape and one-of-a-kind chairs. What a perfect place to go for a celebration! I glanced at the menu and asked to make a reservation.

Due to the popularity of the tea room, we had to wait until June! I took this as a good sign and reserved a table. June finally came and Joyce and I went to tea.
We met GayleTheilacker, the tea room proprietor and her right-armed gal, Valerie who would soon become treasured friends! A new tradition was born! Frills became our favorite tea room. We returned several times to enjoy tea after an afternoon of shopping.

Oh, we tried others ~ and had some great laughs! One tea room, Critters, was down in Torrance. We should have known something was amiss when we called to make reservations. A gentleman answered the phone and I requested the date. There was this pregnant pause...and then, an "Ok."  When we got there, we discovered a froo-frooed coffee shop with very few patrons. We were seated and after what seemed to be a very long time, a tiered tray of sandwiches was presented. There were three or four finger treats ~ stale and almost without filling. The tea was your basic Lipton's and dessert...well, I just don't remember.  We laughed all the way home over this interpretation of 'tea room'.

The J. Adams Tea Room in Whittier was a great. This was an antique store with tea room towards the back. We were seated on the patio. It was a beautiful day and the garden atmosphere was magical! There were wall fountains and colorful flowers throughout the patio area. The tea was divine...and the quiche was delicious! I returned home, determined to add a wall fountain to our garden!

Frills continued to be our favorite tea room, with the Rose Garden Tea Room at the Huntington Library, a close second.

Then, one day we discovered the Frills Tea Room had unexpectedly closed. We asked what happened. The gal at the jewelry counter told us that the owner of Frills and Gayle (the tea room owner) had a falling out and Gayle had moved. "Where?" we asked. While she didn't give us the address, she gave us enough details to track her down.  Arcadia, on Huntington Drive, near an Italian deli. Joyce and I hopped in the car and drove to Arcadia. Once we were on Huntington, we cruised slowly, checking out the store fronts.  We found the deli and low and behold, right next door was a building with a 'for lease' sign in the window. We pulled around to the rear entrance and peeked in the back door. Pay dirt! Just inside the back door we saw Gayle's piano. We left her a note, telling her "Yay! We found you!" and asked her to let us know when she opened.
It wasn't until the following fall that we received word from Gayle that her new tea room, la TEA da, was opening. We immediately made reservations for that first weekend!
The new tea room was larger, brighter and so charming. Hats and boas hung on the wall, ready for guests to wear! Lots of miss-matched tables and one-of-a-kind chairs graced the room. The menu offered the favorites from Frills and new treats, too.

When the Christmas season came, Gayle decorated her menu and offered vocal entertainment for her guests. Her husband and friends would sing Christmas carols throughout the afternoon.

Now, if it was your birthday, Gayle would sing to you. Many times, there were multiple birthdays, and Gayle would come out, and sing her special birthday song, and include each birthday guest's name in one breath as she walked to each table where the honored guests were seated!

Joyce and I enjoyed many afternoons sipping tea over the years at la TEA da. Then, in 2001, we learned that the tea room was closing. Gayle was not well and could no longer keep up with the demands of the business. We went for tea one last time that last weekend ~ a bittersweet time. We had discovered a wonderful past time, made some wonderful friends and were now saying good-bye.

In the weeks that followed, Joyce and I talked about tea and wondered if we would ever find a tea room as special as la TEA da. Then, out of the blue, just when we thought we would never again enjoy a slice of warm peach crumb cake with Gayle's special la TEA da Cream, we each received a copy of her Recipes of la TEA da. The tea room may be closed, but thanks to Gayle, we can continue to enjoy her recipes and reminisce about all the great times we shared at la TEA da!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Huell Howser

On Monday, we learned of the passing of Huell Howser, creator of the California Gold television series on PBS. He was just 67.

I'm not sure why his passing is affecting me as it is. Maybe it is because for years he was a regular in our home ... sharing his stories and introducing us to places we've never been. Maybe it is because his TV series was home-grown and full of down-to-earth dedication.  Maybe ... it is because I actually got to meet him and within a few moments I felt that he was a long-time friend.  Whatever the reason, I feel fortunate to have met and chatted with him.

Without Huell Howser in our lives, I would not have known about Broguiere's Dairy and their amazing egg nog.  I would not have seen the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, heard the inside story about the Fire Fall or 'met' Tom Bopp, the music historian for Yosemite. My son would still be struggling to find something that began with 'Z' for his 4th grade ABC report (All 'Bout California). It was Huell who introduced us to the California Zephyr ~ a train that traveled the coast of California. Thanks to Huell, Whitney wrapped his report with an amazing story!

Huell took us to Oceanic Arts in Whittier, where  island themed movie props and decor can be rented or purchased. He was particularly amazed to see the many Tiki items that were available!

We got to see the inside operation of Ferguson's Marine Specialties in Wilmington, one of the oldest seashell wholesalers, where seashells are collected, cleaned and packaged for sale.

When the episode about the Tear Drop Trailers aired, we were immediately intrigued about how compact they were...perfect for the nomad who was ready for a endless road trip.

Huell was invited to Hearst Castle by a group of people who had won the opportunity to swim in the majestic swimming pool. Twenty lucky people were interviewed as they swam while the sun began the decent to the horizon. We watched with anticipation as Huell kept the suspense going right up to the end of the story...would he jump in the pool? As the show was just about to end...after a little more hesitation, he finally jumped in!

Wherever Huell went, we were right there with him, never knowing what was in store but confident that we would enjoy the ride.

Thank you, Huell, for sharing the stories as only you could. You made us feel truly welcome to come along as you traveled in search of California's Gold. I know that each time we hear the word 'amazing', we will fondly think of you. God speed, Huell. ♥