Friday, August 29, 2008

Marmalady's Jams and Jellies

Marilyn Miller (creator of Marmalady's) grew up in the apple orchards in Northern California and developed a love of fresh fruit and all things made with fruit. The women in her family prided themselves on making the best apple pies and jams.
Combining the love of tea and fruit made sense to is a connection to growth that bubbles up joy in her. It actually makes her heart sing. Marilyn is also a graduate of Magnolia & Ivy and I have gotten to know her at the World Tea Expo. You can read more about her on her blog and
you can try out her jams and jellies for sale now at A Spot For Tea.
These jams and jellies are made with only the finest ingredients. They have no preservatives or artificial colors in these 8oz. jars on sale for $6.50 each.
Earl Grey Jelly
Rose Tea Jelly
Apricot Darjeeling Jam
Orange Triple Sec Marmalade
Pear Lemon Marmalade with Green Tea
Cranberry Ginger Tea Marmalade
One of my favorite scriptures is
Psalm 1:3 "And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If Teacups Could Talk

Two of my favorite things are tea and books. There is nothing nicer than to be able to sit down for stolen moments with a comforting book and a lovely cup of tea. Some of the most satisfying readings are those in which the author also understands the value of tea and includes it in his or her writing. The book "If Teacups Could Talk" by Emilie Barnes is one such book, with illustrations and paintings by Sandy Lynam Clough.

Barnes shares stories of inspiration, tea party ideas and recipes to whet your appetite. It is the perfect starting place for hosting your own tea for friends or just spending some quiet time with a good cuppa. In fact, I can say that this is the book that started my own tea journey. After reading it in 1995, God gave me the idea for A Spot For Tea.

In September 2004, my brother Greg and his wife Misty gave me a copy of this very special book with which they signed, "It takes great faith and even greater courage to step out and act on something God has laid on your heart. It is inspiring to see your dreams become reality. Keep up the pace until you finish the race and know your prize is well worth your perseverance."

How like God to give me this meaningful book back with such an inscription inside ten years later. Enjoy the read!

"If Teacups Could Talk" is available in our gift shop for $15.99.
Psalm 20:4 "May the Lord give you the desire of your heart."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Six Weddings, Two Days

all the wonderful brides and grooms that chose to have their wedding
at these two beautiful places.
These are some of the pictures I took during their special day.
Friday, August 22nd, Flowered Arch at Walnut Creek Chapel

Menu: Mini Croissant Sandwich, Seasonal Fruit with Cheese & Crackers,
Tortilla Cream Cheese Wraps with Picante, Meatballs and Parmesan Chicken Bites

Hot pink and black accents.

Mirrors and cascading fruit.

Hot pink Star Lilys, Roses and Asparagus Fern.

"And The Two Shall Become One"
Groom David Morris and Bride Melinda Jay

Bride and Groom: David and Melinda

Friday, August 22nd, Coles Garden in the Royal Room
Groom Andrew Drake and Bride Cheri Payne

White chair covers and pink sashes outside on the veranda.

Portrait of Bride at the Reception.

Candles aglow and cake table in the background.

Head table and cake table.

Beautiful cake and pink roses.

Menu: Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast, Golden Scalloped Potatoes
Tuscan Vegetable Medley, Crisp Green Salad Medley, Fresh Cut Broccoli Salad
and Seasonal fruit with Cheese & Crackers.

Saturday, August 23rd, Coles Garden in the Royal Room
Groom Joshua Franklin and Bride Haley Spurlock

Josh had a football ice scultpure on food table.
Menu: Mini Croissant Sandwich, Vegetables with Ranch Dip,
Fiesta Cheese Ball with Crackers, Boneless Buffalo Wings & Tortellini Alfredo

Chocolate Fountain.

Saturday, August 23rd, at Coles Garden in the Royal Room!
Groom Jarrod Smith and Brooke Blevins

OSU Grooms Cake.

Brides's Cake with Initial Cake Topper.

Heart Shaped Candy I DO!

Candy Table, Cake Table and Food Table in background!

Brooke & Jarrod's napkins.

Bridal party waiting for the bride!

Bride and Father of the Bride about to go in the Royal Garden!

Menu: Honey Glazed Ham, Crisp Green Salad Medley, Golden Scalloped Potatoes,
Green Beans and Seasonal Fruit with Cheese & Crackers.

Close up with flower peeking through the fruit, cheese and crackers!

Cake table, with ice punch bowl and Candy Table in background!

Saturday, August 23rd, 8:00pm at Coles Garden in the Princess Room.
Groom Court Rouche and Megan Lindsey is the bride.
Beautiful blue hydrangea and Chinese Blue Vases.

Close up of the Blue Hydrangea.

Cascading Fruit and Vegetables with Mirrors.

Menu: Mini Croissant Sandwich, Seasonal Fruit with Cheese & Crackers,
Vegetables with Ranch dip, Tortilla Cream Cheese Wraps with Picante & Egg Rolls with Sauce.

Watermelon Basket with fruit and cheese.

Mirrors at all different heights.

Beautiful Fruits of summer.

Sparkling Lemonade.

Outside the Princess Room...bistro tables getting ready for evening and candles.

Saturday, August 23rd, 7:30pm at Walnut Creek Chapel
Bride Shannon Neal
Menu: Mini Croissant Sandwich, Seasonal Fruit with Cheese & Crackers,
Parmesan Chicken Bites, Hot Spinach Dip & Boneless Buffalo Wings.
Beautiful Cake Table and Ice Sculpture Punch Bowl.
My dad, Pastor Gene Nease, after the ceremony with bride and groom.

Pictures being taken after the ceremony.

Walnut Creek Chapel.
Thank you to all of the staff at Walnut Creek Chapel and Coles Garden
that make catering there such a joy. Everyone is always willing
to help out and do whatever they can to make it a very special day for the bride and groom.
Thanks to everyone who go the second mile.
Matthew 5:41 "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."
Thank you Eric and Autumn for all your hard work and dedication it couldn't happen
without you both giving up your weekends.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fab Job Interview - Being A Tea Room Owner

I got an interesting request for an interview for Fab Jobs.

Julie Moran contacted me for an upcoming book that she is writing about being a Tea Room Owner. It got me to thinking and I wanted to share with others that might be interested in the inside life of owning a Tearoom. I can't wait to read what she writes as she interviews other tearoom owners for their responses.


I am very excited to have the opportunity to share my perspective on being a tearoom owner. If you want to succeed in this business, if you really want this FAB JOB, only you in the end can make it happen for yourself. Nobody is going to do the work and build a business for you!

First off, I would highly recommend interning at a tearoom before you decide to get your business cards made up and pick out a logo. I would HIGHLY suggest working in the FOOD INDUSTRY before you start out on this journey to gain a respect that this is not just serving tea in a relaxing environment and saying "aaahh". That is what we want our customers to feel but behind the scenes and in the kitchen its a whole other world. Speaking of serving food: I think that if you have never been a server whether fast food, restaurant, or catered parties you probably should rethink this as a vocation. This is a service industry....we are the staff and we work HARD to make memories for other people.

I laugh to myself each time anyone exclaims to me, "You're a tearoom owner....that must be so relaxing...and sooo much fun!" To be honest...its not just one big tea party. But it is rewarding and fulfilling doing what you were made to do. I am a person who strongly believes in callings (my father is a retired pastor) so I spent alot of time on my knees before signing the dotted line on the lease and the loan at the bank.

Now to answer your questions:

1. Please briefly describe your typical day, from preparing to open your tearoom to closing.
We are opened 11-3pm Tues - Saturday. I usually get up and start working on the computer in my kitchen before ever leaving for work. I'm an early bird...I built my own website and am in charge of updates, blogs, etc. We have 3 boys ages 12, 10 and 6 so this job can be done with a family. We are also the in-house caterer where my parents co-own wedding chapel and gardens Walnut Creek Wedding Chapel and Coles Garden (I also take care of both of their websites and a blog. There are no normal work till the job is done. My husband and I never complain when its summer and we are doing about 20 weddings a month along with all of the tearoom events. We're always joking that we're like squirrels saving up for the winter months. Our slower months are November and January. I spoke with a tearoom owner in California at the World Tea Expo and she said January is a very busy for them so I guess alot of it is weather related. I spend alot of time visiting with customers and building relationships during tearoom hours. You can't say enough about customer relations. I wear many hats when we book a dress up tea party in the Rose Cottage I become the Tea Lady in all my antique clothes orchestrating these all-inclusive parties. I am in charge of retail, ordering, display and inventory. I am also in charge of payroll and accts payable. We have over 20 employees and I leave the kitchen to my husband and our chefs. If they need me and get overloaded I can help out there but mostly I'm the front man. If we have a night event at our location or an off-site event to cater it can be late into the evening before we call it a day.

2. What do you find most rewarding about operating a tea room? We believe that it is a ministry to people's I would say the people make this job worth all the effort...both the customer and our employees, which are like family. You get a real sense of community here.

3. What do you wish you had known before you started your tearoom business? There will always be surprises...broken down refrigerators, employees calling in, rising food costs, ice storms, unpredicatable sales, customer issues, minimum wage increases. If you are wanting safe and predicatable this is not the road for you. If you like challenges and change, being your own boss and finding creative solutions welcome to TEA LAND.

4. What educational background and/or work experience would you recommend that a person seeking to open a tearoom obtain before starting his or her business? My husband has a degree in Marketing and I have a degree in Liberal Arts. We both worked for corporate America in the travel industry (American Airlines and Hertz). I did alot of catering both tea parties (birthday parties) and women's groups for churches before ever taking the big step to open up a tearoom. Get your feet wet by interning at a tearoom, for a caterer or start out taking the parties to people's homes before you sign a lease and spend the big bucks to make sure you enjoy serving others. My husband kept his full time job until May 2006 to supplement income so we could pay our staff well and not worry about paying our personal bills until the tearoom got strong enough to support our family.

5. What POS system do you use (assuming you are happy with the one you currently use)? We just updated all of our computers to VISTA and we got a touch-screen up front. Amigo is our POS system. I've also talked with other tearoom owners who used Quickbooks POS to start out.

6. How and why did you choose your tearoom's location (ie what were the most important factors in your decision? Can you offer any tips or advice on choosing a good location? I just spoke on this in Las Vegas at the World Tea Expo 2008 about expanding beyond the traditional concept of a 30-seat tearoom to a Tea Event Center with multiple party rooms. We have 14,000 square feet with a grand staircase. Alot of tearoom owners are failing today because they can't generate enough income to make it on 30 seats with shortened hours. I would say don't limit yourself. We have great parking so a tour bus can pull up and unload a whole group. We have pull up parking so older customers don't have to walk a long way. We have an elevator for easy access upstairs to our Queen's Room and Rose Cottage. Alot of people make the mistake of seeing a real cute Victorian house and say oh, wouldn't it make a wonderful location for a tearoom without checking on building codes and handicapped requirements for bathrooms etc.

7. What licenses or permits were you required to obtain before opening your business? Did you encounter any particular difficulties (eg with the building dept, health or fire dept etc) prior to opening your tearoom? State sales tax, restaurant license from the city, food operator's license from the county health dept, Health dept, fire department. There are always issues but everyone was really excited to see us move into their community so they wanted to help make it successful by giving up steps to take to make it happen. Kitchens are the hardest part....lots of requirements and codes...we just did it step by step.

8. Do you have any tips on hiring and/or training good employees? We interview everyone...I get a gut feeling and usually if I follow always works out when hiring people? Most of our employees have been with us from the beginning. We pay good and we have a staff manual. My husband and I are always here and I think that also makes a difference. You lead by example. My manager, Ashlie, has been with me long enough that I would trust her completely to act on my behalf and make a decision the way I would want. She is like my daughter and I have known her all of her life. It really is so important to hire the right person because I've made a couple of bad hires and we all felt changed the dynamics of the whole tearoom.

9. Do you have any marketing or promotion tips or ideas that have worked particularly well for you? NEWSLETTERS AND BLOG. Connects the customer directly to you and what is going on. It makes them feel a part of your brand. We have customers that save all of their newsletters. I would also say market original item to sell (ie cookbooks, tea mugs with our logo, tea shirts, we just had a portrait done by the artist Susan Rios that we will sell to our customers in Sept) they want to take a piece of us home with them and we try to help them recreate the tea experience. We sell 50 loose leaf teas and we are always doing samples for customers to try new types.

10. Please briefly list or describe the standard general terms for new business owners in purchasing wholesale teas. When we first opened with 18 teas on our tea list. Metropolitan Teas really helped guide us through the process of having a wide variety of interesting teas. We have since added other vendors and more teas. Most tea merchants will let you start out with 30 days net but I always just used my cc to establish good relationships. I use my debit card almost 95% of the time and pay cash.

11. Are there standard profit margins or standard markups in tea service on tea and/or foods commonly served with tea? Our standard markup on all retail is this if it is wholesale at $5.00 I'm going to at least get $10.00 for the item sometimes more depending on the product. I try to keep our food cost at 25-27% anything under 30% is considered good in the food industry. We are not typical though because of all our catering and lunches. Our tea service upstairs is based on what our market will bare in this part of the country. You can charge $29.99 for a full afternoon tea on both coasts but in the middle of the country I charge $19.99 for a full tea. You have to know your customer and be sensitive. We get $24.99 per child for our tea parties in the Rose Cottage.

12. What words of encouragement would you give someone who dreams of opening a tearoom? What's the best advice you would give that person? Don't give the first year specifically it is so hard and you wonder if you were crazy to ever embark on this journey....but it is so worth it. Just make up your mind that no matter what, you will find a way to make it work. I didn't really want to cater outside when we first began but it has been icing on the cake to our bottom line. With each step in the journey the next step was revealed. I started out in a trailer taking the party to the girl's home the first year and operating a booth out of an antique mall where I sold teas and tea accoutrements. I started this business in 1996 and we didn't open the full service tearoom until April 2003. Each step prepared me for the next large move and God has not let us down yet. NEVER GIVE UP!

Thanks for letting me share....can't wait to see what you write after interviewing others in the industry.

Proverbs 24:27 "Put first things first. Prepare your work outside and get it ready for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house and establish a home."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tea Light

Tea Light in antique teacup and pink roses.

"A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle." - Fr. James Keller

"The Great Creator lives within each of us. All of us contain a divine, expressive spark,
a creative candle intended to light our path and that of our fellows. We are shiny,
not tarnished; large, not small; beautiful, not damaged - although we may be
ignorant of our grace, power and dignity." Walking in This World - Julia Cameron

Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tea Lady By Day

Oklahoma State Park - Roman Nose Resort!

Blake, Ben and Brock fishing on the Watonga Lake.

The inside of the RV (ok, so maybe not roughing it entirely!)
Catching anything yet?

The set up....Eric and I and the boys sleep in the pop up trailer
hey, they both have air conditioning who's complaining?

The family having breakfast al fresco!
Eric and the boys hiked up a can see the lodge and a tepee in the background.
The three B's looking back over the lake.

Eric and my dad golfing!

Blake and Benjamin with Eric swinging his clubs!

A little campfire magic to end the day of adventure.

So my dad promised the boys...camping before they started back to school.
With all of the weddings, tea parties, showers and events we don't get to camp as much as we would all like too. Secretly, I would like to take the boys to all the State Parks.
Did you know Oklahoma has 50 State Parks that reflect the beauty and diversity of our state?
So far we have visited (Ft. Cobb State Park, Lake Murray State Park, Lake Texoma State Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Roman Nose State Park and The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge)
There is just something about making memories with your family camping in the great outdoors. Something always goes a little wrong...but that's what makes it an adventure.
So...I'm the tea lady by day and the mom of three boys after-hours at night and weekends.
It's like I go into a phone booth (like Superman) and change hats.
Lace, fountains, soft music, and china teacups are replaced with all things boys like: fishing, getting dirty, golf, hiking did I mention getting dirty?
It really is the best of both worlds.
Which makes me you think God had an ulterior motive giving us all boys?
He really does have a sense of humor and a good plan for our lives.
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the give you hope in your final outcome."
God wants us to know He has a good plan for all of us.
He intends to do us good.