Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Quest

For a while now, Antoine and I have been on a quest to find the perfect cookie jar.  Don't ask me why, but we really wanted a cookie jar...for some reason.  We had it narrowed down to either an owl cookie jar or a robot cookie jar (a la How I Met Your Mother).  Again, I have no clue's just one of those silly needless things we wanted.  A cool thing to have.  And so the quest began.  Obviously, it started with eBay searches.  Which led to the realization that cookie jars aren't cheap...especially cute owl ones.  And don't get me started on the insane prices of robot cookie jars.  Apparently we weren't the only wackos out their with our hearts set on ridiculously awesome and completely unnecessary things like owl and robot cookie jars.

Part two of our quest to find the perfect cookie jar led us to antique malls.  A and I love antique malls.  I don't know what it is about antique malls that I love so much.  Half the time I don't find anything worth while.  But it's a magical place filled with expensive old shit (that I would never buy even if I had the money), weird expensive things (that I might buy if I had the money), crazy-awesome tacky crap (that Antoine refuses to let me buy...thinking tacky plastic 1970s lamps) and every once in a while, fantastic little treasures.  And they are virtual meccas for those looking for a cookie jar!  Although, like eBay, many of the cookie jars are outrageously priced.  I might have my heart set on an awesome cookie jar, but there's no way I'm paying $100 for one...especially considering I don't need one, I just want one.  So, cookie jars became one of those things that we kept our eye out for...but even at antique malls owl and robot cookie jars are few and far between.  And when you do spot one, they're generally ugly and/or too expensive. Skip forward about a year, after much casual searching...we found it!  The perfect cookie jar.

Two weekends ago, Antoine and I were at the Heart of Ohio antique center (located between Dayton and Columbus).  People had told us that this place was the shit!  Even Martha-fucking-Stewart said it was one of the best antique malls in the country.  Well, if Martha says it's awesome you gotta check it out, right?  See if she's full of crap or not.  It was awesome, but A and I felt that some/most of the prices were a bit steep.  But they had some cool shit, it was well organized, and fairly easy to navigate, considering its size.  Plus, after the first 5 minutes of being there we spotted a wicked owl cookie jar (the original vintage cookie jar that this one is based on)...unfortunately, it was totally out of our price range.  So, we kept looking.  And within 15 minutes Antoine spotted adorable and large owl cookie jar, way in the back of a glass case.  The closer we got to the case, the cuter the cookie jar got.  And then we saw the price tag...$35!  What!?  That's the cheapest, non-tacky cookie jar I'd ever seen.  We peered through the case, not seeing any cracks or chips, thinking it was too good to be true.  Nothing.  Not a scratch.  And with that, we had found our new cookie jar.  And what's even sweeter...that weekend they were having a sale, 10% off any item over $25.  Score! So, without further ado... 

Behold the cuteness:

Isn't he adorable?

He's quite massive (and heavy) so he'll take a good amount of our limited counter space, but I don't care...he's just so adorable.

Now, cookie jars are kind of useless.  I mean, they don't keep cookies fresh.  And in our house, let's face it...cookies aren't going to make it to a jar.  So A and I thought it'd be the perfect place to store flour, something we don't use all that often, but still needs to remain accessible.  Plus, we already had the flour sitting in a canister on the counter anyway.

 That's a 5lb bag of sugar he's sitting next to...dude is big!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tea for Two

A while back my lovely sister asked me if I'd like to accompany her to tea at the Hilton Netherland Plaza downtown.  A free fancy tea downtown with my sis?!  Yes please!  So, this past Saturday we got all fancified and made our way to the Orchids at Palm Court for afternoon tea.  If you've never been to Orchids, which I hadn't, it's all Art Deco, gold and mood lighting.  And if you've never been to afternoon tea at the Orchids, I'd highly recommend it, particularly for a fancy ladies outing (something I don't do ever very often).

 Orchids at Palm Court dining room. Notice the mood lighting, which made it tricky to get decent pictures.

Fancy sisters (please ignore my crazy look...not sure what that's about).

First, you order tea.  We both started with the Ceylon, which was very nice.

Michelle perusing the tea menu.  You each get a little pot of tea that holds approximately two cups.  Once you've finished that you can either have more hot water or try a different tea altogether. 

 Fancy sugar cubes.

One lump or two?  Such a silly question to ask Michelle or lump just isn't enough! (That sounded a little dirty! Sorry!)

The sandwiches show up shortly after you've received your tea.  An afternoon tea consists of tea, sandwiches and pastries, unlike high tea which also includes soup and quiche. See that sandwich on the bottom, front and center, that's smoked salmon.  And I ate it!  Me!!  And I liked it!  Weird, I know.  Don't be too alarmed though, the Earth hasn't completely fell off it's axis...I still hated the egg salad!

After the sandwiches and some more tea (this time Jasmine for me and Lapsang Souchang for Michelle), out come the pastries.  Oh, the pastries!  Scones.  Muffins.  Chocolate mousse.  Macarons.  Chocolate covered strawberries.  Pink velvet cake.  Just to name a few.
The little pryamidy thingy in the spoon on the left was one of my favorites.  When you ate it all together it tasted like cheesecake, damn good cheesecake.  The dark chocolate mousse in little shortbread cups on the right were out-of-this-world rich and decadent!

Lemon verbena macaron.

Doesn't get much better than this.

Everything was stellar.  The sandwiches were delightful (except for the egg salad, but that's just because I hate egg salad).  The pastries were intense, creative and delicious!  Out of 12 or so pastries, I only dislike one of them...and I'm picky!  I had such a wonderful time acting like lady-like and fancy (again, not a normal thing for me), and eating some decadent goodies.  I would definitely go back again.  In fact, I kind of want to check out the Orchids' annual Holiday brunch.  I've heard awesome things.  And after experiencing the flavor explosion of awesomeness that is their afternoon tea, I'm even more intrigued by the idea of Christmas brunch there.

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Tea Cozy Cottage

Those of you who know me and know my sister, know exactly how different we are from one another.  Michelle is patient, outgoing, eternally optimistic and almost always late...she is pretty much my exact opposite (except that we both love horror movies, ice cream and the Smiths).  She's got a gift with people, one I will never possess.  You could put her in a room with strangers and she'll just go up to anyone of them and start chatting away.  It's effortless for her, it's natural, instinctive.  Put me in a room with strangers and I'll slowly back myself into a corner and huddle in the fetal position.  So, when eight or so years ago Michelle mentioned that she wanted to open up a tea house, everyone nodded their heads and said "Ahhh, yes!  That would be perfect for you!"  And it was.  Over the past seven years Michelle has been running The Tea Cozy Cottage in Mariemont with her co-owner, behind-the-scenes guy, soup-making extraordinaire husband, Christian.

 Now, I know I'm a little biased, but as far as tea houses go...the Tea Cozy Cottage is the shit.  It's never been one of those stuffy tea houses with doilies and flower wallpaper.  The Tea Cozy Cottage is different.  It's the kind of place where any man, woman, or child can walk in and feel comfortable.  It's the kind of classy, yet cozy place that focuses on the experience of high tea rather than all those pointless girly frills.  Whether you're a tea house veteran or you've never had tea in your life, you're bound to enjoy it; not just because the Tea Cozy Cottage offers over 70 different teas, a menu that changes weekly and conforms to the diners' dietary restrictions (read: lactose-free, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc), but because Michelle is there, smiling ear to ear, ready to make sure you have the best possible experience.  It's rare to find an establishment where the proprietor/chef/hostess is so committed to the customers' happiness, but Michelle has always done everything in her power to make sure her customers leave with a smile on their faces.

 (photo courtesy of Veggie Option)

On a personal level, the tea house has meant so much to me.  During college, the tea house was my second job, the place I spent a majority of my weekends (in the kitchen, of course...away from all the people).  But more than that, it was a place for Michelle and I to spend time together.  Whether I was helping watching her cook or doing dishes together after a big tea, it was an amazing bonding experience for two sisters who didn't grow up in the same household (we're half-sisters and nearly 12 years apart in age).  I remember listening to the Smiths or ABBA, dancing around an the empty dining room, singing along; Michelle setting the tables while I devoured one of the extra scones swept the floor.  It is a place that will forever remain in my mind; a bright-shining example of Michelle's infectious personality.

Despite the fact that the tea house has remained a part-time gig for Michelle and Christian (each of which have full-time jobs during the week), offering four tea-times a weekend (11am and 2pm / Saturday and Sunday), for two weekends a month (by appointment only).  The tea house has managed to stay afloat during rather difficult economic times and continued to offer a place for bridal/baby showers, unique birthday celebrations, and special themed teas like the American Girl tea.  But sadly, this has been The Tea Cozy Cottage's last year.  New ownership of the property has only made things more difficult for this delightful small business, and after seven years of dedication the Tea Cozy Cottage will be closing its doors this December.  

There are several of reasons for the closure, time, money and outside factors (read: d-bag landlord). But I won't focus on that, instead I'll focus on the good times.  On the time my parents and grandparents came down and enjoyed a lovely fall tea together (and my dad wore a little boys cowboy hat from the hat wall throughout the entire meal).  The time Antoine dressed up as a woman for the legendary Halloween tea and won the prize for best costume.  The time I had to fill in for Michelle and act as hostess while Christian manned the kitchen; I was scared shitless, but the ladies in the dining room were so nice to me and kept telling me I was doing a great job even though my hands were shaking and I almost spilled tea on a couple of them.  And the first time I took Antoine to tea, his first high tea ever, after we had just started dating.  And the countless other memories that are buried down deep in my heart, that I'll pull out years from now and reminisce with my sister over a cup of tea. 

To Michelle and Christian, I know this is a very sad and difficult time for you and that the next couple months will be very rough and emotional.  But know that all your hard work was not done in vain.  Over the last seven years you've touched so many people's hearts and put good food in their bellies.  You've introduced them to teas and cuisines that they would have never experienced otherwise.  You've shared your stories of traveling the world, picking up new teas and fresh ideas.  And you've shared with them a gift, a special experience that will always stay with them.  And I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to be one of those people and to share this experience with you!  The Tea Cozy Cottage will be missed.  But I am certain that this is not that last time we will see your shining face, dear sister, and your delicious food, Christian.  (Not to say your face isn't shining Christian, and your food isn't delicious know what I mean!)  Let us remember the past, the good times, and know that you carry that memory with you into a bright and exciting future for both of you!

All my love,

So dear readers, before December 12th is here make sure to visit this wonderful little treasure and make memories of your own. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chicago Botanic Garden

Well, I don't know about you but I had a very busy yet productive weekend!  Antoine and I got some major house stuff done, which was awesome.  However, the house is a wreck because of said productivity (things in rooms they shouldn't be in), but hopefully this coming weekend we can get everything situated.

Anyway, it's time for another Chicago recap.  And lucky for you, this happens to be the last one.

One of the last things Antoine and I did while I was visiting him in Chicago (besides going swimming in the hotel's pool...YES!) was a trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  I had been once before and loved it, but this was Antoine's first time.  One of the awesome things about the gardens is they are free, but one of the not so awesome things is that parking is $20 per car.  But, lucky for us, our hotel offered free shuttle rides to and from the gardens (perk of staying just down the street).  Not only did we save $20, but we beat a ton of traffic heading into the gardens, because we bypassed all those waiting to park.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is probably my favorite of all the botanic gardens I've been to (except maybe Kew Gardens in London).  It's an extremely large property with a wide variety of different types of gardens and plants, including many areas with water gardens (more than I've seen at other places I've been).  It's a really nice place to spend the day when the weather is mild and sunny.



 They even have a fruit and veggie garden that's on it's own little island.

Who knew okra was so pretty!?

 From the English Rose Garden, naturally.

The perfect end to a wonderful trip.  I cannot wait until my next trip to Chicago (maybe later this year?)...I absolutely love that city!

Friday, September 16, 2011


Since it's Friday and I'm so very ready for the weekend, I thought I'd share with you my most favorite part of aquariums...the jellyfish.  I love how delicate they are and how they move, but to think that some of them can kill you with just a couple of stings is incredible. Plus, the purple/blue/pink backgrounds make for some really cool pics!  So, here you are:

Any fun plans in the works for this weekend?  Antoine and I are planning on doing some house stuff (more on that later), going to the mega antique mall just north of Dayton, and going to tea on Sunday.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  See you next week for my last Chicago recap post!