A Kidlet Tea Party
So, last weekend was my beloved niecelette (well, technically sheís my cousinís daughter, making her my second cousin, but Iíve called her my niecelette since before she was born) Skylerís eighth Ė EIGHTH!!!! Ė birthday. It hardly seems possible. Wasnít it just a couple years ago that she was a three-day-old sprog?
I remember the first time I saw her; O Nancy My Nancy and I had planned a Road Trip up to San Francisco. We were supposed to leave at, like 7 in the morning. So I got up at six, finished packing, showered, turned on the TV- "There has been a major earthquake centered in Northridge, CA! The streets of Los Angeles resemble a war zone! Do not, we repeat, DO NOT attempt to drive through LA!" So what did we do? We drove through LAÖ it took a long time, yeah, but heck, we got to The City By the Bay. We had a lovely timeÖ but left early so I could swing by Hanford (a zit on the ass of the nation if there ever was one) to visit the new baby, the first of the next generation of our family. Mom and Gram were already there, and the second I was in the door, they put this tiny, tiny, pink, round-eyed creature in my arms. "Hi there, Kidlet" I saidÖ and, well-.
I, child-hating cynic that I am, fell head-over-heals in love with her.
Wasnít it just last year that she was a round-eyed, super-serious toddler? Itís strange to say, but Iíve always liked Skyler, as a person, as an individual, since that first moment. I played Billie Holiday for her, read her poems, and danced with her. I loved watching her observe and learn about the world, looking up with utter amazement at, like, a dog, or the taste of something new, or a spritz from a squirt gunÖ and when something amused her, sheíd give a brief, delighted, without-smiling laugh. We used to joke that she was "as serious as a heart attack," but she knew how to have fun. Put on Fleetwood Macís "Tusk," and sheíd start bobbing up and down, shaking her head, shaking her groove thang.
Wasnít it just a couple months ago that she was the flower girl when The Husband-Type Man and I got married? She "helped" me open every present at my bridal showerÖ and was really impressed when a friend gave me Wedding Party Barbie. She picked out a pair of kick-ass gold Mary Janes to wear for the wedding and danced with us to the disco Star Wars medley. When I gave her her own Wedding Party Barbie to thank her for her flower girl duties, she looked at me in surprise. "But this is yours!" she said, concerned that Iíd given away my own present.
Wasn't she just starting school last week? She liked it when I'd tell her about King Henry VIII and his six wives, and how he had their heads chopped off. She wanted me to decorate her tricycle for the annual 4th of July Block Party Bike Parade, and was deeply impressed when I made her a coordinating hat with the leftover balloons and streamers. She was also impressed that me and THTM lived in New York City, and, tapping her cheek with one finger, said to me "Sooo... tell me about these trains that go underground." I taught her the few Italian words and phrases I know, and she waved one hand in the air while calling to her "bella mama," or, at my behest, would grin wickedly and pinch THTM's butt, cackling "Cuolo! Cuolo!" I was told to "make" her clean up her room once, and when I did, she pulled a sad face and started to whine "I don't wanna...." "You have to," I said, "or else I'll flush you down the toilet. I will, too. I'll stick your head right in and give you a whirly. BaaaOOOOSH!" She laughed, said "Okay!" and skipped off to clean her room.
I suppose itís pretty lame that I actually have a lot in common with The Kidlet. But we both dig teen pop, especially The Spice Girls. We both love Barbies. And she thinks Iím just the shits because Iíll play with her, or because me and THTM and her will all deck ourselves out in glitter and fake tattoos and goofy shirts for the Annual 4th of July Block Party at her papa's house, or because Iíll bring weird music for her when I visit (like the "Popcorn Song" or the "Beep Beep Song"), or because Iíll sing along to the Annie soundtrack with her. She loves it when I tell her "Mrs. Crickmore stories" about the nasty preschool teacher me and my brother Sugarbear and her mama and auntie all went to. She cracks me up, too. My mom, as ga-ga over The Kidlet as we all are, has a habit of saying to her "Skyler Dayne, you are my heart." Last time she did this, Skyler clutched her chest dramatically and intoned "And YOU are my SOUL!" Or then there was the time back when we were watching Spice World, and she wanted to know how come the Girls talked funny. "Itís because they live in England, thatís how they talk over there. Dan and I went to England on our honeymoon last year," I told her, "and when youíre old enough, weíll take you there, too." "Oh, okay," she said. And then, after a momentís thought: "How old do you have to be to go to England?"
Face it, crusty old bitch that I am, The Kidlet just turns me into a pile of goo. Like, when I got back from New York and was able to go up and visit her for the first time in over a yearÖ she came barreling out of the car and hurled herself at me. Arms squeezing my neck, she exclaimed "It seems like itís been a hundred YEARS since Iíve seen you!"
Can you blame me for adoring this child?
So I was completely suckified when, last weekend, I was still laid low with a case of strep throat, and was unable to go up to Hanford for her birthday party. So to make it up to her, Iíve invited her (and her mama, of course) to come down to The Mansion for a special tea party in her honor.
Tea parties are a way of life for me. I adore having them, I adore planning them, I adore going to them. I used to throw Pagan Tea Parties back in my old Room at Gramís house, where my friends and I would read tea leaves and tarot cards and do past life regression on each other. I had High Tea Parties for a number of occasions: my 24th birthday, the Bridesmaids Appreciation Party, one of my Psycho Duranie Friends birthdays (remember, Chix love tea!). I had various tea-related events for the chilluns when I was Community Relations Coordinator at the Big and gNarly bookstore chain. I have a passel oí tea-related cookbooks, and horde tea accouterments likeÖ likeÖ well, like I horde Barbies and kitschy stuff and Duran things and books- One of the best experiences we had in England was the cream tea at this little inn at Glastonbury, and Iíve craved that perfect mix of scone, jam and Devon cream ever since. Every time friends go to London, I beg them to bring me back packages of REAL scones.
So, deeply in touch with my Inner Child as I am, I thought The Kidlet might find a Real Tea Party amusing. There are many possibilities with Tea Parties for Chilluns, Iíve learned. You can do an Alice in Wonderland theme, with wacky colored cookies and cups and silly songs. You can have an American Girls party, and have everyone invited bring their American Girls dolls. You can do the same thing with Barbies, teddy bears, or other beloved dolls. But since Skylerís prolly gonna be the only young-un there (except for me), I donít think I can get Mom and Gram and Skylerís mama and Great Aunt Lois to bring dollies over. But I *am* going to require hats, gloves, and other "dress up" stuffÖ and I have enough extras for anyone who complains "but I donít have anything to dress up in!" Invitations will be printed and sent on my special teacup stationaryÖ a touch cutesy, but not bad. I even have matching stickers. Impressive, huh? And Iím going to hit my mother-in-law up for some of the awesome china bits and pieces she has in her garage, from her motherís day, that she lent me for the Bridesmaidsí Tea.
Of course, the most important thing (in any party, to me, the Goddess of Foof) is the menu. What with it being a Kidlet Party, Iím going to stick to my more basic sammiches rather than leaning toward the rich/exotic. Chilluns seem to have simpler tastes. So Iíll fix plainer things instead of some of my wilder, foofier tea goodies.
Tea can also be easily rounded out with store-bought stuffs (especially if you aren't in an everything-from-scratch mood... unlike the Goddess of Foof!): Pre-prepared fruit tarts or slices of cake. Imported English cheeses, a good cheddar or Stilton. Walker shortbread, of course. Carrís Hob Nobs are also quite tasty. Cadbury has a variety of chocolate-dipped biscuits. Thereís that Pepperidge Farm stuff- heck, even just a tin of cheapy tea biscuitsíll work. Fresh fruit, especially berries, with cream. …clairs. Marzipan. And good scones and Devon cream. All these things are available at most specialty grocery stores.
As far as foofing goes, tea partiesíre the time to break out all the flowery, ker-nifty china bits and pieces. Donít worry about stuff matching; in fact, an assortment of florals, or patterns in similar colors (various willow-ware blues, for example), pieced out with plain white, is charming. Crisp starchy tablecloths and napkins are a must, as is a tiered serving plate and/or a cake stand. Donít pile or heap plates with food for tea, and donít use big trays or plattersÖ instead, serve items on small plates, arranged daintily with just a little sprig of something for garnish. The food itself should be the primary feature of a tea tableÖ but a small, low centerpiece of fresh flowers (or, as I did for the Bridesmaidsí Appreciation Tea, individual pressed-glass vases at each place. Old fruit-embossed jam jars will also look great as individual vases...) is simple and elegant: roses, arranged in a tight nosegay, a spray of daisies (whiteÖ please, no dyed-blue ones, please!), a bunch of Queen Anneís lace. Go wild and have place cards, calling everyone "Miss" and "Mister" So-and-So. Present all your guests with miniature books of poetry, or wee books about tea, or some other small gift; wrap them ornately and put one on each plate. Or print up scrolls or cards with "tea quotes" from various literary sources, or from old cookbooks (Victoria magazine is a great source for such quotes). Pamper your guests. Make sure there is at least one full sugar bowl and creamer for every 2-3 people (and use milk, not cream; good Brits NEVER use cream in tea, and they're adamant that you pour the milk in your cup before the tea... otherwise the milk will "bruise." And splurge on raw brown sugar cubes for a nice effect, with some sugar tongs for serving). Have on hand a plate of lemon slices and a small jar of honey (and please, I beseech you, donít plunk the plastic squeeze-bear thingie on the table!). Play some light, lovely classical music or some Cole Porter. And especially, encourage your guests to be linger over their treats and enjoy themselves.
Tea Party Menu
Pastrami with watercress
Cucumber and Neufchatel cheese
Egg and sprouts
Scones, served with jam and double Devon cream
Sugar-glazed lemon cake
Assortment of fruit tartlets
Chocolate chip tea biscuits
One final word: the most important thing in the entire tea party is, naturally, the tea. Make sure you know how to brew a proper pot!