An event planner, whether for a party of 6 or 600 has to plan ahead, and in my case any chance of making things in advance is an opportunity to save time later. My Annual Mother’s Tea, held the first Sunday of May, is a tradition formed after my mother passed away and I was facing Mother’s Day without her. I invited a small group of friends who also lost their mothers to join together for an afternoon tea and share memories of them and from there a tradition was formed. As a way to make each year a little different, I wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper and placed all of the names in a teapot. At the end of each tea (themed in honor of a mother) we pull a new name and honor that person’s mother the following year attempting to include memories, favorite flowers, special interests and/or careers including a menu filled with flavors that each mother would have loved.
At our most recent tea, my friend Kelly’s name was selected and in 2022 we will be honoring her mother Jane. Each year I’ve noted shared memories for future reference, and when I saw Kelly’s name I immediately thought of a memory she shared at one of our first gatherings about her mother saving marigold seeds.
Kelly shared with all of us that just a couple of weeks prior, she was planting marigolds in her vegetable garden, and a memory formed of her mother collecting the seeds from marigolds in her own garden. She confessed that as a child she didn’t understand why her Mom was planting the marigolds or collecting the seeds, but now here she was planting her own marigolds to protect her vegetable garden from insects and attract others that encourage pollination and healthy growth.
As she told the story, it reminded me of my own mother planting marigolds. She didn’t have a vegetable garden, but it seemed to be one of the few flowers that could stand the Southern California sun years ago. It also gave this party planner a great idea for a small memory favor to create for everyone at the table.
By mid-June, my own marigolds were beginning to struggle in the heat. As I pulled away the withered flowers from their plants, I realized this was an opportunity to dry the seeds and create the seed packets for next May’s tea that I had been thinking of.
I searched online for seed envelopes, but they were sold in large quantities when I wanted less than a dozen, and I wanted each to be pretty and femininely decorated to fit into my tea decor. So I then searched for free seed envelope templates. As I scrolled through the options I found this beautiful template by Glenda’s World. https://glenda-jsworld.blogspot.com/2013/09/seed-envelope-packets.html
I printed a sample and found that the size was a bit smaller than I wanted, so I then took a snipit of the image and pasted it to a blank page. This enabled me to expand the size to whatever I wanted. I printed the resized image. Once satisfied with the size, I decided I wanted the front to have a marigold rather than the date, etc. provided on the original. So I searched for free images of marigolds. I’m no graphic designer, but for years I’ve made what I want by printing, cutting and taping with matt scotch tape and then making a photocopy of the final image.
I cut out the center of the framed section on the template and then sized and fitted the marigold to fit inside. I then created and printed a bordered “Marigold Seeds” band, to cut and tape over the marigold image.
I found a pack of pearlized paper that I didn’t remember I had, and thought it would make a prettier envelop. After taping all of the edges down (above is before the taping), I smoothed it down carefully with a bone folder (a craft tool used for making crisp folds). I laid the prepared version above on my printer face down and then laid a white sheet of printer paper on top, finally printing a color copy on to the pearlized paper. The marigolds changed to a rose gold color and the green font looks gray (that I can’t explain), but all together it created a delicate image that was perfect! In fact as I was researching marigolds I found that there is a French variety of strawberry blonde marigolds that the image below looks very much like.
The printer ink has to be allowed at least 5 minutes to dry or the image can smudge. Once dried, I used the bone folder to carefully fold all of the edges of the template for a professional look. I originally tried using a little Elmer’s glue to adhere the back and bottom flaps, but you can see from the image above, it caused some puckering. So I used a glue stick instead. Due to the texture of the paper, I had to weigh the glued envelop down with a plate for about 5 to 10 minutes to allow the glue some time to dry and hold the flaps together.
When I first started experimenting with the original template, I printed several thinking I would glue the image of the marigold over the fonted information. But after some thought, I decided that wouldn’t look as professionally made. Rather than wasting the first set of templates, I formed each into envelopes and placed one behind each of the marigold seed filled envelopes that would allow my guests to use for their own seed collecting.
I then added a small pre-glued pearl at the bottom of each envelope and tied the two envelopes together with some sheer white ribbon I had in my supply of all occasion ribbon.
Each envelop was filled with marigold seeds and then sealed with small gold heart stickers I had in my stationary drawer. In fact, everything used to make the seed packets were in my craft or stationary stash. So they didn’t cost me a penny!
My friend Kelly’s memory of her mother, has been carefully created into a small gift from the heart that I hope she can be proud of at next year’s Annual Tea, where we will honor her mother in other ways yet to be discovered.
Here’s a easy dessert for those hot days of summer…..
Lemon Blueberry Whip
1 – 8 oz bar of light cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
the zest of one large lemon (or two small)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup small chopped candied lemon (I used about 4 slices of a pack from Trader Joe’s)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon agave (or 1 teaspoon sugar)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon grape seed (or canola oil)
Preheat oven 400 degrees.
Yields 6 servings.
Reserve six fresh blueberries for garnish. Toss remaining blueberries with agave, salt and grape seed oil and place in a single layer on a small baking sheet with sides. Roast for 15 minutes. Blueberries will become dark, shrink some and create juices on the tray. Remove and cool completely to room temperature.
Place room temperature cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar in a blender and blend until loosened and creamy (about a minute). Add lemon zest and juice and pulse a few times to combine. Stop, scrape the sides. Add the candied lemon peel. Pulse about 4 times.
In another bowl using a hand mixer whip one cup of whipping cream until reached to soft peaks, add one tablespoon sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Gently fold in about 1/4th of the lemon cream cheese until combined and continue by adding another 1/4th of the lemon cream cheese at a time until all folded together with the whipped cream.
Spoon the completely cooled roasted blueberries in equal portions into the bottom of each serving dish (small ramekins – I used pot a creme pots). Top with the lemon cream and smooth top with an offset spatula or backside of a spoon. Top with a fresh blueberry and lemon zest (optional edible flowers – in the photo are French lilac and chamomile). Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
I woke up this morning to the rumbling of thunder that I could hear in the distance. Within minutes the rain was thumping on the roof until the wind kicked in and sent it thrashing against the windows. I felt guilty asking the Lord to clear the skies so my long planned afternoon tea could go on as scheduled, knowing there were so many more important things happening in the world that needed His attention. Instead I simply chanted in my head “I trust You and know everything will work out fine.” I started with cleaning up the house, the usual vacuum, mopping, and a little dusting before settling into the kitchen to begin prep for the final menu items of today’s Annual Remembering Mothers Tea.
The table was set and ready for the day. Several weeks ago when I asked what flower Lydia associated with memories of her mother, she immediately responded “gladiolas” and she went on to explained how her Mother used to make corsages with them. I searched and inquired everywhere for gladiolas, but was told that they were not yet in season. Giving up on the possibility of finding fresh gladiola’s for the tea, I purchased a couple silk stems at the local craft store and passed them to Lydia so she could create at least one corsage for the table to share with our friends. Another flower that Lydia remembered were irises. Lydia has irises growing in her yard, so our back up plan was to decorate the table with irises. I purchased a bouquet of purple blue irises that we mixed with yellow and a rusty shade from Lydia’s yard.
Yesterday I decided to cross the lake and head to Trader Joe’s where I always seem to find exactly what I’m looking for. I was so excited to find French lilacs and selected a couple of bouquets. As I turned to place the flowers in my basket, on the opposite side I came face to face with an entire section of gladiolas! They were all tightly closed, so I searched for a bouquet that had a few flowers beginning to open, thrilled to at least have a bouquet that I could place in a vase and gift to Lydia after the tea.
My herb garden was abundant with violas and pansies that I had planted a little over a month ago. Lydia and another neighbor gave me roses and coreopsis. I carefully dried a variety of flowers and petals between paper towels in the microwave and I ordered an inexpensive letter stamping kit on Amazon. With all in place the cookie baking began and I employed Lydia’s help to decorate the cookies with flowers. Six dozen was quite a task, but together we managed to finish them all in a little over 3 hours, but over 2 separate days.
What you’ll need: Alphabet Stamp; dried flowers; cookie dough and sanding sugar. (There are a few different options of alphabet stamps on Amazon in various price points. They are very small and a little tricky to change the letter on the little rail tray, and don’t forget, the letters have to be installed backwards to stamp correctly.
Doing this part a day ahead will make the application time easier, but if done the same time as baking the cookies you may be in it for about half a day the first time.The first step is to cut clean, pesticide free, edible flowers with as little stem behind them as possible. Using the glass plate from the microwave, lay each bloom face down over two layers of paper towel. Once the sheet is full, carefully cover with two layers of paper towel and gently press down. Place a microwave safe dish that covers all of the flowers over the top.
Microwave in 30 second intervals for a total of 3 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes and remove the entire microwave plate, pressed flowers and press on top (be careful everything may be hot). The paper towels get slightly wet where the flowers were. The flowers aren’t actually dry until the paper comes out dry. Check after the 3 minute 30 second series. Each microwave is different and if not dried enough return and use a couple of additional 30 second turns. Gently remove the entire paper towel stack to a baking sheet and cover with another baking sheet leaving to further dry overnight for best results, but the flowers can still be used if not fully dried. I dried flat leaf parsley for the greenery. Oddly it was also very wet, but did not take as much time as the flowers, so be sure to check after about 2 minutes total in the microwave. Checking the result by pulling up a corner carefully and returning for more time if needed.
Remarkably, the flowers maintain their vibrant color even if their original color slightly changed.
With the flowers ready to go – on to the cookies.
Sugar Cookie with Lemon and Raspberry
Yields about 3 dozen cookies (used a 2 5/8th inch or 68 mm scalloped cutter)
1 cup of room temperature butter (2 sticks)
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used Mexican Vanilla)
the zest of one large lemon (or two small) yellow part only
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons of freeze dried raspberries (crushed with fingers)
white sanding sugar
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add egg, vanilla, lemon zest and crushed freeze dried raspberries and mix until well blended. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to the creamed ingredients. Once all flour mixture has been incorporated, put mixer on high and beat until the dough comes together and away from the sides.
Divide dough in half, form into a flat square and wrap each half into clear plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour. (If you refrigerate for long periods of time, the dough will be too firm, but you can let it sit out on the counter for about 10 to 15 minutes until is softens, but is still firm.
Open the plastic wrap and smooth out on the counter. Place the dough in the center. Cut another large piece of plastic wrap and lay on top. Roll out the dough to about 1/4th inch thickness (between the two sheets of plastic). This avoids drying out the dough with adding more flour and rolls out with less mess to clean up and after cutting out the cookies you can easily fold up the scraps with the plastic and re-roll.
Cut with desired cookie cutter and place each cookie on a parchment lined or silicon lined baking sheet. The cookies do not spread, but place about an inch apart. Place entire baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes. (I repeated and cut out all of the cookies with the remaining dough filling 3 baking sheets, each with a dozen cookies and placed all of the prepared sheets in the refrigerator or freezer).
Remove one prepared sheet after 5 minutes. Using a small bowl of water and a small paint brush, brush a small area on the cookie where you want to place flowers and arrange as desired, leaving space for word stamping if that is what you are going to do or it can be done with flowers only.
Once all of the cookies on the sheet are decorated with flowers, lightly sprinkle with white sanding sugar. (Important to sprinkle sugar prior to stamping word). If stamping with a name or word, now is the time to stamp. Gently press into the cookie. It actually works best if the cookie is a little more softened which is will be during the time it takes to decorate with flowers.
Return the cookie sheet to the freezer for 5 minutes (put your timer on) and take out the next sheet to decorate. After 5 minutes in the freezer, place decorated cookie tray into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the tray. Then move to a cooling rack until completely cooled. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
Originally I was going to make the cookies with only Lydia’s mother’s name, but the more I thought about it, I thought that all of the mom’s should be imprinted on the cookies. I decided to make a dozen dried flower cookies for each of my guests, stamped with their mother’s name. I saved one each to serve with the sweet course, and then stacked 10 cookies into clear bags and selected one to slip into the side of the stack, facing out before tying up with a tulle bow. Each were used around the table as place cards. I just asked everyone to sit where they found their mother’s name on the cookies.
Other items shared in the previous posts to complete the menu are pictured below.
THE SANDWICH COURSE
The Scone Course
Mission Fig & Date Scones
Candied Orange & Marmalade
The Soup Course
Fresh Corn Coulis topped with shaved asparagus, fresh green peas, pea shoots, shaved fennel and corn kernels tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette and edible flowers.
The Scone “To Go Boxes”
When I did a test bake a couple of weeks ago, the number of scones were so plentiful that I knew I would have enough to box and send home with the ladies. I purchased these white boxes at Michaels and lined the inside with floral tissue paper. Using mini sealed containers from the Dollar Tree, I filled each with the orange marmalade and candied orange that I garnished the top of those served with and glued some of the leftover dried flowers to the lids.
As the first of my guests arrived, there was still a slight drizzle falling, but shortly afterwards the sun began to peek from behind the clouds. As we toasted our mothers and shared more memories of them, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining brightly. I was filled with gratitude for our time together and that my friends would return safely home, free of storms.
My mother was not one to slave over the stove or bake a variety of goods when I was growing up. No homemade biscuits or cakes from scratch existed. In most cases she took the easy and economic route of canned and boxed options for meals and baked goods, convenience items created during her generation. However, later in her life when she retired, she took a cake decorating class and eventually became very adept at decorating cookies. My daughter’s baby and wedding showers had the most feminine, delicately iced antique baby carriage and wedding cake cookies that we all beamed over. I suppose it’s fair to say she had more time and patience to commit to honing these skills and spent hours making each exactly perfect and a work of art.
Beautifully presented tea treats excited her greatly and she couldn’t wait to see what the petite finger sandwiches and pastries would look like whenever we attended a tea service. The pleasures of the tea for both of us began with the anticipation of how pretty the presentation might be and what surprising new items we might find. While I want a pretty presentation at my own tea parties, everything must also taste good.
The Spring Soup Course
Each year I’ve started my tea with a small cup of Spring inspired soup. This year I found a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine for a Sweet Corn Coulis created by Commander’s Palace Chef, Meg Bickford. Chef’s version included grilled shrimp that I omitted from mine.
Other substitutions or variations in my version included lime zest and juice (in lieu of lemon juice); white balsamic vinegar (in lieu of champagne vinegar); crème fraîche (in lieu of sour cream) and Greek yogurt (in lieu of buttermilk). Basically use what you have that has similar flavors. The amounts needed are far too little to go out and buy a whole container of buttermilk when you can use yogurt if you have it in the fridge. Lastly I slightly blanched the shaved asparagus ribbons and tips after the peas (that I used frozen in lieu of fresh). Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written. The thinly sliced fresh vegetables gently tossed in a bright vinegar and grape seed oil, and then gently laid upon the sweet corn coulis, provided the perfect green brightness of Spring I was looking for. The link: https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/grilled-gulf-shrimp-with-sweet-corn-coulis
Crispy prosciutto egg salad with paprika lace and chive blossom
While I like to have some of the menu items reflect memories of the honored mother, I don’t want it to be overly obvious. I try to consciously make different menu items from year to year, but when there is an expressed favorite, then it should be there for the tradition of the day. Below are goat cheese “heart-beet” canapés as a fun wink to our Nurse Theme.
No cooking necessary for this bright and cheerful canapé. All that is needed is a can of sliced beets and small log of blueberry crusted goat cheese (Walmart) and edible flowers. Using two larger slices of beets, place a sliced disk of room temperature goat cheese between the two beets and line them up evenly. Using a small heart shaped biscuit or cookie cutter centered over the top beet cut through the layers and that’s all there is to it! Garnished with a tiny dab of goat cheese on top and an edible flower like these garden violas, this little ruby jewel is ready for serving.
A fan favorite and sandwich that just always has to be part of a tea is the cucumber sandwich. To create a little update of freshness, I chopped fresh mint, added a little white balsamic vinegar and tossed it into thinly sliced ribbons of Persian cucumbers.
Spread crème fraîche and a little mint thinly sliced mint on one side of two pieces of thin sliced bread (like Pepperidge Farm). Lay the thinly sliced cucumber ribbons over the crème fraîche of one slice and then place the second piece of bread, crème fraîche side down, on top. Place more thin slices of cucumber over the top of the sandwich. With a sharp knife, remove the crust from all sides. Now cut sandwich in half to create two rectangular shaped finger sandwiches. Top with a small mint leaf and chamomile (or other edible) flower for garnish.
Mint Cucumber Sandwiches
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese Finger Sandwich
Lydia said her Mother loved pimento cheese and had recently discovered a smoke gouda pimento cheese dip (from Sam’s Club) when visiting a friend that she really enjoyed. So I assigned this finger sandwich to her. I do not have a “test” version of her sandwich for this post, but you’ll be able to see it in “the tea day” post.
Smoky Gouda Pimento Cheese
The great thing about egg salad is that anyone can make it. Boil a few eggs, peel, smash into a crumble, add mayo, a little salt and pepper, some paprika and you’ve got egg salad. What I don’t like, is its lack of texture. So I thought I’d punch it up by crisping some prosciutto in the oven and then placing a little sheet this tasty bacon-like flavor on top of the egg salad for a little extra texture and crunch. To garnish I sifted sweet paprika over the lace edge of a paper doily to create a lacy background before I cut two small slits in the bread and wove in the stem of a chive with a blossom on top. Finally a couple of chive ends were added to create a little leaf for the flower.
Crispy Prosciutto Egg Salad with Sweet Paprika Lace and Chive Blossom
The Scone Course
I asked Lydia to think about what her mother’s favorite flavors, fruits, etc. and wanted to incorporate some of those into the into the menu. Only a few items came to mind, which included figs (recalling images of her mother eating Fig Newtons); cherry came to mind, lemon and pimento cheese. An odd combination, but I knew I could find a way to incorporate the flavors into the menu. The pimento cheese will be used in a finger sandwich.
For the scone, I found this fig and pear recipe in Teatime Magazine (the link to the recipe can be found below). I did not use pears in my version, but instead used chopped dates, and topped with orange marmalade and diced candied orange. I decided to a little larger heart cutter for these.
I haven’t created samples or test versions of all of the sweet course items, but I typically make something fruity, something with chocolate and something pastry. For now I’ve made a small wink to Lydia’s mother’s “cherry” flavor reference with these chocolate liqueur cups, filled with French black cherry preserves and a Griottines (brandied) French cherry on top.
Simple and quick, but a tasty small bite of chocolate cherry, each cup is filled with about a teaspoon of black cherry preserves (pump with small cherries) and then topped with one Griottine (brandied cherry) and a tiny edible viola flower.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the preparations of my Mothers Tea menu items. Just two short weeks away! Be sure to come back to see how the party came together and the rest of our menu. So looking forward to our special day of remembering our Mothers and specifically honoring Lydia’s special Mom this year! Here’s to Mothers and Nurses everywhere!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We lost Mom 7 years ago today. She loved the blooming flowers and trees, and spent endless hours in the yard planting and trimming. When we lived in Southern California, she planted succulents everywhere, a place where flowerbeds were harder to maintain due to the droughts, water restrictions and heat. Knowing I was going to move into a newly constructed home with no trees, she took a piece of her Drake Elm and nursed it for months and then gave it to me to plant in my yard. Before the construction of my house was completed, she was diagnosed with a form of cancer, a cancer so aggressive the doctors could only offer treatment to extend her life for six months, of course shocking all of us. She did get to see me move into my house, but I didn’t find the courage to plant her little tree until about a year later when it had grown a little larger and stronger. I worried it wouldn’t make it, but like Mom it has proven to be determined and resilient. Seven years later, it’s the first tree to fill with leaves when there’s just the slightest hint that Spring is on the way, almost as if she’s sending a message that she is still there swaying in the breeze watching over me.
A tradition that takes place in mid-March each year that she also loved is the Feast of St. Joseph referred to here is south Louisiana as St. Joseph Altars. At some churches or someone’s home, a line of people from the surrounding communities wait patiently to be served a plate filled, usually with a variety of Italian dishes and fried fish. Often held in school cafeterias, long tables with chairs are arranged for sharing the feast, followed by a visit to view the many baked breads, cakes and cookies placed around an altar with a statue of St. Joseph. As you exit the building a table with a couple of parishioners are stationed with the “little coveted bags” containing a variety of little Italian cookies, a plain or sometimes gold painted dried Fava bean (said to make you prosperous if you carried it in the coin section of your wallet or in a pocket), a small piece of thin, sliced, stale bread that has been blessed by the priest (meant to place in your freezer for protection against hurricanes) and finally a St. Joseph’s prayer card.
Among the little Italian cookies, were Mom’s favorite, the fig cookies as she called them, with a little sweet glaze and festive colorful sprinkles. A group of Parish ladies worked weeks before the day to make large quantities of cookies, cakes and other food as part of “the feast”.
Today I made a batch of Italian fig cookies (Cucidati) for the first time in her memory. For some reason I imagined they would be more difficult than they were to make. I had convinced myself there was some special mystery to making them. The only thing they needed was time, and fortunately I found a recipe I had saved on Pinterest. I read through the recipe and instructions on Friday evening in order to take inventory of the ingredients and make sure I had everything I needed. The dough required refrigeration after being made from 3 hours to overnight. I had already taken some butter out of the fridge anticipating making some kind of cookies. So I quickly made the dough before going to bed and placed it in the refrigerator as instructed. (See recipe link below the photo of cookies).
I had to find some dried figs and buy a small pint of orange juice, but I had the other dried fruits in my pantry. Later in the afternoon I began to chop the dried fruits and place everything into a pot to stew as instructed and then set it aside to cool. I waited about a half hour to allow the fruits to completely cool and then took out the dough as per the recipe above, and let it sit for 15 minutes. I did not deviate from the recipe, but my only suggestion would be that once you place the line of filling in the center of the dough pieces, place the tray in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes to allow the dough to firm up again. This avoids tearing and having to patch where the dough doesn’t come together when pulling the sides up to overlap over the filling. I had to bake mine about 3 minutes longer (every oven is different) to achieve a little more of a golden cookie.
A traditional St. Joseph’s altar.
Once they were all cooled and the glaze was set, I divided them up and placed batches in sealed plastic containers to bring some to my brother, give some to a couple of friends and bring a batch to Dad. Dad can’t wait for me to bring his little container to eat! This was not only Mom’s favorite, it was a family favorite.
In addition to my Annual Mothers Tea (that had to be cancelled last year, but I’m in the process of planning for early May this year), I think I’ve found a way to remember Mom during the month we lost her that she would love from this annual celebration she enjoyed so much at her Parish Church. We miss you Mom, but have many memories of you!
The New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel (formerly The Fairmont Hotel) hosts an annual event called Teddy Bear Tea during the holiday season. It’s a very elegant festive celebration with a traditional afternoon tea, and activities that include Santa visiting the tables around the room, and taking pictures with children; Christmas stories are read, there are an array of Christmas lights in the halls, a beautifully made enormous gingerbread house along with other activities and each child receives an annual teddy bear.
A friend of mine has taken one granddaughter to this event for several years, and as the number of granddaughters increased (now currently 6 in all) they’ve attended as group to the festive event. This year, as with all things 2020, my friend decided she wanted to try to recreate some of the sparkle and charm from the event closer to home and called me to help her brainstorm possible venues. Within less than 10 minutes I had given her enough ideas and inspiration to convince her she could host a Teddy Bear Tea in her home. And so the story begins…..
T’was the month of Christmas and throughout the world, gathering was discouraged, not even for little girls. An annual holiday tradition, shared with their Nana, would have to be rethought with some magic from Santa. A call was quickly made, to one of his elves and suddenly ideas were flowing in delves. Nana didn’t want fancy, stuffy or bore; she wanted pretty and playful activities galore.
The Elf scratched her head and wrinkled her nose, conjuring memories began to flow. Remembering a cookie decorated with little hands, icing, sprinkles and sugary sand. Little cupcakes topped with fairies, or mini cheesecakes filled with cherries. Mini sandwiches rolled like candy, or tiny Christmas Tree pizzas would be quit dandy.
Inspiration found on Pinterest
On to the pantry, the Elf searched through her cutters and found the large teddy bear that was used and worn more than others. These cookies were made since her own daughter was little, then decorated with icing, sprinkles and shared giggles.
With icing and sprinkles all in their places, the bears 🐻 would come alive with their wardrobe and faces. With small candy eyes and a large chocolate chip nose; or a variety of options from their heads to their toes.
While the tradition is a tea, only hot chocolate will do, and she’d just seen a version that was festive and new. Filled with mini marshmallows, and hot chocolate mix, these hot chocolate bombs would be just the right fix. All that is needed, is the perfect sized cup, to pour hot milk over then drink it right up!
When the weekend arrived, the elf decided to bake, knowing the difference her effort would make. Teddy bears ready and snowflakes for sweets – Nana could add to her basket of treats. Tightly wrapped and ready for the day, all Nana had to do was whisk them away.
Looking for ribbon, the Elf searched a box – that rattled and clattered as she opened it up. As she peered inside what she found made her glow, “I can make jingle bell necklaces with little red bows!” How special the day is going to be, the girls will surely be tickled with glee!
As the time grew nearer the ideas were still spinning, small pieces of wrapping paper had the Elf grinning. Carefully she began to trim right away, creating a bed where the bear cookie would lay. Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose I say, it’s so much better than throwing away!
The table set and the bears at the ready, the girls would be thrilled to meet their new Teddy! Nana read Christmas stories and they played fun games, then decorated their cookies giving each one a name. Filled with giggles, sugar and memories; their decorated cookies and brand new teddies, the day was such fun, yes a great success – now Nana was left to clean up the mess! But the day was lovely with it’s new rendition and I believe Nana has a new tradition.
As the girls returned home with their teddy bears in tow, dreaming of presents, Christmas trees and snow; relaxed and snuggled warm in their beds, joyful memories of their day with Nana would dance through their heads. With the young girls happy and dancing with cheer, we wish a Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!
As a young girl in a military family, we moved almost every year until I was in the 4th grade. We then lived for a few years each, in both northern and southern California before Dad finally retired from the service. Military families often live far away from family and miss out on the annual traditions or routines that usually form from being near them. We didn’t have Christmas Eve’s at Uncle so in so’s or alternated Christmas Day dinners at each of our grandparent’s houses. Christmas was usually just dinner for the four of us, Mom, Dad, my brother and I.
Having missed out on holiday traditions with other family members as a kid, it was important to me that my daughter have family traditions when she was growing up. I was inspired by my ex-husband’s large family, who routinely celebrated different holidays throughout the year their own unique way with a large family picnic for Easter and a Christmas Eve gathering every year that I made sure she attended.
In preparation for Christmas, three families that resided in homes all on the same street gathered in the late afternoon on Thanksgiving Day to pick a family member’s name from a bowl. On Christmas Eve there was a party at one of the three homes along with traditional food and a gift exchange. My food memory from those parties so many years later were Grammy’s shrimp balls, at the time made by a beloved Aunt nestled in a chrome insulated container that I couldn’t wait to see arrive and placed on the table.
Another tradition that took place for several years involved a group of family members that got together in early November and drove across Lake Pontchartrain to a Christmas tree farm. Each family would select their tree, pay for it and tag it. The Friday after Thanksgiving, everyone would make the journey back to the farm to cut the tree down, wrap it up and bring it home. The following Saturday night I would host a tree trimming party for friends and family. When I think back to the small townhouse living room I had back then and the number of people that would cram inside, I’m not sure how we did it, but everyone eagerly attended year after year.
These were the days long before computers, so with a few library books and a typewriter, I typed all of the lyrics to 36 Christmas carols. I cut out and taped some images and drew others to some of the pages. I then organized the pages so that after I made photocopies and folded them in half, they would form a little song book. The children would sit in front of their decorated tree and sing a few Christmas carols.
While I didn’t ask my guests to bring an ornament, I received some beautiful versions that have become treasured classics -handled with special care as they are hung on my tree all of these years later. Year after year, as I unpack them from their layers of bubble wrap or tissue, the memories of those parties come rushing back.
Whenever a party includes children it’s imperative to have an activity to keep them entertained, especially in a small home. Upstairs I had an open loft that didn’t have any specific purpose, but offered enough space to place two folding tables with chairs. For the first party I baked cookies formed into various Christmas themed shapes such as candy canes, bells, and trees. I then purchased a variety of sprinkles and colored sugars and cans of white frosting that I used food color to make green, red and yellow. The kids sat at the tables with their plastic knives and dipped into the cans of frosting to slather on their cookies and then sprinkle with various candy decorations having a ball! I would convince them to allow the cookies to dry, and then ask them to come downstairs to decorate the tree and sing Christmas carols. We then wrapped their cookies in cellophane bags for their journey home.
In the years that followed, I found a large Teddy Bear cookie cutter. I thought that something with a larger surface, maybe rolled out a little thicker, would be easier for the kids to handle. I could not have imagined not only how much they would love it at the time (as they left with bears loaded down with chocolate or vanilla icing and about a pound of various candies), but years later one of the mothers told me her daughter still remembers decorating those cookies and she’s now in her late 30’s.
Now I have grandchildren, but they live one State over and with jobs and school schedules I don’t see them as much as I would like. While they often come home for Christmas, it’s usually after the tree has been decorated, so starting with my first grandchild, I have baked those same Teddy Bear cookies and mailed them with tubes of icing and various sprinkles so she could decorate her cookies when she decorated the tree with my daughter and her husband. Now with three grandchildren, every year I’ve sent the cookies and the kids have followed the tradition of a night of cookie decorating. Last year I asked my granddaughter who was at the time just days from her 11th birthday, if I should keep making the Teddy Bear cookies and she immediately said “Yes! Nana, it’s a tradition!”
For the past two years, their little family has stopped by on the Saturday after Thanksgiving on their way home from visiting their grandparents in Alabama to decorate my tree. This year while Mom and Dad enjoyed a college football game, we played Christmas music and shared an evening of decorating my Christmas tree and then gathered around the table to decorate two new cookie shapes – a large Christmas Tree and the popular red truck with a Christmas Tree (that the boys decided to make blue.) Of course by the time we had finished the Christmas tree cookie, my littlest demanded it was time to eat his snowflake cookie. (I mean a little boy can only hold out for so long!)
Packed in those same cellophane bags, ready for the journey home, somehow all of these years later, I’ve managed to re-create a similar tradition with my grandchildren. Whether in their own home or here with me, I hope that like those other small children who once attended my tree trimming parties years ago, they will remember these moments as our “Christmas cookie tradition.”
Nana’s Cookie Recipe
2 sticks (1/2 cup each) of unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste (or) pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp pure almond extract (yes 1 tablespoon)
The zest of one naval orange (the entire orange – no white pith)
Sift together and set aside:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
(for a chocolate dough add 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder)
Mixing bowl and mixer – add room temp butter and 1 cup of sugar and mix until creamy and smooth; add egg, extracts and zest. Mix until combined.
Add dry ingredients ½ cup at a time on low speed to avoid powder flying everywhere, and then mix on medium until the dough forms into a ball.
Split dough into two square disks and wrap in clear plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Note: if refrigerated longer (or overnight) dough will have to be taken out and sit for a while before attempting to roll out. It will be too stiff. For optimum results work dough 1 hr after chilling.
Clear a shelf as much as possible to fit a full cookie sheet into the refrigerator. (I usually try to move around items all to the same height that I can set the tray on top level).
Pre-heat oven 375 degrees.
Place one disk of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap (this prevents the dough from sticking to the counter and the rolling pin, with no flour dusting or mess to clean up) and roll out in one direction, turn clockwise and roll again to about ¼ inch thickness. A good trick is to put chop sticks on each side of the dough and roll the rolling pin over the chop sticks for thickness to be even. (If too thin when decorating the cookies will break and the edges could over bake).
Remove the top layer of plastic and dip the cookie cutter into flour before pressing into the dough to cut each shape for a clean cut and transfer cut cookies to a parchment paper or silicon sheet liked cookie sheet. Once the sheet is filled, pop it into the refrigerator for about 7 minutes. (This helps the cookie keep its shape without spreading – if too warm the dough will spread).
While the cookie sheet is rechilling. Pull together the dough scraps into a disk and roll between plastic wrap again. Same process as above and place on a second lined cookie sheet.
Place the first re-chilled sheet in the oven with timer on 15 minutes – chill the 2nd sheet for 7. When the time for the 2nd tray is up, the first tray is half way through its baking process, turn it around and add the 2nd tray. When the timer goes off for the first tray – remove and reset timer for 7 more minutes for the 2nd tray. Cookies should be slightly golden.
Let tray cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cookie rack to completely cool. Repeat with the 2nd tray when timer alerts.
Repeat with all of the remaining dough.
Cookies must be completely cooled before decorating.
Cookies can be stacked into an air tight container up to a week – if you want to decorate at a later date. Once decorated, they are still good for a week and stay pretty fresh if sealed in a good container.
Note: Recipe used for: Annual Teddy Bear cookies for tree trimming parties; various holidays for grandchildren’s classes, cookie decorating with grandchildren and gifts to neighbors; 2019- Teddy Bear dropped for Red truck with Christmas Tree.
Other flavor options tested:
• For those with nut allergies – omit almond extract and increase vanilla to 1 ½ tsp.
• Lemon or Lime zest in lieu of orange
• Shown above -Add 1/3 cup of cocoa powder to dry ingredients for a chocolate cookie (any more dries out the dough).
• Powdered dehydrated raspberry or strawberry (1/3 cup) to dry ingredients for a pink cookie – great for Valentine’s Day heart cookies.
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.
From my Mother’s version of the story, they had only dated for a couple of months when Dad proposed (photo above).
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.]
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.
THE SANDWICH COURSE
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……