Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Sipping my almond raspberry tea and nibbling on coconut scones with clotted cream, it was easy to imagine I was in a small village in southern England, where I first experienced real Devonshire cream. It's hard to believe this lovely tea room is hidden away in an unimpressive strip mall of Virginia Beach!

It's not everyday you have an occasion to celebrate a 99th birthday. Our wonderful neighbor of more than twenty years, Elva Gerlach, turned 99 last week. She's been an adopted grandmother to me and my three brothers over the years, and we feel like she's part of the family. She's also been a special friend to my Grandma Jeter since she came to live with my parents. Elva is the only one of Grandma's friends around here who is anywhere close to her age, and the only one who can get away with calling her "Gertrude."

Today is also my mom's birthday, and so we decided to go out for a double birthday celebration. Since Grandma is still recovering from her hip surgery and it's very difficult to get in and out of a car, we asked a friend to come over and stay with her while my mom and Elva and I went out for an afternoon tea.

I never would have stumbled across The English Rose Tea Room if my mom hadn't seen it advertised in the paper. It's easy to miss, even if you're looking for it, tucked in next to a dental clinic and across from a dollar store. But once we stepped inside, it was easy to forget the somewhat drab outer appearance. Soothing instrumental music and cool pastel colors invited us to slow down and relax. A smiling hostess, bustling about clearing teacups and saucers, greeted us and led us to a quiet spot by the window.

Each of us had our own pot of tea. My mom chose the "Pucker Up Lemon" (or something to that effect), and Elva decided upon Orange Tangerine. The "Lite Lunch" had several options to choose from - soup, salad, 1/2 sandwich, fruit, pasta salad, and scones. The salad had fresh greens, mandarin oranges and feta cheese, with a light dressing that tasted like it might have been lemon poppyseed. There were coconut scones and cranberry/raisin scones, which were light and sweet. And the tea was wonderful, made to be enjoyed in small sips out of the delicate turquoise and gold or rose-patterned teacups.

The English Rose Tea Room is a lovely oasis from the frantic activity of everyday life, and I hope to return again soon!

Care For Some Tea?
English Rose Tea Room
Kempsville Plaza Shopping Center
404 S. Parliament Drive 103
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

(Open Tue - Sat, 11am - 4pm)

Thursday, March 1, 2012


The lunch I packed last night to take to work almost didn't make it til morning. It was the most scrumptious-looking salad, and my mouth was watering and my stomach growling as I washed the lettuce, chopped the peppers and sliced the avocado. It was a perfect blend of colors and textures and flavors: the dark purples and greens of the crisp lettuce and arugula, the juicy crunch of the red bell peppers and the smoothness of the perfectly-ripe avocado, the salty green olives and the mild creaminess of the fresh mozarella cheese...

It was beautiful and looked delectable. I even sprinkled a bit of grated parmesan cheese on top, then poured a bit of Italian dressing in a tiny Tupperware container with a tiny lid. Then I stowed it all carefully in the fridge. By the time I finished and went to bed, I was so excited I could hardly get to sleep. All I wanted to do was run downstairs and raid the fridge and dive into my amazing salad.

I have a friend who says she never thinks to make salads. She says it seems like too much trouble and it doesn't seem appealing enough to make the effort. I can't understand that. In our family, it doesn't matter what meal we're having, there's GOING to be salad. I often start with the salad if I don't know what else to make, and then build the meal around it. I've even been known to jump up from the table after we've all been seated and have prayed and started, because I realized there was no salad and I had to remedy the situation.

There are so many fabulous kinds of salads. I love tender dark green baby spinach leaves with sliced Granny Smith apples, walnuts and dried cranberries. Or sliced garden-grown tomatoes, still warm from the sunshine, with thick slabs of fresh, juicy mozarella cheese, and just-picked whole basil leaves on top, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. My mom makes an amazing kale salad - the kale leaves are stripped from the stalk and then drizzled in honey and olive oil, which is "massaged" into the leaves until they're softer. Then they're topped with sliced strawberries and toasted almonds. Sooo good, and with plenty of iron and vitamins in those dark green leaves!

And don't tell me that kids won't eat salads. That is purely up to the parents. If parents give kids salad to eat at a young age and don't give them the option of not eating it, they WILL eat salad, and even ENJOY it! My three brothers and I are scientific proof. Because we were raised like little rabbits on the leafy greens, we all crave the fresh vegetables. When I was in Germany for several months last year, my German friends used to laugh when they'd see me washing and chopping lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers for my lunch. "You're so healthy!" they laughed, "you're always eating salad!"

All this is making me hungry. We still have avocadoes and olives and peppers in the fridge - I could make a quick little salad for a midnight snack... :)