A Bridal Tea (and a recipe, at the end!)

This weekend, my mother and my dear friend hosted what I like to call a bridal tea in my honor. You see, Fiancé and I have decided to forgo any gifts for our wedding, but my lady friends still wanted to have a day to get together and celebrate my engagement. What better way, I thought, than to have an afternoon tea?

When I was a small girl, my mother used to have tea parties with me at least a few times a week. I would come home from kindergarten in the afternoon and instead of just making a snack, she would lay out little sandwiches, some sweets, and a pot of tea. She even had an adorable collection of miniature tea sets for the occasion, her crowning glory (and my inheritance) being the Brambly Hedge miniature tea set. I remember going to antique stores trying to find one of every season in the set.

So I knew my mother would host a wonderful tea. I also asked my friend to help her because she makes delicious homemade bread and what could be a better accompaniment to my mother’s amazing baked goods than tea sandwiches made on homemade bread? And the afternoon tea time slot was perfect for a celebration, as I still had one more evening show of Pygmalion to perform, and we would all be finished in time to get to the theatre.

The celebration was beautiful, and we had far too much food, which was all delicious. I did make a batch of my own famous cream scones, as well as a batch of mini Victoria sandwich cakes to add to the celebration, but by and large, the spread was done entirely by the two hostesses and I got to sit back, maybe fuss over a pot of tea. My mother even made miniature panna cotta with a raspberry topping in their own individual cups, as well as getting a box of macarons from a local French bakery and a box of assorted mini pastries from the bakery we’ve frequented since I was young.

Fiancé left for the afternoon so we ladies could flutter and coo to our hearts’ content. It was lovely to see this quite eclectic group of my friends and family (and soon-to-be family) come together and socialize. The director of Pygmalion even brought a silly hat with a veil that I could wear, as the bride. It rather felt like my entrée into the final stretch of my wedding planning, honestly. With Pygmalion at an end and the wedding looming next month, I have the last finishing touches to finish up before the big event. And what better way to get back into the swing of planning than with a cuppa tea?

With that, I suppose I shall leave you with my recipe for mini Victoria sponges, which are not so much my recipe as a recipe my castmate shared from her days in home economics in Wales.

Mini Victoria Sandwiches

Makes 12 cakes

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a cupcake tin with non-stick paper cases. I like these the best.
  2. Weigh three large eggs in their shells. Measure out the same weight each of self-raising flour, granulated or caster sugar, and soft unsalted butter. Lay the eggs in a bowl of hot water to come to room temperature.
  3. Beat together the butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well, and about a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add the flour and beat until combined.
  4. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until the batter is a soft dropping consistency, about like frozen custard or soft-serve ice cream.
  5. Spoon into the cupcake tin, filling about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
  7. Let the cakes cool in the tin until the tin is cool enough to handle without a potholder, and then remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Victoria sponge is very delicate when warm, but quite sturdy once it cools, so handle warm sponges gently.
  8. When they are cool, split them in half with a sharp serrated knife. Fill with jam (I like raspberry) and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Dust with icing/powdered sugar to serve.

How to Make an Heirloom

When I was a little girl, I used to go over to my grandmother’s when I was sick on a school day. She made the most amazing blanket forts, using her handmade afghans. I remember actually disliking these blankets, with their uneven crochet fabric, the air coming through the holes in the knit and chilling me despite having a blanket on. But now, looking back, I’m embarrassed that I never asked my grandmother to teach me how to make afghans of my own.

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I learned how to crochet by watching videos on the internet one summer when I was bored and moderately depressed, living alone in the wake of a divorce and the death of my father. I had a couple of balls of yarn and a plastic crochet hook that I found in my sister’s room at my mother’s house one weekend, so over a few days at home alone in my apartment, I decided to teach myself to crochet. I managed to create a lumpy, purple scarf, and then snapped the plastic crochet hook because I’ve always held things too tightly in my hands. Just ask all the crayons I used as a child.

From there, I bought myself a new crochet hook and some more yarn. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I gave myself nerve damage in one hand come December when I decided to crochet all my holiday gifts. I joined Ravelry. And I managed to become good friends with a woman whose collection of yarn outstrips my collection of lipsticks (and her lipstick collection rivals mine; we are friends for a reason).

So when I started planning my wedding outfit, I realized that I should probably find some way to work my own handiwork into the mix. I decided on a crochet shawl to throw over my shoulders to guard against the potential chill of a spring morning. I decided on a color (a spearmint green to coordinate with the mint green of my dress), ordered my yarn (fingering weight wool), and got to work.

Like all my crochet projects, this one grows in fits and spurts. Weekends where we spend long hours sitting at home, I find it grows more. It grows when I sit off to one side at rehearsals, although that has stopped somewhat since I need to memorize my lines. It grows when I watch television, and very occasionally when I feel particularly motivated at work. I can carry my project in a zip-top bag, which I can throw into my purse with my packed lunch, script, and pencils, trusting that the plastic will protect it.

For, you see, this isn’t just a shawl. It’s not just an accessory for my wedding. I hope it will be an heirloom, like those handmade blankets my grandmother gave to all her children. Perhaps, one day, I will have a daughter of my own to whom to pass this shawl. Or a son; I wouldn’t judge. Or perhaps the shawl will serve no other purpose but to sit on my shoulders when I am old, but it will bring back memories of all the love that went into it.

But until then, I will watch my little heirloom grow, day by day, until it has its chance to shine in a couple months.

On Wedding Brain and Bridal Solidarity

Last week, I made more progress towards planning my wedding. I met with our caterer and his assistants at our venue and went through the logistics. And we got our license (less than six months away!). It was exciting to see things start coming together, and it gave me an excuse to take an entire day off work and think about nothing but wedding, which is important for a bride planning an event.

Then, I also learned that a coworker had gotten engaged, so of course, I went by her desk to congratulate her. But I also offered her the support of a sympathetic ear if she ever wants to obsess about wedding planning and it seems like everyone else around her is sick of it. Because this struggle is real.

I really never thought I would be *that* bride, the one who was obsessed with swatches and decorations and everything. But here we are. I’ve even planned a wedding before, but it was a much smaller event and took place rather quickly (four months from proposal to wedding). Plus, I was in school at the time, so I didn’t have as much mental free energy to waste.

This time around, I have all the mental energy to waste on it. And I’m planning a more elaborate event. And, of course, second-guessing every choice I make. For example: I recently decided what would actually be my “dream” wedding and it’s pretty far from what we’re planning.

My Dream: We wake up in the morning, put on nice clothes, and drive out to a little vintage chapel near our house, where we can have a simple, humanist ceremony, with whoever is up to join us. Then, we come back to the house and host a big luncheon/open house for friends and family, mostly in our back yard, with the option of squeezing inside if it rains. Simple, classic, and very old-fashioned.

Instead: The only concrete input Fiancé has given in terms of what he wants (it’s his first marriage) is that he wants to have a dance party for his friends. So dancing is a must. Given that, we have to rent a hall. And, honestly, we first met and became close going to dance lessons together, so it makes sense. We dance at everyone else’s weddings; of course we’re going to dance at our own.

So there I go again. Before I devolve into discussing caterers and music equipment, I’m going to stop myself. Wedding brain is real. It occupies prime mental real estate. And I know I’ve annoyed even the most wedding-obsessed of my non-planning friends.

So I’ve extended the branch of wedding brain acceptance to another woman going through it, in the hope that we can support each other. Forming a grand sisterhood of the wedding brain. And isn’t that what support is all about?

On Becoming the Zen Master of Wedding Planning

So I’m planning a wedding. This is not known for being one of the most meditative and relaxing practices. And I’ve been married before, so I have that minefield to walk. As a result, I’ve found myself reading my share of wedding planning websites and message boards. And I’ve noticed that when I respond to threads with advice, my voice is starting to sound more and more like some Jedi-Zen-monk-bride. While I can be a very perfectionist person in my day-to-day life, I’m turning out to be a surprisingly chill bride.

The starting point of my wedding planning philosophy is pretty well summed up in this article. No matter what you do or how much you try to please everyone, someone will be offended and complain about your wedding. So rather than waste energy trying to dance around potential offense, I’ve decided not to care. I’m having the wedding I’m having. I try not to be mean-spirited or deliberately exclusive, but other than that, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

And that means saying no to things. No, we’re not sending announcements to people who aren’t invited. No, we’re not having a small gift registry just in case someone really can’t bring themselves to show up empty handed. No. Just no.

What I’ve learned from all this is that it is a lot easier to plan a wedding as a self-actualized thirty-something woman than as a mid-twenties student. I’m a lot more confident about saying no to things that I don’t want (or legitimately make me uncomfortable). And the flip side is that I’m finding it easier to say yes to things even though they’re expensive and frivolous. We have the money for it, so I’m going to have my vintage venue and catered brunch with staff to help set up and serve. And flowers. I love flowers. And a photographer to take amazing professional photos at a fair price for his skill and training.

And you know what? This philosophy might look different to you. Staying true to your vision might mean letting your mother have more say because it’s more important to you that she feels intimately involved than to have exactly the decorations you dreamed of. Or it might mean something else entirely. It might involve a church. And that’s okay. The only thing that’s not okay is expecting the world to share and approve of and fund your vision. Also, being mean to people for the sake of being mean kind of sucks. But the are plenty of situations where wedding compromises might come off as mean on the surface. Forgive yourself, move on, and have the event that will make you deliriously happy.

Just remember that at the end of the day, the most important thing is the person you are marrying and the fact that you’re planning on spending the rest of your life together. Just because you have a vision doesn’t mean everything will go to plan. It will rain. Someone you don’t expect may show up. A flight may get canceled. The dress might not come in time. But ultimately, none of that really matters if you love each other. You could get married in a refrigerator box and as long as it’s legal, your wedding was a success.

So for someone who has trouble doing just this, I’m finding it easier to relax about the wedding, comparatively. And I hope any soon-to-be-brides can join in as we Zen our way to our wedding days — bugs, rain, and all!

On Major Life Events, Planning, and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, I have a bit of a reason for not blogging for a month.

Boyfriend is no longer Boyfriend. Instead, he is Fiancé. He asked me to marry him just before our vacation at the beginning of August. So I have spent the last month, yes, in Montreal for a week, but also in a flurry of preparation. Since we have just booked our venue, I hope I can calm down and devote mental energy to other things.

Just don’t bet on it.

In the meantime, here is the ring, in case you missed in on Instagram:

Because Fiancé knows me very well, he found a simple, vintage ring from the early 20th century in rosy gold with two moonstones, in a setting called “Toi et Moi,” or “You and Me.” It’s simple, lovely, and just a bit old-fashioned, while also seeming very different from many engagement rings I see so often.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. While I still have plenty of planning yet to do, hopefully, I find some time to update this space a bit more regularly.

 

A Glamorous 1920s Snow White Look

So the other weekend, I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. It turns out, she’s probably one of the coolest brides ever because she not only let us choose our own dress styles (the only requirements were that it was knee-length and navy blue), but she also gave us utter freedom for our hair and makeup. I arrived bright and early for my hair appointment and was able to get a lovely 1920s-inspired look to go with my draped chiffon dress.

To start with, I wanted my hair put up. I finally have enough hair to put up, so I wanted the updo. Plus, I really hate having hair in my face and knew I would fuss with it if it were just blown out and styled. Because I told the hairdresser that I love vintage style, particularly the 1920s, she pinned my hair into a soft curled and twisted style at the nape of my neck, with the front parted and worn loosely over my ears to mimic a 1920s faux bob. The effect was very elegant, and just a little old-fashioned.

With such an old-fashioned hairstyle, the makeup artist took it to heart when I mentioned that one of my past costumiers nicknamed me “Snow White” and set about creating a Snow White-inspired makeup look, if Snow had been a 1920s society girl. I got a nice heavy line of black eyeliner and false eyelashes, but little eye contouring otherwise. A little flush on the cheeks offset my naturally pale skin. She finished it off with a dab of blood-red lipstick. All in all, the hair and makeup perfectly fit my vision and was very “me.”

Sadly, I don’t have any good photos of the look, and I’m rather shy about posting “selfies” to this space, so there is no photographic evidence. But perhaps in the future, I will try to somewhat recreate the look for photos.