I had all the excuses lined up as to why hosting a tea party at that time would not work.
- Because of my busy month, I didn’t have time to properly plan a tea.
- Because of my last minute traveling within the month, I wouldn’t be able to send the invites ’til 10 days before. These days, who invites guests to a Saturday event with only 10 days notice?
- Because my second round of book edits were due at the beginning of March, I really shouldn’t take the time required to pull off a tea party.
Those excuses were legitimate reasons to forgo the tea. But here’s the thing: I really, really wanted to throw a tea party. I wanted to do it because not only am I 98 years old on the inside and enjoy that kind of thing, but also because it would be a great way to get to know some new acquaintances. Not long ago we joined a new church, and I really wanted an excuse to have some of the ladies from our community group over to my house.
With the calendar revealing no other available weekends in the near future for tea hosting, I threw perfect circumstances out the window and threw some invites out via email. Even with the short notice, 5 friends were able to make it (6 of you include the darling baby boy of one of the ladies). Wahoo! Cue the party preparations.
Just to give the tea a little direction, I decided to make it a book exchange tea party and called it “For the Love of Books” in honor of the month of luuuv (I held it on February 28th). But you could do a book exchange tea any month of the year, I think.
So I could have my tea and drink it too (heh), I promised myself I would make the planning process as painless as possible by following two guidelines: keep things simple and prepare as much in advance as possible. I was able to easily follow those guidelines by taking advantage of my fringe hours–those corners of my schedule that are available for completing tasks. For this tea, I used those fringe hours to prepare decorations, party favors, food, and our activity.
I created the heart garlands in about 20 minutes on a Saturday afternoon from some yarn and books I got from the thrift store.
On one of our (many) snow days, I sweet-talked my boys into gluing a bunch of book pages from those same thrift store books to some craft paper for a couple of table runners. And when I say sweet-talked them, I mean I paid them to make these for me. Not much, mind you, but enough that they didn’t mind doing it. Teens FTW! I didn’t give them any direction on it–I just said do whatever you think looks good. They turned out beautifully!
(Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good pictures of the book page table runners. I placed them under my Home Goods table runner (pictured in the above photo) that was running the horizontal length of the table. As you can see, the book page runners made placemats of sorts for 4 of my guests.)
The only other decorations I used were fresh flowers I purchased from the grocery store. The afternoon before the tea party, I trimmed and arranged them in six DaySpring mugs that were on clearance after Christmas. So pretty and so simple, and it only took about 20 minutes to get them arranged.
Aa a little gift for the guests, I purchased bookmarks made from pages of Jane Austen novels. They are sold in groups of 6 for $8.50–a perfect number for my tea. The night before the tea, I wrote all the guests names on them and used them as place cards. So they doubled as decorations, too.
A traditional tea has 3 courses: savories, scones, and sweets. Because I kept things simple and planned ahead of time, I was able to offer all 3 courses without spending hours in the kitchen.
The savories I prepared were cheddar beef sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, and sausage pinwheels. The sausage pinwheels I made earlier in the week as an after school treat for the kids. I just froze those earmarked for the tea and didn’t bring them back out until the morning of the tea. The cheddar beef and cucumber sandwiches I prepared within an hour and a half the night before. They were definitely the most time intensive part of the food prep.
I also offered 2 kinds of scones: cranberry scones and cinnamon scones. I make the cranberry scones quite often because 4 of the 5 people in my house really like them. I made the scones the weekend before the tea and again froze those that I wanted to keep for the party. My friend Aimée kindly offered to bring her famous cinnamon scones, and I was all too happy to tell her yes! I’m so glad I did because holy smokes, those scones were delicious!
Finally, I offered 3 kinds of desserts: lemon coconut macaroons, red velvet mini cupcakes, and dark chocolate covered strawberries. I used this recipe for the macaroons. They took about 10 minutes to whip up and another 20 minutes to bake. So easy and so, so delicious. I also made them in advance and froze those intended for the tea. I bought the red velvet mini cupcakes from Whole Foods (they were sold in packages of 12) and I ordered the strawberries from Whole Foods, too. At $2 per strawberry, the strawberries were definitely the priciest food item on the table. But given I didn’t spend much at all on the food beyond that, I didn’t mind going all crazy with the strawberries, especially if it made life easier for me.
It’s probably not quite fair to say I used my fringe hours for this part of the tea because really, I used no hours. For the book exchange, all I did was ask each guest to bring one or two of their favorite books to the party to exchange with the other guests. After each friend gave a short synopsis of each book and told us why she liked it, each person came up one at a time to pick which new books they wanted to take home. We had a little bit of everything (fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, sci-fi, devos and novels), and it was super fun to see what everyone was drawn to.
Man, did I ever have fun with these new friends. The conversation flowed easily, the food tasted good, and the company was marvelous. Because I wisely used my fringe hours, not once did I feel overwhelmed or tired before the tea. And because I followed through and did something I truly enjoy, I felt lighthearted, refreshed, and thankful afterwards.
Hey ladies: When can we do this again?
This post was inspired by the 5 star book The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner, creator of the popular lifestyle blog The Mom Creative. Jessica’s book is all about making time for those activities that move your spirit in a positive way–something tea parties do for me. The Fringe Hours is also about making time for what interests and passions feed your heart and soul so you can therefore live a healthier, more fulfilled life. It’s about refusing to let guilt have a seat at the table simply because you want to practice some healthy self care.
In The Fringe Hours, Jessica provides countless, practical examples how you can do this and more within the fringe hours –pockets of time that go underused within your day. She shows you that when you use those fringe hours to practice your own interests, you are then able to give more abundantly to those in your home, family and life.
I have read this book once and am halfway through reading it again. It is so good, friends. I highly, highly recommend it. Find it on Amazon or wherever books are sold.