Friday, December 30, 2011

Tea Party Memories

So - do you think there are enough dishes on the table?

I have been visiting some different tea rooms with some special friends. Every experience is so special, from the outstanding fellowship to the fabulous food. Unfortunately I do live in a small town and most are 2-4 hours in travel time from my house. One way!  Also, although the experience, venue, decor, food and outstanding service are worth every penny; it is not an inexpensive hobby.

I decided to try to host my own tea party. To make sure I would follow through, I mailed invitations in early October for my Autumn tea party.  This assured that I would have my dining room cleaned and food prepared. I couldn't disappoint my guests!

I scoured through my Tea Time Magazine issues, looking for recipes that were easy enough to prepare on Friday night or early Saturday morning, yet glamorous enough to impress my special guests. 

The top picture shows me piling every possible piece of china I thought might work on the table. If you look on the right, you will see the adorable Autumn doilies that I found at the Dollar Tree for $1 a package.
This plate is part of a set I bought at a silent auction at our church. It is part of the original set that was used by the priest back when we had a rectory (and a priest). I have belonged to this parish for almost 30 years and I believe it has been maybe 40/50 years since we had a parish priest of our own. I love the dishes, but thought the floral was too "Spring" for an Autumn party.

I do like how the plates looked on the table. I did  not want the table to look too "Halloween", so instead of a gold, orange or brown tablecloth, I choose green. And because I thought it was a little Christmas, I decided to use a second cloth, offset, as a runner. This is part of the collection of card tablecloths and napkin sets that I inherited from my mother. Someday I would like to have a party with a number of borrowed card tables and use them all!
These are some Homer Laughton's that I bought at a Volunteer's of America Store. Didn't work for two reasons.  First, I bought four plates and needed five. And second, the plates have some chips underneath and I wasn't sure that I wanted to use them for actual guests. The chips do not show in a tablescape, but real people are special. 

Another Homer Laughton. I found these at our local Goodwill. I wish I could find the pattern. I just love them - four dessert plates. But again, a little too pink for Autumn.

This single plate was purchased in a box lot at an auction. I just love it, but I don't think I was able to find a use for it on the table. I have used it for my own special "alone time" lunches.

I am pretty crazy about this single cup and saucer that I bought at the flea market, too. But I didn't want any unladylike fighting for the cutest cup, so I had to put it back on the shelf.

I settled on my wedding china. My family has always considered these our very special dishes. They were actually acquired through a local bank in the 1970's. At the time I announced my engagement, my Great-Aunt Betty's bank offered a free place setting (or maybe there was a nominal charge) for each $25 deposit.  She and I managed to assemble twelve place settings, a dozen of every "special" piece and all the serving dishes. I had a shelf collapse sometime in the 1990's and have only six remaining tea cups, but the rest of the set is in perfect condition. I used my regular flatware and added my grandmother's wedding crystal. I recently inherited it from my mother and this is its premiere.  I used some "salts" as tiny vases for the last of my mums and added a splash of color with the leaf napkins.  
I made place cards with orange and black card stock. I stamped oak leaves on the right and wrote the names of my honored guests next to the leaf.   No, that is not a bowl of mashed potatoes. It is a dish of maple butter with a sunflower serving knife.  Don't the paper leaves look adorable? And you can almost see the etched pattern in the goblets.

Our centerpiece was a tiered tray with favor bags. I had come across a vendor at our flea market with costume jewelry pins. As I kept browsing through for the perfect pins, the price just kept getting lower. I ended up with TWO tea parties worth! I wasn't sure how to present the pins, but found black drawstring net bags at Walmart. I can't imagine a lot of uses for black favor bags, but this worked out perfectly.

We began with pumpkin scones (recipe from Tea Time Magazine). I mixed the dough the night before and popped them in the oven when the first guest arrived. They were so easy and very delicious, especially warm with the maple butter. I split the leftovers and popped them in the toaster to warm the next morning. My dear husband was quite taken with them, too.

Our second course was Cream of Carrot Soup. I wasn't sure how much work a squash soup would entail, so I used my Cream of Asparagus recipe, substituting an inexpensive, orange vegetable. It was absolutely delicious! I sauteed the carrot pieces and some chopped onions in a ridiculous amount of butter, then boiled in chicken broth until tender. I run them in small batches through my small food processor, than put back in the pan with some heavy cream. Stir in a tiny amount of nutmeg just for fun. I added a dollop of sour cream just before serving. The ladies were very impressed and have actually requested the soup at a later time.

The Tea Tray! On the top tier I served some simple open faced cucumber sandwiches. I cut white bread in small buttered rounds and added a thin slice of cucumber with just a sprinkle of salt. The bottom tier includes two sandwiches, a smoked turkey, Swiss cheese and cranberry spread on sour dough bread and raisin bread strips filled with a mixture of cream cheese, powdered sugar and shredded carrots on raisin bread. These were "to die for" and I was just searching for the recipe on Tea Time Magazines website. I think I could eat these sweet treats everyday.
The sandwiches didn't really fill the plate; we had to wait for the next savory to pop out of the oven.
Another Tea Time savory. I have made these stuffed carrots before. Importantly - very inexpensive. I cut the carrots in pieces and used the smaller, narrower parts for my soup. The larger pieces are boiled until tender in the chicken broth. After several attempts to hollow out the centers, I find that letting them cool slightly, then running a straw down the soft center, almost to the bottom, works best. The soft carrot stays in the straw and you can repeat for extra wide carrots. The simple stuffing is (gasp) stove top. Bake on a sheet per Tea-Time's directions. This can also be made the night before and baked in the morning.

We finished with a dessert plate with an individual pumpkin cheesecake and a "Harvest Cake", recipes courtesy of Tea Time Magazine. This was my first time using individual spring form pans. This is the most important part: USE PARCHMENT PAPER under your crust before baking. I had to pry the first three (number of pans I own) out of the pans. They were just as tasty, but not very pretty. No one could resist a small bite, but they packed them to take home. The Harvest Cakes were a challenge. If anyone has tried cake pops, you know what I mean. I would make them days ahead and freeze for at least 24 hours before trying to dip in the chocolate. Adding the chocolate (and I only did one layer) really enlarges the cake. I would try to make them smaller (even thimble-sized) next time.

My special guests were my youngest daughter, my daughter-in-law and my oldest and youngest sons girl friends. They agreed to be my "tea-party Guinea pigs".  I served three different brewed teas and their favorite was Jasmine by Bigelow's Teas. I served a black tea, a green tea and an herbal tea with the courses.

After the tea party I made a resolve to host more tea parties, maybe even monthly! Unfortunately life has been getting in the way right now. Hopefully in the coming year I can open Miss Merry's Tea Room for family and friends in my dining room!

Thank you for visiting!  I am going to try to link to everyone's parties over the weekend.
Please visit Trish for Tea at:

And visit Sandy at the Rose Chintz Cottage for Tea TimeTuesday at:

Susan is always the Hostess with the Mostest at Tablescape Thursday:
P. S.
I am hoping someone can help me. I cannot see my "follower".  It has turned into a blank square :(

And, when I visit your blog - the followers area is blank, too. I can't even click to become your follower! Has anyone else had this problem. If so, could you guide me through the solution? THANK YOU!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Dinner 2011

2011Directions for re-creating my Halloween Dinner Party with a limited time schedule:

I really enjoy crazy food ideas for Halloween, but especially this year, I seemed to be running behind. We didn't even get the Halloween decorations down from the attic until the 23rd. I usually do a  haunted house with my youth group, but I have semi-retired from Sunday School  (I hope I have retired, but I have trouble saying no . . .), so without that deadline, I think we just let time fly.  I had sent out a family newsletter inviting everyone to come to dinner on the Thursday before Halloween, when our town traditionally holds trick or treat. Well, this year it has been moved to Halloween, Oct 31, the first time I can remember this happening, not withstanding years when Oct 31 falls on a Thursday. So we had a "pre" Halloween dinner.
So, the "make it work" schedule. Leave work at 5 on Wednesday, leave grocery stores at 6, start cooking at 6:30. First I mixed a packaged brownie mix and baked it on a large pizza pan. Subtract 10 minutes from suggested baking time and check with a toothpick (it should come out clean). Let it cool. On Thursday, after I arrived home at 5:20, I put a spoon full of store-bought frosting in a sandwich bag, cut a small hole in a bottom corner (mine was a little too small) and try to draw circle from the middle to the outside.  Then draw the knife through the frosting, from the middle to the edge in pie wedges. If you use more frosting - this will look more like a spider web. You could even decorate with plastic spiders!
Now that I look at the photo - it really doesn't look like a spider web at all. Please check my archives for last  October - I have a better example posted there!
Next I got to work on the chicken. I buy enormous marinated boneless chicken breasts at my butchers. This year I bought (are you ready?) 20 pounds. Yikes. Two Halloween dinner party and more for the freezer. You don't HAVE to cut them into hands :)  - Any way. I usually cut them in half and eyeball where a thumb could be and then cut  in the fingers. Stick them under the broiler until done. I save the extra trim pieces and freeze them for future casseroles.  By the way you are looking at saved broth from Wednesday night. I was re-heating them at 5:30 on Thursday.
New this year: Mummy Meatloaf.  One of the salesman where I work had brought me a magazine for yuppers (those are those from the U. P. in Michigan) last October and the issue showed a mummy meatloaf. I kept the memory and recreated. I actually formed the mummy on a cookie sheet, put a sheet of foil on top, flipped in on the foil and put the foil back on the cookie sheet to bake it. I was thinking it might give it some "air" to help lift it off the foil when I tried to remove it after baking. Whether it helped or not, I don't know - but it came right off the foil!
 I re-heated it on Thursday with a little bit of the reserved broth, covered it with foil while warming.
When hot, I cut some strips for the cloth from slices of mozzarella cheese and stuck it in the oven for a minute or two. When I pulled it out, I saw it would really benefit from eyes. I think green olives would have been great and I will try to think ahead for next year. Or maybe pepperoni with olives? I am re-making this on the 31st for my grand kids; maybe it will turn out better.

 I guess you can see my guacamole spider web on the right. My daughter shared a great guacamole recipe with me: 4 avocados and 4 hard boiled eggs (run through food processor). Throw in one medium onion, 4 teaspoons of lime juice, 2 tablespoons of  Dijon mustard, 3/4 cup mayo and salt and pepper. Process. Optional - red chili pepper to taste.  I cut the whole bigger for the sour cream. This one looks more spider "webbie". My store is charging 1.89 for one avocado - so this dip was $8-$10, excluding chips . . .  I made the dip on Wednesday night, made it into a spiderweb on Thursday 5:50 p.m.
5:35 Thursday, cracked open a package of crescent rolls, wrapped them around the hot dogs and stuck them in the oven. Before:

Wednesday night (are you wondering what time I went to bed on Wednesday night, let me share that I really enjoy the reruns of the black and white Perry Mason episodes at 11:30 p.m.-12:30 p.m. on the MEtv Network). Anyway, Wednesday night I also made deviled eggs. I had planned to turn them into deviled eyeballs, but remembered at work the next morning that I really like the black olive spiders, too. So in between putting pans in and out of my oven (thank heaven for convection ovens) I made the spiders.
Only one guest came in costume - Meet Brutus the Banana! He is my grand dog.
And these are my treats for Halloween!
And here they are in disguise!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Flea Market Finds

I used to spend every Saturday morning in the fall running up and down hills, across fields and panting to the finish line. No,  I was not a distance runner. I was a Cross Country Mom! My oldest son started running on the Cross Country team in his seventh grade year. Next we added my youngest daughter and then finished with my youngest son. I believe we spend at almost eleven years getting up early to put the runner(s) on the bus by 7:00 a.m., dashing home for one more cup of coffee, heading to whatever golf course or park was hosting the invitational that Saturday, shelling out $10, $20, or $30 for commerative t-shirts (depending on how many I had on the team that year). For each division, we would  position at the start, dashing to a hill top to see them go by and cheer, dashing across the field to see them go by and trying to dash one more time (if I could make it) and then heading to the finish to cheer them over the line, all while monitoring coffee intake - enough to keep warm, not enough to use the rustic or plastic facilities. And planning at which diner or country cafe the parents would stop on their way home to meet the bus. The first Saturday in September after my youngest had graduated, also the same week my husband changed his work week to Tues - Sat, I awoke wondering what to do with myself?


The photo above is the actual flea market I attend, about 30/45 minutes from my house. When gas was much cheaper, I was there almost every Saturday during the summer and fall. I am embarassed to admit that this was my first trip this year! And it almost didn't happen. My daughter had a week's worth of lesson plans to write and I had promised my Sunday School that I would get the halloween haunted house decorations from my attic; but when we woke up at 7:00 to 65 degrees and sunny skies, we couldn't resist jumping in the car and hitting the road.
 This basket wasn't the first thing I bought, but it was the smartest. It has a super sturdy wooden bottom and handles and was priced at only $5.00! I spotted it under a table while I was already juggling some random dishes. I think I will take it with me everytime!
 Yes, it is ANOTHER Hostess Set. I am obsessed with them. I finally have a plan. When I win the lottery and open my tea room, I plan to use them for a cup of soup and a half sandwich. I saw 10 plates with gold trim and six matching cups. The lot also incuded 3 mis-matched tea cups for $10.00. I decided to think it over. On our way out, I checked to see if it was still there. The price for everything had been reduced to $5.00 - so I snatched it up!
The mis-matched cups include two of the adorable flowered ones on the left and one ivy cup on the right.

Aren't these plates adorable? There was a set of four luncheon plates and four matching dessert plates.
 Here is the back.  I live near Cleveland so I assume they were unwanted family heirlooms.  They were only asking $8.00 for all eight. I was juggling all of them when I found the basket.
 Didn't they all just nestle so nicely in the basket? 
 Most of the blue canning jars were going for five to seven dollars without caps and ten dollars with the metal caps. I found a case of TWELVE for only $7.00 and some of them even had caps! I love to put them on my window sills and watch the light come through.
On Monday we went up to my daughter's house to visit with my grandchildren. I actually shot this picture through the dashboard window on my husband's truck while waiting at a gas station.  I love the Autumn leaves!

I haven't done any more tablescapes yet. Instead of saying "someday", I have mailed out invitations to an Autumn Tea Party to my daughters and daughter-in-laws. Now I have to set a pretty table! I will sure to take plenty of pictures to share.

Thank you all for visiting and for your sweet comments. I try to visit everyone, but for some reason blogger does not always let me share . . . Last week I visited very single one of the Tablescape Thursdays at Between Naps on the Porch and I think I had fourteen tablescapes that Blogger would not allow me to place a comment. (so maybe 15%)? I am sure the problem is me and I will try to work on it. I do want you all to know how much I admire your creativity!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Awesome, It's Autumn!

Why haven't I been creating tablescapes? Well, it could be the State of the Table!
It is hard to get inspired when the piles are out of control! Fortunately my youngest daughter gifted me with four Vera Bradley placemats for my birthday. I had to show them off!
Yep, I actually got the table cleared off! And scrubbed the dust.
Aren't the placemats gorgeous!

Isn't the centerpiece wonderful? I won it at a silent auction at a neighboring church. The benefit was for a young mother with an hereditary disease with no cure. Her sister, who is in a nursing home, is only in her forties. The young mother needs surgery for vision issues and I know she would appreciate an extra prayer or two.

Let the fun begin; it time to play with dishes. I always start with my Pfaltzgraff. The red is totally not right.

The white plate with the gold border was actually a $1 each purchase at Wally World. I admit it. They are plastic.

The top plate is from a set I purchased last year online from Pfaltzgraff. I broke one in the set as I opened the box. I am still mad at myself about it. I love the wheat staff. And I wish I had ordered even more. They are perfect pie plates for Thanksgiving. And look pretty snazzy for my Autumn placesetting, too.

My grandmother and my mother collected sugar and creamers. I always reach for these yellow pottery ones first.  But then I saw this set behind the others on the shelf. I think they look terrific, don't you?

I found these little candle holder leaves at a Pfaltzgraff outlet store in PA; at their closing sale, boo hoo. I really miss the outlet stores. Buying online just isn't the same. I found a package of the paper leaf doilies at The Dollar Tree. I'm not sure if there are any left. I bought quite a few!

Cute little acorn adds another Autumn touch.
That's it on the table for now. Someone (?) better get to work on those piles she shifted. But, just in the spirit of the Vera Bradley placemats; what do you think is a good age for your first Vera Bradley purse? Well, after lots of gramma-thought, it turns out that 19 months is just perfect!
And the first thing she did with it? She put her toy cell phone inside! Let's go shopping, Gramma Mimi!
I am going to (Linky) party with Susan at Tablescape Thursdays at
And vist with the Tablescaper for her Seasonal Sundays at

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fairie Garden Surprise

Something I have started this summer (and let's just pick the hottest summer on record to start this) is walking almost every evening. Don't give me any credit for this. My youngest daughter usually stops over and cajoles me into joining her. She also brings my granddog, Mia, and I like to think that my daughter is walking both of us.

We have a few routes; a four mile route with big valleys and hills (big to an out-of-shape woman of advanced middle years anyway), a two mile route down our tree lined Main Street to the local elementary school and back, and our six mile round trip down Main Street, past the school, through the downtown district to the outskirts on the other side of town and back (longer, but flatter).

It was on our Main Street walk in early Spring that I spotted this little bit of beauty in the tree lawn in front of one of the large, two storied, front-porched house on Main Street.
How adorable! A fairie garden right here in front of me. Something that every car going by is missing and only those who meander slowly and watch their feet can see :)  I made sure to take my camera on our next walk. As we neared the house, I saw the fairie gardener herself taking pictures of the same spot!
I expressed my admiration for her little fairie garden and asked if I could take pictures myself! She was kind enough to allow me to do so. Ms. Fairie Gardner told me she was taking pictures for her blog and invited me to see her porch and backyard fairie gardens, too.
The ceramic pieces are all her own creation, from the little "huts" to the mushroom. She told me how she experimented with different shapes and sizes. Some have removable roofs.
The picture above has an adorable little metal wagon hiding on the right. The photo below has little houses she purchased at a dollar store and painted and "decorated" with small pebbles.
This photo is one of the gardens featured on her front porch. I love the little chair.
The garden on the opposite side has small cottages - I guess that is where the fairies were hiding.
This garden was located in a new area of her backyard. She had just had a small concrete patio poured and had a cover built over it. Her fairy gardens edge the new addition.
A little wheel barrow for fairie gardeners.

When I returned home, I realized that I had not asked her about her blog! It has been several months later and, finally, she was out "care taking" when I shuffled by last night.  She actually has not had time to start blogging yet (that time factor that affects us all). She loves her little gardens and showed me many improvements (no camera with me). She has created a screening method for wood mulch to reduce it to "fairie size" and has mulched the little gardens which look just lovely. She is a working mom and creating the fairie gardens is what allows her to relax and forget about the rest of the world.

I just wanted to share a little bit of "How I spent my Summer Vacation".  I really appreciate my daughter's motivation to try to make me exercise.  I had been having problems with balance and pain and had really turned into a "sitter". I visited the doctor and I will not bore you with details of the 12 sessions of physical therapy, except to mention how humorous the therapist found it when I wore two VERY similar, but different tennis shoes to the session.  It turns out that you really don't have to suffer with the pains of old age (sometimes they are just a muscle/tendon issue) and doing exercises prescribed by the physical therapist can actually help (when you actually do them!).  We are leaving on a short vacation on Sunday. With my blogging schedule, you will probably see pictures in November.

Miss Merry