This past weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday with what has now become a birthday tradition – an excessively long and filling tea party. After what must have been my fourth or fifth party (I’ve kind of lost track of when it started), the routine’s settled. The guests change a little, the sandwiches, tea, and desserts vary, but the base of it remains the same: four delicious and individually filling courses stretched across three hours or more of laughs, gossip, and good times.
I got the inspiration from a high tea I attended years ago at the Chateau Frontenac, a beautiful hotel at the heart of Old Quebec City. I was about 11 at the time, and, as my dad likes to point out, completely floored by the experience (I didn’t speak above a low whisper for the duration of the meal out of fear that my vocal vibrations would break something beautiful). My backyard tea party has become a far more casual meal (especially since I usually rely on the guests to help me create it), but infinitely more satisfying.
If you’re looking for a template for a tea party, I find that mine works very well. In my opinion, the best tea parties are smaller, intimate affairs (I don’t like to have more than six people at mine) set in nice locations (we lounge on my parent’s back porch for hours staring at the summer blooms). Aesthetically, I prefer the hodge-podge of mismatching teacups and teapots, tableclothes and napkins, but that’s up to your taste (it’s also a lot easier if you happen to be like me and my mother and collect random pretty elements that don’t necessarily make up a whole set).
For me, the first course consists of three types of tea sandwiches. This year, I did cucumbers, cream cheese, scallions, and red onion, apples and brie, and ham, cheddar, and mayonnaise, but in the past I’ve also done pear and blue cheese and lox and cream cheese. I like to use white bread – it’s both aesthetically nicer and more reminiscent of childhood – with the crusts cut off. After preparing the sandwiches normally, cut them along the diagonals so that each sandwich is a cute obtuse triangle.
The second course is always scones. I’ve used store-bought scones in the past, but this year my friend William (who also happens to be a tea fanatic and provided delicious tea for the party) made some homemade scones for us in the shape of teapots. Scones are incomplete without delicious spreads, and if you choose sweet (not savory) scones, I would recommend buying some good jam (I like Bonne Maman’s raspberry preserves) and some clotted cream. If you’ve never had clotted cream before (I believe it’s far more popular in the British Isle than in the U.S.), you need to buy a jar right away. Eat all of it, and then don’t buy another jar for the rest of the year because don’t be crazy, that stuff will kill you. Lather your scones liberally with it.
After two carb-heavy courses and lots of tea (no lie – we usually go through about two teapots per course so we’re getting pretty jittery at this point), you need to take a break. That’s where the berry course comes in. If you’re doing this in the winter I would substitute more seasonal fruits, but for a summer tea party, a sweet and tart berry medley is a perfect palate cleansing course. My mother has these adorable glass pear dishes, so I pile a carton each of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries into the five or six pears. If you feel like you haven’t consumed enough fat yet (and that would probably mean you haven’t eaten any clotted cream, so, shame on you), you could make some homemade whipped cream to top the berries. I decided it wasn’t really necessary.
The final course is dessert. In the past, I’ve bought pre-made petit-four cakes and made coconut macaroons. This year, I bought Linzer tart cookies and almond macaroons from a local bakery. Other great cookie choices include the ever-popular macarons, palmiers, or, as Lucas suggested, Argentine alfajores (you really can’t go wrong with dulce de leche). You probably won’t need many desserts, since everyone’s stomachs should be busting at the seams at this point, but why would you say no to leftovers? That’s right, you wouldn’t.
Tea parties often come down to the details, so I love to round out the party with cute elements like sugar cubes instead of loose sugar and cake stands (both real and improvised). Ultimately, you don’t want to stress out about any one thing. Just enjoy the tea, the food, the company, and the chance to just kick back and relax for a few hours. Also, remember to wear a hat. A tea party is nothing without hats.
Do you have any recommendations for further tweaks on tea parties or backyard parties in general? I’m always looking to improve mine.
Happy Independence Day everyone! Hopefully everyone enjoyed the holiday. We had a relaxing party on my back porch with a hodge-podge of red, white, and blue decor. I used a lace table cloth and a red and blue star printed burlap cloth as a table runner, along with some blue plates and red chargers to get into the holiday spirit. I’m loving the idea of using burlap as a table runner for summer parties – Joann Fabrics has such cute patterns that add such spunk to the table.
For our main drink, I made a patriotic sangria. The recipe is fairly simple:
- 2 bottles dry white wine (I used Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay)
- 1/2 cup of vodka (I used whipped vodka, which gave the sangria a lightly vanilla flavor)
- 1/2 cup of limoncello (you could also replace this with triple sec or maybe peach schnapps)
- 1 package of blueberries
- 1 package of strawberries, sliced
- 1 pineapple, cut into chunks
Combine all of the ingredients into a pitcher and let them soak together for a couple of hours, then, enjoy!
We also used a couple sparklers I found in my desk drawer that have been languishing there since I don’t know when. They were so much fun that I think I might track down more for my birthday.
I hope everyone’s been having a good week,
Two weekends ago was Princeton’s traditional spring concert party, also known as Lawnparties. It’s a fantastic day where girls break out their sundresses for the first time in a while and boys dress almost ludicrously preppy (or is that just Lucas? Actually, no, it’s not. It’s everyone). This year, we were lucky enough to have Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as our main act, a band I’ve been desperate to see since freshmen year.
They did not disappoint. In fact, it may have been the best concert I’ve ever been to. I got to the stage about an hour early to make sure I had a good spot, which meant that I got to be in the second row for the entire performance! They opened with “40 Day Dream,” a personal favorite, and closed with “Om Nashi Me,” one of my favorite songs off of their first album. During “Home,” probably their best-known song, Alex, the lead singer for Edward Sharpe, asked audience members for stories they wanted to share. Lucas grabbed the mic and told everyone about how we had fallen in love to that song. I’m not going to lie, it brought a couple of tears to my eyes.
Anyway, as per usual, Lucas and I matched outfits. I made this dress from the New Look 6776 dress pattern (B, I think?). I really wanted to make something light and summery, so I chose the yellow polka dots and the uneven pink check patterned fabrics. I think they look like pink lemonade together. I made Lucas a matching bow tie out of the yellow fabric using the tutorial I made last week. He wore a checked pink shirt from Banana Republic and the new boat shoes-embroidered pink shorts I bought him from Brooks Brothers for his birthday.
If you want to see our outfits from last fall’s lawnparties, click here. We just discovered that the second photo is featured in our senior yearbook, so these outfits will be remembered for years to come!
I hope everyone’s having a good end of the semester!
As one of our last events as a joint officer corps, we threw a Speakeasy themed party on Saturday night. The night was very fun – not too stressful, not too crowded, just good people and good times. My childhood best friend and fellow officer, Liz (the girl with the curls) and I went home to scavenge for twenties-esque dresses and found that we both owned a surprising number considering how unflattering the silhouette usually is. I love the way our outfits turned out (that’s the benefit of going to school close to home – larger closets)! Lucas took the occasion to debut the new orange and black bowtie that my parents bought him for Christmas, coupled with his new burnt orange J Crew pants. Our friend and fellow officer Josh’s girlfriend was in town, and she’s one of nicest people I know. Plus, she has the most gorgeous red hair which popped against her beautiful dress – great for pictures! Our friend Olivia, Lucas’ replacement as Social Chair, borrowed a dress and some accessories from me, and the two of them look great together in their 1920’s outfits. I’m going to miss making publicity material for the events – the fonts were so fun to play around with on the poster. Still, I know we’re leaving the club in capable hands.
I’m counting this series of photos as my daily photos for my 12th and 13th days since some were taken after midnight (sneaky, I know) and yesterday was too much of work crunch day to snap any photos. Shh. Don’t tell.
12 + 13/365:
Lots of Love,