Afternoon tea at Zhi

Silver Needle Buds white tea in a Good Life pot at Zhi Tea

Silver Needle Buds white tea in a For Life pot at Zhi Tea

(NOTE: UPDATED BELOW ENTRY)

One of my favorite indulgences is afternoon tea (never to be called high tea, contrary to popular belief). There is something about the simplicity of the tea and the decadence and delicacy of finger sandwiches, scones (with clotted cream – oh my!), preserves and other little treats that makes me feel like I’ve treated myself well and gets me energized for the rest of my day.

This makes sense, because traditional English tea was just that, a respite to energize the aristocracy and the otherwise upper crust between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Recently, I enjoyed tea at the Zhi Tea Gallery in Austin (4607 Bolm Rd., 512-539-0717). It’s a cozy little haven off the beaten path. In fact, though I lived in Austin for five years before relocating to Houston a couple of years ago, I only discovered it just the other day. It’s truly one of those hidden gems. The owner is delightful and he and the staff are happy to answer questions, make recommendations and all around make you feel at home.

Inside, you’ll find a lounge area with comfy sofa, chairs and a coffee (er, tea) table, the retail shop, which includes a vast selection of the colorful and modern little For Life teapots in which the tea is served on the table service side, as well as a seating area with light wood tables and chairs. There also is a little library, if you’d like to stay and read a magazine or book.

The menu includes a stunning array of loose leaf teas and also cheese plates, hummus and veggies and delectable baked goods. On the retail side you can buy any and everything you need for tea at home. All of the tea pots are lovely and would make perfect gifts to tea-loving friends.

Since finding it, I’ve visited twice and each time I had a wonderful experience. The first time, I had a pot of the Single Needle Buds white tea and the next time a pot of the Ambrosia white tea. The former was mellow and light and latter sweet and smooth.

By yourself or with a friend, tea is an inexpensive treat that feels like a big luxury.

What’s your favorite inexpensive indulgence?

UPDATE: Zhi is having a Valentine Tea and Chocolate Pairing on Feb. 9, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Enjoy four courses featuring chocolate from The Chocolate Makers Studio. It’s $25 per person or $40 per pair and attendees get 10 percent off all teas in the Gallery and a tea sample to take home. RSVP in person with credit card or cash at the gallery (address above) or  via credit card by calling 512-539-0717 or via PayPal by emailing jeffrey@zhitea.com.

Advertisements

Question: If I buy a drink for a friend, is he obligated to leave the tip?

20121010-085023.jpg

Today’s question surrounds cocktail etiquitte. The asker wants to know if when buying drinks for a friend, if the friend is obligated to offer up the tip. Also, if said friend doesn’t, does the buyer have the right to be annoyed?

We advise that while it would be a lovely gesture for the friend to offer the tip, he isn’t obligated to do it. If he doesn’t, it’s of course a free country, but it was a gift to buy the drink, so you are obligated to absorb the cost of the tip and keep your annoyance to yourself. After all, you knew that was part of it when you bought the round. No matter what though, a hearty thank you is required and cheers to the buyer’s health.

This conversation does have us thinking that from now on, we’ll at least offer up tip money when given the gift of a delicious adult beverage.

What do you think? To offer tip or not to offer tip?

Cheers!
M

Re-find women: Ladies who inspire

Today, we are starting a new feature called “Re-find women: Ladies who inspire.” Our first lady is a dear friend, Rita Marroquin.

Re-find lady Rita Marroquin

Rita is an Independent Stylist with Stella & Dot Jewelry (click here to visit her site), is in school at the Aveda Institute to become an esthetician, teaches fitness classes, feeds the homeless, mentors at-risk youth, volunteers with cooking classes at Central Market, runs in tons of races and does it all with class, style and a beautiful spirit.

We are so proud to call Rita a friend and so inspired by her can-do attitude and fearlessness in life and in making a complete career change by starting her Stella & Dot business and going to school.

Thanks for the inspiration Rita!

Cheers!

Melanie

The definitive guide to e-mail etiquette

Today we are caught up in a whirlwind of production for the day job newspaper duties, so this will a brief, albeit important missive. Click here for what we at Re-find think is the best, quick hit list of e-mail etiquette tips we’ve seen to date.

Admittedly, we’ve committed one or two on this list, but we give ourselves points for getting it mostly right most of the time. We are however fans of emoticons and when e-mailing other emoticon-o-philes, we let our guard down and smiley face with the best of ’em.

Enjoy the list and when you are done, share with us your e-mail etiquette pet peeves.

Cheers!

 

Common courtesy makes you uncommon

Hello, readers. Today, let’s discuss common courtesy. It’s the little things that matter, such as listening, saying please and thank you and as we’ve said 8,352 times, essentially, just being kind. This is particularly important in business.

Yesterday, we read this blog post on Peter Shankman’s blog (he’s the social media entrepreneur/author/all around adventurous guy). The post is called, “Five things people don’t do — that you should,” and we agree 100 percent with everything on this list, not only for business, but for all areas of life.

Tips such as “pay attention,” and “know when to shut up” can go a long way and, as Shankman mentions, help you stand out from the crowd both professionally and personally, because frankly, most people don’t do either one.

If we only did those two things, imagine how much more people would want to be around us and work with us. Read the entire list, it’s good stuff.

Cheers!

M

Friday fun and frivolity, plus March Madness and sporting event etiquette

Happy Friday readers! Today is a good day for a little fun and relaxation to help ease into the weekend. First, let’s all take a moment to stop and smell the wildflowers:

 

Wildflowers!

 

Springtime in Texas is synonymous with wildflowers. We happened upon these while taking a walk in the neighborhood yesterday. We are not very good at identifying plant life, but we think this is Showy Evening Primrose or Oenothera speciosa.

Readers who know something about flowers, please feel free to weigh in or correct our guess.

What we do know is that we love wildflower season and will enjoy it while it lasts.

Next, we ran across something the other day that we think is not only a hoot, but also rather ingenious. The Garden & Gun Southern Food Bracket. Click here to see how your favorites foods and flavors fare during this entertaining (and hunger inducing) take on March Madness. We are pulling for pulled pork barbecue.

Regarding the real March Madness, for the record, the Re-find gang bleeds blue — Kentucky blue! The University of Kentucky Wildcats will battle it out against the Ohio State Buckeyes (it hurts to type that school’s name and mascot). We’ll do our best to be on our best behavior during the game and to practice good sportsmanship, but sporting event etiquette is a bit tricky, given smack talk is not only acceptable, but also expected. That said, always keep it friendly.

Have a great weekend and GO CATS!

Cheers!

 

Mr. Telephone Man: The new phone etiquette

Hello! Today, we’d like to discuss telephone etiquette. Who actually calls anyone these days, right? Which is why we feel a little refresher course is in order.

No calls after 10 p.m.

Recently, a reader told us the harrowing tale of 1:30 a.m. call from a hammered merrymaking friend. During the work week. No, it was not, as she worried, an emergency, which we both agreed is the only time adult humans should call one another at 1:30 a.m. Otherwise, consider the “cutoff” 10 p.m. for the childfree and 9 p.m. for parents, unless you literally just left that person after cocktails, dancing or some other event or you’ve been told specifically by the other party that calling later is A-OK. (Enjoy this clip from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where Larry thinks the “cutoff” is 10:30 p.m. and he gets a lesson from Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

This morning, we received a lovely text message at approximately 7 a.m. (CST) from a much-loved family member in the Eastern timezone, where — if you don’t want to do the math — it was around 8 a.m. Normally, we’d be against any form of communication at this hour, but we’ll give him a hall pass, because he knows what time the Re-find gang gets movin’ in the  mornin’. Typically, one should refrain from calling until after 9 p.m. in the timezone of the other party.

Please note that the same rules apply for texting, because many people keep cell phones near the bed for reasons we can’t fathom, other than perhaps they don’t own an alarm clock.

Additional things to note:

When you call, ask “Is this a good time?”

If you are the caller, it is up to you to end the call in a timely fashion. The recipient is at your mercy, don’t make it awkward for him or her.

Try “setting an appointment” first, so that you can ensure that it’s a good time to chat and that the person isn’t caught off guard, because quite frankly, the telephone is an interruption, no matter how cute the ringtone.

Speaking of ringtones, go with the least annoying type and keep it on a low volume. Don’t be “that person.”

Speaking of “that person” don’t have private conversations in public, where others can overhear; don’t talk loud, you aren’t that important, even if you are that important; don’t talk or text or FB or anything involving your phone at the dinner table or when you are supposed to be socializing with the people in front of you.

And breathe.

If you want to read more about phone culture, read this fun story from the New York Times, “Don’t call me, I won’t call you.”

What’s your biggest phone etiquette pet peeve?

On that note, have a great day! We’ll call you later.

Cheers!

Q: Do I give a hostess gift at dinner out?

Hello readers and happy Wednesday!

Recently, a reader asked if, when meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time, she should give a hostess gift at dinner out or wait until the dinner party moved back to their home.

In this situation, it’s appropriate to wait until going home, because unless the gathering is, for example, a birthday or anniversary celebration one wouldn’t bring a gift to a restaurant dinner.

Next, we brainstormed on a few hostess gift ideas for the return to the parent’s house. Here’s a list that will work not only in this situation, but any time you need to bring a gift. We recommend keeping a few of these items on hand for last-minute or “emergency” giving.

A host or hostess gift is a simple gesture of thanks in advance. A bottle of wine is a fast and easy classic, but if your hosts are teetotalers or you are feeling creative, consider the following simple and thoughtful gifts.

For her we recommend “fancy” guest soaps (we love Anthropologie for these, but one can find lovely soaps at nearly every department store, gift shop, drug store and sometimes even at the supermarket).

Most of us can never have too many tea towels or linen napkins. We found these cute little numbers at the Girlscantell shop on Etsy.com:

Coffee lover flour sack tea towels, $20 for set of two, image courtesy Girlscantell

For him, you might need to get a little craftier, so we decided that a single-handed salt and pepper mill might do the trick. Or a professional corkscrew with foil cutter, which we found at Sharper Image for $39.95.

A tasty item that anyone would love is Bella Cucina Walnut Sage and Pumpkin Spice pesto, $12:

Image courtesy Bella Cucina

The Bella Cucina olive oil is also divine. We love all things lavender and Becker Vineyards in Stonewall, Texas has it. Get lavender bouquets, room spray, body scrub, soap and everything else you can imagine made out of the fragrant purple flower at 830-664-2681 or www.beckervineyards.com.

Finally, a shameless plug for Re-find’s new gift shop. Click here to learn more about the Store. Today, we’re featuring the Le Cafe notecards, because you may just want to send a thank you card to the host and hostess after the lovely dinner out or at their home.

Le Cafe mug and notecards

With these gifts (and a thank you note), you’ll be invited back in no time.

Cheers!

More Re-find …

Hello gentle readers. My, it has been far too long since we last blogged. But, as you may have noticed, we’ve undergone a little renovation of sorts. Re-find now has a fancy new logo:

Oooh, ahhh, logo love

Plus, we’ve added several new pages, including “Ask Melanie” for all of your burning etiquette and style questions; “Style,” which covers the meaning of refined style, both inside and out; “Services,” where you can learn about personal styling consultation and how to book Melanie Spencer to speak to your group; “Philanthropy,” because there is nothing more charming or stylish than giving back; and “Store,” which is where you can buy Re-find merchandise.

Please take a look around and, as always, let us know what you think.

In other news, we recently visited a cozy cocktail lounge in Houston and just have to share a few photos with you, because this bar exemplifies simple elegance, with a healthy dose of hip. Enjoy this little photo tour of Leon’s Lounge (1006 McGowen St.), owned by Under the Volcano owners Pete and Vera Mitchell.

Leon's Lounge in Midtown, Houston

Front window display

Black and white checked tile and carved wood barChandelier detail

Beautiful stained glass window in bar area

Seating area in room off of main bar

Menu coming soon, but until then, you can have a snack

We hope you enjoyed the tour. Cheers!

Gossip girls

We have a confession to make to you today kind readers. We are absolutely the worst gossips on the planet here at Re-find. We aren’t proud of it, but alas it’s true. Thankfully, our affliction doesn’t cross over to telling things told to us in confidence, so your secret truly is safe with us. But we love to dish with friends about celebs and — we’re so sorry — regular folks in our orbit. Why are we confessing it? Because we are resolving to stop so much darned gossiping in 2011.

"Gossip" by Norman Rockwell

We blame it on being a reporter, but we know that’s just a convenient excuse. Gossip at its best is frivolous and at its worst, unkind and you know how much we dislike unkindness. That said, we came across this really funny quote about gossip while preparing for this blog entry:

“It’s perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one, behind one’s back, that are absolutely and entirely true,” Oscar Wilde

We are shaking our heads at ourselves as we type!

Interestingly, studies over the past five years have yielded interesting results, such as that men gossip more than women and that gossip is only about 5 percent malicious, which you can read more about in a 2009 article from the N.Y. Daily News.

Are you a gossip? Would you, could you give it up? We promise, we won’t tell anyone.

Cheers!

M