How it all Began

 

It touches my heart to hear that people are still talking about their special teatime and asking just why it is that they cannot celebrate their birthday, some other special occasion, or simply just take "time for tea" at Ann-Margaret's Specialty Shoppe and Tea Room in Edwin, Alabama. What beautiful memories and friendships came to life in that little white house.  Yes, much tea was brewed within the sunny kitchen where cherries danced above the windows, but it was the "art of taking tea" that was really steeped within those walls.  For those of you that did not ever have the opportunity to take tea at Ann-Margaret's Tea Room and Specialty Shoppe, let me take a moment to share a bit about this "tealightful" blessing with you.

 

In 1913, the Lingo house was built and brought to life by Mamie and Pop.  This special couple was my great-grandmother and great-grandfather.  The house bloomed with Mamie’s love and creativity and Pop’s warmth and goodness.

 

A pink rose still blooms in Mamie’s “Secret Garden”, continuing to express her love for her many flowers.  This rose had not had many blooms on it in the past few years prior to the tea room opening so what a delight it was to look out the window of the Garden Tea Room on opening day to find an array of pink blooms weighing downs its branches.  I could not help but take a moment to count them all and finally stopped after counting 28 blooms!  Wow!  I really felt as though Mamie was looking down upon us on that special day, letting us know that she loved the thought of her home being filled with life once again. 

Pop's smokehouse is still standing to this day (one of the few true smokehouses that still remains) and symbolizes years of hard work and dedication to his family and home. It continues to come to life each spring as it is surrounded by all of those bright daffodils that bloom once again. Mamie used to toss out the bulbs, and we all anticipate the arrival of spring, as seeing these sunny flowers is like seeing her smile.

So often it has been said that "this is where tea parties began" with our family.  Whether it was a sunny day on the front porch, children were playing upstairs, or a special occasion, Mamie always knew how to transform those moments into a magical teatime.  For so many, this house holds cherished memories.  Once again, the Lingo House was brought to life with the joys of taking tea and sharing the blessings of friendship when we opened Ann-Margaret's Tea Room and Specialty Shoppe in 2002.  The tea room was a place where one could take time to enjoy a cup of tea with friends or celebrate a special occasion in one of our tealightfully decorated tea rooms.  The gift shoppe added to the experience, offering specialty teas and gifts so that guests could enjoy teatime at home or take a gift to someone dear to them.

You may be wondering just how the tea room came to life.  Well, after many months of researching, looking for just the right location, and combining all of my ideas, my mom, granny, and I set out to create an inviting atmosphere within the little white house in Edwin, Alabama.

By my side from the beginning, my mom and granny helped to create the heart of the tea room, and John, my husband and best friend, worked every weekend with us, even though he was in command at Ft. Rucker at the time. Everyone in the family helped out in some way and offered support and encouragement, as we worked long hours painting the rooms pretty shades of pink, yellow, and lavender, redid the hardwood floors that Pop had installed years before, and brought each tea room to life with teatime curtains and decor.

On November 30, 2002, as we celebrated my daddy's birthday, we also celebrated the grand opening of the tea room.  I can still remember wondering if anyone would come and was "tealighted" when daddy came inside to tell me that the cars were beginning to fill the barnyard and even across the street. So many friends came to support us that day, and we saw so many new faces that would soon return to take tea. As I passed through the various rooms that day or happened to be on the front porch, I could not help but steal a glance at Mamie's rose and just knew she must be so happy with such a smile on her face to see such life in her home once again. I can still hear the laughter and voices that filled each room that day, and just as I did that night after we closed, I feel so blessed that so many people visited that little white house that day and in the days that followed.

How did it work; how did it all come together for each teatime?  Well, it fell into place so naturally because I had two of the most special people working by my side and sharing the same passion for this venture as I did...my mom and granny.  I should probably admit that I am somewhat addicted to details so I feel really blessed that they managed to put up with me all that time!  ("Thank you, mama and granny, for every little and big thing you did and for standing by my side and helping to make my dream become a reality!  I love you both!) We spent much time in the kitchen cooking together, as everything we served was homemade.  Each morning, my mom made a fresh batch of scones (well, a few batches!), and it was her homemade lemon curd that had guests scraping the dainty dishes for the last spoonful!  And, yes, granny was the one that sliced all those tiny tomatoes that topped her "tomato blossom sandwiches", and she made the delectable chicken salad.  I was often baking new treats to adorn the trays.

Many of these goodies soon became favorites of the guests such as, "creamy chocolate chip bars" and "frosted apple squares"...too yummy with a dollop of our homemade Devon cream! Some things in life certainly do take the right people working together, and that is what made those teatimes "flow" just as they needed to. 

The gift shoppe started out in one room and expanded due to guests requesting more goodies so before we knew it, each tea room was filled with gifts and treasures. What fun we had helping to plan a surprise for someone so many times.  One lady would eye a teapot she just had to have, and her friend would bring it to us to "hide" so she could get it as a surprise for her.  That is exactly what I wanted the tea room to be...a place where you enjoyed being with your friends and then loved it even more when you could do something special for them. 

There were birthday parties, office parties, Sunday School get togethers, visits from "The Lunch Bunch", friends meeting to catch up over a cup of tea, Mr. Jim and "Miss" Nancy bringing ladies in the limo, Red Hat Society socials, and so many more events to celebrate.  What a joy it was to see surprised faces when they unknowingly were brought to the tea room by a friend.  Guests often said they wished they could just stay on the front porch and would not have to leave.  I am not sure if you realized it or not, but I loved every minute of you being there and could not wait til your next visit.

So many guests said they loved shopping with us but could not always make a trip to the tea room and wondered if I would ever add a website.  Well, I had thought of that so many times, but just could not seem to work that in since we stayed so busy with the tea room.  We did begin to ship to other states, as people began to place phone orders so I really began to contemplate how I could possibly work in the addition of a website.  Well, about that time, John received a wonderful career opportunity.  As he began to tell me about it, he mentioned that it was, "close to the beach".  Well, of course, being a southern girl and only a "hop, skip, and a jump" away from Destin, Florida, I thought that must be where he meant.  Much to my surprise, he said Kuwait!  Well, I will give him this...Kuwait does have beaches!

Yep, this southern girl initially said "no way!" Thank goodness though in the weeks to follow, I finally took the time to listen to God, rather than trying to tell Him just exactly how I wanted things to happen. It was on a Sunday afternoon that I finally felt a sense of peace and realized that with God guiding us, I could make this transition, no matter how much I felt that I could not. Oh goodness, now it was time to try to convince my family that I could do this and that they should be ok with it, too! My mom looked at me one day and said "Well, I do recall you saying right before you moved to Germany that as long as you are with John, you will be just fine." And, so we began to make plans to make our home in Kuwait.

As I started to think about adding the website to the business, I had also considered closing the tea room an extra day, as I did not want the work to ever become too much for my mom and granny.  I contemplated so many angles of how I could work it all out, and just as I was in deep thought with all of these ideas, there came the job offer for Kuwait.  As I look back now, I think God did some of my problem solving for me, just in a much different way than I would have ever anticipated.  John looked at me one day and said "People plan; God laughs."  I have often thought of this and always smile because no matter how much time we sometimes devote to worrying or thinking about something, sometimes that is just not what God has in His plan for us at that moment.  As we began to prepare for our move, it truly began to register with me just how far from home I was about to be.  It was then I remembered a plaque that hung in a friend's office that read "Know that where you are right now is where God has chosen for you to be."  So, I decided that I just needed to try to be content because we were not going to be walking this journey alone.

John left for Kuwait in early July, and at the end of July I visited him to see the area for myself.  Well, of course we all knew I would soon be returning to join him for good, but looking at it this way at first just helped everyone ease into the transition with me.  When I returned home after my trip, the one thing I dreaded most was telling all of our friends of the tea room that we would be closing.  Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to tell everyone in person, as I wished I could have.  There just was not enough time to do all I wanted to, as we had to prepare to close the tea room and prepare our home to sell, and John was already in Kuwait.  I do wish I could have spoken to each of you to let you know just why the tea room was closing.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you that visited the tea room and shopped with us during those years.  Just as I always felt with my jobs in nursing homes and with the elderly (I was the Director of Social Services in some facilities and then, the manager of an Alzheimer's unit at an assisted living facility ~ I love working with the elderly), I also received something in return.  Guests always said how they loved visiting the tea room and how it was a place where they could relax, laugh, and enjoy being with special people in their life.

I must say, I loved learning about you and your family, meeting the sister or your mom that you had told me about during a previous visit, or having the opportunity to see you smile when I knew maybe you had a lot of difficult things going on in your life each day. Someone told me one day that he knew my husband and I must have a lot of faith to have tried a business out in the country where Edwin is located. I smiled and said "Yes, I suppose we do!". Thank you for allowing me into your life and your heart, for allowing me to serve you a cup of tea and friendship. I feel so blessed to have such beautiful memories of so many special teatimes with you.

We lived in Kuwait a little over 2 years and then, returned to the States.  We made our home in Alexandria, Virginia for a little over 3 1/2 years, and then enjoyed living in Huntsville, Alabama, as we moved from Alexandria at the end of the summer of 2009.  We now live in sunny Florida...a dream come true for me!! I guess you could say we have come full circle...as I finally have the opportunity to live at the BEACH that I have always loved...remember that "beach job" way back up at the top! haha  Guess John kinda had to make it up to me! LOL  I hope you will enjoy "taking time for tea" with me once again and strolling through my online "shoppe" of my signature line. I have now changed the name of my shoppe to "Ann-Margaret's", as it showcases all of my artwork and designs, but tea parties will always have a special place in my heart!  I would love to hear from you so drop me an email or give me a call, as I have certainly missed seeing each of you and look forward to meeting new friends, as well. 

Hugs and Much Happiness to You!!


-Ann-Margaret

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