Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tea at the Empress

In our homeschool studies, we used to find out everything we could about a subject. History and Geography yielded a host of things from customs and food to national clothing and celebrations. Nearly every land had some kind of tea time, and we took advantage of that fact by finding foods and drinks as close to the national ones as possible.

With the festive season all around us, today we wanted to go to the Empress hotel for tea and enjoy the accompanying flavors of the season. The distance and the cost was quite high, both for the travel and the tea, and we decided to set up a similar tea here at home. Besides, we needed to be back by this evening, because of our obligations the next day. The "owners" of the "tea room" laid out the table while we went outside for a walk. When we came in the front door it felt as though we were somewhere else. (A pleasant walk can change your perspective on everything!)
In all our homeschool years we took many trips this way. One mother I know whose children are now grown, had an interesting custom of sending her children outside with their lunch boxes and books, to walk down the driveway and back so they could come to the door and enter as though it was a pioneer country school room.  The chiildren sometimes wore historical type clothing and theor Mother was the School-Marm who greet d them at the door, helped them hang their coats and hats, and let them stan near the fireplace to get warm before they began their lessons. She rang a little bell, which belonged to their grandmotherWhat delight the now-grown children have in relating this memory!

Above: Returning from our walk, we entered the tea room where we heard the music of the season and were led to our table.

Throughout the years our home became many things: a train, a cruise ship, a cabin in the woods, a resort on the beach, a lodge in the snow-country where we went on a sleigh ride, a ranch on the desert, and many other places too numerous to list here. We visited the library (our book shelf) here and checked out books using our library cards. We learned to make speeches, play music concerts, attended dinner theatre with our own acting troupe, had historical fashion shows, and went to cooking school. We dressed up for dinner and practiced our manners. 

We greeted customers, served food, provided country tours, attended lectures about people, places and things, became a repair company and a construction crew, as well as a travel agency and a delivery company.

We packed our suitcases for a stay in a bed-and-breakfast. We paid our bill and bid farewell to the proprietor and then planned another trip, for which our house was quickly revamped. Sometimes we traded the dining room for the living room and enjoyed a change of place with a different scene.

There was no end to the things  we could do at home with children which were equally as interesting to the adults in the family. We did go to real places when we had  opportunity, but the travel from home was so much more. Sometimes we changed the furniture around to make a room feel like a different place. We learned how to welcome customers and make transactions in our store, where we sold everything we had to each other, just for the experience. We practiced introductions when we arrived at the chateau for dinner, and practiced polite conversation, learning how to find things to talk about with ease. 

These things did not all go on contunuously, but often enough to make life interesting. I learned some of this at home with my own Mother, who came from hard times on the Prairies in Alberta in the 1930's. Today there are marvellous trips and amusements, but to live so many ways at home is a great privilege to a child, and yet enriching to the adults.  

Can you remember dull, dark days when it was impossible to go anywhere, and restlessness was about to take over your mind? Reading a book would lift you out of the doldrums* and take you away. I can still feel the effect of getting lost in a story, whether fictional, historical or biographical. Reading made the burdens of life lighter and gave my siblings and me a sense of optimism about life. We would emerge from a book ready to really live better. 

At home, our innovation was not tethered, as we had our library, our music room (a corner where we kept our instruments and record player) our writing desk, our theatre and our restaurant.  The ones who made this possible for us were our parents: our Dad, because he spent a lot of time working to provide for us, and our Mother, becaise she stayed home with us and guided our play and our thinking with good values. To a child, a house is many places, as it is the source of rest, learning and playing.

*doldrums:- a placid place near the equator where the ships could not move because the wind was not forceful enough to push the sails.  Later, being stuck and unable to do anything, or bored, was referred to as the doldrums.

Below: Afternoon Tea at the Empress.  Many things we long to do are so far away and we are constrained by local job obligations, weather problems or finances, but we can use our homes as settings for many enjoyable events, creating happy memories for the future.

Below: These tea cups are used in the Empress Hotel, and are also sold there.  Sometimes you can find them in thrift stores. They are called Fairmont tea cups and are replicas of the ones used when The Queen of England first visited The Empress Hotel, shortly after she was married.


ladypinktulip said...

I think it is delightful to help our children learn customs and tea
from different places right in our own homes. We are so blessed to
teach them manner and ways without traveling afar. It reminds me
of the book The Benevolence of Manners. Kelly T.

Tricia said...

My family did something similar to this! Traditionally we go to Macy's in downtown Chicago for a Christmas lunch at The Walnut Room. My husband is laid off due to the state of IL having no budget, so we needed to pass on it this year. My daughter and I surprised my husband and son with our own version of Macy's right in our living room by our own Christmas tree! We called our restaurant "The Nut House" and served a lovely lunch and made the best memory! I think I liked to more than our usual tradition!

Rightthinker said...

What a beautiful post. I just love imagining all the places you and your family have traveled! Your wonderful stories always uplift and encourage me.

God Bless you!

GrammaGrits said...

What wonderful ideas!

We were blessed to be taken to The Empress for high tea several years ago by dear friends when we traveled together to Victoria. It was wonderful!

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Logan'sLops said...

This was a really sweet post. This is the kind of post I always want to print and file away so I remember to do this with my children when they are a little older. I want to read the book about your mother (I believe its the one on your sidebar?). Thank you Mrs. Sherman. Love and Merry Christmas from Jennifer in Florida

Alex said...

The little glimpse of your white tea table and chairs through the window looks just as inviting as the Empress. What a fun way to spend the afternoon!
Christmas good wishes and blessings to you.

living from glory to glory said...

What a great teaching tool you used with your children! And I think the way you made your afternoon tea sounded just as elegant as if you were in a well known tea room. There is just something so special about a tea in our own quaint homes!
I just had a cup of decaffeinated Constant Comment tea,One day we may just have to go visit that tea room...
Blessings, Roxy

Lynn said...

I think I best like the tea shown through the front door of your home, Lydia. (smile)