Here’s one for THROWBACK THURSDAY….
It’s of a party I journaled about in my personal book of Shindigs in 2002.
“Mama, I just want a tea party for my birthday this year. And I just want to invite one person and Grandma and Aunt Lindee…”
This was the request of my youngest daughter for her 12th birthday celebration — a little over 12 years ago.
O…kkkkaaaaayyy, I deadpanned as I contemplated her request, hesitantly scanning my brain for the foggiest notion of how I might pull this off. I’ve never been to a tea party. I haven’t the faintest notion where to begin?
The planning meetings I had with myself started off with pretty much drawing a total
blank, graduating to intermittent fuzzy thoughts, and finally culminating with one idea after another ricocheting around in my cranium like pin balls in a pinball machine, leaving divots that my hairdresser remarks about every time I get my hair done. Ha! Do you believe that?
Over the next several weeks my enthusiasm did honestly mount to excessive compulsive proportions, and this will maybe sound weird to you, but I got sooooo excited about throwing this party that it really did become an obessession! I really wanted to impress my kid, and her guests.
It was in fact summer when she mentioned this, (her party not being until late fall), so that gave me plenty of time to rummage at garage sales, and yard sales, and the bulging inventory at our local secondhand stores for tea party garb.
Teacups were the first preoccupation that perforated caverns in my brain. I had the notion that it might be nice to have a matching cup and saucer for each guest, each unique from all the others at the table. I could even wrap them up and send them home with the guests as party favors at the end. Even tuck a little Lady Grey teabag inside each, I mused to myself, or maybe a mini selection of various teas, before I wrap them up. And wouldn’t it be too cute to place these cups in a pretty little square box with flowers on it, and a lid? The thought made me squeal.
And dancing in my head along with the visions of lovely individual teacups twirled dreams of fancy hats, gloves, bead necklaces, broaches, fancy dresses, pretty tablecloths, napkins, sugar bowl, creamer, tongs, and all the untold accoutrements…and what about a fine classical CD to fill the air during our “swanky” affair? It HAD to be ritzy and snobbish and debonair, don’t you know. We had to pursue brilliant English teatime etiquette and protocol all the way, daaaarling, with our pinky fingers in the air (…or not, that’s actually bad manners I’ve since learned).
Yard sales are such a treasure trove with pearls and boas and little white gloves easily found. Mary Engelbreit designed the cutest little teatime appurtenances that I just HAD to have. I found them on eBay. Our local secondhand shops were sufficient for everything else. I found menus online for “low tea” and “high tea” that I combined into one humdinger of a fancy 4-course banquet, and lots of recipes that I made my own with slight alterations. And many a website that offered etiquette, which I studied to death so I would be a good teacher.
About 2 weeks before the party Miss Gracee and I sent out the invitations. We made them on the computer with clip art, but there are nice ones at stationery and party stores with tea party themes if you would rather, and I’ve since found this cute make-it-yourself invitation. Click on the image and then save or print it. You can print the pattern on white paper and color it with markers or colored pencils, or print it on colored construction paper and just color in the flowers as you wish.
(Tip: While you’re at the party store, pick up some thank-you notes. It is good etiquette to thank your guests for gifts and for coming). The invitations asked the guests to dress fancy, and suggested a party dress, hat, gloves, pearls, nylons, high heels, tastefully done makeup, and a mist of perfume.
Our Schedule for a Fancy, 4-course Tea Party
1:00 PM Guests began arriving and were merrily escorted to the “parlor” (Gracee’s bedroom) where their coats were laid on her bed, and a puzzle (“Whose Tea party, by Springbok) sat partially pieced together on a tablecloth covered card table. Guests were encouraged to mingle there, with soft classical music playing in the background, until all the guests had arrived.
1:15 PM The big sister (who was a BIG help and naturally theatric) retrieved our attendees, bringing them to the dining table where I greeted them with a lesson in napkin, teacup, and scones etiquette. Tea at a dining table is considered high tea.
1:30 PM FIRST COURSE-small portions served: Fresh hot mint tea made by brewing tea with fresh mint leaves, served with scones and cream and/or marmalade. I had a large coffee percolator of hot water in the kitchen that I used to fill (and refill) the delicate china teapots. I let it steep in the kitchen and removed the teabags before taking the teapots to the table. Dani and I placed the scones, Devonshire cream, and marmalades and jams around on the table while the guests were in the parlor. We also had fresh raspberries, lemon wedges, and sugar cubes in reserve to replenish the table as they were depleted. (These were for people to add to their tea if they so desired).
And then we chatted a bit…
Tip: give the guests a topic of conversation, an icebreaker, to discuss while they gobble their tidbits. Here are some suggestions:
If you were to win a million dollars, what would you do with it?
What is the best movie/book you’ve seen/read recently, and what was good about it?
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re all by yourself?
If you could spend the day with a famous person, who would it be? Why?
What do you like best about your family?
What was your best Christmas ever? Details, please.
Mom’s Family Preserves carries a line of questions in jars. They even have a special jar for teatime. In case MOM has gone out of business by the time this goes to press – I think she was on her way out when I found her is why I say that — look for a deck of Table Talk cards at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com. See the end of this chapter for more suggestions.
1:50 PM Everyone was asked to bring their teacup over to the sitting area (couches) for a fashion show. They were reminded of the change of teacup etiquette — not to set their napkins on the table, which would signal that they are finished with their meal and not coming back, but rather to lay their napkins in their seats or bring them along. This tells the server they will be returning. Also, tea served or taken at a coffee table is considered low tea.
Because the invitations had informed everyone of the fanciness of the occasion, and they dutifully graced us with their presence dressed to the nines, it seemed fitting and appropriate to allow them to show off her finery in a little fashion show!
“And do tell where you got that hat!” One after another spoke of a necklace or broach that belonged to their grandmother, or heels that were borrowed from Mom. Aunt Lindee and Dani snapped pictures while I busily cleareed the first course from the table, and brought out the new foods and fresh new flavor of tea for the next course. After our fashion show, Gracee’s guests were invited back to the table.
2:30 PM SECOND COURSE-small portions served at the dining table: Strawberry Kiwi tea, spinach strawberry salad, muffins and tea breads. (I introduced a new icebreaker topic from the list above).
2:50 PM Dani, the big Sis, moved everyone back over to the sitting area for crafts.
The craft that Gracee had chosen was to make bead necklaces and bracelets. A few samples were displayed, and Dani led a demonstration with precut cord and beads. The guests had a large selection of beads to choose from, and necklace and bracelet length cords. I found a couple of kits at Wal-Mart, but Hobby Lobby carries an obscene selection comparatively, along with selections of stretchy cord, wire cord, or memory wire, glass beads, plastic beads, and on and on. Your town may have a bead store, lucky ducks.
Some other craft ideas we contemplated were to make pretty placemats (supplies needed: various patterns and colors of material, glue guns, lace, ribbon, etc.); or hats (supplies: straw hats, silk flowers, ribbon, lace, etc.); or to paint and decorate ceramic mugs, or teacups and saucers, and have them fired in a kiln and delivered later.
While the guests worked on that, I cleared away course two from the table and set it up with course three. After crafts the guests were again invited back to the table.
3:45 PM THIRD COURSE-small portions served at the dining table: Fresh hot Honey Lemon tea, Colleen’s Cheese Soup, Zuppa Toscano soup, shrimp sandwiches, Merchant Tea Sandwiches. I gave a brief lesson on finger sandwich etiquette. Conversation should take off spontaneously by now, but if your crowd is still acting timid, introduce another icebreaker topic.
After this course, you could introduce a game called Pass-the-Present. This is how you play: Before your guests arrive, wrap, with pretty paper and a bow, a nice gift (in as small a box as it will fit in), place that box into a slightly larger box and wrap with pretty paper and a bow. Continue doing this with larger and larger boxes until you have 15 or so boxes wrapped like presents inside the biggest box. During the party place the present in the birthday girl’s lap and start music playing. As the music is played the present is passed around the table. When the music stops, the person holding the present gets to unwrap it (just one box). The music starts again, along with the passing, and the game continues (in the fashion of musical chairs) until someone unwraps the core present. It is then their’s to keep. See other options further on down this page!
We let Gracee open her birthday gifts from everyone in this time slot instead of doing a game. Dani and I cleared the table and set out the final course. Aunt Lindee took pictures (bless her heart). One of the guest’s moms arrived just as we were returning to the table, so we set out another chair and place setting, and invited her to join us.
4:30 PM FOURTH COURSE-served at the dining table: Fresh hot Vanilla Tea, Walnut Cake, Berrymisu trifle, and a Chocolate Mousse Brownie Tart. Everyone was pretty full by this point, so they nibbled on the edges and sipped their tea, and I rounded up some containers-to-go. If you have time, this would be a great time to get everyone interested in a game. There are several options further on down this page. While they are playing and visiting, you can wash teacups, and pack them up for the guests to take as favors, along with their pretty little crafts that they made.
Gracee saw her guests to the door and hugged and waved good-bye. Then she sat down to the table and worked on her thank-you notes, which we mailed the next day.
After the pictures were developed, I put together a scrapbook as a memento for my daughter, and gave it to her as her birthday present. You’ve already seen a few of the pages scattered over this post. If you look real close it will almost be as if you stood on your tippy-toes and peeked through our windows on our afternoon. Had we spotted you, we’d have surely invited you in and sat you a place at our table, and served you a spot of tea and whatever dainty nibble that you wished.
When all was said and done, and every last dish was washed and dried, I packed it all up — the serving pieces, recipes, tablecloth, etc. from our fête into a Tupperware bin and placed it lovingly on the shelf in my pantry. Someday I’ll give it as a gift to my daughter to bring back memories of that delightful afternoon. Maybe I’ll give it as a bridal gift, or baby shower gift, or bring it out for her daughter’s 12th birthday. Until that day, I can drag it out for more afternoon teas with my daughters, or with friends, or for Mother’s Day, and can keep adding to it from now until then.
If I had one sliver of advice to offer you, GET HELP! My plans are always ambitious and even though I am highly organized, I don’t always realize how long things will take to do until the day before the party when it’s crunch time. So, if you want to avoid disintegrating into a muttering heap of exhausted soft tissue on the kitchen floor in the wee hours of the night prior to and following your extravaganza, <pant, pant> hire an assistant for cleaning and decorating, someone who can help with cooking all the foods the day of, and keep up with the stacks of dirty dishes that will quickly pile in your sink. My oldest daughter was the saving grace of the day at our house—a total gem. With her hair tied up in a knot on her head, wearing black slacks and a crisp white shirt, sporting an English accent and devoted to playing the part of an English servant with an Emmy Award performance, she did a fantabulous job in serving the food and leading the activities. And if dad is willing, he would make a fine butler—especially if he’ll wear the outfit and play the part and stay in character. It’s all about the princess and her guests. They need to be pampered, spoiled, and treated like royalty for the afternoon. The house must be a castle, and the table fit for a queen.
I feel compelled to tell you that my favorite teas are English Breakfast, Lady Grey, Constant Comment, and Irish Breakfast. In my opinion a person just cannot get much grander than those, but there are herbal, green, and jasmine tea lovers out there, and a plethora of flavored herbal teas, so please, choose what you love best.
Fresh Fruit Bowl: Consists of whatever fruit is in season and available at your market. It might be grapes, strawberries, melon, bananas, kiwi, oranges, apples, etc. You can make a fruit medley by slicing the fruits into bite-sized pieces and tossing together in a bowl with a smidgen of sugar. Or, you may simply want to serve a platter of grapes and fruit slices.
Biscuits: I went with scones. It just seemed more “English.” Just so you know, in England biscuits are what we would call cookies. My grandma always served coffee with cookies in the afternoon. She always had cookies in her freezer for every unexpected visitation. Not sure why I felt compelled to tell you that, but what a great idea, huh? Then you are always ready to serve coffee to unexpected guests. Or a very simple thing would be to spread cream cheese on crackers. In the deli section of my local grocery store there is always some fancy type of crackers, like oat crackers with raisins and rosemary, or oat crackers with almonds and sage (my latest finds). And cream cheese is a very simple, easy topping.
DRIED FRUIT SCONES
½ cup Butter (cold)
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 teaspoon Baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons orange zest
½ cup currants (or raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried strawberries)
1/3 cup Honey
½ cup Sour cream
1 Egg (beaten)
1 Egg white
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl combine flour, soda, and baking powder, salt and orange zest. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until it forms small pea-sized clumps (this is important-don’t use a mixer or your scones will be tough). Add the dried fruit. In another bowl, combine honey, sour cream, and lightly beaten egg with whisk. Stir honey mixture into dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Add more flour if necessary. Knead dough on a floured board 10 times. Shape dough into an 8” circle. Cut it into 8 triangles (like a pizza), or 16 if you would like them to be smaller portions. Brush with slightly beaten egg white. Bake at 375°F about 15 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm with butter, honey butter, jam, marmalade, or Devonshire Cream (mock recipe follows). If you are fortunate to live near to a World Market, they carry Devonshire or Clotted Cream, along with a large assortment of English Biscuits.
1 8-oz. Package of Cream Cheese (softened)
1 tub of Cool Whip
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
In small bowl, with electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and light, blend in the Cool Whip and Bailey’s until just mixed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Mix a softened stick of butter with a good heaping tablespoon of honey, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ cup of chopped walnuts and about 1/8 tsp. Orange zest.
2 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1/3-cup fresh lemon juice, strained (important that it is strained)
½ stick butter, cut into small pieces
All ingredients should be room temperature. Combine eggs and egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and whisk lightly. Whisk in sugar and lemon juice. Place the top of the double boiler over gently simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with the whisk for about 5 minutes, until mixture thickens slightly. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle. Remove from heat. Add butter to the mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Pour into a wide-mouth canning jar or small bowl. Cover top with an airtight cover or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. The mixture will thicken more as it cools. This recipe will keep for about a month if left airtight sealed in the refrigerator.
STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD
1 package of fresh baby spinach leaves, pre-washed and ready to use
1 carton of fresh ripe strawberries, sliced
1 cup of sliced almonds, toasted in oven
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon Poppy seeds
1 ½ teaspoon chopped onion
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon Paprika
½ cup light olive oil
¼ red wine vinegar
Make dressing in the blender and chill until ready to serve. Shake well before serving. Arrange spinach leaves, strawberry slices and almond slices on plates. Top with dressing. Serve.
WHITE CHOCOLATE PECAN MUFFINS
Preheat oven to 375°F
Place cupcake papers in muffin tin
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
½ cup Orange juice concentrate
½ cup milk
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup white chocolate pieces (Ghirardelli white chocolate chips worked wonderfully)
¼ cup pecans, chopped
In a medium bowl combine butter, egg, orange juice concentrate, and milk. Blend and set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, white chocolate, and pecans. Mix together. Make a well in the center and pour in other mixture. Stir until just moistened. Do not over mix. Fill each muffin cup about ¾ full. Bake for 7 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown. Serve warm.
I am also a huge fan of POPPY SEED MUFFINS and Krusteaz has an excellent boxed mix.
PEACH TEA BREAD
2 ½ cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Nutmeg
1 ½ cup finely chopped fresh peaches (frozen will work fine if patted dry)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 X 5 loaf pan. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a medium size bowl, combine peaches and lemon juice. In another bowl combine oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Add oil mixture to flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in peaches and nuts. Spoon into greased pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until top is golden brown and center springs back when lightly touched, or when a toothpick inserted in center comes out
clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Lift off pan and let cool until ready to serve. Delicious if served slightly warm.
ANY TWO SOUPS WILL DO. You could make two of your favorites, or purchase them premade. I have lots of favorites (Chicken and Wild Rice, Poblano, Farmhouse Potato, Portugese Bean, Kale, and Sausage soup, Clam Chowder, Bean with Bacon), but here are two recipes I get asked for often:
ZUPPA TUSCANO (makes 10 servings)
1 lb. bacon, cooked crispy and broken into pieces
1 lb Italian sausage (HEB has Parmesan and something else meatballs in their meat counter that I have recently used, browned and broken into pieces that are excellent)
1/2 to 1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
3 large Russet Potatoes, chunked (unpeeled)
1 large onion, diced (I like white onions)
4 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups kale, chopped or torn (make sure to wash it well to get all the grit out of it, and cut the tough ribs off of each leaf)
2 boxes (32-oz) chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
A liberal sprinkling of White Pepper (if you can’t find it, ground black pepper will work great, I actually love the colored pepper medley and use it for everything)
Cook bacon until crisy and then remove to paper towels. In the same pan saute Italian sausage and red pepper flakes until cooked. Note, if you use hot Italian sausage, your may want to omit the red pepper flakes. Remove cooked sausage from pan and set aside. Add onions and garlic to the pan and saute for about 15 minutes, until translucent and soft. If you are not a fan of the fat, you can saute the onion in butter, or olive oil as your prefer. You can drain or leave the fat, as you prefer.
Add the Chicken stock and water, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add kale during the last 5 minutes.
Add heavy cream, and the cooked sausage and half the bacon. Cook until heated through. Remove from heat. Add ground pepper and stir.
If you like your soup a little thicker, you can make a blonde roux in a seperate pan and stir it into the soup to thicken it. Blonde Roux: 2 Tablespoons butter, melted in a saucepan, add 2 Tablespoons of flour and cook for several minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk into the soup and stir well to incorporate. If you like your soup thinner, add a little more chicken broth.
Serve with warm crusty bread and fresh butter, and sprinkle each serving with a little broken crsipy bacon (and even some fresh parsley, if desired), and a good grind of pepper.
COLLEEN’S NACHO CHEESE SOUP (for a crowd)
1 gallon Chef’s Nacho Cheese (I always bought it at Sam’s Club)
4 cups water
2 cups Chicken broth
6 stalks of celery, sliced
1 small onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups diced leftover baked ham, or a small store-bought ham diced
1 tsp. dry mustard
Empty cheese into a large soup pot and whisk in the water and chicken broth until smooth. Add celery and onion. Heat to bubbling. Add red bell pepper and diced ham. Reduce heat to simmer until celery is tender. Serve.
Note: This soup is similar to Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Soup, but with just a little touch of spice. My family loves it. If you are sensitive to spicy foods you can substitute the Chef’s Cheddar Cheese for the Nacho Cheese.
ANY TWO SANDWICH FILLINGS WILL DO. You could make cheese salad or pimento cheese, cucumber sandwiches, egg salad, ham salad, roast beef salad, fruity chicken salad, or whatever tickles your fancy.
1-pound fresh cooked shrimp (shelled and deveined, tails removed)
8 oz. cream cheese
½ small green onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
1/8 tsp. fresh minced garlic
1/8-tsp OLD BAY
Fresh, good quality Sour Dough Bread, thin sliced
Grind shrimp in a food processor. Mix in all other ingredients and fold in enough mayo to make a paste. Spread on chilled bread, cut off crusts, and cut diagonally into 4 triangles.
CUCUMBER TEA SANDWICHES
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced, thin slices
½ cup watercress leaves, coarsely chopped
½ cup butter, at room temperature
16 slices fresh from the bakery white bread
1/2 cup sprouts, alfalfa or other
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chill bread in the refrigerator. Lay out cucumber slices onto paper towels to remove moisture.
In a small bowl, mix together butter and watercress. Spread onto one side of each slice of bread. Place cucumber slices on the buttered side of 8 slices of bread. Season with salt and pepper. Place a small portion (1 Tablespoon) of alfalfa sprouts on top of cucumbers and spread out evenly. Place the remaining slices of bread on top, with the buttered side facing toward the sprouts.
Using a sharp knife, cut the crusts from each sandwich and discard. Cut the
sandwiches in half corner to corner, and then into quarters from the other corners.
If making the sandwiches ahead of time, place them in a large pan, cover with platic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator for a few hours until ready to serve.
Cream Cheese may be substituted for the butter in this recipe. Try the chive or vegetable varieties. Or mix the watercress into plain cream cheese.
MERCHANT TEA SANDWICHES
4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and diced (or may use left-over roasted chicken)
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
½ medium onion, minced
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup chopped, dried apricots
½ cup chopped Craisins
½ cup chopped prunes
Whole Wheat bread cut into small rounds
In a large bowl mix all ingredients together. Add enough mayo to hold the mix together. Place a small mound on rounds of bread. Top with another round of bread, or leave open-faced.
Chunks of blonde brownies, or pound cake, or angel food cake, or soft ladyfingers (your choice)
1 12-oz package raspberries or strawberries, pureed in blender (if you use raspberries, strain out the seeds)
12 oz. Cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
2 cups chilled whipped cream
Fresh raspberries or strawberries
Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream. Add pureed berries, and fold until just combined. In a trifle bowl, start with a layer of brownie chunks. Top with a layer of cream berry mixture, then scatter with fresh berries. Top with another layer of brownie chunks, more cream, and berries. Finish with the cream berry mixture and a few fresh berries. Garnish with a sprig of mint leaves.
CHOCOLATE CREAM PIE
I substituted a chocolate brownie mousse pie in place of this. It was a mix that I found at the grocery store (Ghirardelli I believe). I wanted a TART, and a TRIFLE, and a TORTE for my party. This was my “tart.” I garnished the top of the “tart” with dollops of whip cream and a raspberry centered on each dollop. I also saw a wonderful looking recipe for a Chocolate Berry Trifle in a lady’s magazine. It was a layered affair of chocolate brownie chunks, fresh raspberries, and vanilla pudding mixed with cool whip. Another good substitute would be to purchase a nice French Silk pie from Perkins, Village Inn, or your favorite bakery or restaurant.
AUNT BETTY’S NUT CAKE
¾ cup butter, softened
¼ cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
1 ½ cups Buttermilk
3 tsp. Vanilla
1-½ cups ground walnuts
Combine all ingredients in the order given in a large bowl. Beat on low speed just until combined. Pour into three greased and floured 9 X 1 ½ inch round cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from pans. Let cool on wire rack until completely cooled.
8-oz. Packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup butter, softened
5 to 5 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
Beat all ingredients except nuts with a mixer in a mixing bowl until smooth. Spread between layers of the cake, and over top and sides. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
EASY BANANA PUDDING CUPS
1 pkg Philo Dough Cups (pre-baked and ready to use)
1 small pkg Vanilla Pudding (prepared as directed and chilled until set)
Whipped Cream or Whipping Topping
1 small Banana, sliced
Fill the Philo cups with a small spoonful of pudding, then a very small spoonful of whipping cream or topping, and press a banana slice into the center of each. Serve right away.
NOTE: Setting up a buffet and letting your guests help themselves for each course is certainly an acceptable option. And you can cut down on the volume of dirty dishes as well by using disposable plates and silverware. There are some very elegant choices out there; plastic silverware that looks like silver/stainless steel, and floral or lacey looking napkins that will tie the ensemble together.
Prizes for games: Candles, boxes of flavored teas, inexpensive jewelry, sample bottles of perfume, recipe cards, etc.
WHAT’S IN A LADY’S PURSE?
Use the following list to ask your ladies what is in their purse. You could add/change/or delete some of the items if you wish. Give a prize for the one with the most items.
- Needle and/or Thread
- Ink pen
- Rubber Band
- Pair of Glasses
- Grocery list
- Safety pin
- Nail file
- Picture of children or grandchildren
- Postage stamp
- Sales receipt
- Piece of gum
MOM SAID IT
Give everyone a piece of paper (numbered for the amount of questions you want to have). Prepare ahead by making a list of all of those little tidbits of sagely wisdom that mother’s give. Ask everyone if their mother ever said… and allow them to answer the questions. Give a small prize to the one that has the most “yes” answers or a certificate made up on the computer for “The World’s Wisest Woman” because after all, she MUST be full of wisdom from all that advice!
Haste makes waste.
A rolling stone gather no moss.
Money doesn’t grow on trees.
You made your bed, now lie in it.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Don’t talk with your mouth full.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Actions speak louder than words.
The early bird catches the worm.
HAVE YOU EVER DONE THIS?
Provide sheets of paper numbered from 1-20. Ask the questions and give a prize to the lady with the lowest score.
Have you ever…
Locked yourself out of the house?
Lost a member of the family while out shopping?
Put something unusual in the refrigerator?
Turned white colors pink (or another color) in the wash?
Gone away from your home and left the iron on?
Put your heel through the hem of your dress?
Had your zipper break in public?
Gone somewhere with two different shoes or socks on?
Remembered an appointment after it was too late?
Called a member of the family by another name?
Been ready to bathe and found no hot water?
Fallen up the stairs?
Gone shopping for groceries and discovered you did not bring any money with you?
Driven away from somewhere while a member of your party was still out of the car?
Dialed a phone number and forgot who you called?
Locked the keys in your car?
Got into the car to go somewhere and forgot where you were going?
Put something in the oven to bake and forgot about it?
Forgotten that you had company and got caught in your underwear in the kitchen?
Slipped in front of the pastor and blabbed where you really were last Sunday morning?
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR MOTHER/DAUGHTER?
Have paper and pen for each mother and daughter. Have them number 1-15 and answer the questions as you read them aloud. (Or you could already have the questions written out on handouts for them). Afterwards give a few minutes for them to compare answers and total the correct answers on both sheets for their combined answer total. Give prizes to the mother-daughter teams that have the most points.
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite color?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite song?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite flavor of ice cream?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite flower?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite food?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite animal?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite season?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite restaurant?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite holiday?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite place to shop?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite author?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite day of the week?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite dessert?
What is your mother/daughter’s favorite drink?
What is your mother/daughter’s dream vacation?
GIVE YOURSELF A POINT
In this one, someone narrates the story while the ladies keep track of their points. Provide small scraps of paper and pens so everyone can keep track of their points throughout the story.
I wonder who came here from afar,
Give yourself 5 if you came by car.
Were you on time? Not one minute late?
Punctuality pays to give yourself 8.
A watch is 6 and each ring is 2,
10 more points if your eyes are blue.
Score yourself 5 if you show any pink.
But take away 10 if you left dishes in the sink.
Count all of your cottons… each give you 1.
Except if they are white and then you’ll get none.
For each bow that you have add on 2.
But safety pins are taboo, so for each one you’re wearing you must subtract 2.
If you’ve kissed your boyfriend or husband today,
Add 10, but if you’ve kissed both you’re in trouble and trouble plenty – subtract 20.
1 point for each year that you have been wed,
but take away 5 if you have on red.
Pets are sweet, we all agree, so for each add 3.
But when adding it up, kids count for more, so for each child give yourself 4.
This game is done so total your score –unless
You have brought a friend, then give yourself 20 more!
Brrr…Ice Breakers…just in case you have a shy crowd who needs a little conversation coaxing, be prepared. Keep in mind that a refined lady is well versed, knowledgeable, and up on her current events. Cheers to hearty conversation! Since I tend to fade into the wallpaper when it comes to conversation, I appreciate all the help I can get. No more awkward silences. I swear, whatever your weakness is in life, someone out there has invented a crutch for it!
Food for Talk (Recipes for Living, A Little Box of Wisdom, by Running Press Book
Publishers, 2006) conversation starters by Juliene Smith. This is a great little recipe box of cards with conversation starters for families. She also has a set of cards for couples, and a travel pack.
Also look for Family Time Fun Dinner Games and Activities for families with younger ones. And while you’re there you might also notice the line of Table Topics Conversation Cards. These are a little more expensive than some of the others. The varieties include Original, Family Edition, Girls Night Out Edition, Teen Edition, Couples Edition, Family
Gathering Edition, and Spirit Edition. Each version is a different color and the cards are held in a heavy acrylic cube that opens in half. I purchased the Girl’s Night Out edition for a recent road trip to a Women’s Conference with friends. I can vouch for the great conversation sparking questions!
Another great option is the book The One Year Dinner Table Devotions and discussion starters, 365 opportunities to grow closer to God as a family, by Nancy Guthrie (pictured).
After your party you can leave a small basket of these table talk starters in the middle of your dining table for conversation any time with your family or guests.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)