Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

With love from the Lesters

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Graduation Tea Party Menu

Sweet friend Mallory's recent high school graduation gave us a wonderful opportunity to plan a celebratory tea party.

Mallory preferred an intimate get-together over a big party, so we were able to seat everyone together in the dining room. Visit this post to see the details of our table for ten.

We began our teatime with chilled cucumber water and a salad of spring greens, blackberries, Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. Mary Ashley and I took Mallory to Smith-Byrd House in Prattville, Ala., for tea a few months ago, and it was such a special outing. When I mentioned serving their Meyer Lemon Scones at our party, Joe volunteered to pick them up, adding, "Anything for one of our kids." So we enjoyed those fresh-baked treats topped with my homemade Almond Cream and Strawberry Jam. Perfection with a cup of tea!

Our trio of savories included Chicken Salad in Phyllo Cups, Cucumber Tea Sandwiches, and Ham & Swiss Spirals.

Mary Ashley put together our chicken salad cups, and I made our cucumber sandwiches with white bread, an herbed cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumber. For the spirals, I spread flour tortillas with herbed cream cheese; layered ham, Swiss and fresh spinach leaves over the cream cheese; rolled the tortilla into a tight roll; and used a serrated knife to slice the rolls into bite-size spirals.

Dessert was a feast of sweet indulgences, including assorted macarons, Chocolate Pots de Creme and Fresh Fruit Tarts. 

I found the macarons in the freezer section at Walmart and prepared our other two desserts. Keep reading for the recipes!

Shapely votives work well for showcasing a variety of teatime foods. I found a set of 16 at Michael's Craft Store and paired them with this adorable set of Leyosov Demitasse Spoons.

Fresh Fruit Tarts
Showcase your favorite summer fruits!

16 frozen individual pastry shells, baked according to package directions
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 (8-ounce) container low-fat frozen whipped topping, thawed
Assorted fruits
2 tablespoons peach preserves

1. In a medium bowl, whisk sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
2. Spoon filling into baked shells, and top with assorted fruits. (We used blackberries, raspberries, and mandarin oranges.)
3. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, microwave preserves on high until melted, about 10 seconds. Brushed melted preserves over tarts, and refrigerate until serving.

Note: Reserve extra filling as a topping for pound cake.

Chocolate Pots de Creme
Served in glass votives, this silken Rachael Ray-inspired recipe is a deliciously decadent teatime treat. 

2/3 cup 2% milk
1 egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
Garnish: whipped cream, fresh raspberries

1. In a small pan, heat milk over medium-low heat just until warm and bubbling.
2. In the container of a blender, mix egg, chocolate chips, vanilla, sugar and salt. Remove center from lid, and pour hot milk into container in a slow, steady stream; mix until smooth.
3. Transfer chocolate mixture to a measuring cup with a spout, and divide mixture among five votives, filling each about two-thirds full. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours.
4. Just before serving, top with whipped cream and raspberries.

"The little spaces in time created by teatime rituals call out to be filled with conversation. Even the tea itself -- warm and comforting -- inspires a feeling of relaxation and trust that fosters shared confidences." -- Emilie Barnes

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Tea Party Table Abloom

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea." ~ Henry James

Before our precious friend Mallory leaves for college, I wanted her to join us for a special celebration. We share a love of teatime, so her recent graduation gave us a wonderful opportunity to plan an afternoon tea.

Norwich by Royal Embassy set the tone for a lovely, feminine table.

Fresh roses, peonies and hydrangeas echoed the beauty of the china's hand-painted blooms.

Joe's mother found our dining room table and chairs at an estate sale a couple of years ago, and planning this party gave me the motivation to re-cover the seats -- a project I have had on my list for quite a while. Waverly Chantal Vapeur, a flowing graceful floral design, gave me just the balance of elegance and interest that I was looking for.

Instead of designing one larger centerpiece, I spaced out several posies along the table. These low-lying arrangements gave each guest a view of flowers without blocking views of each other.

This soiree gave me the perfect opportunity to pull many pretties from the china cabinet.

This dining room table is a different size than the one we used previously, and I am still collecting linens that work with its long, narrow oval shape. For this event, I definitely wanted a solid white tablecloth. Although this microfiber one from Arlee Home Fashions was not exactly what I had in mind originally, it looked nice and was a practical choice. The polyester fabric is impervious to spills, so that will make for worry-free entertaining -- especially during the holidays when we often have little ones around our table.

I hope that Mallory, along with our other guests, felt blessed by the beauty of the day.

My cell-phone pictures do not do the ambience justice, but there was a sweet glow to our time together.

And a lovely fragrance of friendship -- a sweet blend of roses, fresh-baked scones, and my favorite blend of loose tea.

In my next post, I will share details of our menu, including an easy recipe that has become an instant favorite for entertaining.

Highlighting this side table are a framed invitation and menu. I used watercolor clip art from Digital Paperie for our party printables. I adore these images of macarons and teacups!

And, of course, I never tire of beautiful flowers!

In this stage of life, it is rare for me to host formal gatherings, so I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to celebrate such a beloved girl with a tea party. The afternoon was a gift of loveliness, and I hope it was a blessing to all!

"I take pleasures in tea, appreciating it with my spirit and therefore cannot explain why." ~ Sen Joo

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Tea Party for Mallory

Carson and Mallory dated in high school and have remained the best of friends since he left for college. This sweet girl graduated this spring, so the girls and I wanted to honor that milestone with afternoon tea.

We go to church with Mallory, and she is one of our favorite people!

Here is a peek at our tea party, an intimate gathering that included Mallory's sweet mother and sisters. In upcoming posts, I will share details of our tablescape and menu, so be sure to drop by again soon! 

"Perhaps it is while drinking tea that I most enjoy the sense of leisure." ~ George Gissing

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Party-Perfect Yogurt & Berry Parfaits

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." ~ Unknown

Tiny yogurt and berry parfaits might not have been the specific intended result of the above quote, often attributed to Mother Theresa, but these adorable appetizers were certainly small and definitely done with great love. As a healthy twist on the dessert-shooter trend, these breakfast treats were an indulgence that even guests following a diabetic or gluten-free diet could enjoy at Sunday's reception honoring the graduating seniors of our church. And the parfaits seemed to be a hit with the rest of the crowd, as well!

For our reception, I purchased DLux Mini Shooter Dessert Cups, available in sets of 50 or 100 with free mini spoons. For the reception, we only needed around 85, so I prepared several varieties of parfaits and saved the remaining cups and spoons for another event. Find the details below!

Petite Berry & Yogurt Parfaits

Makes approximately 85

3 (32-ounce) containers Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Yogurt
2 (18-ounce) packages fresh blueberries
3 (12-ounce) containers fresh raspberries
2 (0.5-ounce) packages fresh organic mint

1. For each mixed-berry parfait, drop approximately 6 blueberries into the bottom of a DLux Mini Shooter Dessert Cup. Nestle mini spoon in cup. Using a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip, pipe yogurt over blueberries, filling cup halfway. Add 2 to 3 raspberries, depending on size, to create the middle layer. Pipe yogurt over raspberries, and top with approximately 6 blueberries and 1 mint leaf.

2. For each raspberry parfait, crush one raspberry in the bottom of a DLux Mini Shooter Dessert CupNestle mini spoon in cup. Using a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip, pipe yogurt over raspberry, filling cup halfway. Add 2 to 3 raspberries, depending on size, to create the middle layer. Pipe yogurt over raspberries, and top with 1 raspberry and 1 mint leaf.

3. For each blueberry parfait, drop approximately 6 blueberries into the bottom of a DLux Mini Shooter Dessert CupNestle mini spoon in cup. Using a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip, pipe yogurt over blueberries, filling cup halfway. Add approximately 6 blueberries, depending on size, to create the middle layer. Pipe yogurt over raspberries, and top with approximately 6 blueberries and 1 mint leaf.

4. Once all yogurt has been used, divide remaining blueberries and raspberries among cups, and top each fruit cup with 1 mint leaf.

5. Parfaits and fruit cups may be made up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: You could also top these parfaits with granola, but in our group we have some serious nut allergies, as well as gluten intolerance, so depending on how much you know about the dietary restrictions of guests, the safer course would be to leave it off.

Wouldn't these red, white and blue parfaits be perfect for upcoming Memorial Day or Fourth of July festivities? I am glad to have a record of ingredients and amounts for this year's parfaits, as you will likely find these again on next year's graduation reception menu!

"Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures." ~ H. Jackson Brown

Monday, May 21, 2018

How to Revive Wilted Hydrangeas

"Flowers whisper beauty to the world, even as they fade, wilt, fall." ~ Dr. SunWolf

Over the weekend, we honored the graduating seniors from our congregation with two very special events: a Saturday-evening banquet and a Sunday-morning reception. Friday afternoon and evening, I whiled away the hours blissfully arranging centerpieces with friends. To coordinate with our silver-rimmed plates and patterned napkins of gray, yellow and white, I filled glass vases with sliced lemons and snowy white hydrangeas. When we turned off the lights to head home, everything looked beautiful and the cold, dark room was fresh and fragrant.

So imagine my heartbreak to return to the church building on Saturday evening, ready to light candles and capture a few photos of our tablescapes before dinner, only to discover that most of the blooms had wilted. Whether it was the acids in the citrus or the unexpected heat and humidity caused by the air conditioning turning off during the night, or a combination of both, my beautiful bouquets were a shadow of their former glory. I had planned to repurpose the centerpieces for our reception the next morning, but the blossoms looked so sad that as tables were cleared after the party, many of the blooms were immediately thrown away.

But not so fast! I rescued a few blooms from the trash heap to see if they could be revived. I filled a bowl with tepid water, turned the stems upside down, and let the clusters of petals soak for a while. Then I clipped the stems shorter (at an angle) and arranged them in smaller vases of fresh water. As you can see from the photos in this post, we were treated to a Sunday-morning resurrection story, and the flowers look as lush and healthy as ever! In fact, they are now doing triple duty, after suffering through the banquet and looking lovely during the reception, by giving us a poignant reminder that you never know where beauty might flourish, if only we will offer a little tender loving care.

"Flowers don't worry about how they're going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful." ~ Jim Carrey  

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

10 Years of Teacher Gift Ideas

One year we surprised our teachers with lush bouquets of peonies in crystal vases, but when the children were in elementary school, our usual tradition was to present a gift of flowers in a container that can be used long after the blossoms fade. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, here are a few of my favorite ideas from the past decade.

We all scream for ice cream with this festive arrangement, a sundae-inspired gathering of flowers tucked into a parfait glass.

This presentation included a gift card to a favorite local spot for frozen yogurt.

For months I collected creamware pitchers and teapots for these gifts of white. The posies looked so lovely clustered in my sitting room.

I love this shapely creamer and hope it is still used often.

One of my favorite springtime gifts is a structured tote with a vase of tulips tucked inside. I have done these for teachers and graduates over the years.

A monogrammed gift tag adds the finishing touch to this favor. This gift can also be customized for a bride or mother-to-be.

Cheery bouquets of hydrangeas offered a ray of sunshine paired with sliced lemons.

Purchasing acrylic pitchers at a discount store and taking them to a local engraver to be monogrammed was an easy, economical option for this vessel.

Rustic garden buckets made charming vases -- especially when accompanied by handmade cards featuring photos of the children taken during a trip to a local garden.

Glass canisters finished with chalkboard labels made clever containers for fresh-cut bouquets.

Whether used in the classroom or pantry, these should have a long shelf life.

Finally, for a peek at periodicals tucked into magazine racks, see this post.

What could make a gift of flowers even more refreshing? Tucking the blossoms into a box of lunchtime treats. Visit this post to learn more about the menu included in this decorative hinged box. If you have creative floral gift ideas, please share them in the comments! 

"Teachers believe they have a gift for giving; it drives them with the same irrepressible drive that drives others to create a work of art or a market or a building." ~ A. Bartlett Giamatti

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