Category Archives: tea party

My Deck is Now a Pool

Luna is getting some serious cat business done and I’m sitting down to write this post.

It’s not exactly how I had planned to spend my day off, but all my plans for today are fuzzed due to the torrential rains outside!

Weather in Canada is always a good topic of conversation, but this is really something else! It is one day before my annual Tea/Garden party and I had hoped to hold it outside on my new deck.

Unfortunately, this is what my deck looks like right now:

The blue bin is to catch rainwater to water the plants with... later.

Yes, that IS ankle-deep water you see! My deck is actually a flat roof and not really a deck at all. But when I had it all dressed up with candles and flowers it was a pretty good entertaining space.

Right now I think it’s trying to be a kiddie pool. I went out to check on my plants and found a huge build-up of water towards the back. Looks like the drains were installed higher than the damn waterline, and nothing was draining. I spent about 20 minutes outside using a squeegee to try and push the water towards the drains at the back, and clear them of debris. I think they’re working a little now, but there is still going to be a mass of water to deal with later.

All said, I think it was kind of cool in a woman-versus-nature way to be out there bailing out my deck. Unfortunately I got absolutely soaked so I’m back inside warming up after a hot shower.

The reason this is cramping my style is because I needed to get a bunch of stuff done for the party today. I’m making a black forest cake and need a few extra items (post to follow!). While my grocery store is only around the corner, the way it’s raining now I doubt my umbrella would stand up. And I don’t have boots or a rain coat. We really just don’t get this kind of rain in Toronto!

*sigh* I have new guests arriving this weekend so this is a good excuse to vacuum/dust/etc. the whole house and get some other chores done. I did laundry last night but due to the humidity from the rain, it’s still not dry (I air dry)!

I also need to plan out how I can salvage this party tomorrow. Can’t do it outside, haven’t planned very much for it yet, not really feeling it and a bunch of my friends can’t make it. What a bummer. I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something. It’s weird, this feeling. Normally I love throwing parties but all I feel these days is fatigue. Maybe it will get better in the summer with BBQ season.

Tea Party Fashion 2011

Haha people are after me already to post photos of the tea party outfits. I aim to please!

Here are the fashion choices my guests made this year! Personally I think everyone looked awesome. The challenge was to use their existing wardrobe and come dressed in their interpretation of “tea party”. I am thrilled with the results!

My friend came as a member of the tea party in the US... LOL

Tea Party Success!

Well, it went pretty great on Saturday!

Everyone (except for Ellie) showed up late, which was fine by me since once again I was late this year! Folks started arriving before I was dressed and had the scones done… AGAIN.

Oh well. New tradition?

The menu included 15+ kinds of tea to choose from (10 of them were from David’s Tea… check them out! Chocolate Rocket was the big winner that day) 4 kinds of tea sandwiches, an assortment of petit fours, my signature strawberry panna cotta, and of course, homemade scones and jams, with Devon (clotted) cream.

Here are some photos with my new camera (omg I love it!) for you all!

The Tea Bar
The view from above
Petit fours tray
The buffet
yum
Delicious scones!
Close up on a plate of treats
A tradition: Strawberry-Yogurt Panna Cotta

Let the party of tea commence!

 

 

Tea Party Deux!

It’s baaaaaack!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I am hosting the Second annual spring tea party this weekend!

Some of you may recall my series of tea party posts from last year (if you don’t, go check them out!). It was such a hit that all year I kept being asked if I would hold another and if I would invite so-and-so…

As a result, this year’s party has doubled in size and I am very excited!

I’ve learned a little bit from last year, too. This time around I am asking for (and more importantly, accepting) help from my friends. Everyone is contributing something which takes a lot of stress off of me. I still have to decorate & bake and clean and cook, but it will be so much less. Maybe this year I’ll actually be dressed when the guests start arriving!

So, taking into consideration what I learned from last year, I am starting early with the preparations. Today I began work on the strawberry panna cotta I will be serving, and am pulling together all the odds & ends needed to set the table:

Freshly cleaned, time to make puree!
I love my immersion blender

 

 

 

Panna cotta base chilling, the puree will be gelled on top later!
Pulling together the odds & ends for the table

Once the panna cotta has set, I’ll use the strawberry puree and make a jelly to go on top. It’s incredible.

Once again this year I have challenged everyone to come dressed in their interpretation of “tea party”. I have a male guest this year too, so I’m really looking forward to seeing all the outfits!

Stay tuned for more details & photos, I promise I’ll actually post! I have a fancy new Canon Powershot S95 camera to play with!

 

Tea Party: What Kind Did I Have?

What?

There are different kinds of tea parties?

It wasn’t until I started researching for my tea party that I learned that there are more than 2 kinds of “tea” to have. In fact, depending where you are in the world and what traditions you follow, you have loads of options!

Since most of us here are North American and operate on somewhat more relaxed standards than some of our European friends, I’ll talk about the kinds of tea parties most people host around here.

First up, is High Tea. You may have heard about this one. In a nutshell, it’s basically what we would call dinner. There would be full on entrees, tea, sweets, cakes and more. A big meal that is often served in a formal setting with lots of rules and lots of work!

A lot of places like to say they serve High Tea, but if there isn’t some kind of fancy chicken/beef/fish dish being served, it ain’t High Tea!

What most people are familiar with is the afternoon tea. It is sometimes called Light Tea, Victorian Tea, Low Tea, Cream Tea, etc. It’s all pretty similar, but there are three main types of afternoon tea:

Cream Tea

This is one where tea and scones with cream and jam are served. Hence the “cream” part of the title. Now when they say cream, they don’t mean the type you put in your coffee, they are referring to clotted or Devon style cream. It’s made from cow’s milk and is cooked down to a thick, wonderful creamy consistency, and is used as a spread on the scones. Sooooo goood.

Light Tea

This is the most simple tea, in which a pot of tea, some little cakes or cookies and maybe some sweet breads are served. It’s light and casual and is sort of an afternoon break rather than anything fancy.

Low or Full Tea

This is sort of a combination of the above, plus sandwiches! Low or Full Tea is the next step down from High Tea. Tea sandwiches and savoury fingerfoods are served along with the traditional scones and cream, petit fours, sweet breads, etc. with the tea. It is much more substantial than a snack, but not the full-on meal that High Tea would provide.

This one is best held in the late afternoon (around 3-4pm maybe) so that your guests can go home and still have a late light dinner if they chose to.

So what kind of tea did I have for my party?

Well, if you saw the photos you would know that I offered a Low or Full Tea, since I had sandwiches, sweets, petit fours, scones AND cream.

Now, if you’re planning to host a tea party, you can do it any way that you want. Mix up the menu items, create your own theme and rules! I didn’t have matching china, so I went ahead with a more whimsical theme with brightly coloured tea cups, cute mini spoons and creamers/sugar dishes. As long as you can create some sort of cohesive theme (mine was whimsical/eclectic) to pull everything together, you’ll have a great atmosphere.

For more information on hosting a tea party, menu ideas and proper etiquette, here are a couple of sites I used:

Tea Party Guide

About.com: Hosting an afternoon tea party

Tea Party: The Fashion

You may recall that I  issued a challenge to my friends:

You must dress up. Using your existing wardrobe, create an outfit that expresses YOUR interpretation of “tea party”.

I was stoked to see what all my friends came up with! A lot of them were panicking about what to wear but I wasn’t concerned. I told them “no denim” and left the concept for them to explore…

Most proper tea parties have some kind of dress code, from smart-casual all the way up to formal dress. I decided that for mine I wanted everyone to make an effort to dress up since this was a special occasion. Of course I didn’t want anything too crazy, which is why I told the girls to use their existing wardrobe and not to feel as though they had to buy something new for this event. We’re not made of money!

Here are the results!

Yours truly - doing the "Marilyn" pose in front of the fan!

Aren’t their outfits totally FAB???

A lot of white, but it was nice! I mean, how often do you really get to break out the white dresses, anyway? I love that two of my friends wore hats for the event, and the last one was even channeling the India Tea Company of old!

I was really pleased to see the effort put into these outfits, and I thought my friends looked so lovely! And I think they really enjoyed dressing up, too! There just aren’t that many reasons to dress up anymore, know what I mean? I think it’s great to take some time out to pick some nice clothes and slap on some girly lipstick!

I will definitely be doing more dress-up or themed parties in the future. As long as they’re relatively easy for people to pull together, they can be a lot of fun!!!

Do you and your friends ever dress up for events or get-togethers? Is it a regular thing, or do you stay casual most of the time?

Tea Party: Pulling it off

Well! I’d say the tea party was a resounding success, despite a few minor setbacks!

Friday night I went all over the place to pick up the final ingredients and such for the main event. I visited a number of bakeries, cheese mongers, florists and grocers to get everything I needed. By that point I was so exhausted I got myself a pad thai and a taxi home :S

I spent Friday night setting up the table, the flowers & decor and prepping some of the foods for the next day. I got the chicken salad successfully curried and… well… now that I look back I think that may have been the only food-related thing I got done, aside from washing the fruit. Next time around I will definitely prepare more ahead of time!

I totally could have done the minted cream cheese for the cucumber sandwiches, and pre-rolled all the asparagus spears in smoked prosciutto. Thank goodness for helpful friends!

My new pal “Hattie” came over early to help me set up, and boy am I glad she came! Despite waking up early to get things done, I was still scrambling at the last minute. I put her to work slicing bread and applying delicious, delicious cream cheese while I got the asparagus and cucumber ready.

We went along at a clipped pace until I realized that we had already passed my “3pm SHARP!” arrival time for guests. Ruh-roh! This is one of the few times I was glad my friends were tardy! Hattie offered to finish the sandwiches for me while I went to get dressed.

It was then that I realized that I had completely forgotten about the focal point of my tea party: THE SCONES!!!! Chaos ensued while I got up to my elbows in butter and flour to whip a batch out before everyone came. Good thing I did the practice run last weekend!

After a hasty mixing session I was shooed out of the kitchen in order to dress myself. When I popped out Hattie and another gal pal were finishing everything up in the kitchen. I love my friends! Pulling me out of the fire at my own party and all that…

Finally, everything was pretty much done, and we got down to the business of socializing like the wonderful, civilized ladies we are! The scones turned out beautifully, by the way :)

Now, everything in a tea party is about the details and little touches, so I offer you:

The Details

My menu consisted of the following:

  • Fresh-from-the-oven sugared scones
  • An assortment of homemade jams (plum, apple butter & raspberry…except the raspberry wasn’t homemade. Oh well) plus double Devon cream which was a total bitch to find, but absolutely necessary in my cream or low tea
  • An assortment of petit fours I picked up from the local boulangerie
  • Cucumber mint sandwiches
  • Smoked prosciutto and asparagus with honey mustard sandwiches
  • Curried chicken salad sandwiches with apple & cranberry for a kick+colour!
  • About 20 different types of teas, from traditional to rooibos to the exotic!
  • Fresh fruit
  • Candy!
  • A special liqueur plus champagne drink recipe I brought back with me from Europe

Tea party buffet

The set-up:

  • The main table set with delicate china, flowers, ornaments, bowls of jams & creams and my very special handmade Italian tablecloth I picked up at a traditional lace-making school in Venice
  • A buffet for the food
  • Flowers and decorations throughout the room
  • My cat. Decorated. With a pink bow. She’s awesome.

Tea table set-up
Flowers that match the decals in my kitchen
More flowers!

The only details left to mention are the fashion and the meaning behind the tea party. Stay tuned!