As my “dead friend” Mister Rogers used to sing:
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood
a beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor” …
and join me for afternoon tea?
The dogwood tree is beginning to bloom
I see it out my windows bringing me joy at every appearance.
so the porch is the perfect place to entertain guests today.
and some of the hydrangeas are changing from green to a lovely lavender color
It truly is a beautiful day in my neighborhood, the perfect day for a tea party — but then any day is a perfect day to share with friends.
Most times when I entertain I like to experiment with a new recipe. Today that recipe comes from the book “Tea and Inspiration” by Mary Pielenz Hampton.
I’ll attempt to make little tarts called “Maids of Honor”. Legend has it that these tarts were enjoyed very much by Henry VIII. Supposedly, he came upon the maids of his wife Catherine eating them, so he named these tea goodies in their honor.
If these tarts were fit for a king, queen and her maids of honor I should think they would be just fine for me and my guests
So let’s gets started.
First I make the pastry by using my mother’s tried and true recipe.
2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 cup crisco, 5 T cold water
Mix in a cuisinart for a minute and you have a lovely pastry dough.
Now to roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut 3 inch circles out using a wine glass.
Next, we place the rounds into a greased and floured muffin tin pressing the pastry to the sides.
Now to prepare the filling
In a mixing bowl, lightly beat 2 egg yolks. Beat in the 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of blanched ground almonds, 1 tbsp flour, and 1 tsp finely grated lemon peel or lemon zest. Slowly add the 2 tbsp of heavy whipping cream. Carefully spoon about 1 tablespoon of mixture into each pastry cup.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the filling is set and a light golden brown color.
Carefully remove from tins and place on a wire rack until completely cooled.
And we have a yummy “Maid of Honor” tart.
I set out four tea pots ready to be of service once my guests declare which teas they’ each prefer.
And because I’m never sure if my baking experiment will turn out I like to have insurance. Today the insurance is a fruit and custard tart.
This tart along with my Maids of honor mini tarts could be enough, but being Polish and the daughter of a great hostess, I was taught to always have more than enough goodies at a party. I purchased a few more things which I’ll slice and make ready for my guests in the hope that they will surely find something that appeals to them.
Now that the food is under control it’s time to check that the setting is ready. Let’s go out to the porch.
I set out the tea cups, adjust the silver and napkins, check that the tea treats are nicely arranged and start the music.
So you see there’s not much to planning a tea party. Afternoon tea is an exercise in gentility and like letter writing it is almost a lost art in today’s world, but I think it is an art worth our time and attention.
Amy, one of my favorite pen friends who lives in Kingston, Pennsylvania, recently sent me a quotation. The words are from Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and the father of Taoism. It reads:
“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day.”
Lao Tzu’s words make sense to me. If we clear our lives of clutter and create time for learning and solitary reflection or reflection with others, we just might find our lives to be more rich, in fact GOLDEN.
Any minute my guests will be arriving. Today I have 3 ladies invited to tea — an old friend, Barbara; a new friend, Gerry ( who happens to have been my high school English teacher. I never knew Gerry well back then , but after meeting her at a wedding recently I thought it would be lovely to get to know her now); and Gerry is bringing a friend, Sandy. (Sandy was in my high school graduating class but we never knew each other back then).
Someone old, someone new, someone borrowed, and this time only one borrowed guest, not the usual two, because my seating arrangement only has room for four. And here they are.
I always ask my guests to be prepared to share a passion or favorite thing so Barbara brought a book of the poetry she’s written. Barbara was a teacher and she’s a very good writer.
Sandy talked all about the joys of being a grandmother. She told us of her fun in babysitting her little granddaughter.
Here you see Sandy and Gerry looking over some of my letters for I shared my delight in the Art of Letter writing.
Gerry told us all about her mother who almost lived to be 100 years old. Her mother’s passion was sewing and all forms of needlework so now Gerry’s passion is to find a home for all those things her mother made. Each month she gives something away and this month it’s a pretty apron.
Guess who gets that pretty apron? If you guessed me, you’re right!
Now I have that apron to wear at my next tea! As you may know when you give good things come back to you and with this tea I gained a pretty apron.
a lovely bowl of flowers thanks to Sandy
and the best gift of all – new and old friends.
Back in 1895 there was talk that it was probably inevitable that the excessive nervous tension and high speed of life was bound to have a deteriorating effect on all branches of art including the art of conversation.
They were right to worry for with time it’s only gotten worse. Letter writing, afternoon tea, in person conversations are truly taking a hit.
the good news is all these arts are still there for us. They’re just waiting for our participation. Take Lao Tzu’s advice and cut out some clutter, make some tea, read an intelligent book, write a letter and/or invite some friends for an afternoon soire,
The mere chink of cups and saucers tune the mind to happy repose.
So till next time
Relax and live richly