ThirTEAth Birthday Party = Success!

Although I don’t have any picture (aside from this cell phone selfie) to share yet, I know, I know, it was a whole 5 days ago; I can honestly say it was a success. There was so much to do and I thought I had it all planned out but as people walked in I put everyone to work and hopefully they don’t hate me for that.

Yes it might have been a bit hot to have it outside and yes, there were flies but honestly it just added to it. That just meant The Husband brought out some fans and an electric fly swatter and sure, that could have ended badly with all that china but it worked out fine.

I’m so glad almost all of my friends could make it out to my party and that all the high tea-virgins had a great time and  it will definitely go down as one of my most memorable parties to date.

I also promise that pictures are coming…soonish.

Yours Truly,

Mel


ThirTEAth Birthday Party – Food

I’ll admit that the food is my favorite part of throwing a tea party. It means I have an excuse to bake crazy amount of cookies, scones and cakes and I get to eat a lot because everything is smaller.

For my party I’ll be revisiting some of my staples, jazzing up a few favorites and sharing some of my go-to recipes.

Sample Menu:

Sandwiches (1-3 Different Types)

Scones (Usually 1-3 Flavors)

Cookies ( 1-3 Types)

Green Salad

Cupcake

Fruit Dessert

Must have condiments: clotted cream or devonshire cream, lemon curd and jam

*Optional Crumpets, Petit Fours, Fruit Strudels & Macarons

For the sandwiches I like to keep them simple but flavorful and 3 different types it really my maximum. Salmon with Dill & plain cream cheese, cucumber and vegetable flavored cream cheese, PB&J, chicken-apple-walnut, turkey and cranberry, tuna salad and egg salad sandwich to name a few. To help people differentiate all the types try using different breads.

White and wheat are pretty obvious but there’s also rye bread and even mini croissants; for a completely different spin you could even serve something like the tuna in hollowed out cucumber cups.

Next up are the scones and what I would argue are one of the most vital parts of your tea party. I prefer my scones to be dense, rich in flavor and ever so slightly sweet; none of this sickly-sweet, light and fluffy stuff for me, save that for the cupcakes. Scones are meant to be eaten with spread and that’s where I want the sweetness to come from.

I’ve tried many recipes but I always come back to THIS recipe from Better Homes & Garden and for step-by-step instructions you can check out my post HERE. It’s the perfect basic recipe and I often switch up the basil and strawberries for orange zest & cranberries, or The Husband’s favorite, bacon-cheddar and chive scones. If you’re going to change it up just eye ball it (the recipe is pretty forgiving) and hopefully you’ll love it as much as I do.

*Tip: Double the recipe and hold off on adding any flavors; strawberries, bacon etc. until you divide the dough into balls. At this point go ahead and make each ball a different flavor if you want variety but not the extra work.

Cookies. Not necessarily something that all tea houses serve but I like having them because everybody likes cookies. Plus they double as another way for me to eat more lemon curd or clotted cream or both at the same time; I’m sure you get the picture.

I enjoy a good variety and usually go with a mix of something like a sugar or rosemary shortbread cookie, gingersnaps, madeleines, white chocolate-macadamia nut and chocolate chip. Each type of easy to make and sugar or shortbread cookies could always be made with cookie cutters that match the party theme or just circles. As an added bonus if your fridge is getting full from all the party food these cookies all freeze well; just be sure to pack them in flat layers separated with parchment paper and take them out to thaw at least 2 hours before the party.

For a salad I keep it simple and get a tub of pre-washed greens (I prefer the 50/50 blend of spinach and spring greens) and toss in a small can of mandarin oranges, a handful of dried cranberries and some sunflower seeds for garnish. Quick and easy with things I usually have on hand at the house.

If you’re not a fan of this type of salad a ceasar works too and the pre-made bags from the grocery store are perfect because really, people aren’t here for the salad but at least eating a little bit of it might make them feel better.

Cupcakes aren’t a must have items but they’re miniature and that makes them worthwhile. If you have the time these are a great addition to a tea party and you can use my go-to cake/cupcake recipe from THIS post (use the box instructions for baking times) to make any flavor you’re hankering for; top them with THIS buttercream recipe or THIS whipped cream frosting and you’re done. It may be worth mentioning that if you want leftover put a few of these aside before the party because afterwards there won’t be any.

Like the green salad I like to throw a little fruit into the mix and if you have time fruit salad served in little bowls is adorable and healthy but I also like these little pudding filled cookie bowls topped with fruit. Instead of cool whip I used instant chocolate pudding (made the night before) and ta-dah, another impressive creation and everything is edible!

Last but not least are what I’m calling the condiments. I don’t actually make the lemon curd or the clotted cream but if you want to there are lots of great recipes online; I just haven’t given them a go yet. Instead I’ve found that lemon curd can be bought at Trader Joe’s and devonshire cream can be purchased at Cost Plus World Market and it’s not cheap ($7.99) but it’s the only place I can guarantee will have it.

 

Photo Courtesy of Jillian at Coffee Light and Sweet

 

For jam or jelly anything works, I’ll leave it up to you and your personal preferences.

As for macarons, petit fours and crumpets, again I will leave this up to you. The macarons add a bit of fancy but they’re time intensive, expensive but still really, really good; same goes with petit fours unless you want to use THIS cheater recipe. I’ve tried making crumpets at home and it was a huge flop. Unfortunately for me that was right before a big tea party and they were a mess, I was a mess and it’s not something I’d recommend. If you have to have crumpets (they’re a cross between english muffins and pancakes) take my advice and purchase them from the refrigerated section at either New Leaf Community Market or Trader Joe’s; you’ll be out $4 for 8 or 6 but it’s worth it.

Yours Truly,

Mel

P.S. For Tea Suggestions take a look HERE and HERE.


Tip of the Day: How to Soften Butter – Take 2

Lately there’s been a bit of a baking rush at our place in preparation for the Tea Party and I’ve already run through at least a pound of butter, 2 1/2 pounds of flour and a bit of sugar and I’m not even half way there.

At times like it’s important to remember trick like THIS tried and true method of softening hard butter and I now have a new option for you and it involves a cheese grater. Yup, you read that right; grate your butter as suggested by Rachel of Baked by Rachel.

Photo Courtesy of Baked by Rachel

It’s really genius and I’ve used it a few times so I’ll vouch for it. Next time you’re in a pinch try it out and you might be surprised.

Yours Truly,

Mel


ThirTEAth Birthday Party – Decoration Ideas

I’m generally a big Do-it-Yourself type person but since I’ve been planning this party for so long and tea parties are kind of my go to type of party I’ve already amassed quite a collection of appropriate decorations.

Mismatched china, check. Lacy tablecloths, check. Eye ball popping worthy silver and goldware (is that even a word?), check.

This just means that I can spend a little more time on a few extra fun things to jazz it all up and here’s what I’m thinking.

As most people have more normal things to collect than vintage gloves and hats I’m thinking it might be worth it to share my rather extensive collection with my guests because what’s a tea party without a hat?

Hats are for Tea Parties! Please Help Yourself

I’m thinking small flower arrangements might be a nice touch. Not too big because you don’t want to crowd the food buy something for a little touch of color or glitter.

These gold dot vases from LilikoiJoy are very tempting.

Photo Courtesy of LilikoiJoy

But so are these other ideas.

Photo Courtesy of Sania Pell

Photo Courtesy of Landon Jacobs

Photo Courtesy of Niki & Ali of Papery and Cakery

Of course a “Happy ThirTEAth Birthday” banner of some sort is a must and I’m really liking the little bit of frou frou that these yarn pom-poms. Or tassels, I adore tassels but The Husband, not so much. Too bad it’s my Birthday and he doesn’t get a say in the decorations.

Photo Courtesy of Blush Bazaar, Etsy

Photo Courtesy of Confetti System

There’s a great printable Banner HERE from A Printable Press

Photo Courtesy of Printable Press

However I also like the look of letters on colored paper.

Finally for a little pizzaz, I’m thinking either a meringue tower which I’m totally copying from a baby shower that I attended that had a donut hole tower or chocolate dipped marshmallows on a stick and rolled in sprinkles. Too much?

Photo Courtesy of Mommy Gaga

Photo Courtesy of Laura Jane Photography

I didn’t think so.

Yours Truly,

Mel


ThirTEAth Birthday Party – Invitations

Every year in our family October is a big month and as September draws to a close I’ve very much reminded of this. It’s a month full of Birthdays (My Littlest Sister, Brother-in-Law, The Husband and Me) and this year it’s a big one for me; my 30th.

For me it’s not something to dread, or a way to mourn the end of the 20s but simply another reason to really go all out on a party. To celebrate my 30th Birthday I am in fact, completely embracing the corny aspect of it and I’m throwing myself a ThirTEAth Birthday party.

As the date draws nearer I’ll share more and more details about the party but for now let’s start with the invitations. The idea is from Pinterest and the templates can be found HERE courtesy of Do-It-Yourself-Invitations.

Materials:

-White or plain cardstock

-Decorative cardstock (I bought something similar to THIS, from Michaels)

-Ribbon

-Baker’s twine

-Scissors

-Exacto Blade

-Glue dots

-Glue stick

-Stapler

-Tape

-A6 Envelopes (4 3/4″ x 6 1/2″)

*Optional: additional cardstock for envelope liners & envelope liner template. Two great DIY Envelope Template Guides can be found HERE and HERE.

Using the templates I modified the wording, using a Free font download from Simple As That and then printed everything out.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca from Simple as That

Next it’s all about assembling the invites and what method works best for you. Glue dots of the plain cardstock to attach it to the tea cup and on the bow. An Exacto blade to cut out the slash in the lid for the tea bag, and tape to adhere the tea bag label to the twine and to the invite.

If you’re planning on making envelope liners I recommend a glue stick over glue dots but that’s because I don’t like it when they open the envelope and the liner falls off.

You’re all set and now it’s time to start planning the decor, menu, favors and activities!

Yours Truly,

Mel



Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market (CUESA)

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Farmer’s Markets and if you’ve been to any one of the ones in the Bay Area you know why. The experience of a good farmer’s market is one that will captivate all your senses. The colors will pop out at you, the smell will delight your nose and the food; the food will tickle your taste buds and leave you wanting more and more until you can’t possibly eat anything else.

The first time the Husband and I went to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market we may have gone a little overboard (I think we left with 3 grocery bags and half an igloo full of stuff) but I just couldn’t seem to help myself. Everything was so fresh and some of the food so new to me that I couldn’t say no. I mean come on, we walked right in and BAM there was a bakery stand, Biscuit Blender so our course I had a to get a few things to try.

Then The Husband was insistent that he get his Blue Bottle Coffee Company (A SF rarity) which was surprisingly inexpensive and quite tasty, considering their reputation.

Just past Blue Bottle there was another bakery and that was my first encounter with Miette and their to die for shortbread cookies. I convinced the sales girl to let me try a sample of their lavender and now they’ve got a new fan for life. I’ve always has a soft spot for shortbread but theirs was a type of butter goodness that I just couldn’t resist and in fact I think my exact words were, “Mmpf, I’ll take that one.”

From there we ventured outside and there was so much to see and taste with all the free samples that our stomach started to growl.

Luckily the friends we were there to meet choose that time to arrive and we got down to the important business of brunch time.

The Husband went for seafood (just one of the sandwiches below), while Holly chose a burger and I went for some down-home style Mexican food; everything was absolutely delicious. In fact, on our second trip I went right back to for the chilaquiles and The Husband opted for a burger.

From there we circled back around into the covered part of the farmer’s market and continued to lust after all the food and it was really a testament to my willpower and maybe, quickly dwindling cash, that we only left with as many bags as we did.

But we weren’t done yet and we continued to eat ourselves silly. The steamed buns were too good looking to resist and I’d never had a bomboloni so I was curious and had to try it; basically it was a cream filled donut, rolled in sugar and after that I was stick-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done.

All in all we had a great few hours eating and catching up with friends that I wished we saw more often.

In fact, on the ride back home The Husband even announced that he didn’t hate it which is a BIG deal because if you know him he is not a fan of anything San Francisco. So I was pretty pleased with myself and now, for the life of me I couldn’t remember why I waited so long to check it out.

If you’re keen to see it for yourself it’s every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (is the big one) and if you drive there’s a great place to park HERE that’s only $3 ALL DAY (yup, you read that right) with validation at the Farmer’s Market.

Yours Truly,

Mel


“Open Me When” Care Package Idea

This week my little Sister went away to College and it was definitely bittersweet. While I’m really happy that she got into the school of her dreams, I’m still super sad that she’s now a plane ride away and won’t be stopping by for impromptu dinners.

To make the parting easier for all of us my Mother suggested that she and I put together a bunch of item into what we are calling an “Open Me When” Box. The thought behind it is that when she’s feeling homesick she can open the box and choose a package (based on the tag) to open.I made sure my half of the box was a mix of both whimsical and practical things with a few items that I’m pretty proud of; with most of the items from either Target or the Dollar Tree (for a list of items that I purchased, go HERE).

I wanted to keep the tags light-hearted so they have saying on them like; Open me when you are having a bad hair day, open we when you need some silky legs or my favorite, open me to destroy hang nails!

“Open Me When” Care Package

Materials:

-Open Me When – Present to Label Guide 09.12.14 (For a list of the items & corresponding label)

-4 Pages of Avery 5164/8164 Labels (or the Staples/Office Depot equivalent) – Download mine: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 & Page 4

-Care Package Items

-24 Paper Snack/Sandwich Bags (from Sprouts)

-Pretty Box

Assemble all of you goodies and make sure they’re going to fit into your brown bags; if not trim them to size or remove the item from their packaging.

Next make sure you have your labels printed out & your guide handy.

Now start stuffing your bags with goodies!

Once I assembled all of the materials it was pretty quick to put it all together and I had my share of her care package all ready to go.

I hope she likes them and I can’t wait until next month when she’ll be back for her Birthday; the big 18!

Yours Truly,

Mel


Cupertino CityWIDE Garage Sale! (9/20 & 9/21/14)

There’s one last all-you-can-eat City Wide Garage Sale for 2014 and it’s this weekend in Cupertino, CA.

Yup, that’s right the LAST one of the year and I’ll be honest, Cupertino is always my favorite. Maybe it has something to do with Cupertino being my old stomping grounds but I’m convinced that the best stuff and bargains can be had there; I’m still ranting about my Pottery Barn finds almost 10 years later!

If you’re itching to get a few more garage sales in before the weather starts changing check out the Cupertino City’s website for more details.

Detailed Printable PDF Map HERE

List of all Registered Garage Sales (with item descriptions and dates) HERE

See all the Red dots, those are garage sales and I’m hoping to make quite the dent in those on Saturday.

Yours Truly,

Mel