Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tea Partying *This* Weekend!

It's almost time. The white tents are being delivered today. The sun is shining and the skies are blue and they are promising to still be so pretty three days from now. What a relief! Since I have multiple lists whose items I'm feverishly crossing off, I wanted to share something with you that I wrote last year. Not something from my blog coverage of the tea party. Something a little more formal that was actually printed in our local newspaper. Hope you enjoy...and hope you get excited for this Saturday! Even if you're not able to attend because maybe you live in Canada or Massachusetts or China (hello to my readers from those very places!) - please have a spot of tea and maybe some rosemary parmesan hearts (recipe below) this weekend and think of me...

Amidst thunderstorms and threats of area flooding, the eighth annual Freed-Hardeman University Associates’ Victorian Tea Party still saw success this past Saturday, May 1st. The usual location of the Hardeman House had to be changed for the very first time to the Henderson church of Christ building, which is just across the street. Loyal guests were prepared for the change of venue. As previous guest and out-of-towner Katherine Bennett sent word, “My girls and I are coming, rain or shine!”

With tea tables set up in the lovely Commons area, the first group of guests arrived at the scene right as the electricity went out. Susan Edmonds commented afterwards that, “Everything seemed to go smoothly and the no-power thing just seemed to transport us back to Victorian times.” Luckily, enough hot tea had just been brewed to last the guests until the electricity returned halfway through the tea party.

Guests were served tea party fare on three-tiered plate stands entwined with floral greenery and each topped with a small pastel butterfly. The food served at the 2010 Victorian Tea Party included Savory Cucumber Sandwiches, Spicy Cheddar Pimento Sandwiches, White Chocolate Cherry Scones with Chocolate Cream and Cherry Butter, Chocolate Raspberry Tassies, Mini Spongecakes with Jasmine Tea Buttercream, Rosemary Parmesan Hearts, and Lemon Turnovers, which were accented with fresh strawberries and grapes.

 The two teas chosen for this year were Madame Butterfly Jasmine, which is “simply the best green tea with a heavenly jasmine fragrance,” according to Debbie McLaughlin, co-chair of this year’s tea party. The steering committee’s overwhelming response to this tea inspired the serendipitous butterfly theme for this year’s tea party. McLaughlin describes the second tea, Norfolk Blend, as a “robust black tea blend perfect for a morning wake-up call or a lovely afternoon tea party.” A refreshing lemonade was also served.

The smallest guests were still able to giddily enjoy dressing up in princess costumes, provided by Becky Welch. Ashley Hardin made sure that the little ladies had an appropriate place to have their picture taken by setting up a small wicker table and chairs and hanging a fanciful canopy above it. Beribboned butterfly wands, prepared by Rhonda Thompson, and paper doll design were also popular areas for the little girls.

“We are making precious memories,” noted Dwina Willis, who always attends the tea party with her daughter, Becky, and granddaughter, Laura Beth. These precious memories were recorded this year by FHU’s Jud Davis, who will soon be uploading the portrait and candid pictures to for purchase.

The adult guests appreciated learning a new needlework at Laurel Sewell and Sasha Gott’s candlewicking venue, which is a form of white-on-white embroidery. Committee member Karen Walker had been the mastermind behind this venue but could not attend the tea party due to recent back surgery. Another beautiful venue was set up by Margaret Payne and featured various tea accoutrements for the purpose of showing guests the proper way to prepare and serve hot tea. Also at this venue was an ingenious lamp constructed of a teapot topped with teacups and saucers, a show of the appreciation of tea culture. Adapted from Country Living magazine, Laurel Sewell’s creation inspired others to make their own at home; her instructions were included in the souvenir program.

Guests browsed the offerings of the Tea Boutique and many took home colorful teapots, handmade fabric tea cozies, dainty teapot bead jewelry, packaged food items, and various other tea accoutrements to continue their own tea party at home. One guest reported later that, after a tornado siren woke her up early Sunday morning, she was not able to go back to sleep. Instead, she enjoyed reliving the events of that day’s tea party, complete with some of the delicious rosemary parmesan hearts, in the middle of the night.

Besides a change in venue, this year held another first in that a Silent Auction was set up to offer the ladies the chance to bid on an excellent gift basket, thanks to Valeria Pitoni. The gift basket contained various handmade products from Stillwaters Farm and a gift certificate for a one-night stay at The Cottage at Stillwaters Farm, located here in Chester County.

“This day would not have been possible without the help of many, many people,” says Kristen Hicks, co-chair of this year’s tea party. “We had a great steering committee, lots of volunteers donating ingredients and making all of the wonderful food at ‘cooking parties’ leading up to the day of the tea party. There were so many hard-working Associates moving tables and chairs, washing dishes, decorating, and cleaning up. Husbands and fathers were involved and we appreciate them so very much, too. We had some volunteer students from FHU also who helped set up, serve, and clean up. I can’t even imagine having this event without all of these volunteers. We just couldn’t do it.”

Sponsors for this event were Chester County Bank, Dr. Larry Bloomingburg, FHU Bible Bookstore/University Store, Mary Kay (Susan Edmonds), The Peoples Bank, Lookin’ Good/A-1 Realty, Hester Publications, No Xcuse Fitness, Stillwaters Farm, Bramblett Group, Shackelford Funeral Directors (Casey Chapel), Happy Kids Consignment Shoppe, Radio Shack, and Patricia Jones, Republican Nominee for Chester County Mayor.

Hicks added, “Our corporate sponsors and individual patrons are an integral part of our success every year, too. All of our profits go toward FHU student scholarships and we are blessed that so many people have the same vision as we do.”

Rosemary Parmesan Hearts
Makes approx. 11 dozen small hearts

2 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) salted butter
¾ c. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (not powdered)
2 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the flour and baking powder together and cut in the butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the Parmesan, rosemary, and egg yolks. Continue working the dough until it forms a ball. This can all be done in a food processor.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8” thick and cut out with a small heart cookie cutter. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting out hearts until the dough has all been used. Place the hearts onto baking stones, if possible, or baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake approximately 10 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack and store in airtight container.

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