Tag Archives: tea-parties

Maggie and I share stories.

P1010081 crp
grevillia

 

Now that Pearl’s family has moved to California, I have nearly half of my grandchildren within an hour and a half’s drive. It was so easy to pick up Maggie on the way home from the mountains, and to bring her here to spend almost a week with me.P1010015P1010096

First, though, the evening I arrived, her mom took a few of us to the Arboretum on the University of California campus in their town of Davis, so I could check out some of the many plants with low water needs. A rustic and rusty arch of shovels signals the beginning of this part of the gardens, with wide plantings of grasses and native California plants leading on into the Australian section, which is what I was most interested in. I have noticed in books that a lot of striking and unthirsty species come from Down Under.

Maggie had her camera, tP1010093oo, and found families of ducks to take pictures of. We didn’t spend too long, but I managed to take many pictures with identifying signs next to the plants that I liked, so I didn’t have to take the time to write down names.

I’m only posting a few of those, of the nicest looking, which I wouldn’t mind having in my new garden if I can find them in nurseries.

The next morning Maggie and I drove off to my town. I had downloaded Anybody Shining by Frances O’Roark Dowell from Audible on to my tablet so we could listen on the way home, which we did for about an hour, Maggie in the back seat because she’s a lightweight. We shopped that afternoon and evening, to resupply my fridge, and we watched “Cheaper by the Dozen,” under blankets on the couch.

P1010115

Shopping took a lot of our time during the next few days, because we were planning a tea party that we held last Saturday, and also were having company on Sunday. Giving the tea party was the focus of our time together; Maggie came up with several good ideas before we even got home.

We planned and shopped and cooked and in the end we served: deviled eggs and mint chocolate chip meringues made by Maggie; two kinds of P1010119 crpscones with jam and creme fraiche; chocolate pastilles; ham and Swiss quiche made on puff pastry; fresh blueberries and raspberries; chocolate orange sticks; some fancy chocolate and sprinkle-dipped Rice Krispy treats we discovered on one shopping trip; and of course the tea, black and rooibos, and hot cocoa for little girls who preferred that. They all did.

P1010140 crp

Eight of us ladies whose ages spanned the decades down to four years old enjoyed our party very much.  My little goddaughter Mary, four months old, was also present but not enjoying the goodies. The conversation was edifying and stimulating. I sent scones home to the menfolk, and that evening Maggie and I ate leftovers. P1010142 crp

We listened to more of our book on the computer and came to the satisfying end. The next day Maggie mentioned it in her own blog post. It is about a girl about Maggie’s age, living in the mountains of North Carolina about a hundred years ago, and her desire to have a friend. The history and the culture of the mountain people are the background of the story, in the telling of which the protagonist Arie Mae expresses her good heart and charming wholesome self through letters she writes to her cousin in the city. The descriptor “shining” she applies to at least two other people in the book, but Arie Mae herself is the truly shining character.

I made Maggie pause the recording so that I could write down a wonderful word of advice from Arie Manybody shiningae – but could I find the paper I wrote on, just now? No! So I washed dishes and listened again to the last few chapters of the book till I could find the place again.

A sub-plot of the story is about the more educated people coming from the city to write down the songs and stories of the mountain folk, to start schools, to help them in various ways. One conflict concerns the dynamic of the outsiders coming in with their ideas and advice for the people who get the feeling they are not appreciated for who they really are.

The way Dowell ties this aspect of the story in with Arie Mae’s growing friendships is delightful. She writes to her cousin, “It takes time to get to know people. You got to listen to their stories, and you got to tell your stories back. It all goes back and forth, back and forth, until one day you turn into friends. Until that time, I expect it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.”

My Maggie and I enjoyed more stories together during her visit, in the form of two more movies: First “Hook,” which we watched here at home. I find that story delightful, but I think Maggie at her age couldn’t enjoy the Robin Williams character as well as I. And maybe the lost boys were too familiar in their exaggerated annoying boyishness to a girl with three older brothers. Then we saw “Inside Out” at the theater. How wonderful to go out to a movie, just us girls. We even shared a bag of popcorn. I am liking this new phase of grandmotherhood!

Soon after the opening credits we were amazed to find out how perfect “Inside Out” was for us right now. The main character Riley has a few big things in common with my granddaughter: They are both twelve, and each has just moved with her family across the country to California. So many good ideas, so much wisdom is in this movie, I think I need to see it a few more times to be able to think about it more. Movies always go too fast for me, and there is a lot of fast action in this one, too, so that I found myself several times musing over the possible symbolic significance of an event – musing for a few seconds – and then another metaphor would interrupt me to suggest itself in the next scene.inside-out-

Riley seems to be at the mercy of her emotions in this story; you might even say that the emotions are the real main characters, as they try to manage her life to make it good. What seems obvious to the ringleader Joy is that Riley needs to be happy, so Joy is always working very hard to program the right thoughts and memories into Riley’s mind to make her happy. The other emotions eventually find out that they have a role to play as well.

Both Maggie and I were uncomfortable with the implication that Riley’s decisions were based solely on her emotions, but there is a lot of truth to the way the thousands of memories in her bank could be used to cultivate various emotions. I loved the image at the end of the movie, after Riley has connected painfully well with her anger and sadness, and the islands of Family and Honesty have seemingly sunk into the sea — she ends up in the arms of her parents, being comforted. She has grown up a lot in the recent weeks and months and is stroncross Maggie July 2015ger than before, and I’m sure her parents are wiser, too.

My granddaughter who was sitting next to me in the theater had decided a few months ago that she wanted to be baptized in her church before moving away. Back then I couldn’t get it together to celebrate such a happy event with her across the miles, so this week we went shopping for the present I wanted to give her, and found this lovely cross that we both liked. It is a symbol of Something  deeper than a memory or an emotion, the great Story of God’s love and our salvation. I’m so thankful He is with us and for us as we go through all the trials that accompany every stage of life. He is the only one who really knows us inside-out.

Summer is for tea parties.

P1100600teapotWarm weather means that if we have any grandchildren around, we can have tea parties outdoors. The other day at Scout’s suggestion I made tea from what could be had in the garden: lemon balm and three kinds of mint.

Ivy and Scout and I sat on the patio with our little plastic cups of tea. Four-year-olds think the sugar cubes are the main event, and the toddler just wanted to put her chocolate kisses, cherries, and cubes of cheese into her cup.

P1100601ivytea

 

When I had my head turned she put cherries into my tea as well. Soon she had moved on to the washing-up, which she liked even better than the dining (or soup-making) part.

 

Ivy wash 6-14

Unfortunately, chocolate doesn’t come off with cold water.

P1100609 kids alyssum 6-14

Later in the day I sheared the alyssum and the kids tried to help with their little scissors. But the challenge of getting the piles of cuttings into the yard waste can turned out to be the most fun.

 

 

P1100621 can

P1100624crp

By the time Liam arrived a few days later, all the work was done, but he was well pleased with the toys and books galore. Little wooden people from his parents’ past were the most popular.

P1100643 little people

Some toys that I keep around you would not be able to find in stores anymore, because their parts are too small to be considered safe. If I had a child who’d choked, I might feel differently, but I am sorry that some of the most charming and fun playthings are now forbidden.

Remember Micromachines? We just ran across one of those this week and were amazed. They seem small enough for a child to ingest without much problem. Of course, I never would let the older children bring them out if there were crawling babies around.

Liam 6-14 play

This last toy that Liam is focused on was Kate’s 25 years ago. Many many children have enjoyed it since, but I am thinking of stashing it away so that all the pieces will still be there when her own children are ready to play with them down the road. This week she showed her nephew how to hit the little stick people just so, to make them bounce out of their holes. A good toy is a joy forever.

Philosophy of Pie and Picnics

Vegan Coconut Pie

Between tonight and tomorrow this subject must become theoretical, as Monday my church begins fasting in preparation for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Though I admit to making vegan desserts, like this coconut pie for Father L.’s birthday, usually I’d rather just wait until a fast-free day to enjoy the butter and cream. Hey, by then I’m happy to pour cream in my coffee and call it dessert.

But that’s not festive enough for a picnic, or for a tea party. I think both of those events demand some cake, if they are going to be traditional (in addition to the scones, if you want those). Sadly, our family is generally lacking in cakes, with the major exception of Pearl, who learned on her own and makes lovely ones. I don’t think her household lacks cake; I don’t know anything about their picnics.

The rest of us, going back a couple of generations and on both sides of the family, eat pie. One of us even declared, “Cakes are for looking at.”

I can’t grant that much myself, because my very few attempts at cake decorating beyond the sprinkling of some coarse sugar did not draw any comments about prettiness. My favorite topping for children’s birthday cakes of long ago was an array of gumdrops — but with that we start slipping into the candy category.

It may have been Big Sister Pearl who baked this birthday cake for Soldier, using plenty of that ingredient that is so important. I can see something in his expression that hints at what he would do 20 years down the road: leave cake out of his wedding altogether, in preference for pie.

I blame bloggers for giving me the feeling that something is missing. Have you noticed how many blog posts have been written about this or that recipe for cake, which comes out of the oven in the late morning or afternoon just in time to have a slice with some tea, at the kitchen table with the children just home from school, or just taking a break from homeschool?

Proof that I baked a cake

It’s not clear how I would work that tradition into my lifestyle at this point. My husband would be alarmed and reluctant, to put a good spin on it, and might not eat any cake. I’m considering reviving my Girlfriends Tea Parties just so I can make a cake or two. When I did this before it was a great way to try out a few of the hundreds of dessert recipes I have in my collection. After we sampled them together, all the ladies took home most of the leftovers to share with their sweeter-toothed husbands.

One huge advantage to packing the cake into a basket instead, to be eaten on a blanket spread under a tree, is that I wouldn’t have to clean the house beforehand. But the Old English style of picnicking has also not caught on in the Glad Tribe. Our group has favored throwing handfuls of trail mix into their mouths so that they can get to the mountain peak and back before dark. None of this leisurely sitting around eating and fattening up.

But I have a new desire to broaden our style in that regard, too, probably from reading too many blog posts about Wind in the Willows and grown-up girls taking their Toad and Mole dolls on outings with yummy noshables.

It’s good that I will have a few weeks to think about these important questions — or rather, not to think about them. And by then I’ll be too busy getting ready for a new grandchild, and getting ready for a trip…Then there will be another fast, and then another new grandchild. All these ideas for events that require a Lot of Planning really don’t fit in this summer.

But it won’t take long to throw together a pie to set before my dear husband, a blackberry or cherry would suit just fine, and leftovers won’t be a problem.