The tea party was a success. It was all the things a tea party for dolls and girls should be, I think. Real paper invitations, real tea, real china cups, real linens, real bears and dolls. I filled plates and plates with cookies and little sandwiches. The girls filled themselves with candy canes, sticky ribbon candy, and hot chocolate and whipped cream.
Here is what I learned about tea parties for seven-year olds:
- Fifteen girls at an inside party is equal parts exciting and exhausting.
- Seven-year-old girls do not serve themselves tea and cookies. They wait like sweet baby birds for someone to serve them. The little tea table I set up with sugar bowls and cream and various pots of flavored tea remained untouched.
- Tea is not the drink of choice for a group of little girls. We went through a gallon of hot cocoa, and two cans of spray whipped cream. One cup was filled with tea, and that was Ada's.
- Candy is a must, but not all candy will be eaten. In fact, most candy will be tasted, or simply licked to see if it is good, and then disposed of--whereever. Based on the number of sticky bits we found about the house, ribbon candy looks much yummier than it tastes.
- If you serve hot chocolate, you should use chocolate milk and then just heat it up in large quantities. What you should not do is this: have your poor husband make cocoa from scratch, heat it on the stove, and serve it from china pots, especially when he will need to make and pour a gallon of it in 30 minutes. If he does all of this, including adding whipped cream to each cup multiple times, he deserves a reward, like your undying love. Or something else good.
- Tea time is quiet time. Quiet as in "what-are-we-doing-here?" quiet. For some reason, I had the crazy notion that they would talk to each other while they ate and drank tea, like some facsimile of Victorian ladies. No. They were ladylike, but super quiet, save for the munching of cookies. A few of them shot me strange glances over their teacups, as though they were biding their time, waiting to be done. "Just get on with it, lady," I imagined they thought.
- Don't serve sandwiches, especially not ones made with smoked salmon and cream cheese, unless Ada is your only guest, in which case you should have many on hand.
- Because not all little girls are Francophiles, don't call quiche by its French name. It prefers to be called "cheesy egg puff with bacon." It is much more popular that way.
- Sugar cubes are as good as candy, and much more fun to eat when picked up with silver grabby tong thingies. When dispensed this way, fifteen girls can eat almost one bowl of sugar cubes in an afternoon.
- Crafts are good and necessary for large groups of girls at parties. In my elegant planning, I had envisioned that for our 15-minute craft, I would supply each girl with a wool felt stocking, which they could embellish with sequins, buttons, and felt.
- Free form crafts are best. In my not-so-elegant reality, I actually only finished 4 stockings, so that changed my plans. The embellishments became the craft, and I just dumped bunches of craft materials onto our dining table. The girls then could make their own ornaments, using cookie cutters as shapes, and adding the sparkle as they wished. As things so often do, this worked out much better than my original thought, as the girls were more than ready to be done with tea, and they needed to fill an hour with crafts. Our family room was filled with cookie cutters, glitter, sequins, buttons, and giggling, and it was clear to me that 15 uniform stockings would have been a disaster.
- Lay out the rules ahead of time. Even the most ladylike and well-dressed girls can be lured into thinking doing gymnastics is a good and fun thing to do in someone's living room. Near a glass cabinet. Using the cushions from the couch.
- Parents can and should be encouraged to stay. Some parents did stay, and that made a world of difference for the craft time, when we needed many hands to help trace and cut felt into shapes of gingerbread men, stars, and candy canes. It also meant that someone besides Ada could enjoy the smoked salmon and tea.
- Six types of homemade cookies is overkill. While the frosted citrus sugar cookies were a huge hit, the girls were oblivious to amazingness of my gingery, crispy palmiers (with homemade puff pastry--high fives to me!). In fact, they did not touch them. I reveled in my cookie-baking prowess alone.
- Tea cups as favors is a fun and good idea. I scoured thrift stores all week to find cups and saucers for each girl. Sitting on the table, waiting patiently for their guests to arrive, they looked lovely.
- Seven-year-old girls speak their minds. The teacup favor was refused quite plainly by two girls, who said "I don't like tea, I don't want your cup." Okay. Got it.
- It is good to save your favorite cookie and teacup for yourself, to enjoy after the party is over.
- Post-party tables and tablecloths make great tent-houses for girls.
- Final lesson: Ada and Esme love having parties. They were amazing hostesses, and their smiles lit the room. Taking all that I learned into account, this should be an annual event.
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