Recently, my mother-in-law asked my husband and myself for a favor: Her sister had been visiting their mother and injured her back, sending her to the ER with what ended up being a herniated disc. Would we drive her and her car home? It wasn’t the type of request we could turn down. So one sunny day, I drove my aunt-in-law’s car–with her in the passenger seat–while my husband drove our car the 160 miles to the Eugene, Oregon area.

The drive was uneventful: Beautiful, warm weather, good traffic (most of the time), a picnic lunch, and sunny California poppies along the side of the highway. Once we had fulfilled our familial obligation and returned my hubby’s auntie safely to her own cozy domicile, we found ourselves 130 miles from home in an unfamiliar place. We decided to make the best of the situation by having an adventure date!

During the drive, I had learned from my aunt-in-law that Mountain Rose Herbs has a mercantile in Eugene. She also mentioned another shop nearby called Down To Earth, and insisted that we would like it and should check it out. With that as a starting point, we refilled our water and headed out.

Having found our way through the quaint hippy town–and successfully deciphering misleading parking signs–we wandered hand-in-hand into Down To Earth: A lovely home, garden, and knick-knack shop. While we initially had the air of frivolity–picking out cute masks and commenting on the trinkets–everything changed when my husband said, “I see birdhouses,” to which my immediate response was an involuntary “oh no!” eliciting giggles from a nearby employee.

As we examined birdhouses, batboxes, and the like, we took mental notes on designs and sent photos to my birder mom-in-law. Even then we were able to resist until we found seeds. Clutching packets to grow our own tobacco, chamomile, California poppies, white lavender, and “chocolate sprinkle” cherry tomatoes we stumbled disorientedly–blinking in the bright sunshine–out into a potted plant and garden sculpture wonderland.

We admired stone Quan Yin and butterfly benches. I excitedly showed him why my favorite flowering tree is the star magnolia. I then faced the improbable as my memory failed me and I sheepishly couldn’t identify the pot of petunias. Intoxicated by the fragrance of Mayer lemon blooms, my fate was sealed when my husband pointed out an unexpected shrub: camellia sinensis. This tea varietal was labeled as having been bred specifically for the climate of the Pacific Northwest. My husband slyly told me to pick one out, stating that I could then no longer wonder what to buy myself to balance out his last Transformer purchase.

In our new masks, holding my new tea plant!

After a thorough examination and discussion of the merits of each one, I excitedly clutched a single potted plant tightly; only reluctantly relinquishing it for the purpose of the employee to scan it for purchase. We decided that it was definitely time to escape before we found anything else we couldn’t resist.


We dropped off our purchases in the car, then made our way to Mountain Rose Herbs Mercantile. After some deliberation, I chose some beautiful dried rosebuds and a couple other items. We happily picked out some free stickers and made a donation to a local clean water fund.

To be concluded in tomorrow’s post Unexpected Tea Adventure – Part 2

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