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.
When I first started seeing Anthropologie’s Karinska Tulle Skirt around the blogosphere (specifically on Atlantic Pacific), I knew I had to have it. I also knew, however, that at $188, I wasn’t in a hurry to buy it. Then, when I saw that it went out of stock on Anthropologie, I realized I could make it for a fraction of the cost. Over winter break, as part of my resolution to do more creative projects, I took on the task of recreating this skirt.
- 16 yards of ivory tulle – This is going to depend on how large your waist is, how long you want the skirt to be, and how many layers you want. For me, I wanted the skirt to graze the top of my knees (it’s a little shorter than the Anthropologie version) and I wanted six layers of tulle. To get the “candlelight” look of Anthopologie’s skirt, I used ivory tulle over a white lining, but you can of course make this skirt in any color scheme.
- 2 yards of white silk lining – This again will depend on what length you want your skirt to be. You can pick any lining style you want, I chose one of the white fashion fabrics at Joann Fabrics. It’s going to be covered by six layers of tulle, so it doesn’t need to be incredibly nice.
- An “invisible” zipper in matching color – This should probably be between 5 and 9 inches long, just long enough to reach from your natural waist to the widest part of your hips.
- Ribbon – This should be at least the length of your natural waist (the skinniest part of your body) and can be in either a matching or a complimentary color. I chose white because of the Anthropologie model, but a bright contrast could look great too. I chose a grosgrain ribbon, but you can choose another if you want. I would avoid “wired” ribbons, though.
- Thread in a matching color
- Start by cutting your tulle into circle skirts (here’s a good tutorial, if you’re fuzzy on how to do this). Make six circles of tulle with the length of the skirt the distance from your natural waist to your desired length. Try to keep the edges neat because you do not want to hem all that tulle. Also, when measuring your waist, cut it out a little on the smaller side, because parts of the fabric will stretch when cut.
- Stack the tulle layers and baste the waists together for stability. If the tulle is a little bit bigger than your waist, pull the ends of your basting thread to scrunch up the tulle.
- Cut out another circle skirt, this time in the lining fabric. Hem this fabric along the bottom edge of the skirt.
- Sew the lining to the tulle, and finish it either by serging if you have a serger or with a doublestitch (sew a straight line, then sew a zig zag line close to it and trim the fabric up to the zigzag line). Cut off the excess seams beyond the stiching to make the skirt nice and neat.
- Measure out a piece of ribbon a little longer than your natural waist. Pin it tightly to the waist of your skirt, and sew the two pieces together, trimming the seam to make it neat.
- Cut a slit into the back of your skirt the length you want your zipper to go (probably around six inches). Following your zipper’s sewing instructions, sew the zipper in the lining layer, letting the other tulle layers float free. Trim all dangling threads and jagged edges.
Voila! You’ve finished your skirt. Wear it styled with a bustier as in the Anthropologie ads, or wear it with a plaid shirt and pearls like Atlantic Pacific. The possibilities for ethereal glamour are (almost) endless. The Sartorialist even recently posted about the ballerina look. And don’t worry about it being too fancy for whatever occasion – it’s always the best time to look your best, even at the grocery store.
After a lot of self-reflection over the past semester and recently reading this post by the girls over at A Beautiful Mess, I realized the importance of bringing back the creative process into my life. I used to make clothing all the time back in high school, but overwhelming amounts of schoolwork/other extracurriculars forced me to shelve that hobby. Recently, I realized that I was starting to feel restless and dissatisfied, and definitely a little lost. When I went home over Christmas break and whipped up two sewing projects (my glitter bow blouse seen here and my Anthropologie-inspired tulle skirt (tutorial coming soon)), I felt the thrill of a project again. I love all the stages of creating something, from dreaming about it, to the long road of executing it, to finally having a completed project that I can be proud of (or embarrassed by, not all DIY efforts are winners). I’m making a resolution to change this trend in my life, and to give myself the time to be creative again.
Part of my resolution to change involved improving the space around me, so last night I cleaned my room and revamped my desk, covering it in my supplies and pieces of inspiration. I made these paintings of drink recipes earlier this fall to advertise one of our members events, and I’m planning on going to Walmart or Michaels soon pick up some frames for my favorites of them. Having them hanging on my walls will be such an improvement to my room and a reminder of what I can create with just a few hours and a little motivation.
I bought myself these cocktail napkins as a little Christmas gift from Anthropologie. I love the bright colors and the polka dots, along with the beautiful scrawled handwriting. The fact that they also show the recipes for some delicious hot cocktails is only an added bonus. Oh, and have I mentioned yet that I love lavender and glitter?
Do you ever crave creative projects? I think I’m going to be so much happier this spring if I commit to making more things.
I’ve made the a little bit insane promise to myself to embark upon a 365 photo project this year in order to practice using my new camera and to force myself to learn more about photography and editing. I’m also hoping that the final project will serve as a photo documentation of the year, which promises to be a big one (we’re graduating…eek!). Also, if I know I’m going to be taking photos, I will hopefully avoid falling into the “it’s finals/thesis crunch time so I’m going to wear spandex and flannel every day until it fuses to my skin” and actually put together some nice outfits.
1/365: Here’s my first photo. Don’t be confused by my short sleeves. It’s effing cold in New Jersey in January (yeah, I’m a baby, I admit it). It’s also my first time using the self timer and a tripod, which involved me trying to manipulate the tiny buttons with my frozen fingers and then dashing across the rocky asphalt of my backyard in my new high heels to look casual next to my garage. At the time of the photo, I had just completed the shirt that I’m wearing. It may be my best sewing project to date. I literally squealed when I found the glitter bow fabric in Joann’s.
2/365: I didn’t feel like venturing outside, so I took a photo of my mother’s lone orchid to shake things up. I played around with the manual setting for this one, which was pretty fun, although I am very far from being fluent in cameraspeak. I mostly used this photo to play around with some Photoshop actions I had downloaded. I think I ended up using ones called “Seventies,” “Orchid,” and “Colorized.”
3/365: Another triumph of the self timer! I decided to take advantage of the few remaining days I had with our Christmas tree. I used a B&W action to make the photo look more vintage. I’m probably most excited by the many popcorn strands used to decorate it, which I strung together late at night while watching Downton Abbey. I love how old-fashioned it makes the tree feel. I made the skirt I’m wearing in imitation of Anthropologie’s Karinska skirt, which was a whopping $188 and also sold out by the time I made the skirt. I’ll make a tutorial explaining what I did later on the blog.