When I asked my mom what she wanted for Christmas, she hemmed and hawed. She and my dad have been working empty nesters for almost 15 years so if they want something they buy it, and they don’t want much.
This makes it very hard to buy presents for them.
A few days after this conversation, my cousin liked an article on Facebook. I can’t find it, but it was something along the lines of “Don’t buy my kid more presents, give him your presence.” Great idea.
So I gave my mom Afternoon Tea for Christmas.
We finally got around to going this past weekend. We waited for the weather to warm up a bit so we could wear dresses and strappy shoes. The tea was at the Mission Inn, which is an amazing historical landmark in downtown Riverside, CA. Anne Rice fans will recognize the name—she loves the place and has featured it in one of her more recent novels. It’s hard to explain the Mission Inn—a mix of castle, Spanish Mission, old Hollywood and Garden District Haunted Mansion. Several Presidents have stayed there, and just this visit we noticed a secluded, tiny spiral staircase winding up from the corner of the Presidential Lounge to…the Presidential Suite? There are lots of nooks and crannies and spiral staircases—I counted four and wasn’t even trying—and hallways leading up and down and sideways. Very mysterious in a way that makes you feel like you’re ten again and need to sneak past the bellman to explore.
In the midst of it all is a gorgeous courtyard, sheltered and shaded by four stories of mismatched balconies and box windows. And here, by the gurgling fountain, is where we had our tea.
I did some research and found out that what we had was Full Tea—served in the afternoon, with savories and sweets—and not a High Tea, which is served later and more like dinner. The Mission Inn Restaurant serves a Full Tea menu from 2 to 4 pm, complete with finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. Everyone gets their own generous teapot, with matching china cup, saucer and plate. Kate enjoyed learning how to properly pour her tea. The food came on tiered plates in the center of the table—and it was more than enough. Crab croissants, egg salad and salmon, sun dried tomato and basil and chicken salad sandwiches for the grown ups; turkey, ham and peanut butter and jelly for the girls. Then brownies, cheesecakes, custards, macaroons, and mousse for dessert.
We couldn’t finish it all so we brought some home to Gabriel. He had begged me to find somewhere else for him to go instead of “that tea”, but he was happy to eat the sweet leftovers.
It was an elegant afternoon, where everyone sat up straight and used their best manners. We chatted and laughed and when we were done, we showed Grandma some of the special places we found on our last trip to the Mission Inn.
Then we strolled over to one of Dana’s Favorite Places, Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s, to check out the Easter decorations.
Presence…a lovely idea. In fact, I think this one should become an annual tradition.