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.
[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……
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.
1/2 cup of Mascarpone (room temperature)
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice (or cinnamon)
pinch of kosher salt
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.