(number 57. mid january.)
Revealed occasionally in these pages, I am a preschool teacher. Isabel Sussman came into my life in 2012 as a doe eyed three year old. She had a MVP role Kate's (Schweitzer, our very own stylist/hand model) classroom. She was always doing what she was asked to but was, like, still a fun person. She was always helping out others (problem solving, pointing out unsafe situations to teachers, offering hugs, never discriminating or excluding) and also taking care of herself (ready for kindergarten or assistant teaching by the time she was 3 1/2).
I do not make a habit of attending my student's birthday parties, but I really couldn't say no to Isabel's invitations, especially because I found her parents and grandparents to be so delightful. Kate and I attended her 4th and 5th birthday parties (at a self-serve frozen yogurt place owned by a family member and a cozy space next to a local children's clothes/toys store, respectively). Sometime in the summer of 2014, she told her parents that she'd figured out where her 6th birthday would be. Apparently, it was going to be at my house.
Her parents asked if we'd talked about this. I said no, we hadn't, but was amused enough that I said I'd consider it. Several months later, Isabel hadn't forgotten, and now she knew she wanted it to be a "fancy tea party." This was probably some combination of influence from the Fancy Nancy books and the "Tea Party" week-long summer camp I taught during her two summers in preschool (we'd pack a picnic and go to the park near the school, where we'd have a tea party and practice sitting up straight, pointing our pinkies, and so on).
David and Tanya asked officially sometime in the fall, and I agreed heartily. This is an excerpt from an e-mail David sent me to inspired the menu. It's a list, written by Isabel, of what she'd like to see at the party.
Lots of strawberry things
Mint tea, and maybe others teas, fruity, or not....
Cake, even little ones like cupcakes
Little fancy tea party sandwiches, but not cucumber.
Butter and jam sandwiches.
A major highlight, as seen in the photos below, was Isabel's delightful older brother, Marley, performing a MAGIC SHOW for everyone during the tea party's intermission. For the performance, he called himself The Magnificent Marl. It was utterly magnificent.
This one was entirely cooked by me. My housemates Katie and Marta helped move furniture, tidy, and "kid friendly"-ize the apartment. Kate lead the décor/place setting situation and helped with all the last minute food prep. Sofie served up the tea!
Strawberry cream scones
Made with high quality frozen strawberries, a trusty hand-me-down scone recipe, and some intuition. Served with strawberry sauce made from more frozen strawberries and fancy Danish strawberry jam (charged with strawberries in the dead of winter! I hear this a common problem with children and winter birthdays). Also my own American child friendly approximation of clotted cream: half over-whipped cream, half under-whipped cream.
Strawberry / kiwi sandwiches
The same Danish strawberry jam, and a jam I made from kiwi in the garden (YES. Our kiwi was from S.G.!) served with Willapa Hills Farmstead Cream Cheese (Chehalis, WA) on sourdough sandwich bread from Phillipe's Bread, down the street.
Teapot shortbread cookies
Basic recipe from the Rose Bakery cookbook, with some spelt flour snuck in for my own interest/crumb texture, cut with a teapot cookie cutter I was gifted some time in the distant past.
From Siggi's– Swedish style drinkable yogurt. I served them in little ceramic demitasse cups. Trying to influence classy yogurt drinking. I think I think I said "This drink isn't just pink, it's what they have in Sweden, and Sweden is a FANCY place."
Isabel's dad, David, had put a note on Isabel's list, by the tea sandwiches saying "Isabel loves bell peppers, except green ones." Well, I couldn't fathom a bell pepper tea sandwich (I'm not a big fan of them myself), but Sofie had the fun idea of getting the silly mini organic sweet pepper bag from New Seasons and stuffing them with Trader Joe's hummus. A much needed savory element to the tea party.
Cauliflower cheese shepherd's pie!
Playing the "macaroni & cheese card," this was the un-requested savory back bone to the meal, mostly consumed by the adults. Cauliflower drenched in cheesy béchamel, topped with mashed potatoes, melted butter, and crumbled Beer Cheese kettle chips.
A classic, simple yellow cake made sturdier with a little almond meal. Grapefruits, sugared enough to be palatable to droves of young girls, dusted with powder sugar snow, and dotted with pink candles.
A break for a special edition black & white photo gallery:
Steven Smith- Meadow
This was the tea we served at tea party summer camp. How/why the preschoolers were treated to $12 a box tea, you might ask? The director of the school was gifted a bunch once, but she doesn't like tea, so she kept it in the cabinet with the headache medicine for all the staff (headaches in preschool teaching are a frequent and unfortunate thing). After seeing it go untouched for 6 months, I asked about it, got the story, and was invited to take as much as I wanted. I don't think anyone else ever got the memo, and I intentionally didn't spread the word. The only people I shared that Smith tea with were the kids.
Pink flowers. Need we say more?
I remember this being my own favorite as a child.
A more experimental batch, offering flowery AND minty notes for tiny tastebuds.