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The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Kitty Hosts The Holidays

It’s 6 a.m. Kitty cannot remember the last time she was up this early, but today her nerves and excitement will not let her sleep. She reaches over and turns on the clock radio.

“Heaven,” Kitty says to herself. She squeals with excitement: “This day could not have a better start, Bing Crosby on the radio singing White Christmas!”

After a minute or two of snuggling Max the cat, Kitty jumps out of bed, grabs her silk chiffon peach-colored robe, and heads into the bathroom.

“Now, what to do first?” Kitty wrings her hands as she looks at herself in the mirror. “There is just so much to do!”

This is the first time that Kitty will be hosting Stan’s friends. At first she was terrified of the ladies. They all seemed too polished and were considerably older. They seemed to know how to do everything: cook, bake, host, decorate, dress. It was very intimidating. And when Stan said he would ask about hosting the annual Christmas party at their house, and he came home and said the group agreed, she was bowled over. The ladies had been so nice to her since she and Stan got engaged, yet still her nerves were already working on her. Luckily, at the last bridge game, the ladies suggested that each would bring a special holiday dish. They said that it is what they had done every year, so Kitty certainly didn’t want to mess with tradition. And boy was she ever grateful, since cooking was not exactly Kitty’s forte. She had been wildly studying the latest cook books, but nothing seemed to stick. But she had a plan, fingers crossed.

She chews her lip with nervousness as she takes inventory of her face. She could hear her mother’s voice in her head: “Kitty, stop chewing your lip!” She groans and heads downstairs.

So, first things first. Since she has a few hours until her appointment at the beauty parlor, Kitty decides to have a cup of coffee and survey the house. She could still detect a hint of fresh paint smell and hopes that no one will notice. She and Stan had only moved into the new house a few weeks ago after they returned from their elopement in Acapulco.

But the wallpaper did look splendid; it was so modern and chic. Thank goodness her mother offered up her interior designer as a wedding gift. He was somewhat famous in Chicago and she thought his work was just the bees knees. The ladies were sure to be impressed.

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The color choices, she was assured, were the absolute latest and most popular: the soft robin’s egg blues with chestnut browns and the gorgeous creams and silvers for the second floor hall and bedrooms. They were just perfect, Kitty thought. And on the first floor, the rich wood paneling, kelly greens, and red carpeting were just so luxurious.

“Okay now, I must remember how to use this new Coffeemate thing,” Kitty says to herself, coming out of her reverie. She was so excited when she received it as a wedding gift from her aunt. Kitty surveys the kitchen and dining area, happy that she had decided to go with copper and yellow as her colors of choice here. Mr. French assured her that copper was going to be the next big trend in color and that Kitty would be the very first in her neighborhood to have it. The copper handles and hinges on her ranch style cabinetry were just divine. Kitty had also decided on a country motif for her kitchen, which she thought was so romantic. After growing up in a penthouse apartment in Chicago her whole life, she thought the country look was just so darling.

The best decision she thought she made as she surveyed her new kitchen were her kitchen counter tops: canary yellow with silver boomerang shapes. “Just splendid,” she thinks. They were the most gorgeous countertops in all of Illinois, surely.

Kitty walks over to the nice bay window with banquet seat in the kitchen which Stan had chosen to add. As Kitty floats down to it and sips her coffee, she looks outside and watches the snowflakes begin to fall, thinking that this addition was just perfect for the house. Now she knows it will be the perfect night: fresh snowfall for her Christmas party, how wonderful.

Oh heavens, look at the time! Kitty rushes off down the hall to the living room to give it a quick survey. The Christmas tree is beautiful and the buffet table is already set up, thanks to Stan. She will have to add more garland to the fireplace mantle and some more candles, but everything looks perfect.

Kitty quickly dresses, feeds the cat, throws on her coat, hat, and gloves, and heads out the door. She mustn’t be late for the beauty parlor! She booked just enough time for her setting, makeup, and nails. Miss Beverly, who owns the premier beauty parlor in Bridge Grove, is very difficult to get an appointment with. Nancy Gold recommended her and said there was just no one else that she would trust her hair to. And by the looks of Nancy, Kitty would trust her with just about any advice on fashion; she was certain that Nancy must have been a model before she married Chip. Kitty was so impressed that she ended up choosing the date of the party only after she confirmed an appointment with Miss Beverly.

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As Kitty backs her cherry red Bel Air out of the driveway, she sees another lot on her street that is beginning construction. There were already six new ranch homes built on Meadow Lane. She is eager to meet new neighbors. So far, most of the neighbors that Kitty had met were mostly single men who were avid golfers and lived in the city during the week. It can be a bit lonely, so she hopes for a young couple or a family to move in and liven up the neighborhood.

Half and hour later, Kitty is sitting in the beauty parlor with her hands dipped in nail solution and Miss Beverly circling to size up her hair.

“So, it’s a Christmas party at your home, you zay?” Miss Beverly asks.

“Yes,” says Kitty.

“And you will be wearing ze emerald green satin cocktail dress, yes?”

Kitty nods, holding her breath.

“Zen ze only thing to do is ze bob and flip. Zis will make you look more mature.”

Kitty exhales, feeling like she just passed a test.

Within seconds, Miss Beverly’s assistants are buzzing around Kitty with curlers, powders, polishes, and creams. A few hours later, Kitty’s look is complete. Miss Beverly spins Kitty’s chair around to face the mirror. She takes one look and squeals with delight! Her hair is a perfect bouffant bob with the bottom edges flipped into a half curl. The height elongates her neck so elegantly. And her makeup is just gorgeous. Miss Beverly chose emerald eye shadow to match Kitty’s dress and a deep red for her lips and nails. “How very festive!” Kitty thinks happily.

The girls carefully wrap Kitty’s hairdo in a scarf, she pays the bill, and is off. After stops at the butcher and flower shop, Kitty arrives back home with a little less than two hours to get everything prepared. Within minutes, Stan arrives home with ice and a few extra bottles of scotch that he thinks might be good to have on hand. The butcher arrives to drop off the liverworst pate, tar-tar, vienna sausages in bbq sauce, and a pimento loaf, and the florist finishes setting up the poinsettias that Kitty had ordered.

Kitty catches Stan staring at the food items the butcher has delivered, looking perplexed.

“Why, Stan, is there something wrong?” she asks him.

“Ah, no, my darling, it’s just that this all looks so, er, so professional?” Stan says with hesitation.

“Goodness, they will know, won’t they? The ladies will take one look at this food and know that I didn’t make it. Oh no, this is going to be a disaster, isn’t it?” Kitty exclaims while wringing her hands.

“Now dear, calm down. The food looks beautiful and you are gorgeous! No one will notice. Everything will be just fine.” Stan kisses Kitty on her forehead and heads over to the bar.

Kitty nervously takes the food from the butcher out of the boxes and adds some finishing touches: Ritz crackers for the pate, melba toast for the tar-tar, and some fresh parsley for the pimento loaf, just like in the cookbooks.

Kitty catches a glimpse of the front yard as she walks into the living room to set out the new boomerang-shaped ashtrays and carton of cigarettes. It sure is snowing out there, looking so beautiful. She stands at the window for a while, smiling as she hears “Suzy Snowflake” by Rosemary Clooney cooing from the hi fi. She giggles a bit and then realizes that she does not have much time left to get dressed. She runs into the bedroom nearly knocking over the poinsettia in the hallway, hearing Stan yell to her from the kitchen: “Slow down dear, there is plenty of time!” She mumbles something back about men having no idea what it takes for a woman to get dressed.

Kitty unwraps her dress, such a beautiful shade of emerald, from the box. She takes out her girdle, stockings, dress, pumps, jewelry, shalamar, and poinsettia broach. “Perfect!” she exclaims as she views herself in the mirror, all put together. “Just perfect!”

As she arrives in the living room, she sees Stan sitting on the couch, reading the paper.

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“Now, let me have a look at my beautiful bride,” he says, ignoring her frantic pleas. “Wow, what a stunner! How did I get so darn lucky?”

He plants a kiss on her cheek, making her giggle.

“Hey, the gals just love ya,” he says. “Everything is going to be great! Look at this beautiful home I had built for ya. There’s nothin’ to worry about, dear, nothin at all.”

He sits back down with his paper and Kitty just laughs. “Men,” she says, shaking her head.

The door bell rings just as Kitty is lighting the last candle. She may have overdone it with the candles as she sees Stan’s reaction as he walks towards the door. Oh well, too late now.

She rushes to his side to greet their first guests, John and Vicky Pool. Stan chuckles when he sees that it’s them who has arrived first.

Vicky is wearing the most interesting pink coat with a pink sable hat, pink gloves, and pink pumps. She arrives with a casserole of franks and beans and a pitcher of her famous iced tea. Now that was one inside joke Kitty does know about. Oh my, her tea is just awful.

Stan gives John and Vicky the grand tour as Kitty lays out the casserole on the buffet table. She can hear John talking to Stan as they approach the living room. “We will have to get you a pool in that backyard this summer there, Stan. And who better to get you a great deal on a pool than the man named Pool?” John laughs and laughs, patting Stan on the back. Kitty chuckles to herself.

As the guests continue arriving, the buffet table fills up fast, the bed is piling high with coats and hats, and the smoke is wafting through the house. Kitty hopes that everyone is enjoying themselves so far.

Gladys, Kitty was told by Stan, is always the life of the party and it seems that she is in fine form tonight. The minute she arrived, everyone gathered around her and Jack as they told the latest story about their recent trip to Florida. She certainly knew how to work a room. Kitty so admired her.

Gladys is wearing a beautiful silver wiggle dress with a short cropped matching jacket. Her red hair is piled high in a beautiful coif, and the contrast of her hair against the silver shimmering material is stunning. Kitty thinks that Gladys looks like a movie star.

Last to arrive is Nancy and Chip. Vicky Pool had forewarned Kitty that Nancy is always fashionably late, so by no means should she pass out any hors d’oeuvres until Nancy and Chip make their entrance.

And what an entrance it is! Nancy has really outdone herself this time. She is a vision in powder blue chiffon with a floor length pleated gown gather at the bodice, with the most beautiful gold rhinestone star-shaped broach. The train elegantly dusts the floor, extending all the way up to the neckline. And her hair, what a piece of artistry, gorgeous curls swept up just like Lucille Ball’s.

Just then Kitty hears Gladys announce that her famous egg nog is ready and asks who wants a glass.

Kitty loves egg nog, and boy is Gladys’ delicious. Stan calls everyone to the bar and raises his glass for a toast. Kitty stands next to him and looks around the room. With the low lights and soft candle glow, the Christmas tree just looks magnificent with all of its colors and tinsel.

“Thank you, dear friends, for joining us tonight,” Stan says as he holds his glass high. “And to my new bride, Kitty, may this be just one of many happy Christmases together. And that means a lot, coming from a Jewish guy!” The crowd roars with laughter. “Cheers, everyone!”

All of the ladies rush over to Kitty to tell her how much they love her dress and hair, and oh that eyeshadow!

Soon after everyone heads to the buffet. What a beautiful feast it is! There’s liver pate, deviled ham, lobster newburg spread, sardine and bacon rolls, pimento pinwheels, mushroom loaf, chicken ala king, and a wonderful array of desserts.

Carla whispers to Gladys to meet her in the kitchen and they both stealthily slip away from the other ladies. Carla opens the napkin in her hand and gestures to Gladys to look at it.

“Is that a wrapper?” asks Gladys.

“Yes, it was under the entire liverworst” Carla says.

“Oh my, poor dear! Vicki found plastic wrap under the tar tar and quickly slipped it out before anyone else noticed, she told me,” says Gladys.

“We have to do something. We can’t let this poor lamb suffer and we certainly don’t need to be ingesting paper and plastic! She’s one of us now doll; we’ve got to help her out,” says Gladys. They nonchalantly head back to the group to mingle.

As the ladies eat and talk, Gladys realizes it is just the girls standing around, so she asks Kitty which dishes from the buffet table are hers. Kitty admits it’s the liverworst from the butcher. After a moment of silence, Gladys glances around the room and finally says: “Say, Kitty, you can’t cook a lick, can you?”

Kitty laughs with relief and says: “No, not a lick.”

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All the ladies laugh and take their turns hugging her. Susan says that she will teach Kitty to bake and the ladies nod in definite agreement. “Susan is the best baker among us, for sure,” says Carla Benson.

“And Carla should be the one to teach you casseroles. I swear every time there is a gathering you have whipped up some new delightful concoction,” says Gladys.

“Oh, and I would be happy to help you as well. Everyone always loves my roast,” claims Mary Peterson.

“My, yes, the best roast in Bridgegrove,” says Nancy. “I’m still trying to perfect the recipe.”

“I would be happy to give you my ambrosia and summer salad recipes, Kitty. Everyone always enjoys those dishes when I bring them to our gatherings,” says Vicky. “Oh, and my iced tea, naturally. I might be persuaded to share that recipe with you.”

The ladies all shoot each other a glance and try not to burst out laughing.

“No, Vicky, we wouldn’t want you to give away your trade secret,” says Nancy, as the ladies nod and sigh in relief.

“Well, there you go, doll,” Gladys remarks to Kitty. “And say, you realize you deprived us ladies of a wedding to dress for, right?”

Everyone chuckles and Kitty blushes. “I’m so sorry, girls. With the differences in Stan and my religions, we just thought it would be much easier for our families. I couldn’t bear either of us having to tell our families we had to convert,” Kitty responds.

“Oh my, I didn’t even think of that,” says Mary. “You are absolutely right, dear. Very smart.”

“Ladies, I have the best idea,” Nancy cries. “Kitty, you must let us throw you a proper wedding shower this spring!”

“Oh yes! What fun! How swell!” All the ladies exclaim to each other.

Kitty beams with joy. “I would love that! Thank you so much!”

“Leave it to us,” Nancy says. “Gladys, we have planning to do,” elbowing Gladys gently. The two exchange an excited look.

“Sorry to interrupt, girls, but may I steal my bride away for a spin across the room?” Stan asks as he reaches out his hand to Kitty.

Kitty smiles from ear to ear as she follows Stan across the room.

Within minutes, everyone is slow dancing to the sounds of Pat Boone. The snow is falling gently on the bushes outside the living room window. Gladys tiptoes around the room in stocking feet, handing out champagne. “Oh, my, I almost forgot the champagne,” Kitty thinks to herself.

Kitty is so happy, she lays her head on Stan’s shoulder and thinks about all of the compliments the ladies gave her on the party and her home decor. She feels such pride. Maybe entertaining isn’t so difficult after all.


Uncategorized

Ho Jo’s: A Love Story

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In the early to mid 1970’s, if you looked in the glove compartment of my grandmother’s car, you would find one of these: an official Howard Johnson’s Road Map. Howard Johnson’s was the “Landmark For Hungry Americans” and my favorite motel chain.

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My family traveled several times a year by car from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Long Island, New York, and back. And always, if my grandmother was in charge of the trip (which was often), we stayed at a Howard Johnson’s and exclusively ate at Howard Johnson’s restaurants while on the road.

Howard Johnson’s was founded in the 1920’s, first as a soda fountain and ice cream counter in Mr. Johnson’s drug store. By the 1960’s, it was the largest restaurant chain in the US with 1,000 restaurants and 500 motor lodges in both the US and Canada.

Howard Johnson's Motor Lodges

Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodges

To me, a Howard Johnson’s hotel felt like I was in Hawaii. That’s what I imagined Hawaii to look like, anyway, and from what I saw on Hawaii Five-O, I was pretty darn close. Or maybe it was an alien-like Tahitian Paradise on Star Trek, with blue and purple ladies with Bee Hives in sexy night gowns wandering about.

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Some of the Ho Jo’s, as we affectionately called them, even had legit thatched roofs on the buildings near the pool area. And the farther north you went, they had INDOOR POOLS, with plants and stuff around them. Inside! Did you hear me? A tropical paradise indoors! Ho Jo’s was an exotic and magical place, for sure.

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Ah, the colors alone – the signature orange and peacock blue – just called out to me while sitting in the back of a station wagon with my face pressed up against the window. “Come on,” it would whisper, “tell your parents to turn off the highway. There is so much fun going on in here! We’ve a pool and palm trees and colors and beds to jump on.” How could one resist? Ho Jo’s were unmistakeable. You could see those A-frame roofs from a mile away and the peacock blue towers, even farther.

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And guys, come on, they had clam strips, fried clam strips, and over twenty flavors of ice cream. And they used the word “Snackatites.” Genius! It had to be Don Draper who wrote that line. “Snackatities!” I can’t stop saying it.

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The best thing was the Ho Jo’s at the bottom of the hill where my paternal grandparents lived. And, get ready for this guys, one of my aunts was a waitress there! Oh yes, I was a freaking V.I.P. in that joint. Big stuff, I tell you. She was surely a rockstar to be working at Ho Jo’s, and OMG the uniform, when she put that puppy on, she was a true Johnson girl. I was so envious!

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Ho Jo’s was a reliable choice for our parents. It was thought to always be clean, have good food, and was priced well. Quality was consistent, so no matter what location you were at, you could always rely on Ho Jo’s and the kids loved it. How could you go wrong?

Ho Jo’s also had a knack for having two very different atmospheres at once. Somehow, you could go to a Ho Jo’s and sit at the bar in a fancy dress and have cocktails, while at the same time a family is pulling in with their kids ready to hit the pool and have ice cream. The two somehow never mixed while existing in the same lobby or restaurant.

Every time we pulled into the parking lot of Ho Jo’s, I was bursting with excitement. I knew that four very important things were in my immediate future: French fries, ice cream, a pool with a slide, and the perfect beds to jump on.

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I have so many great memories of being in the pool, yelling “Mom, Mom, look at this!” with my sister beside me shouting “Mommy, Mommy, watch this!” We had that kind of fun for hours. I am sure my mother looks back on this and thinks: “I didn’t really want to read that book, I wasn’t really that tired from driving for ten long hours. I was just so content to sit on my pool chair and listen to my kids yelling my name instead of relaxing.”

And the bed jumping! Oh, yes. And as we got older, my sister and I worked out that we could do somersaults from one bed to the other through the air. Again, I am sure my mother thinks to herself: “That was so charming. What little dolls they were. I didn’t mind screaming ‘Girls, stop! Someone is going to break her head. Don’t knock over the lamp! Who knocked over the lamp?'” It was hours of fun!

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Look at that lush paneling and those light sconces, the gorgeous carpet colors, and the bed spread. Oh, those scratchy thin bed spreads. Who wouldn’t want to rest their weary heads here?

I definitely missed the heyday of Ho Jo’s. By the time that the early 1980’s came around, Ho Jo’s was in a rapid decline. My grandmother still held onto her tradition though, even as my mother balked at staying in the “outdated, crappy motels.” Holiday Inns were in our near future.

So, what killed the Ho Jo’s of my childhood? Well, I’m no hotel tycoon, but I tell ya, it was the damned Holidome. Look at the crap! Who can compete with indoor pools, hot tubs, shuffle board, and mini golf; and what’s worse, you don’t have to walk far to the bar because it’s RIGHT THERE! And the waiters bring you stuff to your pool chair, INSIDE! Even if you ask for five brown cows and your mom doesn’t know you’re ordering them and charging them to the room. Psha, they don’t care. They bring them to you and call you “Miss!”

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Sure, sure, my sister and I would scream at the top of our lungs and bounce off the car windows until my mother agreed to choose the Holidome for the night. But that didn’t mean we didn’t love Ho Jo’s anymore. It was just a few times, I swear; we only cheated a few times, and it meant nothing. I mean, it was crazy fun and the brown cows were delicious, like I said, but we didn’t mean to leave you all alone Ho Jo’s; we didn’t mean to leave you with not enough customers for your fried clam strips. Oh my God! Am I responsible for taking down the entire Ho Jo’s empire? If I am, geez, I’m sorry, I was a kid. I had no idea! Kids don’t possess self control.

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As awesome as the Holidome was, it still didn’t have that same feeling that you got from Ho Jo’s: the orange roof beckoning from the side of the highway, reminding you of the magic that awaited you. Ho Jo’s reminds me of a gentler time filled with warmth and possibilities, a time when I truly believed I could jump from one balcony to another and actually make it. Good thing I never tried.

So there you have it, my Love Story of Ho Jo’s.

xox
Sailor


Vintage Collecting

Let’s Do Tea.

I am a tea lover. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a tea totaler, because I love booze like Brick Tamland* loves lamp. But I do prefer tea over coffee, and I do drink it every morning like a ritual. And I do love to find an occasion to have tea in the afternoon.

I’m not talking about iced tea here. I am talking about a good, hot cup of English tea, complete with sugar and milk. To me, that’s REAL tea.

We have been cleaning out the basement at our house and finally unpacked a few boxes of items donated by Mark’s grandparents. One of the boxes that we unpacked contained some treasures that Maddy and I had fallen in love with and packed away for ourselves. One of these treasures is a floral tea pot, circa the late 1950’s. It inspired me to rebuild my collection of vintage tea cups that I lost in a house fire many years ago.

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Then it occurred to me: I have never hosted an afternoon tea party! That will be coming up next.

The actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a social event sometime in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. It was Anne, Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, who is credited for first “inventing” Afternoon Tea, but actually it had been a gradual evolution. The gap between lunch and supper was widening, so Anne started asking for tea and small cakes to be brought to her private quarters. I am sure she quickly realized that a lot of gossip could be shared if she invited other ladies to her quarters to share her cakes.

Queen Victoria herself was encouraged to start hosting her own parties as a way of re-entering society after the passing of her beloved husband, Albert. Legend has it that this was when a cake was named Victoria Sponge and served at her tea parties, which became large affairs. Other women picked up on the idea and it spread like wildfire. Thus, the ritual of afternoon tea began. Women do know how to get things done.

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When I moved to London, aside from loving pints and crisps** every day, I was having an amazing cup of tea pretty much anywhere I went. Not only that, but I was offered tea everywhere, all the time, all over the place. It was awesome! I celebrated the British loo*** heavily while peeing my brains out constantly.

Finally, after being there for several weeks, I decided I was going to do Afternoon Tea. And I mean do it right. And I did, a lot! The plan was to drink an entire pot of tea and eat every weird little sandwich and sweet treat offered.

I heard that the Ritz did Afternoon Tea really well and very traditionally. They host tea in the Palm Court, which is just stunning. And, they still have a dress code! Yesssss! My dream had come true! (Think Downton Abbey)

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Since I didn’t really know anyone in London yet, I went by myself, which was fine, since I wouldn’t have to share any of my treats with anyone. I decided to go with the Traditional Afternoon Tea. And let me tell you, it’s not cheap. So, this was a rare treat; but it was so worth it!

Traditionally, women wore opera length gloves, long gowns, and hats. Afternoon Tea is a snazzy affair. I skipped the gloves, chose a nice, fancy summer dress and an appropriate hat. This was one occasion where I was not overdressed; perhaps I was even slightly underdressed, which almost never happens to me.
Before my time in England, I had done Afternoon Tea in the States with my grandmother. We would go to the Russian Tea Room in NYC yearly, as a treat. And while I was living in San Francisco, I had Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont. Both were lovely, but none could stand up to my experience in London. It’s possible that just being in London made the difference.

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Some say that London’s delicious, vintage water makes British Tea very British, sort of like the lovely scent of the Thames wafting through the air like a soft summer breeze. Whatever it was, (not the Thames) the experience was amazing.

In the end, I didn’t eat all of my treats; it was impossible. But I did take a bite out of everything, save the coronation chicken, which I couldn’t eat, because I am a vegetarian and it would have been very improper to barf all over the lovely Palm Court. Go America!

I felt that the traditional tea menu was brilliant, designed to hold you over in between lunch at noon and dinner at eight. The light, tiny sandwiches and sugary treats, along with the caffeine in the tea, definitely perk you up and prepare you for being fabulous for the rest of the day.

So, now to prepare my own Afternoon Tea Party, dreams of clotted cream are dancing in my head. Expect your invitation soon!

xoxo- Sailor

*Brick Tamland is a very intelligent and important Weatherman in San Diego. He is so impressive that he was invited to be part of the cast of the movie Anchorman.
**In England, crisps are potato chips, and chips are french fries; who are you people? Don’t you watch any British TV?
***The loo is the bathroom, silly.