TRADITIONS & TEA

The Story of Mom … and Dad

While browsing through bargain shelves at the book store one Saturday, I spotted a red covered journal with gold lettering on the front that read “Your Mother’s Story”. I have kept journals for decades including one where I specifically recorded all of my daughter’s “firsts”, various milestones, and funny little things she said and did as a child. As I flipped through the pages of this journal, I discovered that each page asked a specific question that a mother could answer about herself, her children’s father and their families for their children. Having loss my mother some years earlier at the age of 75, I’m more sensitive to the fact that we think we have time to get to these kind of questions, and yet – we really have no idea how little time we don’t.

I bought the journal and decided to use it in two ways. One to start making notes for my own daughter, knowing it would take a long time to fill its pages and secondly I would use some of the questions at my Mother’s Tea to help guests recall memories of their mothers. When I reached the page that asked, “How did my grandparents (my parents) meet?”, I thought I kind of knew, but didn’t have a crystal clear story. Whatever I thought I heard, had been told by my mother. I realized I had never heard the story from my Dad’s point of view. Dad has had dementia for some time now, and while his memory fails him on current events, he can usually remember almost anything from the past with shocking clarity.

One day while we were having lunch, I finally attempted to get his side of the story. I could see his mind drift back to the past, his eyes focused in the distance somewhere, he was back in the mid 1950’s. He loved to brag about all of the girls he used to date, and said that Mom as a teenager, operated a snowball stand in front of her house. (A common thing in the South during the 1950’s – and some still exist where zoning laws allow.) He went on to say that large groups of kids used to hang out around Mom’s snowball stand and the same crowd also met weekly at the dance halls. He said they moved around more in groups back then and Mom had a beaux. He was too busy running around with all of these other girls to really notice her, especially because she had a beau. Without much detail of how Mom and her beau ended things, he said eventually he noticed she was smart and a really good person that would be good for him and he started paying more attention to her, she was the kind of gal you got serious about. He has always given credit to Mom for “straightening him out” and says he would not have had the life he did without her at his side.

Engagement photo.

From my Mother’s version of the story, they had only dated for a couple of months when Dad proposed (photo above).

A simple wedding in 1956 that resulted in more than 57 years of love.

A small wedding followed and not long afterwards my Dad was deployed to Europe for several months with the U.S. Air Force, leaving my mother behind, separated by an ocean. In 1956 the only affordable correspondence was letter writing, and so they grew to know each other more through letters. Mom was of course miserable, because her parents wouldn’t let her go to the dance (which she loved) with her friends anymore because she was now married.

When Dad returned, his orders sent both he and Mom to Alabama. From there they moved nearly every year from State to State, had two children and in the last 8 or 9 years of his service we lived in Northern and Southern California where he would complete his 20 years of service and return to their hometown in Southern Louisiana in mid 1970 for the rest of their years. I can’t say that we were thrilled about trading in Southern California, for Southern Louisiana, but over time it has become home.

25th Wedding Anniversary
Knowing they did not have a formal wedding, I hosted a party at my home
and wanted them to have a traditional wedding cake
.

Their years together were not without conflict or challenges. Dad would be deployed for several months at a time on at least two occasions that I can remember, while Mom was living somewhere far away from her family and friends with two small children. He also deployed to Vietnam for a period of a year that would change him forever. When he returned from Vietnam his body had no injuries, but the mental and emotional scars of war have never left him. While stories of marriages falling apart were reported regularly for war veterans, my parents somehow made it through. We heard arguments and threats of leaving (mostly Mom). One minute she couldn’t stand another second with him and the next she couldn’t imagine her life without him. Any marriage that survives the number of years that theirs did would have to weather many storms, and for them it was just a matter of riding out the waves until they eventually subsided.

50th Wedding Anniversary

As their fiftieth anniversary approached I began to plan a surprise party for them. It was such a surprise that my Mom told me a week prior to the invitation date that she and Dad were going on a road trip. This caused me to have to tell her about the party. She was actually excited because she looked over the guest list and asked if she could invite some additional friends and family that I didn’t know.

The Friday before the party (scheduled Saturday night) I was up until midnight forming topiaries with white roses, green mums and limes for the cake table and cherry tomato with lemon leaf topiaries for the buffet. I worked hard to prepare a buffet menu with variety of food choices and thankfully we had enough food.

I made these topiaries with fresh white roses and limes. 
My first attempt at catering for a large crowd.  I spent hours the day before 
making topiaries with cherry tomatoes mint & lemon leaves and the floral versions on each side of the cake.
The engagement photo was printed on to labels
and adhered to small boxes of mints for favors in the lower right corner above.

My gift was the party and my brothers was a weekend get away.

As a party favor for our guests, I printed their engagement photo on small square labels and adhered each to little boxes of butter mints.

It was a somewhat dangerous rainy night and the route to my brother’s home was very dark. I was concerned about the turn out, but the number of guests that arrived continued to grow. Family and friends my parents had not seen in many years had come and they were more surprised about seeing all of them, than anything else. They were really happy that night and so pleased to have so many show up for them.

My parents loved to dance , after all it’s part of how they started their relationship and the night did not end until they danced to “their song”, sung by Elvis -“I Can’t Help Falling in Love.” To this day, even with Mom in heaven, I usually play a fifties station for Dad in the car when I’m taking him somewhere – and that song never fails to play as if Mom is letting him know she’s there and I can see him holding her in his arms while dancing in his eyes. It always brings a smile to his face.

When Mom unexpectedly became ill, and passed away they had been married 57 years. Her biggest worry was who would take care of my Dad. In her mind and heart, no one could take care of him like she would. The worst thing I’ve ever had to do, was to ask my heartbroken Dad to go tell my mother is was okay for her to go home to the Lord. He promised her he would let us take care of him to ease her heart and mind, and he has.

I remember during the planning of their anniversary party, I realized that only one person among everyone who was invited to attend had grandparents on both her father and mother’s side that had been married for 50 years. That person is my daughter. With about 30 guests present – with families of their own, it shows how low the statistics for a long marriage really is and confirms what a difficult achievement it is -to be admired.

Whether your parents were married for many years or not, it’s worth knowing the story of how they met. Ask them while you can. In fact, ask them all kinds of questions, it’s never too soon – but can very easily be too late. Their stories reveal in many ways -love endures.

TRADITIONS & TEA

Mothers Tea: Seamstress Theme – 2019 “The Day”

[The full planning of this tea can be found in “Traditions & Tea” section.]

The morning of my annual “Remembering Moms Tea” started gray and stormy, with thunder and lighting rumbling through the sky as I gathered ingredients and consulted the list of things to do for the final preparations and touches. The weatherman promised the skies would clear up around the scheduled time and while there was a slight drizzle at the start as my friends began to arrive, the rain had a left a cool freshness in the air, highlighted by the sun. We were a smaller group this year, some of our friends were out of town, but this intimate gathering shared wonderful memories.

When my guests were settled in their places at the table, with their framed photos of their Moms, I started our tea with what I’ve decided will be our theme song from this point forward. It so beautifully proclaims our purpose for gathering and summons the spirits of our mothers into our hearts. Earlier this year I saw a re-run of Trisha Yearwood’s cooking show, and at the end she sang a song that she wrote for her mother called “I Remember You.” I knew it would be the perfect song to set the tone for my tea. Trisha’s heartfelt lyrics emotionally charged the room and served as our prayer to start the tea. [Another great song that I’ve used at a previous tea is Ed Sheeran’s “Supermarket Flowers” written for his grandmother that he refers to as Mum.]

Gerber daisies were used to add a bright pop of color
and highlighted the orange spools of thread in the table runner.

Afterwards I served the soup course, sandwiches already on the table, while my friends visited and caught up with news since they had last met. Once everyone was served I had each pull out the envelope pattern I had sent with their invitation and asked them to share and tell us about the pictures they brought of items their mother’s had sewn.

While most of us struggled to find photos, two of us had pictures of dancing costumes and prom dresses. Another had photos of her and her sister in what looked like little red velvet dresses. One forgot her photos, but picked a dress from her wardrobe to wear that reminded her of the dresses she favored that her Mom had made for her. One’s Mother didn’t sew, but paid someone to sew clothes for her. Her mother however, did beautiful crocheted items and she brought a couple of items to share with us including a little infant dress. One friend brought and shared a beautifully made tweed two piece suit (jacket and skirt) with a lined jacket and covered buttons that looked like it was straight from the finest department store, that her mother had sewn in home economics in high school.

While we all shared that as young girls we longed to be able to buy our clothes from the coveted Sears & Roebuck catalogs or stores of our time, we realize now how we were simply too young to appreciate the hand crafted, one of a kind designs we were privileged to wear a young girls.

THE SOUP COURSE

The recipes for this soup made with Spring vegetables and the tea sandwiches below can be found on “Teatime Menu” in Traditions and Tea category.

Carrot & pea soup.

THE SANDWICH COURSE

  • BASIL BLT
  • OVEN ROASTED SALMON -CUCUMBER BITES
  • EGG SALAD WITH SWEET PAPRIKA
  • CRANBERRY PECAN CHICKEN

THE SCONE COURSE

I tried a few times to get some ideas from my friends, as to the types of flavors or foods their mother liked so I could attempt to incorporate a little of it into my menu. I didn’t get very much help, but ironically, it was as if their mother made herself present all on her own. A couple weeks prior to the tea I was talking with my friend who still couldn’t think of anything to help me and I mentioned I was thinking about making these blackberry scones. I asked if her mother had a favorite berry – her response “blackberries”! I laughed – “Well there you go”, said. She remembered that she and her sister used to go with their mother to pick blackberries. So these pretty scones that I found on Pinterest were the perfect choice.

THE PASTRY COURSE

The sweets and pastry course: 1) I also learned that my friend’s mother loved chocolate covered raisins. To elevate that treat I made chocolate truffles with milk, semi-sweet & bitter sweet chocolates mixed with a little Chambord & whipped cream; currants were used in lieu of raisins. The chocolate was formed into gold candy paper cups. The tops were dusted with cocoa powder and embellished with sugared violas. 2) Pastel button sugar cookies were a must for a sewing themed tea. They were flavored with vanilla bean paste, almond extract, lemon and lime zest. 3) To save myself a little work, I visited a local bakery and purchased the lemon cream tarts.

As my friend circled the table she noticed my Mom’s Battenburg lace table cloth. She paused and said, “Mom loved Battenburg. She even tried to make it.” (Another touch of her Mom without knowing.) When the table was cleared and the dishes washed, I told my friend I wanted her to have the flowers on the table. I searched for a glass jar or plastic container to place them in for her ride home, but she insisted on a few wet paper towels that she wrapped around the stems and grabbed a left over piece of foil from the counter to seal in the wet towels. “That was another of your mother’s gestures.” I told her. Her sister had told me the year before that she remembered her Mom cutting flowers from her flowerbed and wrapping them with wet paper towels and plastic wrap or foil so they could bring the flowers to their teachers. As I said, her Mom’s spirit was there.

As an exercise to help us remember our Mom’s, I had found this journal sometime in the past year at a book store, “Your Mother’s Story, Mom I want to know everything about you..” I purchased it for the purpose of filling responses its pages of questions for my own daughter over time, and as I read the questions I decided I could use a few to generate some interesting memories at my tea. I selected some of the questions and reproduced them on to slips of paper, that I then folded and placed inside one of my vintage sewing pattern envelopes I had made. I passed the envelope around for everyone to take a question and asked them answer the question in the way they thought their Mother would.

The questions varied from the craziest thing that happened with our Mom; the hardest conversation we ever had to have with our Mom; an unexpected turning point in our Mom’s life; advice or techniques that our Mom learned from her own Mom that she passed down to us and so on. We shared some funny stories, some difficult turns and some sweet stories as was our goal -we remembered our Moms.

Over our few years of meeting over tea and talking about our Moms, we’ve discovered our childhoods in many ways had a lot in common. Most of us had our clothes made by our Moms on their sewing machines, and most of us longed to buy clothes at Sears like the other kids. Most of us can remember our Moms cutting flowers and wrapping them in paper towels so we could bring them to our teachers, and oddly a few of them also loved chocolate covered raisins like the Mom we celebrated today. While we are purposely allocating time to spend remembering our Moms, we are also finding common ground among ourselves.

As my friends left to go their separate ways, I knew in all of our hearts that song was playing again in our mines, Mom – I remember you……

TRADITIONS & TEA

Teatime Menu- The First Edition

Hosting an annual tea pushes me to search for and create new ways to serve and present the menu from year to year. I first challenged myself in this way a decade ago for my daughter’s baby shower. My goal was to serve food in an uncommon and new way. Spinach (green) filled with roasted pepper mayo (I blended jarred roasted peppers with mayo) and thinly sliced turkey and sun dried tomato (red) tortillas were filled with wasabi mayo and thinly sliced turkey – each were cut with a round cookie cutter (about 2 1/2 in) and skewered. While I want everything to be pretty and different for these events, I also want everything to be flavorful. Below is the first edition of tea menu options I have used in a prior year or created for this year’s Mother’s tea.

Front to back, Carrot Walnut, Queen’s Coronation Chicken Salad, Cucumber Avocado

CARROT SANDWICHES

  • 1/2 cup of Mascarpone (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice (or cinnamon)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • julienned carrots
  • raisin bread
  • thin carrot slices (on mandoline)
  • carrot leaves or flat leaf parsley (to garnish)

Mix mascarpone, chopped nuts, spices and salt in a medium bowl with a fork or spatula. Spread mixture on to one side of two slices of raisin bread. Place julienned sticks of carrots over spread of the bottom slice and top with second slice of bread. (The spread on both slices help hold everything together.) Using a sharp knife (or electric knife), cut and trim to remove crust and form rectangle shaped sandwiches (2 to 3 per – depending on the width of bread slice.) Place a small dollop of mascarpone spread on the top of sandwich (acting as the glue), place a small piece of walnut, thin sliced carrot and leaf for garnish.

CORONATION CHICKEN SANDWICHES

This sandwich was adapted from Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation tea sandwiches in Tea Time Magazine. For garnish, remove the crust from the bread and cut diagonally. Spread apricot jam on one edge to adhere toasted slivered almonds. https://www.teatimemagazine.com/coronation-chicken-salad-sandwiches-recipe/

CUCUMBER SANDWICH

Cucumber sandwiches are not complicated, but often lack in flavor. This version was prepared with thin white bread, a herbed or dill cream cheese spread (room temperature), thinly sliced avocado inside the sandwiched bread and crust removed. Sandwich cut into 4 squares. Thin ribbon slices of English cucumber made with a mandoline or vegetable peeler, are stacked on top of the sandwich secured with a pretty pick. A little dill for garnish.

Rather than having a 4th finger sandwich, or a traditional
egg salad sandwich, I served deviled egg baskets (inspired by Pinterest). Alfalfa sprouts inserted inside the egg cups to create a “nest” for eggs to sit on (lifted for easier access)
and chive blossoms from my garden.

BASIL BLT

Fresh basil mixed with mayo, a layer of crispy bacon,
halved cherry tomatoes, and Spring baby lettuce.
  • German Dark Wheat (Pepperidge Farms) 8 slices yields 12 tea sandwiches (3 per 2 slices)
  • Fresh basil (2 teaspoons) chopped and small cluster leaves or small whole leaf for garnish)
  • Zest of a lemon and 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 24 half slices of cooked bacon (crispy) blot away grease
  • 1 pint on the vine cherry tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes) -sliced into 1/8th inch disks; set aside in a bowl and drizzle with white balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with 2 pinches of salt, 1 pinch of black pepper.
  • White balsamic vinegar (above)
  • Spring mix lettuces, arugula or baby spinach

Lightly toast all slices of bread. Mix mayo, lemon zest, juice and chopped basil. Coat one side of all toasted bread slices crust to crust. Top one side of toast with the spread with 3 half slices of bacon. Next layer sliced tomatoes, then greens, slice of toast on top. Remove the crust from the edges and then cut sandwich into 3 equal rectangles. Top with tomato slice and small basil cluster of leaves or a single small leaf. Place a decorative pick through the garnish to hold sandwich together.

EGG SALAD OR DEVILED EGGS

These deviled eggs were so much prettier than an egg salad sandwich, I was able to use my chives and their blossoms from my garden. For a variety of beautiful deviled eggs I recommend the blog “She Keeps a Lovely Home”. You can also find images of her eggs on Pinterest. I made her Bloody Mary deviled eggs for a brunch and they were excellent.https://www.shekeepsalovelyhome.com/

SALMON CUCUMBER BITES

As an alternative to a cucumber sandwich (to omit some of the bread), I used an English cucumber slice (about 1/4th inch thick to hold the topping); mixed together chopped dill with creme fraiche ( or sour cream) dolloped on top of the cucumber, sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning (Trader Joe’s or make your own); flaked broiled or baked salmon; garnished with chopped chive and a sprig of dill -chive blossoms separated into smaller pieces.

In lieu of a sandwich, these mini puffed pastry tomato, goat cheese tarts. They are also a great picnic item.

SCONE COURSE

For some reason my scone course never seems to get photographed. Part of the problem of being the cook, the host and the photographer – is that it’s very hard to do everything!

My favorite scone is a cranberry orange version on Martha Stewart’s website. I have also used the same recipe with fresh or frozen blueberries and lemon zest. Slight adjustments have to be made due to the liquid produced by the berries. I also created a lemon glaze to drizzle over the top.

For this year’s tea: When I told my friend that I was going to make these blackberry cream scones from Pink Piccadilly Pastries http://pinkpiccadillypastries.blogspot.com/2016/06/cream-tea-scones-with-blackberry.html – she said it was her mother’s favorite berry and that she and her sister used to help her pick blackberries. So without knowing, I had picked the perfect scone. For my own spin to the original recipe I added about a tsp. of lemon zest and vanilla paste in lieu of extract to the batter. For the filling I decided to use mascarpone & whipped cream due to the density of the scone from the test bake that I believe will hold up more firmly. A dusting of snowy powdered sugar over the final garnished scones might also add a nice touch.

SOUPS

While it may not be traditional, I like to serve a light soup at the beginning of my tea. For my first tea I made an asparagus soup with roasted asparagus and added a tablespoon of lump crabmeat to each bowl.

Each year I want fresh Spring vegetables, vibrant color and pure flavors. The first year the star was asparagus, last year it was corn (a fresh corn bisque) and this year I chose carrots and sweet peas.

CARROT, PEA AND MINT SOUP

  • 6 to 8 servings
  • FOR THE CARROT PORTION:
  • 3 pounds orange carrots (farm fresh for the best flavor if available)
  • 1 or 2 small to medium purple carrots (if unable to find an orange will do)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable stock or water *
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • pinch of white pepper
  • FOR THE MINT-PEA PORTION:
  • 2 – 12 oz packages of frozen sweet peas (reserve 1/2 of whole peas on the side for garnish
  • 6 mint leaves (additional mint for garnish)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable stock or water*
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest & juice

Note: * If chicken stock is used the pure flavor of the vegetables will be altered.

Peel all carrots with a vegetable peeler and then slice into 1/4 inch disks. Place in a medium to large skillet with butter and liquid (*vegetable stock or water), salt and pepper. (If you do not have white pepper -black pepper is acceptable.) Simmer on medium heat covered until carrots are tender when pierced with a fork. Carefully transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Note that hot liquid in a blender can splash and burn you. Make sure to cover the top with a dish towel or allow mixture to slightly cool prior to blending). Add small quantifies of liquid until desired consistency is achieved. In order to create the two side by side or swirl affect, it will have to be the consistency of loose mashed potatoes or the line will not hold. It cannot be watery.

Frozen peas (remove 1/2 cup of whole peas and set aside to thaw to room temperature). Cook frozen peas in microwave according to package instructions. Transfer to a clean blender and add 1/2 cup of liquid (*vegetable stock or water)and mint leaves. Puree, again to desired consistency adding small quantities of liquid – with same note indicated above. Salt and pepper to taste, lemon zest and juice.

Both can be made one to two days in advance, refrigerated in an air tight container. Gently reheat prior to serving.

Garnish: Create thin slices of purple carrot with a vegetable peeler, from stem to end tip. Gently curl and place in ice water until ready to serve. Garnish soup with raw carrot slice, several whole peas, a mint leaf, and chive blossom or other edible flower.

PASTRIES COURSE:

I do enjoy making the items for my tea, but shortcuts taken in some areas are acceptable. After all, it’s a lot of work! Last year I made tiny raspberry tarts, chocolate dipped strawberries and purchased french macrons.

This year’s featured Mom loved chocolate covered raisins. I elevated the idea of her favorite creating a triple chocolate (Milk, Bittersweet & Semi-Sweet) truffle, with Chambord raspberry liquor and currants. The top is sprinkled with cocoa and a sugared violet.

My personal pastry plan is – one thing chocolate, one thing fruity, and one thing crispy so that there are different flavors and textures.

Cantaloupe Basil Sorbet with Prosciutto Crisp.

Another course that I serve that is not traditional is a refreshing sorbet. For the first tea I served a store bought raspberry sorbet. Last year I made a Sweet Basil Cantaloupe Sorbet with a slice of Prosciutto that I crisped in the oven. The sweet and salty combination was such a hit, that I re-created it for my wine club that summer. This year I’m considering a watermelon mint sorbet or a store bought Italian lemon ice.

Below are small “to-go” boxes I found at Joann’s for guests to take away some of the leftovers. Matching paper straws with floral runners for iced tea was also available.

If you are considering planning a tea for Mother’s Day, a bridal luncheon or simply to gather friends on a beautiful Spring or Summer day, I hope these ideas will inspire you to make it beautiful and memorable.

Small “to go” boxes for guests to store the leftovers.
TRADITIONS & TEA

*Stitching Together* Memories of Mom: 3rd Annual Tea 2019 ** The Planning

Throughout my childhood, memories of my mother seated at her Domestic Imperial Automatic sewing machine remain vivid. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can recall the whizzing hum of the belted wheel, that she occasionally had to give a little manual spin to start its rotation as she guided fabric through the fiercely bobbing threaded needle to form an even seam. I can hear the clink and gentle metallic crunch of her sharp chrome finished scissors slicing through fabric that was strategically laid out and pinned with delicate thin sheets of tissue pattern pieces forming shapes of sleeves, collars, bodices and skirts.

I watched as she patiently moved the pattern pieces around on the fabric to carefully position all to fit and then tacking their corners down with straight pins pulled from a red tomato shaped pin cushion. Occasionally she would prink her finger slightly wincing with a little jolt.

I was called to her side many times as she held pinned together pattern pieces and later partially sewn pieces of fabric against me, to ensure the perfect fit as she reached for pins held between her lips to mark were a seam had to be taken in or ripped open for a proper fit. The satisfaction she must have felt from her completed garments, encouraged her to master more difficult patterns and designs over the years. All so that we could both look fashionable on a tight budget.

When I was in the third grade she labored for hours, hand sewing over 500 sequins on to my ballet and tap costumes for dancing school. She tacked on each sequin individually with a small glass bead stitched over the little hole in its center. A year later for Christmas, she had taken multiple fabric scraps and formed them into Jacqueline Kennedy fashioned dresses, coats and gowns for my Barbie doll. As a teenager of 15 I was invited to a prom. She made my soft yellow chiffon empire waist gown and found little wired chiffon butterflies she placed in my hair. Later when my own Jr. prom came around, she had gained enough skill that allowed me to draw an image of a dress I had seen Marie Osmond wear on The Donny & Marie show, and recreated it in a soft pink chiffon.

As more and more women over the generations, joined the work force, sewing became a less predominate domestic skill, and the ease and convenience of department stores made buying ready to wear clothing more desirable. In fact, I envied girls who were able to buy clothes in stores, while they envied my one of a kind designs created by Mom that I was of course too young to truly appreciate at the time.

For this year’s Remembering Moms Tea, our theme is in honor of the mother of two sisters who not only made clothes for each of them, but made a living as a seamstress. While this was their mother’s profession, most of those in our group also have memories of their mothers or grandmothers sitting at a sewing machine, stitching fabric by hand with embroidery thread, crocheting or knitting.

The Planning:

STEP 1: Determining the theme- the names of each attendee was written on small pieces of paper and placed inside of a tea pot at the previous year’s tea. A name was pulled and the theme for the following year’s tea will honor that mother.

STEP 2: The invitation: Clip Art – with a sewing machine and notions – some areas sprinkled with a little white glitter, then adhered to card stock on one side ; printed invitation details with a small clip art mannequin on the reverse side.

I searched online for images of vintage pattern envelopes and chose a variety of the brands that I recalled seeing as a young girl either in my Mom’s supplies or my own from home economics class, i.e., McCall’s, Simplicity, Butterick and Vogue. I don’t recall any “Paris Vogue” patterns in my Mom’s sewing kit, but it was interesting to find the couturier and Christian Dior designs during my search.

A variety of pattern covers were printed [5″ x 7″} and then adhered with a glue stick to envelopes of the same size. The back of the envelop was sealed and then a slit was cut at the top edge of the pattern image. Each envelop now resembled an opened vintage pattern envelop and was included with the invitation (both fitted into a larger envelop). The message below was inserted into the pattern envelop (like a book marker).

Please Bring:  Your memory notebook; your framed photo of Mom & if your mother sewed (or stitched – cross stick, embroidery, etc., crocheted or knitted) find a photo of something she made, place it inside the pattern envelop and bring all to the tea.

**See Post: “Gathering/Tradition: Annual Tea in Remembrance of Mom” for info on notebook and framed photo and the story of how this tradition began.

STEP 3: Favors – inspired by the teacup pin cushion on the clip art used for the invitation.

To merge the tea and sewing theme, I used small espresso cups, printed fabric (with spools of thread); cotton balls for stuffing, dark pink twine, and a gold rimmed pearl embellishment to create mini pin cushion favors for my guests. A few years ago I found this measuring tape cotton ribbon and decided to buy it for “one day”. I’m so glad I did, because it makes the cutest bow on top. The card of sewing charms I found at Walmart and secured one charm with a pearl head pin into the center of the bow. Six pearl head pins are pushed into the padding to complete the look of the tea favors.

STEP 4: Time sensitive items: Some mothers made garments on sewing machines, but others may have knitted, cross stitched, embroidered, or crocheted. When I found these sugar dollies on Pinterest I couldn’t resist. I chose the cameo lace pattern that is reminiscent of the past and has a lovely silhouette of a lady – like moms and grandmothers. https://www.etsy.com/shop/NinisSweetCreations

STEP 5: The finishing touches….Decor, table runner and napkin rings.

Drawing from memories of my mother, I began to form the decor for this sewing themed tea a couple of months in advance to allow for time to find or create items I wanted to use. Neither my friends or I had retained our Mom’s sewing mannequin that I originally imaged for my decor, but then I remembered I have a small jewelry mannequin and decided it would make a sweet centerpiece with a little decoration.

Sifting through my gift wrapping tissue, I chose a sheet of light pink and an orange floral. Each were folded into a stack with 6 to 8 layers. Various sized circles (similar to the size of a quarter or smaller) were cut and then pinned to the form with a pearl straight pin. From the top layer to the bottom, one at a time I scrunched the layers around the pin head to form little rosettes. I made the same layered circles with pieces of tissue from the one pattern I found among my sewing items. A small pattern piece (for a cuff) was used to create a pinned pattern resembling a skirt. A 12 inch piece of cotton measuring tape ribbon was formed into a bow at the center of rosettes on the shoulder.

I searched for a printed fabric of sewing notions to create a table runner, but I was unable to find anything with the correct color palette. So I pulled out Mom’s old sewing machine and stitched together five pieces of the “Fat Quarter” 18″ x 21″ fabric used for the pin cushions. While adding the dark pink rick rack, Mom’s machine came to a halt -protesting any further action. I had to employ the help of a friend to finish sewing the rick rack to the edges of the fabric to complete my table runner.

With a cup of tea to sip on, I inventoried the left over fabric,
charms, pearl embellishments, rick rack, cotton measuring tape ribbon.

I originally toyed with the idea of tying rick rack around my battenburg napkins forming a bow, but as I surveyed the items left over from my pin cushion project I decided I could do better. With a cup of tea to sip I began to create nine different napkin rings.

  • Cut strips of fabric, ribbon and rick rack into 6″ strips.
  • Fabric about 2 inches in width – seams top and bottom folded and ironed in place.
  • Hot glue used to glue rick rack or cotton ribbon over open seam of fabric (or)
  • Rick rack hot clued to top and bottom edges of measuring tape ribbon (last pic side views if base)
  • Hot glue ends together to form ring
  • Top with bow, charm, buttons, etc. (see below)

While searching through a bag of buttons I’ve had for years (those little bags attached to garments with extra buttons and beads), I found a set of dark pink buttons with small sequins and matching beads that reminded me of my sequined and beaded costume that Mom spent hours creating. I had to create a napkin ring in memory of her loving labor.

STEP 6: Getting the garden ready…..

Spring has just arrived and now is the time to freshen up the herb garden and feed it some liquid fertilizer to encourage edible blossoms to form. Violas and pansies also edible make tea sandwiches and soups even prettier. Chives and their blossoms (below) were used to adorn these dainty deviled egg baskets a couple of years ago.

The foundation of my Mother’s Tea is now ready. A month prior to the scheduled tea (mid-May) I hope to have the Menu decided. I’ve asked the two sisters whose mother is being featured to think about some of their mother’s favorite flavors and foods. I hope to translate some of those thoughts into the soup, tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and possibly even the sparkling cocktail.

Watch for the future post following the event sharing the menu and pictures with the full presentation. I hope the ideas shared here will encourage and inspire tea traditions everywhere! Please share this post with your friends and family and offer your ideas and feedback with me. Thank you!

TRADITIONS & TEA

Gathering/Tradition: Annual Tea In Remembrance of Mom-2018

I purchased these soup bowl and saucers years ago at an antique shop. When I attempted to negotiate a lower price,
the shop keeper asked how I would be using them. When I told her about my collection and love for entertaining she said,
” I just wanted to make sure they went to someone who would
love them as much as my Mother did.They are now part
of my Remembering Moms Tea
.

As we ease into the month of May, the stores are suddenly cleared of Easter candies and décor, immediately replaced with gifts and cards for graduations and Mother’s Day.  One year the void of not having my Mom for Mother’s Day struck me.  The memories of planning something special to do with her for the holiday that I hoped she would enjoy was sorely felt.

Over the past several years I understood that she preferred spending time with me more than receiving some elaborate gift.  Creating memories and quality time together grew more meaningful and cherished, while the memory of gifts received from year to year were easily forgotten. I tried to be original and put a lot of thought into the sharing of time. We had brunch at Commander’s Palace, high tea at the Windsor Court Hotel; attended the Broadway musical Beauty & the Beast, attended the Art in Bloom Exhibit at our museum and had lunch at an uptown café.  I tried to introduce her to things she’d never done, while also showing her the way into my world – and the things I loved. She was always so excited at each new adventure.

Mom had a number of brooches, beautifully adorned with various colored rhinestones or pearls and a different design for nearly every occasion or holiday.  When Madeline Albright’s exhibit of pins (received while she served as Secretary of State) came to the New Orleans Museum of Art, we and one each of our friends got together to see the exhibit and have lunch at Ralph’s on the Park.  Of all my efforts, the one that interested Mom the most however was high tea. The sight of a little tea shop just made her squirm with joy.

Left: Royal Albert :Old Country Roses
Center: Teapot -Crown Dorset, Stafforshire, England
Right: Burton & Burton

Decades ago, I attended a family bridal shower and noticed a large round table with a silver coffee urn and a variety of china cups and saucers each with a different pattern. When I asked why they were all different I was surprised to learn that it was the hostess’s teacup collection, something I had not considered or seen before. I’d never been a fan of collectibles. They just sit on a shelf and collect dust and create clutter. But this collection sparked my interest. This was a collection that was not only beautiful to look at, but also “useful”, and so my search began.

Although the collection at the bridal shower was lovely, I had chosen to collect tea cups with specific criteria.  While they may all be different, I wanted a common thread or cohesiveness between them. As a result all of the cups in my collection are trimmed in gold and have either pink or red roses in the pattern.  Shortly after my third or fourth cup, my mother followed suit and began to collect similar cups.  She also bought some that are part of my collection as gifts during her travels to California and Germany.

In the final months of my mother’s life, I hosted a tea for her and her friends.  It turned out to be the best idea, giving her this opportunity to share time with her friends while doing something she loved, and of course I’d made her proud. It was the last time they saw her well and I was grateful that they had this joyful time together. Mom passed away just two months later.

Cup: Elizabethan Staffordshire Mom brought back from a trip to California has continued to be one of favorites in my collection.


The following year while going through some of her things, I was overwhelmed by all of her cups. Many were the same as my own and others didn’t fit into my collection. I decided I would take those that I wanted and individually wrap the others in gift boxes. The Spring following Mom’s passing, I hosted another afternoon tea in memory of my Mom for the same group ladies, along with a few of my helpful friends, and presented each of Mom’s friends with one of her boxed cups. They were surprised and touched… some saying later that they have a cup of tea in the afternoon in memory of Mom with their cup.

Mom’s cups wrapped in boxes with teacup ribbon and a honey spoon for her friends.

A year later, as Mother’s Day approached, I realized how odd it felt not to have my Mom here for Mother’s Day. The more I thought about it, I realized that several of my friends had also loss their mothers. Why not continue on with what had unknowingly formed a tradition? Thus, is the genesis of my Mothers Tea.

I invited those whose mothers had passed and asked each to bring a small framed photo of their mother. The weekend before Mother’s Day we gathered for high tea at my dining room table and shared memories of our mothers, with their images perched beside us.

I learned that they, like myself, felt the loss each year, but didn’t know what (other than bringing flowers to the graveyard-some no longer living where their mother was buried) to do with the holiday.  Of course, we all have our own children and grandchildren to celebrate our own “Mother’s Day” with, but our gathering to remember our mothers has made the holiday something to look forward to, rather than feel awkward about. And so a tradition was formed in 2017 with a small group that grew further in 2018.

I gave everyone a small journal with the label “Remembering Mom” on the front to jot down memories as they occurred throughout the year to share with everyone. The 2nd year I gave everyone a small rhinestone frame (found at T. J. Maxx or Marshalls) prior to the scheduled tea date. This controlled the scale of frames on the table and crowned our mothers’ images with the sparkle they deserved.

Photos of our Moms framed like the jewels they were in our lives.

For my 2018 tea, I used the Royal Wedding and Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee events as my theme. Harney & Sons teas designed with these occasions in mind and traditional British cream scones were the first items decided. Among the tea sandwiches were the Coronation chicken salad https://www.teatimemagazine.com/coronation-chicken-salad-sandwiches-recipe/ and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth’s and Prince William’s, chocolate biscuit cake that is thinly sliced after it sets. https://www.teatimemagazine.com/chocolate-biscuit-cake-recipttps://www.teatimemagazine.com/chocolate-biscuit-cake-recipe/

We started our gathering with Kirsch Royals (Cassis or Chambord and Champagne with fresh raspberries for garnish) toasting each other “Happy Mother’s Day”, followed by a short prayer for our mothers and then, to bring our hearts, minds and memories of our mothers to the surface, I projected Ed Sheeran’s music video of “Supermarket Flowers” (that he actually wrote for his grandmother) on my smart television screen. https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_email&hsimp=yhs-pty_email&hspart=pty&p=ed+sheeran+supermarket+flowers+official+video#id=2&vid=41bf1096659f8c1fcec1c943beecbb45&action=view

A little teary eyed, we gathered around my dining room table for afternoon tea and took turns remembering something about each of our Moms.  One of my friends recalled a memory of pulling the seeds from dried marigolds as a child that her mother planted every year, while planting marigolds as a deterrent for bugs in her own vegetable garden.  She said as a child she didn’t appreciate the reason why her mother planted the marigolds year after year or saved their precious seeds. She found herself forming a new appreciation of the memory as she planted her own marigolds. As she told her story, I suddenly remembered that my Mom also planted marigolds.

Another friend recalled memories of wonderful travel adventures on trains, cruises and in exotic places like South Africa, crediting her Mom for her love of travel. Several of us remember our mothers at sewing machines making our clothes, doll or Barbie clothes and the little things they did to keep us busy. One friend recalled memories of her Mom cutting flowers from her garden and wrapping the stems in wet paper towels for her and her sister to bring to their teacher (others of us remember our Moms doing the same.) Memories of others brought back remembrances of our own.

Not all memories were perfectly lovely. We all learned from talking that everyone has moments of strain, judgement, control and disagreement with their mothers just as we do in any relationship.  Learning that this is common between most mother and daughters helped some of my friends be more forgiving of those times.  As I told one friend, I try to think of how I would like my daughter to remember me, knowing she will lovingly find fault in my parenting too.  None of us will be remembered as perfect. Everyone does the best they know how to at the time.

The first year I served this Korbel Sweet Rose’ that everyone really enjoyed. On the right a tray of tea sandwiches, cream cheese and strawberry, cucumber with herbed goat cheese and egg salad profiteroles

After our deep conversations, I played part of a meditation from the Deepak Chopra & Oprah Meditation series, Day 20 “Hope Offers Forgiveness”. To paraphrase -someone once said forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. It’s being able to let go and not being held hostage for another minute by the past. Forgiveness is to accept and release that things could not have been any different and what happened, happened. Holding on to any bitterness is actually poisoning you. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not the person who in any way hurt or wronged you. Forgiveness releases us so that whatever we feel hurt us in the past, no longer has power in our future.

We agreed that in the end, everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to. We all turned into lovely women, great friends and good mothers because of what we learned from our mothers. Little did I know that my spark of inspiration decades ago at a bridal shower would one day lead to an annual celebration where my own teacup collection would be used to honor and celebrate our Mothers in a whole new way. What better way to honor our Mom’s than to remember and honor the life they gave us?

I found this statue of an Angel Mother and child
that created a perfect centerpiece for my table.

At the end of the celebration, I placed everyone’s name in a teapot. We pulled a name from the teapot- and I announced that this year’s theme for the tea, would represent that person’s mother. The friend’s mother that we will be honoring this year was a seamstress and I’m having fun putting together a tea sewn together where we can share more precious memories of our mothers this year. Stay tuned for the ideas and planning for our Seamstress themed Mother’s Tea.

If your Mother is no longer with you and you’re struggling to find a way to keep her memory alive, remember what she loved and form your own group of friends who are probably experiencing the same void that you are. I can only hope that our Mothers feel our love and are smiling down on us for not having forgotten them.

TRADITIONS & TEA

Annual Tradition -Art In Bloom Weekend

Arrangement composed of knock out roses, a magnolia 
and green button mums - 
inspired by NOMA's Art In Bloom Exhibit.
Arrangement composed of knock out roses, a magnolia
and green button mums –
inspired by NOMA’s Art In Bloom Exhibit.

The arrival of Spring is beautifully celebrated at the New Orleans Museum of Art’s (NOMA) annual Art in Bloom Exhibit, comprised of artfully designed fresh floral and botanical arrangements submitted by local community garden clubs, florists and event planners. The exhibit has been an annual destination of mine for many years whether attending on my own, with my Mother or a friend. Most recently, over the past four or five years the tradition continues with a couple of my friends and has been earmarked as a Gal Pal annual outing.

Our book club read "The Paris Apartment", the story of the abandoned apartment of 
Marthe de Florian a French demimondaine (courtesan) during the Belle Époque era.  
Among the many treasured findings is a portrait by Giovanni Boldini (1888). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marthe_de_Florian
We later realized that this painting (while less risqué 
could quite possibly be the same subject, by the same artist.  The floral interpretation
of the painting is graceful, elegant and stunning.
Portrait of a Young Woman by Giovanni Boldini

Our book club read “The Paris Apartment” by Michelle Gable a few years ago, a fascinating novel based on the true story of the abandoned apartment of Marthe de Florian a French demimondaine (courtesan) during the Belle Époque era.  Among the many treasured antiquities discovered in the abode was a beautiful alluring portrait by Giovanni Boldini (1888) of De Florian. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marthe_de_Florian
We later realized that the above painting by the same artist that resides at NOMA, while less risqué could quite possibly be the same subject. The similarities in her profile and hair indicate she may be De Florian. The floral design of the painting is as graceful and elegant as its inspiration.

The exhibit is a combination of paintings and sculpture selected by the designers as their subject that is then recreated with fresh flowers and lush foliage. (See the top: three examples of paintings recreated with beautifully arranged floral designs.) There are also creatively unique free-form floral designs throughout the museum as represented in the two lower images from above. https://noma.org/event/art-in-bloom-2019/ . Each year the exhibit offers beautiful blooms artfully transformed into new interpretations of art exhibited throughout the museum.  

Lunch prior to or after visiting the exhibit at Cafe’ Degas, an open air Gallic French cuisine cafe’, literally built around an oak tree is also part of our tradition. The cafe’ established in 1980, provides the perfect shaded alfresco, fresh spring air experience associated with beautifully blooming flowers, and the delicious cuisine and cocktails are all part of a tradition we look forward to year after year. http://www.cafedegas.com/index.htm 

If you’re looking for a way to spend time with friends and or family – or a special afternoon with your Mom, daughter and /or sister, look for a similar event in your area. An internet search of “Art In Bloom” for your State in the search provides a list of similar exhibits in other parts of the U.S. To form your own tradition, check to see if there’s a similar exhibit near you to celebrate the beauty of Spring!

TRADITIONS & TEA

Sympathy Offerings

When a friend, family member or acquaintance loses a loved one to the Lord it is difficult to know what to do or say. When I was younger, I often avoided the issue all together, fearing I would say or do the wrong thing. We say we are sorry for their loss and send a card or flowers, but as I began to experience my own losses, I gradually formed a better understanding, compassion and sensitivity of how to gently approach someone who is grieving and I wanted to do more to show that I cared and sympathized in their sorrow.

Beginning with the gift of prayer….       When we are broken hearted and weak, I find it is often difficult to even find the strength to pray.  Many years ago I purchased Marianne Williamson’s book of prayers “Illuminata”.  I’ve loss track of how many copies of the book I’ve given as gifts to friends and acquaintances experiencing difficult phases in their lives. In some cases I simply print out one of the prayers that apply to the circumstances of a troubled friend.  In this case the prayer for the deceased offers words that help those left behind not only pray for their loved one, but also for themselves. I simply print it and place it inside of a card.

One of my callings – is to cook, so my best gesture is preparing food, usually something light but comforting and hearty for the queasy stomach and broken heart. Loss of appetite can sometimes occur in times of heartbreak and it’s important for everyone to stay nourished.  I used to prepare starchy casseroles or pasta dishes, but over time I’ve found soup to be more soothing. My current go to’s are a large pot of Tuscan White Bean & Chicken Soup or Italian Wedding Soup with shaved parmesan accompanied by a bakery fresh crusty bread.  The friend that I prepared this soup for gathered her family together for dinner the night before the service and served my soup.

It is traditional in the South as I’m sure it is in other parts of the country, that a wake or viewing (funeral service) for the deceased may be scheduled a day prior to or a couple of hours prior to the gathering at the ceremonial burial site – for friends, family and acquaintances to come and say their goodbyes, pray for the deceased and offer condolences to their family. There is usually a break room or kitchen area where coffee is available and it is the responsibility of the family to provide something to snack on, usually donuts. 

For this I help out the family by baking a couple of sweet loaf breads such as pumpkin or banana or muffins and chocolate chip cookies for the children.  Below are banana coconut walnut and old fashioned donut muffins for this service and cookies for the kids.

When we lose a loved one, it can feel like we are under water physically and emotionally, completely lost in the current.  We go through the motions, but can find ourselves slowly drowning, especially when a loved one’s death is sudden and unexpected.

I hoped to lift my friend’s spirits with a gift bag filled with my card, prayer, a large bottle of bubble bath and a facial mask.  The shock and pain of someone’s passing can wear the body and mind down.  A bath of warm lavender suds and the soothing cool facial mask may offer some relief to her, even if only temporary, to recharge her a little for the days ahead.  A warm bath can allow her some private time to just rest her weary mind and body for a while, have a good cry and pull herself back together.

Whatever you choose to do to show your condolences, let it come genuinely from your heart.  If you aren’t a good cook you can always pick up a rotisserie chicken and salad kit with a bakery coffee cake and cookies. I only hope to inspire you to form your own ideas and traditions for being kind in what is your friend or family member’s most difficult time.

“He saw Jesus, and it took his breath away”… Kathy Lee Gifford (song)