MOTHERS TEA, TRADITIONS & TEA

The Heart of Planning My Annual Mothers Tea (Nurse Themed)

Heat-beet canapés with blueberry goat cheese and edible flowers.

With fingertips gently placed on the underside of the wrist, we can feel the gentle pulse of our heartbeat, the sound of life pulsing through the veins. Most often a slow easy rhythm, that can easily move to a fast racing beat when excited or exerted. It is this first joyful audio a young mother anxiously longs to hear, during the first ultrasound, that confirms her little embryo is indeed alive. Our heartbeat is a gift of life given to each one of us, by our mother. But one day, for some earlier and others later, the heartbeat that gave us ours stops, and they have gone home to the Lord. It is a void that I didn’t know what to do with, especially when Mother’s Day would come around each year and I no longer had my mother to share the day with.

Mom and I on beach in Bermuda.

I decided about four years ago, to reach out to some of my friends who had also lost their mothers, and suggested an idea of hosting an annual tea the weekend before Mother’s Day, to gather and spend an afternoon sharing memories of our mothers. The idea was well received with appreciation I never expected. And so a tradition was formed.

After the first tea, I wrote each name of the attendees on a piece of paper, folded and placed it inside of a teapot. I suggested that at the end of each tea, we would pull a name from the teapot and the following year the tea would be designed in honor of that person’s mother. This would not only make each year a little something new to look forward to, it would also help us to learn more about each individual mother.

The following year our tea was in honor of Katherine, a mother who was a Seamstress. From memories shared by my friend, she remembered picking blackberries with her Mom ( blackberry scones) and her sister remembered how she would cut flowers from their yard and then wrap them with wet paper towels and plastic wrap so they could bring the flowers to their teachers (fresh flowers on the table). Their memories helped spark similar or different memories of the rest of our group. Through our conversation, we learned our mothers had things in common and yet had never known each other. ( The Seamstress themed tea can be found in the Tea & Traditions category.)

With this year’s Mothers Tea only 30 days away, and my work days being very full, I would have to get to work quickly to create a special day like those we’ve shared in the past. The name pulled at the last tea was a friend who couldn’t make it to this year’s event, due to travel plans. (Ironically her mother’s theme was going to be related to travel). I selected a new name from the teapot and the winner was Lydia.

Shortly after selecting her name, I sent a list of thought points to help generate memories of her mother that we could gently infuse into the decor and menu. The list included different hobbies or interests, a favorite color, a favorite flower or flowers, food flavors and other interests that I may be able to use as inspiration for some of the tea sandwiches, pastries and scones. With these tidbits of information, I would then let my mind do its best to create a memorable table decor, menu and favors that hopefully somewhat represent her mother.

Photo of Lydia and her Mom from a cruise.

The first flower that came to mind for Lydia was the gladiola. She remembered her mother deconstructing and creating corsages with them. We discussed some ideas for using gladiolas in the table decor (if they are available to purchase when we need them), but I first needed to create an invitation to send to the other ladies.

Lydia is a very talented artist, and I wanted her to apply her special artistic gift to creating the invitation. I handed her a box of blank cream notecards that were stored in the back of my desk drawer, and asked her to create gladiolas on the front of each notecard, explaining that I would then print and paste the invitation text inside afterwards. A day later, she delivered these six differently designed, beautifully drawn and colorful notecards. If we are unable to find fresh gladiolas for the tea, they have at least made an appearance on the invitation.

Lydia’s sketched and colored gladiolas.

Now it was my turn. I had to create the invitation text honoring her mother and her years of service as a nurse. I requested a headshot photo of her mother and she brought me several to choose from, including a couple of her mother in her 1960’s nursing uniform and cap, but they were so dark that we chose the image below that was originally in sepia. I took a picture of it with my phone and edited to black and white, making the image clearer to see.

Using an old school method of cut, paste and tape, I found this pretty stethoscope with roses image online. I printed it, gently cut it out with small manicure scissors and after three or four edits of moving the text and photo, finally framed the top of the invitation and image of our honored mother.

After searching through my desk of supplies, I found a pearl monogram that I decided to pull the little pearls from and place in a few areas to add a delicate three dimensional touch. With a glue stick and very finely pointed culinary tweezer, I pulled and placed the little pearls along the top border and used a larger pearl for the center of the stethoscope.

Once completed and all tucked into envelopes, I placed a gold wax seal on each before mailing to the other ladies.

The Table

With the invitations in the mail, it’s time to brainstorm for the table decor, favors and menu. For our seamstress themed tea I decorated my padded jewelry mannequin with tissue flowers that also incorporated the tissue pieces of an old pattern and measuring tape ribbon. As I wrestled with ideas for our nurse themed table, I found myself returning to my little mannequin.

Seamstress Themed Centerpiece

I searched for images of nurses in the 1960’s and sent one of the pictures to Lydia to ask her if it was the way her mother dressed. Her response was “exactly”. Once confirmed, I searched for a nurse cap, thinking of somehow decorating it and hanging it at an angle on the same mannequin form. I also ordered a symbolic nurse’s pin.

Rod of Asclepius Nursing

The rod of Asclepius (single snake around a staff, no wings attached) which is featured on the Star of Life, symbolizes healing. Again using a snake, the serpent sheds its skin and is a symbol of rebirth and fertility. The staff is a symbol of authority and represents the god of medicine.

When the cap and pin arrived I asked Lydia, (conveniently also my neighbor) to come over so I could share the idea I had for the table centerpiece. I demonstrated how I would set the cap on the mannequin and imagined trying to make a little white tissue paper nurse dress or decorate the body with white flowers. Lydia said her Mother wore a cape (that I recalled seeing in many of the images I found of the 1960’s nurse uniforms) and suggested she could make a little cape and dress for the mannequin form with some scraps of fabric. She also remembered she had the actual pins her mother wore.

Two days later, she delivered this adorable doll-like version of her mother’s 1960’s nursing uniform perfectly dressing my little mannequin form. We joked that from the back, the life-sized nursing cap looked a lot like Sally Field’s flying nun (for those of you old enough to know of the television show from the late 1960’s). Her mother’s name tag was so small is looks like it was made for the small version model she created. It was simply hard to believe how cute it turned out. (Her mother would be so proud of her.)

As part of her memories, Lydia also shared that she thought she got her love for reading from her mother, who read stacks of Harlequin romance novels that she hid away. Lydia confessed with a giggle, sneaking books from her mother’s hiding place to read them. As a cute nod to this memory, I found several Harlequin romance novel covers on Pinterest. I decided to take snap shots of several “nurse” themed novels and create little book covers to place around the table.

Nurse Themed Harlequin Romance Novels

When going through a list of things associated with nursing, I thought of gauze for wrapping wounds, bandaids, medications, syringes for giving shots, thermometers and so on, but very little could be translated into something pretty for the table. I didn’t want things to be too literal. I thought of making some kind of rosettes with the gauze or a ribbon with bandaids, all of which looked awful. Frustrated I pushed it all aside.

A gauze bow, with the nursing symbol pin and glittered pill bottles.

Finally, I had a bright idea! I had just thrown away a large plastic bottle emptied of my gummy vitamins. I pulled it from the trash washed it and sprayed it with some gold paint. I glued a pretty nurse’s cap image I printed from online that matched the inside of the invitation, outlined it with pearls to simulate a pill bottle label and then glittered the outside of the bottle. With a slightly smaller bottle I also spray painted I then covered the surface with brown glitter and another label, also outlined with little pearls.

Placed at the base of the mannequin form and hopeful to have fresh gladiolas on the day of the event, for now I staged this photo with a silk version. The only thing left to do is surround the center with some colorful fresh flowers and tiny bud must be added to the cape for a corsage.

The Favors

For the seamstress themed tea, I made pin cushions with espresso cups (that looked like small teacups).

Lydia and I talked about making corsages (like her mother made) for each of the ladies (which still may happen if we can find gladiolas), but I wanted something that would fit in with our Nurse theme for this year’s favor. On the same evening I thought of the glitter pill bottles, I also thought of travel sized first aide kits. I searched for a cute version for a long time online, but they were either too large or too expensive and none had the feminine appearance I wanted.

Travel sized first aide kits for this year’s favors. Using bottle labels found at Michaels, I printed pink first aid crosses to glue to the center, placed a few little pearls (to match the invitation) and a small shear white bow for the perfect nurse themed favor.

I remembered my little travel sized kit that was tucked away in my suitcase. Its simple white case was perfect for dressing up with paper or clip art that I would have to figure out IF I could find the quantity I needed. Luckily for just a couple of dollars each, I found the quantity I needed at good ole’ Walmart (in the area with all of the travel sized toiletries are). I went to Michaels in search of some paper that I could create a cover with. While browsing around the store for inspiration, I found some Spring items marked down and bought a pack of bottle labels by Celebrate it.

Back home, ready to figure out my design, I pulled out the paper I had purchased and started trying to figure out what I would do, when the labels I bought caught my eye. I decided to open the package and discovered there were two labels that were the perfect size and looked similar to the art I used inside the invitations. I put one kit together and then immediately went online and ordered two more packs (there were only 2 of the size I needed in a pack) to ensure they were ready for pickup the following day so I could make all of the kits look the same. It’s when little things like this come unexpectedly together that I enjoy what I’m doing the most. One might say the spirit of Lydia’s mother is gently guiding our plans together in a beautifully un-orchestrated way.

Inside the package I was surprised to find small labels that fit perfectly into the center of the kit.

Until the day of the tea, my table is set and ready with only the fresh flowers missing. So for now I will move on to the menu once again trying to capture a little of Lydia’s mother in some of the items.

Our pulse, our heartbeat was given to each of us by a mother.  We grew with the Lord’s blessing inside our mother’s womb, heartbeats at times in unison, until we were completely formed and expelled to become over the years who we are today. Follow along as we continue to put our hearts into the planning of this special day in honor of our mothers.

Note: Nurse’s Day is May 6th. Thank and honor the wonderful nurses in your lives this year.

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