In Arts & Entertainment

Who needs the husband around when you've got tea and theater? (PHOTO: The Pfister Hotel and Michael Brosilow)

Eat, Play, Applaud: A "Widow's Weekend" with afternoon tea and "Pemberley"

As cheesy as this sounds, after three years of marriage, I can honestly say that I love my husband more than the day we got married, and I cherish the life we have already built together. I love cooking dinner with him in the kitchen after work every night, slicing and dicing while we discuss the highlights of our days.

I enjoy playing endless games of gin rummy with him after the dishes are done. (It's even better when I win.) I even don't mind being told in the middle of the night to relinquish some of the blankets I have stolen from him.

That being said, despite my profound happiness in my choice of spouse, that doesn't mean I don't occasionally crave some sacred, occasional alone time. Luckily, there is one time of year when I am guaranteed at least 48 hours of uninterrupted me time, and when the husband is away, this wife is absolutely going to play.

Even better for me, that weekend happens to be just a few short days away.

Being born and raised in Wisconsin, my husband, like many Badger State men, is an avid deer hunter. This means that, annually, his weekend before Thanksgiving consists of wearing layers of camouflage clothing while sitting in the woods for hours on end. It also means that my weekend before Thanksgiving involves pretending that calories don't count and that my bank account is limitless.

Some people affectionately refer to this as "Widow's Weekend." Borrowing a phrase from one of my favorite TV shows, "Parks and Recreation," I refer to these blessed few days as "Treat Yo' Self Weekend." And this year, I know exactly how I'm going to do it.

Eat: Afternoon tea at The Pfister

My agenda for this weekend is already rapidly filling up. A massage and a manicure are in the books. Groceries for homemade meals in pajamas are purchased. My Netflix list is filled with shows that I would be embarrassed to watch in front of him. It's a tough job, but someone has got to do it.

That being said, a perfect "Treat Yo' Self" weekend needs to be a healthy mixture of relaxation and activity. Heck, the whole point of these next few days is to indulge in things that I would normally find an excuse not to do. It's my time to be creative, explore my city, to try new things and to create an agenda that is entirely my own. With that philosophy in mind, I called The Pfister Hotel and made a reservation for afternoon tea at Blu.

Are you surprised to hear that you don't have to travel across the pond to participate in this elegant ritual? I dare you to read this description of what this afternoon tea experience promises and tell me you aren't at least a little bit intrigued.

During each Saturday and Sunday afternoon high tea experience (where, by the way, reservations are required), guests are first greeted by a Pfister Tea Butler. who educates them on each variety of tea, the unique flavors, blending options and pairing suggestions. That alone makes me want to post a listing for my own personal Tea Butler, who would greet me in my kitchen every morning and tell me about the brew he was preparing for me. Then again, if I did have that in my everyday life, that would defeat the whole purpose of doing this during "Widow's Weekend."

Presented in all-silver service, including a replica of an 18th century self-tipping teapot, tea is paired with a special menu complete with fresh scones, sandwiches and pastries. The high tea experience is complete with delightful music by a pianist, a cozy fireplace and fine selections of Veuve Cliquot or Veuve Cliquot Rose.

OK, this is the kind of life I was made to live. I wouldn't be surprised if I speak in a British accent and drink tea with my pinky up during this sure-to-be incredible experience. I already know that I'm going to order the Pfister's signature blend, Pfister 1893, during my visit. How can I resist the exotic blend of jasmine and wild-rose white teas with a hint of peppermint and lavender?

Afternoon tea at The Pfister Hotel is going to be the perfect way to get out of my pajamas, to enjoy an exquisite ritual and take in the magnificent sites of my beloved hometown. It also seems like a fitting pairing for my next "Widow's Weekend" activity, a mere half-mile away from my spot of tea. Let's continue our fancy, indulgent weekend in 19th century England by taking a walk down to the Milwaukee Rep.

Play: "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley"

While even people who have never read the novel or seen an adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" know that Elizabeth Bennet is the story's feisty heroine, "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" centers on a her younger sister, Mary. In the book, Mary is described as "the only plain one in the family" choosing to focus on her piano and her books rather than the dramas of finding a wealthy husband. This story, taking place two years after the events of "Pride and Prejudice" puts Mary center stage as she acknowledges her dissatisfaction with her assigned circumstances in life and searches for her definition of personal happiness.

Arguably, "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" is a show that I could take my husband to see instead of going during his "Widow's Weekend" absence. After all, he's familiar with "Pride and Prejudice" (a requirement I laid out early in our relationship) and we always enjoy seeing shows together, especially at The Rep. But he didn't grow up repeatedly reading the novel, and he didn't watch a heartbroken (and dreamy) Colin Firth jump into the frigid lake in the 1995 BBC miniseries.

No, this is something that I'm going to go see by myself, unapologetically basking in my love for all things Jane Austen. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a play having anything to do with "Pride and Prejudice" will get me into the theater.

Director Kimberly Senior agrees that this is the ideal show to take your mom to, your friends to or just yourself to during "Widow's Weekend."

"Although this story takes place in the 19th century, audiences will be surprised to see that the show has a very contemporary message," she says. "The Bennet sisters in 'Pride and Prejudice' and in 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley' are empowered; they make their own choices and do the things they want to do in a world where things are constantly prescribed and dictated for them."

Seeing "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley," I will be fortunate enough to be surrounded by inspirational women, women who are fearless and relentless in their determination to make a contribution to society. And I'm not just talking about the characters on stage or my fellow audience members. For the first time in The Rep's 65-year history, the entire creative team behind this exceptional show is composed entirely of women. Elizabeth and Mary Bennet, as well as Jane Austen herself, would surely approve – and be the first to lead the audience in a standing ovation at this turning point for the already exceptional Milwaukee Rep.

Initially, buying tickets to "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" was just a way to see a continuation of one of my favorite novels. Now, I understand that this is going to be a weekend of not only treating myself, but celebrating my sex.

When my husband returns home from his weekend in the woods late Sunday evening, I will greet him with a warm embrace and a welcoming smile. After all, I know, despite the amount of fun I'm going to have alone this weekend, I will miss him! As he regales me with tales of his successful deer hunt, I'll be grateful not only that he is home safe and sound, but that I had a few wonderful days to fully enjoy myself, to be myself and to treat myself.


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