New Blog Officially Launched!

Yep I finally set up and posted on my new tea-devoted blog Once Upon an Afternoon Tea. I’m giddy like a child over this blog! I love the concept, I love the design, I love the potential, but most of all I love the field researchšŸ˜‰

So start checking it out and be front and center to watch it grow:


New Blog Title

I’m still kind of bouncing around the thought in my head of starting a new blog devoted to afternoon tea, scones, treats, and fun facts about afternoon tea, scones, and treats. It sounds like a fun little side project particularly since I’ve stopped doing my book review blog (just not enough traffic to really make the time writing reviews worth it). But the hardest part is coming up with a name. I have some ideas…

The Crumpet Strumpet
The Clotted Creamery
Tea and Crumpets
The Cream Tea Dream

Any thoughts? Any more ideas?

Tea Room Review: Chado Tea Room in Hollywood, CA

I feel like my blog is having an identity crisis. It started out because I was going to England and needed a way to keep everyone back home updated easily and in a mass quantity. But I’ve been back from England for nearly a year, and sometimes I go for longish gaps without posting because, well, I’m not in England anymore. There are no new experiences every day, no traveling nearly every weekend, no crazy study abroad stories. There is just life.

Now life has some fun updates right now: engagement, new job, business, and birthday fun stuff coming in a later post (this one has a very specific purpose). But can these kinds of general life updates sustain a blog’s popularity? Am I too scattered to engage readers? Is it harmful that when you come to my blog you aren’t sure what kind of post you are going to get, or is that part of the charm? I’ve been wondering this a lot lately and since I don’t know a ton of bloggers–and the blogs I read myself are very specific topics like baking and cooking–I don’t know who to ask for their opinions. So if you have any feedback, I’d appreciate it. After all you are my reader and you are the best one to tell me whether or not you enjoy reading whatever I write. Let’s get interactive people!

In the meantime, I wanted to harken back to the England days with a cream tea review. I haven’t done one in a while because, again, not in the UK anymore and until recently I didn’t think there were a lot of tea rooms out here beyond where I work. It’s tough also when you have had the best cream teas ever in the UK and you make really good scones yourself to enjoy American style cream teas. Maybe that will be some of the fun of my new quest: the Quest for the Best Southern California Cream Tea…QBSCCT if you will.

First up: Chado Tea Room in Hollywood, CA

Opening statement: If it wasn’t for having a Groupon, I would have been more upset about my experience here. I have really high standards for afternoon teas, but I knew going in that Yelp reviews were mixed so I went in with automatically lower expectations, thank goodness.

Made a reservation easily for mid week, and when we arrived there was a table set for us, but we had to find the ONLY WAITER in the whole restaurant and ask if that was our table. This was their biggest problem I thought. The restaurant isn’t huge, but it’s enough tables and enough work per table to justify a minimum of two servers on the floor. A great server could handle the whole restaurant by himself/herself with only the two bussers but unfortunately today’s server couldn’t handle it. As a server, I felt bad for him so I didn’t deduct his tip because it isn’t his fault management understaffs.

The decor isn’t like a typical quaint tea house. It’s very minimalistic with a twinge of Asian (I’ll update with pictures soon). At least there were white tablecloths (funny story I saw one of the bussers “clean” a table by literally flipping over the tablecloth) and the place was very clean. Not overly girly either which can sometimes get to be too much.

Tea menu is overwhelming, but the overwhelmingness doesn’t come from it being extensive (because plenty of tea rooms have 100+ teas on their menus and are manageable) but from it being disorganized. Six different sections for Darjeelings, Assams, tisanes and the teas that most people are ordering were in the back, and the descriptions all said “a perfect breakfast tea” without much else to tell me. Plus, every tea was “tippy”…uh okay. The waiter gave me a weird look when I asked to smell the tea before choosing it, a pretty standard practice for those who know tea and I had told him upfront that I work at a tea room. I eventually chose the Raijin (Indian tea with lavender and roses) which was great plain, but my mom ordered Lavender Earl and it was too much lavender and it was overbrewed. Aisha got the Sencha Rose and she seemed to like it. Plus the teas were cold by the end of the service. And they were out of a lot of teas. Which was a problem when we went to order our loose leaf teas and they were out of our top three choices. We settled for the Raijin that I had and then Sencha Cherry that has a promising smell for an iced tea to break in my new iced tea maker (thank you Joseph!).

Groupon was for afternoon tea for 4 and $25 of loose leaf tea. As we only had two people eating afternoon tea, we wanted to know if there were any alternative options. The waiter was very courteous and after he stopped being confused as to why we had a coupon for four people but there were only two of us, offered to package up the rest to take away. Great idea. Great point for service.

Finger sandwiches were the best part. I liked how the bread was slightly toasted and the smoked salmon sandwich was awesome. Chicken and cranberry also good. Cucumber was odd since it was made with butter and a cream cheese/onion garnish. But butter can be traditional British.

Scones were somehow simultaneously sweet and flavorless. I’m used to the only scone flavor being plain or currant from my time in England, but Yelp reviews say that they offered flavors like blueberry or ginger, but I guess not for us. They were average sized. Unfortunately after eating the finger sandwiches, the scones had cooled and were hard as stale biscuits. Previous reviewers said to just eat the scones first while they were still warm and fluffy, but you shouldn’t have to eat the scones before the sandwiches. To me that says the scones are either not fresh or not properly stored. “Cream” was whipped cream (no idea why people keep calling this stuff Devonshire cream since it isn’t) and apricot jam. Had to ask twice for strawberry jam.

Desserts were dense and not tasty (mini carrot cake cupcake, pineapple upside down cake, two plain cookies). We left them there.

I also think that since they are located in California and more Americans are choosing gluten-free diets, I think they should have offered some gluten free options. The place I work does. Of course I’m only aware of this today because Aisha is with us and she doesn’t eat gluten so she had to have a salad.

Overall, I won’t go back there on my own dime, but with a Groupon deal it was worth trying. They really need to properly staff the place so that the poor service can give better customer service and not look like he wants to cry. I felt guilty asking for anything beyond placing our order because he looked that overwhelmed (and the restaurant wasn’t even full).

Pictures coming soon.

Disneyland’s Fantasy Faire

It’s a well known element of the restaurant industry: you never have or really want a weekend free. Weekends are prime time for the rest of the world eating out, so we humble waiters accept that we will be spending our Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by our customers’ sides and at their service, rather than with our friends or family.

Sometimes, however, something glorious will happen and a server will get a “weekend” midweek. I was lucky to have Tuesday and Wednesday off this past week and it felt like a true weekend. Immediately I called up Mom and asked the most important question any person ever asks another…

“Do you want to go to Disneyland?”

Answer: Duh.

Disneyland recently removed the Carnation Plaza Gardens, an area…a restaurant…a garden…a stage for not Disney sponsored entertainment…you know what, I’m not really sure what CPG was to begin with, but I know what it is now. It has become a mecca of Disney Royalty, the Fantasy Faire.

The area is so well-decorated and quaint that not only does it blend in perfectly with the neighboring castle and Fantasyland, but it feels like you are straight out ofĀ Tangled orĀ Beauty and the Beast. Which is fitting since the shows are based on those movies, but more on that in a minute.

The square is dominated by a twenty foot stone maypole carved into Rapunzel’s tower. It’s definitely a picture spot, probably the best outdoor spot for a photo, but other than architecture it doesn’t really serve a purpose, yet. I think they are planning on adding some type of maypole show eventually, but it isn’t on the Fantasy Faire schedule yet. Behind the pole and up against a stone wall is a little framed bench, another great photo opportunity for kids who want to feel like the characters and couples who want to look all cutesy. Next to the bench, though, is what I thought was the highlight of Fantasy Faire’s exterior look: Clopin’s Music Box.

Clopin is the gypsy fromĀ Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the favorite Disney character of Fantasy Faire creative director Michel Den Dulk (well, he is French). His music box has a wonderful hidden surprise beyond the crank and dancing Clopin and gargoyles. The background of the crowd is all Disney characters from other films! See if you can name them all becomes a cute little distracting game for us older children when there isn’t a line of kids behind you waiting for their turn to crank the box.

There is also the requisite princess dress gift shop and a snack cart called Maurice’s Treats, presumably Belle’s father selling French pastries that are really just chocolate, strawberry, or cheddar twists. And some slushy juicy thingy.

The Royal Hall is to the right of the entrance, basically a covered queue to meet three of the Disney princesses at a time. Apparently the princesses stand inside this ballroom and little girls get to meet them and take pictures. It’s a good idea, except I know that if I had been a little girl I would’ve been upset not seeing the princesses I wanted and the princesses can sometimes change during the 45 minute wait.

The highlight is really the shows. Based onĀ TangledĀ andĀ Beauty and the Beast, the shows feature two characters from the movies and Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones narrating and playing the remaining supporting characters. There are actually a lot of funny “older” references that keep the adults laughing (more in theĀ Tangled show which I felt was far better) and go straight over the kids’ heads. No worry. We all know they are just there to see Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and Belle.

Mom and I went first thing to Fantasy Faire, and saw the firstĀ Tangled show, then walked around the Main Street shops and Downtown Disney before making it back for theĀ Beauty and the BeastĀ show. And then we left. We have passes after all and the whole point of going was to check out the new area. I may also have been more tired from my five straight days of waitressing than I had thought. At times it felt like I could barely move my feet!

Basically, you won’t spend a ton of time in Fantasy Faire unless you are waiting in line to see the princesses, but it is a must see destination on its quaint merits alone.

A Delayed Day at Disneyland

Remember my first ever blog posts? Those crazily titled alliterations revolving around spending a day at Disneyland with my dad before heading off to England? Yeah those alliterations were fun to come up with, despite the challenge of finding yet another adjective, adverb, or noun to squeeze into those descriptions. D is not the easiest letter.

Alliterations are awesome, just acknowledging that. Anyways…

Last Thursday (hence the delay reference) I was so fortunate to be unemployed at the same time that a dear friend was using one of her umpteen vacation days to reunite us at the Happiest Place on Earth. I don’t think Amy has made an appearance on this site yet, but she has been my friend since back in my dancing days–at least 6 years ago. Ā Unfortunately with both of our lives moving forward, albeit in amazing directions, we haven’t had a lot of time to meet and update each other on everything going on. So what better way to make up for lost time than an entire day together at Disneyland and California Adventure?

Exactly! Nothing. And I just renewed my pass so I am totally down for any trip to Anaheim with any person (currently accepting invitations). What I wasn’t really looking forward to was that drive, therefore coffee was in desperate need to get me through that two hour drive down the 5. Traffic…not so fun…thank goodness another friend introduced me to this iPhone app called TED a few weeks ago so I could make my drive educational as well as pass the time with something other than the same CD on repeat. Once I finally made it to the tram center, Amy and I did the typical girl squeal in delight at seeing each other. Normally I can’t stand being that high pitched, but we hadn’t seen each other in nearly a year so I made an allowance. We started at Disneyland.

The great thing about having a pass–the both of us having passes in fact–is that you are never stressed about going on every single ride. Skip Big Thunder this time around? No big deal, you can catch it next time. And then every once in a while you go on a ride that you have passed the last few times and remember how awesome it can be. Like our ride through the rivers of the world on The Jungle Cruise: we had a hilarious skipper that no one else seemed to be able to get her jokes, so we looked super weird laughing at one liners while the rest of the boat was filming with their iPhones and I’m pretty sure they were thinking that the audioanimatronics were real. No joke. Tourists (insert head shaking).

But there are classics, especially during the holidays like The Haunted Mansion decked out forĀ Nightmare Before Christmas,Ā that just cannot be missed, so we hit those up before lunch and moving on to the other side for California Adventure. Amy hadn’t been since February so she hadn’t seen the new Buena Vista Street entrance or Cars Land; I had a lot of fun oooohing and ahhhing over the new renovations, indulging inner little girls on rides likeĀ The Little Mermaid as well and widening our eyes at how pretty everything was. We hit a bit of a road bump when we were stuck for a few minutes on Radiator Springs’ Racers; totally made up for that snafu when it started raining really hard later in the afternoon while we were on Mater’s Tow Trucks allowing us to have a dance party on an awesome ride in the rain. We might have looked like complete idiots, which of course made it just that much more perfect. But I swear we compensated for our childish moments when we had a glass of wine at Golden Wine Vineyards restaurant across from Cars Land. Having just tasted a $400 a bottle Cabernet Sauvignon the night before, my $12 glass of South African cab/syrah blend was not the best wine I’ve ever tasted, but it did get me nicely tipsy for a hand gliding trip over California. That was quite funšŸ˜‰

The absolute best part of the day, however, had nothing to do with rides or good food or a slightly drunken attraction experience. It was (and forgive the corniness) getting to spend hours upon hours talking with Amy about everything from our jobs (her current as a medical supplies sales rep and my upcoming one at a new restaurant) and boy interests (oh the stories we had!) to our future plans and places we want to travel. Great and long lasting friends are really hard to come by, so I am unbelievably grateful that Amy and I have stayed close. Especially as now I have yet another person to go to Disneyland with all the time!!!

And to reiterate…always accepting invitations to Disneyland Dates.

The Ranks of the Unemployed

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. If you’re a Dodger, you don’t seem to be able to hit one, but for the rest of us non-athletes, we need to be able to adapt and duck when one comes our way so that we won’t get hurt. Why this has any relevance to the rest of my post, I am not entirely sure. But I started the post with the aforewritten sentence and it just kind of seemed to follow from there. What baseball has to do with my being temporarily unemployed is a mystery to me. Maybe I’m just a little more than a little upset at the Dodger’s season this year and I needed to get that off my chest before I told you that I quit my job this week.

Yes, I no longer work at Sake Bistro and Sushi as of last night. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I quit because that is unethical and honestly unimportant, but I am sure that I made the right decision. It was actually really difficult to do. My coworkers are the most amazing people and I hate feeling like I am disappointing people, yet how could I pass up these other opportunities coming my way? Maybe that’s what I meant by life throwing us curveballs. We really have no idea what is in store for us; just when we think we are aiming at a fast ball, the ball falls away to the right and we have to adjust our plan.

Oh yeah, I just got deep with youšŸ˜‰

And now I get the luxury to think: what will I do with all my time off??? I can bake, I can scrapbook, I can sketch, I can travel, I can…start memorizing the information for my new job that I start training for on Tuesday night. So much for time off! But I have to save money for grad school and traveling (as always, donations are greatly appreciated).

But despite all the week’s focus on my job, that isn’t really what I was planning on talking about. I wanted to talk about dance. Shocker right? Jenna talks about dance. It should make the national papers it’s such a rarity. Anyways, I’ve been training at this new place by the Westfield mall (anyone else annoyed that Westfield literally owns nearly every mall in the country?) for some intensive ballroom and latin lessons. And oh my god is it intense. I’m pretty sure that we spent the first two weeks only working on Rumba walks. But it is AWESOME. I absolutely love being back in a studio and getting to move my body in a way that isn’t walking to and from tables carrying food. We’ve been working on Rumba technique as well as general ballroom technique. Last lesson we started samba. Just when I felt like I had a handle on this latin stuff, Todd throws this crazy Brazilian dance with psycho hip actions and bent knees and my brain literally leaks out my ears with contrasting information. It’s nuts: Brazil nuts in fact. Regardless I am having a great timešŸ™‚

Yet ballroom and latin are not the only kinds of dancing I’ve been doing lately. Laura and I head out to Thousand Oaks every Wednesday night to go country line dancing at Borderline Bar and Grill. Let me tell you, it is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It’s wholesome and every one is super nice and friendly and so willing to help you learn the dances. I’ve been about 8 times and Laura’s been 5, so we are officially regulars and we are picking up the dances pretty quickly I think. It’s so awesome to get all cowgirled up (yes we both own real cowboy boots now), dance our little hearts out to “Blown Away” “Footloose” and “Stuck Like Glue”, and spend a ton of time in awesome best friend bonding over good music. WeĀ mightĀ be a little addicted…but only a little I swear!

So those are the basic updates for the moment. There are a few really cool things in the works right now, but I am not ready to share those yet so you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Over and out!

A Long Long Time Ago…

I used to blog consistently. Now, it seems that nearly a month has passed and no one has heard a word from me (unless you are my friend on Facebook or in person frequently, which seems to be rare as well). I will admit, I went through a phase where I questioned whether or not to continue. After all, I’m back from Oxford for the foreseeable future and when I say that nothing of interest ever happens in my hometown, I’m not exaggerating. So who would want to read about my day to day, the grindstone of being a waitress or the battles of lacking motivation on my days off? Highly doubtful that it would be entertaining, hence I dropped off the blogging world to question yet another thing I was doing in my life.

Sorry if that sounds melodramatic, but since I’m writing a post right now, it obviously has a happy ending!

I realized something the other day, however. Yeah my hometown may be small and often the only thing to do for fun is grab a cup of coffee or leave, but then shouldn’t the responsibility to entertain my readers be a really good excuse to take advantage of those days off and goĀ do something? Okay so this responsibility may only be made up in my head, but if an imaginary duty helps me find interesting things to experience, then I’d be silly not to milk it for everything its worth. Which is how today’s reappearance blog came to be! I won’t give up! I’ll keep detailing randomness and making up travels and sharing the moments of clumsiness with all of you…just maybe not as daily updated as it was while I was in Oxford.

So what was on yesterday’s Day Off agenda? History of the distant and recent time. Whoa, sounds deep doesn’t it? Sounds philosophical? Sounds like…mini golf?

The California Science Center, near that Other College in Los Angeles that no one of importance cares about, is hosting a traveling exhibition on Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt. Two archaeologists dredged up over 150 artifacts and pieces from the edge of the modern city of Alexandria that came from Cleopatra’s Alexandria and two temples in neighboring cities. Ā Being a sucker for anything ancient and with a whole morning to call my own, I blasted out on Facebook if anyone was interested in joining me on my own explorations.

No affirmative responses. Sadness.

Luckily a superhero, aka Mom, graciously agreed to accompany me despite her not really caring about the exhibit. Once again, I owe her one. Especially as we got lost on our way there (that would NEVER happen around UCLA, I’m just saying…) and the exhibition didn’t end up living up to my unfairly high expectations. I don’t know a lot about Cleopatra’s story, because it was so long ago and so many historical records were destroyed by the Roman invaders most of the world doesn’t know either, but I do remember her having a fascinating minority before coming to the throne at age 17. But the exhibit completely passed over that, focusing instead on her reign and her relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. I did learn a lot of interesting facts that I faithfully wrote down (once a student always a student), but I still felt that the exhibit was lacking in some key entertainment value.

And the worst part? The gift shop. One of my favorite things about museum exhibitions are the book portions of the gift shops. I just recently picked up a gigantic biography of Walt Disney at the D23 Archive exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library, and was looking forward to perusing similarly thorough titles here. Alas, nothing. Not a single book about her, her life, Egypt in general; nothing except the official exhibition guide book. I feel cheated. That alone took the exhibition’s total possible awesome score from a maximum of 10 points on a scale down to 6. Meaning the exhibit ended at a 5. So sad. But at least we found our way home without getting lost!

So that was the ancient history. For the foray into more recent history, I turned to a new friend. A waiter I met from a different sushi restaurant booked up my night with the promise of shenanigans. Unfortunately, I am a sucker for shenanigans, and luckily for me, shenanigans were delivered in full swing.

I mean swing literally as well; we went miniature golfing!!! And I’m embarrassed yet proud to admit that…I suck at mini golf. And not just a little sucky, but epicly sucky. I scored an 11…on a single whole…at mini golf. Children don’t even do that! At least we had a ton of laughs. We skipped around like children, talking about everything under the sun as well as trying our darndest to not humiliate ourselves in front of any children playing ahead of us. It was a total flashback to childhood, and so much fun.

Overall, a successful and satisfying day off from waitressing, but that isn’t what really motivated me to return to blogging. No, that distinction goes to…cookies. Fall deliciousness all the way. Oatmeal cookies, with an added boost from vanilla bean and white chocolate chips, surrounding a Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kiss. They. Are. So. Good. I’ll post the recipe next post once I’ve worked out some of the kinks (this recipe is completely my own so kinks are an unavoidable part of the recipe building process). But trust me, go to your nearest Target and buy at least two bags of these seasonal kisses. Your friends would be requesting them all the time if any of them ever get to try them. Unfortunately, you’ll probably eat them all yourself so no one else will get that opportunity! Talk to you soon!!!