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!

Miss Merry